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Kevin's Digital Week 22: Faraway Worlds

Blu-ray of the Week
(Fox)Avatar Blu-ray
An undeniable visual triumph, Avatar’s runaway financial success is the unsurprising culmination of the recent turn toward movies that are made for our eyes only, since the movie’s splendid set design and computer-generated makeup and effects make its banal story, mediocre acting and laughable dialogue superfluous. Director James Cameron might have created a world and a myth that millions of people around the world have bought into hook, line and sinker, but that does not avoid the inescapable fact that his movie, regardless of its luster, is an old-fashioned adventure dressed up in hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of stare-of-the-art camouflage.

Still, although it’s puzzling that it won the Oscar for Best Cinematography (how can you tell what was shot with what was created on computers?), it’s easy to see what has enticed the movie’s legions of fans; on Blu-ray especially, Avatar’s brilliantly varied use of color becomes addictive. But at more than two and a half hours and without any characters even remotely worth caring about or rooting for (Stephen Lang did his crazed-general bit much better on Broadway in A Few Good Men two decades ago), Avatar soon wears out its welcome, as the viewer’s eyes glaze over from the mind-numbing sameness. There are no extras included in the Blu-ray/DVD pack, and no 3-D either.

DVD of the Week

The Young Victoria The Young Victoria

An elaborately-costumed soap opera, The Young Victoria dramatizes the early years on the throne of the long-reigning English queen, whose name has become synonymous with an entire era after an eventful reign of 63 years. We see Victoria before ascending the throne at age 18, when she had to decide on a husband and, against much advice, chose Prince Albert, with whom she remained (and with whom she had nine children) until his premature death at age 42.

Director Jean-Marc Vallee doesn’t break any costume-drama rules, and if the movie is too conventional to a fault, it remains highly watchable, thanks to a first-rate physical production (led by Sandy Powell’s Oscar-winning costumes) and a group of good British actors, led by Emily Blunt’s spunky, touchingly vulnerable presence as Victoria and Rupert Friend as her sturdy Albert. The DVD’s extras comprise deleted and extended scenes, along with several too-brief featurettes about various aspects of the production, with an emphasis on the costumes, set design and attempts at historical accuracy.

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