Rob Hunter loves movies. He also loves leading groups of survivors through post apocalyptic situations. These two joys come together in the form of cash money payments that he receives every week and immediately uses to buy more DVDs. So join us each week as he takes a look at new DVD releases and gives his highly unqualified opinion as to which titles are worth BUYing, which are better off as RENTals, and which should be AVOIDed at all costs.
Click on any of the titles below to magically head over to Amazon.com and pick up the DVD. And don’t forget to check out Neil Miller’s hilariously titled This Week In Blu-ray column for reviews on the latest high definition Blu-ray releases!
Peppermint Candy (Region 2)
Pitch: Imagine Memento minus the mystery but plus the drama and character development. Oh, and Korean people…
Why Buy? The Memento association is based purely on the film’s backward structure. It opens with a businessman crashing a picnic by the side of a river where he obviously doesn’t fit in at all. He climbs a train trestle and stands on the tracks, screaming as the locomotive ends his life. At which point we jump back three days and watch him endure an encounter with an ex that sends him reeling. And back further and further, twenty years or so through a man’s life to a time of idealism and hope. Mirroring this single life is two decades of South Korea’s history in which we witness the difficult foundation of a democracy and the people who endured it. Beautifully acted and crafted, often heart-breaking, and powerful, this is a film worth experiencing.
Extra Features? Featurette
Survivors: Complete Seasons One and Two
Pitch: Imagine Stephen King’s The Stand, but instead of ultimate good and evil you have all the gray British people in between…
Why Buy? I missed this show’s initial run as well as anything in the way of press about it, but I’ve been catching up on the first two seasons (or series) and am loving it. A deadly plague has struck humanity and in the space of just a few days most of the population has died. Individual survivors meet and band together in the hopes of beginning something new, but the challenges and dangers that await them are monumental. Disease, sickness, starvation, and roving bands of less desirable humans are always just around the corner. The character dynamic is perfectly executed with our main group populated with an odd but realistic and engaging collection of survivors. The acting is equally impressive, the writing is suspenseful and interesting, and the show encourages you to watch just one more episode… I’m not finished yet, but so far the only real potential issue is the whole “secret government project” angle. The people and their day to day lives are far more interesting.
Extra Features? Featurettes
The Descent: Part 2
Pitch: If you thought going down with six hot ladies and their sexy accents was fun, just wait until the overweight male sheriff joins the spelunking party…
Why Rent? Yes this is an unnecessary sequel to a fantastic movie. And yes, it picks up from the neutered US ending as opposed to the proper Brit one. But if you can get past those two points and accept this flick on its own merits you’ll find that it really isn’t all that bad. The lone survivor of the first film is found two days after her group disappeared, but she has no memory of what happened down in the dark. Two local cops and a handful of rescuers take her back down to search for her friends. They find the missing girls, for better or worse, and soon this new group is fighting for their lives against the cave’s inhabitants. Not a great movie, but not a bad one either. Although the final minute does suck guano.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, featurettes
District 13: Ultimatum
Pitch: Every time you watch a movie with parkour in it, Robert Fure dies a little inside…
Why Rent? If you’ve seen the first District 13 you’ve basically seen this sequel. But that’s not a bad thing. Our two free-running heroes are back to fight against a government conspiracy bent on nuking a Parisian ghetto. Silly? You bet. But the action is a high energy combination of leaps, flips, fights, and car stunts. Never boring, always ridiculous, and constantly fun.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, featurettes
Five Minutes of Heaven
Pitch: Sorry Miller. This movie will not fulfill your fantasy of five minutes alone in a dark closet with Liam Neeson…
Why Rent? Two men are scheduled to meet for an on-camera interview. One is a former IRA member, and the other is the brother of a man he killed thirty years before. Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt are both fantastic as the man looking for redemption and the man looking for revenge, and the suspense that builds towards their inevitable confrontation is impressive… especially for a movie where so little actually happens. This flick is all about expression and inner pain as the two men deal with guilt over their past and look towards a hopeless future. Neeson’s character draws a nice and simple parallel to modern-day Muslim extremists in a speech about what needs to be done to stop these kinds of things from happening again, and while the whole thing feels occasionally a bit too forced the overall effect is successful in being both entertaining and powerful.
