Here at RT we’re glass-half full kinds of people, so instead of dwelling on the abysmally-reviewed home video offerings of the week – Billy Bob Thornton’s Mr. Woodcock and Dane Cook’s Good Luck Chuck — we’re thrilled to point out that there are delights to be had on DVD shelves, if you’ll only look (Family Guy Presents Blue Harvest, Criterion’s The Naked Prey)!
It’s possible that Billy Bob Thornton will one day get past his irritable Bad Santa persona and graduate (or return) to roles with depth, challenge, and variety, but Mr. Woodcock will not be the catalyst for such a change. Thornton, an Academy Award-winner for writing, directing, and starring in a far better film about a mentally handicapped man a dozen years ago, now plays a terrifying…gym teacher. When Seann William Scott finds out his dear mother (Susan Sarandon, Oscar-winner) is dating the man who terrorized his adolescent years, he comes home to match wits, and slapstick wrestling movies, with Mr. Woodcock. You can do better, video hounds!
They say January is a dumping ground for bad movies; this week, the saying is true for DVD titles. Our first single digit-Tomatometer DVD release of the year, Good Luck Chuck – a raunchy, unfunny romantic comedy starring Dane Cook and Jessica Alba — earned the scorn of an overwhelming majority of critics. On DVD, expect unrated laughs and a strange, interactive feature of Matrix-style sex positions.
Leave it to Family Guy to save the day! The infamous Star Wars episode, retelling the entire space saga with Peter Griffin and Co., has arrived to poke geeky fun, Quahog-style, at Jedis, lightsabers, and storm troopers. Great extras include Seth MacFarlane interviewing George Lucas himself, an episode commentary, and a table reading Easter egg for you to uncover. Bonus points for knowing the working title of Episode VI.
Film enthusiasts also have something to look for this week: a new Criterion release! Cornel Wilde’s 1966 film The Naked Prey, in a newly restored high definition transfer, offers much more than just the movie itself — the story, based on real events, follows a 19th century colonist on safari forced to flee for his life as African tribesmen hunt him. But as with every Criterion release, this title’s packed with goodies — audio commentary, the original soundtrack cues created by the director and an ethnomusicologist, and a recounted version of the 1913 event that inspired the story, read by Paul Giamatti.
Abandoning conventional narrative, Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul has crafted a meditative story about how his own parents met and fell in love. Slow and mesmerizing, Syndromes and a Century was commissioned to honor the work of Mozart — a nice, alternative date movie for the discerning, Dane Cook-averse viewer.
‘Til next week, happy renting!
This week at the movies, we’ve got motel hells ("Vacancy," starring Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale), legal battles ("Fracture," starring Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling), lots of babes ("In the Land of Women," starring Adam Brody and Meg Ryan), and smokin’ barrels ("Hot Fuzz," starring Simon Pegg). What do the critics have to say?
In "Vacancy," Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale star as a couple whose vacation is sidetracked when their car breaks down and they check into a nowhere motel with a sinister history. "Vacancy"’s premise, which borrows from such voyeur classics as "Psycho" and "Peeping Tom," ain’t exactly original, and some critics have denounced the clichés from the get-go. But the movie’s defenders say it’s a surprisingly effective B-thriller, a sleazy movie that works because it relies more on tension than gore. At 65 percent on the Tomatometer, "Vacancy" may not become a genre classic but horror and thriller fans would do well to check into theaters this Friday.
Anthony Hopkins plays a charming rogue better than just about anyone, and Ryan Gosling has showed he can do earnest better than the rest as well. Put them together, and what have you got? "Fracture," a crime drama about a young district attorney (Gosling) convinced of the guilt of a just-acquitted attempted murderer (Hopkins). The critics say "Fracture" may be manipulative, but in the best way, with suspenseful plotting and excellent lead performances. At 67 percent on the Tomatometer, you may want to make a break for "Fracture."
"The O.C." may have been canceled, but the show will live on through its DVDs, countless compilation soundtracks…and the careers of the show’s alumni. Displacing his sensitive young adult persona onto the silver screen, Adam Brody stars in "In the Land of Women" as a man who returns to his hometown and gets touchy-feely with not one, not two, but three females. While pleasantly acted, the critics deride it as painfully obvious, dramatically stunted, and with underdeveloped characters better suited for TV movies. "Land of Women" registers a 38 percent on the Tomatometer, so consider taking a detour.
With "Shaun of the Dead," director Edgar Wright and screenwriter/star Simon Pegg made a delirious zombie flick that worked as both a satire and as a straight-ahead horror film. Now they’re back with "Hot Fuzz," turning their attention to the world of cop-buddy-action movies. And the critics say it’s a perfect fit. Pegg stars as a city cop who’s so accomplished that he’s commissioned to a sleepy village, which is subsequently overrun with grisly accidents. The pundits say "Hot Fuzz" is works as a loving homage to such fare as "Lethal Weapon" and "Bad Boys," while skewing the conventions of the sub-genre with panache and glee. At 87 percent on the Tomatometer, "Fuzz" isn’t only smokin’ hot, it’s also Certified Fresh.
Also opening this week in limited release: Thai import "Syndromes and a Century," the latest from Apichatpong Weerasethakul, is at 93 percent on the Tomatometer; "The Valet," a frothy French farce starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Daniel Auteuil, is at 90 percent; "Severance," a slasher/ corporate satire, is at 85 percent; "Stephanie Daley," a drama about a family grappling with a variety of sordid topics, is at 86 percent; and "Smiley Face," a stoner comedy from Gregg Araki starring Anna Faris, is at 67 percent (check out RT’s Sundance review here).
And finally, props to two of our most consistent Tomatometer guessers. –eternity- was correct in his belief that "Redline" would notch a robust zero percent on the Tomatometer, while dreday came the closest to guessing "Slow Burn"’s seven percent. Keep the heads ringin,’ you two.