Welcome back to This Week In DVD… now with more Blu-ray! The times they are a changing, and occasionally that means FSR’s DVD department is sent Blu-rays to cover instead. It happens. This week it happened to a handful of older Touchstone films, a couple Chuck Norris classics, two TV series, a beloved children’s classic and two direct to disc horror films.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Strike Back: Cinemax Season One (Blu-ray/DVD)
Michael Stonebridge is an elite member of Britain’s anti-terrorist squad, and his latest mission finds him taking on the world’s most dangerous madman while he simultaneously takes on a new partner in a disgraced Delta Force soldier named Damien Scott. Together they kill, screw and blow(up) their way around the world trying to stop an impending terrorist attack. This is technically the British series’ second season, but it’s the first with the extra financial backing from Cinemax. And anyone who knows Cinemax knows they bring lots of sex wherever they go. Seriously. The show crosses the line into implausibility more than once, but that never diminishes the fun. Fantastic action sequences, strong pacing, high production values, solid chemistry between the leads and a bevy of buck-naked ladies make this one worth watching (and possibly owning). [Extras: Commentaries]
Adventures In Babysitting (New on Blu-ray)
Pitch: Thor and Keith Coogan in the same movie? Only in the 80’s…
Why Buy? Chris Parker (Elizabeth Shue) is looking to make a few extra bucks during a quiet night of babysitting, but when a friend in need calls from the big city Chris packs the kids up and heads out to help. Shue is a fresh-faced delight in this fun romp that plays like a family-oriented version of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours as everything that could go wrong does. This was Chris Columbus’ directorial debut, and watching it again reminds viewers that he was once a talent to watch. Sadly, that talent burned out six years later with his last great film, Mrs. Doubtfire. Touchstone’s Blu-ray offers a wonderfully restored image but nothing in the way of extra features.
Grosse Pointe Blank (New on Blu-ray)
Pitch: “I killed the President of Paraguay with a fork. How have you been…”
Why Buy? A hit man (John Cusack) questioning his role in the world takes time to swing by his ten-year high school reunion and his old flame, but the assassination game follows him home. Cusack shines as the fast-talking, sarcastic and conflicted killer, and he’s joined by a strong supporting cast including Jeremy Piven, Dan Aykroyd, Alan Arkin, Hank Azaria and Minnie Driver in her most likable performance. Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez also goes toe to toe with Cusack, and while it pales beside his fight with Jackie Chan in Wheels on Meals it’s still great fun. Like the rest of Touchstone’s Blu-ray debuts this week the extras here are minimal, but the movie’s high entertainment value make it a buy anyway. [Extras: Trailer]
High Fidelity (New on Blu-ray)
Pitch: “Is that Peter fucking Frampton…”
Why Buy? Rob Gordon’s (John Cusack) girlfriend has just left him for a patchouli-smoking Tim Robbins, and in order to better understand that fresh hell he juggles looking back over his past relationships and the girls who left him with running his barely sustainable record store. Nick Hornby’s novel comes to the screen intact and infused with laughs, heart, great performances and a stellar soundtrack. Gordon breaks the fourth wall to share his world with us in the form of top five lists, but he’s also sharing an honesty about relationships that’s uncommon in today’s romantic comedies. And if you’ve forgotten why people once liked Jack Black this remains his most natural and effortlessly funny performance. Like the other new-to-Blu releases from Touchstone this week the image presentation is fine. Unlike the others though this one has some worthwhile extras including interviews and deleted scenes.
The Octagon (New on Blu-ray, UK)
Pitch: Chuck Norris doesn’t mow the lawn. He goes outside and dares the grass to grow…
Why Buy? A martial artist trained in the old ways of fighting, killing and talking to oneself in reverb sets out to investigate a criminal group of mercenary ninjas. Or ninja mercenary. Either way, ninjas. This is not a great movie, but it’s good fun and if you saw it when you were younger it’s one that sticks with you because Norris fighting waves of the aforementioned ninjas is unavoidably cool (and that goes double for the mute guy in the costume played by Richard Norton doing double duty here). As an adult the thing I appreciate even more though is just how funny this thing is. Norris’ narration is priceless. [Extras: Making of, Commentary, Trailers, How American Cinema Changed Hollywood Forever featurette] Also available on DVD.
A Force of One (New on Blu-ray, UK)
Pitch: Chuck Norris can end a sentence with a preposition. He can also end a life with one…
Why Rent? A San Diego karate champion (Chuck Norris) is recruited by the local police to help stop a killer who’s using martial arts as his weapon of choice. This early Norris film is as much of a drama as it is action pic, but that only serves to make it better than expected. There are a handful of solid fight scenes to be found here both in and out of the ring. Anchor Bay has done a fine job with the movie’s first appearance in HD and is a winner in the picture department as the image is crisp and clean for the most part. [Extras: Making of, Commentary, Trailers, same doc about American Cinema as found on The Octagon disc] Also available on DVD.
Pitch: They sure did take some liberties adapting that Matthew Sweet song…
Why Rent? A young man with Down’s Syndrome finds his mother dead and then sets out to win the girl of his dreams. (I should really consider writing one-line synopses professionally.) Evan (Evan Sneider) has loved Candy for years unaware of the troubles she has with young son’s father. Evan makes his romantic gesture, but does she respond to him or to his offer of money? This sweet, little indie could have easily gone the saccharine way, but writer/director Justin Lerner keeps things honest and engaging helped in part by Sneider’s natural performance. [Extras: Behind the scenes, Interview, Trailer]
Grimm: Season One (Blu-ray)
Pitch: Once upon a ti- oh wait…
Why Rent? A homicide detective (David Giuntoli) in Portland has his world shaken when a visit from his ailing aunt reveals he’s not exactly who he thought he was. Instead, he discovers he’s a Grimm… someone charged with protecting mankind from the creatures of fairy tale legend. He begins seeing monsters everywhere and uses his newfound abilities and duties to help solve crimes around town. This NBC series offers some fun monster-of-the-week surprises alongside its central storyline of dark forces gathering to stop this latest Grimm before he learns too much. The effects and violence are pretty solid for a network show, but even more important the characters and writing are sharp and humorous as well. [Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, Grimm Guide (Blu exclusive)] Also available on DVD.
