Welcome back to This Week In Discs!
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Four men weighed down with stolen loot try to make their escape, but when one of their own is gunned down the remaining three take hostages in their bid for freedom. They end up in a car with a woman, a man, and the man’s son as they force the hostages to drive them out of the city. As the hours tick by the tension builds as to what will happen and who will survive the getaway.
Director Mario Bava took a break from his usual horrific fare to make this tight and somewhat claustrophobic thriller, and the result is one of his most entertaining films. Much of the movie is a fairly traditional setup that puts in place certain expectations, but Bava and writer Alessandro Parenzo are far more interested in subversion and true suspense than they are in fulfilling cliches. The ending alone makes this one worth seeing, and the film itself is a nearly lost gem worth owning. It also doesn’t hurt that Kino Classics’ Blu-ray transfer is absolutely stunning. [Blu-ray extras: Trailers]
Pitch: A blue-jay and a raccoon walk into a bar and immediately start whining about their day jobs…
What’s It About? Mordecai and Rigby are slacker best friends who spend their days giving minimal effort to their jobs and maximum effort to fooling around. It’s not because they’re a blue jay and raccoon (respectively) either. Their laziness leads to unexpected adventures involving video games, time travel, monsters and crappy return policies, and the only guarantee is that the pair will be fully responsible for all of their own bad luck.
Why Buy? This J.G. Quintel-created Cartoon Network show is my second favorite after Adventure Time, and while it’s set ostensibly in the “real” world the possibility of absolutely anything happening keep it unpredictable. As with just about all of the network’s shows this series isn’t for everyone, but I’m a sucker for smart absurdities the likes of which Regular Show displays in spades. [Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, unaired pilot, featurettes, short, music video, interview]
Pitch: Who knew the answer to everything was a black baseball player…
What’s It About? Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) joined Major League Baseball in 1946 thanks to the inspired and forward-looking wisdom of Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford). As expected the decision riled many across the country accustomed to the sport being an all-white experience. The film follows the first year or so of Robinson’s introduction to the ingrained hate and eventual love the fans had to offer.
Why Rent? Writer/director Brian Helgeland takes a step away from his usually more interesting fare into the world of somewhat more commercial filmmaking, and the result is a competent but bland movie. There are moments to savor here, just as there are ones to wince at (those damn little kids), but the vast majority of the film simply plays out like a typical biopic hitting all the historical notes and skimping on real emotion. Boseman does a fine job in the lead role, and hopefully he’ll be able to parlay it into more diverse stories. [Blu-ray extras: Featurettes]
Pitch: Just another macabre Sunday…
What’s It About? Three tales of terror are the basis of this anthology film from Italy that explores evil both natural and supernatural. First up is a woman who begins receiving menacing phone calls from her recently released from prison boyfriend. Next is a story about the undead threatening a family fearful of curses and the evil they bring. And finally, a greedy nurse steals from an elderly patient only to realize too late the price of her crime is death.
Why Rent? Director Mario Bava‘s horror anthology is revered as a classic by some, and while it’s easy to see why in context the film isn’t quite up to today’s snuff. There’s a heavy reliance on style, as in color light filters, and the final story in particular drags more than a little when the film should have gone out big. But that said, there’s a certain charm to Bava’s take on Twilight Zone and Night Gallery-like tales of terror. [Blu-ray extras: None]
Pitch: Shhh, Thomas Jane still thinks this is a remake of The Big Chill…
What’s It About? New Orleans hit man Jimmy Bonomo (Sylvester Stallone) vows revenge after his partner in crime is gunned down by even more ruthless thugs, but the case draws the attention of police as well. A cop from D.C. gets involved and forges an uneasy partnership with Bonomo as the two head into combat against a powerful crime lord and his brawny henchman (Jason Momoa).
Why Rent? Director Walter Hill attempts a bit of a return to his bread and butter films from the ’80s (48 Hrs., Red Heat), but while the action and grit are visible there’s little else here of note. Still, watching Stallone and Momoa go at each other in an ax fight is almost worth the price of admission alone. Sung Kang plays the cop, and he’s dull as dirt, but Christian Slater, Sarah Shahi and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje more than make up the difference. It’s doomed to be forgotten in short order, but it’s fun enough for the 90 minutes or so that you’re watching it. [Blu-ray extras: Featurette]
Pitch: He has a less particular set of skills…
What’s It About? Ben Logan (Aaron Eckhart) leads a generic life as a security expert in Belgium, but that life is interrupted when his past as a CIA agent comes back to haunt him. He soon finds himself and his teenage daughter targeted by the agency and forced to go on the run to stay alive and discover the secret behind their involvement.
