The summer’s biggest oohs and ahhs (and guffaws) hit DVD this week, as Wall-E and Tropic Thunder hit shelves with tons of bonus content for fans. Cineastes will be rewarded by the latest from Harmony Korine (Mister Lonely) and David Lynch (the multi-film Lime Green set), while early gift hunters should check out a 300 Limited Collector’s Edition and Columbia’s massive Best Pictures set.

1. Tropic Thunder – 83%

Ah, what gifts Steven Spielberg hath given us. Twenty one years after filming a bit part in Spielberg’s WWII drama Empire of the Sun, comedian-turned-filmmaker Ben Stiller cobbled together an idea for a comedy about a big-budget Hollywood war movie run amok on location, and Tropic Thunder was born; Empire‘s child star didn’t do too bad for himself either. This week Tropic Thunder — The Unrated Director’s Cut hits arrives, which means the biggest laughs of the year are moments away from your DVD player.

The jungle antics of Hollywood shills Tugg Speedman (Stiller), Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), and Method actor Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) are on full tilt in the 2-disc Unrated edition, which comes packed with bonus features that capitalize on the movie’s meta-leanings; like the fake trailers within the film (The Fatties: Fart 2, Scorcher IV: Global Meltdown, and the controversial Satan’s Alley), the faux-documentary Rain of Madness captures the “actors” of Tropic Thunder during their hectic production. The release also includes tons of behind-the-scenes featurettes, filmmaker and cast commentaries, deleted and extended scenes, an alternate ending, and more.

Watch an exclusive clip from Tropic Thunder below!!

Next: Wall-E

2. Wall-E — 96%

Indulge in one of the best-loved films of the year when Disney-Pixar releases WALL-E in bountiful DVD and Blu-ray releases this week! The grand tale of a Chaplin-esque lonely robot named WALL-E who finds love and meaning on a cross-universe quest captured the hearts of moviegoers last summer, while critics nudged it a hair’s breadth over The Dark Knight to name it the best-reviewed wide release of the year (so far).

Whether you pick up the 3-disc DVD or the more expansive Blu-ray set, you’ll find a full complement of WALL-E extras and goodies for Pixar fans, including the short films Presto, which played before WALL-E in theaters, and BURN-E, a spin-off short featuring one of WALL-E‘s supporting characters. More making-of featurettes, a Pixar documentary, shorts “from the Buy n Large archives,” and a digital copy are also included. Blu-ray viewers can make additional use of the BD-Live chat function, get picture-in-picture commentary, a “Geek Track” full of obscure pop up trivia, and access to retro-style WALL-E-themed video games.

Next: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

3. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 — 63%

Back in 2005, we learned that one pair of magical jeans could unite BFFS across international lines; this year, we learned that bigger star power didn’t necessarily make for a significantly more successful sequel. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 returned its four stars — Alexis Bledel, Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrara and Blake Lively — to their worn-in roles, though the former pair had become Ugly Betty and a Gossip Girl, respectively; critics were less impressed, though the box office improved marginally.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 catches up with Bridget (Lively), Carmen (Ferrara), Lena (Bledel), and Tibby (Tamblyn) as the college freshmen leave girlhood behind and embark on their first grown up adventures. In addition to the film, watch additional scenes, a gag reel, and a featurettes on the “exhilarating” final sequence.

Next: 300 Limited Collector’s Edition

4. 300 Limited Collector’s Edition — 60%

Zack Snyder’s breathtaking treatment of Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s graphic novel is back in a splendid Limited Collector’s Edition that includes previously-released bonus features, plus an all-new bonus disc with the making-of documentary To the Hot Gates: A Legend Retold, and a bonus digital copy of the film, so you can watch heavy metal-scored decapitations in slo-mo wherever you go. The set also comes with a handsome hardcover art book featuring a personal message from Snyder, a Lucite display, and six collectible photo cards. Your favorite Spartan will thank you.

Next: Mister Lonely

5. Mister Lonely — 44%

Harmony Korine has made a career out of films about outsiders, but his latest, Mister Lonely, is perhaps his most universally-appealing yet. A young Michael Jackson impersonator (Diego Luna) meets a wannabe Marilyn Monroe (Samantha Morton) while performing in old folks’ homes in Paris; she brings him into a commune full of celebrity impersonators who live blissfully in the Scottish Highlands, until reality catches up. While reviews were mixed on this gentle, bizarre tale — which features a cameo by director Werner Herzog in a side plot about a skydiving priest — it’s still Korine’s most accessible tale yet, and worth checking out for the adventurous at heart.

