This week on home video, our big new releases are upstaged by the smaller indie films and the old classics being reissued. While Leap Year and Nine underperformed both critically and commercially, a couple of smaller films received higher marks. In addition, some of the classic films we’ve come to love, including a couple of iconic romances and a gritty interpretation of World War II, get spiffed up for Blu-Ray versions and one fan-friendly package with some great special bonuses. Not really the week to come looking for recent stuff, but if you take a look at the list, you might just find something appealing nonetheless.
Amy Adams is one of those actresses who exudes a sort of likable charm, and she’s proven her versatility in a variety of roles and smart acting choices. Even in critically panned films like the Night at the Museum sequel, she usually seems able to elevate herself beyond the material. Leap Year serves as an example of this, as critics largely dismissed the film but also noted that Adams was as lovable as ever. The story revolves around a woman (Adams) who flies to Ireland to take advantage of an Irish tradition and propose to her boyfriend on February 29th. When a storm forces her flight to Wales, she pays a gruff innkeeper to drive her to Dublin, and the two discover they have chemistry along the way. Many felt that Leap Year‘s plot contained far too many clichés to offer any surprises, but Adams’s charms may be enough for some to look past the formulaic script. In any case, it’ll be lining your video store shelves this week.
Despite boasting a few big names, The Tooth Fairy failed to impress critics, and just a little over three months past its opening, here it comes on home video. What’s unfortunate is that, like Leap Year, this cast is just so darn likable. We’ve all seen Dwayne Johnson stuffed into that ridiculous fairy costume and sporting that toothy grin on bus stop ads — it may not be pretty, but he still seems like a pretty cool cat. Ashley Judd and Julia Andrews are a couple of Hollywood darlings themselves, and honestly, who doesn’t like Billy Crystal? (Okay, don’t answer that.) Critics simply didn’t feel that the script — about a violent minor-league hockey player sentenced to two weeks as an official tooth fairy — offered any punch, despite the charisma of its actors. It’s a goofy comedy of the lowest order, but if your desired audience is young enough, this will probably make decent entertainment for them for a while.
In 1963, celebrated Italian director Federico Fellini made what many consider to be his masterpiece, a semi-autobiographical film called 8 1/2 about a movie director struggling for inspiration who retreats into his dreams and fantasies. This film went on to inspire many others, and in 1982 it was adapted into a stage play titled Nine. In a rare and unique twist, film and stage musical director Rob Marshall (Chicago) then adapted the 1982 play back into film for 2009’s Nine, featuring an all-star cast that included Daniel Day-Lewis (as the troubled director), Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson and more. So it was a surprise when the reviews came in and revealed that Nine was uninspired at best, chaotic and clumsy at worst — and it was more often the latter. Sitting at 37% on the Tomatometer, Nine may represent somewhat of a missed opportunity, but those who enjoy the spectacle of Broadway still might find novelty in Rob Marshall’s vision.
Francis Ford Coppola may never be able to duplicate what he accomplished during the 1970s with films like The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, and the first two Godfather installments, but at least he’s back in the director’s chair. After a decade of working as a producer, Coppola stepped behind the camera for 2007’s Youth Without Youth, which performed poorly both from a critical and commercial standpoint. With last year’s Tetro, however, Coppola managed at least to get the critics back on his side. The story about a pair of brothers from an Italian immigrant family living in Argentina earned a 68% on the Tomatometer, and critics especially noted the visual style of the film and its emotional resonance. It may not be The Godfather, but it is Francis Ford Coppola both writing and directing, and it has a decent Tomatometer score, so it’s safe to say it’s probably worth a watch, particularly if you’re a fan.
It can be difficult for a director to break out of a genre if he’s established a reputation for it, and this difficulty can be increased if the genre jump is too far. Regardless of this, Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa) flew in the face of expectation and, despite primarily being known for his J-horror flicks like Cure and Pulse, decided it was time for him to try his hands at good old-fashioned comedic drama. Luckily, it seems he knew what he was doing: the story about a family man who is fired from his job, but continues to leave home for work every morning, managed to earn an impressive and Certified Fresh 94% on the Tomatometer, with critics praising its creative portrayal of family dynamics and identity. Unfortunately, this is one of those foreign films that failed to gain a very wide audience here, so there’s a good chance you never got the opportunity to see Tokyo Sonata. In any case, pick it up this week on home video, and you can see what impressed the critics so much.
Based on the 1957 Russian novel of the same name by Boris Pasternak, David Lean’s Dr. Zhivago is an enduring cinema classic that won five of the ten Academy Awards for which it was nominated. Set against the backdrop of early 20th Century Russia, the film stars Sir Alec Guinness as Yevgraf Zhivago, the half brother of the title character (played by Omar Sharif) who, through a search for Dr. Zhivago’s illegitimate son, uncovers the man’s history in flashbacks. Co-starring the likes of Julie Christie, Rod Steiger, and Tom Courtenay, who received a Best Actor nod for his performance, Dr. Zhivago was a commercial success, despite some initial grumblings from the critical community that discouraged Lean so much he almost quit the business. Now that the film has aged a bit, it has risen in popular opinion, and its influence on culture and cinema cannot be denied. It’s a bona fide classic, and it’s now available on Blu-Ray in a 45th Anniversary Edition, complete with tons of special features, so you can witness the epic romance and its sweeping landscapes in all their high-def glory and learn all about its creation, its inspiration, and its influence in the process.
When Steven Spielberg first unveiled his epic World War II film Saving Private Ryan to the moviegoing public in 1998, it received a good amount of attention for its ultra-realistic portrayal of wartime violence, particularly its opening battle scenes on Omaha Beach. The film went on to net eleven Academy Award nominations, winning five, and marked the first of several modern war films that bore its distinct influence. Saving Private Ryan stars Tom Hanks in the role of Captain John Miller, an army ranger tasked with the recovery of the last surviving son of the Ryan family, who has already lost three of his brothers in the war. With an acclaimed supporting cast that includes Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Paul Giamatti, Jeremy Davies, Matt Damon, and more, the film earned a Certified Fresh 90% and remains one of the most popular World War II films. This week, it gets the high definition treatment as it arrives on Blu-Ray with over three hours of special features, so be prepared to cover your eyes when the guts and severed limbs show up on your screen in extra crisp detail.
Perhaps prompted by the passing of Patrick Swayze last year, Lions Gate is releasing a newly remastered edition of Dirty Dancing in a Limited Keepsake Edition this week. The film is a staple of 80s romance, telling the story of two star-crossed lovers from different social classes who fall in love through their dancing, and it maintains an iconic status in the careers of all those involved. This new Keepsake Edition not only includes a 52-page hardcover book, but also a $50 gift certificate to stay at the real resort where the movie was filmed (Mountain Lake Hotel in Virginia) and several brand new DVD extras. As a thoughtful touch, the bonuses include a few items dedicated to Patrick Swayze, including a tribute, as well as a copy of Eleanor Bergstein’s script. Know someone who’s a fan? They will love this.