Why Rent? Eckhart most likely saw this vehicle as his own version of Liam Neeson’s Taken, but instead of raking in $100M at the box office, this film underwent a title change (from The Expatriate) and received only a token theatrical release. The two films share some similarities, but this one lacks the personality, wit and exciting action sequences of the other. It’s not all lost though as Eckhart is still a fun actor to which, and there are some fun thrills here and there. Olga Kurylenko‘s presence would normally be a plus, but she acts so wooden here as to barely register. [Blu-ray extras: Featurette]
Pitch: Kickstarter to get Lou Taylor Pucci in all the movies…
What’s It About? A group of friends decide to spend the weekend at a cabin in the woods, and you know exactly what happens next.
Why Rent? Sam Raimi’s horror classic doesn’t seem like an obvious target for remaking because the premise is so simple and has already been done to death in countless knock-offs, but that didn’t stop the original filmmakers from producing this redo. Director Fede Alvarez takes the reigns here and delivers a film essentially in two parts. There’s the utterly generic script, flat characters and endless predictability of the first hour, and then there’s the nonstop carnage and bloodletting of what follows. The gore effects are pretty fantastic, the blood and violence is endless and at least two of the actors (Jane Levy and Lou Taylor Pucci) turn in characters worth rooting for. The final 20 minutes in particular are an amazing display of viciousness and grue. [Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurettes]
Pitch: Sad news everyone, but I heard that Solomon Kane and Mandy Lane have broken up…
What’s It About? Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) is a mercenary renowned for his brutality and violent capabilities, but when he discovers his soul is bound for hell he becomes determined to address his evil ways. He denounces violence, but his hand is soon forced when he comes face to face with the evils of others.
Why Rent? Writer/director Michael J. Bassett‘s adaptation of the Robert E. Howard character has been making the rounds since 2009, but it’s only now getting a proper release here in the States. It’s a shame it’s taken this long as the film is a fun, dark fantasy the likes of which rarely get made these days. Purefoy makes for an engaging lead, the special effects are quite good, and the action is well choreographed. It lacks scope, but it remains far better than its four-year shelf life would suggest. [Blu-ray extras: Commentary, making of, deleted scene, featurettes, interviews]
Pitch: May make your blood so bored it feels like coagulatin’…
What’s It About? Well-meaning scientists (of course) in search of a new source of renewable energy tap into the universe’s endless stream of dark-energy, but their efforts don’t quite go according to plan. Complicating things are greedy fat cats and over eager environmentalists who help bring the earth to the brink of destruction. For those of you unfamiliar, the eve comes immediately before the brink but right after the edge.
Why Avoid? There’s a mildly interesting disaster picture buried deep in this miniseries, but 173 minutes is a lot of TV movie drabness to dig through before you find it. Too much in fact. That’s a shame too as the story has a spark of originality in its premise, but that dark energy fun too frequently takes a backseat to more human shenanigans. Steven Weber and Treat Williams are on-hand as the requisite recognizable faces, but they’re not enough to carry the story through its nearly three hour running time. [Blu-ray extras: None]
Skip it and watch Sharknado instead.
Pitch: Women in Ralph Bakshi’s films never remember to put on underwear or bras…
What’s It About? Michael Corleone is a young cartoonist living and barely getting by in 1970s New York City, but when he’s not at the drawing table he’s out experiencing all the city has to offer. He’s surrounded by the dregs of society including killers, pimps, prostitutes, and more.
Why Avoid? Ralph Bakshi‘s animated style and interests are a bit of an acquired taste, and while he’s made some classics, his films lose appeal when they lack narrative cohesion. Sadly this is an example of the latter. The social commentary seems to be more of a focus than story, and while that will be enough for some viewers it left me more distracted than anything else. I enjoy it when boobs pop out as much as the next guy, but the gag is used excessively here leaving little to be shocked or impressed by. [Blu-ray extras: None]
Skip it and watch Wizards instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
Alphas: Season Two
The End of Love
Femme Fatales: The Complete Second Season
Hell on Wheels: The Complete Second Season
Jackie Chan: Battle Creek Brawl / City Hunter
A Little Bit Zombie
Lord of the Flies (Criterion)
Orphan Black: The Complete First Season
Rooster Teeth: Best of Shorts