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RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Drive, Transformers 3, and More

In Time, The Thing, and Dream House also fill out a week jam packed with new releases.

by | January 31, 2012 | Comments

This week on home video, we’ve got a long list comprised almost entirely of new releases. Kicking things off are the Ryan Gosling-powered arthouse action movie and the Michael Bay-directed giant robot movie. Then we’ve got a sci-fi thriller, a horror “prequel,” a not-so-funny dramedy, and a psychological thriller whose stellar cast couldn’t raise its Tomatometer. After that, we’ve got an import from a Japanese auteur, a father-daughter bonding flick, an acclaimed music documentary, and finally, the 50th Anniversary Blu-ray of an American classic. See below for the full list!

Drive

93%

Drive was one of the most polarizing mainstream films of 2011, and it’s not hard to see why: advertised as a slam-bang action flick a la Fast Five, this moody, tense thriller combined the existential angst of 1970s road pictures with the sleek veneer (and synth soundtrack) of a movie from the 1980s. Ryan Gosling stars as a stuntman who moonlights as a criminal getaway driver. He develops a tentative relationship with a down-on-her-luck single mother (Carey Mulligan), but in the process of protecting her from underworld forces, he too is caught in the crossfire. The result wowed the critics, who found it to be a genre movie of surprising depth and visual inventiveness; if you missed it in theaters (or hated it the first time around), you should give the new Blu-ray/DVD/Ultraviolet set a chance, which comes with a bunch of making-of featurettes and an interview with director Nicolas Winding Refn.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

35%

By most accounts, the Michael Bay-directed Transformers films to date are not very good, but that hasn’t stopped them from making gobs and gobs of cash, and this third installment, Dark of the Moon, made the most of them all (over $1 billion at the box office!). This time around, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and the Autobots must race to recover and protect an ancient Autobot ancestor who crash landed on the moon, but the Decepticons interfere, and things aren’t exactly as they seem. Critics found Dark of the Moon to be an improvement over the second installment, with some impressive special effects work and action sequences, but the film as a whole left a lot to be desired. At 35% on the Tomatometer, don’t expect to find much more to the movie than “Ooh, big robots and explosions!” But hey, for some, that’s really all you need.

In Time

37%

Justin Timberlake has done a great job marketing himself as more than just a musical talent, and despite some of her recent film choices, it’s almost impossible to dislike the typically charming Amanda Seyfried. According to critics, however, the likability of In Time‘s two leads just wasn’t enough to overcome the film’s other problems. The story takes place in the distant future when adults stop aging at 25 but instead accrue time as currency. When factory worker Will Salas (Timberlake) ends up with 116 years of time belonging to a dead man, he’s accused of murder, and with a businessman’s daughter (Seyfried) in tow, he sets out to confront the system. Despite an intriguing premise and capable people both in front of and behind the camera, In Time suffers from all too blunt and heavy-handed storytelling. You’d probably be better off with director Andrew Niccol’s similarly themed previous film, Gattaca.

The Thing

34%

They say 2011’s The Thing was intended to be a prequel to the John Carpenter classic of the same name, but whether you call it a reboot, a remake, a retread, or a prequel, most agree on one thing: it was unnecessary. Rule of thumb: if you’re going to invoke the name of a beloved classic and slap it on your film, it better be a damn good film, because comparisons to the original are inevitable. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the ostensible lead here, as a paleontologist who is brought to an Antarctic research station where a spacecraft has been discovered beneath the ice, complete with an extraterrestrial survivor. When the alien promptly escapes its icy prison and begins taking the form of the various researchers (as it is wont to do), jump scares and gore ensue. Critics found The Thing far inferior to the original, meeting only the bare minimum for a horror movie; you might could check it out if you’re curious, but you’re probably better off going with the original.

The Big Year

42%

You’d think a comedy starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black would be pretty funny, if not uproariously hilarious (your opinions on the actors notwithstanding), especially when the film is centered around competitive bird watching. Based on the book by Mark Obmascik, The Big Year actually hopes to accomplish a bit more depth, but critics agree that it largely falls flat. At various crossroads in their lives, Stu (Martin), Brad (Black), and Kenny (Wilson) embark on a cross-country trip in hopes of spotting the most bird species in North America; along the way, they each discover enough about themselves to move on. Directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada), The Big Year certainly cares about its characters, but most critics felt the film had little forward motion, and its surprising lack of humor made it feel all the more stagnant. If you’re into self discovery movies, you might enjoy this; just don’t expect to laugh much.

