What to Watch: Aug. 27-Sept. 3, 2013

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

CHICAGO – This week’s What to Watch on DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix, Amazon, On Demand and more is another seemingly random hodge-podge of offerings that you can use to guide your way through the new releases shelf at Best Buy, the On Demand section on Vudu, the store on iTunes, various online DVD retailers and maybe even Netflix and Hulu. Pick your favorites. This is the way we’d rank them if you have a free night or money to burn this week.

Ain't Them Bodies Saints
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Photo credit: IFC Films

“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”

David Lowery’s beautiful drama was covered more thoroughly in our theatrical review and opens tomorrow at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago (and we’ve already run Matt Fagerholm’s interview with the writer/director) but you can actually watch it now On Demand and so we wanted to included it in What to Watch. (Another well-received Sundance flick made its On Demand debut recently as well — read Adam Fendelman’s review of “A Teacher”). This very Terrence Malick-inspired drama stars Rooney Mara & Casey Affleck as a pair of law-crossed lovers and the great Ben Foster as a cop caught in the middle.

From my Sundance experience with the film: “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” is a smokey glass of whiskey, a film that you need to savor and allow its effects to kick in after the glass is empty. Consequently, it’s a rough film to consider in the middle of a film fest as you’re running to catch a shuttle or do an interview. I need to dissect it, analyze it, dream about it. And I need to see it again. My first thoughts are simple — there are so many great elements, especially Ben Foster’s stunning supporting performance (his second great turn after “Kill Your Darlings”) and Bradford Young’s incredible cinematography, that it has to be recommended.

I’ve seen it again. You should too.

Where to Watch: On Demand

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Photo credit: Disney

“The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”

Disney has been unleashing films from their vault over the past few weeks, releasing new HD editions of “Robin Hood,” “Oliver & Company,” “The Sword in the Stone,” “Peter Pan: Return to Neverland,” and “The Muppet Movie.” Now you can add “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh,” one of the most beloved animated films of the ’70s to the list of Disney Blu-rays that your kid might want to celebrate his return to school. This brief gem captures the spirit of A.A. Milne’s creation in a way that it’s become the definitive version that most people think of when they imagine Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, and the rest of the gang. It led to four other “Pooh”-related theatrical features, including the great 2011 “Winnie the Pooh.” The transfer here is great, having a digital copy is nice, and the release is packed with extras, including several short films to please “Pooh” fans. And who’s not a “Pooh” fan?

Special Features:
o Pooh Play-Along: The Narrator invites you to play along with Pooh and his pals.
o 5 Mini Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh Shorts
-If I Wasn’t So Small
-Piglet’s Drawings
-The Expedition
-The Honey Songs
o A Day For Eeyore
o The Story Behind The Masterpiece
o Music Video: “The Winnie The Pooh Theme Song”

Where to Watch: Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, iTunes (purchase only)

Shadow Dancer
Shadow Dancer
Photo credit: Magnolia

“Shadow Dancer”

James Marsh’s “Shadow Dancer” is an old-fashioned, finetuned thriller with great performances throughout, especially those of Andrea Riseborough, Clive Owen, and Gillian Anderson. It’s not overly inspired but sometimes it’s not the originality of the tune but how well it’s performed that matters.

From my theatrical review: “As much as I love many of the individual ingredients of “Shadow Dancer,” I do wish they worked to something a little greater as a whole. The film lacks a bit of narrative thrust, almost too slow in its burn and not explosive enough in its finale, but that’s because it’s a thriller that demands character consideration and doesn’t present easy answers.

Blu-ray Special Features:
o Behind the Scenes of Shadow Dancer
o Cast and Crew Interviews
o AXS TV: A Look at Shadow Dancer

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes

No Place on Earth
No Place on Earth
Photo credit: Magnolia

“No Place on Earth”

Part documentary, part harrowing recreation, Janet Tobias’ film captures a very rare and previously untold chapter in the history of the Holocaust, chronicling how people actually built a community underground to escape prosecution from the Nazis. The Blu-ray is nicely accompanied by a strong selection of special features, not that common for little films like this one but Magnolia is one of the best studios out there right now for arthouse product.

From Patrick McDonald’s theatrical review: “This is a talking head documentary, and is a bit more interesting when the actual people are telling their stories, and not when actors are re-creating it. Tobias was careful to keep it as authentic as possible when using the dramatic substitutions, and seeks an empathy with the survivors by creating an atmosphere of low light and claustrophobia within the cave. Re-creations can be distracting in a documentary, and in this case there are a few points when the events become disconnected from the actors replaying them.

Special Features:
o The Stermers After The War
o Korolowka Before The War
o More About Life In The Cave
o Food
o The Children
o David Blitzer (Sima’s Husband): His Holocaust Story
o Harold Hochman (Sonia’s Husband): His Holocaust Story
o Chris Nicola Adventure Caving in Slovakia
o Chris Nicola Adventure Caving in the USA
o Photo Galleries
o Trailer

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes

Pain and Gain
Pain and Gain
Photo credit: Paramount

“Pain & Gain”

Paramount almost always loads their major Hollywood Blu-rays up with spectacular special features but “Pain and Gain,” the often-clever but ultimately frustrating stab at comedy from Michael Bay, comes without a single piece of bonus material. Weird, right? The movie doesn’t work for me as well as it does for some fellow critics but it’s the kind of thing that one could easily describe as a “fun rental on a Saturday night.” The cast is incredibly charismatic & beautiful, the settings are gorgeous, and the story has that too-crazy-NOT-to-be-true viibe that makes for a good time after a long week at work. It’s weird to me that Paramount couldn’t scrape up a single deleted scene, interview clip, or any sort of featurette to accompany the movie for true fans. Maybe there will be a special edition somewhere down the road.

From my theatrical review: “A bloated running time, Bay’s problems with pacing, and a pretty juvenile script hold it back from truly clicking but there is enough manic energy to this larger-than-life story that it could practically numb one into thinking it connects as well as it should.

Special Features:
o None

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes

The Reluctant Fundamentalist
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Photo credit: IFC Films

“The Reluctant Fundamentalist”

A stellar cast carries Mira Nair’s adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s novel although the Blu-ray of this hard-to-find film (you can’t get it on iTunes, Vudu, Netflix, etc.) comes home a bit lackluster, with hardly a single special feature. As for the film itself, our dear Patrick McDonald liked it, saying in his theatrical review: “The film rises through the performance of Riz Ahmed as Changez. He succinctly characterizes the innocence of a young college student, the ambition of a career climber and the haunted, searing look in Changez’s eyes after his life collapses. It is truly a rocky path for the character, one that creates an understanding for the dilemma he faces. Changez can choose to completely “Americanize” himself, and continue to create income for himself and his employers, or try to understand who he is in a societal atmosphere suddenly against him. All his decisions make sense, he is a character of deep integrity, and Ahmed’s portrayal brings Changez to life.

Special Features:
o Making of
o Trailer

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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