New on DVD & Blu-Ray: August 27, 2013

We have another solid week of DVD releases, by my estimations anyway, with films from Venice, Cannes and Criterion, the third of which has released two titles worth checking out this week. It makes the job of discerning the worthwhile releases from disposable fare a lot easier, so let’s take a look at five DVD/Blu-Ray releases most worth your money this week.

Top 5 Releases

At Any Price5. At Any Price (2013)

Venice didn’t react with much enthusiasm about Ramin Bahrani’s latest, though if you’ve seen it you’ll notice that it doesn’t strike one as necessarily a festival premiere as others. About the owner of a farming business and his son who wants to do nothing but get as far away from home as fast as possible, quite literally through Nascar racing. Business issues, infidelities and catastrophic accidents ensue, and it actually comes across with a few fond emotional touches. You may also find incredible relief in Dennis Quaid finding another well tuned conduit for his gruff, slimy facial mannerisms, turning in one of the more punctuated performances of his career. Zac Efron’s not bad either, but this isn’t the showcase that’ll raise him out of his Disney star image.

The Great Gatsby4. The Great Gatsby (2013)

We’ve had three opinions on Baz Luhrmann’s latest film sound off at the site, from Justin’s middling review to Alex’s similarly trepidatious Quick Take to my own loving embrace of Luhrmann’s core cinematic values. The film has proven as divisive here as it has for critics on the whole, but very few seem to absolutely love the film. Even for all my appreciations of the passion Baz paints onto the screen, I can’t quite say I adored it, with reservations popping up here and there and bringing the film down a bit in my estimations. It’s still the sort of gorgeous vision one doesn’t normally see make it to mainstream cinema, much less get a significant modicum of financial success. If you haven’t caught onto it, do remedy that soon.

To Be or Not To Be3. To Be or Not to Be (1942) – Criterion Collection Blu-Ray

Consider this more of an odd-ball pitch from Criterion, an outlet known for pushing both stunning masterworks and less expected cult features. “During the Nazi occupation of Poland, an acting troupe becomes embroiled in a Polish soldier’s efforts to track down a German spy.” So reads the film’s IMDb synopsis, which sounds like satirical antics in the WWII era, raising comparison to Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. Needless to say this seems more dialogue driven than any Chaplin film, so it may prove the kind of robust surprise we always hope out of Criterion’s less obvious releases.

Love is Colder Than Death2. Eclipse Series 39: Early Fassbinder

Amongst the many legendary directors with a massive supply of films we’ve yet to see at the site is Rainer Werner Fassbinder, a German director who made well over 30 feature length films in his lifetime and plenty worthwhile short films as well. His most well known film in many circle is World on a Wire, but if you’re as new to his works as we are, you may want to start out with this Eclipse Series entry, providing us with his five first feature length films. If you are well versed in his work, then you’ll probably see no reason not to add this to your collection. You also may want to check out Film.com’s list ranking all his films from worst to best. It may well be a worthwhile read.

Pain & Gain1. Pain & Gain (2013)

No, I am not trolling here. I’ll make no illusions to the fact that I actually have a great deal of admiration for Michael Bay as a filmmaker, even at his most absolute ugliness, as with the first two Transformers films, rounding his work into an auteurist package of satirical machoism. I felt Transformers: Dark of the Moon was a quantum leap forward of blockbuster spectacle, but Pain & Gain may well be the film he was put on this earth to make. Opting for juiced-up satire on the sort of Martin Scorsese vein of rise-and-fall crime sagas, the film is a collage of all the ignorance, rudeness and everyday insanity that causes such crazy, hard-to-believe crimes to happen so often. In other words, it’s hot & big, repeated hilariously & gratuitously over two hours.

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There’s a good deal of 2013 indies left to check out if you have difficulty buying that Pain & Gain is the best there is. The documentary Koch, focusing on recently deceased NYC Mayor Ed Koch could be a worthwhile, timely experience. Foreign Language Oscar nominee Kon-Tiki hits shelves, I assume with both the American and Norwegian versions intact, unless the Weinstein Company denied the original version to American audiences entirely. Fashion documentary Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s sounds like it may have a tongue-in-cheek quality to it. Finally there’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, last year’s Venice Film Festival opener, to show just how grim the atmosphere around last year’s festival was in comparison to this year, where Gravity is already picking up insane raves.

Streaming Pick of the Week

After LuciaAfter Lucia (2013)

Instant Streaming via Netflix (Titled Después de Lucía)

A lot of stunning 2013 films have recently hit Netflix that we’ll almost certainly be recommending to you over the coming weeks. For this week, though, I’m picking a film our lead editor Alex Carlson listed in our Best Films of 2013 So Far Q&A back in July. As he wrote then, “The film is brutal in its depiction of abuse and Franco shoots everything at a detached distance with long, uninterrupted shots. It’s a beautiful and devastating film that reveals the endless cycle of violence that comes from the desire for revenge.” I actually agree with nearly everything he said about the film. I may have my own reservations about how the film’s acts of humiliation and reciprocated violence may stretch rationality to an extent, but the impact of its devastating final scene pays that off well. It’s definitely a film worth seeing before the year is out.

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  • Justin Jagoe

    To Be or Not to Be would be my #1 this week. A hilarious, wonderful movie. I feel like Ernst Lubitsch is slowly getting forgotten as a great auteur, getting overshadowed by his protege Billy Wilder.

    The Dissolve has a great piece on the movie this week: http://thedissolve.com/reviews/164-to-be-or-not-to-be/

  • Knowing some of the things that have happened to actual high school students in bullying situations, I don’t see any stretch of rationality in After Lucia. I also see the ending more as a demonstration of the evil that occurs when revenge fantasies are acted upon. Rational or not, the effects are devastating to so many.

    • Duncan Houst

      I suppose it’s not the rationality of the real life connotations of bullying as much as how I bought the characters’ transitions to those harsh decisions. They’re kind of hollowed out shells, though it’s admittedly tough not to feel that way after going through what they did. In any case, it’s a heavy wallop of a film.

  • I am surprised with that #1 pick but even more surprising is the sudden change of positive reviews its been getting over at Letterboxd. I am not a Bay hater mind you, i don’t appreciate his work but i hate trolling on filmmakers. Still, not sure if i am interested in catching up this movie.

    Yet to see The Great Gatsby, not interested in At Any Price. Unfamiliar with Lubitsch and only seen one Fassbinder movie.

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