RT on DVD

RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Crazy, Stupid, Love & Cars 2 & Water for Elephants

Plus, a silent era Phantom, a traditional Christmas, and a saucy documentary.

by | November 1, 2011 | Comments

This week brings us another handful of interesting releases on home video, with a mixture of Certified Fresh choices and critical duds. Notable “also-ran”s for this week’s column include both the 1951 adaptation of A Christmas Carol and the 1988 Bill Murray version Scrooged, as well as the Robin Williams Peter Pan tale Hook and a Blu-ray set for the Toy Story trilogy, all ideal for the holidays. George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind also gets the hi-def treatment, as does the British miniseries Brideshead Revisited. That said, we’ll be focusing on the recent Steve Carell/Ryan Gosling romcom, Pixar’s most recent sequel, and a Robert Pattinson/Reese Witherspoon drama. Then we’ve got Errol Morris’s latest doc, a faith-based Christmas story, Joel Schumacher’s hostage movie, and a creepy silent era classic. See below for the full list!

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

79%

Steve Carell’s big screen career thus far has been quite fruitful for him, but though the talented actor has already notched a few starring roles, Crazy, Stupid, Love. marks the first one since The 40 Year Old Virgin to earn the Certified Fresh stamp (if you don’t include his work in animated films like Despicable Me). Carell plays Cal Weaver, a family man suffering from marital problems who befriends smooth-talking womanizer Jacob (Ryan Gosling) in order to get back into the dating game. Soon, however, Jacob himself begins to earnestly fall for Hannah (Emma Stone), and both he and Cal must lean on each other for support through their tumultuous love lives. With a supporting cast that also includes Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, and Kevin Bacon, Crazy, Stupid, Love. charmed critics, who called it unabashedly sweet even if it doesn’t quite live up to the “crazy” part of its title, to the tune of a Certified Fresh 77%. While it may not necessarily elicit the biggest laughs of the year, it should make for a pleasant rom-com elevated by a terrific cast.

Cars 2

39%

Though it sports a Certified Fresh 74% on the Tomatometer, 2006’s Cars is widely regarded as Pixar’s least impressive film, especially when considering the fact that every other entry in the animation studio’s canon has earned between 91% and 100% on the Tomatometer. What, then, prompted this sequel, when there would appear to be so many other worthy entries to expand into franchises? Some argue that it was a money grab, seeing as how Cars merchandise has been disgustingly popular with the kiddies. Others argue that… Well, okay, we haven’t heard much in the way of a counterargument, considering Cars 2 went on to become the first Rotten movie for Pixar. This time around, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and his buddy Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) do a bit of globetrotting for a World Grand Prix, during which Mater becomes unwittingly involved in an international espionage operation. Despite the film’s fantastic visual flourishes, critics say, Cars 2 lacks compelling storytelling, making it possibly the first Pixar film not to appeal successfully to adults as much as children. The cast, which includes Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, John Turturro, and more, is great, though, and kids will undoubtedly love it, so there you go.

Water for Elephants

60%

It’s a bit too early to tell whether or not Robert Pattinson will forever be known primarily as Twilight‘s Edward Cullen, but it would seem that Water for Elephants, based on the NY Times Best Seller of the same name, isn’t the film that will memorably set him apart from the popular teen vampire series. Pattinson plays Jacob, a twentysomething Cornell veterinary student during the Great Depression who, after learning his parents have died tragically and left a mountain of debt, decides to hop on a passing train in lieu of returning to school. As it turns out, the train belongs to the Benzini Brothers Circus, who hires Jacob as the circus’s vet, and he soon falls in love with the head animal trainer’s (Christoph Waltz) wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon). While the tale is tastefully told and beautifully filmed, critics felt that that Water for Elephants suffered from a pronounced lack of chemistry between its leads, earning it a just-barely-Fresh 61%. It might do the trick if you’re looking for an old-timey romance, but don’t expect many sparks to fly.

Tabloid

92%

When is an Errol Morris (Gates of Heaven, The Thin Blue Line) documentary ever uninteresting? The acclaimed filmmaker has been crafting award-winning docs for decades now, and Tabloid, Certified Fresh at 92%, proves he still has what it takes. Of course, it certainly helps if your subject is Joyce Bernann McKinney, the former Miss World contestant with a colorful past who turned up in the news again when a woman going by the name of “Bernann McKinney” traveled to South Korea in 2008 to have her pet dog cloned. As chronicled in Tabloid, McKinney was previously tied to a 1977 investigation in which a Mormon missionary living in Surrey, England alleged that McKinney kidnapped him, chained him to a bed, and raped him. As critics noted, Tabloid isn’t Morris’s most thought-provoking work, but it’s nevertheless a smart, spirited, and engaging look at tabloid culture and one very fascinating woman, and that makes for a solidly entertaining film.

Christmas with a Capital C

Faith-based films have never done very well with critics, typically because such films have a difficult time balancing effective storytelling (and decent acting, to be honest) with heavily message-driven themes. We can’t really tell you what most professional film critics thought of Christmas with a Capital C, however, because, for the most part, only Christian organizations bothered to review it. What we can tell you is that, upon the release of the film’s trailer, a lot of people on the internet had a lot of funny things to say about it, so we’re including it here as a curiosity. The story is pretty straightforward: Dan Reed (Ted McGinley) is a small-town mayor in Alaska who relishes the traditional Christmas celebrations every year, and when his high school rival Mitch Bright (Daniel Baldwin; why not Stephen is anyone’s guess) returns home from the big city, things heat up quickly. You see, Mitch isn’t comfortable with the public displays of religious themes, and in an effort to bring the town in line with the consitution’s Establishment Clause, he decides to run against Dan in the mayoral race. The film, in other words, is basically a feature-length illustration of the so-called “War on Christmas” and is intended to cater to those who firmly believe Christmas should remain a Christ-centric celebration. If you fall into this constituency, then this will be a perfect holiday treat; if not, then your life will likely not have been significantly affected by skipping the film.

Trespass (2011)

11%

Those who are intent on scrutinizing Nicolas Cage’s career as he takes role after role in films of ALL sorts may want to give this one a look, if only for a few more of his trademark freakout moments. Helmed by Joel Schumacher and co-starring Nicole Kidman (honestly, what is she doing in this?), Trespass follows a wealthy young family who are taken hostage in their mansion by extortionists looking to score on a home invasion run. Unfortunately, as the critics tell it, the film simply relies on too many familiar elements from other similar films like Panic Room, rendering the tension ineffective, and is far too nasty and aggressive to be entertaining. At 13% on the Tomatometer, it’s not much of a surprise that the film opened almost exactly two weeks ago and is now already finding its way to home video. (You can read about Joel Schumacher’s Five Favorite Films here.)

Phantom of the Opera (1925) Blu-ray

90%

If you’re in the market for some post-Halloween creepiness, you’re in luck: The Phantom of the Opera is hitting shelves on Blu-ray. Starring Lon Chaney in perhaps his most iconic role, this supremely gothic 1925 masterpiece is unlikely to shock contemporary slasher fans (or even adherents to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash musical), but it still has the power to get under your skin and stay there. Chaney plays Erik, a disfigured, misunderstood music star who slinks around the dark corridors below the Paris Opera House, causing all sorts of havoc in a misguided attempt to win the heart of his beloved Christine (Mary Philbin). Featuring grotesque makeup and innovative color sequences, Phantom remains disquieting stuff; for silent movie buffs, the disc has some interesting bonus materials, including a commentary track, the original script, a photo gallery, and a souvenir program.

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