Most DVD Tuesdays see a random smorgasbord of titles released with no discernible pattern, and this week is ultimately no different. But it does feature a fairly hefty sampling of one genre in particular… documentaries! Who’s up for some true stories and real life drama, mystery, and comedy? Don’t turn your nose up so fast people. There are some fascinating true stories below, yes, even the one on Joan Rivers, and they’re all worth a watch or two.
Titles out this week include The Other Guys, Cyrus, Exit Through the Gift Shop, The Town, Gasland, and more.
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 seemingly legitimately titled This Week In Blu-ray for reviews on the latest high definition Blu-ray releases!
Pitch: A piece of art in the guise of social commentary wrapped up in a comedy disguised as a documentary…
Why Buy? A retailer in Los Angeles decides to realize the life dream he never knew he had and film a documentary about graffiti artists. His holy grail is UK vandal Banksy, but by the time the two meet his motivations have begun to mutate and the resulting film becomes something altogether different. Most graffiti is vandalism, but it doesn’t mean an engaging and hilarious story can’t be found amidst the vandals. From surprising comedy to satirical look at the art world, this doc is many things at once and absolutely nothing like what you expect. Real or fake, doesn’t matter, this is entertainment of the smartest kind.
Extra Features? Short film, deleted scene, featurettes, 2D glasses
Pitch: Mark Wahlberg’s funniest film since The Happening…
Why Buy? This new comedy from the team behind Anchorman and Talladega Nights focuses on the kinds of cops you usually see in the background of regular action movies. Which should tell you right off that this is not really an action movie… an important thing to remember as the action here is kind of lame. But the comedy is freaking hilarious including some great bits with Michael Keaton and Eva Mendes as well as Will Ferrell. Clearly the buy recommendation is for the Unrated edition DVD as it features more goodies.
Extra Features? Theatrical and unrated versions, deleted scenes, featurettes
Pitch: Ok, who ordered the remake of Heat…
Why Buy? A group of friends get their kicks in Boston robbing armored cars and banks, but when Doug (Ben Affleck) gets too close to a possible witness and an intrepid FBI agent gets too close to them they discover their days might just be numbered. Affleck also directed and co-wrote this solid follow-up to (the superior) Gone Baby Gone, and even though it hews damn close to convention it still manages to make for an engaging and exciting ride. So what if a couple of the scenes feel like fairly direct lifts from Michael Mann’s Heat. Great acting, fantastic action sequences, and a co-starring role for the lovely Rebecca Hall combine to make this a keeper.
Extra Features? Commentary, featurettes
Pitch: In a year that saw multiple films about ragtag teams of gun-toting heroes fighting against overwhelming odds, this was certainly one of them…
Why Rent? A group of expendable losers is framed for a crime they didn’t commit, so they escape to clear their name and become do-gooder mercenaries for hire. Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Rampage Jackson, and Sharlto Copley have good chemistry and the movie is a fair bit of fun, but it truly is ridiculous. Like The Other Guys above, if you’re going to take a look at this title be sure to pick up the Unrated Extended Cut version as it includes both cuts plus other extras.
Extra Features? Theatrical and unrated versions, commentary, featurette
Pitch: The secret to becoming a pro golfer after the age of forty? Father issues, new age mumbo jumbo, and an eleventh hour realization…
Why Rent? A film festival director who just turned forty decides to try and become a professional golfer even though his age, job, and family duties say he really shouldn’t. It’s a well known fact that golf is the most boring sport in the world for viewers, so my expectations for this doc were understandably low. Jon Fitzgerald keeps it interesting though by moving beyond the sport and into his own life story. Golf is still stupid, but you can’t argue with a father and grown son reconnecting in a visible and meaningful way.
Extra Features? Commentary, interviews, tips
Pitch: The most frightening gas-related film since Terrance and Phillip’s Not Without My Anus…
Why Rent? Josh Fox came home one day to a letter offering to lease his land for just shy of $100k. Most people would have taken the money without a second thought, but Fox took a closer look at the people and the purpose behind the offer and what he found frightened him. He doesn’t exactly have the voice for narration, but his doc is an important and disturbing exposé on a side of the natural gas industry that most people have never seen. There’s a gentle sadness here alongside the frustration, anger, and disbelief.
Extra Features? Additional scenes
Pitch: “The UPS guys said he saw it, you know, and I kind of trust him…”
Why Rent? A bird thought long extinct appears on a video and the ornithology world goes crazy. Cornell University gets involved, and the news spreads around the globe bringing an influx of media and birdwatchers in the hopes of catching it again. The doc spends time with both believers and skeptics but quickly reveals its story to be about more than just the existence of a single bird. If you never thought a Donald Rumsfeld quote could be applied to an environmental documentary prepare to see that perception shattered. Twice!
