Movies Without Pity

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, September 24, 2013

by Ethan Alter September 24, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Spend another two hours with the Man of Steel Iron.

Iron Man 3
After Jon Favreau crapped the bed with Iron Man 2, Marvel Studios kept Robert Downey, Jr. -- their most popular hero and linchpin of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe -- happy by hiring his old buddy Shane Black to oversee Iron Man's third (and potentially final) solo flight. The result is an odd, but enjoyable amalgam of two movies, the first a self-aware subversion of comic book movie tropes and the second an effects-heavy sound and light show in keeping with Marvel's house style. (In other words, the first half is Shane Black's Iron Man 3, while the second is Marvel's Iron Man 3.) Among the distinct touches that Black brings to the material is a storyline that keeps Downey's Tony Stark out of the Iron Man armor for much of the runtime, rat-a-tat-tat conversations that are less overtly jokey than those in the previous Iron Man films (or The Avengers for that matter) and a superbly executed twist involving the identity of the film's ostensible villain, Sir Ben Kingsley's the Mandarin. (The only satirical element Black doesn't pull off is the addition of a kid sidekick that Downey regards with barely-concealed disdain. It's a somewhat amusing idea, executed badly.) But then the brand-conscious studio reasserts its creative control in the homestretch, rolling out a powerful baddie with nebulous plans for Downey to repeatedly punch in a sudden overabundance of Iron Man suits to boost toy sales. The rushed wrap-up is even worse, hurriedly cobbling together an escape hatch for Marvel should they decide not to continue paying Downey after his Avengers sequel commitment is satisfied. Although IM3's $400 million gross suggests that finding a new Stark would be a dicey financial proposition. Kudos to Marvel for allowing Black to bring his own voice to the proceedings, but it's a shame they drowned him out when he was just getting good.
Extras: The bonus features are copious and comprehensive, kicking off with Black's commentary track and continuing on into assorted featurettes (including a behind-the-scenes look at the next part of the studio's Phase 2 plans, Thor: The Dark World), a gag reel, deleted scenes and a short "Marvel One-Shot" film focusing on Hayley Atwell's Agent Peggy Carter, last seen in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to see a What If-style alternate history of Marvel movies

The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector's Edition
Not to be outdone by the House of Ideas, DC releases a lavish Batman box set to compete against Iron Man 3's multiple DVD editions. Spreading Christopher Nolan's three Dark Knight installments across six Blu-ray discs, this release looks to be the final word on one of comic book cinema's defining runs, especially with the impending arrival of Batfleck in 2015. Marvel again at how Batman Begins revitalized a character left battered and bruised by Joel Schumacher and set the stage for Nolan's even more ambitious The Dark Knight, which is hands-down The Empire Strikes Back of superhero sequels. And a year removed from its initial theatrical release, it's easier to forgive The Dark Knight Rises some of its logical lapses (minus the whole "pit in the desert" thing) for its sheer sweep and appropriate sense of finality. So many directors dream about getting to tell the last story of a long-running character and Nolan actually accomplished that. That's an achievement even Ben Affleck and Zack Snyder can't take way.
Extras: Most of the bonus features have been carried over from earlier releases, but there are three new extras exclusive to this set. First up is a fresh retrospective of the entire trilogy with commentary from such folks as Michael Mann and Guillermo Del Toro, followed by a chat between Nolan and Richard Donner, whose groundbreaking Superman picture was a guiding influence on Nolan's vision. You can also watch the IMAX-filmed sequences in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises in standalone sections at their original aspect ratio. And then there are those wonderful toys that include specially commissioned Hot Wheels versions of the Batmobile, Batpod and Tumblr, Mondo-made collectible art cards and a 48-page book. Click here to see an Elseworlds-style alternate history of DC movies

Room 237
We've seen plenty of making-of documentaries detailing the way a challenging film was made, but Room 237 is something new and excitingly unique: a meaning-of documentary. Instead of dwelling on how Stanley Kubrick's contemporary horror classic The Shining came about, Rodney Ascher's film explores the various ways the movie has been interpreted and analyzed in the decades since its release, zeroing in on four or five specific theories advanced by a core cast of armchair theorists. Using clips from the film as well as other archival material to complement (and subtly comment on) their arguments, Ascher doesn't offer a full-throated endorsement or condemnation of any of the ideas -- no matter how crazy -- that are put forward about what Kubrick might have been up to. The point of Room 237 isn't to definitively answer The Shining's riddles; it's to reflect the different way viewers absorb and react to movies (and works of art in general) and, in some cases, warp them to fit their own worldview. It's the kind of movie-about-movies that Kubrick himself probably would have appreciated.
Extras: A commentary track with Kevin McLeod a.k.a. "mstrmnd," a Shining theorist not featured in the movie, a panel discussion from a film festival held at Colorado's Stanley Hotel, which stood in for the Overlook, deleted scenes and additional featurettes.
Click here to see our Q&A with Rodney Ascher

