Hot off the Academy Awards celebration that took place just last night in Hollywood, we’ve got a couple of big releases to talk about this week in home video. The first of these is director Jason Reitman’s third feature film, the Best Picture nominated Up in the Air; it didn’t take home any awards, but it was one of the most highly regarded films of the year. And then there’s Precious, which did in fact take home two Oscars, but which was probably seen by far fewer people. After that, the pickings are slim, but we’ve managed to weed out a few items to pique your interest. Have a look!
Jason Reitman announced himself as an up-and-coming director to watch with his debut, Thank You for Smoking, and he proved his worth with his second feature, Juno, which earned three Oscar nominations and took one home for Best Original Screenplay. For his third effort, the George Clooney-powered Up in the Air, Reitman secured six Academy Award nominations, and though the film went home empty-handed, it was for a long while one of the frontrunners. The story focuses on Ryan Bingham (Clooney), who travels around the country notifying the recently downsized of their status. When policies change, Ryan must re-examine his life philosophy. The film was a critical success, much like Reitman’s previous efforts, netting an impressive 90% on the Tomatometer, and if you missed this Best Picture Nominee, you can nab it this week on home video.
In early 2009, an unflinchingly gritty film about an illiterate, overweight black teenage girl and the various abuses visited upon her stirred up a healthy amount of buzz at both the Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals, and as the year progressed, more and more people began to see Oscar in the film’s future. Bouyed by a handful of gripping (and unlikely) performances by the likes of comedienne Mo’Nique and pop star Mariah Carey, not to mention the film’s unknown newcomer star Gabourey Sidibe, Precious went on to earn a whopping six Academy Award nominations, ultimately taking home trophies for Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. To find out what all the hype was about, be sure to snag it off the shelves when it comes out tomorrow.
Pixar, Disney, and Dreamworks have been ruling the realm of animation as of late, but that hasn’t stopped others from trying to tap into this burgeoning genre. As such, Sony Pictures Animation — in conjunction with Spanish company Ilion Animation Studios — brought a vibrant film to the big screen in 2009, Planet 51. The story revolves around an “alien” planet, where little green creatures live lives similar to those of the people of 1950s America. When a human astronaut lands in a residential community, the creatures’ lives are thrown into disarray, and hilarity ensues. Or, at least, that was the intent. Unfortunately, according to critics, the filmmakers squandered the clever premise on a familiar story, generic characterization, and a sense of humor that is both strange and potentially offensive. Considering the caliber of voice talent they were able to secure for the picture (Justin Long, John Cleese, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Seann William Scott, among others), this is unfortunate. But the visuals should still be enough to keep the little ones entertained for a couple hours.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Okay, so John Travolta and Robin Williams have both been in their fair share of stinkers (Battlefield Earth, anyone?), but it’s somewhat rare to find two industry giants come together in such a beautiful mess. Earning a mere 6% on the Tomatometer, Old Dogs is the story of two aging single men who are unexpectedly (of course) put in charge of a pair of young twins. In learning to care for the children, both men discover some life truths that have eluded them thus far. Is that about the most generic synopsis we could come up with for this? Yes. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty accurate, and critics were none too impressed by the starring duo’s attempts at physical comedy and moral uplift. Like Planet 51, the supporting cast here again is solid (and it also includes Justin Long), but somehow none of the pieces quite seem to fit together, so if Planet 51 ends and your kids are still itching for a distraction, you might as well throw this one on.
The story behind the making of the first Boondock Saints film is the stuff of legends, as chronicled in the eye-opening documentary Overnight. Despite all of the drama that took place behind the scenes, somehow first-time director Troy Duffy was able to secure the opportunity to helm a sequel, and thus, Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day was born. Now, despite earning just a 16% Tomatometer rating, the first film actually went on to become something of a cult hit, which perhaps was the driving force behind the sequel, but All Saints Day topped its predecessor’s rating at 22%. So we know that the sequel is at least better than the original, but what remains to be seen is whether it will achieve the same following. The first step in determining that takes place tomorrow, when All Saints Day hits video store shelves.
We might like to make Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story into the political documentary equivalent of Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage: it’s about stuff that was decided in a prolonged and intense moment of romantic fervor, but then ended up going really far south. The affection was there (his archival video from the 50s stands in for that evidence), but as a man from Michigan, Moore flaunts his Flint-local roots to demonstrate that this bad romance isn’t terminal; he’s not saying a divorce is in order, he’s in fact not making any suggestions at all. At the end of the film, no signatures solicited, no moveon.org activities pimped, Moore says he might give up making docs if it’s true that they have no impact. He’s gonna leave us if we don’t change. And his snarky named extras are little bread-crumb-valentines to coax our affections: “Sorry, House-Flippers and Banks–You’re Toast in Flint, MI,” “Commie Taxi Drivers–‘You Talkin’ To Me?’–in Wisconsin,” and my fav title: “The Rich Don’t Go to Heaven (There’s a Special Place Reserved for Them!)” returns us to the dirty-glory days of Moore’s long past TV show.
Dontcha love how tidy illness can be? How easy for a character to suffer a heart condition and how wrongheaded and problematic for him to fall in love? Ahhh, isn’t that Paree? Here Cedric Klapisch, master of the underused cliche as title (see for example: Potluck and Russian Dolls) brings us one of his favorite collaborating actors, Romain Duris, in a story about a nightclub dancer who leaves work due to illness and nurses a love for a student (Melanie Laurent) who’s a little too hot-for-teacher (teacher played by France’s favorite frump-as-libertine, Fabrice Luchini). En route to romance we see the City of Lights, and Juliette Binoche, as Pierre’s put-upon sister and working single mom, Elise. Layered moments and realizations abound – what else is the city of Love and Light to impart on its characters or its audience? Extras pretty much include subtitles and some behind the scene featurettes; wouldn’t want to spoil the magic with over-explanation.
The Kids are Alright hits blu-ray weeks after the Who’s highest-profile gig in years – the Super Bowl halftime show. First released in 1979, Kids is a collection of clips from the Who’s glory days – and acts as a swan song for its original lineup (drummer Keith Moon died shortly after seeing a rough cut of the movie). It’s an electrifying document, opening with a literally explosive take on “My Generation” from The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and climaxing with a gutsy, glorious, laser-enhanced “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” The Kids are Alright is a fitting tribute to one of rock’s most ambitious and influential groups, and this Blu-Ray edition is loaded with bonus footage, interviews, a making-of featurette, and a 32-page booklet.
Conan O’Brien is no longer a staple of late night television (we too mourn his exit from The Tonight Show), and namedropping Chuck Norris for comedic effect is soooo five years ago, but the two have something in common: Walker, Texas Ranger. O’Brien famously incorporated a comedy bit wherein he pulled a lever next to his desk and triggered a random clip from Norris’ action TV show, often awkard, sometimes cringe-inducing, but always hilarious. Now, for those who were actually fans of the show itself, or even for those who wish to see the series in all its glory, I have good news: the Walker, Texas Ranger Complete Series Pack hits stores tomorrow, and it promises to be all the mid-2000s comedy fodder you’ll ever need. Just be careful what you say; Mr. Norris really is a bona fide Karate champ, and his roundhouse kick is legendary.
Written by Sara Schieron, Tim Ryan, and Ryan Fujitani