Welcome back to FSR’s weekly look at new DVD releases hitting shelves both real and virtual! It’s a relatively slow release week with nothing worth buying, but there’s still a minor theme involving three historically solid directors whose latest work shows them to be in major slumps. Luc Besson, John Carpenter and Robert Redford, I’m looking at you.
Other releases this week aside from The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, The Ward, and The Conspirator include Cary Fukunaga’s pretty but bland Jane Eyre, the hilarious clergy molestation comedy Priest, and the latest season of Showtime’s Dexter series.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
The Bang Bang Club
Four photographers in South Africa become fast friends as they cover the bloodshed and warfare accompanying the end of apartheid. The film, based on a memoir by two of them, highlights the daily dangers and moral struggles faced by photographers in a war zone. Of the many questions the film asks the one about helping your subjects instead of simply taking their picture and moving on is handled with tragic honesty. Ryan Phillippe and Taylor Kitsch both deliver strong, grounded performances, and the narrative never bores as it moves between drama and action.
Nothing worth buying this week!
The Best and the Brightest
Pitch: “How about keeping just one eye on the road. I think Beatrice should live long enough to see a white president…”
Why Rent? A young couple (Neil Patrick Harris and Bonnie Somerville) moves to NYC with their daughter and discovers that getting her into a private kindergarten may just be the most difficult accomplishment of their lives. Amy Sedaris and Peter Serafinowicz co-star, but it’s Christopher McDonald who absolutely steals every scene.
Co-writer/director Josh Shelov starts his film from a simple premise but makes it work with a sharp, funny, dirty script and a group of talented and playful actors to mouth every last word.
Pitch: Who’s up for a slow burn, foreign language romance with long stretches of silence…
Why Rent? A confused young woman grows apart from her husband and daughter as she grows closer to a mute young man on death row. Writer/director Ki-duk Kim does not make movies for everyone, and this intimate drama is no exception. His best work remains 3 Iron, but while this one comes no where near the beauty of that film fans of the director and strong acting will find much to savor here.
The narrative moves slowly towards the end and the truth, but it’s the characters that make that journey a compelling one.
Dexter: The Fifth Season
Pitch: Ten things Dexter hates about you…
Why Rent? Dexter (Michael C. Hall) is still reeling from the murder of a loved one at the end of season four, but while he tries to balance his home life with his dark passenger he finds himself unavoidably entangled with a woman (Julia Stiles) he saves from a serial killer. Lots of viewers seemed to take issue with Stiles and/or her character, but I think their relationship worked well to aid in Dexter’s healing and newfound role. Not as successful though is the season’s ending which sees the perfect opportunity for a major revelation and sidesteps it completely.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (UK)
Pitch: We named the French woman Indiana…
Why Rent? A female author named Adele Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin) in the early 20th Century sets off on an Egyptian adventure that leads to trouble of prehistoric and slapstick kind back home in Paris. Luc Besson has spent the past few years behind the camera on a trilogy for children, and this slightly more adult film sees him retaining a lot of their influence. And that’s not a compliment as the childish antics can be a bit much when it comes to some incredibly juvenile humor. That said, Besson still knows how fill his shots with imagination, color, and engaging set pieces. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD which requires either a region-free player or the willingness to watch on your PC.**
Pitch: Joan Fontaine is one of my old-school actress crushes. She played the title role in Orson Welles’s 1943 adaptation of Jane Eyre…
Why Rent? Charlotte Bronte’s acclaimed novel comes to the screen yet again, this time with director Cary Fukunaga. Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) has a terrible childhood but enters adulthood optimistic and looking forward to her new career as a governess, but when she meets the cruel and cold Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender) she discovers a dark secret behind his own isolation. Fukunaga’s film is technically proficient on every level from the acting to the beautiful cinematography, but it offers nothing new to help it stand apart and/or above the many previous versions.
Pitch: From the director and star of Legion…
Why Rent? The long war between mankind and the vampires came to an end when the Church took over the duty of safe-guarding its flock. Or did it? A rogue ninja priest (Paul Bettany, of course) must go against the Church when the bloodsuckers return en masse. Or something. Look, the movie is cheesy, goofy, and often just plain stupid, but it also features some fun action sequences, creative monster designs, and more matte paintings than any other film this year. Plus Maggie Q!
Pitch: It’s bad enough we lost a president, but now we’ll never know how that damn play ends…
Why Avoid? The plot to assassinate our 16th president and two members of his cabinet stumbles in its execution, but the primary goals are achieved. Abraham Lincoln is dead, and the country descends into panic. The government moves to address the issues with an efficient but speedy trial, that may just have a predetermined outcome. James McAvoy sleepwalks through his role as the young lawyer forced to defend Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), and while the film serves to remind viewers of some forgotten history it does so in such a boring and uneventful fashion that you would be forgiven for thinking this was a made for TV movie. Check out my full review here. Skip it and go watch Quiz Show instead.
Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs Evil
Pitch: It’s a sequel to a movie that someone clearly enjoyed…
Why Avoid? Red (Hayden Panettiere) has left Happily Ever After behind in search of specialized training from the Sisters of the Hood, but when her beloved granny (Glenn Close) and two kids are kidnapped by a wicked witch (Joan Cusack) Red is forced back into action.
The highlight of the film, the only highlight, is Patrick Warburton’s Wolf. He’s occasionally funny, but he’s not onscreen nearly enough to justify slugging through the jokes that fall flat from every other character. Skip it and go watch Shrek instead.
John Carpenter’s The Ward
Pitch: You’ll wish the big Indian would hurry up and smother you already…
Why Avoid? A young woman (Amber Heard) sets fire to a house and is rushed off to a psychiatric ward for evaluation. Once there she begins to suspect that all is not right when the other girls begin meeting grisly fates at the hand of a vengeful spirit. Heard’s hotness aside, this would have been a bad direct to DVD thriller from an unknown director. From John Carpenter though it’s a sad disappointment. The scares are non-existent and the plot (including the ending) is strictly by the numbers. Check out my full review here. Skip it and go watch The Fog instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
The Killing (Criterion)
Meet Monica Velour
Outcasts: Season One
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?