Extra Features? Additional scenes
Pitch: The most disgusting blue thing you’ll ever see on screen! At least until The Smurfs movie comes out next year…
Why Rent? A young man loses his office job in a fit of rage and ends up working as a night janitor where he befriends his fellow coworkers and discovers a comically dangerous secret at one of the businesses. Indie films rarely succeed when they try to move beyond the simple (and cheap) boundaries of drama and comedy into something more genre oriented, but this film manages to do it with style. From the sharp and creative cinematography to the humorous and unpredictable script, this is a flick that will surprise and entertain if you’re in the mood for something different from the norm.
Extra Features? Interviews, deleted scenes
Pitch: This movie won’t convince you that Joan Rivers is funny, but it will convince you that she’s human…
Why Rent? A filmmaker follows Joan Rivers through the ups and downs of a single year, but the doc also inter-cuts the present with details from Rivers’ past. I was initially reticent about watching this as Rivers is one hell of an annoying personality. The question is not “Can we talk?” The question is will she ever shut up. A few good one-liners aside the woman is just not funny and her preference for quantity over quality grates on the ears and brain. But this doc looks well beyond the attempted humor and reveals a fragile but highly motivated woman desperately clinging to notoriety. Sad, funny (the flick, not her), and enlightening, this is definitely worth a watch.
Extra Features? Additional scenes
Pitch: Jean-Pierre Jeunet attempts a clone of his own Amelie and falls short. Like when you make a copy of a copy and it’s not as sharp as the original..
Why Rent? A boy is orphaned after a land mine evaporates his parents, and as an adult he survives a gunshot but gets to keep the bullet in his head. Jobless and homeless he’s taken in by some subterranean street people and together they plot an elaborate revenge on the two competing weapons manufacturers responsible for his woes. Jeunet’s film is a visual and aural marvel, but he seems to have succumbed to a ‘more quirk, less heart’ mantra here. It all seems cool and wonderful, but you never really get close to the characters. They’re never more than simply a collection of idiosyncratic traits and appearances. Still, it’s a Jeunet… so it’s well worth a watch anyway.
Extra Features? Commentary, featurettes
Pitch: Maybe someone should have considered trading prayers for common sense and courtesy…
Why Rent? The true story of a gay teen who chooses suicide over the daily look of disappointment he sees in his mother’s eyes and words. Lifetime aired the film last year, but similar stories have been happening in the real world for decades as depressed and bullied kids decide to take the easy way out instead of dealing with the pressures of life. The story here is just as much about religious and societal intolerance as it is the personal story of one family, and the heart of it all is onscreen in the form of Sigourney Weaver’s emotional and touching performance. Sad and inspiring in equal measures.
Extra Features? Behind the scenes, featurettes, interviews
Pitch: Don’t worry. If your knowledge regarding the real Leon Trotsky is as non-existent as mine you’ll still enjoy the movie…
Why Rent? A young Canadian socialist (Jay Baruchel) finds himself shipped off to public school after organizing a strike at his father’s factory, and he finds new challenges in an apathetic student body and detention loving faculty. Canadians are already a funny bunch, and this is a just a fun little movie with no pretensions or baggage. Lightweight entertainment is never a bad thing. Plus Zoe Gulliksen loves the hell out of Baruchel, and if watching this movie can make you just a little bit more like her then I’ve done my good deed for the day.
Extra Features? Interview, bloopers, deleted scenes
Pitch: The Duplass brothers trade mumblecore for movie stars, but they still forget to include anything interesting or funny…
Why Avoid? A man (John C. Reilly) still reeling from his divorce several years ago finally meets a woman (Marisa Tomei) willing to give him a chance. Unfortunately, she has a grown son (Jonah Hill) who lives at home and is less than happy with her mom’s new man. Reilly played a similar role better and funnier in Step Brothers, and while he and Hill manage to squeeze out a couple minor giggles the movie as a whole plays fairly flat. The most egregious issue though is the camera work… rarely a scene goes by that doesn’t feature a shot zooming in and out for inconsequential reasons. It’s amateurish at best and annoying at worst. But I would have dealt with it if the movie made be care or laugh. **CONTEST!!** That’s right… I feel terrible about putting Cyrus here all by itself, so I’ve decided to give away a brand new copy of the DVD to one lucky reader (FOX sent me two). For the few of you who’ve read all the way to the end of this post, leave a comment below with the word “contest” and an explanation as to why I’m wrong (or right) about the film. Be sure your email address is correct as that’s how I’ll contact the winner. Contest ends 12/21. Good luck!
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, trailer
In the interest of full disclosure, I received review copies of the following DVDs for this week’s column:
The Back Nine
Exit Through the Gift Shop
The Immaculate Conception Of Little Dizzle
Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work
Prayers For Bobby
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
America Lost & Found: The BBS Story (Criterion)
A Complete History Of My Sexual Failures
Dear Mr. Gacy
Legend Of the Guardians: The Owls Of Ga’Hoole
Mother And Child
Mugabe And the White African
Nanny McPhee Returns
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?