New DVD Releases

This Week In DVDRemember rushing to your neighborhood Blockbuster every Tuesday to browse the New Release aisles? Remember Blockbuster? Well thanks to the magic of the interwebs you can now browse new titles from home! Each Tuesday, Rob Hunter takes a look at the week’s new DVDs and gives his highly unqualified opinion as to which ones are worth BUYing, which are better off as RENTals, and which should be AVOIDed at all costs. And remember, these aren’t mandates people… they’re just suggestions. But feel free to tell him how wrong he his in the comments section anyway.

Updated Every: Tuesday

THE BATTERY discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Battery The zombie apocalypse has left America a wasteland of the undead with pockets of mankind struggling to survive. Two former baseball players forced by the situation to become fast friends travel the country looking for supplies and safety, but their different personalities and views on the situation lead to dramas far removed from the flesh-eating varieties. Zombies have been ubiquitous in the horror genre for years now with three out of every five horror films focusing on them as their monster of choice. (I totally made that up, but it feels right.) The vast majority of them are pretty damn terrible, but once in a while a real gem comes along, and one of the best is this American indie that dares find the humanity in a story about the inhuman. It feels like a drama, but a lack of flesh-chewing scenes doesn’t mean it’s devoid of horror as the reality these men find themselves in is a terrifying one. Writer/director Jeremy Gardner (who also plays one of the two leads) is a refreshingly smart new voice in genre film-making. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, outtakes, featurette, trailer]

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CA WINTER SOLDIER discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Captain America: The Winter Soldier Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is still trying to fit in to the modern world while working for SHIELD on a regular basis. His latest mission leads to yet another conflict with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) over his and SHIELD’s priorities and methods in fighting the war on terror. Rogers thinks criminals should be punished after a crime has been committed, but Fury says they can’t afford to wait that long. The arrival on scene of a mysterious and legendary assassin, the Winter Soldier, shakes things up even further, and soon Captain America is fighting not only for the lives of millions but for his past, his integrity, and every core belief he holds dear. I usually reserve the “Pick of the Week” spot for a great title in need of more press, but hot damn do I love this flick. If you’ve followed my reviews here over the years you know I’m no easy mark for Marvel or other big movies, but there’s not a dull minute to be found here between the expertly crafted action sequences, plot revelations lifted equally out of the comic books and the New York Times, character moments and legitimately funny laughs. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is big, spectacular entertainment that manages to stay grounded even as the action turns to explosive spectacle. It’s the kind of summer […]

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KOCH header

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Citizen Koch The sadly ridiculous details of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s election and recall fight are just part of the backdrop for this documentary about the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizen United” ruling and the rise of the Tea Party. At the center of it all are the billionaire Koch brothers (and other immensely rich donors), who having been empowered by the court’s decision unleash a tidal wave of legal support for political agendas. To be clear, this is not an impartial doc looking at two sides of a story. That may sound improper, but some things that look politically slanted are actually straightforward facts. Both sides of the aisle have seen their fair share if disgusting behavior, and this doc looks at the actions on the right that led to a heavy loss for the idea of a democracy of the people. The film spends a bit too much time with ex-governor/Congressman Buddy Roemer, but the core message and theme rings true elsewhere as the power of the people is blatantly replaced by the power of the dollar. You could argue that the people of Wisconsin got what they deserved (via the majority vote) as Walker proceeded to dismantle the state’s unions — and you’d be right — but that doesn’t make the damage and nationwide fallout any less distressing or unfortunate for America’s future. [DVD extras: Deleted scenes, […]

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Scream Factory

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Legend of Hell House The Belasco House had seen its fair share of tragedy and carnality even before the man who had it built disappeared, but the years since have seen a continuation of death and terror. It’s known as Hell House, the Mt. Everest of haunted houses, and now a team consisting of a scientist, his wife and two mediums is going in to prove once and for all whether or not ghosts and the afterlife exist. Two of them are going to find out first hand before the week is out. Richard Matheson’s novel (Hell House) was adapted to the screen way back in ’73, but it remains one of the best haunted house flicks out there. There are legitimate chills throughout, some PG-rated sexiness and a wonderfully intense performance from Roddy McDowall too. Even better, at least for someone like myself who favors grounded explanations, the script gives nods to both the supernatural and the scientific. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: interviews, trailer]

