This is the second week in a row featuring a metric ton of new releases, and as usual there’s more worth a rental than there are worth buying and avoiding combined. Some of the more recognizable titles this week include the fun Donnie Yen action pic Legend Of the Fist, the alien action movie Battle: Los Angeles, and the Owen Wilson-led gross-out comedy Hall Pass. Two of this week’s better releases though come completely out of left field (for me anyway). One is a cool and casual cop show from A&E and the other is a relationship drama starring the always lovely Rashida Jones.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Theo (Chris Messina) and Nat (Rashida Jones) are young, engaged, and in love… but that may not be enough to save their relationship. Theo’s side job sees people hiring him to photograph them out in public without their precise knowledge, but when a woman hires him to watch her in the park things take a dark turn. He becomes obsessed with her sex-filled evenings and begins to question his own allegiance to monogamy. Both leads give strong performances, but Messina is fantastic as he descends into an emotional spiral. Character study, love story, and a dash of romantic thriller with a strong ending. This is not a happy, feel-good movie, but it is a pretty powerful one.
Pitch: Donnie Yen, Shu Qi, Anthony Wong…
Why Buy? Chen Zhen arrives in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, dons a mask at night, and kicks some major ass. That’s really all that matters here isn’t it? The plot features a light ribbon of gangster style, romance, and anti-Japanese propaganda, but it’s worth sitting through for some stellar fights and stunt action. The opening scene set during a WWII battle is ridiculous fun in the best possible way. It doesn’t rise to the level of the Ip Man films, SPL, or Flashpoint, but it’s still solid entertainment. Check out Brian Salisbury’s full review here.
Pitch: For such a historically pussified country, France sure does make some hardcore police thrillers…
Why Rent? Two Parisian cops (Daniel Auteuil and Gerard Dépardieu) compete for a promotion using tricks usually reserved for the worst criminals.
Their behavior exposes deep levels of corruption and quickly leads to tragedy. This French thriller is a few years old (okay seven) but still packs a solid punch of gritty action and poor decisions. Auteuil is an empathetic lead even as he crosses multiple moral lines, and Dépardieu oozes smarm with the best of them.
Pitch: “It’s Luther. Luther the pimp…”
Why Rent? The first of two double-features from Shout! Factory this week sees two low-profile genre pics collected for your viewing pleasure. First up is Gordon’s War featuring a pissed off Paul Winfield who returns from Vietnam to discover his beloved Harlem has fallen victim to drug dealers, pimps, and other assorted baddies. He does exactly what we would do and assembles a gang of bad motherfuckers to take the pricks down.
Next up is Off Limits starring Willem Dafoe and Gregory Hines as cops tasked with stopping a serial killer in 1968 Saigon.
Pitch: These aliens aren’t interested in eating Reese’s Pieces or jamming on a synthesizer…
Why Rent? Aliens invade the world’s big coastal cities and quickly take all of them over except for one… Los Angeles. The US military stands between them and us, and with Aaron Eckhart in command I’d say we have a pretty good shot at survival. Eckhart leads a suitably ethnic cast through a series of street battles against alien weaponry, and while the movie won’t win any screenwriting awards it does maintain a steady stream of solid action scenes. The movie looks and sounds great too. Check out my full review here.
Pitch: Great gore effects and a hot, frequently nude killer do not a good movie make. But it’s a start…
Why Rent? A young girl murders her mother, goes to an asylum, gets raped, gives birth, and dies during a murder-filled escape attempt. And twenty years later the locals still talk about her… if you can imagine that. A group of schmucks go partying in a graveyard and taunt the legend, and soon they start dying one by one in horrific ways. The story here is unoriginal and the editing is often ridiculously bad, but it’s a fun movie in a couple ways. For one, the special effects are quite good and damn bloody. For another, it’s pure exploitation to make your killer a messed up woman who struts around nude almost throughout the movie. She’s a sexy killer, but she’s also been abused, raped, and killed… so your genitalia may be confused as to how exactly it should react.
Pitch: Fifty year olds can kick ass too…
Why Rent? A lovable loser type stumbles into a small village feud between some ruffians and some good-natured locals at a tea shop, and he gets the chance to redeem himself for a worthy cause.
This is a lightweight and light-hearted action/comedy about expectations, destiny, and the idea of underdogs. It’s a fun watch, but it does suffer from a mild pacing issue and an overall feeling that it’s all just so underwhelming. Still, there are some laughs and creative sparring to be found. Check out Luke Mullen’s full review here.
Pitch: Who knew A&E had original narrative programming? Hell, who knew A&E was still around…
Why Rent? A smart but difficult Chicago cop (Matt Passmore) moves to Central Florida hoping for a relaxing remainder to his career, but he finds the warmer climate may actually breed even more crime than the big city. This is a fun, interesting, well written show that I’d never heard of before watching the DVD, but I’m definitely tuning in for season two. Passmore is the perfect blend of charisma, confidence, and charm, and his interactions with good and bad guys alike are always entertaining. Plus, and this is a big bonus, Kiele Sanchez (A Perfect Getaway) stars as his love interest. So that’s awesome.