Next: Doctor Who: The Complete Fourth Series

6. Doctor Who: The Complete Fourth Series

The wildly popular UK science fiction series Doctor Who has been running for so long that the Guinness Book of World Records named it the longest running sci-fi series in the world; consider Doctor Who: The Complete Fourth Series then, to be a chunk of British pop history that you can own.

In the latest incarnation of the show, whose fourth “series” (AKA season, to you Americans) hits shelves this week, David Tennant jumps through space and time willy nilly as the Doctor — though he recently announced his tenure would end in 2010. Look for appearances by Kylie Minogue, Billie Piper and Alex Kingston.

Next: David Lynch the Lime Green set

7. David Lynch – The Lime Green set

Filmmaker David Lynch is one of Hollywood’s best-loved eccentrics — which you might already know if you subscribe to his official site, drink his personal brand of coffee, or listen to his daily weather reports. This week, celebrate Lynch with his self-distributed Lime Green set — a must-have for Lynch super fans — which contains his films Eraserhead (along with its soundtrack), Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, The Elephant Man, The Short Films of David Lynch, the animated series Dumbland which aired on his website, and Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Brokenhearted, a 1990 short avante-garde musical that featured a pre-Wild at Heart Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern, with music by Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti. Oh, and there’s an additional “mystery disc” full of exclusive material to pique your curiosity.

Next: Southland Tales on Blu-ray

8. Southland Tales on Blu-ray

Neo-Marxists, porn stars, and The Rock converge on greater Los Angeles county in Richard Kelly’s beautiful disaster of a sophomore film, which hits Blu-ray this week. Kelly fans who were waiting for the director to explain his epic vision in a commentary track should be relieved, as he at last waxes poetic on his ambitious sci-fi-philosophical actioner. Also navigate three prequel graphic novels to more fully understand the Southland Tales saga. We just want to watch the movie’s best scene — Justin Timberlake lip-synching to The Killers in slow motion — in glorious HD.

Next: Columbia Best Pictures Collection

9. Columbia Best Pictures collection

In a year where Batman is garnering Best Picture buzz, hearken back to the old days of Oscar with Columbia’s massive 11-film box set of Best Picture winners! From Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934) to Sir Ben Kingsley in Gandhi (1982), this ripe collection of oldies-but-goodies spans nearly half a decade of classic Oscar winners, each with its own set of featurettes, commentary tracks, and special features. Combined, the collection of Best Pictures share 57 Academy Awards.

Also in the set: You Can’t Take it With You (1938), All the King’s Men (1949), From Here to Eternity (1953), On the Waterfront (1954), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), A Man for All Seasons (1966), Oliver! (1968), and Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), plus three additional discs of bonus material.

Next: Executive Koala

10. Executive Koala

Lastly this week, we recommend the awesomely zany hijinks of Executive Koala. The wacky Japanese thriller — about a businessman who happens to be a man-sized koala bear — comes courtesy of Japanese director Minoru Kawasaki, whose previous effort, Calamari Wrestler, was about a man who turned into a giant squid. Part kaiju, part American Psycho, Executive Koala follows the life of salary man (and koala) Tamura whose life turns upside down when his girlfriend is found dead — and he’s the prime suspect. Watch a behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the film, which was reportedly shot in only seven days.

Until next week, happy renting!

This week at the movies, we’ve got metal-plated superheroes (Iron Man,
starring Robert Downey Jr. and
Gwyneth Paltrow) and matrimonial mishaps (Made
of Honor
, starring
Patrick Dempsey and
Michelle Monaghan). What do the
critics have to say?

The summer movie season has officially begun — and it’s starting off with a big
bang. The critics say Iron Man is everything a blockbuster should be —
action-packed, witty, and thoughtful.
Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark, a
brilliant inventor and weapons manufacturer who is taken hostage by a terrorist
group and builds a suit of armor to free himself; realizing what a great idea he
had, Stark becomes Iron Man, a crime-fighting force to be reckoned with. The
pundits say Iron Man is a marvel (pun intended): Downey imbues his role
with smarts and good humor; director
Jon Favreau
stages several thrilling action set-pieces; and co-stars
Gwyneth Paltrow,
Terrence Howard, and
Jeff Bridges turn
in stellar supporting performances. Plus, the film mixes in a healthy dose of
politics for good measure. At 94 percent on the Tomatometer, Iron Man is
not only Certified Fresh; it’s the best-reviewed wide release of the year, and
one of the best-reviewed superhero movies of all time. (Check out this week’s
Total Recall, in which we recount other memorable Man movies here, and
take a look at our interview with Favreau here.)




