The biggest film available in home video this week comes in the form of Jason Bateman’s directorial debut, but the smaller releases may warrant more attention. These include a Certified Fresh follow-up to an Indonesian action hit, an erotic two-part drama from Lars von Trier, and a documentary on one of the greatest movies never made, among others. Read on for details:



Bad Words

65%

After years of playing the put-upon straight man in everything from Arrested Development to last year’s Identity Thief, Jason Bateman made his directorial debut with Bad Words and cast himself as the primary purveyor of the film’s titular profanities. Guy Trilby (Bateman) is a middle school dropout who discovers a loophole in the rulebook of a national spelling bee and promptly enters, seeking to make a mockery of the competition. What he didn’t count on was the presence of Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand), a 10-year-old fellow speller who endears himself to Guy and soaks up his bad habits. Critics were fairly kind to Bad Words, rewarding Bateman’s first effort behind the camera with a 64% Tomatometer and calling the film funny and gleefully amoral. Special features on the disc include a commentary, some deleted scenes, and a behind-the-scenes featurette.



The Raid 2

82%

Gareth Evans scored a surprise hit with 2012’s The Raid, an inventive Indonesian actioner, so when a sequel was announced, fans were eager to see if the feat could be repeated; as it turned out, The Raid 2 came pretty close. Set just moments after the end of the first film, the sequel picks up with Jakarta cop Rama (Iko Uwais), who is asked to join a task force to expose the corrupt police commissioner. Rama soon discovers that a larger criminal organization is pulling the strings, and he must go undercover as an underworld thug to end the threat to his family. Critics found The Raid 2 a worthy successor to the adrenaline-fueled first installment, with plenty of thrilling sequences and gritty action, though they agreed its hyperviolence might appeal most to genre aficionados. The Blu-ray comes with a handful of making-of featurettes and a deleted scene, among other things.



Nymphomaniac: Volume I and Volume II

76%

There are two points few will argue against when it comes to Danish director Lars von Trier: he is quite demanding of his lead actresses, and he is not one to shy away from controversy. Cue the film provocatively titled Nymphomaniac, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg. The framing device is a chance encounter between an aging bachelor (Stellan Skarsgård) and the woman (Gainsbourg) he finds beaten in an alley; over the course of 240-plus minutes split into two films, the woman recounts her lustful, graphic history of nymphomania to the man as he tends to her wounds. Critics had slightly different things to say about Volume I and Volume II of the film (the former of which is Certified Fresh at 75%), but most agreed that Gainsbourg’s performance and von Trier’s bold, unique vision make the saga worth a watch. Each volume is available for purchases separately, but they’re also being released in a single package, along with interviews with Gainsbourg, Skarsgård, and co-stars Shia LaBeouf and Stacy Martin, and a Q&A with a few of the cast members.



Jodorowsky’s Dune

98%

Once upon a time, Alejandro Jodorowsky — director of cult favorites like The Holy Mountain and El Topo — had his hands on the rights to Frank Herbert’s epic 1965 sci-fi novel Dune. Though the book did eventually make it to the screen (where it unfortunately bombed) in the hands of David Lynch, Jodorowsky’s vision for the film included music by Pink Floyd, art design by H.R. Giger and Jean Giraud (better known as Moebius), and Mick Jagger, Salvador Dalí, and Orson Welles in the cast. Frank Pavich’s documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune explores the inception and ultimate doom of the film that never was, utilizing interviews with Jodorowsky himself, Giraud’s storyboards, and Giger’s character designs to offer an interpretation of what could have been. Critics raved about Jodorowsky’s Dune to the tune of a Certified Fresh 99% on the Tomatometer, calling it both a loving tribute to the filmmaker and a bittersweet examination of the inner workings of Hollywood. The only special features of note are a series of deleted scenes from the film, but this is probably a worthy pickup for any Jodorowsky fans.

Also available this week:

  • Roger Michell’s Certified Fresh Le Week-End (89%), starring Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan in a drama about a long-married couple trying to rekindle their romance in Paris.
  • Maidentrip (81%), a documentary about 14-year-old Dutch sailor Laura Dekker’s quest to be the youngest person to sail around the world alone.
  • Watermark (80%), a documentary exploring the relationship we share with water all around the world.
  • Stage Fright (33%), a musical horror comedy about a mysterious killer who stalks his victims at a performing arts camp.
  • There’s a new Blu-ray release of the 1960 adaptation of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine (76%), which includes a lengthy retrospective featurette from 1993.
  • And lastly, there’s also a rerelease of the 1967 crime thriller Point Blank (97%), starring Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson, which includes a commentary track with director John Boorman and Steven Soderbergh.
This week at the movies, we’ve got an Ark builder (Noah, starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly); an elite DEA agent (Sabotage, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sam Worthington); a labor leader (Cesar Chavez, starring Michael Peña and John Malkovich); a full-service concierge (The Grand Budapest Hotel, starring Ralph Fiennes and Saoirse Ronan); and a grown-up spelling bee champ (Bad Words, starring Jason Bateman and Kathryn Hahn). What do the critics have to say?



