Welcome back to This Week In Discs… now on Mondays for your reading pleasure one day early!

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

Discs Section: Pick of the Week

Isn’t Anyone Alive?

It’s afternoon on a college campus, and as the students chat about urban myths, employees go about their business and strangers pass through the area something begins to happen. They all begin to die. One by one they fall to the ground coughing and writhing in pain, but the conversations continue on around them. Director Gakuryu Ishii and screenwriter Shirô Maeda (adapting his own play) have delivered a film guaranteed to turn off 90% of viewers with its shifting tones, slow pace and lack of easy answers, but the 10% who stick with it will find a surreal gem exploring the things we share with each other and the things we keep secret. Dark, absurd humor exists alongside moments of real beauty, and the ending in particular is an affecting glimpse at true loneliness. [Extras: None]

Discs Section: Buy

Happy Endings: The Complete Second Season

Pitch: It’s like Friends except there isn’t a single comedic dud among them (I’m looking at you Monica…)

Why Buy? Alex, Brad, Dave, Jane, Max and Penny are all best friends living in the city and having wacky adventures in life, love and laundry. The premise of ABC’s funniest sitcom (apologies to the also excellent Modern Family) isn’t all that important as it all comes down to chemistry and writing. And this gem shines in both areas. The scripts are consistently above par and filled with machine gun-style zingers, gags and throwaways that make repeat viewings well worth it for the jokes you may have missed the first time. All six cast members are fantastically funny, but the highlight continues to be Elisha Cuthbert who proves week after week that beautiful women can indeed be extremely funny. [Extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes]

Blade Runner on Blu-rayBlade Runner 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

Pitch: If you don’t already own it on HD-DVD…

Why Buy? Around the time Prometheus hit theaters might have been a great time to bring out a new, somewhat long-awaited Blade Runner Blu-ray set. But that time came and went and now here we are, some months later with a new 30th Anniversary edition of Blade Runner on Blu. It’s worthwhile to preface this recommendation with one caveat: if you bought the 25th Anniversary set (the briefcase version, or otherwise) there isn’t a whole lot of extras to be had here. In fact, the presentation of the film, from the Final Cut to the rare Workprint version, are the same. This version, complete with a sweet little toy car, a book of art and some lenticular collector’s card, is about 1/2 the price of the set from 2007. You don’t get a fancy briefcase, but you’ll live. On the whole, this set would be highly recommended to anyone who doesn’t already own Blade Runner on Blu-ray. Or anyone silly enough to just buy The Final Cut version that was released in 2011. There are four completely watchable versions of this film, all of which are included here with copious special feature accompaniment. - Neil Miller

Magic Mike

Pitch: Now you can watch it in slow motion, ladies…

Why Buy? Steven Soderbergh’s movie in which Channing Tatum shows us what he did to make ends meet before he broke out as an actor is one of the biggest surprises of the year thus far. It’s well acted, energetic and features (gasp) an award-worthy performance from Matthew McConaughey. This one might have been advertised for the ladies, but it’s a movie that both sexes can watch and enjoy, for various reasons. (Olivia Munn, am I right guys?) On Blu-ray, it’s just as flashy and in-focus a… er.. package as it was on the big screen. Only this time you can enjoy it without the compliment of a theater full of cat-calling women. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. If so, I’m sure you won’t have trouble organizing a watch party. On the extras side, there’s a featurette that shows you what goes on backstage, “from manscaping to hip shaking.” Enlightenment awaits. [Extras: Featurette, extended dance scenes, dance party mode, lavender body lotion (Not really, but you wish)] - Neil Miller

Discs Section: Rent

The Ambassador

Pitch: A troublemaking filmmaker from Denmark goes to the Central African Republic to open a match factory. What could possibly go wrong…

Why Rent? Mads Brugger is a crazy person. That’s the line you’d have read if you’ve read anything about this movie. The former Sundance Grand Jury prize winning documentarian walks a controversial line in his latest movie, buying his way to becoming a Liberian diplomat in order to enter and begin various business ventures in the Central African Republic, one of the most dangerous places on the face of the Earth. It’s a incisive, dark journey that yields comedy, death, awe and untold amounts of danger for Brugger and his team. It’s the kind of documentary so bold in its methods that it demands your attention from beginning to end. It’s also an insightful look at the way the first world exploits the third world, a strong statement on the matters of diplomacy in the poorest and most war-torn areas of our world. Also available on Blu-ray. [Extras: Commentary, trailer] - Neil Miller

Fantasy Island: The Complete Third Season

Pitch: If only Tattoo was as devious and motivated as Nick Nack this island could have been his long ago…

Why Rent? There’s a special island getaway open only to guest stars on The Love Boat where your dreams and occasionally nightmares can come true. You’re greeted upon arrival by two men in white suits, one talking incessantly about rich, Corinthian leather and the other seeing planes everywhere he looks. Welcome to one of TV’s most unsung anthology shows. There’s a lot of cheese on display watching this series now as different people face their fears and/or discover their dreams on a weekly basis, but there’s also a bit of charm and menace bubbling just below the surface to keep things interesting enough. {Extras: None]

