HomeVideodrome: 'Real Steel,' Hitchcock Classics, 'Godzilla, and 'Wings'

This week on HomeVideodrome, Hunter reviews Haywire, Shame, and Warrior, Jim has cedar fever, and we plow through a cornucopia of new releases. Head on over to The Film Thugs to check it out.

Okay, so I was a little hard on Real Steel when it came out. Revisiting it, I still stick by most of my criticisms, as I still find it irritating that the intelligence level of the Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo characters varies to insanely disparate levels whenever the script finds it convenient. Goyo’s screechy kid-who-talks-and-thinks-like-an-adult is also excruciating (the fault of the writing and directing, not the child actor), and their robot Atom’s suggested sentience is nothing less than a ploy to attempt to make the audience care whenever he gets pounded on. And no matter how nifty the CGI robot boxing is, nothing can compare to the dramatic potential of two actual humans fighting in the ring for family, country, or dignity. But when it comes to the stock fanboy line of the greatness of “robots hitting each other,” “Real Steel” trumps Michael Bay’s cynical “Transformers” films on every level.

“Real Steel” has a heart that has hints of saccharine, but the film has a touch of middle Americana that is lacking from mainstream movies today, and despite its shortcomings, the father/son story does have a potent emotional core that pays off when it should. “Transformers” has none of these things, as Bay is only interested in boys and their toys, said toys including cars and women. “Real Steelhas higher aspirations that don’t have the stink of pseudo-family-friendly misogyny and vapid materialism.

Hugh Jackman is such a likable lead that he’s laughable when he’s attempting to be unlikable like he is during the first act of “Real Steel”, however Jackman’s potent presence alone keeps this from ever actually hurting the movie. He’s entertaining to watch, even in the worst movies he’s been in, as he was one of the few things that made Gavin Hood’s dreadful “Wolverine” something one could feasibly sit through from start to finish. The humanity Jackman brings as an actor pumps blood into the heart of “Real Steel”, more so than the undercooked boy-and-his-robot sub-plot could hope to. The father/son relationship a the movie’s center is marred by an obnoxious child performance, but it hits the necessary emotional beats that help one overlook the painful dialogue fed to the child actor, as well as the delivery seen as acceptable by the director. Because it it hits those beats, it manages to mask most of its flaws, giving the movie an emotional core that is lacking in most blockbusters.

Steven Spielberg produced a lot of stinkers this year, including Bay’s mindless “Transformers 3”, Jon Favreau’s disappointing “Cowboys & Aliens”, and the empty hype-machine that was J.J. Abrams’s con-job “Super 8”. “Real Steel” is head and shoulders above any of these, coming closest to capturing that “Steven Spielberg Presents” spirit that was once a mark of blockbuster prestige. It doesn’t compare to the likes of “Rocky” or “Warrior”, but it’s one you can watch with the family and have a surprisingly satisfying experience.

Available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Amazon Instant

Other Noteworthy Releases

Godzilla: Ishiro Honda’s kaiju classic comes to Criterion, with transfer from a pristine print that came from a private collection, which promises to be visually leaps and bounds ahead of any version previously available on home video. Both Honda’s original, as well as the American version featuring Raymond Burr, are included.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

The Moment of Truth: A film by Francesco Rosi film about a bullfighter, which gets a Criterion release this week, a good indicator it’s worth seeing.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

50/50: That cancer dramedy with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. I’ve heard good things.

Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Amazon Instant

Paranormal Activity 3: I saw the first one, haven’t had the desire to follow-up with any of the sequels, although the involvement of “Catfish” filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost means I may put it on one drunken evening if it comes to NetFlix Instant.

Available on Blu-ray/DVD Combo and Amazon Instant

Notorious: We’re getting a lot of Hitchcock flicks on Blu-ray this week. “Notorious” is a bona-fide Hitch classic, thanks largely to great performances by Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains. It also sports a deliciously suspenseful climax that never gets old on repeat viewings.

Available on Blu-ray

Rebecca: Hitch’s Hollywood debut doesn’t often get spoken of as a belonging on the list of his great films, but this Gothic tale is certainly a memorably entry in his CV. Hitch and producer David O. Selznick clashed frequently during production, Selznick originally wanted the climactic fire scene to have the smoke spell a giant “R” in the sky, Hitch opted to go with something more tasteful while Selznick was tied up with “Gone With the Wind”.

Available on Blu-ray

Spellbound: Here’s a confession…I haven’t seen “Spellbound”. But it has Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck, so now that it’s out on Blu-ray, it’s time for me to get on the stick.

Available on Blu-ray

Annie Hall: When it rains, it pours. We get two of Woody Allen’s best films on Blu-ray this week. “Annie Hall”, the movie that beat “Star Wars” at the Oscars, started out as a murder mystery that evolved into a study of relationships in the editing room.

Available on Blu-ray

Manhattan: Perhaps the most iconic of Woody Allen’s New York movies, thanks partially to the beautiful cinematography by Gordon Willis and the lovely use of Gershwin’s music. I can’t wait to experience it in high-def.

Available on Blu-ray

Wings: While considered to be the first film to win “Best Picture” at the Oscars, there actually was no such category at the Academy Awards that early on. Wings actually won “Most Outstanding Production”, while F. W. Murnau’s “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” won “Most Artistic Quality of Production” (and rightfully so). But Wild Bill Wellman’s film still deserves its place in the annals of Hollywood history.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

This post originally appeared at Parcbench