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by Bryce J. Renninger
June 1, 2010 4:35 AM
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Small Screen | Burton's "Alice," "The Sun," a Soccer doc, and Paparazzo Profile Find Their Way Home

Just days after finishing up his stint as Jury President at Cannes, Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" (criticWIRE rating: a notably divided C+) enters the home market on DVD and Blu-Ray. Amazon.com has an exclusive collector's release with framed film cells. In his 3-star review of the disc, touting the DVD/Blu-Ray combo as the best value, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Garrett Conti rates the film high, "Burton's film is not only beautiful to look at, but fantastic in its storytelling." He adds, "Featurettes on the standard and Blu-ray discs look at every aspect of 'Alice in Wonderland,' including stunts, makeup, settings, characters, the score and the technology used in the making of the motion picture. The featurettes that explore the visual effects and technology are the best of the bunch, as the film packs in a lot of CGI."

Fairing much better with our critics, Alexander Sokurov's "The Sun" (criticWIRE rating: A-), is a biopic of Japan's Emperor Hirohito. The film, which comes out today on DVD via Kino International, documents Hirohito's pleas to end military activity during WWII, which facilitated the end of the war and led to General MacArthur's occupation. Writing during the film's festival run, Not Coming to a Theater Near You's Leo Goldsmith says, "Contrary to many contemporary histories, Sokurov’s film depicts Hirohito as a complete naïf with little or no concept of the military expansion and operations of his country’s regime...What the film portrays is a Hirohito who is wholly imprisoned in his deification and cloistered by tradition and politics. Decades of obsequiousness and a boundless indulgence of his eccentricity have given Hirohito the aspect of a sheltered manchild, puttering around the dim confines of his palace."

Soccer (or football, if you're so inclined) fever is about to hit South Africa and the world as the World Cup takes flight. SXSW competition title "Pelada" directed by Luke Boughen, Rebekah Fergusson, Gwendolyn Oxenham, and Ryan White, documents pick-up soccer games around the world, noting the sports global influence and popularity. So that you can put in some viewing time in between World Cup matches, FilmBuff is releasing "Pelada" on cable VOD June 7. On the filmmaking process, director-producer Ryan White told indieWIRE, "We were crossing lots of borders and traversing lots of neighborhoods that weren’t the safest, so we tried to look as inconspicuous as possible–we put our equipment in backpacks and it was guerilla-style filmmaking. Because of the spontaneous nature of pick-up, we literally followed the game where it took us. There was no amount of planning or development we could do in advance to ever know when a truly remarkable story would arise."

Sundance competition entry, "Smash His Camera" (criticWIRE rating: B) from "When We Were Kings" director Leon Gast, gets its TV premier on HBO June 7. In his indieWIRE review of the profile of pioneering paparazzo Ron Galella, Eric Kohn says, "Gast appears to have developed a close relationship with his subject that limited the extent to which he could dig beneath Galella’s staunch exterior. “Smash His Camera” exposes less about its subject than it first seems; instead, he emphasizes the mythology surrounding Galella’s work. The philosophical ruminations make for a compelling intellectual package. As a profile, it’s only surface deep, but only because the movie strives for a level of entertainment on par with the ebullient figure at its center."

Amongst the other new DVD/Blu-Ray releases this week is the BBC "Planet Earth" spin-off "Life," with a voice over by naturalist David Attenborough. Also released is the Oprah Winfrey-voiced US version (For a good time, take a look at the reviews of the U.S. version on Amazon.com). Benjamin Bratt's A&E TV series gets a complete series release also. "Hannah Free," a lesbian drama starring Sharon Gless, gets its release today via Wolfe Video. Volume 2 of Barbara Stanwyck's 1960's anthology drama TV show gets a release today. And this week's most intriguing straight-to-video title? "Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!"

Bryce Renninger, an indieWIRE contributor in the New York office, is also the shorts programmer for Newfest and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Media Studies at Rutgers University. He can be reached via Twitter.

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