This week, RT on DVD & Blu-ray is back with Denzel Washington stalking the post-apocalyptic wastes in The Hughes Brothers’ The Book of Eli, plus comedic mishaps with Tina Fey and Steve Carell in Date Night. We’ve also got one of the year’s best in acclaimed French gangster drama A Prophet, the return of Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jenuet, Australia’s World War I drama Beneath Hill 60, and Sandra Bullock in the Oscar-winning football flick, The Blind Side.
The Hughes Brothers Albert and Allen made a memorable impact with their 1993 favourite Menace II Society, but have had mixed fortunes since. It’s been almost a decade since their adaptation of Alan Moore’s From Hell (which starred Johnny Depp), and their return to action yielded this post-apocalyptic thriller, with Denzel Washington as a lone prophet charged with delivering a holy book across a futuristic wasteland. Reviews and box office were mixed (the film bowed in the notorious January dumping ground in the US), but Eli is not without its supporters. Washington is always reliable, and his supporting cast includes Mila Kunis (soon to be seen in Aronofsky’s Black Swan) and none other than Tom Waits — a man suited to the dusty gray deserts of the film, indeed. Two-disc and Blu-ray editions come with extras, including several deleted scenes.
Faring a little better critically — and a reasonable box-office hit earlier this year — Date Night brings together the comedic talents of 30 Rock‘s Tina Fey and every-other-mainstream-comedy’s Steve Carell. The two play a bored married couple who fall into a web of mistaken identity on an evening out in Manhattan, whereby they’re alternately pursued by cops, mobsters and Night at the Museum director Shawn Levy’s broad gunning for laughs — some of which do ensue, as does a swarthy cameo by Mark Wahlberg. While the film finds neither actor at the top of their (considerable) games, it’s a pleasant enough entertainment sure to pass a night in; date or otherwise. The Extended Edition (and Blu-ray) offers extra footage, and deleted scenes.
Many films are flippantly likened to “a modern Godfather“; Jacques Audiard’s fearsome drama A Prophet is the rare film that arguably invites such accolades. Set largely in the French prison system, the film follows a young Arab man (Tahar Rahim) sentenced to six years, during which time he becomes at first a lackey for crime bosses and then, through instinct and cunning, a powerful underworld figure himself. Brutal and frequently unflinching in its portrayal of violence — get your ice-cream scoops at the ready for some crunchy eyeball action — A Prophet‘s robust direction and performances go a way toward making it a new classic of the crime genre — just look at that glowing critics consensus.
If quirkiness is your thing — and we mean really your thing — then you may want to seek out Micmacs, the latest offering from Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The French fantasist has been away from the scene since 2004’s A Very Long Engagement, and this return is in keeping with his signature style: lots of exaggerated camera angles and expressions, that particular off-colour hue, and a surfeit of whimsical character traits. In fact, this story of a video store clerk (Danny Boon) who joins a circus troupe to take on some dastardly weapons makers almost plays like Jeunet’s greatest hits, touching on everything from Amelie to the director’s 1992 breakthrough, Delicatessen. Visually, it should be an interesting Blu-ray.
Also this week we have Beneath Hill 60, Australian filmmaker Jeremy Sims’ account of Allied miners charged with tunneling under German lines at the Somme in World War I. Going up against some heady expectations — Peter Weir’s Gallipoli foremost among them — Sims’ movie managed to delight the majority of local critics, with many impressed by the visual scope of the modest production (it was filmed in Northern Queensland). Sims, whose previous feature Last Train to Freo became something of a cult item, again illustrates his talent for working with actors in tense, tight-knit scenarios, while extending his cinematic palate to embrace the widescreen action of the genre. It’ll be interesting to see how the movie fares critically if it gets an overseas release; but for now it stands as one of the best-reviewed local pictures of 2010.
And finally, here’s the film that won Sandra Bullock that Best Actress Oscar earlier this year — alongside her Worst Actress Razzie for All About Steve, but we digress. The Blind Side leaves few cliches unused in its tale of a homeless young man who becomes a star football player, thanks to the help of a caring woman. Despite its TV-movie nature, however, many critics were sufficiently entertained by the film, and Bullock’s turn in particular, proving that as America’s Sweethearts go, this lady appears to be well and truly back in the nation’s affections.