This week on home video, the widest releases available also happen to be the lowest-rated films out. Well, perhaps not in the grand scheme of things, as we’re certain some of the direct-to-video titles could possibly be worse. But in any event, we’re bringing you the latest titles along with a smattering of classic reissues, a couple of indie films, and a new Criterion collection of two films from legendary Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu. At least a couple of these are audience favorites, so here’s hoping there’s something here for you! Check out the full list below!
Usually after a breakup one’s memories are more wholeheartedly nostalgic, but for Bounty Hunter, a half-hearted contortion of the old “remarriage comedy,” compliments are middling: The cast is beautifully tanned! If you look past the plot, the film’s fun to watch! Gerard Butler transparently fakes an American accent to play an ex-cop who disappointed his wife and his profession and had to turn to bounty hunting for a living. Jennifer Aniston, the ex-wife, is a crime beat reporter in NY on the lam because she knew too much about a murder trial. On the one hand, critics said Aniston was as charismatic as ever, which means her fans won’t be let down; but Butler fans expecting a relationship contribution more than half-assed (I’m talking about his accent again) could easily find better fish in the sea. The DVD boasts little to be proud of: a making of featurette, a featurette called “Rules for Outwitting a Bounty Hunter” (remarriage might be an option, just be warned) and another called “Stops Along the Road” about locations for the film.
Noah Baumbach (Margot at the Wedding, Kicking and Screaming) has made a name for himself as a sort of master portrait painter of ambivalent characters — his last dramedy, Greenberg, took from a lesser-known font of inspiration: mumblecore. Featuring Greta Gerwig, the princess of mumblecore, in what might be her breakout role, the story weaves in the manchild, the educated wayward son and the manic pixie dreamgirl as good as a $10,000 feature might. About a guy just released from an institution (Ben Stiller), Greenberg extends his hiatus by caretaking his brother’s LA estate, complete with personal assistant (Gerwig). While he’s there he looks up his long lost flame (director’s wife, Jennifer Jason-Leigh) who clearly remembers their relationship in a light different than Greenberg does, and his ex-bandmate (Rhys Ifans) who maybe kinda wants to jam with him. Stiller’s trademark angst isn’t strained for accessability here so his performance has been lauded, but none so much as Gerwig, who’s lackadaisicalness is near epic in scale. Now whether that’s your cup of milquetoast or not, it does have a value to it that uses its circumstances well: it neither sweats at the fringe nor sits in the mainstream and so gets at some ideas neither the fringe clinger nor the mainstream lounger can. Extras include Featurettes “Greenberg Loves Los Angeles” and “Noah Baumbach Takes A Novel Approach.”
Amanda Seyfried first caught the public’s eye as the naï¿½ve and dim-witted member of Rachel McAdams’s Mean Girls posse, continuing on to play similarly sweet roles in films like Mamma Mia! and Letters to Juliet. Even in the horror-comedy Jennifer’s Body, Seyfried played the innocent foil to Megan Fox’s evil seductress. But earlier this year, Seyfried shed her good-girl image — and her clothes — to play the title role in the erotic thriller Chloe. Co-starring Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore, Chloe centers around a woman named Catherine (Moore) who suspects her husband David (Neeson) of cheating on her; in a dangerous and ill-advised ploy to test his faithfulness, she hires a prostitute (Seyfried) to make advances on David. As Chloe offers Catherine the sordid details of her encounters with David in regular meetings, something else begins to awaken within Catherine, and soon all three are embroiled in a complex web of deceit. Unfortunately, critics were lukewarm on Chloe, criticizing the film for failing to capitalize on its strong cast and titillating premise; somehow the film falls flat. However, if you’re looking for a psychological thriller with a star playing against her type, then this might work for you.
Similar to Chloe, here’s another small, independent drama about a couple whose lives are unexpectedly interrupted by the presence of a young woman. Again, we have two established actors in the roles of the couple and another up-and-coming young star as the girl who shows up and changes their lives. The couple in The Greatest is Allen and Grace Brewer (played by Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon), who have recently lost a son in a car accident. In the midst of their grieving, a young woman named Rose (recently Oscar-nominated Carey Mulligan) shows up at their home and informs them she is pregnant with their deceased son’s child. The Brewers agree to take Rose in, and though she is at first simply a reminder of what they have lost, she soon brings the family together. Sound like a bit of melodrama? That’s what the critics thought too, awarding the film a straight-up 50% on the Tomatometer. But despite the plot’s predictable turns, most felt that the performances were strong enough to warrant a watch. The film opened in very limited release earlier this year, so if you didn’t see it (and chances are that you didn’t), you can check it out on home video this week.
