RT on DVD

RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Thor and Star Wars: The Complete Saga

Plus, some indie dramas, a comedy doc, and another certified classic on Blu-ray.

by | September 13, 2011 | Comments

Well, this turned out to be a pretty incredible week on home video, and that’s due in large part to two very big reissues and a couple of rock solid new releases. First up, the first Marvel movie of the year that also sort of kicked off the Summer Movie Season is finally available to take home, and it’s accompanied by a concert documentary of a popular late night talk show host and a Best Foreign Film Oscar contender, both Certified Fresh. We’ve also got a couple of smaller films that didn’t do as well and a new Criterion Blu-ray of an indie classic. But the two releases you should be most geeked about are the new Blu-rays for a little movie called Citizen Kane and a modest sci-fi saga known as Star Wars. I hope you kids saved up your allowance.

Thor

77%

As the first major blockbuster release opening in May of this year, Thor arguably marked the beginning of the Summer Movie Season, and oh, what an auspicious beginning it was. Despite some trepidation over how the Marvel superhero would be portrayed so that he would fit in seamlessly with an Avengers universe that also included Iron Man and Captain America, Thor delighted critics and audiences alike. Directed by Kenneth Branagh and featuring a cast that includes Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Natalie Portman, Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, and more, the film focuses on the titular hero (Chris Hemsworth), who’s booted from the supernatural realm of Asgard for breaking a centuries-old truce. Once on Earth, Thor acclimates to his new environment until political strife in Asgard requires him to spring into action. Critics found Thor to be a proper summer entertainment, with an epic story, fantastical settings, plenty of wit, and even some human drama. It’s not the greatest Marvel flick, but at a Certified Fresh 77%, it marks a welcome return to high quality in Marvel-adapted movies, and most people will tell you it’s worth your time.

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

82%

Conan O’Brien’s departure from NBC was a much publicized affair that held the attention of the nation’s media outlets, from gossip blogs to competing late night talk shows, for months, and when all was said and done, O’Brien landed on TBS with a new show. During the interim, however, a clause in his contract forbade him from appearing on television for six months, so instead, he took his show on the road for a 32-city live show he called “The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour.” Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop follows the veteran late night host on this tour, including glimpses of his rehearsals, sessions in the writer’s room, and on-stage footage, and at a Certified Fresh 79% on the Tomatometer, critics say it’s worth the trip. The film not only puts on display O’Brien’s talent and quick wit, but also serves as a revealing look into the life of a man dedicated to his craft and the toll such a life can take. If you were a fan of Conan O’Brien beforehand, this will probably make you love him more, and if not, well, it’s still a pretty entertaining ride.

The Tempest

30%

As we’ve seen time and again, sometimes having the best ingredients just isn’t enough. That’s what happened earlier this year with The Tempest, an adaptation of the Shakespearean play of the same name, helmed by notable director Julie Taymor (who’s done Shakespeare before, in 1999’s Titus), and starring the likes of Helen Mirren, Jeremy Irons, Chris Cooper, David Strathairn, Alan Cumming, Alfred Molina, and more. Let’s be honest here: that’s a ridiculously great cast! So what happened? Taymor’s artistic liberties notwithstanding (she changed Prospero’s gender to female in order to cast Helen Mirren), critics simply felt that the dazzling special effects just weren’t enough to make up for the production’s stagey feel, resulting in a rather uninspired take on the literary classic. The Tempest currently sports a 28% Tomatometer, which is shockingly low considering the talent involved, but if you’re looking for an alternative look at Shakespeare, you might find this one intriguing.

Incendies

92%

Who knew that a French-Canadian film could explore issues of the Middle East with such precision and raw emotion? Back in February, this gem from Quebec was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and by all accounts, the accolade was well deserved. Based on a play by Wajdi Mouawad and directed by Denis Villeneuve, Incendies follows a pair of twins who, after their mother’s death, discover not only that their father is still alive, but also that they have a brother they’ve never met. In an effort to connect the dots and learn more about their past, the twins travel to the Middle East and end up uncovering dark mysteries about the family they never knew. Though some critics felt the movie was longer than it needed to be and a tad melodramatic, most were floored by the impressive acting and devastating emotional impact of its story. Currently, Incendies is Certified Fresh at 92%, and if you’re into foreign language thrillers, this one should do rather nicely.

