Welcome back to This Week In Discs!
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Chris (Emile Hirsch) is having a bad day, but when he decides the key to solving all of his problems is to have his mother whacked by a hit man (Matthew McConaughey) he discovers that things can always get worse in this refreshing return from William Friedkin.
Gina Gershon, Thomas Haden Church and Juno Temple are all along for the violent and darkly comedic ride, but it’s McConaughey who shines through the grime, brutality and Southern hospitality gone bad. He excels as a cruel bastard looking for love in some very wrong places who’s unafraid to take what he wants even if that means abusing Gershon with a KFC drumstick. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Featurette, Q&A, SXSW intro, commentary, trailer]
Pitch: Not nearly as bad as it sounds…
Why Buy? Beca (Anna Kendrick) is forced to put her DJ dreams on hold while attending a new school, but in its place she discovers a new passion for a cappella singing. It doesn’t come easy though as at first she sees the all girl group, The Bellas, as little more than a punchline, but her competitive spirit and the chance at love change her mind.
The ghost of Fox’s obnoxious Glee hangs over this film, but it quickly stands apart as a smart, funny and musically catchy creation all its own thanks to a sharp script and some truly entertaining performances. Kendrick is unsurprisingly fantastic, but supporting cast members like Rebel Wilson and Hana Mae Lee deliver some tremendous laughs as well. [Extras: Deleted scenes, line-o-rama, music video, featurettes, commentaries]
Sleepwalk With Me
Pitch: Right through the plate glass window…
Why Buy? Matt Pandamiglio (Mike Birbiglia) wants to be a stand-up comic, but his material and delivery always leave audiences wanting. His efforts grow more complicated when he falls in love and begins having an escalating series of sleepwalking incidents, but both situations also help his dream of comic stardom.
Birbiglia co-directed/co-wrote this semi-autobiographical film and produced it alongside This American Life‘s Ira Glass. It’s easy to see how the story found a home on that NPR program known for finding and telling incredibly engrossing stories about everyday people. It helps that Birbiglia is pretty damn funny as a comedian too, but the real surprise is the film’s honesty and heart. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Q&A, making of, outtakes, behind the scenes, trailer, commentary]
Pitch: Bring one of the best parts of the Alamo Drafthouse home…
Why Buy? When you go see a film at an Alamo Drafthouse one of the more joyful aspects is the constant pre-roll of crazy, old, delightful as hell trailers that play before the film. Drafthouse Films is following in the footsteps of Synapse’s 42nd Street Forever by collecting dozens of them for your home viewing pleasure.
They’re for real movies that you just can’t believe were ever actually made, and oftentimes they’re ones you make mental notes of to add to your ‘to watch’ list when you get home. Of course the odds are slim that you’ll be able to find many of them, but still… this is a fantastic collection for lovers of bizarre cinema, and it’s a great disc to toss on when you have friends over. [Extras: Commentary with Lars Nilsen and Zack Carlson, interview with Joe Dante, behind the scenes, trailer]
Pitch: Who will survive the high school reun– oh, wait, never mind. Everyone lives…
Why Rent? A group of friends reunite for their ten year high school reunion, but time is a fickle mistress and they soon discover that memories and expectations are only as real as you make them.
Writer/director Jamie Linden doesn’t do much new here, and the story plays out pretty much as expected with surprises and twists telegraphed well before they happen, but that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining. The film’s stacked with a solid cast including Channing Tatum, Justin Long, Max Minghella, Oscar Isaac, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza and Kate Mara. Their stories are a mix of comedy, drama and romance, and while they’re predictable they’re also often sweet and fun. Also available on Blu-ray. [Extras: Deleted scenes]
Pitch: What Wall Street 2 wanted to be…
Why Rent? Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is a hedge fund legend, but when a serious lapse in judgement leads to an even more serious situation on the eve of his company’s sale for an immense profit he finds himself in a world without safety nets or bailouts.
Writer/director Nicholas Jarecki also wrote the abysmal The Informers, but he shows here the importance of making a second chance count. The film is a sharp look at the type of people responsible for the Wall Street collapse, but instead of tackling the larger issue he keeps his focus on one man as he scrambles for safety amidst his self-created storm. Gere gives a strong performance and manages to make Miller more likeable than you’d expect, and he gets great support from Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth and Brit Marling. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes]
Californication: The Fifth Season
Pitch: Tea Leoni probably prefers HBO…
Why Rent? Hank Moody (David Duchovny) is a dryly comic, sex-addicted writer suffering from delusions of grandeur and self loathing. He’s also in love with his ex-wife (Natascha McElhone). This latest season sees Moody dealing with his wife’s new husband and daughter’s new boyfriend all while trying to balance a gig working with a notoriously unstable rapper (RZA) and the rapper’s tantalizing ex (Meagan Good).
