Welcome back to This Week In Discs! I hope you’ve been saving your pennies because there are tons of fantastic releases worth buying today. All three (or so) Indiana Jones movies finally make their Blu-ray debut, genre fans get one of the year’s best horror films (The Cabin In the Woods) as well as Scream Factory’s stellar Blus of two Halloween classics, David Fincher fanatics will rejoice at Criterion’s release of The Game and my favorite film from 2011 hits DVD as my Pick of the Week.

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

Discs Section: Pick of the Week

Oslo August 31st

Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) is out on leave from drug rehab for the purpose of a job interview, but it’s a job he knows he’ll never hold. Instead he visits an old friend, touches base with his family, searches for an old flame and fights the urge to kill himself. This Norwegian drama finds both heartache and vitality in its story and in its lead character, and Danielsen Lie makes it all so palpable and affecting. That said, there’s also an undeniable desire for life here that struggles against his depression with desperate intensity. Make no mistake, Anders is sadness incarnate, but he’s also a man at a crossroads with a decision before him that you can’t turn away from. Check out my full review.

Discs Section: Buy

The Cabin In the Woods

Pitch: If there was an award for ‘Best Onscreen Duo’ Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford would have it in the bag…

Why Buy? A quintet of attractive young people head to a remote cabin for an extended weekend, but when a zombie redneck torture family arrives it’s more than their vacation that gets cut short. Zing! And let’s not forget about the pencil pushers in the underground bunker who may just have a hand in the events above. Drew Goddard’s film is a near classic thanks to a sharp script (co-written by Joss Whedon) that balances laughs and thrills in equal measure, and it’s also loaded with the red stuff thanks to the bloodiest elevator scene since The Shining. The film is far more than an homage or a meta look at the genre and instead is a feature that stands on its own as a mix of smart horror and laugh out loud comedy. Also available on Blu-ray. Check out my full review. [Extras: Commentary, featurettes]

The Game (Criterion)

Pitch: David Fincher twists you, turns you, plays you…

Why Buy? Of all the great movies produced by David Fincher, it’s been said that he’s never quite let himself go wild creatively quite like he did with The Game. The story of an investment banker (Michael Douglas) who is offered a chance (by his good-for-nothing brother, masterfully delivered by Sean Penn) to play a very special game that will test all the levels of his humanity. It’s one of those fine movies in which we, like the main character, always know what’s going on and almost never know exactly what’s going on. It’s Fincher as Hitchcock, with a kick-ass list of contemporary superstars at the top of their… er, game. The Blu-ray from Criterion is just as intricate as Fincher’s wildly derived story. Simple, elegant menus lead us to a bevy of extras including a killer commentary track. The cover art alone is beautiful enough to warrant a purchase. Luckily, there’s also a great movie inside. – Neil Miller

Halloween II

Pitch: Everyone knows the first Halloween was a commentary on the increasing foreclosure rate, but did you realize the sequel was a critique of the health care system? Think about it…

Why Buy? Michael Myers has slaughtered his way through suburbia, but when Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) manages to survive he follows her to the local hospital to continue his murderous ways. This sequel to John Carpenter’s classic original picks up mere minutes after that film’s end and plays out over the very same night. It’s not as good as its predecessor, but it’s still far better than you’d expect from a slasher sequel. Donald Pleasance returns as well for a mad scramble to stop the killing, and he continues to give the role his all. Scream Factory (aka Shout Factory) has put together a kick ass collector’s edition here including new cover artwork, the little-seen TV cut with additional footage and more. [Extras: Commentaries, featurettes, Horror’s Hallowed Ground, deleted scenes, trailers]

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Pitch: “Happy happy Halloween, Halloween, Halloween. Happy happy Halloween, Silver Shamrock…”

Why Buy? A doctor (Tom Atkins) gets caught up in a murderous conspiracy when one of his patients is murdered, but the secret behind it all is more shocking and plasticine then he could have imagined. Tommy Lee Wallace’s film is easily the most maligned of the Halloween series, mostly because it has nothing to do with the other films, but the judgement is an unfair one. As a standalone horror film there’s a lot of fun to be had here from watching Atkins woo the ladies to seeing kids get killed (a rarity these days in horror), and if the movie alone isn’t enough of a reason to buy the other content most surely is. Scream Factory has restored the picture to near perfection and included some killer extras including one of the most honest making-of docs you’ve likely seen and an incredibly entertaining installment of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Featurettes, commentaries, trailers]

