We’ve got another sparse week on home video, but it’s at least bolstered by one outstanding documentary of a cultural icon. Beyond that, we’ve got a whopping three book adaptations and a historical epic actioner, so see below for the full list!
The Lorax made some headlines upon its release, due to what some considered a heavy-handed environmentalist message and what others considered a marketing strategy that directly contradicted the film’s central theme. For what it’s worth, the film hewed fairly close to the original Dr. Seuss book, expanding on the story of the mass logging of Truffula Trees to depict what the young boy, named Ted (Zac Efron) for the movie, would do with the last remaining Truffula seed entrusted to him by the Once-ler. At 55%, The Lorax is enjoyable enough, but the additions made in the big screen adaptation obscure its underlying message a bit more than desired.
Bob Marley’s renown extends far beyond his genre, as anyone who’s ever lived in a college dorm or traveled anywhere south of the equator will tell you. He’s one of the world’s most famous pop stars, period, and earlier this year, director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, State of Play) released what may be the definitive biographical documentary on the man. Made with the blessing of the Marley family and comprised of concert footage, eye-opening interviews, and rare home videos, Marley is both informative and fascinating, and it’s earned a Certified Fresh 95% on the Tomatometer. If you’re looking for an exhaustive and evenhanded portrait of the larger-than-life reggae superstar, you’d be hard pressed to find a better one than Marley.
Robert Pattinson has already made strides to be known as more than simply “the Twilight guy,” but little of what he’s done outside the popular franchise has garnered him much acclaim, and Bel Ami didn’t do much to change that. Based on the novel by Guy de Maupassant and helmed by British stage directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, Bel Ami depicts the rapid social climbing of Georges Duroy (Pattinson), a former soldier who becomes one of Paris’s most successful men by virtue of his relationships with several powerful mistresses. Critics weren’t too keen on the film, noting that the story felt rushed and that Pattinson wasn’t entirely convincing in the role. At 28% on the Tomatometer, Bel Ami might provide a soapy fix, but not much more.
Blue Like Jazz is possibly most notable for the fact that it raised a significant portion of its production budget from a Kickstarter fundraiser, but for all of its plucky grassroots origins, it managed only mixed reviews from critics. Based on Donald Miller’s semi-autobiographical bestseller of the same name, the film chronicles the self-discovery of a Christian Texas native who moves to attend a liberal college in the Pacific Northwest and begins to critically examine his own spirituality. At 43%, Blue Like Jazz is earnest and well-intentioned in its portrayal of existential struggles, but most critics had problems with the film’s technical merits and found it overall too tame to hit home with its major themes.
If Seediq Bale at first appears to be yet another Asian historical epic about resistance to Japanese occupation, there is one major difference here: rarely have such films covered the era from a Taiwanese perspective. Set in 1930 during what is known as the Wushe Incident, Seediq Bale depicts the major uprising of the indigenous Taiwanese people known as the Seediq as a direct result of Japanese oppression in the region; the brutal response of the Japanese military drew criticism and led to reforms in their dealings with aboriginal peoples. Though few reviews are available for Seediq Bale, it currently sports a 73% Tomatometer, with most critics calling it an ambitious, visceral depiction, even if it might be a bit too unrelentingly brutal for some.