discs ERNEST AND CELESTINE

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Discs Section: Pick of the Week

ernest and celestineErnest & Celestine

Celestine is a young mouse still learning the ways of the world, and part of her ongoing education is learning that the bears who live on the surface above the subterranean city the mice call home are vicious, mean and constantly intent on eating any mouse they come across. She’s never met one, but she sees no reason why mice and bears can’t be friends. She finds her opinion challenged when one of her excursions up top brings her in contact with a bear named Ernest, and soon the two are on an adventure that goes against all the laws of both bear and mouse society.

This French award-winner is a whimsical delight from beginning to end as it tells a sweet tale of friendship that doubles as a metaphor for inter-species relations. Maybe I read too much into that part, but it does work as a story about celebrating commonalities instead of fearing differences, and in that regard it’s a big success. The soft animation, complete with unfinished lines and watercolor stylings, creates an immersive and warm world, and scenes like the duo’s garbage can meet-cute and a wonderfully chaotic chase with police show a diversity that the style handles with equal strength. See it with the bear (or mouse) in your life.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, animatic, interview]

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the attorneyThe Attorney

Song Woo-seok (Song Kang-ho) is a lawyer whose lack of “proper” education has forced him to be craftier in his trade than those around him. His tactics earn him scorn and derision along with a healthy income, but his thirst for cash takes a backseat when he stumbles into a case involving government-sanctioned torture of Korean citizens.

On the surface, The Attorney is a David & Goliath-type tale about a lone lawyer standing up for what’s right against the power and threats of a corrupt police department and legal system. It works well enough on that front to satisfy viewers looking for a dramatically thrilling story, but the film earns extra power by being based on a true story. In addition to being an entertaining courtroom drama, this is also a fascinating (albeit fictionalized) glimpse into the life of Roh Moo-hyun, the lawyer the film is based on and who would eventually go on to become president of the nation.

[DVD extras: None]

the final memberThe Final Member

Siggi is man on a mission. He already boasts stewardship of the world’s only museum dedicated to the mammalian penis, but the one thing his museum lacks is the one thing it’s been toughest to acquire: a human penis. A great Icelandic adventurer has stepped forward promising to donate his upon his death, but the race is on when an American enters the fray offering to donate his own member while he’s still alive.

A documentary about a penis museum seems silly on its face, but the film manages to be a profound and endearing look at what motivates us in life and in death. Siggi’s goal to educate and ignore barriers erected by those who see the penis as a taboo subject is infectious, and not for nothing but he’s by far the most “normal” of the trio. All three men are pursuing a dream, one that will extend beyond their death, and it’s fascinating to see and hear their desires put into words.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Tour of museum, booklet, trailer]

the grand budapest hotelThe Grand Budapest Hotel

Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) was a legendary concierge at an infamous European hotel in the years between the forst and second world war. His life there, as told by the hotel’s current owner reveals a man who loved women, fought for what was right and befriended a young lobby boy who would one day grow up to tell the tale of Gustave H.

Wes Anderson‘s latest film is probably his most Wes Anderson-y yet, and that comes with both good and bad points. It’s a stunning visual achievement that creates a world through all manner of visual effects and intentional beauty, and the script and cast offer up a multitude of humorous delights. But the damn thing lacks humanity and emotion. We’re told about all manner of events that we should care about, but the incredibly high degree of quirk and script choices leave little room for actual feelings. This is essentially lower-tier Anderson, but like lower-tier David Fincher (Panic Room) there’s still a lot to enjoy and be impressed with here.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Vignettes, featurettes, still gallery]

the lego movieThe LEGO Movie

Emmet (Chris Pratt) is an average guy whose continually optimistic outlook is fueled by his appreciation for, and obedience of, President Business’ (Will Ferrell) instructions for living. They tell him to park within the lines, drink overpriced coffee, root for the local sports team… everything necessary for an orderly, structured, and “perfect” community. That illusory perfection is threatened by a prophecy stating that a lone hero will rise to liberate the people through organized chaos, and as luck would have it, Emmet appears to be that hero. Or not.

