This week on home video, we’ve got an Oscar winner and another Oscar nominee, a comedy flop, a couple of dark comedies, and a bit of the old ultraviolence. Plus, there are a few notable reissues from the Criterion Collection and on Blu-ray. See below for the full list!



Leave it to Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis to make a commercially viable film out of a relatively talky historical drama about Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to get the Thirteenth Amendment passed by congress. Oh sure, it was critically lauded and all that, but its $261 million box office total is arguably more impressive, considering the subject matter. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the cast was rounded out by Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, and Hal Holbrook, with a little Joseph Gordon-Levitt tossed in the mix, all of whom helped to bring the script to vibrant life. Aside from the numerous other honors it took home this awards season, at this year’s Oscars Lincoln nabbed twelve nominations including almost all of the “important” categories, though it only took home two of them: Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis (kind of a shoo-in) and Best Production Design. Certified Fresh at 89%, it’s probably one of the most surprisingly entertaining history lessons you’ll ever get, and DDL’s performance alone is probably worth the watch.

Killing Them Softly


As the story goes, Brad Pitt wanted to work with Australian director Andrew Dominik ever since he saw Dominik’s 2000 debut, Chopper, and he got his wish after he specifically sought out Dominik and the two collaborated on the moody western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a critical success. They paired up again last year for Killing Them Softly, a darkly funny adaptation of the George V. Higgins novel Cogan’s Trade, and results were similarly impressive. After a couple of petty crooks (Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn) hold up an illegal poker game full of bad-guy types, the local crime bosses bring in a seasoned hitman (Pitt) to sniff them out and snuff them out. Set against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crisis, Killing Them Softly has a little more on its mind than beatings and bullets, though, and critics found it a powerfully effective allegory for unchecked capitalism. It’s bleak, visceral, and sometimes bloody, but Certified Fresh at 76%, it might hit the spot if you enjoyed Pitt and Dominik’s previous work together.

Parental Guidance


Parental Guidance opened last Christmas against Oscar contenders Django Unchained and Les Misérables, presumably to serve as family-friendly counterprogramming. Critics, unfortunately, were largely disappointed in the film, and now we wait for Billy Crystal to redeem himself in Monsters University. Here, he and Bette Midler star as Artie and Diane, an older couple who agree to babysit their grandkids when their daughter and her husband must leave for a business trip; hilarity in the form of generational humor presumably ensues, as Artie and Diane find their old school parenting techniques differ vastly from those of their daughter. Parental Guidance is sweet enough, as comedies of this nature typically are, but it’s so safe, fluffy, and predictable that it’s uninteresting and bland. At 19% on the Tomatometer, it might make you chuckle and say “aww” a few times, but you’ll probably also forget about it as soon as the credits roll.

The Collection


2009’s The Collector began as a Saw prequel before its makers ditched that idea and decided to go with a separate story, so that gives you some idea what the franchise is like. “Franchise?” you may ask. Why, yes, because now we have a sequel in the form of The Collection, in which “The Collector” kidnaps a young woman named Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick) and spirits her away to an abandoned hotel rigged with booby traps. Desperate to save his daughter, Elena’s father hires a previous survivor to help guide a rescue team through the perilous maze of the hotel; people die, gruesomely. Now, there weren’t many critics who endorsed The Collection, but a lot of them did concede that if you’re a fan of the gory “torture porn” genre, this might be your bag. For the rest of us who are squeamish, probably best to keep away.

A Royal Affair


A Royal Affair was Denmark’s entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category at this year’s Oscars, which saw no shortage of period dramas, and though it ultimately lost to Amour, it earned some impressive reviews of its own. Set in the 18th century court of Danish king Christian VII (played by Mikkel Følsgaard), the film recounts the story of Johann Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen), the king’s personal physician, who helps restore the mentally ill king’s health but harbors a secret affair with the queen, Caroline Matilda (Alicia Vikander). If you’re looking for sumptuous costumes, lavish sets, and proper sexual intrigue of the aristocratic sort, critics say that, Certified Fresh at 89% on the Tomatometer, A Royal Affair will have what you want.

