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By Karen Martin

This article was published May 17, 2013 at 3:19 a.m.


This is the slinky, philosophical hero of The Rabbi’s Cat.

The Rabbi’s Cat Directed by Antoine Delesvaux and Joann Sfar (animated, not rated, 89 minutes)

Based on the best-selling graphic novel by Joann Sfar (who co-directs), The Rabbi’s Cat concerns a rabbi in 1930s Algeria and a skinny, sharp-tongued feline philosopher with a vicious sense of humor and an inappropriate attraction to the rabbi’s sexy teenage daughter.

The cat, which acquires the ability to talk after eating the family parrot, never encounters a topic he doesn’t enjoy pouncing upon. Religion, tradition, authority figures, lust, death - you name it,the cat goes after it.

Sfar’s first animated film (he made his directing debut with 2010’s Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life) won a French Cesar in 2011.

“To the degree that the movie has a theme, it returns again and again to the idea of varied types living together and expressing their differences openly: Jews and Arabs, humans and animals, Caucasians and Africans, the young and the old, and people steeped in various cultures, languages and beliefs,” says critic Tasha Robinson for the Onion A.V. Club. “There’s no forced moral to Sfar’s work, just an observation of an infinitely diverse and unlikely world, spinning randomly under the benevolent eye of a God who is, as one character says, just ‘a decent guy.’ For all its wanderings, The Rabbi’s Cat holds to this perspective, holding all differences as interesting to explore, but more of a capricious gift than a burden.”

The Last Stand (R, 107 minutes) Korean director Jee-woon Kim makes his U.S. debut with this action comedy that stars Arnold Schwarzenegger in his return to the screen after a lengthy political career. The one-time Terminator plays a sheriff who leaves his Los Angeles Police Department narcotics post after a botched operation and takes up a life of minimal crime fighting in a snoozy border town until a notorious drug lord escapes an FBI prisoner convoy and heads his way in a Corvette ZR1. With Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Luis Guzman.

“There is something rather sweet about Schwarzenegger in this, not a word usually associated with this guy, who was the coldest and least cuddly of the 1980s action heroes and who became famous for playing a killing machine, literally,” says critic Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle. “But now, in his mid-60s, he has a touch of gentleness about him, something softer around the eyes, and the narcissism, which used to be so much a part of the persona, is either gone or safely hidden away.”

3:10 to Yuma (not rated, 92 minutes) This is the original 1957 film (nicely remade in 2007 with Russell Crowe), a beautifully photographed and detailed Western with Van Heflin as a quiet cattle rancher who hopes to earn some much-needed cash by escorting a captured outlaw (Glenn Ford) to a train that will deliver him to prison.The DVD features a restored digital film transfer, interviews with Elmore Leonard (whose book is the basis of the story) and Ford’s son and biographer Peter Ford. “3:10 to Yuma is as noteworthy for its technique as for its theme and characters,” says Rob Nixon on the website Turner Classic Movies. “[Director Delmer] Daves shot the film in black and white in a time when color had become the standard for Westerns. One of its most significant departures from the genre is the setting; much of it takes place not in the great outdoors but within the confines of a hotel room, where the intense interplay between the two characters frequently earns 3:10 to Yuma its description as a ‘chamber Western.’”

An Officer and a Gentleman (R, 122 minutes) Directed by Taylor Hackford, this Blu-ray release of 1982’s An Officer and a Gentleman follows Navy aviation officer candidate Zack Mayo (Richard Gere), an uppity troublemaker who gets involved with local factory worker Paula Pokrifki (Debra Winger), which threatens to derail his career. The film features the late Arkansan Lisa Blount as Lynette Pomeroy, also a factory worker, who’s carrying on with Zack’s pal and fellow student Sid Worley (David Keith). “In this resolutely old-fashioned Navy tale, a selfish, hard-hearted loner becomes a much, much better man, thanks to the rigors of basic training (and Oscar-winner Louis Gossett Jr.) and the love of a good woman,” says critic Janet Maslin in The New York Times. “Undeniably, there’s an element of corniness to this. But that doesn’t keep An Officer and a Gentleman from being a first-rate movie - a beautifully acted, thoroughly involving romance.”

One Hour Photo (R, 95 minutes) This is the Blu-ray release of 2002’s quietly compelling thriller featuring a very serious Robin Williams as a department store photo developer who becomes a far too-involved observer of the lives of the Yorkin family, his biggest customers. With Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan. “Beyond the cleverness, the weirdness and the pristine camerawork, One Hour Photo is a sobering meditation on why we take pictures,” says critic Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 05/17/2013

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