The pleasantly unexpected continues with a big, beating heart and a surprisingly humanistic soul amid the branded plastic faces, ingratiatingly catchy theme song (“Everything is Awesome!”), and distant ka-chings of toy store cash registers. The third act sincerity trumps the emotion on display in far too many “important” films too meaning you will most likely shed tears for a film about plastic toys from Denmark. I’m not saying I did (I totally did), but you might.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary, outtakes, sing-along]

regular show 3Regular Show: The Complete Third Season

Mordecai the blue jay and Rigby the raccoon are best friends. They do everything together, or more accurately, they do nothing together. They’re slackers. Big time. But their efforts to avoid actual work and responsibility usually leads to adventures requiring a lot more effort than a simple job would.

This Cartoon Network series premiered in 2010, and while it doesn’t get the press that Adventure Time does it’s equally deserving of your attention. Why? Because it’s incredibly funny and odd and wonderful and surreal. It’s not for everyone of course, but for folks who appreciate strange humor and gags both broad and subtle, the show is a steady stream of creativity and bonkers story-lines. Season three features forty episodes.

[DVD extras: Commentaries, featurettes]

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2 Autumns, 3 Winters

Two couples in love or something like it. Writer/director Sébastien Betbeder‘s film has all the hallmarks of a traditional, heartfelt romantic comedy, but it plays around with the structure and presentation in an odd way. Not only do the characters talk directly to the camera, both in the scenes and in staged, interview-like backdrops, but they also narrate some of the films biggest moments. Some dramatic moments lose feeling they would otherwise have had, but overall the film still manages some laughs and sweetness.

[DVD extras: Short film]

13 Sins

Elliot Brindle (Mark Webber) is having a bad day. A single phone call changes all of that by offering a chance at financial freedom. The catch? Complete a series of thirteen challenges without fail and without telling anyone else what’s happening. What could possibly go wrong? This a mix of dark comedy and vicious thrills, but while there are moments that surprise and sing far too much of it feels overly familiar.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, alternate ending, deleted scene, featurette]

Almost Human

Mark went missing two years ago, but now he’s back, and his home town will never be the same. Mostly because he’s slicing through them with an ax of course, but also because his return signifies a truth about life beyond the Earth. This is a fun-enough little horror flick that doesn’t shy away from the red stuff, and that gore pretty much makes up for the script’s shortcomings.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, making of, behind the scenes, featurette, short film, trailer, photo gallery]

Alpha Alert

Three war veterans are trapped in an elevator, and the tight confines combined with their personal issues leads to unforeseen conflicts. This is a somewhat claustrophobic little thriller, and while it’s ultimately slight the actors keep things engaging for the most part.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, trailer]

The Angela Mao Ying Collection

Women action stars aren’t nearly as commonplace as they should be, and it’s great whenever one comes along who can kick ass and take names. One of the best remains Angela Mao Ying, and this set collects the following six of her ’70s classics: When Taekwondo Strikes, The Tournament, Stoner, The Himalayan, A Queen’s Ransom and Broken Oath. She’s a charismatic and capable fighter, and while none of the films stand out as masterworks they’re good fun all the same.

[DVD extras: Trailers]

A Fighting Man

Sailor O’Connor (Dominic Purcell) was a great boxer once, but now he’s a struggling has-been. A chance arrives for him to step back in the ring, but it will take everything he has to make a success of it. Comparisons to The Fighter and Warrior are more than a little ridiculous and Purcell isn’t quite leading man material, but it works well for what it is.

[DVD extras: None]

House of Cards: The Complete Second Season

Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) continues his reign of terror through Washington D.C. as he screws over both friends and enemies with equal vigor. Netflix’s adaptation of the UK original updates the Cold War politics to the shark tank that is modern-day D.C., and the result is a dark and blackly comic look at our government. Spacey and Robin Wright do great work, and I look forward to season three to see how closely it sticks to the UK version.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Jimmy P.

Jimmy Picard (Benicio Del Toro) is a Native American whose service during World War II led to a brain injury. Now that the war is over he’s struggling, and it’s up to a French anthropologist (Mathieu Amalric) to help him. This true story is a simple but effective drama about the country and the friendship between two men who need each other.

