Welcome back to This Week In Discs!
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Going by the Book
When a new police chief arrives in the rural town of Sam-po, he decides his fastest way back to the city is to impress the locals and his higher-ups with something flashy and result-oriented. The town has seen a rash of bank robberies so he sets up a simulation involving his officers and the bank… one cop will play the role of robber, and the others will respond and arrest him. Unfortunately for him and his plans though he picks traffic cop Jung Do-man (Jung Jae-young) as the robber and orders him to do his best. And Jung’s best is apparently better than anything the police can throw at him.
I like to think I’m pretty up on my Korean cinema, but this fantastic 2007 film has escaped my attention until now (so thanks to 5 Points Pictures for giving it a US release). This is a very funny movie with both situational comedy and some darker laughs including the best rape-related gag since Eric the Viking. Jung’s robbery turns into a standoff with police and manages all the ridiculousness of Dog Day Afternoon with only a fraction of the sweat and drama. You’d think that would lessen the suspense, but it doesn’t. The film also gets kudos as being the rare Korean movie to run under two hours. See it! [DVD extras: Making of, featurettes, deleted scenes, marketing materials, music video, trailers]
Pitch: The role of Django’s ball sack is played by Will Smith…
What’s It About? Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave freed by a mysterious dentist/bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) and granted a chance at finding his wife. It seems she’s come under the ownership of a dastardly plantation owner named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), and the path to her freedom is lined with blood.
Why Buy? Quentin Tarantino follows his career highpoint (2009’s Inglourious Basterds) with a suitably over the top and occasionally brilliant slice of racial exploitation. The third act lasts a bit too long (into a fourth act even) and the director’s cameo feels even longer, but the film remains a very funny, wonderfully violent and beautifully shot piece of entertainment. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Jackie Chan Double Feature: Police Story 1 & 2
Pitch: The first film’s so good that it had two scenes ripped off wholesale by Tango & Cash and Bad Boys II…
What’s It About? Officer Kevin Chan (Jackie Chan) didn’t set out to be a hero, but when he’s tasked with protecting a witness from the bad guys who want her dead he goes above and beyond in the line of duty. The trouble continues in part II as the thugs return to get revenge on Chan by targeting his long-suffering girlfriend (Maggie Cheung) while terrorists threaten the city with bombings.
Why Buy? Shout! Factory’s double feature brings these two Chan classics two Blu-ray for the first time in the US, but sadly neither film has been remastered. As such they look their age and offer little reason to double dip if you already own the DVDs. But if you don’t have them? This is well worth a buy as both films are top of the charts when it comes to action cinema. Both films are offered at their most complete lengths, which has its positives and negatives, and there are plenty of special features as well. [Blu-ray extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes, alternate scenes, trailers]
Rolling Thunder Presents: The Mighty Peking Man, Detroit 9000, Switchblade Sisters
Pitch: Quentin Tarantino’s sponsoring of this week’s Buy section continues…
What’s It About? Three “classic” films together on one disc for the first time! The Mighty Peking Man is a riff on King Kong that follows adventurers trying to find and export a giant ape creature along with his Sheena-like blonde bombshell sidekick. Detroit 9000 is a cops & robbers tale with a fat injection of race. And Switchblade Sisters follows gang warfare between high-schoolers and features foul-mouthed ladies holding the biggest blades.
Why Buy? Tarantino’s DVD label isn’t very prolific, but when they do release something it’s almost guaranteed to be good fun. This trio is no different. None of the films are necessarily worth buying on their own, but collectively at this price it’s a no-brainer. Peking is a wonderfully goofy mix of bad acting and worse effects, but it’s charming in its ridiculousness. The blonde jungle girl is fun to watch too. Detroit is pretty generic and the least interesting of the bunch, but it’s also probably the most competent and serious. Switchblade is pure, over the top exploitation fun that manages street fighting, sexy shenanigans and women in prison hi-jinx. [DVD extras: None]
Dragon (aka Wu Xia)
Pitch: It’s like A History of Violence but with more kung-fu…
What’s It About? A quiet paper-maker (Donnie Yen) with a loving family finds his peaceful village life shattered when two murderous thugs force his hand and end up dead. A detective (Takeshi Kaneshiro) familiar with forensics finds it suspicious that an unassuming man could have defeated two known gangsters and begins to suspect he may be hiding his own violent past.
