RT on DVD: Oliver's W, Spike's St. Anna, and My Name is Bruce!

Plus Thai kickboxing's female answer to Tony Jaa, Giancarlo Esposito's directorial debut, and more.

by | February 9, 2009 | Comments

What better way to celebrate the inauguration of President Barack Obama by watching Oliver Stone’s W. this week on DVD? While a handful of middling studio releases hit home video this week (Nights in Rodanthe, Soul Men, Blindness), the Certified Fresh pick (and Oscar nominee), Frozen River, hits as well. Celebrate Black History Month with the latest from Spike Lee (Miracle at St. Anna) or go indie with the moving directorial debut of actor Giancarlo Esposito (Gospel Hill). Finally, peruse the week’s more eclectic offerings for a break from the norm — and a well-placed roundhouse kick or two (Chocolate, Street Fighter Extreme Edition, and Bruce Campbell in My Name is Bruce).

1. W. — 58%

The politically-inclined movie lover should take note of Oliver Stone’s latest, a shockingly tame envisioning of the early adult life of former US President George W. Bush. As Dubya, Josh Brolin turns in an astoundingly acute and yes, often humorous, portrayal of the Texan playboy-turned-Commander in Chief, and fellow cast members Elizabeth Banks (as Laura Bush) and James Cromwell (as George Bush Sr.) drew praise from critics. The problem, however, lies in relevance — Stone opts to ignore much of Bush’s Presidential choices in lieu of speculating a psychological case study of power ascendance and daddy issues, in the process neutralizing his too-subtle damnation of the former Prez. Learn more about Stone’s approach in a filmmaker commentary available on the standard release, with more materials (making-of featurettes, deleted scenes) found on Blu-ray.

Next: Spike Lee’s latest joint falls south of Fresh

While his impressive track record boasts more fresh movies than the average director (he’s got a 75 percent Fresh filmography), Spike Lee has known the occasional flop. Unfortunately, Lee’s latest flick, Miracle at St. Anna, is one of those Spike Lee joints; an over-earnest World War II fable about an all-black squadron in Nazi territory, it careens back and forth between war actioner and mystical legend and runs well overtime. That said, Lee’s epic has something to say about black American soldiers in battle and their depictions (or lack thereof) in American cinema, and that’s worth watching for. Expect no additional bonus materials, however, unless you spring for Blu-ray.

Next: The schmaltzy Nights in Rodanthe

3. Nights in Rodanthe — 30%

Richard Gere and Diane Lane reunite (after starring as a married couple in the thriller Unfaithful) in this schmaltzy romance about two middle-aged strangers who meet at a seaside B&B. How much schmaltz are we talking, you ask? Perhaps these two words can give you an idea: Nicholas Sparks. The author of goop-fests like The Notebook and Message in a Bottle offers up another three-hankie romance full of sentiment that is only for those with the strongest tolerance for cornball contrivances. Featurettes, deleted scenes a commentary by director George C. Wolfe (Lackawanna Blues) and more appear — but only on the Blu-ray disc.

Next: Remembering Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes…with Soul Men

4. Soul Men — 45%

If we are to remember the late comic Bernie Mac and the late musical legend Isaac Hayes, let it not be through watching Soul Men. The two artists, who passed away last year, deserve more of a send-off than this tepid R&B buddy comedy, though the disc fittingly includes separate tributes to the careers of both men. The film itself, directed by Malcolm D. Lee (Undercover Brother, Roll Bounce) follows the reunion of two former singers (Mac and Samuel L. Jackson) who reunite for a concert; humorously delivered expletives and adult humor mar much of the proceedings. If that’s your cup of tea, so be it, though there are more fitting ways to pay tribute to the memories of two such well-loved entertainers.

Next: Blindness, from the director of City of God

5. Blindness — 40%

A city-wide epidemic mysteriously leaves the population without sight — save for one woman (Julianne Moore) — in Blindness, the latest film from Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener). As in his previous films, Meirelles tells a story of human conflict in a strikingly visual manner; that story, however, was too bleak and muddled for many critics. Although this allegory fell short of the freshness mark, the dynamics of post-apocalyptic society and the social cannibalism of Lord of the Flies may appeal to fans of science fiction. An hour-long behind-the-scenes documentary and deleted scenes bolster the DVD, which lacks what would have been an intriguing commentary track.

Next: Bruce Campbell goes post-modern in My Name is Bruce

6. My Name is Bruce — 38%

Fans of the Evil Dead films, Brisco County Jr., or Bruce Campbell himself should pick up this week’s DVD release of My Name is Bruce, a post-modern horror adventure in which a small town is terrorized by an ancient demon, and Campbell (as himself) must step in to save the day. Similar to the recent JCVD, in which over-the-hill action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself as hero in a fictional situation, Campbell pokes fun at (and celebrates) his own movie star status as a B-movie actor of yesteryear. Featurettes, a fake trailer (for the faux film within a film, Cavealien 2), an hour-long making-of documentary, and a feature-length commentary by Bruce Campbell and producer Mike Richardson all make this a must-own for Campbell fans.

