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RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Priest and Something Borrowed

Plus, John Carpenter's latest, Robert Redford's latest, and the best Jane Eyre ever?

by | August 16, 2011 | Comments

This week on home video, we’ve got a decent number of new releases, but sadly, only one of them is Fresh (hey, at least it’s Certified Fresh), while no less than three of them fall below 20% on the Tomatometer. What makes this even more sad is that, among the Rotten choices, we have not only Robert Redford’s latest film, but also John Carpenter’s first directorial effort since 2001. But if you’re looking for a Paul Bettany-powered sci-fi action flick, yet another derivative rom-com, or a poorly crafted CGI fairy tale, you’ve come to the right place! (Don’t worry, both of the Criterion choices this week are solid, and as a thoughtful user pointed out, the Limited Edition Blu-Ray Book of The Big Lebowski also drops tomorrow.)



Priest

15%

Paul Bettany has had an interesting career, as evidenced by his ten best-reviewed films, but his transition into action star has been a bumpy one. Maybe it’s because he chooses schlocky B-movie styled fantasy thrillers, like Priest, which almost looks like it could have been a follow-up to last year’s Legion, another Bettany starring vehicle. In any case, critics weren’t too thrilled with Priest, in which Bettany plays a nameless… er, priest in a post-apocalyptic alternate world. Oh, and he fights vampires. Despite its sleek and stylish production values, the film ultimately amounted to little more than a dull, derivative blend of sci-fi, action, and horror clichés, and critics duly rewarded it with a 17% Tomatometer. You’re welcome to check it out if you’re curious, but really, there are no guarantees with this one.



Something Borrowed

15%

From Priest, we move on to Something Borrowed, a romantic comedy starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, and John Krasinski (aka “Jim” from The Office). Rom-coms these days have to fight an uphill battle to begin with, being that almost every possible permutation of love story has been mined for the big screen. In order to stand out, you’ve got to have at least some sort of twist on a familiar storyline, and Something Borrowed went with “perpetually-single-girl-accidentally-sleeps-with-best-friend’s-fiance.” In this case, Goodwin is the single girl, and Hudson is the best friend; if only “single girl” knew that her “best guy friend” was actually in love with her! In case you couldn’t already tell, Something Borrowed didn’t offer anything impressive enough to wow the critics; in fact, it did quite the opposite with its heavy reliance on genre clichés, making its title a little more appropriate than it was probably meant to be. At 15% on the Tomatometer, this is an unpleasant misfire that unfortunately isn’t saved by earnest performances from its cast.



Jane Eyre (2011)

84%

Lest we bombard you with terribly-reviewed movie after terribly-reviewed movie, here’s one that earned widespread acclaim, even if it didn’t do gangbusters at the box office (then again, how often do adaptations of Victorian literature ever top the box office?). Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All right) and Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class, Inglourious Basterds) star as the titular character and Edward Rochester, respectively, in Cary Fukunaga’s (Sin Nombre) version of Jane Eyre, the famous novel by Charlotte Bronte. As the story goes, young Jane Eyre is raised in a boarding school after her parents die of typhus, and after turning 18 she becomes the governess of Thornfield Hall, where she falls in love with Edward Rochester. Backed by a stellar supporting cast that includes Jude Dench, Jamie Bell, Sally Hawkins, and more, Jane Eyre demonstrated Mia Waskikowska’s great talent, with some calling hers the best portrayal of the character yet. It’s Certified Fresh at 84% on the Tomatometer, and if you’re looking for an elegant period drama, you probably can’t go wrong with this one.



Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil

11%

Well, now that we’ve gotten the good movie out of the way, let’s move back into Rotten territory, shall we? Back in 2006, after the wild success of the first two Shrek films, there came another irreverent take on fairy tales called Hoodwinked!. Unfortunately, that film had neither the wit nor the animation quality to compete in the rapidly growing CGI genre, so when its sequel, Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil opened earlier this year, many asked, “Why?” Sure enough, despite the addition of 3D (all the cool kids are doing it!), this second installment proved to be even worse than the original, which, at least, sported a modicum of low-budget charm. As a result, it currently sits at 11% on the Tomatometer and probably won’t serve to amuse anyone aside from young children whose only entertainment prerequisite is lots of brightly colored things moving quickly across the screen.



