Welcome back to This Week In Discs!
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
The Woodsman and the Rain (UK)
A small mountain town in Japan is invaded by a film production crew making a zombie movie, but few of the locals seem all that interested. Katsu (Koji Yakusho), an older lumberjack, takes issue with their presence but soon comes to befriend the inexperienced director. The two men learn from each other
This is a sweet and unassuming little film that manages laughs alongside a small amount of light drama. The townspeople’s reaction to the film crew ranges from indifference to awe, and it’s a joy seeing Yakusho in a fun, lightweight role. His enthusiasm once he joins the crew is infectious and clear on his face, and it’s an expression anyone who loves movies has shared more than once. Also available on Blu-ray. [Extras: Deleted scenes, interviews, trailers] *NOTE: This is a UK region 2 release meaning US residents will need a region free player to watch.*
Die Hard: 25th Anniversary Collection
Pitch: The best action film character or the best action action film character?
Why Buy? John McClane (Bruce Willis) is a NYC cop with a history of being in the wrong place at the right time. He faces off against bad guys through four films including terrorists in an L.A. tower, rogue military baddies terrorizing the skies, bank robbers in the Big Apple and an evil Timothy Olyphant.
The quality ranges with parts one and three being the best by far, but they’re all good fun. In addition to the films being presented in beautiful HD the solid, book-like packaging includes a fifth disc loaded with new featurettes exploring the film series. [Extras: Featurettes]
Pitch: “You can’t let the animals die in a movie. Only the women…”
Why Buy? Marty (Colin Farrell) is a screenwriter battling writer’s block over his script about a series of psychopaths, but when he turns to his friends (Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken) for inspiration he finds himself caught up in a deadly and dangerous story.
Martin McDonagh‘s follow-up to the incredible In Bruges matches that film laugh for laugh even if it can’t compare in the dramatic weight department. This time around he’s more interested in meta commentary and the screenwriting process than he is in characters with real depth, but you can’t go wrong with a sharp and dark script brought to life by such a phenomenal cast (which also includes Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits and Olga Kurylenko). Also available on Blu-ray. [Extras: Featurettes]
Pitch: Irish babies are magically delicious…
Why Rent? Tommy lost his wife to a violent urban youth gang, and the incident has left him suffering from severe agoraphobia. His days now are spent cowering in fear and trying to protect his newborn from threats both real and imagined. But when the child is taken Tommy’s forced to venture out and confront his fear directly.
This Irish chiller offers up some real scares as the hooded youths terrorize the populace of Tommy’s neglected city block, and much of that is due to the film’s atmospheric and claustrophobic visuals. It does reach some frustrating levels though as Tommy’s behavior leans toward the annoying on more than one occasion. Still, fans of mood-oriented creepiness will want to give it a watch. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Making of, interviews, b-roll footage]
Femme Fatales: The Complete First Season
Pitch: This is a dirty, dirty show. I verified that for you through all fourteen episodes…
Why Rent? Women are supposedly the weaker sex, but don’t tell that to any of the deadly vixens strutting their way through this new series from Cinemax. Each episode features a story loaded with deceit, death and extremely naked ladies, and the set is loaded with special features.
Anyone with fond memories of HBO’s series The Hitchhiker will enjoy this dirtier yet lesser cousin. The stories never really reach the level of great, but there are some fun ones featuring a mix of solid and predictable twists. The one constant though is the constant stream of nekkid bad girls doing very bad things. [Extras: Commentaries, deleted scenes, featurettes, bloopers, music tracks, photos]
Pitch: The incidentals bill is still the scariest thing in this hotel…
Why Rent? Dracula (Adam Sandler) lost his wife decades ago and has dedicated his life to protecting his daughter (Selena Gomez) from the human world by building a hotel where all monsters are safe from burning torches. His plans face a challenge though when a human finds his way to the hotel and falls for the teenage-ish vampire.