Hesher

55%

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been slowly emerging as a fine actor over the past decade, but he hasn’t quite received the mainstream fanfare many of his fans feel he deserves, sticking primarily to the indie circuit. Hesher wasn’t the film to change all that, unfortunately, making very little money at the box office and earning fairly lukewarm reviews. JGL plays the titular squatter, who one day takes up residence in the garage of newly widowed Paul Forney (Rainn Wilson) and his son TJ (Devin Brochu). The Forney family is struggling with depression, and Hesher’s anarchic presence serves to shock them back to life (in most cases, anyway). Featuring supporting turns by Natalie Portman, Piper Laurie, and John Carroll Lynch, Hesher was somewhat appreciated by critics for its pitch black humor and lack of sentimentality, but most also felt that the story ultimately failed to amount to much. Gordon-Levitt is fascinating to watch as the unhinged, somewhat diabolical, mystical homeless figure, but it’s all in service of a plot that is sometimes too coincidental, sometimes too wild for its own good. It’s another interesting role to tack onto his resume, but at 54%, it’s a risky call.

My Life As A Dog – Criterion Blu-Ray

100%

A touching coming-of-age drama, My Life as a Dog was one of the highest grossing foreign films of the 1980s, and picked up two Oscar nominations as well. Before making a splash in America with What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and The Cider House Rules, the Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom crafted this tender tale of Ingemar, a boy sent by his ailing mother to live with his uncle in the countryside. Ingemar identifies strongly with the Russian space dogs, and finds that peace in his new surroundings. This eccentric, bittersweet crowd pleaser gets a spiffy new Blu-ray update from Criterion, and the set also includes an earlier featurette from Hallstrom and an interview with the director.

Citizen Kane – 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray

99%

Citizen Kane is such an unimpeachable cinematic masterpiece that some moviegoers have been afraid to actually watch it — it sounds like one of those “eat-your-veggies” films whose historical importance far outweighs any entertainment value. Well, if you haven’t seen it, you should — not only is Citizen Kane one of the most visually masterful works in the medium, it’s also a fascinating, mysterious portrait of an unknowable man. On his first feature, Orson Welles proved himself to be the ultimate cinematic wunderkind: his direction changed the course of movie history, and his remarkable performance as the orphan-turned-newspaperman-turned-megalomaniac gets at the heart of a remarkable, profoundly flawed man whose riches cannot buy the fleeting happiness he felt as a boy. A spiffy new 70th Anniversary Blu-ray features a new hi-def transfer of the film, and extras include commentaries by Roger Ebert and Peter Bogdanovich, two making-of documentaries, interviews with cast members, and much more. (Amazon’s sweetening the deal with an exclusive package that includes both the new edition of Citizen Kane and Welles’s masterful follow-up, The Magnificent Ambersons on DVD). If you’ve never seen Citizen Kane you owe it to yourself to do so, and if you’ve seen it countless times, here’s another chance to fall under its hypnotic spell.

Star Wars: The Complete Saga – Blu-Ray

Well, here’s what you’ve been waiting for. Since the dawn of HD, Star Wars fans have been chomping at the bit for a new, high quality transfer of George Lucas’s iconic, era-defining saga, and when plans were finally announced, everyone cheered. Then, more and more details began to emerge, about a little change here, a technological update there, and a portion of that initial enthusiasm turned to disdain. Yes, there will be a new CGI Yoda to replace the animatronic one in Episode I, and yes, there is a small dialogue change in a pivotal scene involving Darth Vader, but at the end of the day, it’s still Star Wars, and it’s still awesome, right? On Friday of this week, you’ll be able to purchase either The Complete Saga or separate Trilogy collections on Blu-ray, and you can rest assured that they come with a ton of extras. There is so much bonus material, in fact, that we don’t even know where to begin; click the link above to see its Amazon listing and read through all the extras they’re offering with the collection. In short, if you’re a Star Wars fan (and really, who isn’t, right?), you need to pick this up, and that’s all we’re going to say about that.

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