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RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Frozen, American Hustle, and More

Saving Mr. Banks and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom also available.

by | March 18, 2014 | Comments

This week on home video, we’ve got four Oscar nominees (including a two-time winner) and a thriller about the Beat Generation. Aside from those, we’ve also got a handful of smaller releases worth checking out. Read on for details:



Frozen

89%

Disney’s latest animated offering tells the tale of a princess, banished for her fearsome supernatural power, and her younger sister, who teams up with an outdoorsman to find her. Idina Menzel voices Elsa, the elder princess who becomes queen and, on the night of her coronation, loses control of her long-kept secret ability to create and control ice with her mind. With the kingdom trapped in an eternal winter, Elsa flees into self-imposed exile, and her younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell) vows to find her and end the spell with the help of a mountain man (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer sidekick, and a magical snowman (Josh Gad). Based on the fairy tale The Snow Queen, Frozen earned great reviews from critics, who marveled at the animation and, thanks to the catchy tunes, called the film a worthy throwback to classic Disney animated musicals. At this year’s Academy Awards, Frozen went on to win Best Animated Film and Best Original Song.



Saving Mr. Banks

79%

The second half of this week’s Disney two-fer is Saving Mr. Banks, the Oscar-nominated (for Best Original Score) biopic about the contentious relationship between Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) and author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) during the production of Mary Poppins. Told partially in flashback, the film portrays Disney’s efforts to secure the film rights from Travers and depicts Travers’ youth in Australia, where her father’s (Colin Farrell) battle with alcoholism partially inspired the creation of Mary Poppins. Though elements of its historical accuracy have been brought into question, Saving Mr. Banks earned a Certified Fresh 80% from critics, who felt that the film was well-acted and charming, if a bit on the sentimental side. With a strong supporting cast that includes Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, and more, it’s a sweet movie with a melancholy edge that just might jerk loose a couple of tears.



American Hustle

93%

It’s strange sometimes how things pan out during awards season, isn’t it? Early on, it seemed like Academy darling David O. Russell’s latest, American Hustle, might be a strong Oscar contender in several categories. At the end of the night, however, the film left empty handed, despite its whopping 10 nominations. Christian Bale packed on a full beerbelly’s worth of poundage to play Irving Rosenfeld, a small-time(ish) con artist who, along with his mistress/partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), is nabbed by an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) and subsequently compelled to work with the bureau to take down the well-meaning but corrupt mayor of Camden, New Jersey (Jeremy Renner). Based on the real life ABSCAM scandal, American Hustle garnered a wealth of accolades before a minor backlash of less than flattering comparisons to Scorsese’s Goodfellas took hold and it got skunked at the Oscars. At the end of the day, it’s still a solid film with some terrific acting, a sharp script, delicious period detail, and a wicked soundtrack.



Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

58%

Another big film that largely missed out on the Oscar train (just one nomination, for Best Original Song) is Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the Nelson Mandela biopic based on his own autobiography that, unfortunately, wasn’t quite as great as many thought it could have been. Idris Elba takes on the role of the celebrated South African president in the film, which covers his adolescence and education, leading up to the 27 years he spent in prison before he was elected to office. Helmed by Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) and co-starring Naomie Harris (Skyfall) as Winnie Mandela, Long Walk earned a lukewarm reception from critics, who had nothing but good things to say about Elba’s performance and called the film inspirational and powerful, but also lamented its somewhat safe, simplified portrayal of an undeniably complex life. The film sits just shy of Fresh at 58% on the Tomatometer and should serve as a mildly rousing introduction to Nelson Mandela for those less familiar with him and the circumstances of his story.



Kill Your Darlings

76%

Daniel Radcliffe is slowly but steadily beginning to step out from under the shadow of Harry Potter, and though his latest starring in role in Kill Your Darlings earned solid reviews, it may not have gotten enough exposure to help in that effort. Radcliffe stars as Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in a thriller based on a real murder case, one that, according to first-time director John Krokidas, played a significant role in inspiring the likes of Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster), and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), who had become friends. Dane DeHaan plays Lucien Carr, another aspiring writer and part of Ginsberg’s social circle, who becomes embroiled in controversy when his lover, David Krammerer, dies suspiciously. Radcliffe and DeHaan demonstrate remarkable chemistry in Kill Your Darlings, which, along with the fascinating subject matter, helped it to a Certified Fresh 77% on the Tomatometer. It’s a rarely explored chapter of the history of the Beat movement that’s well-acted and engaging, even if its storytelling is a tad muddled.

Also available this week:

  • Contracted (47%), an indie horror film about a woman who has a one-night stand and ends up with something worse than an STD.
  • Here Comes the Devil (41%), a psychological thriller about two children who begin acting abnormally after getting lost overnight on a family trip in Mexico.
  • Chinese Zodiac (38%), co-written, directed by, and starring Jackie Chan in an action comedy about a bounty hunter who tracks down priceless artifacts.
  • Reasonable Doubt (14%), starring Samuel L. Jackson and Dominic Cooper in a thriller about a an attorney who attempts to track down a killer he inadvertently (but successfully) defended in court.
  • And lastly, to help class up the proceedings here, Criterion has two releases this week: Errol Morris’ 1991 documentary on Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (93%), is newly available, as well as a new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (100%).

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