Welcome back to This Week In Discs!
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Alex (Ryan O’Nan) is booted from his band, dumped by his girlfriend and fired from his job singing songs dressed like a dayglo moose, and he has no idea what to do next. Luckily, a stranger named Jim (Michael Weston) does, and soon the two set out on a multi-city tour singing original songs backed by a selection of children’s musical instruments/toys and learning the value of friendship and being true to yourself.
O’Nan also wrote and directed this low-fi gem, and the result is a sweet and funny look at lives in flux. It also features a handful of incredibly catchy songs that may have you checking Amazon or iTunes for availability. (Yes, there is an album.) You’ll find yourself smiling through most of the film, either from the simple and addictive songs or from the familiar faces sharing the screen for a few minutes here and there including Arielle Kebbel, Jason Ritter, Christopher McDonald, Andrew McCarthy and others. [Extras: Featurette, outtakes, live performance, Q&A, short films, trailer]
Pitch: A show so damn good we’re giving it away elsewhere on the site…
Why Buy? Sterling Archer is a top agent for ISIS, but none of his past experiences or training prepared him for his wife’s murder before his eyes. Season three picks up with him hiding out in the Pacific while his mother and fellow agents search for him. Once that’s resolved Archer returns to usual, hilarious form.
This remains one of the funniest damn shows on TV thanks to some sharp, crass and hilarious dialogue. Just as important are the voice cast who share perfect comedic timing and delivery across the board. H. Jon Benjamin, Judy Greer, Amber Nash, Chris Parnell, Aisha Tyler and Adam Reed are fantastic, and guest stars including David Cross and Patrick Warburton fit in beautifully. Also available on Blu-ray. [Extras: Featurettes, Gator 2 trailer, commentaries]
Pitch: It’s so good you won’t even miss Rob Schneider…
Why Buy? America’s post apocalyptic future is an ugly sprawl of urban hell holes, and the only things keeping society running smoothly are the motorcycle-riding, helmet-wearing, gun-toting judges. Dredd (Karl Urban) is one of the city’s toughest enforcers, but his mettle is tested when he’s saddled with a psychic rookie (Olivia Thirlby) and trapped in a high rise building run by a cruel but sexy villain named Ma-Ma (Lena Headey).
People laughed when it was announced that Lionsgate would be attempting to improve on the perfection that is Sylvester Stallone’s Judge Dredd, but director Pete Travis and writer Alex Garland managed the impossible with a film that surpasses that mid-nineties classic in every way. (It’s worth noting here that I’m joking about that being a good movie in the slightest.) Urban nails the hard edged, stone faced character, but the real stars here are the action sequences and visual stylings that make violence beautiful. It features some of the best use of slow motion in years and never shies away from the red stuff. Sure it’s mostly CGI blood, but it’s easy to forgive when it’s done this pretty. Also available on Blu-ray. [Extras: Featurettes, motion comic prequel]
Pitch: Finally, a reason to be terrified of what’s hiding beneath your bed…
Why Buy? César (Luis Tosar) is the kind but nondescript doorman of an apartment building who hides a darker side. He lives to make the tenants’ lives miserable, and while most of his antics are terrible enough, he steps up his efforts when faced with the building’s happiest resident. Clara has an indomitable spirit, and he’s going to make her suffer for it.
Director Jaume Balagueró takes a break from the [REC] films to deliver creepy chills of a more believable variety. César is a terrifically evil character and Tosar’s performance makes him as sympathetic and likable as possible without excusing his vileness. The film is a suspenseful, icky joy that will have you worrying about everyone who possibly might have access to your bedroom. Enjoy brushing your teeth! Also available on DVD. [Extras: Featurette, trailer]
Pitch: Who knew Matt LeBlanc would prove to be the funniest friend standing…
Why Rent? A British husband and wife writing team are wooed to Hollywood on the promise of a US adaptation of their successful comedy series back home, but the Hollywood process lands them in a foreign land. Studio notes begin almost immediately leading to the show hiring Friends star LeBlanc, but they’re shocked when he’s not nearly the gentleman and professional they expected.
