RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: The Help and Cowboys & Aliens

Plus, the Wolf Pack is back, a Mossad film is Certified Fresh, and this mission just got a hell of a lot more impossibler.

This week on home video, we've got a handful of big releases that came out earlier this year; while a couple of them did surprisingly well, a couple of them fell far below expectations, and another one pretty much turned out the way we all thought it would. First up is the Emma Stone and Viola Davis-powered drama about race relations, followed by a sci-fi genre mash-up that should have been better than it was. Then, we've got a children's film starring Jim Carrey, a smart retro spy thriller, and the sequel to a wildly popular comedy from a couple years back. In the reissue department, we've got a new Criterion Blu-ray for a Hitchcock classic, a popular franchise box set, and a Blu-ray for an historical WWII epic. See below for the full list!

The Help

76%

What seemed on its surface to be another schmaltzy, pandering examination of race relations turned out to be one of the surprise hits of the year, thanks mostly to the efforts of its terrific cast. Based on the novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett, The Help stars Emma Stone as Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, an intrepid young journalist during Civil Rights era America who decides to write a surely controversial novel about the experiences of black maids from the maids' perspectives. During the course of her interviews, Skeeter befriends her subjects and an unlikely bond develops, lending Skeeter's project a new sense of import and purpose. Though some critics felt the film somewhat glossed over its racial themes, the power of the performances, including superb turns by co-stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, helped to elevate the picture to a Certified Fresh 75%. The Help may not quite be the grand lesson in race relations some might want it to be, but it's a moving look at the era and a worthy adaptation of its source material.

Cowboys & Aliens

44%

Tell anyone you've got an alien invasion movie set in the old west, starring Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, and Olivia Wilde, and directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), and chances are that you'll have the listener's full attention. Too bad, then, that the actual film this describes turned out to be a flop. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Cowboys & Aliens is exactly the kind of genre mash-up that contemporary audiences eat up heartily; 007 himself (Craig) plays a wandering stranger with no memory who stumbles into the New Mexico town of Absolution, only to find that the town's residents don't take too kindly to strangers. However, when a mysterious otherworldly menace begins an assault on the town, the stranger must team up with the local lawman (Harrison Ford) to battle for humankind's survival. So what was the major problem here? Critics felt that, despite appealing performances from Craig and Ford, the film simply shifted its tone too abruptly and too often, never quite settling into a comfortable and effective groove. At 44% on the Tomatometer, Cowboys & Aliens isn't the awesome genre action flick it could have been, but it may still satisfy those in dire need of a fix.

The Hangover Part II

34%

Back in 2009, Warner Bros. had a surprise hit of their own with the raucous bromantic comedy The Hangover, and it was immediately expected that a sequel would follow. Sure enough, two years later, audiences were treated to a second outing with the "Wolf Pack," namely Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis), and Doug (Justin Bartha). If you've heard or read anything about the movie, you know that the typical summary offered is "It's pretty much the same as the first one, except that it takes place in Thailand." This time around, it's Stu who's getting married, so the gang travels back to his fiancee's homeland for the festivities, and again, it's Alan who inadvertently brings about another forgotten night of mayhem that the fellas must piece together the day after. What the first movie had going for it -- namely, the element of surprise and a sense of joyful mayhem -- is largely missing from this sequel, which sports raunchier jokes and a much darker tone. If you don't mind a sense of déjà vu, feel free to dive right in.

Mr. Popper's Penguins

48%

Look, it can't be denied: penguins are adorable. With that in mind, it's quite understandable why there have been so many films in recent years, from documentaries to CGI-animated tales, centered around our most cuddly, flightless friends. And, of course, as demonstrated by other entries in this week's list, adaptations of books are a Hollywood favorite as well, which brings us to Mr. Popper's Penguins. Jim Carrey stars as the titular Mr. Popper, a divorced realtor whose globetrotting father leaves him with crates full of penguins upon his death. Popper decides not to turn the penguins over to the zoo when he observes how much his children love them, and in caring for his new feathered friends, he not only mends his personal relationships, but also succeeds in landing an important and sentimental real estate deal. Based on a children's book from 1938, Mr. Popper's Penguins is pretty standard stuff, which means the plot points are predictable, and there are enough "aww shucks" moments for the kids. The film, however, fails to transcend cliché and become something more, and for that, it sports just a 47% on the Tomatometer.