“Miss one Family Circus and you’re totally out of the loop!”

Ah, counter-programming. When a superhero movie hits theaters, you can generally
expect that it will go up against a romantic comedy for box-office bounty. And
critics say you can expect every chick flick shtick imaginable to turn up in the
nondescript
Made
of Honor
.
Patrick Dempsey stars as Tom, a man who
realizes that he’s in love with his best friend Hannah — just as she’s become
engaged to a wealthy Scotsman. Naturally, an attempt to get her to love him
before the wedding ensues. Sound familiar? Critics say Made of Honor is
essentially a gender reversal on
My Best Friend’s Wedding
, and a mediocre
one at that; the performers are fine, but the script revels in cliché and
formula. At 15 percent on the Tomatometer, Made of Honor has the wedding
bell blues.




“Sure, you can cut in. But wait a second or I’ll drop her.”

Also opening this week in limited release:

Son of Rambow, a Britcom about a group of schoolboys’ attempt to make
their own homemade Rambo flick, is at 79 percent (check out our take from
Sundance here).

Fugitive Pieces, a drama about a man haunted by his childhood World War
II experiences, is at 63 percent.

Viva, the tale of a bored 1970s housewife who takes a walk on the wild
side, is at 60 percent.

The Argentine import XXY, about the life and loves of a intersex teen, is
at 60 percent.

David Mamet‘s
Redbelt
, starring
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Jiu-Jitsu teacher who
is forced to step into the ring, is at 62 percent.

And Harmony
Korine
‘s
Mister Lonely
, starring
Diego Luna,
Samantha Morton,
and Werner Herzog in the tale of a commune filled with celebrity impersonators,
is at 44 percent.




“So seriously, which is better: ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President’ or ‘Happy Birthday Lisa?'”

Best-Reviewed Wide Releases of 2008:
—————————————————
95% — Iron Man
92% — U2 3D
85% — Forgetting Sarah Marshall
80% — The Spiderwick Chronicles
77% — Cloverfield

In making "The Queen," Stephen Frears has directed one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, and made $49 million in global box office returns to boot. RT chatted with the Brit about his new royal drama — and it’s no surprise who he thinks deserves the Best Actress Oscar.

Surprisingly few movie-goers know him by name, but they do know his films: "My Beautiful Laundrette," "Dangerous Liaisons," "The Grifters," "High Fidelity," and "Dirty Pretty Things," among others, not to mention my personal, lesser-known favorite, "The Snapper" (Mr. Frears agrees that it’s "wonderful"). With such an impressive filmography, Frears can boast a career as one of the most talented — if rarely venerated — directors of our time.


Frears’ "Mrs. Henderson Presents" (66%), "Dangerous Liasons" (95%), and "My Beautiful Laundrette" (100%)

Perhaps it’s only his eclectic taste that keeps this body of work from being more recognizable as a whole. With such an array of stories and characters, you could say his products lack a brand — really, that’s part of their charm.

As his latest film stuns critics ("The Queen" currently resides at 98 percent on the Tomatometer, making it one of our best-rated films of all time) and attracts Oscar buzz (for its direction and an impressive performance by Helen Mirren in the title role), it looks as though Frears might finally become a household name. Rotten Tomatoes caught up with Mr. Frears at the Four Seasons hotel in San Francisco where he jovially discussed the British Monarchy, disastrous politicians, and the film industry across the Atlantic, among other things.

——–

Rotten Tomatoes: What were the biggest obstacles you faced while making "The Queen?"

Stephen Frears: You just sort of had to take a deep breath and do it, because no one had really done it before and it was such a cheeky idea. I mean, it’s like a soap opera really. You sort of can’t quite believe you’re standing in front, directing an actress playing the queen. It’s just not what happens in normal life.

RT: Did you have any concerns about a political reaction?

SF: Listen, we clearly got away with it. If we hadn’t made the film we’d made we would have looked pretty stupid. I thought people would say, you know, this film shouldn’t have been made, this woman should be left alone. But nobody’s actually said that.


Helen Mirren in "The Queen"

RT: Have you heard from The House of Windsor about the film?

