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

WellGo USA

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Confession of Murder A serial killer ends his reign of terror and disappears into the night, but years later when the statute of limitations runs out on the crimes a man comes forward to claim responsibility and sell some books. He becomes an overnight sensation with the media, but the detective that worked the original case is none too pleased with the man’s newfound celebrity. The victims’ families are equally unhappy and set about making their own justice, and soon all manner of shenanigans are in play. Jung Byung-gil‘s action/thriller is an ecstatically energetic and deliriously entertaining flick that moves effortlessly between beautifully choreographed chase/fight scenes, heart-rending drama and purely comedic interactions. The story gets a bit silly at times, but it’s never less than invigorating and exciting. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, you should at least listen to the cover blurb calling it “One hell of a ride.” [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes, interviews, trailer]

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A Touch of Sin

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. A Touch of Sin Four stories of everyday people caught up in the maelstrom that is modern day China. Violence infects their lives, sometimes as victims, sometimes as perpetrators, and none of them will ever be the same again. Zhangke Jia‘s film made my list of 2013′s best foreign language films, and it marks a rare instance where Landon Palmer and I agreed on that assessment. In his own ‘best of’ list he wrote, “A work of national cinema meant primarily for an audience outside of its home nation, A Touch of Sin is a disturbing mosaic of contemporary global China, depicting the excesses and injustices of a country growing through an unprecedented combination of organized labor and capitalist exploitation. A potent combination of genre play and political commentary, Zhangke Jia’s episodic film is as much a masterwork of a tightly controlled, discomfiting tonal range as it is a revealing micro-examination of uniquely 21st-century forms of economic injustice. I believe we’ll be talking about this molotov cocktail of a film for years to come.” [Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

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FARGO new Blu release

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Fargo Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) is a used car salesman with money issues. He arranges to have his wife kidnapped in the hopes that her overbearing father will pay a ransom, she’ll be released, and everyone will come out a winner. Things don’t work out quite the way he planned though, and in addition to two madmen (Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare) holding his wife he’s also got a persistent cop (Frances McDormand) on his tail. The Coen brothers’ sixth feature film was their first to reach a wide audience, and that’s due as much to its fantastic sense of humor as it is its tremendous cast. It tells an incredibly dark and violent tale, but it does so in such a marvelously sweet and humorous way. Macy gets most of the funny lines, but McDormand runs a close second with a performance filled with genuine congeniality. This is actually Fargo‘s fourth appearance on Blu-ray, and by all accounts it’s identical to the 2009 release. This one has better cover art, but the special features are all the same. [Blu-ray extras: Commentary with Roger Deakins, featurettes, trailer]

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Toni Servillo in THE GREAT BEAUTY

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Great Beauty (Criterion) Paolo Sorrentino’s almost plotless portrait of the glamorous nightlife of contemporary Rome may seem on the surface to be an obvious choice for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. After all, it quite deliberately follows the footsteps of La Dolce Vita as an ode not only to Rome’s vast history, but its history of cinematic glitz. Yet there’s a great deal going on below The Great Beauty’s exquisitely realized surface. Rather than a simple 21st century upgrade of Fellini’s Rome, The Great Beauty is an existential travelogue, a decadent and detailed portrayal of a place uncertain about how to realize its future as a definitive global city in the culture so content to rest its champagne-soaked laurels on its extensive reputation. We see Rome through the eyes of Toni Servillo’s Jep Gambardella, whose failure to produce a second novel after a monumental first success sets the stage for his engrossing tour of Rome’s beguiling but hollow surfaces. While it made nary an appearance on op-ed trendpieces on the topic, Sorrentino’s film belongs directly alongside 2013’s many portrayals of excess for an era of economic uncertainty. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more beautifully shot and edited exegesis on the sweet life. – Landon Palmer [Blu-ray/DVD extras:  Interviews with the director, lead actor, and screenwriter; deleted scenes; trailer; an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by Philip Lapote]

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Joseph Gordon Levitt in MYSTERIOUS SKIN

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Mysterious Skin Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Brian (Brady Corbet) played Little League together when they were kids, but they were never really friends. They drifted even further apart as they grew up, and a decade later they’re complete strangers. The two do share a secret though, one that has shaped them into the troubled young men they’ve become. I’ve meant to watch Gregg Araki‘s acclaimed film for years now, and now that I finally have I’m happy to say my expectations have been exceeded. It’s a haunting tale of innocence lost that delivers a powerful emotional punch as their two stories unfold. It’s not a matter of mystery as to what exactly transpires, but seeing the two deal with their past in such varied and self-damaging ways is frequently heartbreaking. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, gallery, commentary, deleted scenes, audition tapes, trailer]