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures

Pitch: It belongs in a museum…

Why Buy? Lets not act like you haven’t been anticipating this one since well before it was even a remote possibility. This is one of those all-time franchise sets that I couldn’t wait to pick up since the first day I opened my Blu-ray player. Some had their Star Wars, some had the adventures of Indiana Jones. And for the Indiana Jones fans (and everyone else for that matter), this one is a sweet buy. A beautiful, sturdily packaged box set the opens like a book and doesn’t fold out. A set of transfers that aren’t perfect (as I’ll detail in my Blu-ray Spotlight later in the week), but are damn good considering the era from which these films come. And yes, all the fun behind the scenes footage that Steve Spielberg’s archives have to offer. It’s the compendium of Indiana Jones and more than worth a purchase, even if you never remove Kingdom of the Crystal Skull from its sleeve. – Neil Miller

Katy Perry: Part of Me

Pitch: Yeah. I’m surprised too…

Why Buy? Katy Perry struck it big with her hit single “I Kissed a Girl” and hasn’t looked back since. This documentary follows her on her world tour and offers a look behind the scenes at her life, her performances and her personality. Look, here’s the deal. Regardless of what you think of her music, and I don’t count myself as a fan in any way, this is an entertaining and endearing look at an unavoidably likeable young woman. She has obvious talent, but we get to see her ambition, affection and heart splayed open (thanks to the Russell Brand split) and on display during an incredibly stressful time in her life. She’s kind, sexy, sweet, pretty and wonderfully dorky, and her film is ultimately an energetic and inspirational experience. And no, I wouldn’t believe me either. So here‘s Neil Miller’s take on it too. Also available on Blu-ray. [Extras: Additional footage]

Love Exposure

Pitch: It’s a 4-hour movie about up-skirt photography…

Why Buy? Taken at face value, this idea alone seems like a ridiculous waste of time. Four hours about a guy who masters the contemporary art of upskirt photography to settle his issues from being raised in a strictly religious household? No thanks. Unless you consider the fact that, as our own Cole Abaius said in his Fantastic Fest ‘09 review, the movie delivers “four whole hours of fantastic filmmaking, great acting, an engaging story, humor, sadness and panties.” We’ve seen entire trilogies that can’t offer such a thing. The fact is that you should see this expertly crafted film, at least once, because it will deeply enrich your life as a movielover. Why should you buy the Blu-ray? Because after you’re done loving up the film, there are almost three additional hours of gripping special features on the 2-disc Blu-ray set. This is a film made by a filmmaker, Sono Sion, in great command of a big story. It’s a modern marvel, to say the least. Also available on DVD. – Neil Miller

Discs Section: Rent

Bait

Pitch: The scene where Jamie Foxx gets swallowed whole by the shark is nuts…

Why Rent? An earthquake off the coast of Australia sends a tsunami hurtling across the land where it eventually floods a supermarket trapping several people within. On the bright side they’re not alone, but on the down side neither are the Great White sharks in there with them. It should be noted right away that this movie features some ridiculously bad CGI effects on more than one occasion. But when we’re not subjected to distractingly bad effects the film actually plays out with some honest tension and character work. There are far better shark thrillers out there, and there are far worse. This one sits comfortably somewhere in the middle. [Extras: Storyboards]

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Pitch: It’s like Cocoon but instead of aliens it’s Indian food that makes the old folks lively…

Why Rent? A handful of British retirees with little else to look forward to take up an invite from a retirement hotel in India, but they soon discover the place isn’t quite what they expected. Neither is retirement. Director John Madden has delivered an entertaining, albeit contrived, ensemble piece about not giving up on life. It’s at turns charming, sweet, predictable and ordinary, but it rises above thanks to a cast of talented Brits including Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Judy Dench and Dev Patel. Also available on Blu-ray.

