Though we here in the US are celebrating Independence Day today, it seems the home video divisions of the various Hollywood studios decided not to give us much to be excited about this week. There is a shocking dearth of worthwhile releases coming out tomorrow, unless you’re into 1980s soap operas (Dynasty), random Blu-ray reissues (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Overboard), or straight-to-video shlock (Bloodrayne: The Third Reich, Ferocious Planet). Thankfully, there are still some decent choices to be had, from Takashi Miike’s recent foray into period samurai action to a Blu-ray version of a Wolfgang Peterson classic, so all is not lost. Thankfully, all four of this week’s choices are quite highly rated, so here’s hoping you’ll find one of these worth watching.



Hobo with a Shotgun

66%

Remember those fake movie trailers that played during the intermission of Grindhouse, between Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof? Well, the filmmakers held an international competition, asking fans to submit their own fake, homemade grindhouse-styled trailers, and one particular trailer not only won the competition, but also succeeded in becoming a real movie. No, we’re not talking about Machete, Rodriguez’s own fake trailer-turned-actual film, but Hobo with a Shotgun, a gleefully gory exploitation film that became a reality, with Rutger Hauer in the title role, no less. The story is simple enough: a wandering homeless man jumps off a train in a new town, hoping for a fresh start, only to discover the town is a cesspool teeming with evil, unsavory types. Of course, the hobo goes straight to work cleaning up the town, and there you have it. If you’re a fan of the recent revival of old school exploitation fare, then this will be right up your alley, and at 70% on the Tomatometer, Hobo with a Shotgun is likely to entertain you.



13 Assassins

95%

Controversial Japanese cult director Takashi Miike is probably best known for his intense, graphic thrillers (Audition) and over-the-top action films (Ichi the Killer, Gozu). Every once in a while, though, he does something a little different and unexpected, like a haunted house/zombie/romance musical (The Happiness of the Katakuris) or a Western starring an all-Japanese cast speaking in phonetic English (Sukiyaki Western Django). Earlier this year, Miike went the latter route, somewhat, remaking a 1963 samurai film called 13 Assassins. The story centers on an honorable samurai, Shinzaemon, who is hired to assassinate an evil lord who is preparing to move up the political ladder. Shinzaemon gathers a handful of capable warriors and plots an elaborate ambush in an isolated town, leading to an epic climactic battle. Critics praised the film to the tune of a Certified Fresh 96%, calling the film stylish and effective, and it serves as a reminder of Miike’s incredible range as a director, even if not all of his work is universally appealing. Watch it for the final battle alone, and you will not be disappointed.



Of Gods and Men

93%

In March of 1996, smack dab in the thick of the Algerian Civil War, seven Roman Catholic monks of French nationality were kidnapped from an Algerian monastery, held for two months, and discovered dead in May. This story forms the backdrop of Of Gods and Men, a quiet drama loosely based on those events that focuses on the monks themselves, their day-to-day activities as they lived peacefully alongside their Muslim brothers, and the political pressures that led to the tragic kidnapping. Critics found the film patient and restrained (a bit too restrained for some), and felt that it asked some profound questions sure to linger with audiences; as a result, it received a Certified Fresh 92% on the Tomatometer and even won the Grand Prix at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. This film may be a bit challenging for some, due to its deliberate pacing, but it should also likely prove highly rewarding if subdued political drama is your thing.



Das Boot – Two-Disc Collector’s Set Blu-Ray

98%

German director Wolfgang Petersen has amassed an eclectic filmography that includes children’s movies (the ’80s fantasy classic The Neverending Story), political thrillers (In the Line of Fire), and sword-and-sandal epics (Troy). It’s sometimes easy to forget that he got his big break when one of his earliest German films, 1982’s Das Boot, was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Director. Now, Das Boot is regarded as a classic, not only as one of the best German films ever made, but one of the most gripping war movies, period. The film, based on a fictional novel of the same name, chronicles life aboard a German U-Boat, both through intense battle sequences and through scenes of the crew making the most of their downtime. At 100% on the Tomatometer, it’s a pretty sure bet for anyone interested in wartime stories, but it’s a great film all-around, and it’s available on Blu-ray this week for the first time, complete with a hefty stack of extras.

