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RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Harry Potter's Final Chapter Arrives

Plus, a body-switch comedy, an Ayn Rand adaptation, and some acclaimed WWII fare.

by | November 8, 2011 | Comments

There are a lot of Blu-ray reissues due out this week, though few of them boast many extras that make them worth mentioning here. These include hi-def versions of The Cannonball Run, Blue Velvet, 1962’s Mutiny on the Bounty, Little Big Man, The Fisher King, and, of course, the cult classic Frankenhooker. What we do have this week ranges from epic greatness (the final chapter of the Harry Potter series, an Ingmar Bergman classic, two acclaimed HBO miniseries) to middling mediocrity (the Jason Bateman/Ryan Reynolds body swap movie, a failed Ayn Rand adaptation). In between all of that, we have one curious experiment that sort of defies conventional cinematic definition. So read on for the full list!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

96%

The Harry Potter franchise boasts a rare and elite distinction: all of its films are Certified Fresh — a pretty incredible accomplishment made all the more impressive when you consider the series is eight films strong. And boy, did it go out with a bang! After Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 left some audiences a tad unsatisfied, Deathly Hallows, Part 2 drew the popular saga to a close in style, not only bringing home the most money (over $1 billion in box office receipts) but also earning the best reviews (with a franchise-high 96% Tomatometer). Deathly Hallows, Part 2 picks up where the last film left off, with Harry and Co. in pursuit of Voldemort’s Horcruxes, and culminates in the epic good-vs.-evil battle we’ve all been waiting for. Few critics found much to dislike about the final film, with most calling it a thrilling, powerfully acted, and visually dazzling piece of entertainment, a worthy conclusion to one of this generation’s most popular and globally beloved epics. For those of you interested, there’s also a boxset for “The Complete Collection, Years 1-7” available this Friday, 11/11/11, when the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 DVD drops.

The Change-Up

25%

Ah, the classic body-switch movie, a staple of screwball comedy. That well never quite runs dry, but every once in a while it does pump out some rancid sewage and try to pass itself on as San Pellegrino. Unfortunately for all those involved, The Change-Up ended up resembling the former rather than the latter. The premise is all too familiar: longtime buddies Mitch (Ryan Reynolds), a swinging bachelor, and Dave (Jason Bateman), a married lawyer with kids, have grown to become polar opposites of each other, and each of them envies the other’s lot in life. When a freak accident causes them to switch bodies, they learn that the grass isn’t necessarily always greener on the other side. Sound predictable and formulaic? That’s what the critics thought, too. Though there’s some fun to be had in watching both Reynolds and Bateman play against type, the conceit wears thin quickly, and there just isn’t enough left in the script to make the film memorable. At 24% on the Tomatometer, The Change-Up is a missed opportunity to do something fun with a familiar premise, and the talented cast is all it has going for it.

Atlas Shrugged, Part 1

12%

Look, we know that the mere mention of Ayn Rand inspires rapturous praise from acolytes — and sends detractors into fits of rage. So we’re not going to debate the principles of Objectivism, nor shall we discuss the literary merits of Atlas Shrugged. No, we’re only going to mention that the Tomatometer for Atlas Shrugged Part 1 — the first installment of a planned trilogy — tumbled like the housing project in The Fountainhead. In the year 2016, a group of individualistic industrialists are being targeted by the forces of mediocrity and socialism. It’s up to Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling) and Henry Rearden (Grant Bowler) to save the nation from economic ruin — and maybe find out who some guy named John Galt is. The critics found Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 to be a low-budget bore that does little to elucidate Rand’s ideas; if you’re a fan of the book, however, you may want to give the Blu-ray a shot, as it contains several making-of docs and a commentary track with the filmmakers.

Life in a Day

80%

In early July of 2010, YouTube and Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions launched a project asking the popular website’s users to submit videos of themselves, filmed on July 24. The goal was to collect as many videos from as many different places in the world and compile the best ones into a sort of video art piece directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, State of Play). The response, as one might imagine, was overwhelming, with 80,000 submissions from 192 countries totaling over 4,500 hours of footage, and the result was Life in a Day. It would be easy to dismiss something like this as a mere indulgence, inaccessible and inscrutable to most who might attempt a viewing, but critics felt differently; with a Certified Fresh 81% Tomatometer score, Life in a Day ultimately proved to be a rather moving and poignant experience for most. This film may be a thought-provoking capsule of daily life everywhere on Earth, or it may simply be a stream of consciousness glimpse at an increasingly tech-savvy generation; it’s up t you to see for yourself and decide.

Fanny and Alexander – Criterion Collection Blu-Ray Box Set

100%

Ingmar Bergman’s semi-autobiographical 1982 film was originally intended to be a four-part television event, but it also became his final big screen directorial effort when it was edited for theatrical release. Though the iconic Swedish filmmaker would then go on to write and/or direct several projects for television all the way up to 20003, his only other theatrical outing would be to write the screenplay for a film his own son directed. Fanny and Alexander follows the lives of its titular heroes, a young brother and sister born into wealth who are then adopted by a cruel bishop who marries their mother when their father dies of a stroke. Though not quite a farewell project, the film retains both Bergman’s trademark melancholy tone and an overwhelming sense of joy, making Fanny and Alexander one of his most emotionally sumptuous films. This week, Criterion is releasing a Blu-ray box set of the film that includes both the theatrical and television versions of the film, a feature-length documentary on the making of the film, and a ton of beautiful extras. If you’re a fan of the director or the film, this would be a great pickup.

Band of Brothers/The Pacific – Special Edition Blu-Ray Gift Set

After working together on the Oscar-winning WWII film Saving Private Ryan, director Steven Spielberg and star Tom Hanks served as executive producers on an HBO miniseries set in the same war and based on a book by Stephen Ambrose, Band of Brothers. Covering the exploits of a handful of airborne infantrymen, Band of Brothers was nominated for a total of 19 Emmy Awards, winning six of them. Fast forward almost a decade to 2010, and Spielberg and Hanks again executive produced another similar series called The Pacific set during the same war, this time focusing on three Marines assigned to the 1st Marine Division. The Pacific was itself nominated for 22 Emmys and took home eight of them. This week, both series come home together on DVD and Blu-ray in a Special Editin Gift Set that not only comes with every episode from both shows, but also picture-in-picture commentary tracks, documenataries and portraits of the real men who served during the war, and, exclusive to the set, a documentary chronicling the postwar lives of the veterans of both stories. This could be a great holiday pickup for fans of the series and those who plain enjoy a good war yarn or two.

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