DVD reviews: ‘Cloverfield,’ ‘Charlie Wilson,’ ‘Savages’

New this week on DVD

If there’s a monster on the loose, film it

Odds are, if a giant monster is destroying your town, you’re more likely to dump the camcorder and exit stage left than to run deeper into the quagmire, filming as you go, like the unfamiliar stars do in “Cloverfield.”

The film is pretty silly when you think about it ­— so don’t think; put your brain on hold and enjoy the ride. It’s exciting.

The caveat is: You have to stomach the whole thing’s being shot on a hand-held camera. Unlike “The Blair Witch Project” — “Cloverfield’s” been described as “Blair Witch” meets “Godzilla” — the scenes don’t jump all over the place.

Instead, they quickly sweep right to left and up and down, but mostly they’re semi-steady frontal shots of hell breaking lose.

I found “Blair Witch’s” herky-jerkyness grating, but could watch “Cloverfield” without taking Dramamine.

After a so-so start, the movie turns into a fast-moving rush with a little emotion tossed in for good measure.

Extras: Commentary by director Matt Reeves; making-of documentary; alternate endings; deleted scenes; visual-effects short; on-set tomfoolery.

Glossy fun

“Charlie Wilson’s War” is an entertaining adaptation of a true story: In the 1980s, Rep. Charlie Wilson convinced his colleagues to help Afghan freedom fighters drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan by increased funding for covert operations.

Directed by Mike Nichols, the picture glitters with charisma — from Tom Hanks as the affable title character (a bachelor known as “Good Time Charlie”) to Julia Roberts as a wealthy Texas socialite who spurs him on (and sleeps with him) and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a crusty CIA agent who helps him convince rival countries to work together to provide weapons.

Hoffman’s portrayal of an atypical agent (straight-talking, blue collar) grounds the story, which is amusing, playful and intriguing.

Extras: A making-of short; a documentary on the real Wilson (tall, good-looking, candid), who still radiates swagger.

Hoffman redux

Many reviews pegged “The Savages” as an eccentric dark comedy about a brother and sister (Hoffman and Laura Linney) who deal with the onset of their estranged father’s (a volatile Philip Bosco) dementia as well as their sibling rivalry.

In actuality, the film is very dark — and painful — and only occasionally humorous or eccentric.

If you have an aging parent on a downward slide and, perhaps, unable to fend for himself or herself, “The Savages” is a decent mini primer on what to expect. If you’ve already been through it, as I have, then pass; it’s too close to reality.

Hoffman and Linney excel as dysfunctional siblings confronting their emotions and their relationship with each other and their abusive dad as they set him up in a rest home.

Writer-director Tamara Jenkins, an Oscar nominee for original screenplay, paints them as skittish intellectuals with strains of elitism and difficulties with commitment.

Extras:
Extended scenes of an elder tap-dancing group and a couple singing; director’s snapshots.

DVD snippets

“Black House”: Horror thriller about an insurance investigator who digs too deeply into a little boy’s death by hanging — in the perennial creepy old house — after it’s ruled a suicide. In Korean with subtitles.

“Call of the Wild”: Jack London story of a guy and his dog in the Klondike; with Shane Meier as Miles and Kavic as Buck, the dog.

“Daytona 500: 50 Years of ‘The Great American Race’”: Fast cars on two discs.

“Flash Point”: A police detective determined to rid his city of three criminal brothers plants a mole in their mob, then tries to keep him alive. Hong Kong martial-arts actioner with Donnie Yen.

“The Major and the Minor”: Classic Billy Wilder romantic comedy with Ginger Rogers forced to masquerade as a little girl and Ray Milland as the major who lets her stay at his military academy; lively and fun.

“Mist: The Tale of a Sheepdog Puppy”: Live-action story of a pup who wants to become a sheepdog. (Think “Babe” without the pig.)

“One Missed Call”: In an anti-technolgy parable, young people get cell-phone messages with the sounds of their last moments days before they die; with Ed Burns and Shannyn Sossamon.

“The Orphanage”: Atmospheric ghost story about a woman who accidentally releases a nasty spirit after returning with her family to the orphanage where she grew up; solid chiller; in Spanish with subtitles; produced by Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”).

“The Shirley Temple Collection Volume 6”: “Wee Willie Winkie,” “Young People” and “Stowaway”; digitally restored in wide screen.

“Starting Out in the Evening”: Ambitious grad student ingratiates herself into the life of reclusive, aging, once-famous novelist (Oscar nominee Frank Langella).

TV on DVD

“The Best of Backyard Habitat: Volume 1”; “Bigfoot Presents: Meteor and the Mighty Monster Trucks – Shifting Gears (Vol. 3”; “Friday Night Lights: The Second Season”: “Oban Star-Racers – Vol. 1: The Alwas Cycle”; “Laverne and Shirley: The Complete Fourth Season”: “My Boy Jack”: “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!: Season 1”; “ToddWorld: Making New Friends (Vol. 3)”; “The Wonder Pets!: Save the Beetles.”

Coming soon

April 29: “The Golden Compass,” “27 Dresses”

May 20: “National Treasure 2 — Book of Secrets”

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