Matthew McConaughey is so good in Dallas Buyers Club (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, VOD, On Demand) that he shows up the limitations of this based-on-true-events drama. McConaughey lost a lot weight to play Ron Woodroof, a Texas electrician and rodeo rider in the late 1980s whose reckless lifestyle leaves him with AIDS, a diagnosis this redneck homophobe denies vehemently before educating himself on the disease and the dangers of the early treatments.
It’s a story of outcasts and mavericks who pursue an alternative approach to fighting AIDS outside of the oversight and restrictions of the FDA and the AMA, or at least that’s how it presents itself. That it succeeds with so many audiences is testament to the way director Jean-Marc Vallée puts us in Ron’s perspective as his body breaks down, and to the performances by McConaughey and Jared Leto. McConaughey plays up his drawling charm without losing the con man and bigot under the denial and self-destruction of Ron, and his turnaround isn’t a matter of evolution so much as survival. Leto is equally good as Rayon, a transsexual in the midst of reassignment regimen who teams up with Ron to set up the “buyers club” to bring medication in from Mexico. They both earned Oscar nominations and Golden Globe wins for their work.
The rest of the cast of characters are just there to prop up the script’s narrative needs. Jennifer Garner’s sympathetic doctor ends up in the generic supportive girlfriend role to the unlikely activist Ron (even though she’s not really his girlfriend) and Denis O’Hare’s establishment doctor is so blindly obedient to the drug companies that he refuses to look at studies on the side effects and toxic properties of AZT. The film takes Ron’s side unilaterally in its portrait of the FDA, the medical profession, and big pharma as a cabal stifling innovation and suppressing contradictory research on the “wonder drug” AZT. There is probably an interesting story on the politics and medical controversy over the drug to be explored, but it’s nowhere to be found in this script, which nonetheless received a nomination for Original Screenplay. It earned six nominations in all, including Best Film.
The Blu-ray and DVD editions both include the featurette “A Look Inside Dallas Buyers Club” and deleted scenes.
About Time (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD) is a romantic comedy with a time-travelling hero (Domhnall Gleeson) who uses his family gift (it happens to all the men in the family—that’s as much an explanation you get) to get a girlfriend and make her the happiest woman in the world. Call it the “Groundhog Day” of British romcom, with an emphasis on the rom. I mean, this likable, bumbling schlub sets his sights on Rachel McAdams (gorgeous even under the most unflattering makeover) and then hits the rest button on his first date repeatedly until he gets it right (meaning, mostly, great sex) and wins her heart (because, again, great sex).
If the Richard Curtis sensibility does it for you (like, say, Love Actually) then you might dig this, but the wish-fulfillment fantasy comes with almost no struggle and the most emotional scenes involve his dad (Bill Nighy, who proves once again his presence can elevate anything). Wolf of Wall Street fans note Margot Robbie in a small role. Features director and cast commentary, deleted scenes and music videos. The Blu-ray has three exclusive featurettes and a bonus DVD and UltraViolet Digital HD copy.
Escape Plan (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD, On Demand) teams up Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger and sends the leathery old action icons on an elaborate escape from a high-tech “inescapable” prison. It comes with commentary and featurettes.
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital HD, On Demand) is a coming-of-age story by way of a survival drama, about two young brothers surviving on the streets of New York in the summer after their mother is arrested;
Romeo and Juliet (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD) gets a new take with Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld as the star-crossed young lovers;
Freebirds (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand), an animated feature about time-traveling turkeys, did not find a Thanksgiving audience;
Mother of George (Oscilloscope, DVD) stars Danai Gurira (of The Walking Dead) and Isaach De Bankole as a Nigerian couple in New York City.
VOD / On Demand exclusives:
If you’re working to catch up on all the nominated films before Oscar night, be sure to note that Foreign Language Film nominee The Broken Circle Breakdown (Tribeca) from Belgium is available via Cable On Demand a month before it comes out on disc.
Also On Demand weeks before disc is the biopic Diana with Naomi Watts.
The Art of the Steal, a Canadian heist comedy with Kurt Russell, Matt Dillon and Jay Baruchel, debuts on Cable On Demand on Friday, February 7, in advance of its American release (it already played Canadian theaters). Also arriving on Cable On Demand on Friday is After the Dark, the same day it debuts in theaters.
A Case of You (IFC, Blu-ray, DVD)
Baggage Claim (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD)
Nuit #1 (Adopt, DVD)
It’s Not Me I Swear (First Run, DVD)
The Divorce (RLJ / One Village, DVD, Digital)
Finding Faith (eOne, DVD)
Code Red (eOne, DVD)
Banshee Chapter (XLrator, DVD, Digital)
House of Versace (Lionsgate, DVD)
To Dance Like a Man (First Run, DVD)
The Song Within (First Run, DVD)
Pride and Perseverance: The Story of the Negro Leagues (Lionsgate, DVD)
McConkey (Anchor Bay, DVD)
Scorned (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD)
Wings (Lionsgate, DVD, VOD, On Demand)
From Above (Vertical, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD)
Pit Stop (Wolfe, DVD)