The Debt

77%

Have room for one more unoriginal story? A remake of the 2007 Israeli film of the same name, The Debt at least does a good job of adapting the original for a new audience. Flashing back and forth between two eras, The Debt tells the story of three Mossad agents who, in 1966, undertook a mission that made them national heroes... But did they really complete their mission, or is there more to the story? Three decades later, having enjoyed a life of some notoriety, the agents must decide whether or not to follow up on their original task, and as more details are revealed, the path becomes more treacherous for all involved. Though the shifts in time may be a little problematic for some at first, critics largely found much to praise in The Debt's smartly executed script and impressive acting. With a Certified Fresh 76% and stars like Tom Wilkinson, Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, Ciaran Hinds, and Marton Csokas filling out the bill, you can be assured this is one thriller that will engage you from start to finish.

The Lady Vanishes - Criterion Collection Blu-Ray

97%

Two years before leaving his native Britain for Hollywood, Alfred Hitchcock made The Lady Vanishes, a deft blend of thrills and laughs that established a formula the master would utilize in his American films. On a train ride from a fictional Central European country to her native England, Iris (Margaret Lockwood) becomes acquainted with an elderly fellow traveler -- who proceeds to seemingly vanish into midair. With the help of musicologist Gilbert (Michael Redgrave), Iris tries desperately to find the old lady, and to prove she's not crazy. Filled with eccentric supporting characters (including Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford, whose characters Charters and Caldicott became a favorite of British audiences) and plenty of suspenseful twists and turns, The Lady Vanishes finds Hitchcock at an early peak. A new Critierion Blu-ray features a fresh transfer of the film, plus a making-of video essay, audio excerpts of a 1962 Hitchcock interview by Francois Truffaut, and Crook's Tour, a 1941 film that re-teamed Charters and Caldicott.

Tora! Tora! Tora! - Blu-ray

59%

A troubled production and a flop at the box office, Tora! Tora! Tora! certainly can't count lack of ambition as one of its faults. A history lesson come to life, the film dramatized the attack on Pearl Harbor from both the American and Japanese perspectives; while many praised its commitment to historical accuracy, others felt the film lacked dramatic heft. The American scenes were directed by Hollywood pro Richard Fleischer, but it was the Japanese scenes that caused headaches for the producers; originally, Akira Kurosawa (!) was to direct, but he backed out, only to be replaced by action director Toshio Masuda and future Battle Royale helmer Kinji Fukasaku (!!). With a cast that includes Martin Balsam, Joseph Cotten, and Jason Robards, as well as Kurosawa and Ozu players So Yamamura and Eijiro Tono, the new Tora! Tora! Tora! Blu-ray is a great stocking stuffer for military buffs on your holiday shopping list; special features include featurettes on the film, behind-the-scenes photos, and commentary from Fleischer.

Mission: Impossible Extreme Blu-Ray Trilogy

For those looking to get primed and ready for the upcoming fourth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise, Paramount is releasing a gift set of all three previous films in the Mission: Impossible Extreme Blu-Ray Trilogy. Most will be inclined to debate on whether the first or third installments were the best, while the John Woo-helmed second film is widely regarded as the worst of the three, but for those looking for a bit of globetrotting spy intrigue, they all pretty much serve their purpose. The three disc set comes with dedicated bonus features for each film, most of which have been previously released on earlier editions, so the big draw here is getting all three together for a pretty decent price. This could make for a pretty decent gift for a fan of the series who has yet to upgrade their collection to hi-def.

