RT on DVD

RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Midnight in Paris and Warrior

Plus, an inspirational kid flick, a timely financial drama, a couple of thrillers, and a Japanese oddity.

by | December 19, 2011 | Comments

This week in home video, a number of notable new releases are hitting store shelves. First up, we’ve got a couple of films that have already generated a bit of awards buzz: Woody Allen’s latest (Midnight in Paris) and an MMA drama (Warrior). Then, we’ve got a Certified Fresh inspirational kid flick, a couple of thrillers, a timely financial drama, a British coming of age tale, a dark comedy, and a movie from Japan that sort of defies categorization. Check out the full list below!

Midnight in Paris

93%

Even at this late stage of his career, Woody Allen is capable of wringing a few surprises out of his trademark formula, and Midnight in Paris is a treat for Allen’s fans and romantics alike, a comedy about wish fulfillment that’s magical and touching. Owen Wilson stars as an aspiring novelist who, on a trip to Paris with his fiancée, is transported back to the city’s Jazz Age, sharing drinks with Salvador Dali, getting advice from Ernest Hemingway, and finding romance with a beautiful scenester (Marion Cotillard). But is our hero’s idealized 1920s Paris all that it’s cracked up to be? And is his fantasy incompatible with the real world? Wilson is one of the best Woody Allen surrogates ever, with his boundless enthusiasm for the dreamy Paris of yesteryear, and the critics were mostly charmed by the movie’s sweetness.

Warrior

84%

The sport of Mixed Martial Arts has come a long way since the early 1990s, when it established more global, mainstream exposure. Now, its fighters make millions, fans who once ordered boxing matches on Pay Per View are huddling around their televisions for UFC events, and critically acclaimed films about the sport are being made. Case in point: this year’s Warrior, starring Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, and Nick Nolte. The story centers on estranged brothers Tommy and Brendan (Hardy and Edgerton, respectively), who, unbeknownst to each other, both enter as competitors in an important MMA tournament with noble intentions. Tommy enlists the help of his formerly abusive father (Nolte), and as the brothers work their way through the ranks, it becomes apparent that they are destined to fight each other. Despite relying on familiar clichés of the genre, Warrior has managed to transcend its own limitations with gripping action, heart, and powerful acting (Nick Nolte has already generated some awards season buzz for his performance), and it currently holds a Certified Fresh 83% on the Tomatometer.

Dolphin Tale

82%

Inspirational stories aimed at a younger demographic and featuring exceptional animals are far from original, but every once in a while, one will come along that somehow manages to capture a genuine winning spirit. Dolphin Tale, based on true events, is one such movie. The film centers on Winter, a rescued dolphin whose tail is deformed by a crab trap, and the humans — including Morgan Freeman as a prosthetics specialist — whose pioneering efforts and moral support help her to overcome her physical challenges. Critics found Dolphin Tale to be an earnest, sweet, and well-told story enjoyable enough for kids and parents alike, thanks in part to the decision to dial down the schmaltz, and it currently sits at a Certified Fresh 84%. Probably a safe bet if you’re looking for something uplifting for the kids that won’t bore you to tears in the process.

Colombiana

27%

A handful of French filmmaker Luc Besson’s most famous films betray his penchant for femmes fatale, titles like La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element, The Messenger, and, to an extent, Leon: The Professional. With Colombiana, which Besson wrote and produced, he returns to the genre with the help of director Olivier Megaton, and critics say the result is uneven. Zoe Saldana plays a Colombian woman whose family was murdered by mobsters when she was young. Now, as a grown woman and a ruthless assassin, she sets out on a path for revenge. If the plot sounds familiar, it’s probably because the premise is sort of a staple of the revenge thriller, and though Saldana gives the performance her all, critics say there just isn’t enough to set Colombiana apart. At 28% on the Tomatometer, the movie not only fails to make an impression, but also suffers from erratic and sloppy filmmaking; it’ll probably leave you unsatisfied, but if you’ve liked any of Besson’s and Megaton’s recent work, you may still find something to enjoy here.