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Oscar Isaac in INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Inside Llewyn Davis It’s NYC in the early ’60s, and Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is trying to make his mark on the folk music scene. His efforts seem to be continually in vain though as pretty much nothing works out they way he wants. Is it fate? Or is it simply because he’s a bastard who fouls every relationship he has with his attitude. It’s probably too early to say, but screw it, it’s my column… Joel and Ethan Coen‘s latest is quite possibly their best and most mature work. From Isaac’s brilliantly nuanced performance to those of the supporting cast (including John Goodman, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, F. Murray Abraham, and others), from the fantastic score to the gorgeous cinematography, this is a tremendously affecting look at one man’s struggles against the world and himself. The Coens’ script is a work of art from which more beauty is born, and I really can’t recommend the film highly enough. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

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Franco Nero is Space Jesus in THE VISITOR

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Visitor John Huston and Jesus Christ (Franco Nero) are in a never-ending war with Satan, and their latest battleground is Atlanta, GA, where the soul of a child holds the key to saving the universe. Probably. Lance Henriksen, Glenn Ford, Shelley Winters, and Sam Peckinpah join in the fun as Huston struggles to stop the girl’s descent into evil and tendency towards causing bodily harm. It’s hardly news to say that this thirty four year old movie is a mental fingerbang that bends genres and somehow teases both brilliance and stupidity, but I’m saying it anyway. Both highly derivative and wholly original, the film cherry picks elements from The Omen, The Fury, Phantasm, and more, and then swirls them together in a psychedelic mélange of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and pure nuttiness as it tells the story of good and evil battling over a young girl’s potty-mouthed soul. Drafthouse Films brings this gem to HD for the first time, and while the extras are unfortunately scarce the film alone is enough to warrant a purchase. Read my full review. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, trailer, booklet]

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Jared Leto in Mr Nobody

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Mr. Nobody Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto) is 118 years old and on his death bed. He’s the last human doomed to die in a world where mankind has achieved a level of immortality and no longer faces an expiration date. Before he passes on, Nemo gives an interview to share the story of his life, but the tale he tales is an impossible one featuring multiple outcomes and events that simply couldn’t all be true. Or could they? This gorgeously shot and endlessly fascinating film is actually from 2009 and only now getting a release here in the U.S. for reasons unknown. It’s far from a traditional film, but if you like science fiction that explores humanity in surprising ways then you owe it to yourself to seek this one out. Leto does some incredible work here as a man shifting in and out of multiple threads of his own life, moving between different loves and events, and the supporting cast (Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger, Linh-dan Pham) is equally strong. This Blu also includes both the R-rated cut and the extended international cut that runs an additional 16 minutes. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, deleted scenes, featurette, trailer]

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discs got3

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season The naval assault against the Lannisters has failed, and that little prick Joffrey remains atop the throne. Elsewhere, Daenerys is gathering an army to join her and her trio of dragons, Robb Stark is working to mend fences and create allies, and the White Walkers are continuing their ridiculously slow journey towards civilization. I’ve never read the novels, and I can’t imagine doing so without photos so I can recognize who’s who in the enormous list of characters, but this is some wonderfully dense and entertaining television. Season three continues to follow numerous story threads and characters, and while some are more engaging than others there’s not a single dud among them. The production value remains high resulting not only in strong performances but also in brilliant production design and cinematography. And if you haven’t watched the ninth episode of this season yet… oh my. Enjoy. Beyond the actual quality of the series, HBO proves once again that they care about the packaging and special features more than any other network. The Blu-ray case, complete with slipcase, is once again a gorgeous and highly practical creation. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentaries, deleted scenes]

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header discs all is lost

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. All Is Lost Robert Redford stars as a man sailing solo who encounters trouble out at sea. He awakens to the impact of his sailboat colliding with a derelict shipping container and quickly sets about trying to fix the damage before catastrophe occurs. His experience grows increasingly precarious, and soon he’s fighting against nature and circumstance for his very life. Writer/director J.C. Chandor‘s follow-up to the excellent Wall Street drama Margin Call is even more engaging, but it accomplishes the feat through an opposite degree of dialogue. While that film was filled with fast-talk and lots of it, Redford’s character is the only one onscreen here leaving him no one to talk to but himself. (Sure, that didn’t stop Sandra Bullock from being a lonely chatterbox in Gravity, but this is a smarter movie.) The drama and suspense build naturally here as we work alongside the sailor in his efforts, and the script treats viewers as intelligent enough to follow along without needing every detail spelled out. This is a beautiful film about strength, resiliency, and the will to survive. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes]

