DVD/Blu-ray Releases — 11/29/2011

 New options for your home viewing this week:

Werner Herzog has exclusive access to Chauvet Cave in the southern part France, where the first known examples of human art are located, and Cave of Forgotten Dreams allows the talkative director to wax philosophical on topics such as spirituality, the human drive to create, and mutated albino crocodiles (Don’t ask about that last one; you kind of have to see how he gets there).  As interesting as his ruminations and the interviews with people who work in the cave are, it is when the film stops talking and simply lets us look at these cave paintings in relative silence that it achieves genuine wonder.  My review is here.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray (with Blu-ray 3D).

Until it starts using the same clichés it so squarely knocks down a few pegs, Friends with Benefits is a lot of fun.  A full-blooded sex comedy that actually allows its characters to follow through on their promise to have a wholly physical relationship without any emotional attachment.  Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are very funny, especially when they’re tangled up in the sheets.  The resulting sex scenes are played purely and effectively for comedy, with few euphemisms and a lot of frankness.  My review is here.  Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and DVD/Blu-ray Combo.

Paul Rudd plays Ned, and he is not an idiot.  He does foolish things, for sure, but Our Idiot Brother is so titled because it’s how his sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer) see him in comparison to their own priorities.  Ned leaves jail (after selling marijuana to a uniformed police officer) and finds himself homeless.  He eventually stays with each of his three sisters and winds up almost wrecking their lives because he wants to do the right thing.  It’s a warm and genuinely funny comedy.  My review is here.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Tucker and Dale vs Evil is a clever reversal of backwoods horror.  It begins by following a group of obnoxious college kids who are on vacation and believe their prettiest friend (Katrina Bowden) has been kidnapped by the titular redneck hillbillies (Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk).  They are really only trying to help her after an injury, but the friends quickly go insane.  The humor, apart from the swap of perspective, comes from the resulting, gory accidents to which the college kids are prone.  There’s a specific spot where the premise begins to fall apart, and the movie begins to fall into the same trap of conventional trappings that it so jovially and brutally skewers prior.  My review is here.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Despite the unique ability of the ticking clock cliché to propel a narrative forward and the fact that the convention is as personal as it gets here (a bomb strapped to the hero’s chest), 30 Minutes or Less lacks a sense of urgency to go along with it.  Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) gets caught up in a murder plot by two losers (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson) and must rob a bank to get money for them.  This material needs a tone of frenzy to accompany the desperate nature of the scenario, and the movie is found wanting.  My review is here.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Set amid the turmoil of the 2008 South Ossetia War between Georgian forces and a coalition of Russian military and separatist paramilitary troops, 5 Days of War follows a journalist (an unconvincing Rupert Friend) as he attempts to bring a woman (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and her surviving family to safety.  The war is reduced to a series of shaky and messily edited chase sequences, as the screenplay fails to offer any substantial context to the conflict, despite repeated cuts to the President of Georgia (Andy Garcia, always on the verge of tears) in his inner sanctum, attempting to provide the background and stopping the movie in its tracks in the process.  My review is here.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Late in the movie, George (Freddie Highmore),the protagonist of The Art of Getting By, calls himself “obnoxious” and “deeply disrespectful;” these are actually some of his more commendable traits.  What really makes George irritating is his status as a generic representation of teenage melancholy and rebellion.  His start-and-stop romance with a fellow student (Emma Roberts) is the focus, and it’s almost as irritating as George on his own.  My review is here.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Speaking of annoying romances, One Day follows two people (Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway) over the course of decades, but it only sees them on one day of each year.  Not surprisingly, the gimmick means we don’t really get a sense of progression in their relationship, and their personal lives shift so dramatically from one scene to the next that we hardly get an idea of them as individuals.  Don’t get me started on the climax, which cheats the characters out of relative stability with a cheap twist of fate.  Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Robert Duvall can play the wise, old mentor in his sleep, and he probably should have in this case.  Seven Days in Utopia tells the story of an angry professional golfer (Lucas Black) who has a nervous breakdown and finds himself in Utopia, where an old golf pro (Duvall) teaches him about how important golf is to life.  Then, after a cheap turn into proselytizing, it turns out golf really isn’t that important, but the movie keeps up the charade with an infuriating Big Game and a maddening finale.  My review is here.  Available on DVD.


About Mark Dujsik

Film critic since 2001. Writer/editor/publisher of Mark Reviews Movies, and contributor for RogerEbert.com and Magill's Cinema Annual. Member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society.
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