Welcome back to This Week In DVD! It’s a fairly calm release week, but there are a few recognizable titles hitting shelves including Steven Spielberg’s cheesy War Horse and the universally acclaimed film about a man famous for sticking his hand inside a felt anus, Being Elmo. Lesser known releases include a couple Cartoon Network shows, Bob Newhart’s unfortunate TV swan song, two European imports worth your time and more.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Joseph (Peter Mullan) leads a sad, lonely life punctuated with bouts of alcohol-fueled violence, but when he meets a charitable woman named Hannah (Olivia Colman) he discovers his humanity may yet be salvageable. “An animal can only take so much punishment and humiliation before it snaps, fights back,” he says at one point. “It’s just nature.” Paddy Considine wrote and directed this, his feature debut, and it’s clearly a personal tale inspired by the people and places he’s known. It’s a bleak, tough watch at times, but Considine surprises with a wise and unexpected ending.
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey
Pitch: Who knew the most annoying muppet held the most endearing and heart-warming story…
Why Buy? Kevin Clash was a young boy in Baltimore who discovered a love of puppetry. Both the artistry and the performance behind the art form took hold and never let go. Constance Marks’ film looks at Clash’s journey from a boy with a hobby to the man behind one of Sesame Street’s most popular characters. His work ethic and love of puppetry and family come through clear as we see his joy at first meeting Jim Henson and starting work on Labyrinth to hosting his daughter’s sweet sixteen. It’s an inspiring tale told so well that not even Whoopi Goldberg’s narration can ruin it.
Regular Show: Slack Pack
Pitch: Trust me. It’s all about the hambone…
Why Buy? A racoon and a blujay share an apartment and some crazy adventures as they continually try to avoid work. One of the great joys of writing this column is finding shows and movies that I’ve completely missed during their original release. This week sees two such gems from Cartoon Network. The live action one below is funny enough for a rent, but this animated show is hilarity worth buying. Or maybe it’s just me.
Pitch: I know what you’re thinking. Of course a Jeremy London movie is worth watching…
Why Rent? An alien ship crash lands in a junkyard, and when its occupant kills the land owner his family offers a bounty on the creature’s head to anyone who’ll kill the beast and retrieve the body. Jeremy London and Roddy Piper are the recognizable faces here, but even their charisma can’t make up for the poor writing, cheesy effects and terrible acting. What does make it worthwhile (for fans of low budget goofiness)? The movie is brave enough to kill some kids onscreen and do some interesting things with character expectations. You’ve been warned.
Pitch: Plan on visiting the town of Angels Crest? Bring your prozac…
Why Rent? A young father (Thomas Dekker) makes a tragic lapse in judgement that results in the death of his three year old son. He’s ravaged by guilt, but when the local district attorney decides to press charges the small town splits in its support and condemnation for the young man. This is a well acted ensemble drama that explores the ideas of guilt, grief and forgiveness, and it should not be watched by the depressed. There is very little light to be found here as the people in this town consistently find life’s challenges hard to let go. Seriously. Bleak as hell.
The Double Hour
Pitch: “What is real?” is the tagline for the new Total Recall, but it could just as easily be applied to this Italian thriller…
Why Rent? An ex-cop and a hotel maid meet at a speed-dating event hit it off and begin to date. Things are good for a little while until he’s shot in the chest and the bullet passes through him to lodge in her head. Now she’s faced with a dead boyfriend , a cop who suspects her involvement and the nagging feeling that someone from beyond may be haunting her. This Italian mystery requires viewers to watch every frame as it slowly unwinds a twisted tale of deceit, distrust and danger. It’s a rewarding thriller worthy of a look.
Eagleheart: Season One
Pitch: The Guy Under the Seats returns…
Why Rent? Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim is known mostly for animated fare, but this live action series featuring Chris Elliott as a Walker Texas Ranger-like law enforcer manages to be almost as funny as their best cartoons. The episodes are 10 minutes each and see Elliott and partners tackling crime in ways that always end in dead perps. Imagine Sledghammer in shorter increments, and you’ll know what to expect. The stories are filled with gunshots, explosions and bad guys getting minced up in plane propellers.
Bob: The Complete Series
Pitch: The 70s and 80s were kind to Bob Newhart on TV. The 90s were not…
Why Avoid? Bob McKay is an ex-comic strip writer whose most famous superhero is called back out of retirement just as Bob is stagnating in the greeting card industry. Newhart previously struck gold with The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart, but his third stab at TV resulted in this unfunny series that feels forced from the first minute and rarely gains any ground. Newhart is enough of a comic genius that he manages a laugh now and then, but it’s not worth trolling through all 33 episodes to find them. Skip it and watch The Bob Newhart Show or even Newhart instead.
Pitch: Essentially a remake of The Little Princess with a horse in the Shirley Temple role…
Why Avoid? A young man in pre-WWI England raises a thoroughbred horse but then loses it to the war. The film follows the horse’s journey back to the boy as it makes friends, finds adventure and meets people both good and bad. Steven Spielberg makes great movies that evoke wonder and awe, but this is definitely not one of them. Story elements are played so cheesily and ridiculous that you can’t help but be disinterested in the characters or events unfolding onscreen. There’s one solid scene late in the movie, but it’s too little too late for a film that clocks in over two hours long. Skip it and watch The Black Stallion instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Hellacious Acres: The Case of John Glass
Torchwood: Miracle Day
We Bought a Zoo
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?