Showtime’s funniest series returns, and even though we all agree the show should have ended with the near perfection of season one it’s still been a reliable source of laughs, perversions and truly sexy shenanigans. Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler) is always good for some laughs, and you can’t go wrong with Stephen Tobolowsky as a big-time movie producer with a giant schlong. But laughs aside, the season is worth watching for Camilla Luddington‘s sexy nanny scenes alone. [Extras: None]
Funny or Die: The Complete Second Season
Pitch: Seems most of the sketches choose option C…
Why Rent? Will Ferrell‘s online laugh factory, Funny or Die, found new life as a TV series on HBO, and season two continues the trend of 30-minute episodes filled equally with laughs and misfires.
The list of talent involved in this series is impressive and includes folks like Ferrell, Judd Apatow, Rob Riggle, Paul Scheer, Kathryn Hahn, Chris Parnell, Thomas Lennon, Bill Hader, Adam West, Fred Willard, John C. Reilly and more. Surprisingly though for all the big names attached the most consistently funny player is Rob Huebel whose bits never fail to amuse and entertain. It’s definitely a mixed bag comically, but fans of the folks involved should definitely give it a watch. [Extras: None]
Pitch: An offering to the Hindu god of unsimulated sex…
Why Rent? Gandu leads a harsh life in the slums of India and dreams of making it big in the rap world, but when he finally does things don’t quite turn out as expected… possibly because he’s imagining the whole thing.
This mostly black & white but sometimes color film is as punk a feature film as has ever come out of India. It’s an explicit, hyperactive and intense film, banned in its homeland and praised just about everywhere else for its raw originality and energy. Artsploitation Films is making their label debut here, and the combination of film, special features and presentation bode well for future releases. [Extras: Behind the scenes, featurettes, music clips, trailer, collector's booklet]
Pitch: Hey kids, your mother was almost an Olsen sister…
Why Rent? Jesse (Josh Radnor) is in his thirties and recently single when he gets a call from an old college professor asking for his company back at school. He visits and discovers his love for the campus and town is as strong as ever, and the feelings only grow when he meets a smart, pretty and seemingly mature student improbably named Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen).
Triple-threat Radnor follows up his writing/directing debut Happythankyoumoreplease with this sweet, fun, and slightly less affecting comedy about learning to look forward instead of back. Olsen does a fine job with an underwritten character, and she finds strong chemistry with Radnor. I’m probably more forgiving of the film’s flaws than some because I see elements of my past self in Jesse and identify with the dueling feelings of joy and shame that come with dating twenty-year-old college girls ten years your junior. Not complaining mind you. The film also benefits from the presence of Richard Jenkins who automatically makes any movie twice as good when he’s onscreen. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Deleted scenes, featurette, commentary, trailer]
Pitch: A more thrilling Quicksilver, a funnier DC Cab…
Why Rent? Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a NYC bike messenger who thrives on speed and adventure, but when his latest delivery catches the attention of a corrupt and highly unstable police detective (Michael Shannon) he discovers that danger isn’t always fun.
Writer/director David Koepp‘s latest thriller comes four years after his underrated Ricky Gervais comedy Ghost Town and features a far different tone from his earlier works of suspense. It’s casual entertainment that mixes stunts and thrills with goofy and unbelievable happenings. The end result is a fun enough movie that never takes itself seriously, and that’s not a bad thing once in a while. Also available on Blu-ray. [Extras: None]
The Sarah Silverman Program: Season 3
Pitch: Her jokes are even funnier once you’ve seen her in Take This Waltz…
Why Rent? Sarah Silverman (Sarah Silverman) is a young woman with a slightly skewed view of the world around her. These are her adventures that she shares with her friends, sister and occasional stranger. Season three features ten episodes of crass hilarity for your viewing pleasure.
Silverman is an acquired taste to be sure, but if you find her amusing then her series is worth a watch. It aired on Comedy Central so while it skirts the edge of bad taste it never reaches the level of foulness that we know the comedienne is capable of, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less funny. [Extras: Featurettes, original pilot, commentaries]
Pitch: No, it wasn’t just a dream…
Why Rent? Douglas Quad (Colin Ferrell) leads a boring life alongside his girlfriend (Kate Beckinsale), but his dreams are a different story as he enters a world of action, adventure and intrigue alongside an even better girlfriend (Jessica Biel). But what if the dreams are true?