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TIE ME UP discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down! (Criterion) Pedro Almodovar’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! was a massive cross-Atlantic hit in the early 1990s, helping to launch the global career of Antonio Banderas. Following an obsessive but charming former mental patient (Banderas)  as he captures a porn star (Victor Abril) so that she learns to fall in love with him, the dark comedy was the import of the season on summer movie screens 24 years ago, accompanyingWomen on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown as the one-two punch that made Almodovar an arthouse fixture. While Almodovar has gone through various stylistic phases since, Tie Me Up remains a prime example of his unique propensity for comic chaos that plunges unabashedly into the trenches of sexual id. The film’s success can be credited in part to its massive controversy: its sexual content threatened its US release with an X rating, which began a lawsuit that resulted in the creation of the NC-17 rating. The story behind the film is thus as much a part of it as the film itself, and Criterion justly adorns this set with a collection of new special features that illustrate how the film changed the career of those in front of and behind the camera, with Almodovar thankfully present across all of them. Hopefully this first release of Almodovar’s work promises many Criterion treatments of the Spanish auteur to come. […]

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A24 Films

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Locke Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) has just made a decision that will affect the rest of his life. The fact that he made it moments after hopping into his car after work means he long drive ahead of him will be spent dealing with the fallout, both expected and unexpected, and the entirety of it occurs without leaving the car. He takes calls from home and work, talks to himself as he works through his problems and mile by mile grows closer to his final destination. So simple yet so mesmerizing. Tom Hardy in a car for eighty minutes probably shouldn’t be this engaging, but his performance as an ordinary guy facing the life-altering fallout from one bad decision is powerful affecting. He feels real — his dilemmas, frustrations, actions — and we can’t help but relate to the grounded drama and emotion. Suspense builds through conversations and Hardy’s acting, all without leaving the car. And not for nothing, but this is one incredibly (and unexpectedly) gorgeous film too. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, commentary]

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Scream Factory

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Phantom of the Paradise Winslow Leach (William Finley) is a musician and songwriter hoping to make it big, but his efforts to get his work noticed by the infamous producer and personality, Swan (Paul Williams), results in trouble. Swan hears, loves, and steals Winslow’s music leaving the artist deranged and badly burned in the process, but Winslow returns behind a mask to wreak havoc on the man’s hot new club. Toss in a thief of another kind, a dame named Phoenix (Jessica Harper) who steals Winslow’s heart, and the stage is set for tragedy. It’s Phantom of the Opera meets Faust, part comedy and part musical, and it had to have been clear from the outset that it was not going to find a home with general audiences. It also has some not so subtle critiques for both sides of the entertainment industry, from the selfish cruelties of corporate interests to talent who are accepting of it all in search of fame of fortune. The message never gets in the way of the zaniness or the musical numbers though. There are some new extras here as well as ones ported over from Arrow Video’s recent Blu, and the best supplement remains Guillermo de Toro interviewing/chatting with Williams. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, making of, alternate takes, outtakes, trailer, gallery]

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IFC Midnight

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Den Liz (Melanie Papalia) has received a grant to study The Den, a popular online video-chat service (like ChatRoulette) that matches up strangers for conversations, interactions and dick pics. After being pranked a few times by bored kids she witnesses what she believes to be a real murder and calls the police. Nothing comes of it, but she’s thereafter harassed by a particular user capable of infiltrating and controlling her laptop. Soon her friends and family are targeted by the unknown assailant and Liz is forced into an online fight with real-world consequences. You have every right and reason to be leery. This horror flick is composed entirely of footage captured on webcams, cell phones, GoPros and more. Even less promising, the images are displayed as video windows on a computer screen. I know. It sounds terrible. But here’s the thing. The Den is a fantastic slice of A/V horror that handily avoids most of the issues the “found footage” format is saddled with again and again. It’s also legitimately scary, creative and features a heroine who grows on you like a sexy, spunky, grad school fungus. [My full review.] [DVD extras: Commentary, behind the scenes, trailer]

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RADiUS-TWC

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Blue Ruin Dwight (Macon Blair) is a bit of a loner. He lives in his car, parked on the side of a road near a Delaware beach, and spends his days scrounging for food, collecting cans and reading. A gentle wake-up knock on his car window precedes a disturbing piece of news. The man who killed Dwight’s parents is being released from prison. Single-minded but far from focused, Dwight fills the gas tank, pops the car battery into place and makes a beeline straight into hell. The setup here is economical, and the rest of the film follows suit, but rather than be a negative that simplicity actually elevates the film above its bigger budgeted, higher profile cousins. A Hollywood version of this tale would complicate things with unnecessary subplots, excessive exposition and time spent highlighting just how bad the bad guy and his henchmen really are. Here we stick with Dwight throughout, and the result is one of the most intimate and affecting revenge films in years. My full review. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, deleted scenes, camera test]