This Showtime series doesn’t get much press, and that’s a shame as it’s a damn funny show. It’s well written throughout, but LeBlanc is the show’s MVP in every single episode. He’s hilarious and free to act as rude, raunchy and inappropriate as possible with no subject off limits. The supporting cast is solid, but he’s the show’s most consistently entertaining element and worth watching whether you were a Friends fan or not. Also available on Blu-ray. [Extras: Biographies, photos]
Pitch: It’s alive-ish…
Why Rent? The greatest joy in young Victor’s life is his dog, Sparky, but when tragedy strikes leaving the poor mutt without a spark Victor turns to his second love for help. Science is his passion, and he applies it to bring the little dog back to life. But when Victor’s creation escapes into town he discovers that most people aren’t as excited to see his science project.
Tim Burton made this film before as a short that ended his career with Disney, but decades later he’s been welcomed back into the fold with the feature version. The only problem is it doesn’t quite have the necessary story meat to justify the length. Still, even if it falters narratively it remains a visual delight combining beautiful stop-motion animation with some fun little gags and horror genre references. [Extras: Shorts, featurettes, music video]
Pitch: It’s not easy being green…
Why Rent? Gerald and Helen Goode do their best to live a carbon neutral life. From their vegan diets to their hybrid car, everything they do is in service of a better planet, and that includes raising their teen daughter, their adopted (South) African son and their vegan by force dog, Che.
Mike Judge (Beavis and Butthead) co-created this short-lived cartoon that tried to do the same with uber-liberals as he did with rednecks in his popular King of the Hill. Both shows are acquired tastes, but the current television climate doesn’t offer as long for an audience to grow so the Goode’s didn’t make the cut. The 1st episode is front loaded with incredibly obvious and unfunny jokes, but it recovers by the end and the remaining eps manage some truly funny jabs at folks on both sides of the political spectrum. [Extras: Commentaries, deleted scenes, unaired scripts, featurettes]
Pitch: Because British Clunge doesn’t have a very good ring to it…
Why Rent? Jay (James Buckley), Neil (Blake Harrison), Simon (Joe Thomas) and Will (Simon Bird) are four friends who’ve just graduated from high school. Before they go their separate ways they decide to take a vacation together to the beautiful, loose vagina-filled Greek isles. But as anyone who’s watched the series knows their plans will most certainly go awry.
The Inbetweeners is a British series that ran for three seasons and offered much in the way of awkward and uncomfortable comedy as it charted the high school years of the four boys. They each brought different comedic styles to the show, and they repeat their efforts here with slightly less effective but still entertaining results. The movie never becomes as prurient as you’d expect from its R rating, but the boys have a good deal of fun and so will you. [Extras: Commentary, making of, bloopers, deleted scenes, trailer]
Pitch: Apparently cable companies suck worldwide…
Why Rent? Janne’s relationship with his girlfriend Inari is fragile and depends on his ability to acquire cable so she can watch Titanic. He drops the ball through the normal channels and is forced to think outside the box, and that leads to the most exciting night of Janne’s life.
This Icelandic comedy teases a raunchy edge now and then, but its heart remains relatively sweet and pure. That’s an impressive feat seeing as there’s a scene involving a rowdy female underwater rugby team. Janne and his friends are an ill-equipped trio who cause most of their own problems, but they’re a fun enough bunch who always avoid making themselves unlikable bunch. [Extras: Short film, collector’s booklet]
Pitch: But sooner is better…
Why Rent? Tessa (Dakota Fanning) is a normal teenage girl in every aspect but one. She’s dying from leukemia. She sets out on a bucket list of sorts while dramas involving friends, family and potential boyfriend swirl around her.
