This week doesn’t feature much in the way of high profile releases, but there are two genre titles hitting shelves that are worth a blind buy for fans of quality international cinema. And violence. Lots and lots of fantastically gruesome and bloody violence. One’s even in English for those of you unwilling (or unable) to read.
I Saw the Devil and Black Death may be the best titles hitting shelves today, but they’re not alone. Other new releases include Blue Valentine, No Strings Attached, Dahmer vs Gacy, and more.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
The black plague works its way across Europe, but when word comes of a village that has rescinded God’s favors and is free of death the bishop sends his best men to bring back the lead heretic for punishment. Sean Bean heads up the mission and recruits a young monk to help guide their way, and the group is soon waist-deep in mystery, madness, and dead bodies. Director Christopher Smith has delivered a dark exploration of faith, both what it means to retain it as well as what it takes to let it go. The action is a well-choreographed mix of metal on metal when it’s not slicing its way through flesh, and the ending packs a solid punch as well.
I Saw the Devil
Pitch: It’s not that simple identifying which character is the ‘I’ and which is the ‘Devil’…
Why Buy? When a man’s fiance is murdered he sets his sight on a very particular, dangerous, and wince-inducing revenge. Choi Min-sik (Old Boy) plays the ridiculously twisted killer and Lee Byung-hun is the mournful (but equally effed up) revenge-seeker. This is director Ji-woon Kim’s sixth feature, and while I haven’t seen The Foul King yet I have seen the rest (including A Tale Of Two Sisters, The Good the Bad the Weird, and A Bittersweet Life). They’re all different genres, from comedies to westerns to horror, but the one common denominator between them is that they kick ass. This extremely violent and twisted revenge thriller is no different. Check out my full review here.
Pitch: “Almighty Thor is easily the least boring Asylum film I’ve ever attempted to watch,” says the wonderful and wise John Gholson…
Why Rent? Haven’t seen this one yet, but when Gholson speaks I listen. The Asylum is the production company behind such “classic” knockoffs as Paranormal Entity and Battle Of Los Angeles as well as highly inspired pairings like Megashark vs Giant Octopus. Their well-timed Thor ripoff sees Loki destroy Valhalla and then turn his eye toward Earth leaving Thor to step up to save the day. But the real selling point? Loki is played by Richard “Booker” Grieco!
Pitch: A young man and a young woman meet, fall in love, get married, and eventually fall apart. Just not in that order…
Why Rent? A relationship is no greater than the sum of its parts, and when the parts in question are this electric and fragile the outcome seems like a foregone conclusion. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams make the pain and sorrow of a break up a palpable third character, and Williams in particular delivers an honest and unflinching performance. As convincing as the downward slide is though the flashbacks to happier times aren’t nearly as believable. They appear to get together because she’s pretty and he’s a charismatic goofball, but there’s seemingly nothing else to it. It’s not quite the love story other critics have claimed, but it does feature a powerful, sexy, and incredibly sad performance from Williams. And a great joke about a child molester.
Dahmer vs Gacy
Pitch: “King Kong vs Godzilla ain’t got shit on me…”
Why Rent? Haven’t seen this one yet, but I’m sold by the following official synopsis: “A secret government lab run by Dr. Hess has been trying to create the ultimate killer using the DNA of infamous killers Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy, but there’s one big problem: they’ve escaped! Bloody mayhem stretches across the United States as they go on the ultimate killing spree. Trying to stop the maniacal madness is Ringo, a hick warrior being trained by God, using only a shotgun and a bottle of whiskey. In his road trip to hell, he must first fight off his own demons, not to mention an army of Japanese ninjas and a Super-serial killer! It all leads up to the ultimate showdown!”
Is God Great?
Pitch: Define great…
Why Rent? Haven’t seen this one yet, but I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed Christopher Hitchens’s book, God Is Not Great. He’s made an effort over the last several years to mix his speaking engagements with actual debates, one of which is captured here. Prof. John Lennox, a scientist and devout Christian from Oxford University, faces off against Hitchens on the topic of God’s existence and intentions for mankind. Should be all kinds of entertaining and maybe even a little bit enlightening.
No Strings Attached
Pitch: Only in Hollywood would the idea of being friends with benefits be considered a bad thing…
Why Rent? Two pseudo friends decide to add sexual shenanigans to their routine without letting it grow into anything real. But rules, much like hymens, were meant to be broken. I’m going to go ahead and apologize for that one right now. Natalie Portman and the mentally challenged guy from That 70’s Show are both game for some wacky and raunchy fun, but the script never quite gives them good enough material. Still, it’s Portman in a sex comedy. So, you know, it’s worth a rental on that factor alone.
Something Wild (Criterion)
Pitch: Hey, remember when Melanie Griffith was a star? Yeah. I never understood that either…
Why Rent? A neat and organized man (Jeff Daniels) meets a free-spirited woman (Griffith) who takes him on a wild ride of sex, school reunions, and angry ex-boyfriends. An ex-boyfriend played by Ray “Live Wire” Liotta. Director Jonathan Demme peaked back in the early 90s, but before his Academy Award one-two punch of Silence Of the Lambs and Philadelphia he made a couple of successful comedies with strong leading ladies (this one and Married To the Mob). Griffith is good fun here, but Daniels is the real standout as the straitlaced office worker reeling from the best time of his life.
Nothing I’ve seen worth avoiding this week! But for the record, I haven’t experienced the Justin Bieber experience yet.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
The Hit List
How I Ended This Summer
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
Slime City Massacre
The Violent Kind
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?