RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: The Rum Diary and Take Shelter

Plus, a gag-inducing horror sequel, an American classic, and a Brazillian favorite.

by | February 14, 2012 | Comments

This week on home video, we’ve got an interesting mish-mash of movies to mention. We’ll kick things off with the new “Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson proxy” movie and the psychological thriller featuring a powerhouse Michael Shannon performance. Then, we’ve got Brazil’s top moneymaker (ever!), the second installment (and “full sequence”) of a horror movie that’ll leave a bad taste in your mouth, and an acclaimed documentary about the inner city. Rounding things out are a low-budget indie comedy and an American war movie classic. See below for the full list!

The Rum Diary


In 2011, 13 years after first portraying a Hunter S. Thompson doppelganger in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Johnny Depp took on two roles that referenced the controversial writer: one by way of an animated chameleon that took its cues from Fear and Loathing‘s Raoul Duke (Rango), and the other by way of an adaptation of Thompson’s semi-autobiographical debut novel, The Rum Diary. While the former was considered a success, the latter, unfortunately, split critics in much the same way that Fear and Loathing did. The Rum Diary follows journalist Paul Kemp (Depp) as he travels to Puerto Rico to write for a local paper. While there, Paul is tasked with writing a favorable story about an American entrepreneur (Aaron Eckhart) intent on exploiting the island for commercial gain, and Paul must contemplate the murky moral nature of the piece. Critics felt that Depp was as committed to the role as ever, and that the film was colorful and amiable enough, but they were also a bit put off by the rambling source material, which made for an unfocused narrative. Fans of both Thompson and Depp may enjoy the flick, but at 50% on the Tomatometer (and with a 45% user rating), there are no guarantees here.

Take Shelter


Every year, there are a handful of films that enter and leave theaters very quietly, then pop up out of nowhere to appear all over critics’ year-end lists. Take Shelter premiered last year at Sundance and ran the festival circuit, picking up a handful of awards along the way, before opening in limited release back in September. Though it failed to make enough money to recoup its already modest $5 million budget, critics raved about the film and its central performance by Michael Shannon. Shannon plays Curtis LaForche, an Ohio family man who begins dreaming about an apocalyptic storm. Deciding at first to keep the dreams to himself, Curtis pours all of his energy into building a storm shelter in his back yard; his obsession with the shelter eventually strains all the meaningful relationships in his life. A piece of subtle, nuanced filmmaking, Take Shelter won praise from critics who felt Michael Shannon’s performance alone made the film worth seeing, but also called the film itself a perfect blend of drama and dread. It’s a slow-burn psychological mindbender that builds tension gradually, so it’s not for everyone, but at a Certified Fresh 92% on the Tomatometer, you can be sure you’ll be witnessing some top notch filmmaking.

The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence


Tom Six apparently wasn’t joking when he sub-titled the first Human Centipede film “First Sequence,” because here it is just two years later, and we’ve got the inevitable sequel on our hands. The first film — something of an instant cult favorite, even if it made pennies at the box office — seemed to have fully explored its central premise, so what could Six do to up the ante? This time around, he goes with the meta commentary, focusing on a disturbed, overweight parking garage attendant named Martin Lomax (Laurence R. Harvey) who’s obsessed with the first Human Centipede film. Eventually, Martin decides to recreate the experiment therein portrayed, and what ensues is a brutal, graphic depiction of his efforts. Earning just a 31% on the Tomatometer, The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence was so over the top that many critics simply got tired of it and felt the weak attempt at social commentary (violence in the movies begets violence in real life) was undone by its own boundary-pushing. Nevertheless, the film did have its small share of supporters, who thought the improvement in technical skill over the first film at least held some merit.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within


Unless you’ve got your eye on South American cinema, you may not have heard of the 2007 action thriller The Elite Squad, but it was a hit in its native Brazil, and last year, its sequel, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within became the biggest box office seller in the country. One of the few movies to be cut from the Best Foreign Film Oscar short list, The Enemy Within picks up the story from the first installment after 13 years have passed, and its central protagonist, military police officer Robert Nascimento (Wagner Moura), has been promoted as head of Rio de Janeiro’s branch of BOPE (a special ops battalion). When a prison riot massacre finds him favor with the general public, he’s promoted yet again to Sub-Secretary of Intelligence, only to discover that new evil, separate and entirely different from the drug gangs he’s put down for years, lurks within the halls of politics. Certified Fresh at 95%, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within isn’t one of those “eat your veggies” foreign films; it’s a bleak, unflinching look at Brazil’s underbelly, told with raw, unstoppable kinetic force.

The Interrupters


The good news: violent crime in our cities has been in decline for more than a decade. The bad news: that’s cold comfort to those who live in areas where violence remains prevalent. The Interrupters is the story of a group of brave men and women who are doing something about it; as “violence interrupters,” the members of CeaseFire (many of whom are former gang members themselves) attempt to defuse potentially deadly conflicts as they happen. Director Steve James, whose classic Hoop Dreams captured the difficulty of teenage hoopsters with startling intimacy and power, has delivered yet another haunting portrait of life in urban America, and critics tripped over each other to praise The Interrupters, one of the year’s best-reviewed documentaries. The DVD release features tons of extra footage and an interview with James.

Tiny Furniture


Wouldn’t it be nice if you could graduate from college, move home, decide to shoot a film about graduating college and moving home, cast your real life mother and sister in the film, shoot said film in your mother’s real life home, and then have the film shown at festivals to critical acclaim? That’s exactly what 24-year-old writer-director-actress Lena Dunham did, and the result was last year’s Tiny Furniture. At first glance, the story seems like pretty standard mumblecore fare, with familiar themes of post-grad ennui, awkward romance, and quirky family relationships, but most critics agree that Dunham’s keen eye and sharp wit rank her a notch above the usual. As such, the film currently sits at a Certified Fresh 72%, and this week, Criterion is honoring the young filmmaker’s SXSW hit by adding it to their collection. The extras include an interview between Nora Ephron and Dunham, Dunham’s first feature film (Creative Nonfiction), four of her short films, and more. Only time will tell if Dunham will continue to produce quality work, but for now, consensus seems to be that she’s got a potentially bright future ahead of her.

All Quiet on the Western Front Collector’s Series Blu-Ray


Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front has been a perennial high school literature selection for decades, and like To Kill a Mockingbird from a couple weeks ago, if you read it, there’s a decent chance you probably also watched the film adaptation with your class. We’re speaking, of course, about the Oscar-winning (Best Picture and Best Director) 1930 adaptation starring Lew Ayres. For those unfamiliar, All Quiet on the Western Front follows a group of World War I era German soldiers who patriotically sign up for the army and are sent to the front lines, only to discover that, well, war is hell. Known for its epic scope, impressive battle scenes, realistic portrayal of war, and haunting imagery, All Quiet is a bona fide American classic, earning a place in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. This Collector’s Series Blu-ray/DVD combo comes with a booklet that includes memorabilia reproductions, posters, and never before seen photos.

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