The Conspirator

56%

Like The Conspirator, Hollywod icon Robert Redford’s last directorial outing, 2007’s Lions for Lambs, was an ensemble drama with a political focus; unfortunately, Lions was a critical and commercial disappointment. While The Conspirator marks a notable improvement over Lions, critics still found it less than stellar, despite its well-chosen cast. Robin Wright stars as Mary Surratt, the real-life boarding house owner who, in 1865, was arrested along with seven men in connection to the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. James McAvoy plays Frederick Aiken, the attorney assigned to defend Surratt who comes to believe she is innocent and being used to draw out her son, who escaped the earlier manhunt. Critics felt the film was strongly acted, but also that Redford’s deliberate, stagebound approach to the material was tiresome and only worked against the film. As such, it currently sports a mediocre 56% on the Tomatometer, which means you may or may not like it, depending on your opinion of the cast and the director’s noted style.



John Carpenter’s The Ward

33%

Aside from a couple of pieces for the Masters of Horror series on Showtime, horror legend John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) has been absent from the director’s chair since 2001’s Ghosts of Mars. So it was with some anticipation and much trepidation that fans awaited the release of his first film in a decade, The Ward. Unfortunately (that word’s being used a lot this week), The Ward was not to be Carpenter’s great comeback film, as it barely saw a theatrical release and received poor reviews. Amber Heard stars as Kristen, a young woman who is placed in a psychiatric hospital after burning down a house. While institutionalized, Kristen meets a handful of other young girls who occupy the same ward and soon finds that an unspeakable evil haunts the halls, eliminating each girl one by one. Critics were largely disappointed that Carpenter, who injected his early films with palpable dread, seemed to be mimicking the very films he inspired, rendering this film predictable and pedestrian. The Ward sports a 31% Tomatometer and probably won’t hold many surprises for experienced horror audiences. (For John Carpenter’s Five Favorite Films, click here.)



The Bang Bang Club

48%

Published back in 2000, The Bang Bang Club was an autobiographical account of the experiences of four photographers active in South Africa during Apartheid, two of whom won Pulitzer Prizes for their work. The big screen adaptation that premiered Stateside earlier this year — which stars Ryan Phillippe, Taylor Kitsch, and Malin Akerman — generated some buzz at Tribeca, but as it turns out, the film simply doesn’t live up to its source material’s reputation. Director Steven Silver’s background in documentary work proves effective here in capturing the essence of the conflict’s harsh realities, but most critics found that the characterizations were somewhat shallow, especially considering the big picture issues at hand. This probably isn’t your film if you’re looking for a probing document of Apartheid-era South Africa, but if you don’t mind that setting as the backdrop for a story of four brave photographers struggling with each other while trying to make a difference, it might work for you.



Cul-de-Sac – Criterion Collection

83%

Roman Polanski remains a controversial figure, though few would deny his skill as a filmmaker. Specifically, no one makes psychological thrillers quite like Polanski; for a good example, check out Cul-de-sac, the follow-up to his masterful Repulsion. Donald Pleasence and Françoise Dorléac (Catherine Deneuve’s older sister) star as a married couple whose remote island castle is used as a hideout for two crooks on the lam. Soon, one of the criminals has held the couple hostage while waiting to be rescued by his boss, and a psychological game of cat-and-mouse ensues. The new director-approved Criterion release, available on DVD and Blu-ray, features a making-of doc, a 1967 interview with Polanski, and trailers.



The Killing – Criterion Collection

95%

The Killing was Stanley Kubrick’s first masterpiece, and it’s a black-hearted crime picture that’s lost none of its visceral power over the years. Though it was a critical and commercial failure when it was released in 1956, The Killing provided ample evidence of Kubrick’s nascent genius and laid the groundwork for heist pictures to come — Point Break, Reservoir Dogs, and even The Dark Knight owe a debt to The Killing. Sterling Hayden (at his malevolent best) stars as the leader of a gang that’s conspiring to steal $2 million from a racetrack; though the robbery (staged virtuosically by Kubrick from the perspectives of various characters) is successful, the crew is undone by greed and their weaker natures. The Criterion disc features a sparkling transfer of the film, plus new and archival interviews from cast and crew members, as well as Killer’s Kiss, Kubrick’s previous feature, which displays some of the stylistic panache the director would later use to greater effect.

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