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discs cutie and the boxer

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Cutie and the Boxer Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko have been together for 45 years, but it hasn’t been the easiest of roads. He was a 41 year old art sensation in NYC when the 19-year-old art student met and fell in love with him, and while the time since has seen them struggle and live the life of starving artists, he has always remained at the top of the relationship. This doc looks at the couple, their love and art, and the sacrifices that are sometimes necessary in pursuit of your dreams. Zachary Heinzerling‘s intimate documentary began life focused on Ushio’s life and art, but somewhere along the line, Noriko’s story, both of her art and of her love for her husband, took over the narrative. The result is not only a fascinating look at two artists’ lives but also an incredibly honest exploration of the cost of love, creativity, and persistence. Ushio is a real character, but Noriko is a real person. I’m now in love with a 64-year-old Japanese woman. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]

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RUSH

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Rush Formula 1 racing reached its most exciting and dangerous time in the ’60s and ’70s, and for a time the sport’s biggest stars were James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). The two men approached racing from completely different perspectives, with one in it for the fun and celebrity while the other appreciated its meticulous nature and the allure of being the actual best. Ron Howard hasn’t made a compelling film in well over a decade, and the last one that fully entertained was 1996′s Ransom. So yes, I’m more than a little surprised that his period piece about a sport that means nothing to me is a film that enthralls from the first scene and never lets up its grip. The acting and details are strong throughout, with Brühl in particular delivering the dramatic goods, but the racing drama is equally exciting. It’s a damn fine film, and it shows that Howard isn’t out of the picture just yet. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]

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Tom Hanks

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Captain Phillips Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) knows his job captaining freighters through dangerous waters is a risky endeavor, but the pay is well worth the very slight possibility of pirates. At least it was before pirates board and take control of the ship. From that point on Phillips finds himself struggling to keep himself and the crew alive. Director Paul Greengrass‘ latest film is based on a true story, but even if you know the outcome it remains a suspenseful and exciting adventure. Acting is strong across the board (and on-board), but the highlight is Hanks delivering the most authentic and affecting five minutes of the past several years. You’ll know it when you see it, and your eyes will wet themselves. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of]

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discs header short term 12

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Short Term 12 Grace (Brie Larson) works at a home for troubled teens, but while she’s fantastic at her job, her empathy for the kids sees her bringing home their pains far too often. Her boyfriend (John Gallagher Jr.) works there too and hopes the two of them can grow as a couple, but he knows her past has led to too much of her heart being cordoned off for the kids. Their situation grows even more untenable when a new girl arrives at the facility. Writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton‘s film is a small wonder. It’s essentially a character piece, a glimpse into the life and love of one woman and the people around her, but it’s crafted and performed so effortlessly that it feels like emotionally rich time spent laughing and crying with friends. There’s a slight misstep in the third act where the film loses sight of its characters in deference to a more conventional narrative, but it’s a minor trespass. Check out Allison’s full review here. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, behind the scenes, featurettes, original short film]

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discs the act of killing

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Act of Killing Indonesia, like many countries, has a dark and bloody past filled with brutal death squads and mass killings. The difference is that unlike those others the people of Indonesia continue to celebrate the murderers, and many of those killers still walk the streets as heroes of a cruel and sadistic history. This documentary puts us in the killers’ midst as they tell their story using the medium they love so much, film. Joshua Oppenheimer‘s film is an absolute marvel both in what it sets out to do and in what it accomplishes. The “characters” here are madmen in charge of their own fates and world, and the view they have of their shared history is more disturbing than any horror film. The only thing more terrifying than hearing them talk about what they’ve done and how they feel about it now is watching their efforts to recreate it all in front of the camera. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Theatrical and director's cuts, interview, commentary with Oppenheimer and Werner Herzog, featurette, deleted scenes, trailers, booklet]

