Welcome back to This Week In Discs!
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Philippe (François Cluzet) is a wealthy quadriplegic in need of a full-time caretaker. The list of applicants is long, but it’s a lower class Senegalese immigrant named Driss (Omar Sy) who gets the job because Phillipe wants someone who won’t look at him with pity. The relationship is bumpy at first, but the pair become fast friends through mutual respect and a shared sense of humor.
Writer/directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano based their film on a true story, and while the subject of Philippe’s reality could very easily have made for a sappy melodrama, they wisely avoided that route. Instead the movie finds real humor and compassion in the developing friendship and the effect it has on these two lives. The script is surprisingly funny and never maudlin, and both leads show spectacular chemistry and personality. [DVD extras: None]
Pitch: Freddy Krueger: There and Back Again…
What’s It About? When teenagers (and twenty-somethings who theoretically look like teens) start dying in their dreams the culprit is identified as child molester turned wise-cracking antihero Freddy Krueger. He slices and dices his way through seven movies’ worth of young adults, and this set collects them all in HD for the first time (after a several-month-long exclusive availability at Best Buy).
Why Buy? Like any film series or franchise, the Nightmare films vary pretty wildly in quality, but regardless they’ve never looked quite this good before. The first film remains the best, even if its cheapness is even more glaring in HD, followed by parts 3, 4 and 7. The set is loaded with extras including a fifth disc featuring a doc, two episodes of Freddy’s Nightmares and more. [Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, featurettes, music videos, trailers, alternate scenes, retrospective doc]
Pitch: A blue jay and a raccoon walk into a bar. They have some drinks…
What’s It About? Mordecai (the blue jay) and Rigby (the raccoon) have jobs as park groundskeepers, but much of their time is spent finding new ways to slack off instead. Their boss is a frequently angry gumball machine.
Why Buy? This Cartoon Network series continues to crack me up with its sharp writing and crazy scenarios that manage to feel familiar even as they move into ridiculous territory. The supporting characters run the oddball gamut of an albino gorilla, a green-skinned bruiser, a lollipop-shaped man from the 1800s and a ghost with a constant high-five hand atop his head. The one criticism I have of the release though is that CN continues to release random collections instead of complete seasons. [DVD extras: Party Guest List]
Pitch: I guess we can finally forgive Steven Spielberg for Always…
What’s It About? Oscar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is a businessman focused on success in WWII Poland, but when the war and Hitler begin their onslaught against the Jewish people he discovers an unexpected compassion within himself. He begins using his resources to rescue as many people as he can from the gas chambers, but will it ever be enough?
Why Buy? Spielberg’s epic black & white drama won all the awards, and just a single viewing is enough to confirm why. Beautifully acted by all involved (including Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes) and stunningly photographed by Janusz Kaminski, the film is a powerhouse of emotion, drama and humanity. The disc is pretty light on the special features, but even a bare-bones release would be worth buying for a movie this great looking this fantastic. [Blu-ray extras: Featurettes]
Pitch: There’s a bay in Baltimore? Who knew…
What’s It About? When large numbers of fish and birds drop dead in the seaside town of Claridge it marks the beginning of an incident that would devastate the town but never make the national news. The film, pieced together from footage found (wink wink) a few years after the event, tells the story we were never meant to know.
Why Rent? Before you scoff at yet another “found footage” movie, it’s worth noting that Barry “Rain Man” Levinson directed this one. That curiosity alone makes this one worth a watch, but thankfully it’s also a pretty good movie period. Maybe the secret was hiring a competent director? The story is interesting enough, the characters and camera-work never annoy and there are some fun thrills and effects to be found too. [DVD extras: Commentary, featurette]
Pitch: Anne Rice meets Agent 47…
What’s It About? Viktor (Luke Goss) is a hitman from sunny Eastern Europe who heads to London after being betrayed by his Ukrainian bosses. He agrees to an interview to tell his life story, but the ending may be a surprise even to him.
Why Rent? The presence of Goss is usually a good indicator that a film should be avoided, but this low budget action/drama makes some interesting choices. The action and gunplay are pretty standard, and Goss is far from Mr. Charisma, but the story goes in some unexpected directions on its way to more dramatic ending than DTV action movies usually aim for. [Blu-ray extras: Making of, trailer]
What’s It About? Spokane, WA becomes ground zero for an invasion when Chinese soldiers dressed as North Koreans sneak into the United States and take over the Pacific Northwest. The last and best hope America has is a group of “teenagers” and a US marine visiting his family who head into the mountains and begin a resistance against the occupiers.
Why Rent? This remake of the fun ’80s film aims for similar effect but misses the mark in more than a few areas. The cast and characters are lacking in charisma, Josh Peck is all kinds of annoying and it’s insulting knowing that they digitally changed the uniforms from Chinese to North Korean so as not to upset China. All that said though the action is pretty enjoyable. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Pitch: Not only was The Governor a detective before the zombie apocalypse, but he was also British…
What’s It About? DI Tom Thorne (David Morrissey) is a London police officer tasked with catching the city’s worst offenders. First up is a serial killer who’s murdering people in an attempt to place them in a vegetative but aware state. Next is a killer who’s apparently found a partner in crime.
Why Rent? This collection features two UK mini-series, each based on a bestselling novel by Mark Billingham (Sleepyhead and Scaredycat). As with many UK adaptations the format really benefits the material’s depth and character roster by allowing time for the stories to develop. The first of the two series is the more entertaining and successful one while the second takes some predictable turns, but both feature strong performances and the always wonderful Eddie Marsan and Aidan Gillen. [DVD extras: None]
Pitch: If it’s good enough to draw Catherine Zeta-Jones out of retirement…
What’s It About? Beth (Rebecca Hall) is a stripper looking for a job that will let her keep her clothes on, and she thinks she’s found it when she meets Dink (Bruce Willis). He’s essentially a bookie with a growing roster of clients, and while he puts her brain for numbers to good use on the job the duo also starts falling in love.
Why Avoid? Look, I love me some Rebecca Hall, and she’s pretty scantily clad through much of this one, but it is not a good movie. Even worse, she’s not good in it. We know the Brit can do American accents, but whatever she’s trying her is just painful to endure. Even if your ears weren’t bleeding from her voice you’d be bored to tears with a storyline and character arcs that just never engage. [Blu-ray extras: Deleted scenes]
Skip it and watch Lost in America instead.
Pitch: As far as MTV Road Rulers turned actors go, “The Miz” is no Jamie Chung…
What’s It About? Sgt. Jake (Mike Mizanin) returns home from Afghanistan to visit his two sisters but discovers that he forgot to leave the war behind. One of his sister’s is kidnapped by Neal McDonough who’s frustrated at the lack of meaty villain roles and maybe a bit perturbed at the fat cats on Wall Street too. It’s up to Mr. Miz to rescue sis and save the day.
Why Avoid? The first film in this franchise (starring John Cena) was actually a pretty okay action flick. Cena’s no thespian, but the action and budget were big enough to keep things exciting. Nobody saw the second installment. This one is saddled with anemic character development, a weakly-plotted story and, most sinful, unimpressive action sequences. [Extras: Featurettes]
Skip it and watch First Blood instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter
Gun Hill Road
Hit & Miss
Muay Thay Warrior
Playing for Keeps
Robin Hood: Season One
Waiting for Lightning