Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken crew set their sites on the world of DC Comics with this special episode, and the results are predictably quite funny. The usual voice talent culprits are along for the fun including show co-creator Seth Green and Breckin Meyer, and they’re joined by the likes of Neil Patrick Harris, Megan Fox, Nathan Fillion and others. Aquaman is an easy and obvious target, but the episode finds some fresh angles on his well justified inferiority complex. If there’s a downside it’s that the show is done in conjunction with DC Comics meaning that they can’t be as mean as they may want to be, but there are still plenty of inappropriate actions and dialogue exchanges within. The episode itself is only 22 minutes long, but the Blu-ray is filled with special features to keep the funny coming for a couple extra hours. [Blu-ray extras: Outtakes, Q&A, commentary, featurette, making of, deleted animatics]
Pitch: What are you a gender detective… What’s It About? IFC’s hit series returns for a third season of finding the fun and absurdity in the city of Portland, OR as creators/writers/stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein poke fun at the various personalities that Portland has to offer. Why Buy? I’m probably not a very impartial judge as I’m actually moving to Portland in the next few weeks, but this remains the funniest sketch comedy show currently on television. Not even Armisen’s home base of Saturday Night Live can hold up to the consistency here, and maybe that’s why he just announced his departure from SNL. Sure some of the bits here don’t land as hard or as funny as others, but they move at a fairly fast clip meaning none of them outstay their welcome. [DVD extras: Tours, deleted scenes]
Pitch: It’s an instructional cooking DVD… What’s It About? Rod Serling hosts television’s most important anthology series for a third season featuring the work of Carol Burnett, Robert Redford, Charles Bronson, Cliff Robertson, Leonard Nimoy, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont and more either in front of or behind the camera. Why Buy? The 1961-1962 season of Serling’s masterful television series features 37 episodes, and while they can’t all be winners there are plenty of stand outs to be found here making this a must-own for fans who don’t already own the Blu-ray or a previous collection. CBS is keeping these new releases bare bones which in turn keeps the price down, but the episodes have always been the most essential part anyway. Some of the memorable ones here include “Little Girl Lost,” “Five Characters In Search Of An Exit” and of course, “To Serve Man.” [DVD extras: None]
Pitch: If Wes Anderson was Maori this might have been his directorial debut… What’s It About? Boy (James Rolleston) is eleven years old, the product of a broken home, and New Zealand’s biggest Michael Jackson fan. He gets by on optimism and imagination, but when his long incarcerated father returns Boy’s faced with both fun adventures and unwanted responsibilities. Why Rent? Writer/director Taika Waititi followed up Eagle vs Shark with this joy and pain-filled ode to childhood three years ago, and it’s finally hitting our shores. Like the best coming-of-age tales the film explores the wonder of youth in the face of good times and bad, and we frequently move from Boy’s fun, carefree days to his slowly dawning realization that the father he idolizes is far from a reality. Waititi keeps his story lively with brief animations, dance numbers and imagined scenarios. [Blu-ray extras: Short film,interviews, featurette, trailer]
Pitch: Not since Romeo & Juliet have two title characters been so doomed… What’s It About? Two hitmen are hired to kidnap a young boy currently in protective custody awaiting a trial where he’s meant to testify against a mob boss. Cohen (Roy Scheider) is old school and on the way out, while Tate (Adam Baldwin) is young, brash and more than a little full of himself. The two are like oil and water, and that lack of chemistry is about to turn their simple job into a bloody misfire when the boy decides to save his hide by pitting the two volatile personalities against each other. Why Rent? Writer/director Eric Red never managed to reach the heights of his screenplays for The Hitcher and Near Dark ever again, but this forgotten little film remains a fun and bloody example of ’80s action cinema. It’s a violent affair, and as always it’s fantastic seeing Scheider in a lead role. Baldwin fares less well as he brings Tate a bit too far over the top and effectively robs some scenes of their dramatic suspense, but he’s still worth a few laughs. [Blu-ray extras: Commentary, interviews, deleted scenes]
