RT on DVD

RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Megamind and Due Date

Plus, a few outstanding indies and a cult classic in the making.

by | February 22, 2011 | Comments

This week on home video, there’s a solid mix of decent films, in both big-budget fare and independent cinema. We kick things off with the Tina Fey/Brad Pitt/Will Ferrell-powered animated 2010 film from Paramount and the Robert Downey Jr.-Zach Galifianakis buddy road trip comedy. Then there are a few highly acclaimed indies, including the winner of the Limited Release and Foreign Film categories of our Golden Tomato Awards, and to round things out, we’ve got another round of impressive Criterion Collection entries. But this week, we’re also including a sentimental favorite of sorts that’s hitting home video for the first time. Take a look at what’s out:

Megamind

72%

2010 was a decent year for animation, even if only the sheer number of animated films being made these days guarantees that at least a handful of them will be good. Not to be outdone by Universal’s surprise winner Despicable Me, Paramount released its own supervillain-centric family film, Megamind, also packed with a zany, star-studded voice cast. Will Ferrell lends his voice to the titular antihero (literally, in this case), whose efforts to take over Metro City are constantly foiled by his nemesis, Metro Man (Brad Pitt). When Megamind actually succeeds in defeating Metro Man and inadvertently unleashes a new, more dangerous villain, it’s up to him to decide whether or not he wants to play hero. Critics found Megamind a pleasant enough diversion — even if it did rehash familiar plot points and wasn’t quite as funny as it could (and should) have been — mostly thanks to the talented cast, which also includes Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller, and David Cross. Sitting comfortably at 72%, Megamind should be a worthy watch for most.

Due Date

39%

Hot off his sleeper hit The Hangover, director Todd Phillips took a bit of a risk following up with another road trip movie (we know, The Hangover wasn’t entirely a road trip movie), but with the reborn cool of Robert Downey Jr. in the mix, one would think that’d be a risk worth taking. Toss in the hot comedian-of-the-moment, Zach Galifianakis, and this had to be a sure thing, right? Not quite, unfortunately, at least according to the critics. RDJ stars as Peter Highman, a high-strung father-to-be who has no choice but to share a car ride from Atlanta to LA with aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) in order to make it to his son’s birth in time. The only problem is that Ethan is, well, pretty much the same oblivious, awkward weirdo that Galifianakis played in The Hangover. Hilarity is meant to ensue, but it’s sporadic at best, and critics felt that the film borrowed too heavily from better examples of the genre. At 39% on the Tomatometer, Due Date might be a risky proposition, but with such talent involved, it might be worth a look.

The Stieg Larsson Trilogy

Since the second and third installments of Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy” (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and so on) have recently made their home video debuts, we won’t go into much detail with the collection of all three films that hits shelves this week. Besides, if you have no idea by now what the Millennium Trilogy is, then you must not be a regular visitor to RT. What we will say is, hey, if you wanted all three movies in one convenient package, here it is. In addition, while all the bonus features from each individual release are carried over, there’s also a separate fourth disc full of content exclusive to the boxset. This includes five trailers, nine posters, and five documentary segments delving into more detail, like interviews with the late Larsson’s brother and father, and a candid interview with star Noomi Rapace. Fans of the novels and of the three movies will find the extras an enjoyable addition.

Get Low

85%

There was a time when a movie headlined by Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Bill Murray might have gotten some bigtime mainstream love, but that was probably around thirty years ago. At the very least, Get Low proves they haven’t lost the gift; Certified Fresh at 84%, the film opened in 4 theaters and eventually expanded to 570 within a month. Loosely based on a real person, Get Low stars Duvall as eccentric hermit Felix Bush, who shows up in town suddenly to arrange a “living funeral” for himself. The local funeral parlor owner (Murray) agrees to organize it, and the townsfolk plan to gather and tell the strange and amusing stories they’ve heard about Felix. Get Low is the feature directorial debut of Aaron Schneider, and it looks like he may be worth noting; he was able to pull subdued but affecting performances from his experienced cast, which made all the difference in the quality of the film.

Last Train Home

100%

If you think your subways are bad, wait until you get a load of Last Train Home. This documentary, Certified Fresh at 100% and winner of both the Foreign Film and Limited Release categories in our annual Golden Tomato Awards, centers around the remarkable yearly mass exodus of 130 million Chinese migrant workers going home for Chinese New Year celebrations. Chinese-Canadian documentarian Lixin Fan follows one couple as they return to the family they left behind and deal with the unusual familial dynamic created by their absence. Critics had nothing but praise for Last Train Home, calling it a haunting, vivid family portrait told in intimate, unforgettable detail. Obviously, this isn’t something you’ll want to pick up if you’re looking for a rollicking good time, but this is powerful stuff, and certainly worth a watch.