Extra Features? Featurette
I Love Lucy: The Movie
Pitch: Why hasn’t anyone done a mash-up of I Love Lucy and Dolph Lundgren’s I Come In Peace…
Why Rent? Fans of Lucille Ball will want to buy this release, but everyone else should at least rent it. Less of a movie than a forced mash-up of three episodes from her TV show (with additional connective material filmed just for it), this is a fun and breezy example of why Ball is a comedy legend. She was a fantastic comedic actress, and while I was never a huge fan of the show in general I have massive respect for her talents. The DVD comes with some fun extras too including their first color episode and some behind the scenes footage.
Extra Features? Featurettes, additional episode
Pitch: We’re gonna need a bigger helicopter…
Why Rent? Fans of Megashark vs Giant Octopus will not be disappointed. Barry Williams plays Bob Grady (which is a brilliant take off on his most famous role, Greg Brady) who together with Tiffany must fight a school of chubby piranha hellbent on eating people and aircraft alike. Do you really need to know anything more than that? The answer is no. You do not. Watch the trailer. Then go watch the movie.
Extra Features? F
Tales From the Darkside: The Third Season
Pitch: It may not be The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits, but it’s better than that godawful Monsters…
Why Rent? I have fond memories of watching this show late at night and being entertained just as often as I was disappointed. Like any anthology show the episodes are hit and miss, but there’s a certain nostalgia factor present in each episode from the opening credits and voice-over right through to the cheap special effects. Season three sees stories from Robert Bloch, George Romero, Charles L Grant and more. Sure it’s cheesy at times, but mixed in with the goofy episodes are some strong stories as well. But yeah, there’s a high cheese to quality ratio.
Extra Features? None
William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe
Pitch: Love him or hate him, just don’t invite him over for dinner. Because he won’t even RSVP. Because he’s dead…
Why Rent? William Kunstler was a lawyer known for taking on cases that stirred debate and opinion across the country. They also sharply divided the public’s opinion on the man. From civil rights to accused terrorists to Native American rights to rape and assault, Kunstler was part Matlock and part Gloria Allred. Instead of a more traditional documentary this one comes from his daughters’ perspective. Their recollections and concerns growing up are related against the backdrop of death threats and public adulation, and they create an interesting (but insufficient) portrait of a man.
Extra Features? Additional interviews, speeches, and footage
Survivors: The Complete Original Series
Pitch: For folks who like long stretches of meandering chit chat mixed in with their post-apocalyptic dramas…
Why Avoid? So I recommend you Buy the new version of Survivors but suggest you Avoid the original. They share the same premise… a plague wipes out most of humanity and stragglers are forced to survive by any means necessary throughout the UK. But where the new version mixes legitimately interesting characters and situations with suspense, drama, and dark comedy, this version from the seventies plays out like Masterpiece Theater meets the apocalypse. Exterior action is fine but the second they pass indoors we’re on a very obvious sound stage. The actors aren’t bad, but they all perform like TV actors… British TV actors from the seventies. I won’t pretend I finished it, but several episodes in, I still couldn’t care less about the characters or what was happening to them.
Extra Features? Featurette
Pitch: For folks who thought Stan Helsing was funny and are willing to lower their expectations even more…
Why Avoid? On the bright side this is far better than any Friedberg/Seltzer “comedy” has ever been, but that doesn’t make it worth watching. A group of college students head to Romania for a semester and end up embroiled in an R-rated Scooby Doo mystery involving vampires, magic, and a pretty girl with a hump. Even acknowledging for the subjective nature of comedy there’s really nothing here that will even warrant a smile. The handful of boobs are okay though.
Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, gag reel, featurette
Also out this week, but review material unavailable in advance: Disgrace, The Fugitive Kind (Criterion), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, It’s Complicated, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show: The Complete First Season, Perfect Victims, Ride With the Devil (Criterion), Sympathy
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?