It’s a new week of releases on home video, and we here at Rotten Tomatoes regret to inform you that the selection of new releases is again rather dismal. With that in mind, we bring you an abbreviated list highlighting the two brand new releases and a handful of reissues we think some of you might find appealing. Leading off the pack is the latest Cormac McCarthy novel to find its way to the big screen, as well as the latest Nicholas Sparks novel to do the same; we’ll let you guess which of those is Certified Fresh and which is Rotten. Then, we’ve got a couple of classic westerns, an internet sensation that won an emmy, a comedy from some of NBC’s newest stars, and one of Stanley Kubrick’s early masterpieces. Read on for the full list!
The novels of Cormac McCarthy have recently become prime Hollywood fodder, particularly after the Coen brothers’ adaptation of No Country for Old Men took home four of the biggest awards of the 2007 Academy Awards. Following on the heels of No Country‘s success, The Road, a post-apocalyptic drama about a father and son wandering the American landscape and struggling to survive. Directed by John Hillcoat (The Proposition) and starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road managed to earn a Certified Fresh 75% Tomatometer from critics, despite a handful criticisms that the film was altogether too bleak. You can pick it up on DVD or Blu-Ray this week.
Channing Tatum has acted a few notable movies, but unlike his Dear John co-star Amanda Seyfried, he has yet to find his breakout role. Unfortunately for both, Dear John failed to be a positive career milestone for either, and for Seyfried in particular, it’s the lowest Tomatometer-rated film she’s done. Even with the directorial heft of Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules, Chocolat) and the acting chops of recent Best Actor nominee Richard Jenkins, this adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name about a US soldier who finds the strength to persevere in the letters he receives from his girlfriend back home failed to impress critics. Citing its overly clichéd plot, reviewers only saw fit to award Dear John with a 29% Tomatometer. Still, it’s available on DVD and Blu-Ray this week for Sparks fans and those looking for a simple tearjerker.
If you’re a fan of Joss Whedon, you’re probably already familiar with this little web-mini-series-that-could. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog began as a way for “Whedon and Friends” to circumvent the Hollywood writer’s strike of 2008 and produce something inexpensive but interesting, and it wound up winning a series of awards, including a Primtime Emmy. Broadway vet Neil Patrick Harris hams it up as Dr. Horrible himself, an aspiring supervillain who’s in love with a girl he met at the laundromat, and Nathan Fillion (from Whedon’s own Firefly series) shows up as Dr. Horrible’s superhero nemesis, Captain Hammer. But if you’ve already watched or downloaded the entire 42-minute program, why get the DVD? Try these extras on for size: an audio commentary with Whedon, Harris, Fillion and the other creators; a musical commentary featuring its cast and crew singing songs about each other and the writer’s strike; a making-of featurette; and 10 fanmade videos created as applications to the Evil League of Evil. You can pick it up on DVD or Blu-Ray this week.
Few movies can rally the troops like 1960’s Spartacus. A high pedigree production, the film wouldn’t exist were it not for the star power and drive of Kirk Douglas who, up to that point, hadn’t had as massive a platform as this for his ideas or his talents. Stanley Kubrick directs and the great Dalton Trumbo, just out of his period from the days of the Blacklist (he was one of the original Hollywood ten), loads this epic struggle of liberty and servitude with things the censors couldn’t figure out how to argue. See the scene with newly enslaved lover-boy Tony Curtis in which Curtis oils down Sir Lawrence Oliver (the heavy) and is asked, “Slave. Do you like snails or do you like cockles.” (Imagine hand gestures for that one and the message comes pretty clear.) This 50th Anniversary Blu-Ray comes with a manifesto’s length of extras: interviews with heavy-hitter stars Jean Simmons and Peter Ustinov (always has a lot to offer), behind-the-scenes footage, vintage newsreels, costume art (HOT!), production stills (scandalous!), poster art, and Saul Bass storyboards. In the end, though, the extras are just icing for the film’s epic results. This writer’s never met a man who doesn’t tear up at the announcement: “I am Spartacus.” (I get chills even typing it.)
If you’ve been watching the recent NBC lineup of hit shows, which includes 30 Rock and The Office, then you’re already familiar with many of the actors involved with Mystery Team, a comedy about three high school friends who once ran a kid detective agency and who attempt to solve a double homicide to recapture the glory of their youth. Mystery Team was brought to the screen by the members of Derrick Comedy, a sketch comedy group that amassed a large following via online channels. Some of the cast members you might recognize in this are Donald Glover (of NBC’s Community), Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation), and Ellie Kemper (The Office), as well as other NBC sitcom regulars. Fans of Derrick Comedy will likely get a kick out of the movie, and it’ll be available this week.
A contemporary of Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci left his own stamp on the “Spaghetti Western” with 1966’s Django, which arrived just on the heels of Leone’s Dollars Trilogy. Starring Franco Nero as the titular antihero, Django focuses on a wandering gunslinger (Nero) with a grudge who aligns himself with a gang of Mexican revolutionaries against the colonel who murdered his wife. At the time of its release, it was considered one of the most violent films ever made, and countries like Sweden simply banned it. However, the film was so popular that it spawned a reported 100 unofficial sequels, none of which have much to do with Corbucci’s film. In addition, Django has inspired countless references over the decades in several mediums, the most recent of which might be Japanese cult director Takashi Miike’s 2007 film Sukiyaki Western Django, which borrows a lot from the original. This week, Django is available in Blu-Ray for the first time, and it comes with some intriguing extras, like cast interviews and a 1968 documentary about Spaghetti Westerns.
Though Westerns were quite popular during cinema’s Silent Film era, when sound entered the picture (no pun intended), Westerns fell by the wayside, relegated to B-movie status. Then, in 1939, the stars aligned just right, and veteran director John Ford paired up with a young John Wayne for his first Western with sound, the first proper Western since the silent era, and the first of many successful Ford-Wayne collaborations to come. Stagecoach was a success even back in its day; it’s still considered by many to be the greatest of its genre, and even those who disagree still count it among the most influential films ever made. Not only did it set the bar for Westerns as we now know them, it also launched the career of John Wayne and paved the way of some of Ford’s other masterpieces. This week, Criterion has adopted Stagecoach into its collection, adding a TON of impressive special features like Bucking Broadway, a Ford silent feature; a 1968 interview with Ford; a video homage to legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt; a 1949 radio dramatization of Stagecoach featuring the original cast; and more! You can pick it up on DVD or Blu-Ray this week.
Written by Ryan Fujitani and Sara Maria Vizcarrondo