Dream House

6%

Jim Sheridan’s made some great movies (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father), and he’s made a couple of stinkers (Get Rich or Die Tryin’). Unfortunately, despite the efforts of an all-star cast that includes Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and Naomi Watts, Dream House falls pretty squarely in the latter category. Craig stars as Peter Ward, a recently released mental patient and survivor of a brutal attack that left his wife (Weisz) and two daughters dead. Unfortunately, Peter is not altogether well, and he moves back into his decrepit home, believing in his mind that it is still the lovely home he left, and that his family is still alive and well… but with different names. As Peter’s past and his fabricated fantasy come to a head, the truth is slowly revealed. Unfortunately, critics saw the twists and turns coming a mile away, and in light of that, the film simply moved along at a snail’s pace, too stuffy to be gripping, and too obvious to be scary. As it stands, it’s the lowest Tomatometer-rated film for Sheridan, Weisz, and Watts, and the second lowest of Craig’s filmography (trumped only by his early appearance in A Kid in King Arthur’s Court).

Thunder Soul

100%

The story of the Kashmere High School Stage Band is like a real-life Glee plotline: music teacher attends Otis Redding concert, and hits upon the idea of having the band students bring the funk. More than 40 years after the kids first got together to put on a show, the meager recorded output of these Texas schoolkids is prized by hip hop DJs looking for the perfect beat — and it’s the subject of Thunder Soul, an agreeable documentary narrated by Jamie Foxx that tells the story of the coolest band geeks ever. The students reunite to pay tribute to their teacher, Conrad “Prof” Johnson, and play some of the old songs, and they can still put on a show — critics grooved to this fascinating slice of pop culture history to the tune of a 100% Tomatometer score.

Outrage

80%

Japanese auteur Takeshi Kitano (or “Beat” Takeshi) made a name for himself with idiosyncratic crime dramas about the Yakuza, characterized by long static shots, creative editing, bursts of graphic violence, and deadpan humor. Though Kitano has since expanded his oeuvre to include comedies and art films, his latest export, Outrage, finds him returning to his roots, chronicling a Yakuza power struggle during a time of societal transition. After a handful of creative departures over the past decade, Kitano stated that he intended Outrage purely to be entertaining, and with a Tomatometer score currently of 83%, it looks like he may have succeeded. Screened in competition for the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2010, and it’s already got a sequel slated for this year. If you’re a fan of Kitano’s work, particularly his mob films like Fireworks or Sonatine, chances are you’ll probably enjoy this film.

Janie Jones

56%

A precocious young girl played by an up-and-coming starlet is left by her deadbeat mom to spend time with her absentee celebrity father, forcing a familial bond to develop that will lead the father, deeply in need of redemption, to a better place. If the plot of Janie Jones sounds familiar, it’s because its skeleton pretty closely matches that of Sofia Coppola’s film Somewhere. The difference? Somewhere is Certified Fresh, while Janie Jones split critics right down the middle at 50% on the Tomatometer. So what kept the latter from reaching the heights of the former? Critics say Janie Jones, which stars Abigail Breslin as the daughter and Alessandro Nivola as the father, is entirely too familiar in its themes (as evidenced by Somewhere, which came out just one year prior) and, despite effective performances from its leads, never quite musters the dramatic heft it needs to outshine the others of its ilk.

To Kill a Mockingbird – 50th Anniversary Blu-Ray

93%

You probably had to read the book in high school; heck, you might have even watched the film with your English class. This week, Universal releases their 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray of To Kill a Mocknigbird, and for those of you who are fans of the 1962 film, which stars the legendary Gregory Peck as righteous attorney Atticus Finch, this should be a solid pickup. Based on the novel of the same name by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird is notable for several reasons: it was nominated for eight Oscars, winning three of them (Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Art Direction); it’s listed at #25 on AFI’s greatest American films of all time, and Atticus Finch was named the greatest movie hero of the 20th Century by the same; and it features the film debuts of William Windom, Alice Ghostley, and Robert Duvall (as Boo Radley, no less). In short, it’s an American classic, and an example of those rare times when a film adapted from an outstanding book is able to stand on its own. If you haven’t yet seen To Kill a Mockingbird, you owe it to yourself to watch it, and this bonus feature-packed Blu-ray would make an excellent introduction.

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