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RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Taken 2, The Possession, and More

Also, Woody Allen's latest, a clunky message movie, and a couple of overlooked docs.

by | January 15, 2013 | Comments

This week on home video, we start with an action sequel and a mediocre supernatural thriller. Then, Woody Allen visits another European city, and a couple of solid actresses try to make a point about education reform. Then we’ve got an inspirational documentary about a scrappy ball team, as well as another about an iconic American city. See below for the full list!

Taken 2

22%

Back in 2008, Taken was a refreshing early-year treat, featuring Liam Neeson in a no-holds-barred thriller laying waste to bad guys. It was a bit of mindless action that fell just shy of Freshness at 58%, but it was exactly what audiences were looking for and it became a surprise hit. Of course, a sequel was inevitable, and last year we got Taken 2, a subpar follow-up in which Neeson’s ex-CIA agent, Bryan Mills, finds himself and his wife at the mercy of the father of one of his previous victims. Again, he must use his wily training to escape with this family intact. Critics were decidedly unimpressed with this second effort, which featured some recycled character development, a more ludicrous plot, and bigger, less satisfying action. At 21% on the Tomatometer, it’s probably safe to say this one won’t be remembered as fondly as its predecessor.

The Possession

39%

The Possession‘s unimaginative title isn’t helped by the fact that it’s allegedly “based on true events,” which is fast becoming a horror cliché in its own right. This late-August fright flick centers around a young girl named Em (Natasha Calis), who becomes curiously obsessed with a mysterious wooden box she picked up at a yard sale. Her recently divorced parents Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) are at first wary of young Em’s fascination with the object, but as Em’s behavior becomes more bizarre and unexplained events begin occurring, they suspect a larger evil is at work. Some found the first act of the film suitably eerie and atmospheric, with a handful of genuine chills, but most felt The Possession ultimately fell back on all too familiar horror conventions, robbing it of its initial effectiveness. At 39% on the Tomatometer, you may find this a sufficient chiller if you’re familiar with the folkloric dybbuks, but it’s also possible you may not be affected at all.

To Rome with Love

46%

Woody Allen is one of the most prolific directors of our time, and he?s still working today. Unfortunately for him, this means that for every Vicky Cristina Barcelona or Midnight in Paris, there’s also a Scoop or Cassandra’s Dream. We regret to inform you that To Rome with Love shares company with the latter two films. The ensemble cast here includes, among others, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, and of course, Allen himself in a series of four unrelated vignettes all taking place in the titular city. While critics conceded the film painted a warm portrait of Rome, many also felt there wasn’t anything particularly intriguing or remarkable about it, leaving them to pine for his next “classic.”

Won’t Back Down

35%

Politics aside, if you’re planning to craft a film around a somewhat controversial subject, it’s best not to water it down for the masses, no matter what the studio’s accountants and marketing people tell you. Won’t Back Down seeks to tackle the topic of education reform in favor of handing control over the school system to the parents, but by oversimplifying the issues, the film instead has been deemed heavy-handed and disingenuous by many critics. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis play a pair of mothers who attempt to turn around their children’s inner city school, all the while facing an uncooperative bureaucracy and pressure from those who would see them fail. They make sacrifices, fight corruption, and risk everything to ensure a brighter future for their kids. Critics gave Won’t Back Down a 33%, stating that the film is so obviously calculated and emotionally patronizing that any debate on the topic is rendered powerless. Even if you agree with its stance, chances are you may roll your eyes once or twice as the story plays out.

The Other Dream Team

88%

At least a couple of us here at RT are big basketball fans, and we’ve been around long enough to remember the glorious “Dream Team” the US fielded in the Barcelona Olympics of 1992. Having said that, we also rather fondly remember players like Sarunas Marciulonis and Arvydas Sabonis, which is why The Other Dream Team, seen by almost no one when it was released last year, is getting a writeup here today. The Other Dream Team focuses specifically on the Lithuanian Olympic basketball team of 1992, who became symbols of democracy when the Soviet Union fell at the end of 1991 and Lithuania gained its independence. Just four years after a Soviet team, powered primarily by four Lithuanian players, took the gold over the US in Seoul, Lithuania fought its way to a Bronze finish in the shadow of the NBA’s “Dream Team;” this film depicts the culture of elite athletes both behind the Iron Curtain and after its fall. At 88%, The Other Dream Team is essentially an inspirational underdog sports movie, but it features enough real-world heft and lively footage to make it a thoughtful, entertaining documentary that you don’t have to be a sports buff to enjoy.

Detropia

86%

Another overlooked film from last year that made just slightly more money than The Other Dream Team, Detropia tells a very American story, one that’s been made quietly familiar to us over the past several years. Utilizing interview clips to narrate the experience, Detropia depicts the contemporary realities of Detroit, Michigan — a decaying industrial city once known for its auto factories and soul music — as described primarily by three of its residents: a video blogger, a nightclub owner, and the local president of the United Auto Workers. Directors Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, whose previous effort Jesus Camp earned an Oscar nod, bring the same hands-off approach to Detropia, and critics say the result is a fascinating, compassionate, and artfully rendered portrait of urban transformation. At 84% on the Tomatometer, it’s worth a look for a sobering glimpse at an iconic American metropolis.

Also available this week:

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