New DVDs this week

Published: Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 26TICKET

"Lawless" (R, 116 minutes, The Weinstein Co./ Anchor Bay)

John Hillcoat's adaptation of Matt Bondurant's dramatized family history, "The Wettest County in the World," has much to recommend it. Still, an inescapable sense of "so what?" sets in early with "Lawless," almost as soon as Shia LaBeouf begins his lackluster opening narration. In 1931, in Franklin County, Va., Jack Bondurant (LaBeouf) and his big brothers, Howard (Jason Clarke) and Forrest (Tom Hardy), divide their time between running the family's general store and a lucrative moonshine operation. It's a tidy living threatened by the arrival of Special Agent Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce).

"Lawless" feels less like it's breaking new ground than going through old motions. A movie about outlaws – whether indulging or interrogating their self-styled legend – should never play it this safe. Contains strong, bloody violence, profanity and some sexuality and nudity. Extras: Commentary with Hillcoat and Bondurant; featurettes "The True Story of the Wettest County in the World" and "Franklin County, Va.: Then and Now"; Willie Nelson's "Midnight Run" music video; deleted scenes.

"ParaNorman" (PG, 92 minutes, Universal)

This animated film comes from writer and co- director Chris Butler, a storyboard artist who honed his skills on Tim Burton's "Corpse Bride" and Henry Selick's "Coraline." Butler's own movie is a spooky, creature-infested campfire story laced with valuable lessons about teamwork, responsibility, courage and the celebration of our inner outcast. That last trait is personified by Norman, a quiet and unassuming middle-schooler who can converse with the dead. Restless spirits are far kinder to Norman than the school bullies who ostracize our hero simply because he's different.

After a creaky start, "ParaNorman" comes to life once the dead rise. Contains scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and rude language.

Extras: Commentary with Butler and co-director Sam Fell; preliminary animatic sequences; making-of featurette; and seven short segments showcasing Norman and his extraordinarily unusual co-stars.

"Sparkle" (PG-13, 120 minutes, Sony)

A remake of the 1976 musical, the updated version will forever be known as Whitney Houston's final screen appearance. The pop diva plays the disapproving mother of a daughter who longs to make it big as a singer, in a role that plays like a cautionary mirror version of Houston's own fatal battles. Contains mature thematic content involving abuse, some violence, profanity and smoking. Extras: Commentary by director Salim Akil, featurettes "A Tribute to Whitney Houston" and "A Dream Come True." Also, on Blu-ray: featurettes "A Sparkling Performance" and "Sparkle and Shine," "Hooked on Your Love" extended scene and music video "Celebrate."

"Step Up Revolution" (PG-13, 99 minutes, Lionsgate)

Despite its title, audiences shouldn't expect anything revolutionary from the fourth chapter in the "Step Up" franchise. By proudly waving its dance-to-live flag, "Step Up" falls in lock-step with a proud lineage of body- rocking dramas. Contains some suggestive dancing and language. Extras: Commentary with McCormick, Guzman, director Scott Speer and choreographer Jamal Sims; deleted scenes; "Flash Mob Index" of all The Mob's dance sequences; making-of, choreography and "Becoming a Star" featurettes; and music videos "Goin' In" (with Jennifer Lopez, Flo Rida and Lil Jon) and "Hands in the Air" (with Timbaland and Ne-Yo).

"Men in Black III" (PG-13, 107 minutes, Sony)

There are a couple of real pleasures in the third installment of the sci-fi adventure comedy series about cops policing a shadow world of aliens living among us. The most satisfying is the setup: In a time-travel scenario, Agent J must go back to 1969 to prevent the murder of his partner, Agent K. That affords the film an opportunity to make fun of the '60s. Until Agent J "time jumps" into the past, however, the movie feels flat-footed and lazy, reprising old jokes and sight gags from the earlier films. Contains sci-fi action violence and some suggestive material. DVD extras: Gag reel, making-of featurette, music video "Back in Time" by Pitbull. Also, on Blu-ray: "Spot the Alien" game; "The Evolution of Cool: MIB 1960s vs. Today" featurette, special effects featurette, four scene investigations and five progression reels. Also available in 3-D format, which adds a featurette on 3-D models.

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