Chico & Rita

Pitch: Smart, beautiful animation for adults. That means there’s boobies…

Why Rent? An old man sits in his small apartment when a song on the radio brings his memories back to his life’s great twin loves… playing piano and a woman named Rita. We visit the duo’s first meeting, fiery relationship, career success and the subsequent failure of it all, all of it against the backdrop of the jazz-infused nightlife of Cuba and the US in the 40s and 50s. This Academy Award nominated animated feature is a vibrant, sexy ode to the sensations that thrill us and keep us young, and the animation style suits that goal beautifully. New Video also earns points for their fantastic packaging which includes an colorfully embossed cover, the full soundtrack on CD and an excerpt of the graphic novel the film is based upon. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Featurette, commentary]

Conception

Pitch: It’s unclear if this is the prequel or sequel to Inception

Why Rent? Nine couples walk, talk and screw their way towards pregnancy, but while some are planned others are wholly unexpected. From married couples and young virgins to lesbians using a sperm donor and a couple on a blind date, this one night will see the beginning of something extraordinary. Or ordinary. Depends on your point of view. This drama/comedy from writer/director Josh Stolberg bounces continuously between the couples and between tones as it finds the humor and heartbreak inherent in relationships. The number of characters makes it difficult to find yourself attached to any of them, but the variety also makes for some interesting storylines. [Extras: Interview, deleted scenes, outtakes]

Ed Wood

Pitch: Includes a joke about Sarah Jessica Parker’s “horse face” straight from the horse’s mouth…

Why Rent? Ed Wood (Johnny Depp) is a film director of terrible films, but unfortunately no one appreciates the effort and skill it takes to be this bad. His one strength is an inextinguishable optimism about his talent and his future, and it’s an infectious strength that carries along a loyal cast and crew with him from film to film. Tim Burton’s black & white comedy is a features both laughs and great performances including Martin Landau’s Oscar-winning turn as Bela Lugosi. Depp also does well with a performance that’s both quirky and restrained. [Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary, music video]

Get a Life: The Complete Series

Pitch: The Guy Under the Seats gets a day job…

Why Rent? Chris Peterson (Chris Elliott) is a thirty year old paperboy who lives with his parents and has wacky adventures each day to pass the time. Elliott’s mildly insane series lasted two seasons on Fox, and it’s definitely not for everyone as Elliott has always been an acquired taste. The humor runs the gamut of broad guffaws, visual gags and zippy one-liners, and the show also has a fun stable of supporting guest stars. Shout Factory’s release features all 35 episodes alongside some fun special features including an episode commentary by a psychologist analyzing Chris’ nuttiness. [Extras: Interviews, commentaries, featurettes]

Hawaii Five-O: The Second Season

Pitch: The Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Yeah, bitch!…

Why Rent? Picking up where season one left off, Steve McGarrett finds himself behind bars for the murder of the governor leaving the rest of the team scrambling to prove his innocence. Later episodes see all four leads finding time to shine with storylines focused on them and their own personal dramas. There is a fifteen-episode scare when Lauren German joins the show and begins stealing screentime from Grace Park, but thankfully that ends well for my Kono. The show is only occasionally marred by obvious product placement and weak writing, but it’s good fun more often than not. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Featurettes, commentaries, deleted scenes, gag reel, NCIS: LA crossover episode]

Hysteria

Pitch: Dildo even when the men-folk say dildon’t…

Why Rent? Dr Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) is a man ahead of his time which unfortunately means no one wants to hire a doctor who thinks “germs” are a real thing. Desperate for a job he takes an assistant job with a doctor whose specialty is relieving women of hysteria… by fingering them. Technically he’s manipulating their lady bits to relieve the feminine anguish, but the result is the same. This period comedy explores the invention of the vibrator with wit, social commentary and a little too much broad goofiness, and the appealing cast (including Rupert Everett and Maggie Gyllenhaal) helps make it light entertainment worth spreading wide for. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes]

The Revenant

Pitch: Vigilante justice just got deader…

Why Rent? Bart Gregory (David Anders) gave everything for his country, including his life, but when rises up from the dead he finds it hard to be an undead hero. His friend has a solution though, and the pair become nighttime vigilantes fighting crime, drinking blood and having some laughs. Writer/director Kerry Prior’s zombie-comedy is a truly funny horror film, but somehow it’s gotten lost in the shuffle since playing Fantastic Fest three years ago. [Extras: Featurette, commentaries, deleted scenes]