This week at the movies, we’ve got a mighty Norse god (Thor, starring Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman), a love triangle (Something Borrowed, starring Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin), and wedding bell blues (Jumping the Broom, starring Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine). What do the critics have to say?



Thor

77%

Blockbuster time! Now that summer’s here, all we need is a good superhero movie to kick things off in grand style. And critics say we’ve got one with Thor, a robust, thrilling adventure with smarts and sly laughs. Chris Hemsworth stars as the God of Thunder, who’s been exiled from Asgard after heedlessly starting a war. Bannished to Earth (and sans his superpowers), this legendary Norseman must learn humility – and defend humanity against the evildoers from his realm. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Thor may not occupy the first tier of Marvel movies, but Hemsworth makes for a compelling hero, and director Kenneth Branagh brings both panache and a sense of fun to the proceedings. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we run down memorable Viking movies.)



Something Borrowed

15%

For a romantic comedy to succeed, one needs to truly care about the characters. It sounds simple, but it’s harder to pull off, and critics say Something Borrowed falters because it can’t get at the humanity beneath its farcical premise. The movie stars Ginnifer Goodwin as a sweet young woman who’s just started an affair with the guy she’s had a crush on since forever. One problem: he’s engaged to her best friend (Kate Hudson). Can our heroine save her friendship and keep the object of her affection without ruffling feathers? The pundits say Something Borrowed never delves into the moral dilemma its setup promises, and instead focuses on bland characterizations and predictable genre elements at the expense of relatable human behavior.



Jumping the Broom

58%

We’re in the midst of wedding season, so it’s no surprise to see a wedding comedy hitting theaters. But while critics say Jumping the Broom has some strong performances and moments of sweetness, it’s unfortunately bogged down in clichés and an overabundance of subplots. The plot: two families gather in Martha’s Vineyard for a wedding — the bride is from an affluent clan, while the groom’s family is blue collar — and friction quickly becomes the order of the day. Can everyone agree to put conflict on the back burner for the sake of our couple? The pundits say Broom benefits from strong performances (particularly Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine as the family matriarchs) and some vigorous laughs, but unfortunately it’s too long – and its plot is too overstuffed — to work as a breezy comedy of manners.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Caterpillar, a drama about a soldier’s psychological descent after returning home from the second Sino-Japanese War, is at 100 percent.
  • Hobo With a Shotgun, starring starring Rutger Hauer as a hobo with a shotgun, is at 83 percent (check out Hauer’s Five Favorite Films here).
  • Forks Over Knives, a documentary that asks whether a diet free of processed and meat based-foods is healthier, is at 83 percent.
  • Harvest, a naturalistic portrait of a family that’s dealing with health problems and personal issues, is at 80 percent.
  • Octubre, a dark comedy about an emotionally distant man who finds himself caring for a baby, is at 67 percent.
  • The Beaver, starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster in the tale of a troubled man who finds solace by communicating with a beaver puppet, is at 69 percent.
  • Last Night, starring Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington as a married couple whose relationship may give way to temptation, is at 47 percent.
  • Daydream Nation, starring Kat Dennings and Josh Lucas in a dramedy about a girl who moves to a new school and falls for her youthful teacher, is at 44 percent.
  • There Be Dragons, a historical drama about the founding of Opus Dei, is at 20 percent.
  • An Invisible Sign, starring Jessica Alba as a socially awkward young woman who becomes a math teacher to connect with the outside world, is at zero percent.
  • Passion Play, starring Mickey Rourke and Megan Fox in a neo noir about a jazz musician who gets in over his head with both a beautiful woman and the mob, is at zero percent.

Finally, props to Adam P. for coming the closest guessing Dylan Dog: Dead of Night‘s five percent Tomatometer.

