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New on DVD – June 1, 2010 – Alice in Wonderland and The Wolfman

From Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland to the Benicio del Toro’s Wolfman and a Steven Spielberg modern classic, here’s a look at what’s coming out this week on DVD.

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Walt Disney signed up Tim Burton for their 3-D overhaul of the Alice story and got an eye-popping special-effects extravaganza, in which Johnny Depp plays the Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter the decapitation-obsessed Red Queen. We weren’t very impressed with the film’s overall ho-hum factor, with our critic liking its look but finding the uninteresting story a “scrambled-up highlights reel of the Lewis Carroll adventure.” For the actress playing Alice herself, we thought Mia Wasikowska a “totally blank slate.”

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After Stephen Sommers’s jokey take on the old Universal monster the Mummy, Joe Johnston’s highly gory version of the Wolfman comes at its subject with dead seriousness, casting Oscar bait like Benicio del Toro as the monster himself and Anthony Hopkins as his father. But our critic was dismayed by a tone that went beyond seriousness into deep moroseness: “It’s faithful at the expense of any fun.”

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Don’t expect speed, thrills, or high drama in Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov’s film about a climactic meeting between General Douglas MacArthur and Japan’s Emperor Hirohito (considered a living god by many of his people) in the aftermath of World War II. Our writer was besotted with the film, comparing its style to that of masters like Bresson and Ozu, noting that Sokurov’s style “is thick, lingering, and has the pace of a tortoise with Krazy Glue on its feet.”

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Steven Spielberg’s 2005 high-impact remake of the H.G. Wells science-fiction classic — previously filmed in 1953 — starred Tom Cruise as a father trying to keep his two children safe while an alien invasion tears up the Eastern Seaboard. Though we were impressed with the film’s thrilling battles and chases, we thought that the director’s emphasis on the story’s human aspect was even better handled: “[Spielberg] masterfully conjures a fear that’s far more terrifying than what we humans are capable of inflicting upon ourselves.”

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