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RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Puss in Boots and J. Edgar

Plus, an acclaimed psychodrama, a silly heist flick, and a classic courtroom drama.

by | February 22, 2012 | Comments

This week on home video, we’ve got a number of new releases that will probably be of interest to the discriminating movie watcher. Among those we won’t be mentioning in the article are the Certified Fresh doc about pioneering band Fishbone called Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, the poorly reviewed Channing Tatum/Al Pacino crime thriller The Son of No One, and the inspirational (but formulaic) sports drama The Mighty Macs. Aside from those, however, we still have a solid selection, ranging from an entertaining animated film to a Clint Eastwood-directed biopic, from an acclaimed drama with a powerhouse performance to a heist comedy starring Eddie Murphy in prime form. See below for the full list!



Puss in Boots

84%

Based on the downward trajectory of the Shrek franchise, particularly over its final two installments, one wouldn’t have expected much from a spinoff film starring one of the peripheral characters. Puss in Boots, therefore, was a pleasant surprise for a lot of people. Starring Antonio Banderas as the voice of the titular feline, Puss is sort of a prequel to the Shrek films, following the adventures of its swashbuckling star as he teams up with Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) and Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) to take on Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris) for their magical beans. Bubbling with wry wit, visual sparkle, and effervescent charm, Puss in Boots helped restore some luster to the Shrek universe by earning a Certified Fresh 83%. You won’t see anything especially new or thought-provoking here, but you’ll probably have a pretty good time nonetheless.



Tower Heist

68%

Eddie Murphy’s made a lot of Rotten films in the past couple of decades, and it’s officially old hat to wax nostalgic about the glory days of Beverly Hills Cop and Coming to America. And while it would have been easy to dismiss Tower Heist as a probable bomb due to its outlandish premise, seemingly mismatched cast, and critically unimpressive director (Brett Ratner), well, it turned out to be another of 2011’s pleasant surprises, thanks in large part to Murphy himself. The story centers on a group of luxury apartment employees who lose their pensions in a Ponzi scheme to a businessman (played by Alan Alda) and decide to take back what’s theirs by ripping him off in an elaborate, well, tower heist. Aided by a star-studded cast that included Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni, Casey Affleck, and Gabourey Sidibe, Tower Heist represented a return to form for Eddie Murphy, who was frequently singled out by critics. At 68% on the Tomatometer, it’s a fun little popcorn movie that’ll probably do a decent job of keeping you entertained on a Saturday night.



J. Edgar

43%

Here’s a film that had all the makings of an award-winner, if not a modern classic: an acclaimed director (Clint Eastwood), an award-winning screenwriter (Dustin Lance Black), an all-star cast (Leonardo DiCaprio, Judi Dench, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts) and a compelling subject (the life of controversial FBI head J. Edgar Hoover). Somehow, though, the final product managed to be less than the sum of its parts, and J. Edgar earned a mere 44% on the Tomatometer. So what was the problem? According to the critics, there were a few. While the actors all offered up top notch performances (especially DiCaprio, as the titular icon himself), most agreed that poor lighting and subpar makeup took away from the aesthetics of the film, while a confusing narrative and humdrum storytelling diminished any impact it might have otherwise had. As far as biopics go, you’ll certainly learn a little bit about Mr. Hoover from J. Edgar, but because the story fails to explore some of the more interesting aspects of his character from any significant angle, you may find it all a little mundane and uninspiring.



Martha Marcy May Marlene

90%

Guess what, everyone? The younger sister of the Olsen twins can act, and she’s really good! That seemed to be one of the big takeaways from last year’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, which has already won several awards from critics societies and is currently nominated for four Indie Spirit awards. But Elizabeth Olsen wasn’t the only one making an impressive first impression; the haunting psychodrama about a young woman who escapes a cult and attempts to piece her life back together in the aftermath is also the debut of writer-director Sean Durkin. Cutting seamlessly between the past and present, Durkin brings the viewer into his heroine’s crippling paranoia, which grows increasingly worse until it becomes unclear what reality is and what her mind has fabricated. Certified Fresh at 90%, Martha Marcy May Marlene is an effective thriller that creeps up on you and stays with you for days.



London Boulevard

33%

William Monahan is best known as the screenwriter for a few big movies, including Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven and Body of Lies, and Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, for which Monahan won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. For London Boulevard, Monahan not only adapted the Ken Bruen novel of the same name, but also made his directorial debut, and unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly an auspicious one. The film stars Colin Farrell as Mitchell, an ex-con trying to go straight who is hired by a reclusive starlet (Keira Knightley) to be her bodyguard; when they cross paths with a notorious mob boss (Ray Winstone), Mitchell is sucked back into the London underworld against his will. Unfortunately, while critics felt the film was adequately stylish and chock full of meaty dialogue, most also felt that there were far too many subplots to follow (and follow up on) and that the emphasis on style detracted from the film’s overall quality. At 33%, you’ll probably only get a kick out of London Boulevard if you like the stars, or if you’re looking for tips on how to speak Cockney.



The Way

82%

The Way is sort of the epitome of a passion project. Named for the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James, a traditional Spanish pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the film was initially inspired by the travels of director Emilio Estevez’s father and son (Martin Sheen and Taylor Estevez, respectively) when they undertook the journey themselves. When Estevez decided he wanted to make a film about the Camino de Santiago, he wrote a part specifically for his father, then shot the entire thing on location with a small crew over 40 days and 200 miles. And what did he get for it? A Certified Fresh 80% on the Tomatometer. In the film, Martin Sheen plays a grieving father whose son lost his life while on the titular pilgrimage; he initially travels to Spain merely to retrieve the body, but decides to embark on the journey himself, meeting others on the trek who are all searching for some meaning themselves. While some critics felt the film meandered a bit and teetered on oversentimentality, most felt it was a noble effort by Estevez, beautifully shot and powerfully introspective at its best.



World on a Wire – Criterion Collection

100%

The last word in modern cinematic prolificacy, Rainer Werner Fassbinder cranked out more than 40 features in his 15 year career, juggling genres with starling assurance. The newly-rediscovered sci-fi head trip World on a Wire, which originally aired as a miniseries on German television, may not be the best place to start if you’re new to Fassbinder’s oeuvre (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is probably your safest bet), but this spellbinding tale of a computer that simulates an artificial world covers some of the same mind/body territory explored in Avatar, Solaris, and Blade Runner. World on a Wire is a potent brew of melodrama, dark farce, and big ideas, all shot against a backdrop of industrial sleekness where it’s impossible to tell who is real and who is computer-generated. The Criterion disc features a new digital transfer of the movie, plus a making-of featurette.



Anatomy of a Murder – Criterion Collection

100%

It might seem tame by today’s standards, but Anatomy of a Murder caused quite the stir upon its release in 1958. With its coarse, sexually-explicit language, Otto Preminger’s searing drama kicked dirt in the face of Hollywood’s production code. Viewed today, Anatomy of a Murder may seem about as racy as a typical episode of CSI, but it still has the power to unsettle, and it remains one of the most influential of all courtroom procedurals. James Stewart stars as a small-town Michigan lawyer who must defend Frederick Manion, an unlikeable army lieutenant (Ben Gazzara, in his breakout role) accused of murdering a bartender. In his defense, Manion claims the bartender raped his wife Laura (Lee Remick). What follows is a twisty, stylistically bold thriller in which the truth is constantly in question. Plus, it’s got a smoking hot score by Duke Ellington and a terrific title sequence and iconic poster from the innovative graphic designer Saul Bass. The Criterion disc features a sparkling new transfer of the film, plus behind-the-scenes footage and stills, and featurettes on Ellington and Bass.

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