Sony Pictures Animation isn’t one of the big three animation houses, but they’ve managed some real winners including Arthur Christmas and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. This one doesn’t reach the heights of those two, but it offers a fun idea paired with some laughs and sharp animation. The voice talent makes it seem like a film brainstormed on the set of Grown-Ups, but don’t hold that against it. Folks like Andy Samberg, Kevin James and David Spade aren’t any more or less funny as voices only. [Extras: Mini-movie, music video, deleted scenes, commentary, games, featurettes, 2-D and 3-D versions of film]
Tales of the Night
Pitch: May just be Herman’s Hermits’ favorite movie…
Why Rent? Three people sit in an empty theater imagining exotic and elaborate tales from cultures around the world. As they talk each story comes to life with silhouetted characters against elaborately designed and colored backgrounds.
Michael Ocelot‘s films are a mix of old fashioned stories and old school animation styles, and his latest continues the trend. The stories are low-key and not always original, but the animation is extremely attractive in a world filled with lookalike CGI adventures. The silhouette style resembles puppets and is quite cool to watch in action. It does feel slow though, even at under 90 minutes, but being multiple stories it’s easy enough to watch across sittings. [Extras: Interview, featurette]
All Superheroes Must Die
Pitch: Imagine a film with no budget. Now imagine they run out of money…
Why Avoid? When four superheroes awaken in a strangely empty neighborhood stripped of their powers they quickly realize something is amiss. Because they’re superheroes. Their arch nemesis (James Remar) has taken them prisoner and devised a deadly game for his own entertainment.
This low-to-no budget movie earns points for an interesting take on the superhero genre, even going so far as to have these heroes kill innocent civilians, but the execution pales beside the idea. The characters are uninteresting, the action is far from exciting and the pace is non-existent. Also available on DVD. [Extras: None]
Skip it and watch Mystery Men instead.
Cherry Tree Lane
Pitch: Home invasions are for kids…
Why Avoid? Mike and Christine are settling in for a pleasant evening of dinner and light conversation when the doorbell ring portends a change in plans. A trio of thugs break in and quickly beat down and secure the couple. They’re waiting for the son to return home, and terrible things will happen in the meantime.
This British thriller has an unavoidably frightening premise that it unfortunately never makes the most of. It’s suspenseful in theory, but since we never really care about the couple, the invaders are idiotic and little happens until the final moments it’s difficult to get to wrapped up in the story. [Extras: None]
Skip it and watch Kidnapped instead. (Just be sure to turn it off one minute before the end.)
Pitch: Hey, anyone know when Gears of War 3 comes out…
Why Avoid? Four friends living mediocre or downright shitty lives find joy and happiness playing as a videogame clan, and when the opportunity arises to take their skills to L.A. for a video game championship the quartet set off on a life-changing adventure.
A movie focused on gamers feels long overdue, but if this is as good as it gets then the idea should never be repeated. Jason Mewes plays one of the four which automatically means he gets way more screen time than his talent and personality can handle. He works great in short doses, but as a lead? The rest of the film fares no better as it drops one unfunny joke after the next. Even worse, while trying to champion gaming nerds it feels compelled to knock down overweight girls again and again. Even geeks can be pricks apparently. [Extras: Interviews, featurette]
Skip it and watch The Last Starfighter instead.
Paranormal Activity 4
Pitch: I guess I just don’t understand why ghosts need to open or close doors…
Why Avoid? A family encounters strange occurrences when a mysterious woman and her young son move in across the street. Luckily they’re recording everything that happens with webcams, cell phones and more. Unluckily they rarely seem to watch the damn recordings.
Part four picks up after the assault and kidnapping that ended part two, but it essentially delivers the same thing yet again. Incidents begin to accumulate, ineffective scares pile up, and stupidity mounts. The lack of real scares is the biggest problem, but there’s something to be said for plot… something this movie doesn’t have. If the series continues I’d like to see the victims actually learn something and make an attempt at fighting back. [Extras: Additional footage]
Skip it and watch Paranormal Activity instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
The Cold Light of Day
The Eye of the Storm
Hello I Must Be Going
Paranormal Activity 4
That Obscure Object of Desire