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RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: The Wolverine and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Plus, a dud of a sequel and a couple of smaller but Certified Fresh picks.

by | December 3, 2013 | Comments

We’ve got both critical highs and lows this week, with a relatively well-received action blockbuster followed by a couple of duds. Then, we’ve also got a couple of Certified Fresh picks, including an indie comedy and a terrifying documentary, and, as always, we finish up the list with a few choice reissues. Read on for the full list:

The Wolverine

71%

Wolverine has always been one of the most popular X-Men, if not the most popular, and Fox has tried once before to spin him off into his own franchise, which yielded lackluster results. After the success of X-Men: First Class, Fox decided to try again, and we got The Wolverine, which finds Logan (Hugh Jackman) reluctantly traveling to Japan to honor an old, dying friend’s wish. Complications ensue when Logan’s friend dies, triggering a power struggle for control of his company and sweeping Logan into its path, even as he deals with his own mortality. Compared to Wolverine’s earlier solo outing, Critics found this to be a far superior effort, with enough action and intrigue to keep casual filmgoers interested, but also true enough to the comics to keep fans satisfied. At 68% on the Tomatometer, it’s a relatively worthy addition to the X-Men canon, even if it does fall to some third act action clichés.

The Smurfs 2

14%

If you’re looking to rent or buy The Smurfs 2, you probably already know what you’re getting into. This is lowest-common-denominator humor for very young children, so don’t expect to be entertained alongside your toddler as you might with, say, a Pixar film. In this sequel, Gargamel (Hank Azaria) is a successful magician in Paris, but he’s running out of the Smurf essence that gives him his power, so he kidnaps Smurfette in the hopes that Papa Smurf will give him the secret formula for creating Smurfs. Papa Smurf joins up once again with Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) to rescue Smurfette. The Smurfs 2 earned a 14% on the Tomatometer, with critics calling it a charm-free collection of slapstick and one-liners, so it’s about on par with its predecessor; if you liked the first film, knock yourself out with this one.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

13%

If there are few positive things we can say about The Smurfs 2 this week, one of them is that it was at least better than The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, according to critics anyway. Like many aspiring franchises these days, The Mortal Instruments is based on the popular young adult novel series of the same name, and this first installment introduces us to Clary Fray (Lily Collins) a regular teenager who learns quite suddenly that demons exist among humans on earth, and there are “Shadowhunters” who battle them. Clary discovers that her mother, kidnapped from their home, is also a Shadowhunter, and Clary herself has inherited her powers. City of Bones scored a mere 12% on the Tomatometer from critics, who spotted clichéd references to several other franchises in the film but found no cohesive plot to keep them together. The film treads so heavily on familiar ground, in fact, that some critics said it almost felt like a parody film, so if you’re looking for the next tween sensation, this probably won’t be it.

Drinking Buddies

84%

As a major player in the mumblecore movement, Joe Swanberg is no stranger to improvised dialogue and meandering stories, but there are times when this formula works perfectly to a film’s advantage. In Drinking Buddies, Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson star as Kate and Luke, co-workers at a small Chicago brewery who are both navigating their own long-term relationships; the only problem is, Luke and Kate are kind of perfect for each other. When Kate’s boyfriend (Ron Livingston) invites Luke and his girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) on a weekend getaway, both couples are forced to reassess their paths, leading to some unexpected turns. Critics were largely fond of Drinking Buddies, awarding it a Certified Fresh 82% on the Tomatometer and calling the film smart, funny, and well acted by a fine cast. It’s a bittersweet slice-of-life comedy that takes a few risks and, by most counts, ends up better for it.

The Act of Killing

95%

You know your documentary’s worth something if both Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, two of the most compelling modern documentary filmmakers, have signed on as producers. Difficult to watch but ultimately fascinating, The Act of Killing focuses on Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry, who formerly led the most notorious death squad in the mass killings in Indonesia in the 1960s. The film invites them to reenact their killings in the various cinematic forms they admire (gangster, western, etc), and the results, from the production process to the actual films, are revealing and provocative. The Act of Killing earned a Certified Fresh 97% on the Tomatometer, with critics calling it a raw and terrifying portrait that’s both difficult to watch and a testament to the power of documentary filmmaking. It’s a remarkable film, but be wary of its dark subject matter.

Also available this week:

  • All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (41%), starring Amber Heard in a thriller about a shy girl who attracts the attention of a violent stalker.
  • Winnie Mandela (15%), starring Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard in a biopic about the titular figure’s efforts to win her husband’s freedom.
  • Disney is releasing a Diamond edition Blu-ray of The Little Mermaid (92%).
  • You can pick up the entire Hangover trilogy on Blu-ray.
  • The sixteenth season of The Simpsons is available.
  • And of course, two more choices from the Criterion Collection: Elio Petri’s Oscar-winning Italian thriller Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (100%) and Robert Altman’s ensemble musical Nashville (95%).