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

Discs Section: Pick of the Week

Moonrise Kingdom

It’s 1965 in New England, and two young lovers have run away from their homes. They’re twelve years old, and they live on an island, but it’s the thought that counts. Their decision sets in motion a chain of events involving Bob Balaban, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis, a scout troop and an impending storm. A spectacular cast isn’t the only thing going for Wes Anderson’s latest film though as he weaves a beautiful, romantic and bittersweet tale complete with a sonderful score by Alexandre Desplat. It’s a sweetly funny visual feast guaranteed to put a smile on your lips and in your ears. [Extras: Featurettes]

Discs Section: Buy

The Funhouse

Pitch: Watch the movie then go read Dean Koontz’ fleshed-out novelization…

Why Buy? A group of horny teens decide to spend the night in a carnival funhouse, but when they witness a murder and the murderer witnesses them their night of fun becomes a night of terror. Director Tobe Hooper has always been more miss than hit, but this little gem is one of his good ones. The scares are well orchestrated, the killer has a wonderfully creepy and disfigured face and Kevin Conway appears in three separate roles for no apparent reason. Shout Factory’s recent horror offshoot, Scream Factory, continues to deliver the goods with a pretty great HD transfer and some fun extras including a brand new commentary from Hooper and a reversible cover. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Commentary, interviews, deleted scenes]

A League of Their Own

Pitch: We can all agree that this is still the best thing Madonna’s ever been associated with right? Right…

Why Buy? It’s 1943, and while the men are off fighting Hitler the women step up to continue America’s great tradition of baseball back at home. Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) is tapped to coach one of the teams, but his cantankerous nature clashes with the women who think their gameplay will be just as entertaining. Fools. Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, Lori Petty all co-star, and even Jon Lovitz manages to steal his brief scenes. It’s funny and sweet in equal measure, and it remains Penny Marshall’s last great film as director. [Extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, featurette, music video]

Discs Section: Rent

2016: Obama’s America

Pitch: “Emotionally engaging, Obama’s America will make you cheer as you discover the mysteries and answers to your greatest aspirations and worst fears…”

Why Rent? “Journalist” Dinesh D’Souza takes a hard-hitting look at the real Barack Obama and what it means for America and the world if he’s re-elected this year. Like just about anything associated with politics this doc will seem stupidly incredulous to half of the viewers and confirmation of things they already believed to the other half. Even so, no one will walk away having their opinion impacted, seriously or otherwise, by this amateurish and mostly empty expose. It’s under 90 minutes long yet devotes excessive time to Obama’s father and to D’Souza himself. It’s politicized buffoonery like this that makes me an independent. So why rent? Because it’s funny as hell and you should always be aware what the masses are swallowing. [Extras: None]

Ella Enchanted

Pitch: In case you’ve forgotten how sweet and innocent Anne Hathaway used to be…

Why Rent? Ella (Anne Hathaway) is born into a beautiful and magical land with the burden of a supposed gift from her Fairy Godmother. The thing that should have made her life simpler has instead become a controlling yoke around her neck, so she sets out to rid herself of this supposed gift and become a truly free woman. This is the definition of light, forgettable entertainment, but Hathaway and friends make it an enjoyable-enough ride along the way. It never reaches the magical levels of some family fantasies like The Princess Bride or Willow, but there is still fun to be had. [Extras: Music video, deleted scenes, commentary, featurettes]

Gone in 60 Seconds

Pitch: Looks like the bees got Nicolas Cage…

Why Rent? A group of thieves are tasked with stealing 48 cars in a limited amount of time, but the police and the odds are against them. This 1974 smash-em-up was remade in 2000 into a Jerry Bruckheimer flick with Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie and others, but the original was a completely different affair. For one thing this is not a movie about the actors, script or story. In fact, as a movie it’s actually pretty terrible thanks to an abundance of scenes with near constant ADR work and no real acting. But it’s a car movie at heart, and that’s where the fun comes in as the big chase scene goes on for over half an hour with dozens upon dozens of car crashes littering the screen. [Extras: Featurettes, interviews]]

Last Ride

Pitch: Father most definitely does not know best…

Why Rent? Kev (Hugo Weaving) and his young son Chook are taking a trip through the Australian Outback, but this is no vacation. He’s on the run from the police, and the boy is simply along for the ride. Young Chook is forced to make decisions no child should have to make as his father’s luck begins to run thin. Weaving is best known for playing all manner of villains, and while Kev is no charmer he’s the most human character the actor has seen yet. And he nails it. This drama has a methodical pace about it and the end seems all but foretold, but Weaving’s performance holds you captive through his actions both good and bad. [Extras: Commentary, short films, featurettes]

Legendary Amazons

Pitch: Anyone see that old TV movie with John Saxon as a man who awakens on a futuristic Earth where women rule and the men are called dinks? Has nothing to do with this movie…

Why Rent? Ancient China saw its fair share of wars and battles, and after one of them leaves the Yang Clan’s male population decimated the women step up to become necessary warriors. Jackie Chan produced this period action film, and he’s recruited Cecilia Chung and Cheng Pei Pei to take part in the onscreen action. There’s been a glut of Asian period films in recent years, and it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. This movie manages to do so with its story even as the action and spectacle feel like elements we’ve seen before. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Behind the scenes]