Pitch: Pretty poorly manicured hands at that… What’s It About? Jack the Ripper has struck again, but as the police and civilian mob close in he returns home to his wife and infant daughter out of breath and covered in his latest victim’s blood. He dispatches his wife before their child’s eyes and dies himself, but years later the killings begin again. Could the Ripper’s vicious spirit be trapped in his teenage daughter’s body possessing her to commit these horrible crimes? Yes. Why Rent? The fine folks at Synapse Films make visible efforts to bring classics from the old Hammer films collection back to gorgeous life, and that desire continues here with a beautiful HD restoration of this 1971 chiller. I’m not an especially big fan of the film itself though as the story feels and plays out a bit too obvious, but genre fans in general and Hammer fans in particular will definitely want to give this bloody flick a spin. [Blu-ray extras: Featurette, galleries, US television introduction, trailers]
Pitch: Finally! An origin story for Wolverine… What’s It About? Logan’s early life is as normal as he’ll ever be, and unfortunately for him it’s destined to be a brief experience before he’s thrust into a world of violence and forced survival. His journey to adulthood will be a painful one filled with blood, loss and some peculiar protrusions emanating from the back of his hands. Why Rent? Shout! Factory and Marvel Knights have released a few of these motion comics previously so past viewers know exactly what they’re getting here. Less traditional animation and more comic cells given life through editing and some very minor animation, these tales come straight from the pages of well received comics. The story here tells a far different one than movie-goers are used to as it reaches farther back in Logan’s life to include family members and their fates. Folks highly interested in the character of Wolverine should definitely give it a watch, but others may be less enamored by the revelations and visual format. [DVD extras: Featurette]
Pitch: In the battle between punks and bumpkins we all win… What’s It About? A small and sleepy little town in California wakes up to some out-of-towners with too much hair gel and too few manners. Motorcycle-riding punks have arrived with their punky hair, clothes and bad attitudes, and when their punkish behavior gets out of hand and results in a motel-owner’s death it starts a war between these leather-clad invaders and the beef-eating locals. Why Rent? Usually when films from decades past are forgotten it’s with good reason, and that reason is usually total incompetence in regard to their production. Stanley Lewis’ 1987 movie teases some of that with its amateurish acting and look, but for the most part it’s actually a fairly adequate little exploitation pic. Sure the punks look nothing like actual punks, but the real issue is the movie is just too damn bland. Events never come close to getting crazy enough with both the violence and the sex kept in check throughout. And there’s nothing punk about that either. [Blu-ray extras (on DVD disc): Interviews, still gallery, bonus feature film Nomad Riders]
Pitch: It’s this year’s Tree of Life in that you all loved it and I can only appreciate it for the visuals… What’s It About? Four college girls (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine) bored with their broke ass lives decide a proper spring break trip is in order, but to do that they’ll need money. One robbery later and the bikini-clad quartet head to Florida for the time of their lives, but the fun is short-lived as they end up behind bars. Luckily they catch the eye of a dealer named Alien (James Franco) who bails them out and introduces to an even more violent lifestyle. Why Rent? This film’s SXSW premiere quickly led to an online cult of affection for Harmony Korine‘s latest, but I’ll be damned if I can legitimately see why. The clear visual appeal lay in Hudgens’ and Benson’s sexy shenanigans, but their curves aside the rest of the film just feels so flat and obvious. Gomez plays a character named Faith, and she’s the religious one. Of course. Nothing about the film is portrayed as realistic or as mattering all that much, and the narrative, what there is of one, is fractured and unfulfilling. Franco deserves credit for his out of the box portrayal of Alien, but that seems to be the extent of any real effort being made here. It does feature one hell of a pool scene though. [Blu-ray extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes, featurettes, commentary, trailer]
Pitch: Two degrees of Kurt Russell… What’s It About? Tower Sky is the most luxurious high rise in all of South Korea, and its wealthy residents are the envy of Seoul’s less fortunate citizens. A Christmas Eve party on one of the highest floors begins innocuously enough, and as the rich folks swap elitist tales hundreds of staff members work to make the night a memorable one. But when a helicopter crashes into the tower it sets off an explosive and fiery chain of events that threaten disaster for everyone regardless of class or status. Why Rent? This Korean disaster film fills a void left my Hollywood’s dearth of similar pics since their heyday in the ’70s with films like The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. Most viewers won’t recognize any of the faces here like they do in those other films, but second-hand stars are replaced with some spectacular stunts and special effects. The visuals make it worth watching, but they can’t hide the lack of emotional impact. It’s not for lack of trying though as the film lays it on pretty thick with many of its characters. [DVD extras: None]
