Oh, it's the dog days of summer, alright, with only a few notable theatrical releases making their mark on DVD this week. In fact, the top pick this week is 'In a Better World,' director Susanne Bier's treatise on violence, retribution, family, understanding and forgiveness in the modern world, as exemplified by life in a refugee camp in Africa and in a small town in placid Denmark. The movie won this year's Oscar for Best Foreign-language film. From there, we're left with 'Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family,' more of the same from the prolific playwright-director. But be prepared for September: 'Star Wars' is coming. Read on.

'In a Better World'
What It's About: This foreign import bounces back and forth between an idyllic town in Denmark and a refugee camp in a African country. Anton is a doctor who commutes between these two worlds, and though they're thousands of miles apart, he ends up being faced with conflicts that lead to difficult choices between revenge and forgiveness. In Africa, a brutal warlord murders his people at will; in Denmark, Anton's son -- bullied by older boys in school -- teams up with a new boy in town -- who's greatly troubled by his mother's recent death -- to get even with those who take advantage of others ... with potentially dangerous consequences.

It's Kinda Like: 'The Chocolate War' meets 'The Constant Gardener'

What We Say: This Academy Award winner for Best Foreign-language film is a serious movie for serious moviegoers. Though it's overt message is not subtle -- that violence is the same whether it's committed by an African warlord or by children in Denmark -- there's an underlying current that delves into the nature of understanding and forgiveness. It's here -- aided and abetted by an ensemble of strong performances (especially by the two boys) -- that the film rises above it's moral parable and offers a hopeful prognosis for the human race. A powerful film.

• Extras: Commentary by director Susanne Bier, deleted scenes.
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'Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family'
What It's About: Adapted from the playwright/filmmaker's hit stage play of the same name, 'Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family' finds the cantankerous family matriarch (played by Perry) using her unique brand of tough love to help her family weather some particularly rough waters. There's medical problems, marital disarray, disobedient children, drug rehabilitation and a skeleton in the family closet. Yet through it all, Madea shows that love and laugher can help to overcome even the biggest obstacles.

It's Kinda Like: All the other Tyler Perry Madea outings.

What the Critics Say: Most critics gave this film a drubbing, exemplified by Jim Lane of the Sacramento News & Review: "Tyler Perry goes to the Madea well once too often and comes up dry." Bruce Demara of the Toronto Star opined: "The title is meant to be ironic. Too bad irony is in such short supply in Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family. Sadly, subtlety is also missing." Yet Andy Webster of the New York Times had this to say about the film: "'Family' offers Mr. Perry's signature ingredients: multiple subplots; a Southern setting; and broad comedy, florid melodrama and inspirational Christianity, tossed together with an almost slapdash élan.

• Extras: Behind-the-scenes featurettes.
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August 30 Blu-ray Debuts:
  • 'Blood Simple' (1984)
  • 'Good Will Hunting' (1997)
  • 'Top Gun' (1986)


Other New August 30 DVD Releases:
  • 'The Complete Jean Vigo': Even among cinema's greatest legends, Jean Vigo stands alone. The son of a notorious anarchist, Vigo had a brief but brilliant career making poetic, lightly surrealist films before his life was cut tragically short by tuberculosis at age 29. Like the daring early works of his contemporaries Jean Cocteau and Luis Bunuel, Vigo's films refused to play by the rules. This set includes all of Vigo's titles: 'A propos de Nice' (1930), an absurdist, rhythmic slice of life from the bustling coastal city of the title; 'Taris' (1931), an inventive short portrait of a swimming champion; 'Zero de conduite' (1933), a radical, delightful tale of boarding-school rebellion that has influenced countless filmmakers; and 'L'Atalante' (1934), widely regarded as one of cinema's finest achievements, about newlyweds beginning their life together on a canal barge. From The Criterion Collection.
  • 'Prom': Was Disney trying to create a non-musical 'High School Musical' or a 'Crash' or 'Babel' with several intersecting stories leading up to the most important event at high school -- the prom? It didn't work.
  • 'Skateland': A coming of age tale in the early 1980s about a 19-year-old boy whose life revolves around the skating rink in a small Texas town. Stars Ashley Greene, Shiloh Fernandez.
  • 'Wrecked': Adrien Brody stars as an unnamed man who wakes trapped in a car in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by two dead passengers, a pile of cash and a gun. He has no recollection of who he is or how he got there. Is he an innocent victim? A dangerous criminal? All he knows is he's fighting for his life and his sanity in the middle of the deep woods.


Check out more August 30 DVD releases at OnVideo.