This week on home video, we’ve got a big blockbuster, a smaller one, a couple of indie hits, a couple of old classics, and some beloved children’s classics. We kick it off with the latest from M. Night Shyamalan, whose recent films have been critical disappointments, and an unconventional family dramedy that’s already generating a bit of Oscar buzz. Then we’ve got an urban comedy with a lesson to teach, a documentary on the “worst movie of all time,” and a kids’ film with talking animals. In the reissue department, we’ve got a slick thriller from the ’50s, a masterpiece from Charlie Chaplin, and a collection of animated specials from the Peanuts gang. Not a whole lot to jump up and shout about, but definitely a few quality choices, so check them out!
Fans of M. Night Shyamalan have stuck by him through some critical lows in recent years, and some of them have even given up on him entirely. The Last Airbender, adapted from the popular animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender, was Shyamalan’s chance at redemption, a big budget fantasy epic based on a beloved series with a built-in fanbase. Unfortunately, Shyamalan failed once again to make good on his opportunity; critics weren’t fooled by the special effects, focusing instead on the convoluted story and laughable dialogue. The Last Airbender is, in fact, Shyamalan’s worst-reviewed film, garnering a mere 6% on the Tomatometer. If you’re a fan of the series, you may get a kick out of seeing the story retold in live action, but be prepared for what many are calling the worst movie from the director who once wowed audiences with films like The Sixth Sense .
Not to be confused with The Kids Are Alright, the 1979 documentary film about the rock band The Who, The Kids Are All Right is a family dramedy directed by Lisa Cholodenko (Laurel Canyon) and starring Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, and Mark Ruffalo. Moore and Bening play Jules and Nic, respectively, a married lesbian couple whose two teenage children decide to go looking for their biological father, Paul (Ruffalo). Though the children do their best to keep their new friendship with Paul a secret, when the truth comes to light and Paul is invited to meet the whole family, he enters their lives and changes the family dynamic. This was a small film that eventually opened wide, earning accolades for its heartfelt performances , smart writing, and mature handling of family values. The Kids Are All Right currently sports a Certified Fresh 96% on the Tomatometer, and it’s available on DVD and Blu-Ray this week.
Almost a decade after the original Cats & Dogs opened, audiences were “treated” to a sequel in the form of Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. Unfortunately, at just 13% on the Tomatometer, this tale of canine and feline special agents coming together to stop one evil kitty mastermind with a plot for world domination largely falls flat. While many children’s films in the past decade or so have performed admirably in courting both the young and the old, one of this movie’s failures seems to be that it doesn’t know who it wants to appeal to more. While many of the film’s references (starting with its title) seem to be aimed at adults familiar with movies like the classic Bond series or Silence of the Lambs, its humor and story content is decidedly too juvenile for grownups to enjoy. Simultaneously, while children may still take to the novelty of seeing animals talk and pilot various vehicles, there’s no reason to think they’ll get anything out of a dog stating he’s “too old for this poop!” In the end, children are highly visually oriented, so this might find a place in your “babysitting” stash.
We’ve all played this game at one time or another: What would you do with the money if you won the lottery? Few of us actually believe it’ll ever happen, but earlier this year in Lottery Ticket, young shoe store employee Kevin Carson (Bow Wow) gets lucky to the tune of $350 million. Unfortunately, his entire neighborhood catches wind of the news, and soon everyone wants a piece of the pie. Though Lottery Ticket has a good message at its heart, it relies too much on tired stereotypes and comic clichés to really get going, and critics thus awarded it a 33% Tomatometer. Still, some of the performances aren’t terrible, and with cameos by the likes of Ice Cube (as a wise elderly citizen, no less), Keith David, Terry Crews, Bill Bellamy, and Mike Epps, there are a handful of funny moments to be had. Could be the perfect rainy-day popcorn movie if you’re looking for a “hood” comedy with a chewy moral center. Did we mention Ice Cube plays an old guy in it?
If you’re a movie buff or you’re into “so bad it’s good” movies, then you know one of the crowning achievements of unintentionally (arguable?) hilarious cinema is the 1990 “horror” film Troll 2 (see the clip below for a sample of its merits). And if you’re aware of (and possibly even a fan of) Troll 2, then you should know about a little documentary called Best Worst Movie, which chronicles the making of Troll 2 and focuses on the recent spark of interest in the film, thanks to midnight screenings across the country. Best Worst Movie is directed by one of Troll 2‘s original stars, Michael Stephenson, who wanted to document the renewed interest in the film and explore the reasons behind its second life as a novelty film. Critics felt that it was an amusing and surprisingly affectionate look at a cult movie, offering new perspective into how and why films like Troll 2 are made. It’s Certified Fresh at a whopping 94% on the Tomatometer, and if you were ever curious about the people behind the movie and what became of them, this one’s a real winner.
Even if you’ve never seen a Charlie Chaplin movie, you know the Little Tramp, he of the twitching mustache, the spinning cane, the bowler hat, and the insecure duck walk. In fact, Chaplin’s magnificent character is such an icon of the cinema that he can sometimes overshadow the brilliance of his creator. For those in search of Chaplai’’s genius, look no further than Modern Times, hitting stores this week in a spiffy new Criterion Blu-Ray edition. Like many of Chaplin’s best movies, Modern Times is both howlingly funny and sweetly poignant, and even those most averse to silent movies will find themselves chuckling at Chaplin’s gentle bromides about the encroachment of technology on our lives. This reissue features a sparkling new transfer of the movie, plus audio commentaries, documentaries, deleted scenes, a couple Chaplin shorts, and essays.
Few films can boast as many cult movie bona fides as Night of the Hunter. It was the lone directorial effort of a well-known actor (Charles Laughton); it was misunderstood and unloved by both critics and audiences upon its release; and it’s surreal and spooky as all get-out. Sixty-five years after its release, Night of the Hunter still casts a bewitching spell, one that has ensnared filmmakers like Spike Lee, the Coen Brothers, and Rob Zombie. In arguably his finest performance, Robert Mitchum plays Harry Powell, a two-bit crook, con man, and phony preacher who learns of a huge gold stash, the location of which is known only to a pair of siblings. When the children try to escape run away, Powell follows them across a highly stylized Southern landscape that’s swirling with dark shadows and Biblical dread. The good folks at Criterion have loaded the Blu-Ray edition with almost two hours of outtakes, plus audio commentary, interviews with crew members and film historians, and one of the weirdest extras ever: a clip from the Ed Sullivan show in which the actors give a live performance of one of the movie’s scrapped scenes.
You know he holiday season is upon you when the networks start airing the animated specials associated with each specific celebration, and one television staple that finds its way to screens every year is Peanuts, the Charles Schulz comic strip-turned-cartoon featuring Charlie Brown and Co. This week, Warner Home Video is releasing a set of Peanuts holiday classics on Blu-Ray in an Ultimate Collector’s Edition, which includes It’s Christmastime Again Charlie Brown, It’s Magic Charlie Brown, The Mayflower Voyagers and Deluxe Editions of perennial favorites It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. In addition, the set includes extras like a making-of specials on those last two titles and another featurette that chronicles how the Halloween special came about as a result of a CBS ultimatum. Good stuff for the whole family during the holiday season, and it’s on Blu-Ray to boot!
Written by Ryan Fujitani and Tim Ryan