Pitch: There’s a delicious Vietnamese restaurant in Arizona called Unphogettable… What’s It About? Carrie Wells (Poppy Montgomery) never forgets a face. She also never forgets a conversation, an experience or an emotion, and while it makes her worthy opponent on Jeopardy it also leaves her with a gift capable of helping others in need. She joins a NYC homicide squad and sets out to solve crimes using her unique skill, all the while hoping the experience will somehow help her remember the only thing she’s ever forgotten. Her sister’s murder. Why Rent? As CBS procedurals go this is one of the more interesting ones thanks scripts that make creative use of Wells’ condition and the presence of Montgomery in the lead role. She’s a crime show veteran by this point, and she continues to bring charisma to her characters that actually outshines her physical appeal. (Or maybe that’s just me.) Like many shows of this ilk they allow the over-arching plotline of the dead sister to intrude a bit too often, but the characters and plots are compelling enough to keep watching anyway. [DVD extras: Featurettes, commentaries, gag reel, deleted scenes]
Pitch: Not all Evites should be accepted… What’s It About? Iris (Brittany Snow) was on her way to a successful life when the unexpected death of her parents left her the sole provider for her terminally ill younger brother. Her predicament leads to an offer by a wealthy man (Jeffrey Combs) to come to a dinner party he’s throwing and participate in a little game. Desperate and broke, she says yes, and soon she’s in a life or death struggle for victory and survival against a handful of other equally needy souls. Why Rent? The story here seems at first to be a fairly unoriginal and predictable one, but Steffen Schlachtenhaufen‘s script keeps things moving in progressively uncomfortable and occasionally surprising directions. The action is kept suspenseful as well thanks to director David Guy Levy and a cast that’s game for just about anything. Snow is competent enough, and Sasha Grey acquits herself quite well, but this is Combs’ show and he kills it with his casually twisted host calling the shots. [DVD extras: Trailer]
Pitch: A romance even more tone deaf than the one from the Twilight series… What’s It About? Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) and her younger brother are on the run from alien invaders. The enemy doesn’t come in lasers blasting though as instead they’ve devised a far more devious and effective way at achieving world domination. The glittery beings are transmitted into the human’s brain where they effectively extinguish the existing personality and replace it with their own. Think pod people without the need of pods. Trouble starts when Melanie’s operation results in her fighting for control of her body alongside the alien inside her, Wanda. It’s a lot to deal with for a girl who’s also getting her first sexual tingles. Why Avoid? Director Andrew Niccol‘s phones in his script and direction with what may be the blandest sci-fi/action film in decades. Of course he’s hampered and hindered by source material from Twilight creator Stephenie Meyer, but it’s his script so the fault ultimately lay at his feet for the film’s simplistic and often dumb take on teen romance and coming of age dramas. Inexplicably not even the action sequences can stifle yawns of disinterest, and while Ronan is a fine actress she’s just not enough to justify trudging through this epic fail at world building and story telling. [Blu-ray extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes] Skip it and watch The Truman Show instead.
Pitch: If this film were judged on ambition alone it would be a must-see… What’s It About? It’s afternoon in New Orleans, and the next twenty minutes are going to alter the lives of several people as an act of violence sends them all on a collision course. The two highest profile faces here include Christopher Walken as a chatty homeless man and Christian Slater as a federal agent of some kind on the hunt for a dangerous package, and they’re joined by the likes of Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford and Moon Bloodgood. Why Avoid? There’s a good movie in here somewhere alongside an important message, but neither are visible amidst the Crash-like narrative structure, faux-Tarantino dialogue and convoluted details that cloud the issue more than illustrate it. The end result is a repetitive mash-up of scenes played from various perspectives, and it’s a shame too as writer/director Leone Marucci teases ideas and talent that just don’t survive to the finished product. [Blu-ray extras: Making of, deleted scene, featurette, interviews] Skip it and watch Disconnect instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable: Admission Blood and Sand Combat Girls Dead Man Down The Expelled The Gatekeepers Herman’s House How the West Was Won: The Complete First Season The Life of Oharu (Criterion) Tyler Perry’s Temptation White Frog