By Chris Azzopardi | Q Syndicate
“Girls: The Complete First Season”
Did “Sex and the City” make you feel bad about your own life? Who’s got the money for a Louis Vuitton bag, anyway? Not Hannah, who shamelessly mooches free hotel food from her parents, falls for men who aren’t classically hot (and for gay ones, too), and who dances on her own to Robyn. She’s the Carrie – only because she’s the one with the most screen time, and because she’s a writer – of this NYC girl group. Clueless as to what she should do with her life, Hannah spends a lot of time having sex with the weirdly handsome Adam and worrying about everything. Lena Dunham plays her, and she’s also the head writer of the phenomenal “Girls”, one of the best series on TV right now – a real-world take on life as we know it, with adorable, sexy, funny and fearless anecdotes (next time you pee on someone, try not to think of Hannah’s “ew” face). HBO goes all out with the extras, but the coolest supplement comes to you in 144 characters or less: a journal of Dunham tweets.
If “Glee” wasn’t singing the lowest note of its four-season run, it might at least stand a chance against “Pitch Perfect.” But with the zany musical-comedy about an all-girls collegiate a cappella group, the TV show’s recent episodes are even more unbearable. Yup, “Pitch Perfect” is so good that it makes “Glee” suck harder. If only Ryan Murphy had a competitive riff-off in a giant pool, more screwball writing, some aca-awesome vernacular, or Rebel Wilson – because no film/TV show should get made without her in it. But even if Wilson, as Fat Amy, crushed every scene she was in with one-liners and mermaid-dance improv, the cast – a myriad of types, including a mousy Asian, a handsy lesbian and a sex fiend – practically made this pitch perfect. The fun doesn’t stop there, either: Watch them get even weirder during the Line-O-Rama extras.
Just 6 years old and suddenly living in the “Bathtub,” Hushpuppy must defy her physical and mental limitations and find the courage, strength and love to face the devastation Hurricane Katrina has left on her ravaged bayou home. Part of that means caring for her ailing father and standing up to the monsters that try to stop her from rising up. First-time director Benh Zeitlin’s slice of reality-meets-mythology poeticism is one of the most moving experiences of 2012, buoyed by newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis’ Oscar-nominated performance – one of remarkable maturity, fierce vigor and genuine moments of heartbreaking poignancy. She’s a little powerhouse, and not just in the movie. That adorable audition tape during the extras shows what a cute firecracker she is.
How do you make a zombie movie without brains? You don’t. So there’s that mushy mind stuff in “ParaNorman”, but it’s not the only organ in this wonderfully animated kind-of-kid adventure-comedy from “Coraline” creators. There’s heart, too. In this gooey good time, Norman doesn’t just see dead people; he talks to them. Says hi to the hippie ghost on the way to school. But he’s also the only person who knows how to break a curse to cease a zombie attack on his town. And his grandma is Elaine Stritch. Oh yeah. Who’s cool now? Norman is a fake-life “It Gets Better” story, but he’s not the only thing progressive about “ParaNorman”: The jock loves boys. Cast members voice their characters during a behind-the-scenes special feature, which also includes a clip explaining how they brought “ParaNorman” to, uh, life.
The remake of this Motown musical about a flashy girl group will be remembered as one thing and one thing only: Whitney Houston’s last film before her untimely death. Which is kind of a shame. The great singer’s career has seen better days. Houston’s tough-love mom role – serving as a cautionary tale to the rising star of her daughter, Sparkle (Jordin Sparks in her screen debut) – has less range than the icon belting one of her classic hits, though she earns those tears running down your face when she puts her heart into “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” But not that bittersweet moment – or all the music, drama and infectious charisma of Sparks – can give “Sparkle” the boost it needs to be more than just a very second-rate “Dreamgirls”. Remembering the icon on “A Tribute to Whitney Houston,” the special features do more justice to her legendary status than the conventionally middling movie itself.
“The Dark Knight Rises”
Like Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”, the (probably not) final installment in Christopher Nolan’s dark and political Batman trilogy got its standout star: Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. Destroying any doubt that “Mia Thermopolis” couldn’t handle the part that Michele Pfeiffer made iconic, Hathaway reinvented the sneaky jewelry thief as a purr-fect version of the sexy comic-book legend. And she’s not the only one rocking her role: Michael Caine is still a scene-stealer, Tom Hardy is relentlessly nasty and Christian Bale’s Batman is our Obama. Plus, it’s got Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Nolan’s astonishing “last” chapter feels conclusive enough to close the saga, but who knows: Its epic ending hints that, maybe, The Dark Knight will rise again. Over three hours of bonus features are included in the combo’s standalone disc. They’re all worth a look, but no more than the nerd guide to the Batmobile.
—Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at chris-azzopardi.com.