RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Justin Bieber and Blue Valentine

Plus, a Natalie Portman rom-com, a tribute to Jacques Tati, and a Korean thriller.

by | May 10, 2011 | Comments

This week on home video, there were a lot of rather random Blu-Ray re-releases peppering the market; stuff like V.I. Warshawski, Equilibrium, My Father the Hero, and Another Stakeout. Luckily, there were enough other decent releases that we didn’t have to resort to descriptions of a young Katherine Heigl’s swimsuit, or Kathleen Turner’s aptitude as a private eye. New releases this week include Justin Bieber’s own concert/biopic, the Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher rom-com that sounds suspiciously similar to an upcoming Mila Kunis-Justin Timberlake rom-com, and a melodrama that earned Michelle Williams an Oscar nod, among others. See below, and hopefully some of these entries will wash the bad taste of last week out of your mouth.

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never


Sometime in 2008, a young, mop-topped Canadian with a YouTube account was discovered and introduced to recording artist Usher. Soon after, he who might otherwise have been a mere web super-vlogger became a huge pop sensation. That young man, of course, is Justin Bieber, and considering his astonishing rise to fame, it probably wasn’t surprising that MTV Films saw an opportunity to chronicle a bit of The Bieb’s personal life for the big screen. The end result was, of course, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, a combination documentary/concert film that follows the young phenom over a period of ten days, leading up to a Madison Square Garden concert that sold out in just 22 minutes. And guess what? The film earned a respectable 65% on the Tomatometer! Yes, Bieber has become somewhat of a whipping boy for all kinds of pop culture commentators, but this intimate look at his life impressed critics just enough. You won’t be renting this if you’re not already a fan, but if you do enjoy the kid’s music, you’ll probably love it. And you can take this last bit of information for what it’s worth, but the official DVD release date for Never Say Never is May 13. That’s Friday the 13th, for you lovers of irony out there.

No Strings Attached


Natalie Portman is so hot right now. If her Oscar win for Black Swan wasn’t enough to convince you, then consider that she’s currently already starring in five films so far in 2011, including the blockbuster that won the weekend box office (Thor). Unfortunately, not all of them have been lavished with praise, and such was the case for No Strings Attached, which stars Portman and Ashton Kutcher as a couple of old friends who decide to try a physical relationship with no emotional attachment. Of course, feelings come into play, and they must learn how to deal with them. Critics didn’t think No Strings Attached was a complete failure, mainly due to Portman’s charisma and Ivan Reitman’s directorial prowess, but they found little else to like. There were enough who enjoyed some of the film’s humor, so there’s a chance you may, too.

Blue Valentine


Michelle Williams has become something of an indie movie darling, appearing in several smaller films and earning accolades for her deep, affecting performances. After finding critical success in both 2005’s Best Picture-winning Brokeback Mountain and 2008’s Wendy and Lucy, Williams played opposite Ryan Gosling in last year’s romantic melodrama Blue Valentine, for which she earned her first Best Actress Oscar nomination. The story focuses on young couple Dean and Cindy (Gosling and Williams), alternating between scenes depicting the beginning of their relationship and the end of their marriage several years later. Critics found the strikingly realistic portrait of a broken family to be so powerful that it was difficult to watch at times, and attributed the film’s gripping effect to brilliant performances from its leads. Blue Valentine is Certified Fresh at 87% on the Tomatometer, and should satisfy fans of both actors and serious drama in general.

The Illusionist (L’illusionniste)


Not to be confused with the 2006 film starring Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti, 2010’s animated French film The Illusionist (L’illusionniste) is the latest film from director Sylvain Chomet, best known for his earlier animated film The Triplets of Belleville. The film was actually written by late French auteur Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle, Playtime) back in 1956 as a very personal letter of sorts to his estranged daughter, but it was never produced, and Chomet took it upon himself to complete the work for Tati as an animated film. The story revolves around a struggling magician named Tatishcheff who visits a small Scottish town and performs so well that he convinces a young girl named Alice he’s the real deal; Alice then proceeds to follow Tatischeff back to Edinburgh, where the two of them form a bond until Alice is swept off her feet by a young man. Critics found the film, which relies on very little dialogue, to be a breath of fresh air and a moving love letter treated with the utmost care. It’s Certified Fresh at 89% and deserves to be seen by both animation connoisseurs and fans of Tati.

I Saw the Devil


South Korea has maintained a stranglehold (no pun intended) on the revenge thriller for several years now, most notably in the form of Park Chan-Wook’s “Vengeance Trilogy.” Earlier this year, one of the country’s more prominent contemporary directors, Kim Ji-Woon (A Tale of Two Sisters, The Good, the Bad, the Weird) offered up his take on the genre with I Saw the Devil, a gritty, gory game of cat-and-mouse between a sadistic criminal (Oldboy‘s Choi Min-Sik) and the special agent fiancé (The Good, the Bad, the Weird‘s Lee Byung-Hun) of one of his most recent victims. The film is certainly merciless in its raw depiction of violence, which some critics found excessive and likened to torture porn, but it’s slickly and stylishly directed, and it raises thought-provoking questions on the nature of morality. It’s not a film for everyone, but it’s Certified Fresh at 80% on the Tomatometer, and if you’re looking for a solid action thriller with real visceral impact, you might want to check this one out.

Something Wild


Years before wowing the Academy with The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, Jonathan Demme directed this strange caper comedy. Jeff Daniels stars as a straight-laced guy who meets a sexy woman named Lulu (Melanie Griffith); soon he’s left town with her, posing as her husband at her high school reunion, but trouble soon finds our heroes in the form of Lulu’s violent ex-husband. With an outstanding soundtrack that features such new wave faves as New Order, David Byrne, Big Audio Dynamite, and the Feelies, Something Wild was a leftfield mix of wackiness and menace, and earned Demme both a cult audience and a trio of Golden Globe noms. A new director-approved Criterion disc features a new transfer of the movie, plus interviews with Demme.

Home Improvement: 20th Anniversary Complete Collection

In its mid-1990s heyday, Home Improvement was Red State America’s answer to Seinfeld; while it lacked the arch sophistication of the “show about nothing,” the show’s emphasis on blue collar family humor made it a perpetual ratings monster (and turned Tim Allen into a star). If you’re a fan, the Home Improvement: 20th Anniversary Complete Collection box set contains just about every stray piece of the show you need ? and it even comes in a handy metal toolbox (not pictured here). In addition to every episode, the set features audio commentaries, bloopers, a reunion special hosted by Allen, and compilations of the funniest gags from the series.