Noah

76%

If you’re going to retell one of the most epic stories in human history, you’ve got to go big. That’s exactly what director Darren Aronofsky did with Noah, and critics say this ambitious adaptation of one of the Old Testament’s most familiar tales is visually majestic and powerfully acted, though the screen is so stuffed that the main narrative occasionally gets sidetracked. Russell Crowe stars as Noah, a devout man who lives in harmony with nature. When Noah has visions of an apocalyptic flood, he builds an Ark and hits the high seas, encountering some fearsome descendants of Cain along the way. The pundits say that while Noah‘s grasp can sometimes exceed its reach, it’s a robust, inventive re-imagining of a timeless legend. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we run down some of cinema’s most memorable biblical epics.)



Sabotage

22%

Hollywood has turned out plenty of action films about morally ambiguous law enforcement agents, and critics say Sabotage offers little beyond an overabundance of gore to distinguish itself from the pack. After stealing a huge amount of cash during a raid, several members of a DEA unit are mysteriously murdered. It’s up to the team’s leader, John “Breacher” Wharton (Arnold Schwarzenegger), to find out who’s responsible. The pundits say the actors are fine, but Sabotage is predictably plotted and cynically violent. (Check out our video interviews with the cast and crew.)



Cesar Chavez

38%

Even the most extraordinary lives don’t follow a three-act structure, so it’s understandable that filmmakers must cut a few corners when making a biographical film. Unfortunately, critics say Cesar Chavez is an earnest but muted portrait of the influential labor leader that fails to capture its subject’s fire and complexity. The film follows Chavez (Michael Pena) during his extended campaign to secure better earnings and conditions for migrant farm workers in California. The pundits say Cesar Chavez serves as a decent introduction to the man, but mostly it dramatizes his work and achievements without bringing them to vivid life.



The Grand Budapest Hotel

92%

Wes Anderson is undoubtedly one of contemporary cinema’s most distinctive stylists, and critics say he’s got another winner with em>The Grand Budapest Hotel, a madcap, bittersweet period piece with outstanding performances from its illustrious cast. Ralph Fiennes stars as Gustave, a concierge at a swanky European hotel with an eccentric guest list. When Gustave’s rich octogenarian paramour bequeaths him an invaluable painting, he draws the ire of her outraged son; chaotic hilarity ensues. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Grand Budapest Hotel is laugh-out-loud funny, stylistically bold, and poignantly acted — in other words, what we’ve come to expect from Anderson, and more.



Bad Words

65%

Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut with Bad Words, and critics say that while this vulgar black comedy goes a little soft in the final stretch, it’s a fine showcase for the star’s sardonic, misanthropic persona. Bateman stars as Guy Trilby, a 40-something who finds a loophole that allows him to enter a national spelling bee. He proceeds to insult his juvenile competitors and appall their parents, while a reporter tries to discover what’s motivating his ruthless campaign. The pundits say Bad Words is both tasteless and slackly plotted, but it’s irreverent, well-acted, and often outrageously funny. (Check out 24 Frames for a gallery of actors with noteworthy debuts behind the camera.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

Bad Words marks Jason Bateman’s foray into the world of directing, acting, and being really mean to children on film. Matt Atchity talks to Bateman and Kathryn Hahn about their spelling capabilities and what it’s like to handle lots of jobs at once.

Click here to watch more video interviews

This week at the movies, we’ve got fast cars (Need For Speed, starring Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots) and supportive mothers (The Single Moms Club, starring Nia Long and Amy Smart). What do the critics have to say?



Need For Speed

22%

Movies based on video games don’t have a great track record, and unfortunately, the trend continues with Need for Speed; critics say that despite a couple decent action scenes, this slick action flick stalls when it comes to plotting and characterization. Aaron Paul stars as Tobey Marshall, a hotshot driver and mechanic with something to prove: he was framed in the vehicular death of a friend and served time in prison. He decides to avenge this injustice by entering a risky cross-country race against his former nemesis. The pundits say the cast is strong in underwritten roles, but on the whole, Need for Speed lacks the giddy panache to make it a ride worth taking. (Check out our video interview with Paul, as well as our gallery of the stars and cars of Need for Speed.)



The Single Moms Club

18%

As is usually the case, the latest effort from director Tyler Perry wasn’t screened for critics prior to its release in theaters. In The Single Moms Club, a disparate group of women are tasked with coming together to plan a school event after their kids get into trouble. Guess the Tomatometer!

Also opening this week in limited release:

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