The Comedy


Anyone who’s seen an episode of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! has sensed a sort of dark subtext underlying the absurdist anti-humor, and it seems this energy was harnessed for The Comedy, which stars Tim and Eric‘s Tim Heidecker. Swanson (Heidecker) is an aging, apathetic layabout Brooklynite who spends his time in pointless activities with his hipster friends. He’s about to inherit his father’s estate, but he doesn’t particularly care, and he instead begins to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior until they bend to his will or break across his face. It seems pretty clear that The Comedy‘s title is meant to be ironic, though there is some deadpan humor to be found. At 44% on the Tomatometer, the film entertained some critics but disappointed, disgusted, or bored just a few more.

Also available this week:

  • Two choices from the Criterion Collection: Charlie Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux (97%) and Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped (100%), both arriving on DVD and Blu-ray.
  • Presumably in anticipation of the upcoming 3D IMAX rerelease of Jurassic Park (90%), that film and its two sequels — The Lost World (52%) and Jurassic Park III (50%) — are all being reissued on Blu-ray this week.
  • A 20th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition of The Sandlot (61%), though it’s unclear what bonus features this new version will contain.
  • Since we featured Westworld here a couple of weeks ago, we thought it only fair to mention the new Blu-ray for its lesser 1976 sequel, Futureworld (33%) on Blu-ray.

This week at the movies, we’ve got a quest for vengeance (Django Unchained, starring Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio), a prisoner-turned-businessman (Les Misérables, starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway), and an old-school grandfather (Parental Guidance, starring Billy Crystal and Bette Midler). What do the critics have to say?

Django Unchained


Quentin Tarantino is one of contemporary cinema’s boldest provocateurs, and Django Unchained may feature his most incendiary premise yet: it’s a Spaghetti western set in the antebellum South. Thankfully, critics say the director has delivered another winner, one that’s by turns thrilling, bloody, and deeply moving. Jamie Foxx stars as Django, a runaway slave who teams up with a bounty hunter in an effort to rescue his wife from Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a diabolical slaveholder. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Django Unchained is stylish, exciting, and often very funny, but it also pulls no punches in its depiction of the evils of slavery. (Check out our video interviews with Django’s stars.)

Les Misérables


Les Misérables hits theaters swaddled in gravitas: it’s a period epic with a prestigious cast that’s been adapted from a wildly popular musical by Oscar winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech). And critics say it mostly deserves the hype — it’s impeccably mounted and robustly acted but occasionally bombastic. Hugh Jackman stars as Jean Valjean, an ex-con turned factory owner who takes care of his ex-employee Fantine (Anne Hathaway) and her daughter while avoiding the ruthless Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). The pundits say Les Misérables is often over-the-top, but the performances are excellent, and Hooper injects a sense of grit and passion to the proceedings.

Parental Guidance


It’s the holidays, so naturally there’s a new family comedy in theaters, one that promises to both warm hearts and tickle funny bones. Unfortunately, critics say Parental Guidance mostly fails in its mission — it’s good-natured, but blandly predictable, and it misuses old pros Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. Crusty old Artie (Crystal) and his wife Diane (Midler) agree to babysit their grandchildren for a week; hilarity ensues and life lessons are learned. The pundits say Parental Guidance is sweet but milquetoast, an inoffensive trifle that doesn’t amount to much more.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • West of Memphis, a documentary about the campaign to free three young men wrongly convicted of murder, is at 98 percent.
  • The Portuguese import Tabu, a drama about a dying woman reflecting on a forbidden love affair of her youth, is at 92 percent.
  • Promised Land, starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski in a drama about a company’s attempt to open up a rural community to natural gas exploration, is at 71 percent.

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