After racking up two Oscar nominations and making a million at the box office, Oren Moverman’s “The Messenger” (criticWIRE rating: B+) is one of Oscilloscope Laboratories’ biggest successes in the company’s young life. This week, the film, which stars Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson as soldiers who must notify next of kin of their loved ones’ deaths in combat, comes home to Blu-Ray and DVD. Blogger Nick Schager sums up his take on the film, “‘The Messenger’ conveys the lingering damage wrought by conflict but, more than that, a universal need for stability and comfort, and if its ending carries with it a whiff of Hollywood hopefulness, it’s a mood that, following on the heels of its humanist portrait of suffering and surviving, nonetheless seems well-earned.
Clint Eastwood’s last foray into directing also plays at home this week. The Nelson Mandela biopic “Invictus” (criticWIRE rating B-) which stars Matt Damon as a rugby player who works with Mandela to unite the post-apartheid nation, received a mediocre response from critics. Writing on indieWIRE, Michael Koresky says, “‘Invictus’ is all grandiose and symbolic, a large-scale, sweeping narrative of historical change that talks big, but ends up not saying much beyond platitudes.”
The Criterion Collection releases two to the world today: Nicholas Roeg’s 1971 tale of two children stranded in the Australian Outback after their father kills himself, “Walkabout” and a collection of five films from Japanese director Nagisa Oshima, “Eclipse Series 21: Oshima’s Outlaw Sixties.” Gordon Sullivan at DVD Verdict praises the Criterion update on “Walkabout” for picture and audio quality, saying of the cinematographer-turned-director, “Roeg marshals his considerable talents as a cinematographer to portray Australia’s vivid (and varied) landscapes.” On the Oshima set, Home Theater Forum‘s Matt Hough says, “His films are often extremely sexual and violent and regularly veer away from conventional norms in terms of cinema technique: nonlinear storytelling, odd experiments with camera placement and sound, surreal episodes dropped in out of nowhere…His movies are an acquired taste to be sure, but these five films represent his style of moviemaking about as well as any, his first films under the banner of his own production company Sozosha.
On HBO, Lance Bangs’s “The Lazarus Effect,” produced by Spike Jonze and Susan Smith Ellis debuts May 24. The film documents the effects of the spread of antiretroviral drugs in fighting the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. On HBO2, Sundance doc favorite “Rough Aunties” from Kim Longinotto, which follows five women as they fight for the rights of children in a South African town, premieres tomorrow, Wednesday May 24.
FilmBuff brings a few new films to VOD this month: tennis documentary “Unstrung,” which features Agassi, Sampras, Roddick, and McEnroe is available exclusively on Amazon VOD. Available on iTunes is the jazz doc “Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense.” “Tickling Leo,” about a Yom Kippur visit turned bad, is available to watch free on Babelgum.
André Téchiné’s “The Girl on the Train” (criticWIRE rating: B), which stars Émilie Dequenne alongside Catherine Deneuve and was inspired by the true story of a falsified anti-Semitic hate crime attack, gets a home release from Strand today. Morgan Spurlock’s FX documentary series “30 Days” receives a Season 3 and Complete Series release. The third season of IFC’s TV sketch comedy show “The Whitest Kids U’Know” is also released today.
New to Blu-Ray this week are Michael Winterbottom’s “9 Songs” and the incredibly oddly paired double-packaged “Tropic Thunder” and “We Were Soldiers” set from Paramount. LGBT film fest faves “Watercolors,” “The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela,” and “Misconceptions” join religious docs “Defamation” and “Waiting for Armageddon” on DVD. Finally, the winner of this week’s best DVD release title: “Mutant Vampire Zombies from the Hood.”
Bryce Renninger, an indieWIRE contributor in the New York office, is also the shorts programmer for Newfest and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Media Studies at Rutgers University. He can be reached via Twitter.