Comments

Dave J

Dave J

Just "The Debt" since Helen Mirren is awesome to look at!

Dec 5 - 04:59 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

I'd bust those hips like they was a high school kegger.

Dec 6 - 08:28 AM

David Tanny

David Tanny

I'll check out Hangover Part 2. Loved the first one, so if this is the same movie, I probably won't hate it.

Dec 5 - 05:14 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

I wouldn't say that, man! Part II is virtually the same movie, except that what was funny before becomes incredibly annoying this time out.

Dec 6 - 04:21 PM

Jeffrey C.

Jeffrey Cooperhouse

Agreed

Dec 7 - 10:52 AM

MisterVile

Mister Vile

I thought the same thing at first, but after i saw it i regretted what a said,

Dec 7 - 07:41 AM

David Tanny

David Tanny

Good to know. I won't waist my money buying it then.

Dec 7 - 10:42 AM

Manuel G.

Manuel Granados

Go for a rental when it's super cheap. When you know what is coming next and you can guess all the things they did it stops being funny or amusing.

Dec 7 - 11:00 AM

That Random Albino Kid

Dominic Dold

i didnt exactly expect the transfestite part though. That was REALLY gross!

Dec 7 - 04:39 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

No one suspects the transvestite parts!

Dec 7 - 04:44 PM

Manuel G.

Manuel Granados

Begbie wasn't expecting it either and BAM! Ruined his night.

Dec 8 - 09:29 PM

Kadeem S.

Kadeem Stewart

Well, all of the films are great except for Cowboys and Aliens (a big disappointment), but I should be renting The Helkp and Hangover Part II. I loved the first Hangover, and the second is even funnier. The Help should get a run at the Oscars against Clooney and Shame. Mr. Popper's Pengiuns isn't the best Jim Carrey movie since Ace Ventura Pet Detective, but it's for the whole family. Can't wait for MI:4 Ghost Protocol in theaters before Christmas, and I'll have to wait if I wanted to buy the trilogy.

Dec 5 - 05:38 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Got The Help and The Debt on order because I heard they were awesome but I missed them during their theatrical runs. Disappointed in C&Au and Hangover 2. Hangover 2 had funny bits, but was too close to the original without the consistency.

Dec 5 - 06:23 PM

sunsaz

Chris Moore

The Help is a definite buy. Cowboys & Aliens, Hangover and The Debt are rentals since I missed them in theaters, but I doubt I'll buy them. I still need to see The Lady Vanishes since I'm a huge Hitchcock mark.

Dec 6 - 04:38 AM

Dave J

Dave J

"The Lady Vanishes" was okay during it's time but it has some inconsistencies especially when it involves the villians, "Strangers On A Train" and "The 39 Steps" are way better!

Dec 6 - 04:58 PM

sunsaz

Chris Moore

Agreed that Strangers and 39 Steps were REALLY good. I've pretty much seen all of the must-see Hitchcock films and I want to see what else there is.

Dec 6 - 08:17 PM

Dave J

Dave J

You should watch The Lady Vanishes otherwise it wouldn`t be complete! The other one I liked that's also in black and white similar to 1935 "The 39 Steps" is "Young and Innocent" made in 1937, "Saboteur" & "Topaz" are well made espionage films, even though "Topaz" was more captivating toward the end! "Lifeboat" was quite involving inspired by a Steinback! I`m one of few who liked "Jamaica Inn" which is Hitchcock`s version of Blackbeard!

Dec 7 - 05:22 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

"Jamaica Inn" is redeemed by a strong Ingrid Bergman performance, but "Rope" was the more successful 'continuous shot' experiment. "Lifeboat" was very good. Interesting choice of "Saboteur", but my favorite of Hitch's British films are the ones with Peter Lorre, "Man Who Wasn't There" and "Secret Agent". My recommendations for deeper Hitch would be "Rope", "Wrong Man", "I Confess", "Marnie" and "Family Plot", which is hilarious with nifty performances by Bruce Dern and Karen Black.

