Oscar Isaac in INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

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Discs Section: Pick of the Week

blu INSIDE LLEWYN DAVISInside Llewyn Davis

It’s NYC in the early ’60s, and Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is trying to make his mark on the folk music scene. His efforts seem to be continually in vain though as pretty much nothing works out they way he wants. Is it fate? Or is it simply because he’s a bastard who fouls every relationship he has with his attitude.

It’s probably too early to say, but screw it, it’s my column… Joel and Ethan Coen‘s latest is quite possibly their best and most mature work. From Isaac’s brilliantly nuanced performance to those of the supporting cast (including John Goodman, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, F. Murray Abraham, and others), from the fantastic score to the gorgeous cinematography, this is a tremendously affecting look at one man’s struggles against the world and himself. The Coens’ script is a work of art from which more beauty is born, and I really can’t recommend the film highly enough.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

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blu BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWNThe Broken Circle Breakdown

Pitch: It’s the Belgian bluegrass pro-stem cell research/relationship drama you’ve been waiting for…

Elise (Veerle Baetens) and Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) don’t seem all that compatible at first, but their shared love for American pop culture, music, and intelligent debate quickly leads to a shared love for each other. Their bond is tested though when their beautiful young daughter is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.

Just as Inside Llewyn Davis makes folk music palatable, director Felix Van Groeningen‘s film forces an awareness and appreciation of good bluegrass. But while the movie features several catchy tunes, it’s the relationship at the core of the film that makes it so damn memorable. Both actors give their all with performances that feel and raw and real as you could hope, and the story that develops around them takes hold through a mix of ethics, morality, and faith.

[DVD extras: Interview]

blu DEAD KIDSDead Kids

Pitch: It surprises no one that this Australian import had its title changed to Strange Behavior

The small town of Galesburg IL is shocked when a series of gruesomely violent murders rips through the community, and Sheriff John Brady (Michael Murphy) is struggling to get to the bottom of it. Perhaps the creepy scientists from the suspicious lab up on the hill have something to do with it. The situation grows even more dire for the sheriff when his son Peter, as in Peter Brady, finds himself immersed in the mystery.

This 1981 flick had a troubled road to US distribution even beyond the title, but low-key slasher fans should give it a watch as it’s full of moments and talents worth enjoying. The story is a bit obvious, but there are some wonderfully creepy scenes including one with an unlucky housekeeper that make it stand above the usual slasher fray. And from the isolated score by Tangerine Dream to the commentary by a proud yet incredulous co-writer Bill Condon, Severin’s new Blu (the film’s first appearance on the format) is a must own for horror aficionados.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, featurette, trailer]

blu THE STUFFThe Stuff (UK)

Pitch: “Are You Eating It or Is It Eating You?”

A white, marshmallow Fluf-like substance begins oozing from the ground, so of course someone tastes it. Surprise! It’s delicious! Soon the Stuff is being sold in stores all across the country, but there’s a secret that the manufacturers don’t want you to know. Surprise! The Stuff is alive and intent on killing you from the inside and taking over your body! It’s up to Michael Moriarty to stop it. Obviously.

Larry Cohen‘s 1985 horror comedy is a deliciously fun throwback that manages some real laughs alongside some messy, sticky, and occasionally gruesome effects. The film is essentially The Blob in the form of a commentary on consumerism and our sheep-like attitudes when it comes to the next big thing. Moriarty is as animated as ever (read: not animated at all) but a hell of a lot of fun. Arrow Video’s new Blu is a bit light on special features, but the singular real extra, a making-of, is thankfully quite detailed and interesting.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

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Against the Wild

Two kids, a brother and sister, crash in Canadian wilderness along with their Husky and are forced to work together to survive all that nature can throw at them. This is a family film so don’t expect big set-pieces or real intensity, but the kids are fine, the view is beautiful, and Natasha Henstridge also stars.

[DVD extras: Outtakes, featurette]

Beyond Outrage

The yakuza battle with each other as the police move in as well, and once again Otomo (Takeshi Kitano) is at the center of it all. This sequel to 2010’s Outrage is once again written and directed by Kitano, so you should know to expect deep conversations about loyalty, lots of yelling, and multiple bursts of bloody violence.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

Dark House

A guy inherits a house and soon falls into a nightmare of murder and mayhem. Skip it and watch something not directed by a convicted child molester.

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

Enemies Closer

A park ranger finds himself at odds with a group of drug runner led by Jean-Claude Van Damme, but he’s also being targeted by a mysterious visitor with a more personal agenda. This is fairly generic action pic, but some fun set pieces and a wonderfully looney performance from Van Damme keep it interesting throughout.

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

Homefront

A man (Jason Statham) and his daughter run afoul of a local drug lord (James Franco) in a small town and are soon forced to fight for their lives. Fans of Statham’s work will want to check this out as it fits comfortably in the middle of his output in regard to quality. Franco is fine, and the script by Sylvester Stallone makes it a bit of an oddity too as it’s his first time writing a film that he doesn’t star in.

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

In Fear

A young couple go for a rural drive, but when they get lost their relationship and their sanity begins to suffer. This UK chiller starts fine enough, but the two characters quickly become highly unlikable and annoying in their actions and dialogue. Fans of tight, constrained thrillers should give it a chance, but be prepared to wish ill on the couple by the 45 minute mark.

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

Mademoiselle C

Carine Roitfeld ran Paris Vogue for a decade, and this documentary explores the effect her tenure had on the world of international fashion. The doc is well made, but viewers already interested in fashion will get far more out of it than the rest of us.

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

Out of the Furnace

Russell (Christian Bale) takes matters into his own hands when his younger brother (Casey Affleck) disappears in the Rust Belt where they live, work, and breathe. He finds Woody Harrelson waiting on the other side. This is a wonderfully acted drama, but the script is filled with too many tangents and unnecessary detours to make fora truly compelling film.

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

Ozploitation Trailer Explosion

Severin Films has collected tons of trailers for Australian cinema “classics,” and while Not Quite Hollywood did it a bit better, this is still a fun DVD to have playing in the background when friends are over. So much craziness on display is bound to lead to some fun conversation starters.

[DVD extras: None]

Pig

A`man`awakens in the desert bound, hooded, and with no clue who he is or how he got there. He starts piecing things together, but before he can reach a resolution he once again awakens in the desert again exactly as before. This twisty little indie can be a bit slow going at times, but if you stick with you’ll find a clever tale that fans of Primer and Memento just may appreciate.

[DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, videos, Q&As, trailer]

Puncture Wounds

A man returning from war and suffering from PTSD steps into trouble when he saves someone from some ruffians. He leaves a few of them dead and now he’s been targeted by the group’s leader (played by Dolph Lundgren). Lundgren has been churning direct to DVD flicks out for a while now, and while his earlier work had style and solid action scenes his recent work has revealed that his body isn’t quite up to it anymore. Still, he’s a fun throwback, and his turn as the bad guy is mildly entertaining.

[DVD extras: Behind the scenes, trailer]

Thirst

A blood-drinking cult tries to recruit a woman with legendary lineage into their little hobby, but she resists for obvious reasons. There are some cool ideas here including the “dairy farms” where humans are kept as livestock to produce a constant blood supply, but the film as a whole feels a bit too dull and dreamy at times.

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

Discs Section: Also

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

100 Years of Wrigley Field
Armistice
The Book Thief
Easy Money: Hard to Kill
The Hungover Games
JFK: The Smoking Gun
The Outsider
Patrick
Rogue: The Complete First Season
Siberia: Season One
Transformers: Armada
Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo


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