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discs header himalaya

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Himalaya A remote Nepalese village suffers a loss when their leader dies on a trek, but as the time approaches for another salt delivery two men struggle for the top position. Tinle is old but has led before, while Karma is younger, brasher, and insistent that the gods play no role in their lives. They both head out on competing treks, but only one can take control of the community. This French film from the late ’90s is a gorgeously-photographed look at a people and a region seldom scene in today’s world. “Today” is a tricky word though in regard to this film in that the movie could take place in 1999 or 1919 or anytime in between. Far from old-fashioned, it shows rivals battling for respect alongside the clash between new and old beliefs, and it reaches some wise conclusions. And again, it’s beautiful to look at too. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, trailer]

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discs more than honey

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. More Than Honey We’ve all heard the stories. Bees are disappearing, en masse, all around the world, and no one seems to know why. The theories are endless and include everything from global warming, pollution, pesticides, mites, and more. This doc from director Markus Imhoof looks at the issue strictly from the angle of humans whose livelihoods depend on the bees’ honey. As is the expected norm with nature documentaries, this one features some gorgeous photography of the bees in action both in the air and in their honeycomb homes. It’s also fairly informative, although I wouldn’t have minded a bit more information when it comes to the various beekeepers’ behaviors. Why, for example, in a documentary about the mystery of disappearing movies does one old Swede decapitate his queen bee with his thumbnail? Still, exploring the domestication of bees is an engaging path to the filmmaker’s theory as to why they’re all flying away with little more than a “So long and thanks for all the fish!” [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview with director, deleted scenes, making of, image gallery]

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discs toad road

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Toad Road James (James Davidson) is a slacker, but that shouldn’t be mistaken for meaning he sits around all day doing nothing. Instead, he sits around all day smoking, popping, and snorting anything he and his friends can get their hands on, but that starts to change when he meets the new girl, Sara (Sara Anne Jones). She’s new to the drug scene, he introduces her, and she gets hooked just as he wants out. He agrees to one last trip with her. Shrooms in hand, the two head out to the legendary Toad Road to investigate rumors of the seven gates of hell. It goes according to plan until he wakes up to discover she’s disappeared. Writer/director Jason Banker’s debut feature is low budget, raw, messy, unsure of itself, and yet oddly mesmerizing. The “horror” element introduced via the title feels almost like an afterthought added to make the film more marketable, but the core of the film works as a frequently intense and often painful look at the obvious and not so obvious struggles that come with drug addiction. The doomed love story adds to the film’s tragic allure, but the real life fate of Miss Jones sadly cements it. [DVD extras: Commentary with writer/director Jason Banker and friends, deleted scenes, featurettes, booklet]

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discs death house

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Silent Night, Bloody Night Jeffrey Butler has arrived in the small town his family called home to check out the house he’s inherited, but someone else has gotten there first! That someone is Butler’s lawyer, who’s arrived to finalize a deal and maybe squeeze in some infidelity with his sexy squeeze in an upstairs bedroom, but his coitus is interrupted by the discovery that someone else has gotten there first! That someone has an ax. This low budget slasher premiered in the early ’70s, and while CodeRed apparently released a restored version as a double feature a couple months ago this new DVD from Film Chest is my first glimpse of the movie. It suffers from low budget woes, some serious ones at times, but if you can get past them you’ll find a fresh little tale that offers some genuinely creepy scenes alongside an interesting script. Again, it’s cheap as hell, but there’s a lot to love here for horror fans. [DVD extras: None]

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discs drinking buddies

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Drinking Buddies Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are friends and co-workers at a beer brewery, and both are in relationships. She’s dating Chris (Ron Livingston), and he’s engaged to Jill (Anna Kendrick), but when the four get together for a weekend at Chris’ cabin some lines are crossed in the realm of love and fidelity. Ignore the marketing as it’s selling something (a romantic comedy) that this film is most definitely not. Director Joe Swanberg keeps the improv method used in his past “mumblecore” films, but it still manages to tell a cohesive and truly affecting story. A big reason for that is a cast of extremely talented actors with wicked good comedic timing in the lead roles. The four performers, along with a more assured Swanberg directing and editing, have crafted a story about heartbreak, temptation, and friendship. While they’re all fantastic, this is Wilde’s show, and she absolutely crushes it with a character that will leave you frustrated, aroused, entertained, and engaged in nearly equal measure. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, interviews, featurettes, commentary, trailer]

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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.14.2014
B
published: 04.14.2014
A-
published: 04.14.2014
C

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