RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Gravity, Thor: The Dark World, and More

Critical darlings Blue Is the Warmest Color, Nebraska, and Muscle Shoals also available.

by Ryan Fujitani | Tuesday, Feb. 25 2014

After last week's lackluster selection, we bounce back this week with a number of crowdpleasers and acclaimed films, beginning with a blockbuster Marvel sequel and Alfonso Cuarón's multiple award-winning sci-fi thriller. Then we've got Alexander Payne's Oscar-nominated road trip drama, a much talked about French romance, and a solid rock doc, as well as a handful of worthy rereleases and choices on TV. Read on for the full list:

Gravity

97%

It has to be said: if you missed your chance to see Gravity on the big screen (and, arguably, in 3D), you may have missed one of the most impressive cinematic experiences in recent memory. Alfonso Cuarón?s sci-fi thriller has been collecting awards left and right for the past few months, and it's almost certain to win at least a few of its whopping ten Oscar nominations. Sandra Bullock stars as astronaut Ryan Stone, who's left stranded in space with her colleague Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) when their shuttle is destroyed by debris. What follows is a tense, briskly paced struggle for life, as the pair attempt to find a way to make it back to Earth. Critics have raved about Gravity, citing Cuarón's masterful direction, Bullock's superb performance, and the film's top notch special effects. Certified Fresh at 97%, it's more than mere visual spectacle; it's an elegantly simple tale of survival that effectively communicates the white-knuckle terror of being lost in space.

Thor: The Dark World

65%

Kenneth Branagh's familiarity with highbrow drama helped elevate 2011's Thor, but he relinquished the director's chair to Alan Taylor for its sequel, Thor: The Dark World, and despite Taylor's work on acclaimed series like The Sopranos and Game of Thrones, his film didn't fare quite as well. Chris Hemsworth returns as the Marvel superhero, who's compelled to return to Earth when an ancient race of Dark Elves rises up to threaten the universe. Thor is reunited with his human love interest, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), and together with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), they attempt to thwart the destruction of Asgard and the realms beyond. Though critics weren't as impressed with The Dark World as they were with the first film, they still enjoyed the bombastic action and crackling humor (mostly from Hiddleston) enough to award it a 65% on the Tomatometer. It's not one of Marvel's best, but it does enough on its own and further fleshes out the Avengers universe.

Nebraska

92%

As long as we're talking about awards contenders (and we'll be getting more of these in the coming weeks), let's continue with Nebraska. Though some of the early buzz surrounding Alexander Payne's road trip drama has subsided amid high profile awards for Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and American Hustle, it's nevertheless full of towering performances by Bruce Dern, June Squibb, and SNL alum Will Forte. Dern is Woody Grant, a troublesome Missouri man who, upon receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, insists upon driving to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his purported winnings. His son David (Forte) reluctantly agrees, and the two hit the road, stopping along the way to reunite with friends and family and hash out some long-gestating issues. Certified Fresh at 92%, Nebraska has earned Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Dern), Best Supporting Actress (Squibb), Best Director (Payne), and Best Original Screenplay (writer Bob Nelson), so it's probably safe to say it's a worth a watch.

Blue Is the Warmest Color

91%

Periodically, the Criterion Collection will facilitate the initial home video release of a contemporary film; most recently, they did this with Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha last November. Next up is the French coming-of-age film Blue Is the Warmest Color, the 2013 Cannes Palme d'Or winner and critical favorite about a young girl discovering love and sexuality. Adèle Exarchopoulos is Adele, a high schooler who becomes unexpectedly infatuated by a mysterious woman with blue hair she passes on the street and begins to question her sexuality. When she later encounters the woman again, they become friends, then lovers, and begin a complex romance over the course of several years. It's always difficult for an NC-17-rated film to find an audience here in the states, but critics say the BAFTA- and Golden Globe-nominated Blue Is the Warmest Color is an honest, intimate look at modern relationships that explores some universal themes and benefits from powerful acting.

Muscle Shoals

96%

Back in the late 1950s, a few men founded a little music studio called Florence Alabama Music Enterprises (FAME) in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and after some early success, that studio spent the better part of the 1960s and 1970s cranking out R&B and country hits from the likes of Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and many more. In Muscle Shoals, director Greg "Freddy" Camalier endeavors not only to show the wide-reaching impact of FAME Studios, which saw black and white musicians working together in the South right through the Civil Rights Era, but also to explore what it was, exactly, about Muscle Shoals that attracted so many talented people. Critics almost unanimously praised the documentary -- which utilizes interviews with people like Bono, Jimmy Cliff, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, and Gregg Allman -- calling it an entertaining and unflinching look at the famous locale that makes for essential viewing for any music fan. Certified Fresh at 97% on the Tomatometer, Muscle Shoals is a compelling introduction for novices, filled with interesting stories told by industry legends.

Also available this week:

  • The Crash Reel (96%), a Certified Fresh documentary about Olympic snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who suffered a life-threatening blow to the head but refused to stay down.
  • French import You Will Be My son (89%), a drama about an aging vineyard owner who must decide whether to turn his business over to his son or another man he considers to be more like himself.
  • Narco Cultura (88%), a documentary about Mexican drug traffickers and their strange influence on pop culture and music.
  • Mr. Nobody (69%), starring Jared Leto and Diane Kruger in a non-linear sci-fi drama about a 118-year-old man who may or may not have achieved mortality reflecting on his life.
  • In addition to Blue Is the Warmest Color, Criterion is releasing three more films this week: Steven Soderbergh's King of the Hill (97%) and Roman Polanski's Tess (82%) are both available for the first time, while Jean-Luc Godard's celebrated classic Breathless gets a new DVD/Blu-ray combo pack.

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