This week on home video, we’ve got the second installment of the successfully rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise, a feelgood drama from Lasse Hallström, and a claustrophobic found-footage horror film to kick things off. Then, we’ve got a couple of Certified Fresh TV shows, a few indie flicks, a rerelease of a Holiday favorite on DVD, and a newly remastered classic starring Jimmy Stewart. Read on for details:
If you were as disappointed by Tim Burton’s 2001 Planet of the Apes reboot as half the critics were, then 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes probably went a long way toward making you feel better about the future of the franchise. Thanks to glowing reviews and a smartly told origin story, we got part two of the reinvigorated series this year with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which finds the human race fighting to survive in the aftermath of a “simian flu” that has wiped out much of humanity while Ceasar (a mo-capped Andy Serkis) and his tribe of intelligent apes flourished in the meantime. Jason Clarke represents a community of San Francisco survivors in search of a power source located in ape territory, and though Ceasar sees benefit in maintaining peace with the humans, an angry chimpanzee named Koba challenges his authority and seeks to eradicate the human threat. Critics raved yet again, sending Dawn to a Certified Fresh 91 percent Tomatometer score in recognition of the film’s intelligent, ambitious, and surprisingly emotional script, as well as its skillful use of immersive visual effects. The Blu-ray comes with a number of featurettes, including a look at the production design, the community of apes, the special effects, and an interview with Andy Serkis, among other things.
Lasse Hallström has proven in the past that he can make schmaltzy stories work, and though The Hundred-Foot Journey isn’t quite the equivalent of cinematic haute cuisine, critics still thought it was fairly hearty. The film tells the story of Hassan (Manish Dayal), a young Indian ex-pat chef living in France whose family opens an Indian restaurant across the street from a classical French restaurant run by the fierce, calculating Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). As a feud ensues between the two, Hassan falls for Mme Mallory’s sous chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), and soon Mme Mallory herself begins to see Hassan’s potential as a fine chef. This is familiar narrative territory — even for Hallström, who helmed the thematically similar Chocolat — but Helen Mirren is a joy to watch, and Hallström knows what he’s doing, so critics awarded it a 67 percent on the Tomatometer. Special features include an interview with producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey discussing what drew them to the project, a look at the production design and the transition process from page to screen, and, as a nice little culinary bonus, a little how-to video recipe for coconut chicken.
Being trapped underground can be a frightening experience in and of itself, but being trapped underground in the catacombs? You’d think that would add an extra level of freakout to the proceedings. Not so, say the critics, at least not in the case of As Above, So Below, the Paris-set chiller by director/screenwriter duo the Dowdle brothers, who remade the Spanish zombie flick [REC] as Quarantine. As Above follows a group of intrepid explorers who venture into the catacombs of Paris in search of a legendary alchemical catalyst and stumble upon inexplicable supernatural forces. As Above, So Below begins intriguingly enough despite its found footage trappings, say critics, but like many other subpar horror films, it devolves into a barrage of genre clichés executed with little panache. Special features on the release include just one making-of doc.
The Congress (76 percent), starring Robin Wright and Harvey Keitel in a half-animated meta sci-fi drama about an aging actress who agrees to have her image digitally recreated so that she can continue starring in films.
Field of Lost Shoes, starring David Arquette and Lauren Holly in a drama about a group of teenagers who are recruited to fight in the Civil War.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (92 percent) is getting a new 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition DVD release, which includes the TV special It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown.
Season one of the Certified Fresh FX sci-fi series The Strain (87 percent), produced by Guillermo Del Toro, is available.
The first season of Comedy Central’s Certified Fresh Broad City (95 percent), starring Abbi Jacobsen and Ilana Glazer as a couple of slackers living in New York, is also available.
And finally, Frank Capra’s 1939 classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (94 percent), starring Jimmy Stewart as the titular idealist who’s tapped as an interim senator and attempts to take on his corrupt opponents, is getting a 4k remastered Blu-ray with several special features, including a booklet featuring a new essay on the film.