Straw Dogs

43%

Director Sam Peckinpah was a noted Hollywood maverick for his tendency to court controversy with films punctuated by explicit violence, and his 1971 film Straw Dogs is arguably the most famous of the bunch. Earlier this year, Rod Lurie wrote, produced, and directed a remake of Straw Dogs with James Marsden and Kate Bosworth in the lead roles of the victimized couple, and critics were none too impressed by his efforts. Marsden and Bosworth are David and Amy Sumner, a young married couple who decide to return to Amy’s Southern hometown after her father’s death to help prepare the family home for sale. In doing so, they enlist the help of Amy’s ex-boyfriend in fixing up the home, and lingering tensions build until David and Amy find themselves in a deadly confrontation with the locals. For what it’s worth, critics did feel that the remake succeeded in streamlining the original script a bit, but without the deft hand of Peckinpah at the helm, the film makes the mistake of celebrating its violence, rather than examining it. As such, Straw Dogs netted just a 42% Tomatometer score, and only those with a hankering for a bit of the old ultraviolence will find this a pleasing affair.

Margin Call

87%

Margin Call hit theaters just as Occupy Wall Street was gaining traction, and its timing couldn’t have been better. Set in a fictional investment bank (cough, Lehman Brothers), it’s the tale of a long night for the bank’s employees, who have come to realize that there may not be a firm — or much of an economy, for that matter — when the sun rises. It’s a meaty showcase for such top-notch thespians like Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, and Penn Badgley, each of who give nuance and humanity to their ne-percenter characters. It’s also a strong debut for director J.C. Chandor, who crafts a sleek corporate thriller that milks suspense and pathos out of a bunch of people in suits talking about stuff like mortgage backed securities and marked volatility.

Toast

62%

It’s romantic to imagine that people with exceptional talents also have exceptional stories to tell about those talents. In the case of English food journalist Nigel Slater, it’s somewhat true. Based on Slater’s autobiographical novel of the same name, Toast recounts the writer’s childhood growing up with an asthmatic mother who was such a poor cook that the only dish she ever mastered was, well, toast. When her illness finally gets the best of her, young Nigel and his father welcome a new addition to the family in the form of a housekeeper named Mrs. Potter (Helena Bonham Carter), who soon wins over Nigel’s father and engages Nigel himself in a sort of ongoing culinary rivalry. Toast was just a tad too saccharine for many critics, but it earned a 60% on the Tomatometer, just enough for those who liked it to praise its breezy humor, visual touches, and judicious use of Helena Bonham Carter’s talents. It’s an unusual coming of age story, but its charms may just work for some.

Burke and Hare

32%

Say you had to pick a director to helm a black comedy about 19th-century Scottish serial killers; John Landis would be a reasonable choice. But the Landis you’re dreaming of (with images of An American Werewolf in London dancing in your head) and the Landis of today (who hasn’t had a movie in theaters since 1998) are two very different people. So here lies Burke and Hare, a story of two friends (Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis) who sell their murder victims for scientific dissection, and a non-firing comeback special for Landis. Critics and audiences on either side of the pond rejected the film, considering it too uneven and unpleasant even for a movie about slicing bodies up. But as a document that captures an odd moment in Landis’s already odd career, and a moment in time when you could get both Simon Pegg (soon to be getting more roles now that Mission: Impossible is out) and Andy Serkis (already guaranteed immortalization from fanboys who think the Academy doesn’t give enough attention to guys playing walking, talking animals) in the same room, this movie is a compelling failure.

Love Exposure

91%

Standard movie runtime has been universally accepted at 90 to 120 minutes. Expand beyond that and you better give up the goods — robots, or war, or time travel, or stories of unrequited transdimensional love triangles. But a 237 minute movie about the art of upskirt photography? Now that’s bold. Such is the case with Love Exposure, a 2008 film by Sion Sono that has charming topics like lust, religion, and coming of age in a world where being a panty shot photographer is a normal thing. The film has had a long run of success at festivals (and Sono continues to make critically acclaimed films of high emotions), but its odd topic and story have kept it from reaching any audience in America — until now.

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