Next: Chocolate: Are you ready for the female Tony Jaa?

7. Chocolate — 71%

If the phrase “the female Tony Jaa” doesn’t grab you, then you’re not going to be hooked by this Thai import. (And you also have no sense of fun — because it gets even better.) Chocolate stars newcomer Yanin Vismistananda as Zen, a young autistic woman with an uncanny knack for Muy Thai who puts her martial arts skills to work to pay for her mother’s cancer treatments, leading to a battle with the Yakuza. Plot-wise, it may not make much sense, but amazing stunt work is the leading reason to give Chocolate a go; director Prachya Pinkaew also made the landmark Ong Bak, which made a star of Tony Jaa, and he’s looking to do the same with his agile 22-year-old female star. Chocolate opened in theaters in limited release only last week, so those in major metropolitan areas might even still catch it on the big screen.

Next: The Certified Fresh (and Academy Award-nominated) Frozen River

8. Frozen River — 86%

Independent cinema often needs the most help reaching the masses, so here are a few more reasons to check out Frozen River this week: at 86 percent and Certified Fresh, it’s the best-reviewed wide release of the week, and features an Oscar-nominated performance by actress Melissa Leo. The drama, directed by first-timer Courtney Hunt (who is also up for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay), follows a financially-struggling mother (Leo) who takes to smuggling illegal aliens across the Canadian border to make ends meet. Morally complex, this thriller is made all the more relevant by today’s economic climate — not just in its story, but in the behind-the-scenes drama of how an independent film reportedly made for less than $1 million made it to the Academy Awards.

Next: Giancarlo Esposito’s directorial debut, Gospel Hill

Actor Giancarlo Esposito (Mo’ Better Blues) makes his writing and directing debut with this independently-made drama about race relations and community in the fictional town of Gospel Hill, screened at the Oxford Film Festival last week. As in many Southern towns today, Gospel Hill and its denizens are still hurting from ills committed during the civil rights movement; in examining the lingering specter of segregation, Esposito (who also stars) aims to help heal the social wounds that still separate black and white communities. Esposito managed to nab colleagues Angela Bassett, Danny Glover, Samuel L. Jackson and Julia Stiles for his passion project, which also stars Taylor Kitsch, Adam Baldwin, and the RZA.

Next: Do you need the re-released Back to the Future trilogy?

10. Back to the Future Trilogy

If you already own the time-traveling adventures of Marty McFly from the previously-released box set, or are waiting patiently for the trilogy to get its as-yet unannounced Blu-ray treatment, then you’ll probably want to avoid double-dipping with this week’s 2-Disc Special Edition. But if not, you might want to take advantage of this week’s re-release of all three Back to the Future films, available for the first time individually. While each film has its own substantial set of extras and a commentary track featuring producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton, only the first movie comes with an additional disc that highlights Back to the Future: The Ride; Robert Zemeckis and star Michael J. Fox only appear in Q&As. Personally, where the future of home video is going, we will need more.

Next: Street Fighter hits Blu-ray!

11. Street Fighter Extreme Edition Blu-ray

Despite the lack of any indication that the world particularly needed a Blu-ray release of 1994’s Street Fighter, here it arrives in an “Extreme Edition.” What’s so “extreme” about this High Def release, besides the sight of seeing Jean-Claude Van Damme about to spiral into B-movie obscurity (in high definition)? Nothing much, though we are extremely sad to be reminded that such respectable thespians as Ming-Na, Raul Julia, and heck, Kylie Minogue, cashed in to bring such iconic characters as Chun Li, Bison, and Cammy to life. A plethora of bonus materials are on display here to commemorate the cheesy action flick, which helped to kick off an entire genre (the disappointing video game adaptation) and — surprise! — arrives just in time to help promote Capcom’s new game, Street Fighter IV.

Until next week, happy renting!

