RT on DVD

RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: The King's Speech and Rabbit Hole

Plus, more Certified Fresh gems, a martial arts flick, and Jack Black.

by | April 19, 2011 | Comments

This week on home video, we’ve got quite a few great films to choose from. Four of the new releases are Certified Fresh, and this year’s Best Picture Oscar winner is among them. The others are comprised of a hard-hitting drama that earned Nicole Kidman an Oscar nod of her own, an epic journey through the Siberian wilderness, and Sofia Coppola’s latest melancholic tale of relationships. Then, we’ve got Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen’s sequel to his recent martial arts hit and a Jack Black misfire based on a classic novel, as well as the week’s new Criterion Collection releases. Check out what’s new this week below.

The King’s Speech

94%

Let’s be honest here: Colin Firth was sort of a “that guy” for a long time, until he showed up opposite Renee Zellwegger in Bridget Jones’s Diary. But there was always a certain charisma to his personality, and people witnessed his potential in full blossom when he starred as a troubled gay man on the verge of suicide in last year’s A Single Man. Fast forward to November of the same year, and we have the culmination of more than two decades of acting in Firth’s rousing Best Actor win for portraying King George VI. But let’s not sell the movie short; The King’s Speech was nominated for a whopping 12 Oscars, and it took home four of the five major awards, including Firth’s award, Best Director (Tom Hooper), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture. For those who have spent the better part of the last six months avoiding mass media, the story revolves around the newly crowned King George VI, who suffers from a speech impediment, and the deep friendship he develops with his Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush). Critics stamped their approval on the film in the form of a Certified Fresh 95% on the Tomatometer, and though some have complained about some of the historical inaccuracies in the film, it remains an entertaining, superbly acted, and stylishly produced film, and it arrives on home video this week.

Rabbit Hole

87%

Our second pick this week is another Certified Fresh film, one that earned its lead actress, Nicole Kidman, an Oscar nod back in February. Directed by John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Rabbit Hole centers on grieving couple Becca and Howie Corbett (Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, respectively) who have just lost their only son in a tragic car accident. While Becca tries desperately to move on with life, confiding in her mother (Dianne Wiest) and connecting with the young man (Miles Teller) responsible for her son’s death in an attempt to make sense of things, Howie instead chooses to dwell in the past, finding it difficult to cope and entertaining the temptation to find comfort in the arms of another woman. The film is certainly not a joyful romp, and it’s often painful to watch, but critics praised Rabbit Hole‘s finely written script and standout performances to the tune of 87% on the Tomatometer. This is powerful, evocative drama, and those looking for a deep exploration of grief will find a lot to like here.

Gulliver’s Travels

20%

Jonathan Swift’s novel Gulliver’s Travels is a cleverly written satirical look at human nature, a classic piece of literature taught at the highest levels of education to this day. But when you’ve got Jack Black headlining a film adaptation of the work, you can be sure the term “loosely based” applies in spades. In this particular iteration, Black plays Lemuel Gulliver, an aspiring travel writer looking for his first big break who is sent to the Bermuda Triangle to draft an article debunking its myths. Naturally, Gulliver ends up shipwrecked on Liliput, whose inhabitants lock him up as a threat to their safety until he helps rescue both the Liliputian Princess Mary (Emily Blunt) and King (Billy Connolly). Jack Black is, well, Jack Black, and there’s no one else quite like him, but critics overall had some problems with the movie’s reliance on juvenile humor and special effects at the expense of the source material’s brilliant commentary. If your fondness for classic lit isn’t compromised by giant wedgies, pee jokes, and Liliputians utilized in a giant foosball table, then hey, this is right up your alley.

