One of the best things about writing for a movie website like Film School Rejects is access to the “hookers and blow” combo deals at film festivals. That probably counts as two best things, but the takeaway to remember here is that there are the occasional perks to the gig. The actual best thing though (aside from meeting some great and fun fellow movie lovers) is exposure to films I may never have seen otherwise. One such example is this week’s Pick, an American indie that I only caught via screener when it hit theaters… in the UK.
Other releases this week include a re-release of Dario Argento’s fantastic Deep Red, a vengeful Djimon Hounsou in Elephant White, the gorgeous Minka Kelly in The Roommate, Jason Statham stretching as an assassin for hire in The Mechanic, Anthony Hopkins drinking Chianti with Satan in The Rite, and more.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
A group of hopeful fraternity pledges find themselves in a real pickle when the initiation process results in several serious crimes and one pledge bleeding to death on the couch. This is a fantastic thriller that rarely takes a minute to breathe once the action and suspense starts. It’s also filled with strong performances including what deserved to be a star-making turn by Trevor Morgan. From my my full review… “[This] is a rare and unexpected success in that it takes a relatively well worn plot, jettisons the extraneous fat, and focuses on what truly matters. That being the tension, the story, and the characters. It’s a truly exciting thriller that feels realistic even as the situation goes from bad to worse to ridiculous, manages to be stylish without becoming flashy, and perhaps most impressive of all… it makes us care about somebody who would actually consider joining a fraternity.”
Pitch: “I have entered into contact with a perverse mind…”
Why Buy? “As with the best of [Dario] Argento’s works Deep Red is filled with memorable set-pieces, especially those focused on the murders, but unlike many of them it also features a smart and engaging story. [David] Hemmings brings an honest curiosity to his character and makes him one of the Italian director’s strongest and most interesting protagonists. Fans already know how good the film is, but non-fans should check it out as well as it’s more than just an excellent Argento film, it’s a fantastic thriller period.” From my Disc Spotlight on Arrow Video’s release of Deep Red. I Haven’t seen Blue Underground’s, but the movie’s damn good and well worth a blind buy.
Pitch: Some say Japan will end in Godzilla’s fire, others say with bugs…
Why Rent? Jessica Oreck takes a casually-paced look at the Japanese cultural obsession with insects, and please understand when I say “casual” I mean slow as molasses-covered hell. This is not an energetic or fun documentary, and it requires a certain mood on behalf of the viewer to fully appreciate it.
The movie is filled with some beautifully simple images, stretches of poetic silence, and truly enthusiastic bug-loving Asians.
Pitch: You know what teen comedies need more of? Serial killers…
Why Rent? Haven’t seen this one yet, but having recently watched Max Winkler’s excellent Ceremony I’m really interested to see other films starring Reece Thompson. He stars here as the awkward high school boyfriend of the always adorable Kat Dennings unaware that she’s also dating a teacher (Josh Lucas).
Complicating this oddball romantic triangle is word of a serial killer working his way through the locals. Sounds like a perfect fit for the genre!
Pitch: About time the elephant from Ong Bak 2 broke into Hollywood…
Why Rent? Djimon Hounsou is a mercenary who works for a paycheck until he finds something and someone who tugs at his heartstrings and makes him work for a purpose. He cuts a bloody swath through a Thai sex-trafficking gang with the help of gun-runner Kevin Bacon, but he risks it all when a cute Thai teenager asks for his help the job becomes personal. Director Prachya Pinkaew moves outside his comfort zone of martial arts mayhem and full bore into the world of gun violence. Lots and lots of gun violence. The movie is worth watching for the action, but the actual plot is surprisingly messy for such a simple premise.
Pitch: Are there Blacks in Canada? I ask because they don’t last very long in this Canadian series…
Why Rent? Haven’t reached the third season yet in my viewing of this series, but if it’s anything like the first two this should make for some often interesting, occasionally emotional, and usually action-packed television. The series follows the members of Toronto’s Strategic Response Unit as they deal with bad guys, good guys, and everyone in between. The team faces off against killers and misguided citizens alike through shootouts, standoffs, and more. And it stars Amy Jo Johnson from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers!
Pitch: When he fixes things they stay broken forever…
Why Rent? Jason Statham steps into Charles Bronson’s shoes with this structurally similar remake that loses some character work in favor of daddy issues and gunfire.
Ben Foster plays the young apprentice to Statham’s professional, and together the two blow lots of shit up real good. Director Simon West (Con Air) may not have a history of smart movies on his resume but he knows how to craft some fun and entertaining action scenes.
Pitch: Who’s up for a boys in prison flick? No? No one? What if I told you it was artsy…
Why Rent? The director of The Bicycle Thief brings the lives of street urchins to the screen in this tale about two friends in post-WWII Italy whose loyalty to each other is tested when they end up in jail. The movie uses amateur actors but the emotion and intensity comes across fine as does the frustration aimed squarely at a society that could accept children living in such squalor. The film is more social commentary than entertainment, but it’s also the first foreign language title to win an Academy Award and therefore of some historical import.
Pitch: Hurry up and watch this before Saturday the 21st because you know, the Messiah is coming and shit…
Why Rent? The world’s light disappears along with the majority of the population leaving behind a handful of stragglers struggling to survive in the dark. Hayden Christensen brings his wooden acting style to Brad Anderson’s latest film and is joined by Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo as strangers hiding from the shadows and wondering why exactly everyone else has disappeared and left their clothes behind. There are some very cool and occasionally frightening set pieces to be found here, but unfortunately the ending is a complete wash.
Pitch: The Rite? More like The Rong, amirite or amirite? Okay, let’s pretend that didn’t happen…
Why Rent? A young man on the verge of priesthood finds doubt worming its way into his soul so he’s sent to Rome to learn about the lost art of exorcism. Why you would send someone with weak faith to face the devil I don’t know. He meets Anthony Hopkins who shows him the ropes before falling prey himself to Satan’s puppet hand. Now it’s up to Michael to find the strength and faith to save the old priest’s soul. The film’s tagline reads “You can only defeat it when you believe.” And that literally tells you the entire movie right through to the end. Well made, but blandly written and performed.
Pitch: Sexy in a PG-13 kind of way and stupid in an every other kind of way…
Why Avoid? A girl gets a roommate who begins to idolize her and terrorize everyone else after watching Single White Female on HBO. Minka Kelly is incredibly hot, Leighton Meester and Alyson Michalka are cute, and Billy Zane is Billy Zane, but those things aside this is a dumb and obvious flick. Rebecca, the crazy roommate, goes way too psycho way too fast, and nobody behaves in anything approaching a realistic manner. But hey, at least the ending has the good sense to ape Poltergeist.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
The Beautiful Person
Covert Affairs: Season One
The Feathered Serpent: Complete Series
Pale Flower (Criterion)
Red White & Blue
The Secret Of Dorian Gray
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?