Why Rent? Director Peter Chan‘s latest finds itself shorn of 20 minutes or so by the Weinsteins for its American debut, but unlike many of TWC’s hatchet jobs this one actually helps the film’s overall pacing. The movie is a fun mix of action sequences and stylish recreations where Kaneshiro’s character visualizes what he theorizes actually happened. things fall apart a bit in the third act though when some silly plot turns take precedence over quality action. [Blu-ray extras: Making of, featurettes, music video]
Not Suitable for Children
Pitch: Oooh, right in the eye…
What’s It About? Jonah (Ryan Kwanten) is a fun-loving twentysomething whose personal mantra is simply “have fun.” The good times come to an end though when a girl on her knees in front of him discovers a lump in one of his testicles, and it turns out to be cancer. A life-saving operation is scheduled for two weeks out with the understanding that the only side effect will be complete sterility. Faced with a hard stop date on his ability to father children Jonah sets out, with the help of his best friends Stevie (Sarah Snook) and Gus (Ryan Corr) to find a woman willing to let him impregnate her.
Why Rent? This sweetly amusing and heartfelt Australian flick walks a fine line playing out exactly as you’d expect before it happily subverts expectations with some third act honesty. Kwanten lays on the “idiot stud” routine a bit too much, but Snook does wonders with a role that could have easily become caricature. It’s a little bit sexy, a little bit funny and a little bit real, and it’s well worth a watch. [Blu-ray extras: Interviews, behind the scenes, trailer]
State of Emergency
Pitch: Someone give the Clay Brothers a real budget please…
What’s It About? When a nearby explosion turns a small town into a war zone of the living, the dead and the somewhere in between, one man takes refuge with his wounded girlfriend in a barn in an effort to survive. He does, she doesn’t, and soon Jim is alone again with only red-eyed cannibalistic murderers to keep him company. A trio of survivors makes contact with him, but are four people any safer than just one?
Why Rent? Zombie-related DTV titles are a ubiquitous sight almost every week, but while the vast majority of them are garbage across the board this one only suffers in the effects department. As in the CGI here is laughable. Thankfully though writer/director/editor/composer Turner Clay does a surprisingly solid job everywhere else. His film offers a different (but far from showy) take on zombies, manages some fun sequences and set pieces and delivers a third act that subverts expectations. I’d love to see what he could do with a real budget. [DVD extras: Deleted scenes, making of, featurette]
At the Gate of the Ghost
Pitch: My money’s on the butler…
What’s It About? A young monk seeks the truth behind a murder but hears three separate and conflicting testimonies as to what supposedly happened. His quest for answers may also determine whether or not he chooses a change of career.
Why Avoid? Supposedly inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon this Thai film follows a familiar path with its varied tellings of the same story. The problem here is that unlike the Japanese film this one never feels weighty or all that interesting. Compounding the problem are performances and a visual style that feel somewhat cheap at times and some unsuccessful stabs at humor. [Blu-ray extras: Making of, behind the scenes, trailer]
Skip it and watch Courage Under Fire instead.
Pitch: You know you’re in trouble when not even Danny Nucci can save your movie…
What’s It About? Harmon Porter (Dominic Purcell) is a psychopath just biding his time in an asylum until he decides it’s time to escape, but when a group of students visit the madhouse for a field trip (?) he finds motivation in the saucy Abby Jones (Christine Evangelista). He busts out, hunts her down and people die.
Why Avoid? Not every film needs to be original, but is it too much to ask that a movie make some effort to be watchable? This generic slasher lacks personality at every level from the script to the direction to the acting. Sure it’s fun seeing Carly Chaikin outside of Suburgatory, and some of the girls are cute, but the acting is so flat across the board. The “scares” and attempts at suspense are as obvious as they come too. Dull, dull, dull. [Blu-ray extras: Making of, trailer, photo gallery] *Note: The image here is not correct, but the link is accurate.*
Skip it and watch Halloween instead.
The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia
Pitch: Geography isn’t the only class these filmmakers failed…
What’s It About? A young couple and their daughter move into a rural Georgia home, but before the first box has even been unpacked, strange visions and occurrences start happening with mother and daughter. It seems their new home has a violent past, and if they’re not careful it’s going to cut their future short. Someone call AAA quick!
Why Avoid? As stupid as that title is at least it’s unintentionally entertaining. The same can’t be said for the movie itself which has no sense of pacing or characterization, poor direction and an over-reliance on cheap scares (of both digital and editing varieties). Katee Sackhoff co-stars, and it’s a sad reminder that we saw her in another DTV dud last week (Sexy Evil Genius). [Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurette, deleted scenes, trailer]
Skip it and watch Lost In America instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
Attack of the Herbals
The Colombian Connection
Empire of Silver
Iron Man: Rise of Technovore
A Monster in Paris
Repo Man (Criterion)
Spies of Warsaw