DVD reviews: ‘Slumdog’ slick, ‘Marley’ doggone touching, ‘Tell No One’ terrific

“Slumdog Millionaire,” winner of eight Oscars including best picture and best director, if you don’t dwell on “the gimmick.” The gimmick is a plot contrivance that tells the lead character’s life story via flashbacks that explain his ability to correctly answer each question on India’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” when he’s accused of cheating.
The night before the final question, the teen from the slums (Dev Patel) is arrested and roughed up as he’s interrogated. His saga begins with him, his older brother and a young woman as stray children, teaming up and scrounging through the slums of Mumbai. Eventually, they’re abducted and trained as beggars, become separated, and find each other years later, drastically changed. The intermittently violent tale of love, rivalry and jealousy is told in an appealingly dark, fable-like style against a Dickensian background of dangerous, bustling slums.
Cinematography is excellent. Director Danny Boyle’s pacing is brisk. The scenes with the leads as children are the most compelling but the acting’s solid all around. There’s a lack of insight into the woman (Freida Pinto) the “slumdog” has loved since they were kids, but a crowd-pleasing Bollywood ending makes up for most misgivings. On Blu-ray, too.
Extras: Commentaries, deleted scenes, more.
Rated three barks out of four
“Marley & Me” is a dog movie, the second half of which is mostly family drama, with emphasis on “drama.” You need to know this if you’re expecting a kid-friendly “Lassie,” “Benji” or “Underdog.”
The family-friendly first half is almost all doggie cuteness, mischief and irascibility as married journalists (Owen Wilson, in one of his best performances, and Jennifer Aniston) get a golden lab, name it Marley, and adapt to its untrainability. He chews, he pulls, he destroys, he grows big and becomes very strong. And that’s just Wilson’s character. (Kidding.)
As dog lovers know, no matter how ill-behaved the animal, he becomes family, is present at special occasions, welcomes the kids from school, is always happy, always forgiving and loving unconditionally. Which is the heart of the film and what makes its ending so touching. The picture, on single DVD, two-DVD set and Blu-ray, sags in spots where Marley’s off-screen. But the film, based on the megaseller by John Grogan (Wilson’s character), consistently radiates humanity.
Extras: In the movie, Wilson and the eldest Marley (played by a 10-year-old) show no chemistry, which I found distracting. The dog seldom even makes eye contact. In the extras — which vary per package — it’s revealed that the eldest, one of 22 dogs playing Marley from 5 weeks to 14 years old, didn’t like people. So why choose him? Never explained. Also, on Blu-ray and two-disc set: dog-training trivia track, digital copy, gag reel, deleted scenes, more.
Splendid suspense
My pick for one of the top five movies of 2008, “Tell No One,” on DVD and Blu-ray, is a French mystery thriller based on a novel of the same name by American writer Harlan Coben. The gist of the cat’s-cradle-like plot: A happily married pediatrician’s wife is declared dead by a secluded lake where they’ve been swimming a cappella. She screamed, he ran to her, was knocked out and awoke in a coma with little memory of the details.
Eight years later, the still-grieving doctor (Francois Cluzet) becomes a suspect when two bodies are found near the crime’s site. About the same time, he receives an e-mail showing a current video of his wife, or a woman resembling her, at a train station, along with the message, “Tell no one.”
Since there’s no “CSI: Paris,” the doc must ditch the law and solve the mystery on his own. Kristin Scott Thomas and Marie Josee-Croze co-star. Extras: English-dubbed soundtrack as well as original French with subtitles; outtakes; deleted scenes.
Also on DVD
“Baby Einstein World Music”: Visuals and sounds for babies.
“Black Sun”: Documentary based on painter Hugues de Montalemebert’s book about his adjusting to blindness (from an assault) by traveling and writing about his experiences.
“Magnificent Gladiator”: Sword fights in ancient Rome in the epics “Magnificent Gladiator” and “Revolt of the Barbarians.”
“My Very First Treasury of 50 Storybook Classics: Preschool Stories”: Kids tales such as “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” “Knuffle Bunny,” “Goodnight, Gorilla.”
“The Other End of the Line”: Romantic comedy about a U.S. businessman (Jesse Metcalfe) and a Mumbai-based call-center employee (Shriya Saran) who pretends she lives in S.F.
“Killer at Large”: Documentary about escalating obesity in the U.S.
“Seven Pounds”: Enigmatic I.R.S. agent (Will Smith) seeks redemption by trying to change the lives of seven strangers; with Rosario Dawson; also on Blu-ray.
“South Pacific 50th Anniversary Edition” on Blu-ray: Film adaptation of Rogers and Hammerstein Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, about love and prejudice in World War II; with Rosanno Brazzi, Mitzi Gaynor. Extras: new feature-length making-of doc; sing-along subtitles; vintage stage clips with original Broadway stars; more.
“Special”: Drug developers try to stop meter maid (Michael Rapaport) who thinks he’s a superhero and fights crime after being in an experimental study for a new antidepressant.
“Frances: Bedtime for Frances”: Three animated tales for preschoolers.
“The Fugitive, Season Two, Vol. 1”: Fugitive doctor pursues one-armed wife killer.
“Goosebumps: Return of the Mummy” and “Goosebumps: The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight”: Chills for kids.
“Handy Mandy: Manny’s Green Team”: Handyman and talking tools teach ecology.
“Jim Gaffigan: King Baby”: Stand-up special.
“Raw Nature”: Five parts, four wildlife filmmakers, dangerous animals.
“The Real Ghostbusters: The Complete Series”: All 147 animated episodes remastered, with extras, on 25 DVDs.
“The Real Ghostbusters: Vol. 1”: Five DVDs, 30 episodes, extras.
“Spectacular!”: Bad boy/rock-star wannabe (Nolan Gerard Funk of “Aliens in America”) is recruited by glitzy high school show choir for national championship.
“Strawberry Shortcake Berry Big Journeys”: Two tales.
“Thomas & Friends”: High Speed Adventures”: Six CG-animated stories.
“Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Season Four, Vol. 1”: Sci-fi espionage, action, mumbo-jumbo under the sea; first 13 episodes from final season.

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