This Week In Discs: A Separation, Bernie, Moss, The Dictator and Season One of the Highly Addicting Revenge

Welcome back to This Week In Discs!

As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.


Every time Lovell falls asleep he awakens at a different point of his life. His thirty year old mind and memories remain intact as a ten year old, a ninety year old, and anywhere in between. Things get even more complicated when he discovers his wife has died under potentially mysterious circumstances, but can he use his uncontrollable life-hopping ability to make things right? It’s tough making science fiction films on an indie budget, but writer/director Kurt Kuenne (Dear Zachary: A Letter To a Son About His Father) takes a sci-fi concept and uses it to tell a very human story. Loss, redemption, and forgiveness are just a few of the themes shown to transcend time, and the film explores them with beauty, humor and vitality. [Extras: Trailer, festival video diaries, making-of, black & white version]


Pitch: Possibly the best film of 2009…

Why Buy? Sang-hoon (Ik-joon Yang) is a brutal and brutally foul-mouthed debt collector who’s turned the abuse he suffered as a child into fuel for his profession. Yeon-hue (Kkobbi Kim) is a teenage girl from an abusive household of her own, and she’s the only person unwilling to take crap from Sang-hoon. The two become odd friends in a tale that explores the cycle of violence with sadness, pain, humor and heart. Yang also wrote and directed this very personal film, his debut, and it’s a suspenseful and heart-wrenching affair that constantly surprises with vitality.

A Separation

Pitch: Possibly the best film of 2011…

Why Buy? A couple at odds over their family’s future find themselves caught up in a scandal that brings the classes and the sexes of modern day Iran sharply into focus. Nader (Peyman Moadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) are separating due to differing opinions on raising their daughter, but when the woman hired to look after Nader’s dad accuses him of improper behavior the family finds themselves before the court in a he said/she said situation. Writer/director Asghar Farhadi follows up the equally brilliant About Elly with this Academy Award winning drama that accomplishes two things beautifully. It’s a suspenseful drama, and it’s an eye-opening look in to a country that most of us have very limited (and very negative) exposure to. Also available on Blu-ray.


Pitch: It’s the sequel to Guarding Tess we always wanted…

Why Rent? Jack Black stars in the true story of a man pushed to his limits. Bernie was the favorite son of Carthage, TX and considered to be the kindest, sweetest and most generous man in town. He befriended an old woman, the meanest in all of Texas, and the two hit off… at least until he killed her. Black gives a fun, heartfelt performance, and the film’s conceit to use actual Carthage residents in interview segments is well done, but it all feels so light and easily forgettable. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]


Pitch: How cool would a banzai tree be…

Why Rent? Julio is a writer, or at least he wants to be, but he’s struggled to make a career of it. He lies to his girlfriend about being hired to translate the new work of a famous author and instead spends his days writing an original work based on an early romance from his life. This Chilean film moves between the present and the past exploring love, the writing process and the illusory lies we tell ourselves in both endeavors. There are some laughs here, but most of the film is a leisurely-paced, occasionally sexy romantic drama. [Extras: Trailer]

The Color Out of Space

Pitch: It’s the next best thing to Guillermo del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness

Why Rent? The disappearance of Jonathan Davis’ father is a mystery that takes him to the back woods of Germany and a secret from decades past. HP Lovecraft’s short novel gets an indie adaptation here, but what it lacks in budget it more than makes up for in spirit, creativity and enthusiasm. It’s in black & white, the dialogue moves back and forth between German and English and the pacing is intentional and methodical, but it’s a damn fine adaptation all the same. [Extras: Newspaper insert, trailer, deleted scene, featurettes]

Disney Nature: Chimpanzee

Pitch: The musical numbers are most impressive…

Why Rent? Oscar is a young chimpanzee given a human name to make him more adorable. Follow along this tightly edited adventure as he has fun with friends, family and the world around him. Regardless of the forced narrative the visuals and cinematography here are spectacular. DisneyNature has done a fine job in recent years stepping up their nature game and replacing Discovery and National Geographic along the way for the go to source of quality features. [Extras: Making of, music video, featurettes]

Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters

Pitch: In Russia, oddly shaped blocks fall on you…

Why Rent? We’ve all played Tetris at some point in our lives. Different shaped blocks fall and increasing speeds, and the player has to move them into ideal positions below. The game was fairly ubiquitous for some time and still retains a popularity, and even those of us who were never particularly good at it still gave it a shot. Some folks though gave it far more than a shot and instead have dedicated their lives to playing. This doc looks at these people as they prepare for a world championship, and fans of the game will find some interesting observations. And maybe a few tips too… [Extras: Featurette, deleted scenes, trailer, full world record games]

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers

Pitch: What exactly does Michael Myers need to get revenge for? Don’t worry, the movie doesn’t know either…

Why Rent? Picking up one year after the events of the dull turd that is Halloween 4 this new installment sees Michael Myers return to Haddonfield. Again. But while most of it is simply more of the same part 5 does add in something new and unexpected in the form of psychic connections , a mysterious man in steel-toed boots and a daring prison escape finale. It’s pretty batshit insane at times and officially marks this as the Halloween franchise equivalent of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. It’s just too bad the rest of the movie is so pedestrian and bland. [Extras: Commentaries, featurette, trailer]


Pitch: It’s essentially The Road, but interesting…

Why Rent? Global warming has led to a scorched Earth with water and agriculture being in equally short supply, and in this nightmare walks two sisters and their male companion. The trio is on a quest for safety, security and a healthy water supply, but when a rogue group of unsavory survivors threatens them all the environmental dangers become secondary. This German production is more visually impressive than it is narrative-wise as it looks pretty damn impressive even as it tells a familiar story. Also available on Blu-ray.[Extras: None]

Hide Away

Pitch: Not to be confused with the mediocre Jeff Goldblum thriller adapted from Dean Koontz’ novel…

Why Rent? A quiet man (Josh Lucas) with soulful eyes arrives in a small harbor town as the new owner of an old, beaten down sailboat. He catches the eye of a few locals even as he deals with painful memories of his past. This sedate drama is really Lucas’ show from beginning to end, and he sells his character’s struggle as we learn the specifics of his regrets and loss. If you’re not a fan of the actor I’d advise skipping this one as the pacing is fairly glacier-like. [Extras: Making of, interviews]


Pitch: It grows on you across all 150 minutes…

Why Rent? A young man receives a call that his estranged father has died in a remote rural village. He arrives for the funeral, surprising the handful of locals who call the place home, and immediately suspects something is amiss. Soon his life is threatened, people are dying and the truth about the village and is father is revealed. I say ‘soon,’ but at over two and a half hours there’s nothing quick about this constantly engaging mystery. The film moves between present day and the past with several members of the cast playing older and younger versions of their characters. Each shift peels back new layers as to what exactly is going on here, and sharp direction results in some suspenseful and dramatic scenes along the way. [Extras: Making of, featurettes, trailer]

NCIS: The Ninth Season

Pitch: Nine seasons people. This show has already been on for nine seasons. I’m guessing the JAG fans are to blame…

Why Rent? The improbably named Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) continues to lead his team of intrepid agents and crime-solvers as they tackle the darker side of military life. Harmon has always been an affable actor, and it’s his presence that really grounds this series which would otherwise be less appealing. As with its little brother below the show is the kind of thing you forget once the credits roll, but it’s entertaining enough while you’re watching. [Extras: Featurettes, commentaries, deleted scene]

NCIS: Los Angeles – The Third Season

Pitch: Chris O’Donnell, action star, is only slightly less ridiculous than Linda Hunt, action star…