Tazza: The High Rollers

Pitch: Makes ESPN poker tournaments look like games of Apples to Apples

Why Rent? When Goni (Cho Seung-woo) is cheated out of his savings in a brash attempt at gambling he decides to win it back by learning from a master gambler named Mr. Pyeong (Baek Yoon-sik). Their journey takes them deep into the Korean criminal underbelly, and the result is an adventure filled with beatings, double crosses and blistering card action. The tone here is fast-paced and loose, like a slightly lighter Rounders, and even at over two hours it moves at a brisk and entertaining pace. 5 Points Pictures has been doing a bang-up job with their recent releases, especially when it comes to the special features, and this one is no different. [Extras: Featurettes, interviews, deleted scenes, trailers]

The Woman In the Fifth

Pitch: Ethan Hawke needs to stop hitting on European chicks

Why Rent? An American writer (Hawke) arrives in Paris intent on reuniting with his wife and daughter, but his attempts are met with derision and resistance. He takes up residence in a seedy hostel hoping to focus on his writing while he wins his family back, but a chance meeting with a mysterious older woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) leads to some unexpected mysteries that soon endanger his once happy family. This is a fine little thriller that presents a world where nothing is all that certain leading to a real sense of uneasiness and mystery. The ending is a little underwhelming though. Check out my full review. [Extras: Making of]

Discs Section: Avoid

The Babymakers

Pitch: This baby batter’s gone bad…

Why Avoid? A couple (Olivia Munn and Paul Schneider) struggling to conceive discover his sperm have gone slow and stupid in his middle age, so he sets out to steal the last remaining sample he donated years prior at a sperm bank. It’s unclear what exactly went so terribly wrong here, but the end result is a laugh-free comedy that wastes the talents of its two leads. Yes, I said two. Munn has proven herself to be a pretty strong comedic talent on HBO’s The Newsroom, and Schneider has been golden for years. But here, the two seem to be flailing amidst a sea of poorly written lines and shticky performances from the Broken Lizard guys. [Extras: Featurettes, interviews]

Judge Dredd

Pitch: I am der laawwwrrr…

Why Avoid? The future is a wasteland dotted with overpopulated cities, and in these crime-infested urban nightmares stand the final arbiters of justice known as the Judges. Sylvester Stallone stars as the much-feared Judge Dredd, but when he’s framed for a crime the system he loves is turned against him. The classic comic book series got its first film adaptation here, and it is not good. The tone is too goofy, the action is too cheesy and the performances are… well… when the best bit involves Rob Schneider mimicking Stallone’s stroke-induced rendition of “I am the law!” you know there’s an issue. The film’s Blu-ray debut looks okay, but it’s not enough to warrant a rewatch if you’ve already seen it. Especially when the far superior Dredd film hits theaters this Friday. [Extras: Featurette]

Salvation Boulevard

Pitch: So many stars, so little entertainment…

Why Avoid? Carl (Greg Kinnear) traded following the Grateful Dead for following Pastor Day (Pierce Brosnan), and along with his wife (Jennifer Connelly) he tries to live a life in god’s shadow. His new life is interrupted though when Day accidentally kills a philosophical opponent (Ed Harris) and tries to pin the blame on Carl leading to murder attempts by a faithful cameraman (Jim Gaffigan), seduction attempts by a hippie security guard (Maria Tomei) and a kidnapping by a Mexican devil. The film is a comedy of sorts, but its occasional ugliness doesn’t match its tone and the result is a movie that can’t quite decide if it wants to make you laugh or make you think about god. Sadly, even with this great cast, it does neither.

The Victim

Pitch: Do I have to say it? Fine. The only victim here is the person who spends money to see this…

Why Avoid? A stripper finds herself on the wrong side of the law when two dirty cops go rogue and chase her into the forest. She comes across a cabin and a possible savior in Michael Biehn, but sometimes the medicine is worse than what ails you. I’m pretty sure that’s a saying of some kind. Anyway, this is a stinker of an exploitation film with only one possible redeeming feature. Biehn is a genre icon, and while he writes and directs here he shows that his true talent remains onscreen. He can be fun to watch at times, especially at the end (and the only highlight here), but unfortunately the remainder of the main cast are exactly the opposite. They’re annoying, and the film’s action fails to compensate. [Extras: Commentary, featurette]

Discs Section: Also

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

Black Sunday
A Double Life
Dracula Blows His Cool
Hatchet for a Honeymoon
The House of Exorcism/Lisa and the Devil
The Mentalist: The Complete Fourth Season
Silenced
Steve Martin: The Television Stuff
Suburgatory: The Complete First Season


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