Dec 7 - 09:10 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I must have either the Coens or Billy Bob on my brain. That's the second time I referred to "Man Who Knew Too Much" as the "Man Who Wasn't There". Sorry for the inconvenience.

Dec 7 - 09:14 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I also confused "Jamaica Inn" with "Under Capricorn". Sorry again.

Dec 7 - 09:17 PM

Dave J

Dave J

Your tastes are quite interesting but I thought "The Wrong Man" is very outdated and irrevelent considering that they're worst things that happen to people than the situation Fonda was in! And like The Lady Vanishes, their were some incosistencies which is why I liked the James Stewart version of The Man Who Knew Too Much! Even though I like those movies as well I thought the problem with "Secret Agent" and "Family Plot" is that there's a lack of suspense and they both had a releative fair amount of drama before any susupense happens to either of them! And I thought Rope was well made, most notobly for James Stewart's perfomance! Also fascinating is that you seem to remember more Hitchcock films than I do since I remember seeing some of them too, but they seem to be overshadowed by what I think are more superior Hitchcock films such as Rear Window and The 39 Steps!

Dec 8 - 07:13 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

"Rear Window" is the classic Hitchcock, the perfect one to recommend to newbies. "Psycho" and "Vertigo" are better, but "Window" is the most accessible. I just HAVE to disagree that "Wrong Man" is in any way irrelevent. The Senate just voted to indefinately detain US citizens without charge or trial (true story, folks!). Sure, there are worse ways to find yourself - drowing in a vat of tabasco sauce with piranhas - but that doesn't make this any less of a nightmare scenario. I don't want to have to make a spoiler, but think of Vera Miles. I may have seen all of Hitchcock's sound films. Other recommendations are "Foreign Correspondant", "Shadow of a Doubt", "Spellbound", "Notorious", and "To Catch a Thief" (Grace Kelly at her most alluring).

Dec 8 - 11:09 PM

Dave J

Dave J

Respectfully disagree about 'The Wrong Man' though since these days we can identify people by using DNA and not by profiling them depending on the severity of the crime, and what I meant by worst case scenerio is there was once a guy who was wrongfully executed because someone incorrectly accused him of murder and it was the result of DNA that cleared him, except that he was already been executed, so as I recall, all this criminal did was hold up a convenience store which happens all the time and the penalties are usually a slap on the wrist! And agree about the other recommendations of your final paragraph!

Dec 9 - 02:44 PM

Swampfox

Pat Marion

Hangover Part 2 was one of the worst movies I've ever seen. I walked out 30 minutes in and got my refund. Unfortunately, I'll never get 30 minutes of my life back.

Cowboys and Aliens was disappointing to say the least. I loved the whole Western aspect of it, it just didn't mold well together with the science fiction.

I look forward to seeing the Debt, looks like a good thriller.

The MI pack looks like a good buy. I can't wait for the 4th.

Dec 6 - 08:24 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

I'd bust those hips like they was a high school kegger.

Dec 6 - 08:28 AM

MAMOVIES

Matheus Cassiano

Looks like I'm gonna HELP my lover (Emma Stone) and buy her movie.

Dec 6 - 08:30 AM

vegimorph

Erik Carlson

Sheesh, no love for Cowboys and Aliens? I've seen it twice and its a lot of fun. Sure its no Searchers, High Noon, Dollar Trilogy or Iron Man but at least it was trying. I'm definetely getting it for Christmas

The Help was really good but I didn't fully embrace it like other people.

I really want to see The Debt though. It looks really awesome, especially with Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington.

Dec 6 - 08:55 AM

megahew

Bob Smith

I agree, I thoroughly enjoyed Cowboys and Aliens, so I don't really understand all the hate towards it. Yeah, it's not a masterpiece, but it's a solid action movie, I think. Much better than Transformers, anyway.