Pitch: Based on a story by Stephen King! Well, in the same way The Lawnmower Man was anyway…
Why Rent? An FBI agent named Audrey Parker comes to a small town in Maine in pursuit of a fugitive, but she decides to stay on to help the local authorities with a series of odd occurrences. One of which involves a mysterious woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Parker and a child known as the Colorado Kid.
You can just forget about the Stephen King connection here as it’s tenuous at best, instead just go into this Syfy series expecting a fun but lightweight X-Files clone and you won’t be disappointed.
Pitch: The one thing the Tea Party is correct about is that our soldiers deserve better when they return home…
Why Rent? This fairly depressing documentary looks at four Iraq veterans who’ve returned home to wildly disparate realities. Two seem to be doing okay, but the other two are living far from ideal lives. The film acknowledges the mistakes they’ve made that have contributed to their circumstances, but it also points a finger at a system that seems to have failed them time and again. Slightly more bleak than uplifting, this is worth a watch as a peek into a world that most of us will never have to endure.
Pitch: Neil Miller always takes credit for running the mob out of Cleveland, but apparently it was actually this Danny Greene guy…
Why Rent? Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson) was a burly Irishman who worked his way up through the mob ranks until they decided he was more trouble than he was worth. So they tried to kill him… and then tried again and again.
Stevenson makes for an interesting lead, but it’s the supporting actors and the multiple explosions that make it worth a watch. Val Kilmer, Vincent D’ Onofrio, and Christopher Walken are always fun, and they rarely disappoint here.
Pitch: Who’s up for a five hour plus Thai movie? What if I told you there were elephants in it…
Why Rent? This is the true-ish two-part story of King Naresuan the Great and follows him from early childhood through victory on the battlefield. This is epic filmmaking, Thai style, with all the big battle scenes, broadly written drama, and poorly choreographed action scenes you’ve come to expect. I kid, kind of. The one on one fights are unimpressive, but the larger scale battles can be fun. (And no, it’s not only due to the attractive female archer who takes neither guff nor prisoners.) Consider this a hesitant recommendation for Thai film fans only.
Pitch: Moody, angst-filled Marvel superhero action that we rarely get to see on the big screen…
Why Rent? Spider-Woman, a character I’ve admittedly never heard of before, makes for a very compelling protagonist. A brief intro to her volatile past with The Avengers leads to a job working for S.W.O.R.D., an organization searching for alien lifeforms on Earth. Cameos from better known heroes and villains are sprinkled throughout a dark story of double and triple crosses. The animation style is reminiscent of Max Payne’s game cinematics and features single frames imbued with effects and camera moves. It’s effective and when combined with solid voice acting and writing the end result is comic book pages come to life.
Pitch: The only con here is the effort to get you to watch this movie…
Why Avoid? A young man (Rossif Sutherland) gets out of prison and is immediately drawn back in to criminal activity by his old boss (Donald Sutherland). It’s not exactly clear what this movie is going for… it’s a crime thriller with no thrills, a character study with no interesting characters, a romance with no chemistry.
Sutherland the younger is also no Donald. Or Kiefer for that matter. Sarah Roemer is cute and charismatic, but she’s in far too little of the movie.
Pitch: See the movies that informed Michael Bay’s younger years…
Why Avoid? Shout! Factory’s second double feature of the week doesn’t come off nearly as well as the “Action Packed” one above. Robot Wars is a future-set flick that sees less of a robot war and more of a brief robot skirmish at the very end of the movie. It’s more interested in corporate shenanigans, wacky situations, and “funny” dialogue apparently. The second movie plays like a cross between The Thing and The Terminator in theory anyway. A small group of survivors suspect that one of them is a synthetic being… surprise! One of them is and soon he’s killing them all as they wander the one set the filmmakers could afford. Skip it and go rent The Thing or The Terminator.
Pitch: It’s a sad state of affairs when you’d rather use the pass to avoid watching the movie than for casual sex…
Why Avoid? Two dumbass guys (Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) decide they need more than their attractive and funny wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) can provide. The women offer them a free pass to pursue their carnal desires outside of the marriage, but will the plan backfire when the ladies get the same opportunity? Will you care? The Farrelly Brothers’ latest film is a return to the raunchiness they helped pioneer with movies like There’s Something About Mary, but the difference is that that film was actually hilarious. This one barely reaches the level of mildly humorous. (Although I admit I may have laughed aloud at the bathtub scene.) Check out Benji Carver’s full review here.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son
Fall Down Dead
The Makioka Sisters (Criterion)
Red Riding Hood
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?