SF: They don’t ring me up about it, they don’t leave me notes.

RT: [Laughs] What about Tony Blair?

SF: I was told he’d seen it.

RT: You’ve been Oscar-nominated for 1991’s "The Grifters" and directed an Oscar-nominated performance last year (Judi Dench in "Mrs. Henderson Presents") —

SF: I’ve had five actresses nominated.

RT: You have?

SF: King of the Actresses, me.

RT: Did you have your eye on the Oscar going into "The Queen?"

SF: If it was mine to give I’d give it to Helen…but it ain’t.


Kelly Reilly and Dame Judi in last year’s "Mrs. Henderson Presents"

RT: What one movie in your filmography do you think didn’t get the critical recognition it deserved?

SF: Hundreds of them! Hundreds of them! Dozens of them! I love "Mrs. Henderson." Dozens of them. "Hi-Lo Country" I love. "Hero" I love. Dozens of them. It’s been one long lifetime of injustice.

RT: Well, maybe you’re finally getting your redemption.

SF: [Laughs] Said the luckiest man in the world.


More Frears: "The Hi-Lo Country" (53%), "Hero" (63%), "The Snapper" (95%)

Click here to read the full interview!

ELSEWHERE IN INDIE NEWS THIS WEEK:

Almodovar and Cruz To Re-Team On "El Piel Que Habito"


Pedro and Penelope: Like Batman and Robin, like Cloak and Dagger, like Captain and Tennille…

Fresh off the success of their latest collaboration, "Volver," Pedro Almodovar says he’s planning on working with Penelope Cruz on his next flick as well. Almodovar told reporters in his native Spain that his next film, "El Piel Que Habito" ("The Skin I Live In"), will be shot in Warsaw, and will be a radical departure from his previous films. "It’s a very tough story about revenge. It has nothing to do with ‘Volver’ or my life," he said.

Aptly-named "Weirdsville" To Open Slamdance


Scott’s got his eyes on Slamdance.

The screwball dramedy "Weirdsville," starring Scott Speedman, Taryn Manning, and Wes Bentley, will be the opening night selection for this year’s Slamdance Film Festival. The fest, now in its 13th year, will run from Jan. 18 to 27 in Park City, Utah, concurrently with Sundance. The narrative and documentary films at Slamdance are made by first-time directors on budgets of $1 million or less. The festival will showcase 100 films, a number pared down from more than 3,600 submissions.

Korine Finishes "Mister Lonely"


Wener Herzog enjoys a quiet stroll through the woods.

Say what you will about Harmony Korine: he’s never been conventional. So when the enfant terrible auteur says that his latest, "Mister Lonely," is "pretty weird," that probably means it’s really weird. The film stars Samantha Morton as Marilyn Monroe, Diego Luna as Michael Jackson, Anita Pallenberg as the Queen of England, and the not-at-all-eccentric Werner Herzog. No date has been set for the film’s release; Korine’s last picture was 1999’s still-controversial "Julien Donkey-Boy."

Tomatometers For Last Week’s Limited Releases

Opening last week in limited release: "10 Items or Less," a laid-back romance starring Morgan Freeman and Paz Vega, is at 62 percent with 47 reviews; "3 Needles," a globe-spanning drama about the toll of the AIDS virus, is at 34 percent with 32 reviews; "The Architect," a tale of two families in conflict over a public housing structure, is at 18 percent with 17 reviews; and "Two Weeks," a dramedy about a family’s response to terminal illness, is at zero percent with six reviews.


"The Architect": Viola Davis may not be an architecture critic, but she knows what she doesn’t like.

Top Performing Limiteds

In last week’s indie box office battle, "Volver" grossed an average of $12,675 on 30 screens (it’s made $1.9 million in its five week run), besting the stage-to-screen adaptation "The History Boys," which averaged $10,359 on eight screens (which has mad $300,000 in its two weeks in theaters). The Bollywood drama "Dhoom 2" held tough, raking in an average of $8,104 on 63 screens (for a total of $2.1 million in two weeks), while the Jean-Luc Godard classic "Two Or Three Things I Know About Her…" made $8,050 on one screen, for a total of $47,000 in three weeks. Rounding out the top five was the relationship drama "Flannel Pajamas, which hauled in a so-so $3,716 on two screens, for a total of $42,000 in three weeks of release.


"Flannel Pajamas": Before the good times went bad.

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