This Week in Blu-rayThis week’s entry into the world of Blu-ray punditry is sponsored by the letter W, as in WTF. For those following along at home, that’s the internet acronym for “what the f**k?” It’s usually accompanied with a grammatically incorrect smattering of exclamation marks and a comment about how we should all start building an Ark. Quick, someone grab all of the typing cats. We wouldn’t want to lose those in the flood! Yes, this week is bringing about the apocalypse for plenty of reasons: horror movies that make me want to take a shotgun up the colon, dramedies that use David Bowie in strange ways, a Pam Anderson movie that doesn’t take place on a boat, the birth of internet porn and plenty of rape. WTF, indeed.

Barb Wire

This week’s big pick should be exemplary of the week as a whole. Because what kind of a week would lead me down the path of picking a mid-90s comic book adaptation starring a mostly nude Pamela Anderson — or more to the point, one of the worst movies of all times or any times, including future times. In a sea of releases, there wasn’t much to choose from, so why shouldn’t you head over to your local retailer’s bargain bin (where you’ll undoubtedly already find this gem) and pick up a movie. On your way home, you can go get a barb wire tattoo around your arm and a tramp-stamp on your lower back. It’s classy all the way, this week.

Ong Bak 3: The Final Battle

Blind recommendations have become one of my strong-suits lately. And usually, the problem is only that I haven’t had a chance to dig into the Blu-ray. In this case, it’s not just the Blu-ray but also the movie I haven’t seen. But I’m rolling with it anyway. Tony Jaa returns to his most high profile franchise after wandering through the jungle. And what has he found? Reason enough to do more ass-kicking. I don’t care what you think of this elephant-riding little guy’s production strategies, there’s one thing upon which we can all agree: he’s fun to watch when he’s laying down a beating. Fun enough to earn a spot in your Blu-ray collection? I’d say so. Then again, I need to complete my three-piece set.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

It’s kind of a retelling of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but without the big Indian, a domineering nurse or the dramatic effect. In fact, the only similarities between this and Cuckoo is the mental hospital thing. Who came up with that analogy, anyway? In the real world, there’s little funny about this story — and little in the way of momentum either. But it’s not completely unwatchable. Solid performances from Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts and Zach Galifianakis, combined with a very random 80s rock video sequence make this worth a single watch. An empty hospital bed of special features make it easily discarded afterward.

Middle Men

At first glance, this is a lighthearted comedy about the guys who gave the world the online payment system that would revolutionize the adult entertainment industry. But under the surface, there’s nothing lighthearted about it. Perhaps it has something to do with Luke Wilson not being able to be taken seriously, but there’s a serious tonal imbalance here. Moments of humor give way to moments of heavy-handed drama, all smashed together around some sexual innuendo and plastic chest extensions. It sounds like a lot more fun than it really is. On the whole, it’s mostly a sad affair. Then again, some people are into that kind of thing. If we’ve learned anything from the industry at the center of this story, it’s that it takes different strokes. This Blu-ray just isn’t one that you’re going to want to stroke more than once. Otherwise you may go blind.

Life As We Know It

Just in time for Valentine’s Day is the latest obvious-a-thon from Katherine Heigl. If she had her druthers, I’m sure that the former Grey’s Anatomy star would destroy said holiday altogether, one masculine, but effeminate co-star at a time. Luckily we’ve got the charm of Josh Duhamel and a stunningly smart script to carry this movie beyond Heigl’s usual drab fair. Not since Knocked Up has she been so tolerable in a movie. A little bit of heart and even less special features on the Blu-ray make this title something you could very easily rent, watch with your sweet lady friend (I’m speaking to the gentlemen, here) and live to tell the tale. Not that I’m against a good tear-jerker or a good romantic comedy — you know that, ladies — it’s just never good to see another recycled tone and tale. This one is far enough off-center to be passable.

Paranormal Activity 2

“Paranormal Activity 2 carried in tow a host of trepidations. As someone who thoroughly enjoyed the original for its strong concept and low budget, I was wary of the idea of having that concept either a) lost in aggressive sequel one-upsmanship or b) spread too thin and losing its intensity. But in fact, the concept is only slightly improved upon and not spread thin at all.” Brian Salisbury wasn’t messing around when he wrote that. He’s speaking to you, fans of the first Paranormal Activity. Heed his words and give this one a rent. I’d recommend you buy, but I saw the extras on the Blu-ray: all two of them.

I Spit On Your Grave (2010)

Exploiting horrible atrocities and unspeakable human suffering is nothing new in film, less so in the genre they call horror. Seeing a movie about a young, somewhat defenseless woman being brutally raped only to see her exact equally unspeakable revenge upon her perps sounds fine on concept, if you can stomach the first part. But in practice, it doesn’t play out the same way it is seen on paper. Hard to watch not just because of it’s heavy-duty rape, I Spit On Your Grave conflicts the audience by making its victim almost completely unlikable. Then, as Brian Salisbury (it’s horror week, he’s my go-to) explained in his review, “we are forced to watch horrible acts of rape without the benefit of a satisfying comeuppance which only makes the first half feel more pornographic.” By the end you are surprisingly bored, grimy and lost in the unsavory trick that’s been played upon you. You went in for the revenge, and your sensibilities were raped instead. Needless to say, I didn’t get as far as the special features. There was no need.

I Spit On Your Grave (1978)

See my comments on the remake above, then add “and it was boring.”

You Again

As much as I wish Kristen Bell’s career all the best and curse the day Party Down was canceled, I’m not convinced that she can carry a film. More to the point, I’m certain that she can’t carry this film, nor can her co-star Odette Yustman. Overshadowed completely by Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Lee Curtis, the two young ladies are saddled with the brunt of what makes You Again painfully unfunny and mindbendingly elongated by its clunky story. Not even Betty White hitting on men 1/4 her age can save this one, nor can moments of shenanigans from Kristen Chenoweth.

My Soul to Take

After releasing this 3D mess, Wes Craven should have considered immediately releasing a sequel entitled: My Time to Take: A Long Line of Refunds. This Blu-ray is the one I’m most thankful for this week, as it has reminded me how lucky I am to not have gone and paid to see this in theaters. It would have stripped away far more than a reviewer’s soul.

All the fun we didn’t get to have in review form this week…


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