In a busy career tracing back to the late 1960s, Dutch actor Rutger Hauer has carved out a unique niche as a performer, alternating between dramatic parts and iconic cult roles that have earned him the admiration of successive generations of audiences. His performance in 1977’s World War II drama Soldier of Orange made the world aware of both Hauer and director Paul Verhoeven, while several of his roles in the ’80s — like the menacing villain in action classic The Hitcher and replicant Roy Batty in Blade Runner — continue to resonate with movie fans today. Filmmakers have drawn on Hauer’s singular presence in later years for supporting roles in the likes of Sin City and Batman Begins, and this week he’s back in all of his full, starring glory — headlining the splattery B-movie throwback, Hobo With a Shotgun.

Based on the popular fake trailer submitted for Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse, Jason Eisener’s deliberately trashy feature debut stars Hauer as… a hobo… with a shotgun: a homeless vigilante out to make the streets of a corrupt town run red with the blood of evil.

We spoke with the actor recently, where he shared his thoughts on the film, and what it’s like looking back at Blade Runner today. Read on for the interview; but first, here are Rutger Hauer’s five favorite films.

 


GasLand (2010, 100% Tomatometer)

 

Let me start with the last one I saw that I was really taken by, which was Gasland by Josh Fox. It’s an investigation into the pollution of the drinking water all over the States. It’s a guy with a camera, somewhere in the middle of America: he got a letter from an oil company saying “We want to buy your land for a hundred grand, are you game?” and he started to investigate what they wanted; and just from one thing to the next he started finding out all these things about the pollution of the water. I just admire this guy and this documentary, and I’ve always been a major fan of good documentaries. It couldn’t have been done with a sh***ier camera, and I love that about the sh***y cameras.

Position Among the Stars (2011, N/A Tomatometer)

 

Then there’s another documentary that I saw last time at Sundance, which is called Position Among the Stars. This is a Dutch-Indonesian director who has made a portrait of one family over the course of 12 years in Indonesia. His name is Leonard Retel Helmrich. I talked to him for a few hours on the last day, before he won the award in Sundance, about what he was doing and how he was doing it, because the way in which he conducts his camera is completely different. He said, “I wanted to make a very simple portrait about a very poor family in Indonesia and see if I could find a link to the bigger picture, so to speak, and the alignment of the stars above their head.” And he succeeded. It’s an awesome documentary. It’s just a portrait of a small family, with a universal theme coming out of it at the end.

Hiroshima mon amour (1959, 95% Tomatometer)

 

I’ll go back to the one that hit me hard a long time ago, Hiroshima mon amour by Alain Resnais. I think the first cuts are so deep, you know, when your hard disc is still pretty empty, and these first films hit you so hard where you go, “Oh my god, I didn’t know this existed, it’s so beautiful.” Hiroshima mon amour was a film by a filmmaker where I didn’t know this language was even possible on film — I was looking at wax museum films and Westerns and war movies and horror movies and everything, but not this one; it really woke up my eyes for something else. It was so poetic and so cool, and just really enjoyable.

Wings of Desire (1987, 98% Tomatometer)

 

Wings of Desire, by Wim Wenders. The guy who wrote the screenplay, Peter Handke, is a playwright in Germany, and I was very much a part of reading the avant garde writers, be it plays or novels. I loved his writing, it was so strong and so sharp, and when the film came out, I just loved it. Everything about it was marvelous. Bruno Ganz was so brilliant. He’s brilliant most of the time. On our side of the ocean, let’s say, he was one of our stars, like Redford and Paul Newman and Brando were on that side. I had a few European actors where I went, “They’re so fantastic.”

Apocalypse Now (1979, 98% Tomatometer)

 

Okay, last one — Apocalypse Now. That movie was so stunning and so ahead of its time. I don’t know, it’s probably a story like Blade Runner, because there are so many things that happened on it. And I didn’t even see the longer version. I think there’s a version that’s like three or four hours long. It’s such a mixed feeling of painful darkness — it’s not surprising with Heart of Darkness, to quote that — and of course Brando, he was always my big love/hate hero in acting; his speech, “The horror, the horror,” it’s just killer, you know?