Pitch: Nadda scary…
Why Rent? A family moves from Bangkok to a gated community in a more suburban part of Thailand, but their idyllic new life is marred by murdered neighbors, deformed intruders and ghostly occurrences! This Thai horror film follows the Drag Me To Hell model in that it relies on loud music or sound cues to alert viewers when they should be scared as opposed to being, you know, actually scary. It does offer an interesting and engaging commentary on the husband/father’s loss of pride though when he loses his job and struggles to deal with it, but if anything those elements tease a better movie. Watch it for the drama, and put up with the horror. [Extras: Behind the scenes, Interviews, Trailer]
The Lorax (Blu-ray/DVD)
Pitch: I don’t remember the original Lorax shilling for advertisers…
Why Rent? The book is a Dr. Seuss classic about the devastation humanity has visited upon the environment and how new generations are the only hope for a clean and safe planet. The movie is, well, that and a lot of filler. A lot of filler. There are also plenty of changes including having the Lorax intro the movie, making the Once-ler into a far nicer guy and focusing the fury on a brand new villain. And of course Zac Efron has a love interest. The core of the original is still here, and for that reason it’s worth a rental. The Blu-ray also looks damn good and brings out the high quality of the animation nicely. [Extras: Featurettes, Short films]
Pitch: He’s the ghost of ganja past…
Why Rent? Bob Marley was the king of reggae, but his skills, talents and interests went far beyond the entertainment world. he was also a man who fought against social injustice. As someone disinterested in this particular music style I expected little here, but the man is more than his music, and this new documentary from director Kevin Macdonald offers a fascinating portrait of that duality. The film is packed with interviews and footage previously unseen, and fans and newcomers alike will find inspiration and energy from Marley’s tale. [Extras: Interviews, Featurette, Commentary, Trailer]
The Preacher’s Wife (New on Blu-ray)
Pitch: If only Dudley could have saved Whitney Houston…
Why Rent? An angel (Denzel Washington) is sent down to help a pastor (Courtney B Vance) struggling with his church’s finances and his marriage to Whitney Houston. But it seems no one foresaw Dudley falling for the pastor’s wife. Penny Marshall’s remake of Cary Grant’s The Bishop’s Wife is a light, gospel music-infused comedy that works mostly due to the cast’s likeability and charm. Houston’s performance here is a reminder of just how talented and vibrant she was before her strange spiral downward years later. Like the other Touchstone Blu-ray debuts this week this one looks good and is light on extra features.
The Victim (UK)
Pitch: Imagine Unsolved Mysteries with Robert Stack in a long, black wig…
Why Rent? Ting is an aspiring actress who gets the opportunity to star as the victim of the week in televised crime re-enactments, but when she takes on the role of a recently murdered Miss Thailand the dead begin making their presence known to her. This Thai chiller seems fairly traditional for its first half and scary as well, but a major story shift alters both of those things. Narrative-wise it’s an interesting turn of events, but the fear factor seems to turn down a few notches around that same time. Asian horror fans should check it out though. [Extras: None]
Mr. Hush (Blu-ray)
Pitch: Considering Stephen Geoffreys’ strange career detour this could very well have been titled Mr. Tush…
Why Avoid? A man’s wife and daughter are slaughtered by a madman on Halloween, and ten years later the killer returns to target his new girlfriend and her daughter. This indie horror effort is weak in every area including acting, writing, effects and more. It’s theoretically good to see Stephen Geoffreys return to genre films after a long stint in gay porn, but that time away did nothing for his once solid acting skills. Good to see him bring some of the wardrobe from those older gigs though. Skip it and watch Mr. Brooks instead. [Extras: Introduction, Bloopers, Commentary, Music video, Trailer] Also available on DVD.
Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion (New on Blu-ray)
Pitch: Best laugh in the movie? The director’s last name…
Why Avoid? Romy and Michelle (Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow, or Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino… there’s no way to know really) are blonde dingbats who head to their high school reunion pretending to be something their not… successful. When their secret is discovered they’re reminded that you should always be true to yourself. And to your best friend. This is almost a female version of Dumb & Dumber, but while the girls aren’t nearly as idiotic as their male counterparts they’re also not as funny. The two lead characters are far more annoying in their shtick than they are entertaining… even if they do look great in high definition. Touchstone’s new Blu looks good enough, but for a 15th Anniversary Edition more extras than a simple featurette could have only helped. Skip it and watch Three O’Clock High instead.
Steve Niles’ Remains (Blu-ray)
Pitch: Always bet on red…
Why Avoid? A plague turns most of humanity (or at least part of Nevada) into flesh-eating zombies, and a small band of survivors hole up in a Reno casino to kill time. And zombies. This adaptation of the Steve Niles graphic novel found life on the Chiller Network, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean the end product will be bad the results speak for themselves. As I’ve said before, the zombie genre is so ubiquitous these days that you really need to do something special to make it stand out from the pack. The bloodletting here is minimal, the acting is mediocre and the story is nothing we haven’t seen a hundred times this year. Skip it and watch ParaNorman instead. [Extras: Commentary, Short films, Bloopers, Trailers] Also available on DVD.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Blue Like Jazz
Jesse Stone: Benefit of the Doubt
Parenthood: Season Three
Warriors Of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?