As cancer movies go this is definitely one of them. There’s a mildly fresh angle here, but the biggest downside is the character of Tessa. She’s a bitch through most of the film, and the tone is only saved by the presence and performance of Paddy Considine as her father. Fanning’s British accent is a bit wanting as well, but she gives a fine performance in spite of it. It’s doubtful I’m alone in wishing Tessa’s death would come sooner through much of the film, but she and those around her delivers enough in the third act to warrant an emotional response. [Extras: Deleted scenes, featurette]
Pitch: Gives you plenty of reasons to renew your passport…
Why Rent? Take an epic journey around the world filled with wonders both natural and man-made. Filmmaker Ron Fricke follows up his 1992 film Baraka with another visual feast highlighting the people and places around us. Five years of filming in twenty-five countries has resulted in a 100 minute meditation on humanity and our place on Earth.
The sights and sounds here are beautifully done, and special notice should go to the score from Marcello de Francisci and ex-Dead Can Dance vocalist Lisa Gerrard. The whole thing is eminently watchable. There’s an odd misstep halfway through with a performance artist playing to the camera, but the film recovers quickly enough. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Interviews, behind the scenes, trailer]
Pitch: Is it just me or does the musical within the show look absolutely atrocious…
Why Rent? Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee) is new to NYC with dreams of Broadway stardom, Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) is an ensemble veteran with those same dreams, but only one can end up on top when they both try out for the lead in a new musical about Marilyn Monroe. The behind the scenes players including Debra Messing, Christian Borle, Jack Davenport and Angelica Huston are just as ambitious and on edge.
NBC’s musical drama came with big names (executive producer Steven Spielberg) and bigger expectations, but it remained an uphill battle for those of us who aren’t partial to traditional musicals. Luckily, McPhee delivers in both the looks and talent department, and she was enough to keep me hooked through the first few episodes until I actually started caring about the story. It’s goofy and predictable more often than not, and they went to the “make x sleep with y” well way too frequently, but the entertainment value wins out around the season’s midpoint forcing you to stay on til the end. [Extras: Extended musical numbers, deleted scenes, gag reel, featurettes]
Pitch: Remember when sitcoms were supposed to funny? Charlie Sheen doesn’t…
Why Avoid? Charlie Goodson (Sheen) has anger issues, and after they ruined his baseball career he turned himself into a therapist for those similarly afflicted. His own issues remain though often complicated by an ex-wife (Shawnee Smith), a highly improper relationship with his own therapist (Selma Blair) and the gaggle of nutsos who meet in his home for sessions.
Sheen had comedic chops at one point in his career, but either by choice or through chemical reaction he’s apparently lost the ability to make people laugh along with him. Laughing at him is another story of course. Smith manages to be the only comedically capable performer here and gets some laughs, but her brief appearances aren’t enough to warrant a watch. [Extras: Gag reel, interview, featurette]
Skip it and watch The League instead.
Pitch: Elizabeth Shue should fire her agent. Or get an agent…
Why Avoid? Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her mom (Shue) have moved into a new house unaware of the grisly murder that occurred next door a few years prior. Trouble starts when Elissa meets and takes a liking to the sole surviving family member (Max Thieriot). All is not right with the boy next door.
There’s no evidence of an Academy Award nominee here as Lawrence stumbles through the role seemingly and simply to check the genre box on her resume and collect a paycheck. The script teases a brief window with a fairly cool twist, but any kudos it earns are quickly overshadowed by the absolute ineptitude of the characters and the story’s development. Even worse, it’s utterly devoid of scares, which for a horror thriller is the greatest sin of all. [Extras: Theatrical & unrated cuts, featurette]
Skip it and watch the Last House on the Left remake instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Enlightened: The Complete First Season
Hearts Afire: The Complete Series
Hit & Run
Jack & Diane
Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden
The Spirit of the Beehive (Criterion)
Two-Lane Blacktop (Criterion)