RT on DVD

RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: The Fighter and Hereafter

Also, another acclaimed documentary, a winning indie, and a couple of new Criterions.

by | March 15, 2011 | Comments

This week on home video, we’re limited in our selection, but we’ve managed somehow to narrow it down to some really excellent choices. While Clint Eastwood’s latest and the Jason Bateman-Jennifer Aniston rom-com didn’t fare so well on the Tomatometer, the rest of the films featured this week have all gotten high praise from the critics. So delve into the list, and hopefully you’ll be willing to try out a movie or two you might have otherwise.

The Fighter

91%

It would be easy to say that all boxing movies are alike; they’re typically underdog stories about pugilists who have endured hard lives or tragic setbacks, only to return bigger, better, stronger, more resilient, and more determined than before. In that sense, The Fighter doesn’t deviate much from the formula. What sets this Oscar-nominated flick apart is the performances, two of which (Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in powerful supporting roles) indeed picked up Academy Awards. Directed by David O. Russell (Three Kings), The Fighter chronicles the early years of professional boxer-to-be “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), focusing on his relationship with his troubled brother Dicky (Bale). With the cast filled out by such outstanding talent as Amy Adams and Mellisa Leo, the film is a solidly entertaining sports drama thanks largely to its stars. If you didn’t get a chance to see this when it was in theaters, you can pick it up this week and see what all the hubbub was about in the comfort of your own home.

Hereafter

47%

After a pretty impressive string of seven straight Fresh films, including Best Picture winner Million Dollar Baby and Certified Fresh hits like Mystic River and Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood’s hot streak came to an end with Hereafter. Starring Matt Damon, Cecile de France, and Bryce Dallas Howard, the film focuses on three unrelated people who each have unique experiences with death; a gifted psychic (Damon) trying to forget his past, a young boy grieving for the loss of his twin brother, and a woman (France) who has a near-death experience during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunamis (which makes this release timely in the freakiest of ways). So what was the problem? Critics felt that, despite an intriguing premise, Hereafter failed to be as compelling as it could have been, and its drama too often veered into oversentimentality. Still, considering what happened in Japan over the weekend, this may be the meditation on the afterlife that many may be craving this week.

The Switch

52%

Even if Jennifer Aniston can’t seem to find proper footing on the big screen, landing roles in one stinker after another, she’s at least pretty likable as a star, and the same is true for Jason Bateman. Unfortunately, critics say that’s all The Switch has going for it: the charms of its two leading actors. Based on a short story, the film centers on best friends Kassie (Aniston) and Wally (Bateman) ; when Kassie decides it’s time to have a baby ? through artificial insemination ? Wally, who’s always had a crush on Kassie, gets drunk and replaces her sperm sample with some of his own specimen. Seven years later, the couple must deal with the consequences. Critics thought that The Switch had an interesting, if potentially crude, premise, and that both Aniston and Bateman gave it their all. Unfortunately, the film’s trite script and reliance on rom-com clichés prevent it from becoming anything great. We can be thankful, at least, that they didn’t go with the original title (taken from the title of the short story): The Baster. To quote Cate Blanchett at the Oscars, “That’s gross.”

Waste Land

100%

Last week, home video shelves were freshly stocked with two of the most highly acclaimed documentaries of 2010, one of which actually won the Best Documentary Oscar. This week, discriminating doc-lovers get another winner in Waste Land, one of the Best Documentary runners up. Directed by Lucy Walker (Countdown to Zero, Blindsight), Waste Land follows artist Vik Muniz from Brooklyn back home to Brazil, where he creates art with the local “catadores” ? people who sift through garbage in Rio de Janeiro’s landfill looking for recyclable materials. The film holds an impressive, Certified Fresh 100% on RT with 62 reviews, and critics say its transformation into an uplifting portrait of the power of art makes it more than worth the time. If you’re into powerful, humanistic documenataries, Waste Land will likely move you and make you think; it’s a solid film that, by all accounts, deserves it’s Oscar nod, and it’s available this week on home video.

No One Knows About Persian Cats

95%

Every week here in RT on DVD, we try to shed light on at least one lesser known release for all of you conscientious movie lovers out there who might want something other than the blockbusters, fanboy favorites, and high profile pet projects. This week, that movie is an Iranian film somewhat appropriately called No One Knows About Persian Cats, a story about the country’s underground rock music scene. After two young musicians (Ashkan Kooshanejad and Negar Shaghaghi, real life members of Iranian band Take It Easy Hospital) are released from prison and forbidden from performing in Iran, the pair form a band and begin scouring Tehran for other musicians to join them, ultimately planning an escape from the country and its oppressive policies against them. Praising the film to the tune of a Certified Fresh 95% Tomatometer score, critics felt that it successfully incorporated humor and a fresh perspective on a serious, sometimes touchy subject, resulting in an exhilarating, powerful tribute to Iran’s underground musicians. And in a strange case of life imitating art, the story parallels that of its two stars, who have had to relocate to London since the film was released, and have not been allowed to return since.

Au Revoir Les Enfants – Criterion Collection Blu-Ray

97%

One of the great Louis Malle’s last masterpieces, the Oscar-nominated Au Revoir, Les Enfants is a haunting tale of innocence lost, based upon one of the director’s childhood memories. Set in 1943 in Vichy-era France, Au Revoir is the story of Julien and Jean, two boys at a Catholic boarding school, who bond over their status as outcasts. But Jean has a secret: he’s Jewish, and has been granted asylum by a kindly old priest. Soon, the outside world intrudes upon the school, and the Gestapo comes looking for Jews ? leading to an achingly sad act of unconscious betrayal. (It’s especially ironic, given the film’s somber tone, that Quentin Tarantino’s mispronunciation of the title was slyly appropriated into the moniker of his first feature, the raucous Reservoir Dogs.) A spiffy new Criterion blu-ray features interviews with Malle, featurettes, and The Immigrant, a 1917 Charlie Chaplin short that’s featured in the film.

Yi Yi – Criterion Collection Blu-Ray

97%

Unless you paid a lot of attention to the film festival circuit in 2000, or you tend to gobble up foreign movies like potato chips, there’s a pretty good chance you missed this gem from late Taiwanese director Edward Yang. Told from the perspective of three characters within the story, Yi Yi centers around one middle-class family in Taipei, utilizing the families trials and triumphs as an epic exploration of life itself. The film clocks in at just a hair under three hours, so it’s a long ride, but one that’s worth taking, according to its multiple international awards and the critics who awarded it a Certified Fresh 96%. This week, Criterion is releasing a brand new Blu-Ray edition of the film, which includes commentary with Yang and critic Tony Rayns, as well as an interview with Rayns about Yang himself and the New Taiwan Cinema movement.

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