Dec 6 - 11:13 AM

megahew

Bob Smith

I agree, I thoroughly enjoyed Cowboys and Aliens, so I don't really understand all the hate towards it. Yeah, it's not a masterpiece, but it's a solid action movie, I think. Much better than Transformers, anyway.

Dec 6 - 11:13 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Blah. "Help" is condescending and historically false. The sugar-coating of the setting is only slightly less insulting than the blatant and arrogant disregard for even trying to be accurate in the least. Stockett and many of the films' champions wear their ignorance of the Civil Rights era on their sleeve, as if these issues were minor details standing in the way of a totally hallucinatory faux-history of a preposterous pre-Oprah sisterhood among Southern classes. Stockett has made it very clear that she doesn't give a rat's ass when confronted with several obvious implausabilities, showing an equal disregard to the craft of 'historical fiction'. Of course audiences love it, so they can have a good samaritan fantasy rather than question the privilege of how some people deserve to have someone else's mother raise their children for them. I hope Viola wins an Oscar as retribution for Stockett's treatment of her actual help who she did not pay for appropriating the story about Abilene's child's death. I will not be supporting this film financially in the least. One question about the Hitchcock - given the blu-ray capacity, why couldn't they have put out multiple early Hitch films in one set? These extras are OK, but one disc will probably hold four actual movies - Man Who Wasn't There, 39 Steps,and Blackmail would make a more compelling sell.

Dec 6 - 11:15 AM

Cold P.

Cold Pillow

Do you complain about everything?

Dec 6 - 01:53 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I complain about precisely what I complain about. I go out of my way for specificity. If that seems like 'everything', then you should expand your world-view. I don't complain about Viola Davis, if you noticed with your encyclopedic scope. Perhaps you could share your problem with a specific bitch I've mentioned, if you can find it in the haystack of hate.

Dec 6 - 05:48 PM

Cold P.

Cold Pillow

Okay, so not only are you arrogant, you also do not understand generalities or figures-of-speech. Good job.

Dec 7 - 02:50 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I understand, but do not respect, generalities when employed against me. Generalities tend to be inherently arrogant. So, once again, what's your point? Do you care to defend "The Help", or are you just venting spleen?

Dec 7 - 04:33 PM

Noah James

Noah Kinsey

Totally off-subject, but I put up a comment on the New Yorker section that hopefully makes a clearer picture of why Denby was in the wrong.

Dec 6 - 06:21 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I see. Use the Denby, an indefensible windbag, as your excuse. Well, I can't counter your comment, Noah. Like you point out, it is a legal matter. You sign the paper, you gotta serve that law.

Dec 6 - 07:16 PM

Cold P.

Cold Pillow

Do you complain about everything?

Dec 6 - 01:53 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I complain about precisely what I complain about. I go out of my way for specificity. If that seems like 'everything', then you should expand your world-view. I don't complain about Viola Davis, if you noticed with your encyclopedic scope. Perhaps you could share your problem with a specific bitch I've mentioned, if you can find it in the haystack of hate.

Dec 6 - 05:48 PM

Cold P.

Cold Pillow

Okay, so not only are you arrogant, you also do not understand generalities or figures-of-speech. Good job.

Dec 7 - 02:50 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I understand, but do not respect, generalities when employed against me. Generalities tend to be inherently arrogant. So, once again, what's your point? Do you care to defend "The Help", or are you just venting spleen?

Dec 7 - 04:33 PM

redrooster0

Charlie Voelker

The Debt is at the top of my must see list. Cowboys and Aliens was total crap, I would not recommend it to anyone.

Dec 6 - 03:32 PM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

I have not seen The Help but my wife is a big Emma Stone Fan. I read the book and I didn't like it much, then I grew to hate it from all the hype, then I accepted that people like what I don't necessarily Like and went back to just not Liking The Help much.

Is the Film any good? Is it better? Given the cast of The Help I wouldn't be surprised if it was much better than it's source material.

Dec 6 - 03:59 PM

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