This is pretty high up the list of unnecessary remakes, but that didn’t stop director Len Wiseman from moving forward. Where Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 original featured comedy and commentary (and Arnold Schwarzenegger) Wiseman has chosen to go the far more simplistic and serious route. The result is an occasionally exciting action/sci-fi film that looks pretty damn good even as it feels bland beside the original. [Extras: Gag reel, featurettes, PS3 demo of Gods of War: Ascension]
Pitch: Cold kills brain cells apparently…
Why Avoid? A young couple head into the cold and snowy wilderness for a few days of camping, but a snowmobile accident leaves them stranded. Complicating things further is a mysterious man stalking them from just out of sight. Making things even worse are their attitudes and ineptness.
Initial setup aside there’s a scary and suspenseful story to be found in being trapped in a winter wonderland, but this film never finds it. The characters annoy too frequently so neither of them become all that important to viewers, and writer/director Andrew Hyatt relies too frequently on the whole “it was just a dream” trick to the point where none of the visual gags contribute the slightest tension or excitement. Even worse though is the predictability of the film’s denouement which serves to deflate things all the way to flat. [Extras: None]
Skip it and watch Jacob’s Ladder instead.
The Good Doctor
Pitch: The less good movie…
Why Avoid? Dr. Martin Blake (Orlando Bloom) is a first-year resident who’s learning the ropes and dealing with patients, co-workers and the stresses they both create, but when a cute, young woman falls under his care he finds himself doing some very bad things indeed.
Bloom gives an interesting and reserved performance here, but the film fails to create an engaging enough story and world around him to make it worthwhile. His actions begin believably enough, but they reach a point where he seems to exceed the character’s boundaries. It stops being interesting and becomes an unsupported and unlikely turn of events. Rob Morrow and Michael Peña are always fun to watch though. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Making of, featurette, trailer]
Skip it and watch Dr. No instead.
House of Lies: Season One
Pitch: Watch Don Cheadle‘s self respect fly out the window…
Why Avoid? Marty Kaan (Cheadle) is a management consultant who leads a team of three (Kristen Bell, Ben Schwartz, Josh Lawson) in tackling assignments involving companies and people in distress. He also has lots of sex.
One of the benefits of a series running on a pay channel like Showtime is opportunity to feature as much sex and nudity as the show can handle, and while that’s a glorious thing it can also become a crutch. This show features a lot of skin, but it forgets to include any brains. The stories are wrapped up through the team’s consulting skills, but across the twelve episodes there’s not a single instance where their actions or the results felt believable or convincing. It’s currently a waste of a pretty great cast so hopefully season two adds some smarts into the flesh humping mix. [Extras: Commentaries, featurettes]
Skip it and watch House M.D. instead.
Resident Evil: Retribution
Pitch: Mildly attractive, massively dumb…
Why Avoid? Alice (Milla Jovovich) continues her never ending battle against corporate greed in the guise of the Umbrella Corporation. She also wears a silly, pointless and much appreciated hospital gown made up of two napkins.
It’s fitting that a film series featuring zombies (or zombie-like bastards) should continue shambling along well past its expiration date, but this should really be the last one. Director Paul WS Anderson delivers another visually appealing action film filled with monsters, gunfights and slow-motion carnage, but writer Paul WS Anderson also delivers a stinking retread that wastes time on sequences that go absolutely nowhere. The film feels like a single cutscene extended well beyond its necessary runtime. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Outtakes, featurettes, commentaries, deleted scenes]
Skip it and watch 28 Weeks Later instead.
Trouble With the Curve
Pitch: The pitch is the least of the problems…
Why Avoid? Gus (Clint Eastwood) is an octogenarian baseball scout whose old school methods and health are starting to fail him. His daughter (Amy Adams) is a high-falutin’ lawyer who puts her own career on hold to help on both fronts.
Eastwood is at his most cantankerous and unlikable here, and while Adams is fine she’s balanced out by the flatness of Justin Timberlake‘s acting. Neither the story not the characters are all that interesting or engaging, and let’s face it… baseball movies are only exciting when they star Kevin Costner. [Extras: Featurettes, Ultraviolet]
Skip it and watch A League of Their Own instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Blue Lagoon: The Awakening
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
Masters of the Universe: 30th Commemorative Edition
Red Hook Summer
Shameless: The Complete Second Season