The Kings of Summer
As an attempt to clone the early summer critical and commercial success of Wes Anderson's coming-of-age-in-the-great-outdoors film Moonrise Kingdom, the indie teen drama The Kings of Summer fell short. But on its own terms it's an appealing, if uneven debut feature from Jordan Vogt-Roberts that taps into some of the messiness that comes with being an adolescent fueled more by hormones than common sense. When his overbearing dad (Nick Offerman) finally becomes too much for him, Joe (Nick Robinson) and his equally parental-avoidant pal Patrick (Gabriel Basso) escape into the woods, where they build a makeshift home away from home with the help of their cartoonish buddy, Biaggio (Moises Arias). Their Eden-like existence seems idyllic… until an Eve-ish temptress arrives in the form of the blonde beauty Joe has a crush on, but who has feelings for another. The nuanced, well-observed relationship between Joe and Patrick is by far the movie's strongest asset -- less successful are the broader comic touches that feel commercially motivated rather than an organic part of the story. Even with its rough edges, though, The Kings of Summer provides a pleasant blast of warm weather nostalgia as winter approaches.
Extras: A cast and crew commentary track, deleted and extended scenes, two featurettes and a mash-up of Offerman's funniest one-liners.
Click here to read our original review

Fill the Void
Set in the cloistered world of Orthodox Judaism, Fill the Void follows an 18-year-old girl whose pregnant elder sister suddenly dies in childbirth and, in order to keep the baby in the family, is pressured to marry her widower. Torn between her own personal desires and what her parents (specifically her mother) want from her, the young woman experiences a crisis of conscience that's convincingly rendered, even if the film as a whole is never quite as gripping as you might like. More than anything it provides a detailed window into a world that's rarely glimpsed by outside eyes and that alone makes it of interest.
Extras: A commentary track and separate Q&A with the writer and director.

After 2008's little-seen (but quite good) heist movie The Bank Job, Jason Statham finally tries his hand at a thinking man's action picture with Redemption, the directorial debut of screenwriter Steven Knight. The ex-Transporter plays a veteran of the ongoing Afghanistan conflict, who returns from the battlefront to the mean streets of London. Inspired by a fledgling relationship with a pretty nun, the soldier tries to piece his life back together, putting his skills to use as the personal driver/bodyguard for a Triad gangster. Instead of keeping the ill-gotten gains for himself, he goes all Robin Hood, spending the money he earns on the nun and her various missions. But, as Statham soon learns, the redemption promised by the title proves hard to come by. The Bank Job is a great movie and Statham can be great when he's not kicking ass... but the anemic Redemption isn't the vehicle that proves it.
Extras: A lone behind-the-scenes featurette.

Also on DVD:
We've still got a month to go until Halloween, but the slew of new-to-DVD horror titles has already begun. First up, V/H/S 2 is the quickly-made sequel to last year's terrific found-footage anthology and while the overall consistency of the individual shorts isn't quite as strong as the previous installment, it does feature two of the franchise's standout segments: a clever comic riff on a traditional zombie movie from Blair Witch Project co-director Eduardo Sánchez and, better still, Gareth Evans's dazzling tour-de-force set on the compound of an Indonesian cult where a little baby demon is about to enter the world. The latter film is good enough to sustain its own feature. If you're in the mood for more classic horror fare, John Carpenter's pioneering Halloween: 35th Anniversary Edition gets a high-def and standard special edition that sports a freshly-recorded commentary track with Carpenter and his star, Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as a new featurette that follows Curtis to a horror convention. A batch of previously released extras are also in the mix. Continuing in the Carpenter vein, the director's 1987 chiller Prince of Darkness arrives on Blu-ray for the first time courtesy of Shout! Factory with a new commentary track and interviews with Carpenter and co-star Alice Cooper. (Yes… that Alice Cooper. We're not worthy.) The direct-to-DVD I Spit on Your Grave 2 is a sequel to the 2010 remake of the notorious '70s grindhouse picture. And in unnecessary sequel news, follow the continuing adventures of Norman Bates in the Hitchcock-free Psycho II and Psycho III, making their high-def debuts. If you're not in the mood for horror, you can choose between the period drama Augustine about a French kitchen maid who undergoes a bout of "hysteria" and The Power of Love, a faith-based love story… whatever that means.

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