This week on DVD/Blu-ray: One of the most acclaimed gay love stories ever put to film; Asghar Farhadi's critically beloved Oscar-winner; a comedy that reunites Richard Linklater with Jack Black; Dustin Lance Black's directorial debut; and an indie drama starring Josh Lucas.
Making it onto the Criterion Collection's label with only two films under your belt is no mean feat, but with the acclaimed gay romance "Weekend," British director Andrew Haigh has done it. A hit at the 2011 SXSW Film Fesitval where it won the Emerging Visions audience award and found a home at Sundance Selects, "Weekend" depicts a one-night stand that develops into something unexpected and special.
"Revolving around a brief affair between two young men with vastly different perspectives on life, the film operates on a familiar dynamic; however, it works here thanks to the precise alignment of talented actors and a focused screenplay," Eric Kohn wrote in his glowing review. "Humming along on the commitment of its engaging leads, 'Weekend' builds into a powerful encapsulation of an identity crisis over the course of three passionate days."
Extras: New program featuring interviews with Haigh, producer Tristan Goligher, and actors Tom Cullen and Chris New; a new interview with Haigh on the film’s sex scenes; on-set video footage shot by New and others; two scenes from Cullen and New’s audition; a video essay on the film’s set photographers, Oisín Share and Colin Quinn; two short films by Haigh; trailer; plus a booklet featuring an essay by film critic Dennis Lim.
#2. "A Separation"
Asghar Farhadi's Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Language Film concerns a married couple with an 11-year-old child (played by Farhidi's own daughter) who are on the verge of separating. The wife wants to leave Iran with her daughter and start a new life overseas. Her husband doesn’t share her sentiments, preferring to stay in Iran to care for his ailing father. This setup frames the crux of the story, which involves a legal entaglement surrounding a maid hired after the wife leaves the family. Farhadi expertly weaves together a spellbinding tale that plays out like the best of "whodunits." It's an exceedingly ambitious film, one that tackles everything from gender and class roles to the role of religion in modern day Iran. But in the end, the characters are what leave the most lasting impression. Each one rings painfully true.
Extras: An audio commentary with Farhadi; a video Q&A with Farhadi; and the trailer.
"Bernie" marks Richard Linklater's reunion with his "School of Rock" star Jack Black, but it's in no way a retread of their earlier collaboration. Based on a true story, "Bernie" centers on Bernie Tiede (Black), a steadfast and ambitious mortician beloved by the locals in his East Texas town of Carthage for his work ethic and ability to charm anyone he meets. That latter talent comes in handy when he gets to know Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a reclusive millionaire widow despised by everyone in Carthage, including her own family. As depicted by Linklater and co-writer Skip Hollandsworth, there's nothing redeeming about Marjorie (she really is a sourpuss of the highest order), so imagine the townsfolk's collective surprise when Bernie moves in with the grouch, giving up his practice to become her full-time aide. After putting up with her petty and demeaning demands for a good long while, Bernie one day loses his cool and shoots Marjorie in the back four times. Like we said, nothing like "School of Rock."
Extras: Behind-the-scenes featurette; interview with cast and crew; deleted scenes; original theatrical trailer; and four additional trailers of Millenium releases.
Dustin Lance Black makes a move to the director's chair with "Virginia," an oddball Southern tale headlined by Jennifer Connelly. The film, based loosely on Black's own childhood experiences, stars Connelly as a schizophrenic mother engaged in a long-time affair with Mormon sherrif Richard Tipton (Ed Harris). She's struggling to raise her son, who also has the hots for Tipton's daughter (Emma Roberts). The drama received a cool reception at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, forcing Black to enlist a new editor to help salvage a project he'd been working on for seven years. The retooled "Virginia" has its problems (it's tonally a bit of a mess), but the performances are top notch and it's plenty unusual enough to keep it engaging.
Extras: A making-of-featurette.
#5. "Hide Away"
In the indie drama "Hide Away," Josh Lucas plays a businessman haunted by his past and unable to make peace with his demons. Directed by "Smoke Signals" filmmaker Chris Eyre and co-starring James Cromwell and Ayelet Zurer, "Hide Away" serves mostly as a showcase for Lucas, who until now has not been afforded a leading man role worthy of his talents. As an unnamed broken down man dealing with a recent tragedy, Lucas excels. He's the reason to check the movie out.
Extras: Behind-the-scenes footage; making of the film; photo gallery; making-of documentary; and trailer.