Somewhere

70%

Looking at the films that Sofia Coppola has directed over the years, one gets the sense that the auteur, whose work is infused with meditative ennui, could do with a trip to Disneyland or a girls’ night out with her BFFs. But whatever deep seated melancholy Coppola may be tapping into, her films are largely well-received, and this is no different for her latest effort, Somewhere, starring Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning. Dorff plays Johnny Marco, a Hollywood star coasting through celebrity on a steady diet of pills and easy women, feeling precious little and socializing only occasionally. When his pre-teen daughter Cleo (Fanning) suddenly shows up on his doorstep to announce she’ll be staying with him full-time, the two of them begin to bond, and Cleo lends meaning to Johnny’s otherwise meaningless life. Somewhere is Coppola’s third Certified Fresh film at 72%, and critics felt that while the movie touches on familiar territory for the director, it’s nevertheless a seductively pensive meditation on the nature of celebrity and features charming performances from its two leads. Fans of Coppola and her storytelling style will undoubtedly enjoy it.

Kes – Criterion Collection

100%

One of the most celebrated of all British films, Kes is an achingly poignant and honest coming-of-age tale. Made at the tail end of the British “kitchen sink” era of cinematic realism, Ken Loach’s first theatrical feature is the tale of a bullied, mischievous boy who finds solace by caring for a falcon. Loach’s leftist sensibilities are evident here, and he’s aided by remarkably naturalistic performances from nonprofessional actors. The result is a devastating portrait of blue-collar malaise. A swanky new Criterion disc features a new transfer of the film supervised by Loach, as well as several interviews with the director and Cathy Come Home, Loach’s 1966 made-for-television docudrama.

The Way Back

74%

Our last Certified Fresh pick this week is another well-received, based-on-true-events story, inspired by a memoir written by Sławomir Rawicz, a polish POW who allegedly escaped from a Siberian gulag. Starring an impressive cast that includes Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Jim Sturgess, Mark Strong, and Saoirse Ronan, the film follows roughly the same plot, as seven inmates together break free from the gulag in the midst of a blizzard and make way towards Mongolia. The ensuing story depicts the group’s struggle for survival as they battle not only the harsh wilderness that surrounds them on their journey, but also the sense of impending doom that threatens to swallow them whole and destroy their morale. Directed by Peter Weir (Witness, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World), the film impressed critics, who felt that its sweeping ambition, strong performances, and grand visual spectacle deserved a Certified Fresh 75% on the Tomatometer, even if the film wasn’t as emotionally involving as it could have been. A good choice for those who enjoy epic journeys in distant lands and themes of man vs. nature, and it’s available this week.

Sweetie – Criterion Collection

89%

After a successful career making TV movies, Jane Campion burst onto the international cinema scene with Sweetie in 1989. The auteur who would go on to make such arthouse hits as The Piano and Bright Star displayed stylistic panache and an observant eye in this portrait of a dysfunctional family that is often blind to its own internal problems. Sisters Kay and Sweetie are polar opposites in many ways ? the former is a mousy factory worker, the latter a wild child with unrealistic showbiz aspirations. This quirky character study is both sweet and sour ? and offers proof of Campion’s nascent skill. The new director-approved Criterion disc offers a commentary track from Campion, some of her early shorts, interviews, and behind-the scenes images.

Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster

97%

In recent years, as old kung fu favorites Jackie Chan and Jet Li have started to wind down their careers a bit, Donnie Yen has stepped into the spotlight as a true force to be reckoned with. There are a few of us here in the RT office who are big martial arts fans, and we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of Yen’s Ip Man, released Stateside in 2010 in all its speed-punching, face-flattening glory. Just a few months later, Yen reprised his role as the titular master of Wing Chun in Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster, but few saw it, and this week it arrives on home video. The sequel focuses on Ip Man’s struggle to teach Wing Chun in the face of corrupt Hong Kong martial artists and an oppressive British colonial regime, culminating in visceral fight sequences between Yen and Jackie Chan contemporary Sammo Hung, as well as an East vs. West duel in a boxing ring. Now, these themes are fairly common in Hong Kong martial arts flicks, but Yen has proven himself to be capable of standing with the best in the business, and by most accounts, the action in Ip Man 2 goes a long way towards making up for any dramatic inadequacies the film may have. Fans of Donnie Yen, or high octane martial arts films in general, should get a proper kick out of this one.

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