[DVD extras: Making of, interviews, trailer]

Joe

Joe (Nicolas Cage) is a man with a past trying to get through life by staying out of trouble, but when a young boy gets caught up in violence Joe’s forced to make a difficult call. David Gordon Green’s latest features three strong, intense performances, and the score is equally fantastic, but the script’s attempt to class up genre cliches with serious drama and character instead sees the drama get dragged down to cliche. The same exact things happen here that happen in any number of generic “man pushed to the breaking point” action flicks starring Jason Statham or Chuck Norris… they just happen with more gravitas.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, making of, featurette, commentary]

Joy Ride 3: Roadkill

Rusty Nail returns for more bloody havoc on the nation’s back highways and byways. I never saw part two, so maybe there’s a character arc I’m just missing, but this film seems utterly oblivious to what makes the first Joy Ride a memorable little thriller. Instead of keeping Rusty in the shadows and letting us grow fond of the protagonists, we get the killer thrust in our face alongside a bunch of characters that we just don’t care about. On the bright side though the blood and gore here is plentiful and messy.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary]

Judex (Criterion)

Georges Franju’s Judex re-imagines a silent film serial as a cat-and-mouse game whose at-times mapcap tone oscillates freely between deadpan humor, campy nostalgia, and stark violence. Clandestine vigilante Judex kidnaps a wealthy banker and protects the banker’s faultless daughter, which unravels a complex plot of twists and double crosses. As with his Eyes Without a Face, Franju realizes a fantastical narrative through an inventive and potent visual style. Judex does not carry near the thematic weight of that masterpiece, but its fleeting quality is exactly the point, in keeping with its matinee flavor. This is summer movie fun, Criterion-style.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Documentary program on Franju’s career, Two short documentaries by the filmmaker, Interviews with co-writer and actress, Illustrated booklet featuring an essay by Geoffrey O’Brien]

The Machine

The military’s search for artificial intelligence capable of replacing people on the battlefield has disastrous results. Duh. The Machine is a new indie from across the pond that toys around with the concept of human-like A.I. and ties it in with some sexy female cyborg shenanigans. If that sounds up your proverbial alley than you’re in luck as — a handful of issues aside — the film is an entertaining and thought-provoking ride.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes, trailer]

The Monkey’s Paw

A down on his luck man comes to possess a magical monkey paw, but through the process of making three wishes he discovers that maybe the paw is possessing him! W.W. Jacobs‘ well-known tale gets another incarnation, this time scripted by Blue Ruin‘s Macon Blair, but the story remains the same even if the details and subplots are changed. It’s not a bad movie by any means.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, behind the scenes, trailer]

Red Shoes Diaries: The Movie

Jake’s (David Duchovny) fiance (Brigitte Bako) killed herself leaving behind a mystery, a pair of red shoes and a diary. He reads it and learns that she was having an affair in the months before her death, one fueled by a desire for secrets and ownership of herself she doesn’t feel in her relationship with Jake. Zalman King‘s Showtime series started with this TV movie, and it’s loaded with as much jazzy sex as you could hope. It’s equal opportunity erotica too as the third act features roughly twenty minutes of topless one-on-one basketball between Duchovny and Billy Wirth.

[DVD extras: Introduction, photo gallery]

Red Shoes Diaries: Season One

David Duchovny continues to explore what makes women tick in this first season of Zalman King’s legendary late night series. All thirteen episodes are included here, and while the stories are often quite similar they’re brought to life with familiar faces and even more jazz.

[DVD extras: Introduction, photo gallery]

Discs Section: Also

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:

Authors Anonymous
Four of Hearts
The Good Witch’s Gift
Hearts and Minds
House of Mortal Sins
Meth Head
No Clue
Picnic at Hanging Rock (Criterion)
Power Rangers: Ultra Defenders
Teen Wolf: Season 3 Part 2
Vic + Flo Saw a Bear
Walk of Shame
Wrath of the Crows


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