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THE LAST DAYS discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Last Days Marc is living in the office building he used to call his place of employment, and he’s not alone. Humanity worldwide has fallen victim to a deadly form of agoraphobia. Walk outside, and you’re dead within seconds from fear. Three months into the epidemic Mark and another survivor manage to set out via the sewers in search of Marc’s pregnant girlfriend, but their journey reveals a species on the brink of extinction. This Spanish production tackles a familiar subject — the post apocalyptic world — and imbues it not only with a fresh premise but also with real heart and character. It looks good too as special effects and production design come together to create a believably devastated world, and all of it is enhanced with a script that manages to hit some familiar beats without feeling redundant. The film is solid throughout, but the final thirty minutes offer some touching and exciting turns. Fans of the underseen but fantastic Perfect Sense should most definitely give it a shot. [DVD extras: Trailer]

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discs LAKE PLACID

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Lake Placid An otherwise quiet lake in New England becomes a hub of bloody activity when a giant crocodile makes itself known by biting a diver in half. The local sheriff (Brendan Gleeson) calls in wildlife officials including Bill Pullman, and the pair are soon joined by academics Bridget Fonda and Oliver Platt. Together they work to capture or kill the beast, but the croc has other ideas. Steve Miner’s film belongs on the same shelf as Tremors as a terrific horror comedy that balances the laughs and the monster mayhem to near perfection. The cast is stellar across the board with spectacularly fun performances from Platt and Gleeson in particular. Betty White’s foul-mouthed turn is still a lot of fun too. The effects, a mix of practical and CGI, work like gangbusters to bring the croc to life, and the end result is an all-around fun as hell flick. Just make sure you avoid the progressively crappy sequels. (All three of them.) [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, featurette, trailer]

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discs OPERATION PETTICOAT

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Operation Petticoat The USS Sea Tiger has seen better days as a Navy sub during World War II, but it hasn’t seen any action. Commander Sherman (Cary Grant) would like the chance to rectify that before the boat is sent to a watery grave, and with the help of a shifty junior officer (Tony Curtis) he sets out to give the Sea Tiger one last shot at glory. Who knew it would come with an assist from five Army nurses in need of a lift? This 1959 comedy classic has been on my list of shame for far too long so it was great to not only finally see it but also to discover just how fantastic it truly is. Grant is as charming as ever here playing a wonderful combination of suave and frazzled as he deals with one catastrophe after another, and the whole supporting cast reciprocates with energetic performances and top notch comic timing and delivery. It’s a subtler comedy than director Blake Edwards would go on to make, but it’s also one of his best. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

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Warner Bros.

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Winter’s Tale Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is a man out of time in early 20th century New York City. He’s on the run from a devilish mob boss (Russell Crowe) when a last minute detour lands him in love with a socialite (Jessica Brown Findlay) dying of tuberculosis. Can their romance survive human mortality, a Jimi Hendrix-loving Satan and a self-directed script by Akiva Goldsman? Winter’s Tale, so named because some scenes take place when it’s cold out apparently, is a terrible movie in most senses of the word. The romance doesn’t work, the fantastic elements feel out of place, there’s barely a single effective moment of suspense or emotion and the metaphysical message is a confused jumble of words randomly typed by chimpanzees while peyote smoke is blown into their anuses by drunken clergymen. There’s no getting around any of that, and yet… I want you to see it. To experience it. And to confirm for me that I didn’t just dream the whole damn thing. Check out my full review here if you still need convincing. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

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discs ERNEST AND CELESTINE

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Ernest & Celestine Celestine is a young mouse still learning the ways of the world, and part of her ongoing education is learning that the bears who live on the surface above the subterranean city the mice call home are vicious, mean and constantly intent on eating any mouse they come across. She’s never met one, but she sees no reason why mice and bears can’t be friends. She finds her opinion challenged when one of her excursions up top brings her in contact with a bear named Ernest, and soon the two are on an adventure that goes against all the laws of both bear and mouse society. This French award-winner is a whimsical delight from beginning to end as it tells a sweet tale of friendship that doubles as a metaphor for inter-species relations. Maybe I read too much into that part, but it does work as a story about celebrating commonalities instead of fearing differences, and in that regard it’s a big success. The soft animation, complete with unfinished lines and watercolor stylings, creates an immersive and warm world, and scenes like the duo’s garbage can meet-cute and a wonderfully chaotic chase with police show a diversity that the style handles with equal strength. See it with the bear (or mouse) in your life. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, animatic, interview]