The Invisible War

Pitch: This isn’t what they meant by ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell…’

Why Rent? Kirby Dick, the filmmaker behind the fascinating This Film Is Not Yet Rated, tackles the high rate of sexual assault against women in the military by their peers and the lack of a response by their commanding officers. The film features interviews with victims as well as with representatives from the military, and it’s a truly depressing affair. Important, but bleak. The stats show a 1 in 5 rate of sexual assault, but the term is never fully defined. Is it specifically rape, or does it include fondling, groping and attempted rape? It’s unclear. And I would have liked some non-blurred photos of the assailants alongside their names. Seems only fair. [Extras: Commentary, interviews, featurettes, deleted scene]

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Pitch: Can you imagine the Craigslist ads during the end times? Probably no worse than they are are now actually…

Why Rent? An asteroid is heading towards Earth, and with no oil riggers wiling to sacrifice their lives to stop it mankind’s demise is all but guaranteed. Dodge’s (Steve Carrell) wife leaves him in the final days so he sets out to reconnect with the one true love of his life, but a troubled neighbor (Keira Knightley) hitches a ride. Can two lost people find each other and themselves before the world ends? Writer/director Lorene Scafaria walks a fine line with her debut as she balances laughs, romance and the unavoidable destruction of all mankind, and more often than not she pulls it off beautifully. Carrell and Knightley both give funny, warm performances, and a sharp supporting cast throws in some additional broad laughs. [Extras: Commentary, outtakes, featurettes]

Stanley Kubrick’s Fear and Desire

Pitch: A Quarter Metal Jacket…

Why Rent? A four-man squad of American soldiers crash lands behind enemy lines and sets a course to get back to their own side, but their efforts are hampered by a civilian woman, an enemy general and madness in their ranks. Stanley Kubrick’s first feature film was released in 1953, and Kino’s new Blu-ray features the beautiful restoration completed last year courtesy of the Library of Congress. It runs just over an hour and feels more like part of an old anthology show than a full feature, but fans of the director will want to give it a look as a precursor to his later films Paths of Glory and Full Metal Jacket. There’s an odd absence of extras here aside from Kubrick’s first color film, a short documentary about the Seafarers International Union called The Seafarers. Also available on DVD. [Extras: None]

Discs Section: Avoid

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

Pitch: Emancipation Animation at its bluest…

Why Avoid? Abraham Lincoln heads out to see a play, but before he leaves the White House he passes his diary to a friend. It contains the truth about his early life up through the Civil War, and it’s a truth that involves the greatest threat America ever faced… the overuse of CGI. Oh, there are some vampires too. Director Timur Bekmambetov adapts Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel into a videogame cut-scene with the occasional acting scene. There are some cool scenes here and there, but a film like this should be a lot more fun than it is. And I’m not joking about the CGI. Instead of using it to enhance the movie it’s almost ubiquitous enough to qualify this as an animated film. Granted, the scene where the vamp throws a horse at our hero is amusing. [Extras: Graphic novel, commentary, featurettes, music video] Skip it and watch Daybreakers instead.

Midnight FM

Pitch: Psychopathic murderer killed the radio star…

Why Avoid? A late-night radio DJ is hosting her farewell show before heading off to a TV gig, but one of her less stable fans doesn’t approve of her plan. He takes her family hostage and forces her to play a very special playlist. The setup here is pretty standard, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What is bad though is the script that turns the DJ into the most frustratingly inept protagonist ever. Again and again she makes the stupidest calls to action and inaction to the point that any and all suspense is drained from the film by her ignorance. It’s a shame because the mute daughter does great work and there’s a pretty sharp car chase late in the movie, but they’re not nearly enough to recommend spending 100 minutes of your time here. [Extras: None] Skip it and watch Play Misty for Me instead.

The Slut

Pitch: Promiscuity is the least of her worries…

Why Avoid? Tamar (writer/director Hagar Ben-Asher) is a single mother in a small village who makes a habit of trading sex for services even if she has to falsify her need for services. Her sexual needs are altered when Shai arrives in town, but while she discovers an energetic sex life with him he may not be enough to satisfy her needs. Fans of unsimulated sex may enjoy at least a few minutes of this odd Israeli drama, but the long stretches of absolutely nothing and the lack of depth with the characters make it an uninteresting slog. The inexcusable act and inexplicable forgiveness that follows don’t help either. [Extras: Trailer]

Discs Section: Also

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

247 F
Athena Goddess of War
Crooked Arrows
The Fugitive: Most Wanted Edition – Complete Series
Lost Girl: Season One
Secret of the Wings
Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season Four
Sunday Bloody Sunday (Criterion)
Take this Waltz
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection
Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines


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