RT on DVD

RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Ender's Game, All Is Lost, and More

We've also got a decent comedy, a landmark foreign film, and a couple of acclaimed TV shows.

by | February 11, 2014 | Comments

This week on home video, we’ve got a blockbuster based on a beloved sci-fi novel, a survival tale featuring a towering performance from Robert Redford, an almost universally praised landmark film from Saudi Arabia, a comedy sequel 14 years in the making, and a bit of a clunker from Ridley Scott and some other talented folks. On the TV side, we’ve got an acclaimed adaptation of an iconic literary character, a Golden Tomato-winning French import, and a TV movie, as well as a bunch of smaller releases. Read on for the full list:

Ender’s Game

62%

Orson Scott Card’s 1985 novel Ender’s Game isn’t just another sci-fi epic; it’s taught in college courses, and it’s part of the US Marine Corps’ official reading list. Naturally, there was much anticipation leading up to the release of its feature film adaptation, and while it didn’t blow everyone away, most agreed it was relatively solid. The story centers on Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a gifted young boy in the distant future who, along with other similarly gifted children, is groomed by the military to help defend humanity against an alien threat. Most critics felt the film was true enough to the source material to please fans, but others found that some of the book’s power was lost in translation, resulting in a too-serious tone and a somewhat unearned sense of self-importance. Regardless, almost all agreed the film was well-acted and visually impressive enough to earn it a 61% on the Tomatometer.

All Is Lost

94%

J.C. Chandor’s All Is Lost, the survival story of one man lost at sea, may have the shortest cast listing of any feature film on IMDB. Though its lone actor, Robert Redford, failed to make it into this year’s crowded Best Actor Oscar field, the film boasts a powerhouse performance by the veteran, who carries the film entirely. Redford plays an unnamed man whose ship collides with a rogue shipping container in the middle of the ocean. With his boat steadily taking on water, the man struggles to patch up the hole and fix his communications equipment, hoping to survive long enough to be rescued. Critics roundly praised All Is Lost as a showcase for Robert Redford’s talent; even Pi had a tiger to talk to from time to time. Certified Fresh at 93% on the Tomatometer, this is an equally thrilling and moving tale of survival that grips the viewer and refuses to let go.

Wadjda

99%

Even before anyone had seen Wadjda, it had already secured two landmark achievements: it was the first feature film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia — where no movie theaters exist — and it was the first to be made by a female Saudi filmmaker, namely Haifaa Al-Mansour. With that in mind, it’s something else altogether that the film has earned near universal acclaim from critics. The story centers on the titular young Saudi girl, who dreams of owning a green bike and racing her neighborhood friend, Abdullah, something the locals frown upon. With family drama brewing at home, Wadjda sets out to earn her own bike money however she can. Critics engaged with the Wadjda‘s central themes of freedom and change in the face of oppression, calling the film an inspiring critique of Saudi society that somehow manages also to be a charming tale of youthful whimsy. Certified Fresh at 99% on the Tomatometer, Golden Tomato winner Wadjda is both insightful and delightful without overtly moralizing or succumbing to cloying sentimentality.

The Best Man Holiday

70%

Back in 1999, writer/director Malcolm D. Lee scored a surprise hit with The Best Man, an ensemble rom-com about a tight-knit group of friends hashing out their issues. Fourteen years later, Lee reunited the entire cast for The Best Man Holiday, earning the best reviews he’s gotten since 2002. This time around, the gang meets up for a Christmas holiday together at Mia’s (Monica Calhoun) request, only to find that older doesn’t always mean wiser. While Harper (Taye Diggs) surreptitiously attempts to gather info for a biography of retiring football star Lance (Morris Chestnut), Candace (Regina Hall) and Mia hide secrets of their own, and wildcard Shelby (Melissa De Sousa) is looking for love in all the wrong places. Critics conceded that the plot contrivances are fairly standard and familiar, but also that Lee manages to wring some genuine laughs and heartfelt sentiment out of them. It’s a little out of season at this point, but at 68% on the Tomatometer, The Best Man Holiday is a decent dramedy worthy of its predecessor.