Mad Men: Season Five

Pitch: I can’t be the only one wanting a Walking Dead/Mad Men crossover episode…

Why Rent? It’s 1966, and the advertising world is still a man’s domain. AMC’s critically acclaimed series returns to the world of Sterling Cooper Draper and Price and Jon Hamm, John Slattery, January Jones, Christina Hendricks and more have returned with it. The show continues to be a hit for the network thanks to strong acting, sharp writing and an impeccable style. The biggest criticism available here is that the series said goodbye to Alison Brie but kept Jones. Because seriously. Also available on DVD. [Featurettes, commentaries]

Rites of Passage

Pitch: Christian Slater’s wig-wearing, peyote-smoking, fake monkey-talking nutjob Delgado single handedly makes this worth watching…

Why Rent? A group of obnoxious college students head to the beach which also happens to be an old Indian burial ground for some fun in the sun and ritualistic ceremony fun, but they didn’t count on the land’s owner (Wes Bentley) and caretaker (Christian Slater) being crazy goddamn loons. Watching Bentley and Slater try to out crazy each other while Stephen Dorff walks around hoping to seduce his students is what makes this otherwise neutered thriller worth watching. The story and events are fairly rote, but when Slater’s Pets.com sock-monkey starts talking to him in a Mexican accent? Oh boy. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Making of, trailer]

Terror Train

Pitch: No one pulls a train on David Copperfield…

Why Rent? Months after a pledge hazing goes terribly awry members of a frathouse and dozens of their friends take a celebratory train ride, but someone has decided to crash the party with murder on his mind. This was the fourth film in Jamie Lee Curtis’ six-movie streak of slashers from 1978 through 1981, and it’s a pretty fun one. The killer’s identity is pretty obvious both narratively and character-wise, but the movie still manages some solid and tense set-pieces. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray is another beautiful entry in their Collector’s Edition series of horror films. [Extras: Interviews, reversible cover art]

Touch: The Complete First Season

Pitch: A father & son duo scour Craigslist to help reunite Missed Connections…

Why Rent? Kiefer Sutherland plays a widower whose son Jake sees the world in a peculiarly numeric way, and together they help people make the connections they are meant to make. This show is the closest we have to a Quantum Leap right now as the pair move in and out of lives setting right what could go wrong. But the kid has got to go. Between him running away at the drop of a hat and Sutherland yelling “Jake! Jake!” every twenty minutes to the state-mandated facility with the most lax security ever witnessed, the parts of the show dealing directly with him are easily the weakest element. Which is unfortunate seeing as he’s essentially the core of the show… [Extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]

Discs Section: Avoid

Chernobyl Diaries

Pitch: If nothing else, at least one of the ugly Americans has great cleavage…

Why Avoid? Four Americans heading to Moscow take a detour for a day of extreme tourism in and around the vacant city of Pripyat. The urban locale was abandoned decades ago when the Chernobyl nuclear plant had its deadly meltdown, and now it’s nothing more than a ghost town. Or is it?!?! This horror film comes to us from the mind of Oren Peli, creator of the Paranormal Activity series, and I think I speak for everyone when I say he can have it back. It’s competently-enough made, but it’s neither scary nor disturbing and the characters only range from uninteresting to unlikeable. [Extras: Alternate ending, featurettes] Skip it and watch the first season of The Vampire Diaries instead.

Greystone Park

Pitch: Contrary to popular belief, the apple can actually fall pretty damn far from the tree…

Why Avoid? The titular psychiatric hospital has been abandoned for years, but when a group of curious filmmakers enter the building one night they find a world of nightmares within. Sean Stone, son of Oliver, co-wrote, stars and directed this unsuccessful mix of traditional movie and found footage horror. The horror elements are exactly what folks who’ve seen films like Grave Encounters would expect, but a big part of the problem here is the editing. The very beginning states this is a video record of the filmmakers’ last night, but then we immediately cut to non-found footage scenes to enhance the narrative. Plus Stone the senior acts, and that’s never a good thing. Also available on Blu-ray. [Extras: Alternate ending, making of, featurette, commentary] Skip it and watch Grave Encounters instead.

That’s My Boy

Pitch: The fact that it’s not even worth watching for the very cute Leighton Meester should tell you something…

Why Avoid? Donny (Adam Sandler) was just a teen when he was seduced by his high school teacher who he promptly impregnated. His son, Han Solo (Andy Samberg) grew up resenting and being embarrassed by his dad to the point that he left Donny behind, changed his name and became a new man. Now Donny’s back in his life for a father/son reunion blah blah blah. You already know if this is for you, but even by Sandler’s standards this is an unfunny dud. Donny is such an ignorant, unlikeable character yet the story requires others to find him charming so they do for no other reason. It’s crass without the wit to back it up, and at almost two hours it overstays its welcome long before it ends. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Gag reel, deleted scenes, featurettes] Skip it and watch The Truman Show instead.

Discs Section: Also

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

Alcatraz: The Complete Series
Excision
The Forgiveness of Blood (Criterion)
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
Nobody Else But You

 


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