 

Next, Rutger Hauer talks about his new cult film, Hobo With A Shotgun, and why his performance in Blade Runner remains his personal favorite.

 

 

RT: What were your thoughts when [director] Jason Eisener came to you and said, “We want you for Hobo With a Shotgun“?

Rutger Hauer: Well, that’s the funny part. I read the script and thought it had crazy things — a script like this really reads badly, because it’s all in pretty much how you do it. But what I read was just “F*** this, f*** that, you f***in’ a**hole,” and that wouldn’t do it unless you have a delicious pleasure in saying “f***” — and I do. But I’m not sure if that’s good on film; I’m pretty sure that it’s not. The funny thing is that I ended up cutting a lot of them out, because I felt that it would make the hobo stronger — not because he was decent or something, but because he’s pretty straight.

We decided two things. One was — and these were the first things that we said to each other when we met for the first time — I said, “The story needs a heart” and Jason said, “Yeah, that’s why I want you.” And he was not being smart. I went, “How do you picture that?” and then he went into a little bit of a monologue saying “Well you played this in The Hitcher and you played this and that at this moment in this film.” He went on, and he pointed out exactly what I can do for the role, so I knew he was right, and I knew I liked him right away. The decision was made in seconds — and before we talked, I was ready to say, “Look, I’m very busy.” He convinced me in a second and I knew I had to do the movie. Looking back at it now, I am so damn happy for him. As far as I can see, the movie’s gonna give me a younger audience, which I always love, because that’s the very awake and undervalued audience. They’re smart, and I like that. You can only sell them so much bulls**t, because they’ve seen enough.

How does it feel getting a new audience after such a long career?

It feels… well, I’m not a different guy, but in terms of an audience that just runs with a wild horse, it’s delicious. I don’t know if there’s a word that can really describe it. It’s like they’re holding your backbone and saying, “We get it, just do it,” and that’s really great for an actor. It’s what you live for. Why else do it? I have fun in what I do, because I pick funny, funny subjects.

 

When you look back at something like Blade Runner, that’s a role of yours that gets discovered by new audiences all the time.

Well in Hollywood when that film was made, everybody was spitting on it. You know, it was the worst film made in Hollywood at the time: eight million dollars over budget with a very cocky director who didn’t understand his crew, blah blah blah, and everybody having a hell of a time, and not in a good way, making it. So that movie had a curse on it when it came out. And thank god for Ridley, you know; it’s completely changed. Times have completely changed. We’ve caught up with the movie, and now people completely get it.

Does that make you happy now?

Of course it does, but I knew what I did at the time — I was no stranger to what I did. But to have times and an audience turn like that, over such a long time — and it’s not short, like fashion or anything; this is like serious change in peoples’ thinking — that is pretty amazing, to see that happen. I don’t think it’s ever been done before. [laughs] I like these things, when things happen and there’s no soil to stand on — you discover a completely different ground for a movie. Nobody saw this coming. I really do believe that the audience has made this happen. There’s a ton of things on that movie that were circumstance and coincidence. History has dealt a certain amount of justice to Blade Runner, yes. [laughs]

Is there a role in your career that stands out as your favorite, or most memorable experience working on a film?

The deepest was Blade Runner, because it was the first time where I just danced with the director and, let’s say, the concept and the tone: I understood, on a very strong level, what he wanted, and by instinct I gave it to him. Half the time, what the hell did I know? I was just starting out to be an actor right there. This was after an experience on Nighthawks which was pretty tough and very bureaucratic and difficult. If your creative ideas are strangled, that doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t mean I have to be right — that’s not the point at all. It’s just there needs to be a click between the creator and you. That was Blade Runner for me. To dance along, so long and beautifully, and then for it to be reformatted so it could live another 20 years; this is something completely unique. So there’s only one way to answer that question.


Hobo With a Shotgun opens in select theaters this week.

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