The Counselor

34%

When you’ve made as many films as Ridley Scott has, you’re bound to release a stinker every now and then. You just don’t expect that stinker to come from the pen of Cormac McCarthy and star the likes of Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, and Brad Pitt. Fassbender plays the titular counselor, who, tempted by a huge profit margin, unwisely gets himself wrapped up in a drug deal with a Mexican cartel. When the deal immediately goes wrong, the counselor becomes a target and finds he has few friends he can count on. Past adaptations of Cormac McCarthy’s work have yielded great results, but critics say his first attempt at an original screenplay mostly falls flat; The Counselor is a sloppily plotted thriller that spends too much of its time on clumsy dialogue and too little of it building real tension. At 34% on the Tomatometer, it’s hardly representative of the talented individuals involved.

Sherlock – Season 3

Benedict Cumberbatch is fast becoming a household name (and oh what a name it is), and though he’d previously appeared in a handful of notable roles, it was BBC’s 2010 series Sherlock that first brought him international recognition. Paired with Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson, Cumberbatch plays a contemporary version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective, a brash, socially oblivious genius who gets off on solving seemingly unsolvable mysteries and utilizes modern technology to its fullest. The series, written by Doctor Who veterans Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, adapts several of Sherlock Holmes’s classic characters and storylines, seamlessly integrating them into present-day settings and infusing them with razor sharp dialogue and crisp, inventive cinematography. Here in the US, the third and final 90-minute episode of the third season — Certified Fresh at 97% — aired just last week, and tomorrow, it will be available on DVD and Blu-ray. [NOTE: Beware of spoilers in the trailer below if you haven’t seen the first two seasons.]

Killing Kennedy

56%

National Geographic enjoyed a strong response to their adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Lincoln, so they decided to do the same for the controversial television personality’s similarly titled JFK book, Killing Kennedy. The film, which aired on the National Geographic Channel on November 10 of last year, stars Rob Lowe as JFK, Ginnifer Goodwin as Jackie O, and Will Rothhaar as Lee Harvey Oswald, focusing both on Kennedy’ rise to power and Oswald’s growing disillusionment. While critics were somewhat split on the film, with some calling it another unnecessary — and somewhat underwhelming — portrait of an all too familiar event while others praised the performances and the somewhat novel approach to the story, Killing Kennedy did earn nominations from the Writers, Directors, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. At 59% on the Tomatometer, it’s an acceptable biopic that could have been better but nevertheless hits most of the right notes.

The Returned – Season 1

In this modern era of Hollywood remakes and reboots, it’s kind of remarkable for a foreign-language television series to be imported wholesale for the US market, but that’s exactly what happened with French supernatural drama The Returned (aka Les Revenants). Originally aired in 2012, the series was picked up by SundanceTV, who premiered it on Halloween last year. The story takes place in a small town in the mountains, where the recently deceased suddenly begin reappearing as if nothing had ever happened. As they attempt to reintegrate themselves into normal life, the mystery is compounded by strange occurrences and puzzling discoveries that seem to coincide with the phenomenon. Back in September, The Returned won the International Emmy Award for Best Drama, and its first season not only boasts a Certified Fresh 100% on the Tomatometer, but it also won our Golden Tomato Award for Best New Show of 2013.

Also available this week:

  • The Armstrong Lie (84%), a Certified Fresh Alex Gibney documentary chronicling the controversy surrounding former Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal.
  • G.B.F. (80%), a teen comedy about a newly outed gay teen whose “arm-candy” potential becomes the object of every popular girl’s affections.
  • How I Live Now (67%), starring Saoirse Ronan in a post-apocalyptic YA novel adaptation about an American girl living overseas and struggling to survive when warfare in Europe prompts martial law in the UK.
  • Austenland (30%), starring Keri Russell in a comedy about a woman trying to make the most of her limited budget on a visit to a Jane Austen theme park.
  • Diana (8%) starring Naomi Watts in a biopic focusing on the relationships Princess Di maintained during the last two years of her life.
  • Disney is releasing a Diamond Edition of the 1967 animated film The Jungle Book (87%).
  • Season one of The Americans (89%), the FX drama starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as KGB spies posing as a married American couple in 1980s Washington D.C.
  • Season two of Dallas (94%), TNT’s revival of the classic soap revolving around the oil-rich Ewing family.

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