RT on DVD

RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Source Code and Dylan Dog

Plus, a couple of well-received indies and a new Kurosawa Blu-ray.

by | July 26, 2011 | Comments

This week on home video, the dearth of quality releases continues with just a few notables to mention and some real stinkers peppered throughout. We won’t bother to mention the feature adaptation of the video game The King of Fighters (oops, I guess we just did), but we will say that if you’re a big John Belushi fan, you might be interested to know that both The Blues Brothers and Animal House debut on Blu-ray this week. Otherwise, we’ve got Duncan Jones’s critically acclaimed follow-up to Moon, a Certified Fresh Dutch film about World War II, a highly unsuccessful comic book adaptation, and more. See below for the full list!



Source Code

Aside from being the son of famed rock legend David Bowie, Duncan Jones also happens to be a pretty solid filmmaker. Jones debuted with a bang back in 2009 with the indie sci-fi thriller Moon, which earned rave reviews and marked him as a director to watch. As such, many were curious to see how he would follow up that success, and with this year’s Source Code, Jones outperformed his first film in all respects. Delving once again into mindbending science fiction, Source Code stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Colter Stevens, a decorated war hero who inexplicably awakes and finds himself in the body of another man aboard a commuter train. He eventually discovers he’s part of a larger plan initiated by a secret government agency to identify the perpetrator of a bombing aboard the train, and Stevens must relive the last 8 minutes of his surrogate’s life repeatedly until he unravels the mystery. Critics and audiences both responded well to Source Code, earning it over $121 million at the box office and a Certified Fresh 91% Tomatometer. The film is smart, packed with action, and propelled by a distinctly human story at its core, making it one of the early winners of 2011.



Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

7%

At the other end of the spectrum, far away from Source Code, is Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. Based on a popular Italian comic series begun in the 1980s, Dylan Dog stars Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) as the titular hero, a private investigator working out of New Orleans who specializes in affairs dealing with the undead (you know, vampires, werewolves, and zombies). When a new case is presented to him that might spell doom for mankind, he must do his part to ensure a war between the undead factions never breaks out. This film attempts to capitalize on the recent popularity of its supernatural subject matter, as well as the burgeoning genre of horror-comedy, but by almost all accounts (it only has one Fresh review), it fails miserably. Hampered by bad special effects, acting performances that fall flat, and aggressively derivative concepts, Dylan Dog takes its place among the worst-reviewed films of 2011 thus far with a dismal 3% Tomatometer score. But in the off chance you might find it “so bad, it’s good,” you can check it out this week on home video.



Winter in Wartime

74%

Unless you’re a ravenous connoisseur of foreign cinema, there’s a good chance you’ve not heard of Winter in Wartime, a Dutch thriller set in Holland at the end of World War II. Though it was originally released in its home country in back in 2008, it only made it to the US back in March of this year and received a very limited release (no more than 26 theaters in the country). Based on the 1972 Dutch novel of the same name, the film centers around a young teen named Michiel living in Nazi-occupied Holland who happens upon a wounded British paratrooper and decides to help. As Michiel, whose father is the mayor of his town, is increasingly drawn to the cause of the resistance, he becomes engulfed by the political allegiances that exist among his townspeople, and he must decide where his loyalties lie. Certified Fresh at 77%, Winter in Wartime was shortlisted for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards (though it ultimately didn’t make the cut), and back in its native Holland, the film outgrossed blockbusters like Twilight and The Dark Knight. A solid film with some historical context, it should make for a pretty good time for those who are interested.



Trust

79%

How exactly does one transition from starring in one of history’s most popular television sitcoms to… whatever comes afterwards? None of the male stars of Friends really found the kind of success that Jennifer Aniston or even Courteney Cox did, but it looks like David Schwimmer knows what he wants to do. After making his feature film directorial debut with Run Fatboy Run, which got mixed reviews, he changed things up a little bit and, for his second feature, went with hard-hitting family drama in Trust. Starring Clive Owen and Catherine Keener as parents of two teens, Trust follows their 14-year-old daughter Annie (Liana Liberato), who suffers sexual abuse at the hands of a thirty-something man posing as a teen boy on the internet. Both the police and Annie’s father begin their own investigations, which lead to heartache and pain for the whole family. While Run Fatboy Run received middling reviews, Schwimmer seems to have proven himself with Trust, which earned praise from critics to the tune of a Certified Fresh 78% tomatometer. Don’t let its “after-school special” vibe fool you; there are some outstanding actors involved, and Schwimmer does a fine job, so it might be worth your time to check out.



Ironclad

42%

Movies about medieval swordplay will never go out of style; there’s just something fascinating about that period of European history and the clash between barbarism and civility. That said, it can be rather difficult to craft an effective period film set in that era, as one must strike a fine balance between the action and the storytelling. Unfortunately, Ironclad focused just a tad too much on the former, and not enough on the latter, according to critics. The film is a dramatization of King John’s siege of Rochester Castle in 1215, during which a group of rebels withstood the army of the King, who had refused to abide by the Magna Carta. Ironclad features a respectable cast, including Paul Giamatti, Brian Cox, James Purefoy, and Kate Mara, but many critics found the film to be too focused on the blood and gore for their liking. As a result, it sports a mediocre 43% on the Tomatometer, but if this sort of period action is your thing, you may still get a good, bloody kick out of it.



Life During Wartime – Criterion Collection

68%

It’s pure coincidence that two movies with the word “wartime” in the title are coming out this week on home video, and they are quite different from each other. Here we have the latest from Todd Solondz, a director known for exploring the seedier parts of everyday life through ensemble films; Life During Wartime, a sort of unofficial sequel to his 1998 film Happiness, which had an entirely different cast playing the same characters, is more of the same. This time around, the film focuses on the three sisters first portrayed in Happiness as they continue struggling through life with various personal problems and familial issues. Solondz’s brand of comic satire is decidedly dark and uncomfortable, and as such, his films inevitably rub some the wrong way; since his 1995 critical hit Welcome to the Dollhouse, his movies have received progressively lower Tomatometer scores, with Life During Wartime marking a welcome return to Fresh territory. But if nothing else can be said for Solondz’s body of work, it is certainly thought-provoking, and it’s normally a surefire bet that you won’t walk away from a Todd Solondz film unchanged. His latest is one of the few contemporary films to get the Criterion treatment right off the bat, and it includes an audio Q&A with Solondz and a making-of featurette.



High and Low – Criterion Collection Blu-ray

95%

We’ve written at length on multiple occasions about the influence and masterful skill of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, so we won’t bother with those details again; if you don’t know who he is, suffice it to say you owe it to yourself to check out some of his many masterpieces. That said, we’d also like to point out that period samurai flicks aren’t all that he made, as evidenced by this classic film from 1963. Starring longtime Kurosawa collaborator Toshiro Mifune and based on an “87th Precinct” police procedural novel by Ed McBain called King’s Ransom, High and Low explores the moral conflict endured by a wealthy executive named Kingo Gondo (Mifune) when his chauffeur’s son is mistaken for his own and abducted for ransom. Already caught in the middle of a corporate struggle between two competing factions in his company, Gondo must decide whether or not to pay the ransom, which could spell financial ruin for his family. This week, the Criterion Collection releases a Blu-ray restoration of the film, which already exists in the collection in DVD format, and it includes an audio commentary by Kurosawa scholar Stephen Price, a 37-minute making-of documentary, video interviews with cast members, and more.

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