Why Rent? Callen (O’Donnell) and Hanna (LL Cool J) continue to fight bad guys in and around Los Angeles, but this season also sees them heading to locales as diverse as Romania and Hawaii when duty calls. As with the past two seasons the show remains a competent diversion thanks to a healthy budget from CBS and some engaging-enough writing and performing. It’s still far from appointment television, but fans of the cast may want to give it a watch. [Extras: Featurettes, commentary, deleted scenes, Hawaii Five-O crossover episode]

Revenge: The Complete First Season

Pitch: It’s like The Count of Monte Cristo with far fewer sword fights…

Why Rent? A young woman (Emily VanCamp) arrives in the Hamptons intent on infiltrating then destroying the lives of several members of high society. The reason? Because they framed her father when she was just a child, and he died in prison with the world believing he was in cahoots with murdering terrorists. This ABC show earned nothing but scoffs from me every time I saw an ad, but goddamn does it suck you in fast with well-written, smart twists and a fast-moving story. At 22 episodes there’s still a lot of unnecessary filler (and the Tyler character is annoying as hell), but the good and fun far outweighs the bad. [Extras: Featurettes, bloopers, deleted scenes, music videos, commentary]

The Dictator

Pitch: The best Adam Sandler-doing-an-accent movie since the last one…

Why Avoid? The dictator (Sacha Baron Cohen) of a Middle Eastern country comes to America where he learns to be a nicer person thanks to the quirky love a hairy-pitted vegan (Anna Faris). Obviously Sandler has nothing to do with this, but the movie’s broad, tone-deaf comedy feels like one of his Happy Madison productions. Cohen abandons the “reality” shtick of his first two movies for a more traditional and far less funny endeavor. And seriously, Faris belongs above the title. The girl is funny. Also available on Blu-ray.[Extras: Deleted scenes] Skip it and watch The Great Dictator instead.


Pitch: I’m not saying 50 Cent is incapable of starring in a good movie. I’m sayi–okay, yeah. That’s what I’m saying…

Why Avoid? Malo (Cent) has followed in the footsteps of his murdered father by becoming a NYC police officer, but when he’s initiated into a secret and corrupt group of cops he discovers the truth about his father’s death. What in the hell are Robert De Niro and Forest Whitaker doing here? Cashing a check without expending an ounce of their acting skill is the answer. The script is hilarious(ly bad) and the whopping sixteen executive producers to about as much good as you’d expect. Also available on Blu-ray. [Extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, behind the scenes, interviews] Skip it and watch Freejack instead.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Pitch: It’s about time we acknowledge that the emergency services personnel in Illinois are fairly incompetent…

Why Avoid? Inept hospital staff transfer Michael Myers during a late night thunder storm and fail to secure him properly so he escapes and heads back to Haddonfield. Then he kills people. This is the worst entry in the series do simply to its complete and utter lack of effort. There’s not a single exciting, interesting or worthwhile element here. It’s not scary, it’s directed without nuance or style and there’s just no reason to care about anything or anyone. [Extras: Commentaries, featurette, trailer] Skip it and watch Trick r Treat instead.

One In the Chamber

Pitch: Sadly, Cuba Gooding Jr is still looking for the money…

Why Avoid? An assassin (Gooding Jr) gets himself caught up in a Russian mob war, but when another hit man (Dolph Lundgren) enters the fray the two square off in a battle that rivals that of the mafia. Direct to DVD movies can be good. It is possible. Sadly, this is not one of those rarities. Lundgren is in casual action-star mode, and while he’s not believable in the slightest he is entertaining. Gooding Jr doesn’t fare so well as he plays his character with such dripping dramatic tension as to be even more laughable than Lundgren. Worse still, the action is generic. [Extras: Behind the scenes] Skip it and watch American Gangster instead.

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:

Attack Of the Killer Backpacks
Black Magic Rites
Home Run Showdown
House: Season Eight
Kill and Kill Again
Night of the Living Dead: ReAnimation
The Tigger Movie
Wallander: Series 3 (Blu)
Weekend (Criterion)

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Rob is the Chief Film Critic of Film School Rejects. He doesn't eat cheese on weekdays.

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