Tag Cloud

satire crime thriller book blockbuster Certified Fresh transformers Watching Series Comics on TV independent ESPN Epix The CW Universal political drama rotten comedies Warner Bros. Sundance Now documentary sag awards Best and Worst Drama Mary poppins Nat Geo Nominations Academy Awards biography Comedy Central Freeform Comic Book X-Men See It Skip It travel Pet Sematary cats Mudbound die hard versus movies nfl comic mockumentary rotten movies we love USA Network Disney Martial Arts HBO Go all-time DC Comics thriller Lifetime Christmas movies Tomatazos halloween harry potter Rocky cartoon adaptation CNN period drama cancelled TV series Infographic zero dark thirty Hallmark Christmas movies Acorn TV science fiction Paramount Turner green book Classic Film spinoff Country batman TCA Winter 2020 WGN TIFF BET Television Academy Tubi Dark Horse Comics Rock Red Carpet TV Emmy Nominations Holiday San Diego Comic-Con Black Mirror TCA Awards technology war Showtime Women's History Month ghosts Kids & Family scary movies The Purge Paramount Network name the review RT History Hallmark SXSW festival south america Box Office 21st Century Fox Esquire Black History Month Superheroes VH1 Toys Elton John DC streaming service Teen BET Awards TCA Sneak Peek directors Biopics sequel Polls and Games comiccon films Election nature Bravo Syfy Netflix 2020 true crime streaming TBS Grammys First Reviews Lionsgate worst movies politics crossover First Look video Horror hist Adult Swim Pop singing competition anthology Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Reality Countdown 007 Stephen King disaster facebook asian-american Rom-Com football Pixar DGA romantic comedy Winners Endgame docudrama nbcuniversal Discovery Channel Podcast Trivia Mary Tyler Moore slashers Rocketman Premiere Dates Britbox Emmys NYCC E3 Music OneApp quibi twilight worst Superheroe chucky Family Year in Review canceled TV shows Anna Paquin Reality Competition PlayStation casting video on demand GoT renewed TV shows teaser aliens 2017 game show Pirates dramedy CBS what to watch Starz Disney+ Disney Plus Song of Ice and Fire anime documentaries animated cancelled TV shows Awards Spectrum Originals Hulu YouTube Red child's play Nickelodeon obituary Marvel Television discovery medical drama natural history OWN finale Film DC Universe sports blaxploitation Pride Month Ellie Kemper TLC concert TCA 2017 MCU best Funimation LGBTQ Set visit award winner Apple TV+ cancelled The Arrangement sequels Mary Poppins Returns scorecard Lucasfilm El Rey Interview universal monsters talk show CW Seed Amazon Prime Video Cosplay BBC America 2019 christmas movies GLAAD theme song Disney streaming service dceu CMT The Witch dc criterion witnail Western werewolf free movies diversity Sci-Fi Marathons BBC One Spring TV Logo Thanksgiving PaleyFest FX on Hulu Pop TV Marvel binge hispanic television Television Critics Association franchise stop motion Lifetime golden globes Walt Disney Pictures FXX doctor who Travel Channel jamie lee curtis tv talk American Society of Cinematographers YouTube Musicals TNT adventure E! Chernobyl robots 71st Emmy Awards joker Tumblr justice league Mystery Quiz Baby Yoda breaking bad screen actors guild psycho Crunchyroll supernatural President cooking Sundance Ghostbusters dogs Amazon Prime series based on movie richard e. Grant Musical TV renewals Masterpiece stoner Comedy Fantasy space National Geographic Crackle FX historical drama IFC mission: impossible classics news fast and furious LGBT FOX SDCC Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt a nightmare on elm street Animation toronto Shondaland History Food Network Holidays cops 24 frames A24 dragons indiana jones Fox News Avengers canceled Film Festival police drama psychological thriller crime drama Trailer Christmas spy thriller TruTV emmy awards Binge Guide vampires mutant elevated horror New York Comic Con sitcom cinemax TV Land composers Extras spider-man zombies YA game of thrones 2016 Arrowverse Creative Arts Emmys Trophy Talk MSNBC Star Trek serial killer ABC social media Apple romance TCM 2015 Writers Guild of America Heroines PBS CBS All Access strong female leads screenings parents Winter TV BAFTA Calendar ITV Disney Plus foreign Action Captain marvel Awards Tour laika The Walking Dead Brie Larson critics toy story indie spanish language Amazon cults Spike boxoffice Hear Us Out YouTube Premium Netflix Christmas movies Valentine's Day spain Video Games movie Ovation stand-up comedy IFC Films revenge latino Turner Classic Movies RT21 Tarantino Cartoon Network 20th Century Fox BBC Summer MTV GIFs Star Wars kids Schedule ABC Family Disney Channel Amazon Studios 72 Emmy Awards children's TV superhero USA reboot Character Guide Apple TV Plus AMC cars Opinion Shudder Cannes DirecTV ratings VICE Photos 4/20 A&E Peacock hollywood Marvel Studios 2018 zombie Columbia Pictures cancelled television WarnerMedia NBC festivals Oscars miniseries Sony Pictures crime HBO 45 Sundance TV APB Mindy Kaling dark Super Bowl SundanceTV HBO Max Vudu venice reviews Fall TV unscripted comics remakes VOD