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RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Oblivion, Mud, and More

We've got a number of Certified Fresh choices and some notable reissues.

by | August 6, 2013 | Comments

After several so-so weeks of home releases, we’ve finally got one really worth talking about. Not only do we have a Tom Cruise sci-fi actioner, but we’ve also got one of the best-reviewed movies of the summer. Then we’ve got a feelgood musical bio, a dark family drama, a powerful documentary, and Terrence Malick’s latest. Still not enough for you? There’s also Eli Roth’s survival horror flick, Brandon “Son Of” Cronenberg’s body horror thriller, Walter Salles’s Kerouac adaptation, and a handful of notable reissues. Read on for the full list:



Oblivion

54%

Tom Cruise isn’t the box office draw he once was, but this past April’s Oblivion, which made over $285 million worldwide, proved he can still bring in a decent chunk of change. Directed by Tron: Legacy‘s Joseph Kosinski, Oblivion starred Cruise as Jack Harper, a future-Earth maintenance man who spends his days repairing the drones that keep watch over the post-apocalyptic wasteland that was once New York City. When a spacecraft crashes to the surface carrying a woman (Olga Kurylenko) Jack recognizes only from his dreams, he begins to unravel the mystery of Earth’s tumultuous past and question everything he’s come to know about the present. Like Kosinki’s previous effort, critics were fairly split on Oblivion, with some decrying its style-over-substance approach and reliance on familiar sci-fi tropes, while others praised the film’s briskly paced script, dazzling special effects, and Cruise’s charismatic performance.



Mud

98%

Matthew McConaughey is enjoying something of a career renaissance these days, and it looks like Mud is another big step in the right direction. It also doesn’t hurt that the man behind the camera, Jeff Nichols, had already turned several heads with his two previous directorial efforts (Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter). Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland star as teen buddies Ellis and Neckbone, who discover a man named Mud (McConaughey) hiding out from the authorities on a small island in the middle of the Mississippi River. With his own family problems plaguing him, Ellis finds refuge in helping Mud rebuild an abandoned boat so he can escape the murderous posse who have arrived in town to capture him. One of the best-reviewed films of the summer, Mud earned nearly universal acclaim from critics, who rated it Certified Fresh at 98%; it’s a rare coming-of-age film that manages to utilize some fairy tale-like elements but avoid shcmaltz, and it benefits not only from some outstanding acting (Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon, and Sam Shepard play supporting roles), but also top notch direction, cementing Jeff Nichols as a filmmaker to watch.



The Sapphires

91%

Like Mud, The Sapphires premiered last year at Cannes, where it drew comparisons to 2006’s Dreamgirls. The film is, in fact, an uplifting story about a 1960s female singing group that’s based on a play, so that made sense. Funnyman Chris O’Dowd plays Dave Lovelace, an Irish talent scout in Australia who discovers four Aboriginal women — Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy), Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell), and Kay (Shari Sebbens) — with tremendous singing ability, but no identity as entertainers. Dave takes the girls under his wing, and The Sapphires begin their rise to stardom. Critics admitted the film was a tad predictable in its “musical biography” story beats, but most of them didn’t care; Certified Fresh at 92%, The Sapphires boasts strong performances, lively music, and a feel-good vibe that’s simply too charming to ignore.



The Place Beyond the Pines

80%

The last time director Derek Cianfrance worked with Ryan Gosling (2010’s Blue Valentine), they earned a number of accolades. For The Place Beyond the Pines, Cianfrance doubled up on the leading man star power by complementing Gosling with Bradley Cooper, as well as an all-star cast that included Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Ray Liotta, Bruce Greenwood, Ben Mendelsohn, and more. The film revolves around two generations of two families: motorcycle stuntman Luke (Gosling) attempts to provide for his son the only way he knows how, and low-ranking cop Avery (Cooper) becomes a local hero when he clashes with Luke and comes out on top; as both of their sons grow older, they reap the consequences of their father’s actions earlier in life. Critics called Pines an ambitious film seeking to explore notions of fatherhood, fate, and responsibility, and for most, Cianfrance succeeded admirably. Another Certified Fresh film at 82%, The Place Beyond the Pines is a strong follow-up to Blue Valentine featuring a cast of committed actors putting in thoughtful performances.



West of Memphis

95%

The case of the West Memphis Three has been in the public eye for some time; celebrities have taken up the cause, and the Paradise Lost documentary trilogy has examined the case in detail. What West of Memphis offers, then, is a unique inside look, not just at the specific details of the case itself, but at the remarkable struggle to bring those details to light. Filmmaker Amy Berg takes viewers through the story via interviews with journalists, attorneys, family members, and witnesses to paint a complete picture of the legal process the accused had to wade through before justice was served. Produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, West of Memphis is yet another Certified Fresh film (at 95%) in this week’s lineup, and it’s both enlightening and damning in its examination of a well-known but still fascinating story.



To the Wonder

46%

Whether or not you enjoy To the Wonder depends, it seems, largely on whether or not you’re generally a Terrence Malick fan. If you are, you won’t mind that the narrative feels almost secondary to the gorgeous imagery and florid voiceover narration, or that it foregoes conventional storytelling for something a bit more symbolic. The actors involved are all game: if there is a star of the film, it’s Ben Affleck, who plays Neil, an environmental inspector who meets Ukranian divorcee Marina (Olga Kurylenko) while vacationing, falls in love, and invites her to join him in the States with her daughter. When the romance cools off and Marina moves back, Neil reconnects with old friend Jane (Rachel McAdams), and thus begins a series of romantic entanglements that change Neil forever. Despite a strong cast (including Javier Bardem in a supporting role), To the Wonder didn’t wow critics like Malick’s previous effort, Tree of Life, which is certainly less driven by narrative and arguably more inscrutable. Instead, while critics conceded Malick’s artful compositions are as beautiful as ever, there isn’t enough else to make the film as emotionally satisfying as it could have been.

Also available this week:

  • Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral (65%), about a doctor who illegally sells celebrity diseases until he’s infected by one whose original host died of mysterious circumstances.
  • Walter Salles’s Jack Kerouac adaptation On the Road (45%), starring Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund, and Sam Riley.
  • The Eli Roth-produced Nicolás López film Aftershock (37%), about a group of travelers stuck in a chaotic Chile town after a devastating earthquake.
  • A Blu-ray release of Silver Streak (88%), the first of several comic collaborations between Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor.
  • A Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of A Boy and His Dog (77%), the 1975 adaptation of the Harlan Ellison novel about a telepathic boy (Don Johnson) in a post-apocalyptic future who is sought after by a secret underground civilization.
  • Disney is releasing more of its animated films on Blu-ray, including The Sword in the Stone (74%), Robin Hood (52%), and Oliver & Company (44%).

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