RT on DVD

RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: The Beaver, TrollHunter, and Win Win

Plus, Morgan Spurlock's new doc and Swingers on Blu-ray.

by | August 23, 2011 | Comments

This week on Home Video, we’ve got an interesting mix of smaller films — some good, some not as good — and thankfully, none of them are outright stinkers. That said, none of them was very widely released, so it’s a good week to catch up on those films you may have wanted to see, but weren’t able to. First off, there’s the latest from Jodie Foster, starring a trouble Mel Gibson, and a well-received indie comedy-horror-mockumentary from Norway. Then, we have a Paul Giamatti dramedy, Morgan Spurlock’s documentary on product placement, a heist comedy with Keanu Reeves, and Jason Statham’s latest actioner. Lastly, we’ve got the cult favorite Swingers on Blu-ray and a couple of films from a highly acclaimed Korean director. See below to read about this week’s releases!

The Beaver

62%

Jodie Foster’s third directorial effort was famously marred by controversy surrounding the film’s star, Mel Gibson, when some rather unsavory phone calls Gibson made to his ex-girlfriend were leaked to the public, reportedly pushing back The Beaver‘s release date. It was a strange coincidence, considering the film is about a successful toy exec (Gibson) named Walter Black who suffers from debilitating depression. After Walter is kicked out by his wife (Foster) and unsuccessfully attempts suicide, he begins communicating with the world through a beaver puppet he found in the trash and slowly begins to put his life back together. Despite the film somewhat mirroring Gibson’s rather public crumbling, critics praised his performance in the film, with some calling it his best yet, and others remarked that the acting in general, with supporting turns from Foster, Anton Yelchin, and Jennifer Lawrence, was solid all around. Unfortunately, the film didn’t quite work for everyone, as some critics felt it was contrived and a little disingenuous in its treatment of mental illness. Still, it’s an intriguing film, in part because of the real life events that surrounded its star, and at 62% on the Tomatometer, it’ll probably be a solid watch for most who are interested.

TrollHunter

82%

A certain Norwegian fantasy mockumentary made some noise on the festival circuit earlier this year, combining elements of folklore with humor and good, old-fashioned monster movie tropes. TrollHunter garnered so much attention, in fact, that even before its American premiere, several companies approached the producers about a potential remake (Chris Columbus ultimately acquired the rights). The film is a Blair Witch Project-esque found footage documentary about a handful of students who set out to track down and make a documentary about a bear poacher named Hans, only to discover that Hans is actually roaming the Norwegian forests in search of giant rogue trolls who have wandered outside their territory. Critics largely responded positively, calling the film clever, funny, and endearing with a few genuine scares, even if some didn’t particularly like the handheld camera aspect of it, and it currently enjoys a Certified Fresh 79% on the Tomatometer. Obviously, this film isn’t going to appeal to everyone (it’s in Norwegian, it’s home video-styled, it’s got trolls, it’s a mix of horror and comedy), but if it sounds like your kind of thing, you will probably really enjoy it.

Win Win

94%

Win Win is one of a few films that cover this week’s quota for “the film you probably didn’t see but is totally worth watching.” Talented veteran actor Paul Giamatti stars as Mike Flaherty, New Jersey attorney by day, family man and high school wrestling coach by night. His team is losing in a big way when Kyle Timmons (Alex Shaffer), a gifted athlete, enters the picture and things start looking up. Unfortunately, Kyle’s family background is a spotty one, and eventually his deadbeat mother, recently released from rehab, shows up to complicate matters. Tom McCarthy continues his streak of critically acclaimed films, which includes two previous Certified Fresh efforts (The Station Agent, The Visitor) with another (ahem) winner here, and as with the others, Win Win features great performances — including supporting roles by Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor, and Bobby Cannavale — and strongly crafted characters in service of a genuine, humanistic story. It’s currently Certified Fresh at a whopping 94%, and if you missed it in its limited theatrical release, now’s your chance to catch up.

Poetry

100%

And here we have another excellent film you probably haven’t seen, even more so than Win Win, since it hails from South Korea. Lee Chang-dong is probably one of the best working directors you’ve never heard of (unless you’re big on Asian cinema); his lowest-rated film is 2000’s Peppermint Candy at 83%, and his most recent effort, Poetry, is Certified Fresh at 100%. Lee is known for deeply affecting human dramas, and Poetry is no different: starring Yoon Jeong-hee (who made her return to film after a 16-year absence), the film centers on a 66-year-old woman living with her spiteful grandson and struggling with Alzheimer’s disease who learns of a horrific crime in the family. After enrolling in a poetry class, she begins to muster the courage to make some difficult decisions, striving throughout to remain positive about her lot in life. Critics universally praised the film, calling it a quiet but bold and thoughtful take on issues of morality and human frailty, and credited Yoon’s performance for much of its haunting power. If you’ve seen any of Lee’s films and are familiar with his storytelling style, this one is sure to be a rewarding experience, and if you’re unfamiliar with the director’s work, this, his highest-rated film, might be a good place to start.