Movies about weddings are easy to relate to because all of us have either been to one or been involved in one in some capacity. When you throw in the added drama of two very different families suddenly finding themselves linked to one another, the story becomes even more personal; who doesn’t have that overbearing in-law no one can stand, or the crotchety grandparent who disapproves of everything, or some variation of the sort? 2010’s Our Family Wedding sought to capture that very phenomenon, mining cultural differences in hopes of striking comedy gold. Unfortunately, critics saw right through the scheme, and the film, about a young interracial couple (America Ferrera and Lance Gross) and their dueling alpha dads (Carlos Mencia and Forest Whitaker) came up nearly empty, registering only a 13% on the Tomatometer. Though critics saw some promise in the cast and the initial premise, they found that it was executed poorly, with contrived situational comedy and a mirthless script. You could probably do better if you’re looking for a romantic comedy, but if you enjoy watching grown folks yell at each other and engage in silly pratfalls, this was made for you.
Christopher Nolan’s Inception is just around the corner, and the buzzmeter for the film is currently off the charts. So it’s not surprising that Warner Bros. would decide to release one of Nolan’s earlier hits on Blu-Ray this week; the hit in question is 2002’s Insomnia, a remake of the Norwegian film of the same title from just five years prior. Nolan’s Insomnia stars Al Pacino as Will Dormer, an LAPD officer sent up to Alaska to help investigate the murder of a 17-year-old girl. Dormer himself faces some turmoil, as his partner Hap Echkart (Martin Donovan) is set to testify against him in an Internal Affairs investigation accusing Dormer of planting evidence on a suspect. As Dormer and Eckhart close in on the Alaskan suspect, things go tragically wrong, and the murder suspect himself (played by Robin Williams) ultimately ends up with a piece of incriminating evidence against Dormer. The film co-stars Hilary Swank, bringing the number of Oscar-winners in the cast to a whopping three, and critics felt that the performances reflected this pedigree. At an impressive 92% on the Tomatometer, Insomnia is Certified Fresh; it’s a smart and riveting psychological drama that’s now available on Blu-Ray for the first time. Though the bonus features are simply ported over from the standard DVD, fans may want to pick this up anyway, just for the hi-def quality.
The early part of the calendar year leading up to the Summer is typically thought of as the studio dumping ground for films they don’t expect to win any awards. There are exceptions, of course, as well as surprise hits, like David Fincher’s Zodiac, which opened in March of 2007 to overwhelmingly positive reviews. Another similar sleeper hit was 2008’s In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as a couple of hitmen hiding out, well, in Bruges. The story centers on Ray (Farrell) and Ken (Gleeson), who have just come off a hit-gone-wrong in London and have been ordered by their boss (Ralph Fiennes) to spend some time in the Belgian city until things blow over a bit. As they spend their days touring the city — Ken loves it, but Ray constantly complains — they come face-to-face with increasingly bizarre local encounters until it all culminates in a final order from their boss that leaves them a little lost. First-time writer/director Martin McDonagh was an award-winning playwright before turning his talents to the big screen, and his knack for witty dialogue shines in the script. On top of that, both Farrell and Gleeson turn in great performances, making this an effective blend of dark comedy and genre crime thriller.
Cinephiles and film buffs who love international cinema need no introduction to legendary Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, probably best known for his 1953 masterpiece Tokyo Story, which is considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever made. Known for his poignant portrayals of family dynamics and generational conflict, he began his career during the silent era of film and saw continued success all the way up until the time of his death in 1963. This week, Criterion releases two of his early films for the first time on home video, and both deal with the sort of relationship themes he later perfected throughout his career. The first of the two-film collector’s set is 1936’s The Only Son, Ozu’s first film in the sound era, which tells the story of a mother who goes to great lengths to ensure her son is provided with a proper education. The second film is 1942’s There Was A Father, in which actor Chishu Ryu (a frequent Ozu collaborator and one of the stars of Tokyo Story) plays a widowed schoolteacher whose devotion to his son only serves to separate them all the more. The set includes a few special features, like interviews with film scholars and essay booklets, but the very fact that they’re now available is the main draw here. You can pick up the set this week.
Written by Ryan Fujitani and Sara Maria Vizcarrondo