This week’s DVD/Blu-Ray specialty releases are a mix of films that fared fairly well with indieWIRE critics, so grab the Sno-Caps or the Jiffy Pop and cozy up with this weeks’ new releases. Leading this week’s list of films are Jacques Audiard “A Prophet” (criticWIRE rating: A-) and Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s cowboy/shepherd doc “Sweetgrass” (criticWIRE rating: A-).
Oscar-nominated “A Prophet” got noticed early on from iW’s Eugene Hernandez, who said, after seeing the film at Cannes last year, “Unseen as a lead actor on the big screen until yesterday, twenty-something French actor Tahar Rahim just may own the breakthrough acting performance of the Cannes Film Festival for his star making turn in Jacques Audiard’s “A Prophet” (Un Prophete).” Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, the late Peter Brunette said of the film, “What’s most immediately remarkable about the film is the raw intensity of its hyper-realistic encounters, hugely enhanced by the superb acting of newcomer Rahim.”
On “Sweetgrass,” The New York Times‘ Manohla Dargis, in early 2010, called it, “The first essential movie of this young year,” and added, “The movie truly belongs to the sheep, which turn out to be fascinating, almost hypnotic subjects for the camera, whether they’re comically bleating at one another like rush-hour subway riders or swarming across the range like a single organism. The filmmakers make brilliant use of extreme long shots throughout, inserting breathtaking panoramas into the mix that convey the surrounding grandeur even as the images also suggest that however much man tries to dominate nature, nature prevails.”
This year’s SXSW opener, “Kick-Ass” (criticWIRE rating: B-), also gets a small screen release this week. Dealing with the film’s perceived intention of complicating the superhero genre, Eric Kohn said in his review for indieWIRE, “‘Kick-Ass’ pretends to put the superhero on the couch; instead, it puts him on a pedestal. At one point, [protagonist] Dave concludes that the appeal of comic books stems from ‘a combination of optimism and naivete.’ The movie eventually embraces this notion rather than fully deconstructing it.”
Controversial Europe-stranded director Roman Polanski’s latest film “The Ghost Writer” (criticWIRE rating: B+) gets a dual DVD/Blu-Ray disc release. Writing on the new Polanski film in The Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan commented that the film is “a dark pearl of a movie whose great flair and precision make it Polanski’s best work in quite a while, the 76-year-old director forcefully reminds us what all the fuss was about.”
Two filmmakers, one canonized and one burgeoning, have collections of their early work released today. Criterion’s Eclipse series gives Akira Kurosawa’s first films a package release. The set includes films that run from 1943 to 1945: “Sanshiro Sugata,” “The Most Beautiful,” “Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two,” and “The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail.” Chris Neilson of DVD Talk noted of the set, “None of the films in [the series] constitutes a must-see masterpiece, but all show promise and are entertaining in their own right. Though the first three films in this set suffer from poor audio and visual quality, this bargain-priced set is recommended for Kurosawa fans.” Young Canadian filmmaker Jamie Travis, meanwhile gets a release of his short films via Zeitgeist.
HBO welcomes the dance doc “El Espiritu de la Salsa” to its summer schedule. Also coming home this week (to DVD and/or Blu-Ray): a TCM Spotlight of Errol Flynn Adventures; a few from Roger Corman Cult Classics: “Humanoids from the Deep,” “Piranha,” and a double feature of “Deathsport” and “Battle Truck;” the 40th Anniversary Edition of “Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music;” dark comedy “The Living Wake,” starring Mike O’Connell, Jesse Eisenberg, and Jim Gaffigan; as well as Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo’s Christina Ricci and Liam Neeson-starrer, “After.Life” (criticWIRE rating: C-).
Bryce J. 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.