Blitz

48%

In some ways, Jason Statham is this generation’s Bruce Willis, splitting his time between two types of action flicks: those of the over-the-top, knock-down drag-out variety, like The Transporter and Crank; and those of the slightly understated, somewhat nuanced variety, like The Bank Job and The Mechanic. Blitz, which is based on the novel of the same name by Ken Bruen and didn’t get a theatrical release, sits somewhere in the middle. Statham plays London detective Tom Brant, a hot-tempered cop who gets drawn into a serial killer’s plot to assassinate 8 members of the police force. With the help of the Acting Inspector, Porter Nash (Paddy Considine), Brant embarks on a manhunt that will affect him and everyone around him. With just a handful of reviews in, Blitz sits squarely at 50% on the Tomatometer, most critics praising the performances and the stylish direction, while others found its writing a bit too familiar. If nothing else, it’s got Jason Statham spouting one-liners and knocking out the bad guys in slick fashion, so there are definitely cravings out there that Blitz will fulfill.

POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

72%

Morgan Spurlock made a name for himself with the rather timely 2003 documentary Super Size Me, in which he embarked on a 30-day diet of McDonald’s as a way to explore the nutritional problems in America. Earlier this year, Spurlock released the culmination of another journey he took, this time to scrutinize the culture of product placement in contemporary media. The premise was simple, but novel: craft a documentary feature film about sponsored product placement that is itself entirely funded by sponsored product placement. The film, in fact, is ostensibly about its own making, and Spurlock is, again, at the center of it all, meeting with potential sponsors, taking phone calls, chatting with other filmmakers, and engaging consumer advocates like Ralph Nader in discussions about the practice in question. The result is a light, breezy inside look at the process that, while entertaining, isn’t altogether effective at digging deep and asking truly provocative questions. Nevertheless, the film is Certified Fresh at 70% on the Tomatometer, and those looking for a rather unique perspective on the business side of Hollywood will probably get a good kick out of it. (You can also read all about Spurlock’s experiences making the film in his Five Favorite Films interview here.)

Henry’s Crime

42%

Despite featuring a cast of stars, including Keanu Reeves, James Caan, and Vera Farmiga, Henry’s Crime flickered in and out of theaters rather quickly and quietly. In this heist dramedy, Reeves plays the titular Henry, an aimless New York toll collector who is imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. While incarcerated, Henry’s cellmate Max (Caan) inspires him to find a dream and follow it, and upon his release from prison, Henry decides he’ll actually go through with a bank robbery. With the help of newly paroled Max, Henry sets about his plan, which involves infiltrating a theater nearby the bank, until he lands the lead role in the production at the theater and falls in love with the leading lady, Julie (Farmiga). Critics felt that Caan and Farmiga were solid in their roles, but also that Reeves lacked a bit of relatability as the central character, and the heist aspects themselves were just a bit too familiar and predictable. It currently sits at 40% on the Tomatometer, so it may work for some, but its 26% audience rating certainly reason to pause.

Swingers – Blu-ray

87%

Vegas, baby! In 1996, Swingers came out of nowhere to become one of the breakout indie hits of the decade. It made stars out of Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, established Doug Liman as a director to watch, and kicked off the brief swing craze. And it holds up remarkably well, thanks to its colorful characters and infinitely quotable script; if you’re searching for the origins of the modern bromance, look no further. Favreau plays Mike, a sad sack who can’t get over his ex-girlfriend, despite the best efforts of his buddy Trent (Vaughn), who drags Mike to seemingly every bar or party in Los Angeles while liberally providing advice on picking up girls. Sure, it’s a guy movie, but it’s also winningly heartfelt and poignant. A new Blu-ray release features two commentaries, one from Vaughn and Favreau and another from Limon and editor Stephen Mirrione, plus a making-of featurette and a bunch of deleted scenes.

Secret Sunshine – Criterion Collection

94%

Remember that South Korean film we talked about earlier? Well, this one’s by the same guy, and this week, it gets the Criterion Collection treatment. We’ve already talked a bit about Lee Chang-dong’s aptitude as a director, and 2007’s Secret Sunshine may be the first time an international audience took notice of his work. Jeon Do-yeon plays a recently widowed mother who moves to her husband’s hometown for a fresh start, but over time she begins to realize that the neighbors who make nice with her may not be as welcoming as she first thought. As she endures increasing pressure from a local Christian cult, a heartbreaking tragedy occurs, and amidst the whispers of her neighbors, she begins to withdraw from society altogether. For her efforts in the lead role, Jeon was crowned Best Actress in Cannes the year it screened there, and critics say that Secret Sunshine does an excellent job of plumbing the depths of tragedy without succumbing to melodrama. This Criterion edition contains interviews with director Lee, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and an essay booklet by critic Dennis Lim.

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