RT on DVD

RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Contagion Spreads to Home Video

Plus, a successful Irish film, a couple fright flicks, and a classic Western bargain.

by | January 3, 2012 | Comments

This week on home video, we’ve got a couple of solid new releases, a couple of so-so features, a couple of bombs, and an impressive three-movie collection at a very affordable price. Steven Soderbergh’s latest, a star-studded epidemic film, and the highest grossing independent Irish film of all time come home. Next up, the Guy Pearce/Katie Holmes-powered haunted house movie and a medical conspiracy thriller starring Chris Evans, followed by a joyless creature feature and the Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle that rehashes her Sex and the City character in a more domestic setting. Last but not least, we’ve got a 3-pack of some of the most iconic Westerns every filmed. Check out the full list below!

Contagion

85%

Steven Soderbergh is one busy man — he’s directed at least one film a year since 1995, with the exception of 2003 — and he’s also one of those directors who has successfully navigated both independent and mainstream waters with finesse. Last year, we got his latest ensemble hit, Contagion, an apocalyptic thriller about a deadly epidemic starring some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and while we?ve seen outbreak movies before (like, for example, 1995’s Outbreak), critics found Contagion worthy of a Certified Fresh 84% Tomatometer. The story follows multiple threads as a lethal airborne virus rapidly goes worldwide, charting the paths of those tasked with mitigating the global impact of the disaster and those simply trying to cope with its deadly effects. Bolstered by an all-star cast that includes Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, and Marion Cotillard, just to name a few, Contagion is a tense, tightly plotted, and exceptionally smart disaster movie that simply adds another notch to Steven Soderbergh’s already stellar career.

The Guard

94%

At first glance, The Guard may look like a buddy cop comedy with fish-out-of-water elements, but we’re pretty far from Rush Hour territory here. To be specific, we’re in the cold, rural climes of County Galway, where Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) enforces the law in a highly idiosyncratic (read: often unprofessional) manner. Enter Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle), a straight-laced FBI man, who teams up with Boyle to solve an international drug trafficking case. Boyle is so fond of drugs, hookers, and politically incorrect pronouncements that Everett (and the audience) is never quite sure if he’s a buffoon or a genius, and Gleeson’s performance is so strong that he rarely tips his hand. The Guard won raves for its fine performances, witty dialogue, and evocative sense of place, and it’s a great example of a film that makes age-old conventions feel fresh again.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

60%

After back-to-back supporting roles in Thank You for Smoking and Batman Begins back in 2005, Katie Holmes took a break from the movies — call it maternity leave — before returning to the big screen in 2008. Unfortunately, the film that marked her return was Mad Money (23% Tomatometer), and since then, she’s appeared in six straight Rotten films. To its credit, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is the highest rated of those, and it’s just shy of Freshness at 59%, but critics just couldn’t entirely get behind this remake of the 1973 TV movie of the same name. Starring opposite Holmes is Guy Pearce as Alex Hurst, who, along with his girlfriend Kim (Holmes), is restoring an old mansion to prep it for the real estate market. When Alex’s young daughter Sally (Bailee Madison) is placed in his care and begins to hear voices calling to her from the basement, the mansions dark secrets gradually begin to unfold. Critics found the haunted house flick’s effective atmosphere initially quite scary, but ultimately felt the film failed to deliver chills as successfully as the original. It’s not the scariest movie you’ll see, but it might be worth a rent on a cold, rainy night.

Shark Night 3D

18%

With that, we move on to a different kind of horror movie in Shark Night 3D. Styled after the nautical terror of Jaws and its ilk, Shark Night follows the misadventures of a group of undergrads vacationing in Louisiana who are methodically hunted by various ravenous sharks who have inexplicably taken up residence in the lake surrounding the house. After one of the coeds is brutally mauled while waterskiing, the others make an effort to get him medical attention, which, of course, merely results in more death as they attempt to traverse the dangerous waters of the lake. Shark Night performed poorly with the critics, who awarded it a paltry 15% Tomatometer score, and fared only slightly better at the box office. Hampered by its PG-13 rating, the film failed to deliver the goods in either of the two major draws of the genre: gratuitous violence and/or gore, and gratuitous sex and/or nudity. Shark Night brings nothing new or exciting to the formula, so it’s pretty difficult to make a recommendation out of it.

I Don’t Know How She Does It

17%

Writer/director Douglas McGrath has got a couple of good ones on his resume (Emma, Infamous), but his first film in five years was not a welcome return for him. Banking on the star power of Sarah Jessica Parker, coming off the second Sex and the City movie, I Don’t Know How She Does It purports itself to be a comedy about a working mother named Kate Reddy (Parker) who has it all, but must learn how to balance her career, her marriage, and her children. Unfortunately, critics didn’t really seem to care much about how Kate did it, as the film teetered hesitantly between comedy and drama and relied on hopelessly outdated viewpoints on gender to deliver its message. Despite a supporting cast that included the likes of Greg Kinnear, Pierce Brosnan, and Christina Hendricks, I Don’t Know How She Does It is probably best suited as entertainment for those who are looking for just a small taste, just one more fix, of Sarah Jessica Parker in full-on, Sex and the City Carrie mode.

Puncture

52%

Not long after his turn as Captain America, Chris Evans hit theaters again, but this time in a very small, very limited release called Puncture. Based on true events, the film focuses on a pair of Houston lawyers (Evans and co-director Mark Kassen) who agree to defend an ER nurse (Vinessa Shaw) who’s been pricked by a contaminated needle. As the attorneys delve deeper into the case, they uncover a web of conspiracy that involves a widespread medical issue and the shady underbelly of the pharmaceutical industry. Critics were willing to go with the story, which they found compelling, but most were a little reluctant to buy into the formulaic plotting that drove the narrative along. At 53% on the Tomatometer, Puncture isn’t quite the equivalent of The Insider, but it should get the job done for those looking for a passable potboiler featuring a rising star.

The Searchers/The Wild Bunch/How the West Was Won Blu-Ray Triple Feature

Any Western fans out there? Sure there are, and to be honest, if you’re one of them, chances are you’ve probably seen all three of the movies in this nifty little 3-pack. That said, the three movies included here are so good that we couldn’t forego mentioning this little gem. What we have here is a triple header that features The Searchers, The Wild Bunch, and How the West Was Won; in other words, three of the most iconic Westerns ever to be filmed, starring the likes of John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Karl Malden, William Holden, and Ernest Borgnine, just to name a few. And if you haven’t seen many Westerns in your time, this is probably about as good as it gets, from masters of the genre like John Ford and Sam Peckinpah. Need more proof? The three films listed above hold Tomatometer scores of 98%, 97%, and 100%, respectively. Still wondering if it’s worth picking up? Alright, we’ll sweeten the deal by telling you that the triple feature is available on Blu-ray and costs less than $25. Granted, you won’t be getting a lot of bonus features (if any) on a package this inexpensive, but all three films are certainly worth having in your collection.

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