Fish Tank – Criterion Collection

91%

One film that seemed to make waves outside of the US — particularly in the UK, where it won the 2010 BAFTA for Best British Film — but was ignored by the Oscars was 2009’s Fish Tank, starring Katie Jarvis and Michael Fassbender. Jarvis plays Mia, a British teenager living in government housing with her younger sister and deadbeat mom, whose boyfriend Connor (Fassbender) encourages Mia to make something of her love of dancing. An unspoken attraction develops between Connor and Mia, throwing Mia’s life into disarray and leading to a life-changing decision. The film is gritty and unflinching in its portrayal of a little-seen side of England, and both Jarvis and Fassbender turn in powerhouse performances; critics were impressed to the tune of a 90% Certified Fresh Tomatometer. Criterion picked up the rights to distribute the film on home video, so it’s one of the company’s rare contemporary releases (like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button just a couple years ago), but it would be hard to argue that Fish Tank isn’t deserving.

Sweet Smell of Success – Criterion Collection

98%

If you’re of the opinion that our current media landscape is tattered with tawdry gossip and cheap sensationalism, Alexander Mackendrick’s classic Sweet Smell of Success stands as exhibit A that things weren’t all that great in the good old days. This dark, cynical, and tremendously entertaining drama stars Burt Lancaster as J. J. Hunsecker, an influential (and morally bankrupt) gossip columnist, and Tony Curtis as Sidney Falco, an unscrupulous press agent whose credibility depends upon getting his clients’ names in Hunsecker’s articles. So possessive is Hunsecker of his sister that he wants Falco to smear her finace’s good name, leaving Falco with a moral quandary: should he shred what’s left of his ethics and risk finding himself on the outside of the media establishment for good? With fantastic performances and starling cinematography from the legendary James Wong Howe, Sweet Smell of Success pulses with electricity; a spiffy new Criterion DVD features docs on the cast and crew, along with interviews and commentary from film scholars on this dark masterpiece.

Senso – Criterion Collection

87%

It’s not fair to say Luchino Visconti, the neorealist director responsible for La Terra Trema, was ripped from his idealistic tendencies to make the high-gloss romantic tragedy Senso. Visconti, like some of his socially-conscious contemporaries, demonstrated a uniquely Italian tendency towards the luxuriant and excessive — even in black and white. So it’s perhaps reasonable his biggest budget film after the war is a massive, glossy, Technicolor spectacle. Alida Valle (The Third Man) and Farley Granger (Rope, Strangers on a Train) have their own Hamilton Woman moment in Senso. But unlike that restrained British meller, the Italians go all the way; as does this gorgeous and politically trenchant period piece. Expect soldiers and bodice ripping, fantastically passionate politicos, and set pieces galore. The Criterion Blu-Ray includes digital restoration (done with cinematographer Guiseppe Rotunno and Martin Scorsese), a rarely seen English-language version of the film, a making-of doc, a 1966 BBC program about Visconti, and more.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror

18%

I’ll be honest; we’re throwing this one in here for sentimental reasons. We here at RT are fans of The Room, the hugely popular midnight melodrama known as “the worst movie ever made” to many. So when we heard there was a new film by a humble California software developer that might give The Room a run for its money, we had to check it out. Birdemic: Shock and Terror is very obviously inspired by Hitchcock’s The Birds, and the director, James Nguyen, openly acknowledges this, but let’s go ahead and stop the comparison to one of cinema’s greatest masters of tension right there. From the opening scene, which looks as though it was shot on a handheld camera attached to the top of a car’s steering wheel, to the almost endearingly poor CGI-rendered birds, to a random R&B performance in an empty club, Birdemic: Shock and Terror is absolutely full of moments that will make you scratch your head… or laugh out loud. At least The Room has a sort of soap opera-esque professional sheen to it; Birdemic can’t find any handle on cinematography, dialogue, acting, or special effects. And because of all that, it’s a perfectly wonderful way to spend a couple hours on a Friday night.

Written by Ryan Fujitani, Sara Vizcarrondo, and Tim Ryan.

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