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RAM Releasing

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Hide and Seek Sung-soo is a successful business owner with a perfect family, a gorgeous condo and an enviable life all around. He also has memories of a step brother he essentially abandoned years ago. When he gets word that his brother has gone missing he heads to the man’s apartment and discovers a dangerous mystery. This Korean thriller manages to be far creepier than any “typical” piece of Asian horror as psychopaths will always be scarier than long-haired ghost girls. More than that though the film is directed and edited to near perfection. Sequences thrill, excite and terrify as the story unfolds, and while the script has some major issues they’re easily ignored because everything else works so damn well. From the legitimate twists to the commentary on class warfare and fears, this is a fantastical thriller. [DVD extras: Making of]

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Doppelganger Releasing

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Black Out Jos (Raymond Thiry) used to be a very bad man. But he’s reformed now, on the straight and narrow, and engaged to be married to a wonderful woman. All of that’s put at risk when he wakes up the day before his wedding in a somewhat compromising situation… namely with a dead body lying beside him and no memory of how it got there. Now he’s in a race to discover what’s happening, who’s behind it and how he can keep his bride-to-be from hearing about it all. This Dutch action/comedy has been a long time coming to our shores — we saw it back at Fantastic Fest 2012 — and it’s an absolute blast from beginning to end as it mixes a dark sense of humor with extreme acts of violence and some highly memorable characters. Comparisons to early Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino are fair, but director Arne Toonen makes it his own creation. Highly recommended for fans of funny, profane and fast-moving R-rated fun. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, short film, bloopers, gallery]

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MPI

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Death Spa The hottest health spa in in town uses a state-of-the-art computer to help its clientele get the most out of their workouts, but the business is threatened when people start dying on the premises in wonderfully gory ways. Well, it would be threatened if the customers cared more about their safety than they do their bodies. It seems the owner’s wife, a woman who burned to death under mysterious circumstances, has returned for some supernatural vengeance. I won’t pretend that this late ’80s horror flick is a “good” movie per se, but there’s definitely a lot to enjoy here from the bloody gore effects to the decade-glorifying production design to its unabashed love of nudity to dialogue that delivers unintentional laughs. It’s a fun little movie that also earns points for finding a different angle on the haunted house tale. Gorgon Video’s new Blu-ray offers a solid HD transfer alongside new and entertaining extras, and while it’s not the best new release this week (and it’s more than a little over-priced) it’s a joy to finally see this somewhat forgotten gem find new life. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, trailer]

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Kino Lorber

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Back in Crime Richard Kemp (Jean-Hugues Anglade) is a burnt out detective investigating a murder that seems strangely familiar when he’s knocked into a river and left for dead. Instead of dying though he resurfaces to discover he’s traveled back in time by two decades to the beginning of a series of unsolved killings. He attempts to work the case with his future knowledge even as his unaware younger self stumbles along, but he inadvertently makes himself a suspect. This French film’s actual (and preferable) title is The Other Life of Richard Kemp, and that’s the key to the its strength. The murder mystery is just a part of the story as the true focus is Kemp’s opportunity to craft a better, other life for himself with the benefit of hindsight. The killer’s reveal is actually the film’s weakest element while the character work and humanity on display are damn good. [DVD extras: None]

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Warner Bros.

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Her Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) spends his days writing personal letters for customers to give to their lovers, families and friends, but in his own life there’s no one truly special. Still heartbroken and lonely after a recent break-up he pines for a romance he no longer thinks is possible. That negativity changes when he gets a new OS named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) that personalizes itself to the user. She’s witty, sweet and constantly learning about the world around her, and it’s not long before the two are in love. Spike Jonze’s latest is gorgeous, glorious cinema from top to bottom. It’s beautifully shot and scored, marvelously acted and interested in substantive ideas that most Hollywood films willfully ignore in favor of empty flash. This could easily have gone the Electric Dreams route, but it avoids anything resembling cheesiness through its sincerity, production design and honest lead performances. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Short film, featurettes]

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Raro Video

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Death Occurred Last Night A young woman has gone missing, and while that’s distressing enough for her father it’s made worse by the fact that she’s mentally challenged and has the awareness of a child. Her concerned father pressures the police to step up their search, but as he and the detectives narrow in on the truth it becomes clear that they may be too late. This dark, violent Italian thriller was a bit rough upon its release, and the years since haven’t made it any softer. Part procedural, part suspense, the film doesn’t shy away from the sex or violence and is most definitely not for the PC crowd. If the scene where good old dad helps his gorgeous adult daughter put on her bra doesn’t stop some people the idea of a handicapped woman being put to use as prostitute just might, but Duccio Tessari‘s film moves beyond its exploitation tease to become a solid adult thriller unafraid to head in some truly dark directions. Raro Video’s new Blu-ray isn’t loaded with extras, but the film looks and sounds fantastic. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Booklet, interview, trailer]

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