Merry Christmas everybody! And yes, I do mean everybody, whether you celebrate the holiday or not. It’s the gesture and thought that are important here people, not the details of your own beliefs or attitudes. No different from saying ‘Good morning’ or Have a great day!’ And to prove I’m not all about the specifics of Christmas… I’m not recommending any new releases for purchase this week! See? No crass commercialism intended! Of course, it helps that most of this week’s titles are average at best…
This week sees Oliver Stone’s Wall Street sequel (Money Never Sleeps), the first in M. Night Shyamalan’s Night Chronicles series of low budget horror films (Devil), Angelina Jolie’s latest action romp (Salt), Emma Stone’s smart high-school comedy (Easy A), and a handful of below the radar foreign titles including Map Of the Sounds Of Tokyo, Beautiful Kate, and The Horde.
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!
No purchases for your collection this week. It’s Christmas time and you should be buying awesome gifts and useless crap for the people you love!
Pitch: Australians may censor films for the protection of families, but that doesn’t stop their families from being supremely effed up…
Why Rent? A man (Ben Mendelsohn) returns home after two decades and is forced to confront the family secrets he left behind. Mendelsohn’s impressively frightening performance in Animal Kingdom marked him as an actor to watch, and while his character here is far less menacing he still commands attention from the viewer. The family drama involves a demanding father, a sexy sister, and the death of two siblings. There will be no laughter here.
Extra Features? Interviews, deleted scenes
Pitch: The greatest trick Shyamalan could have pulled was convincing the world he had nothing to do with this film….
Why Rent? A group of strangers find themselves trapped in a stalled elevator, and one of them just may be el diablo. Well, okay, yes. One of them is the devil. Now the race is on to see if the nice policeman on the outside can rescue them before they all end up dead. This flick got some flack for being produced by M. Night Shyamalan, but it’s actually pretty damn good for the most part. It is almost ruined by some incredibly stupid and spoiler-filled narration though. The movie does a solid job of misdirection too when it comes to identifying the devil… unless of course you’ve seen the trailer and made the obvious assumption.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, featurettes
Pitch: Whores can be fun too…
Why Rent? A high school girl (Emma Stone) feigns sex with a friend to help out his reputation and in the process alters her own in unexpected ways. This flick is not the sex romp it may seem but instead is a fairly smart and funny flick. Stone basically plays the role she’s been playing for her past few films, but cute and sassy never gets old so that’s not a problem. Director Will Gluck also directed Fired Up! which was light entertainment but still far better than it had any right to be.
Extra Features? Commentary, featurette, gag reel
Pitch: Just wait until you see the Darth Vader face reveal…
Why Rent? Seth MacFarlane and Family Guy take on Return Of the Jedi for their third Star Wars parody, and even if it isn’t quite as good as the first two it’s still an entertaining bit of fun. Expect some solid gags involving Ewoks, the Death Star, and Stewie as Darth Vader. I still maintain that, non sequiturs aside, Family Guy is a funny show… that could only improve with the removal of Peter Griffin. He’s never funny but always annoying, and while he has the insensitivity of Homer Simpson he lacks the redeeming heart and pathos.
Extra Features? Featurettes
Pitch: Yes, this is the closest to a Left4Dead movie we’re ever going to see
Why Rent? A group of cops and a gang of thieves clash in a high-rise apartment building, but they soon realize they’ve got more pressing issues than each other to deal with… because zombies have taken over the city and are heading their way. The undead begin chewing their way through the living and soon the remaining survivors are on the run against unbelievable odds. Gunplay, gore, and chaos ensue, and while the film as a whole isn’t all that memorable it’s well made and good, forgettable fun.
Extra Features? Deleted and alternate scenes, making of, short film, featurettes, trailer
Pitch: Jamel Debbouze is France’s answer to Tchéky Karyo…
Why Rent? An overly serious feminist heads home after the death of her mother and finds that her dual careers of writer/politician are cake compared to hanging out with her grown family. Matters become even more complicated when she invites a pair of documentary filmmakers into the reunion. This French film has characters that feel real in their actions and reactions to each other, but the movie is a difficult and slow going slog. I feel like there’s heart and humor here that I’m just missing though, so I’m putting it the Rental category instead of the Avoid in order to hedge my bets.
Extra Features? Making of, trailer
Pitch: Did you know Japan has separate train/subway cars for women? Not the only thing you’ll learn about Japan from this flick…
Why Rent? A hot female assassin (Rinko Kikuchi) is hired to kill a fat Spaniard but inexplicably falls in love with him instead. Writer/director Isabel Coixet is not interested in the possible thriller aspects that could come from such a premise. Instead, she’s intent on telling a story about loneliness in all its manifestations. The Spaniard has lost a girlfriend to suicide, and her father has hired the hit in his overpowering grief. The assassin meanwhile lives a life of intentional solitude that eventually becomes too much for her to bear. This is an often beautiful film, and not just because of Kikuchi’s frequent nudity.
Extra Features? Behind the scenes, trailer
Pitch: Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt. Seems like a missed opportunity here to have her name start with the letter ‘C’…
Why Rent? A CIA agent (Angelina Jolie) is accused of being a Russian mole and is forced to go on the run to prove her innocence and protect her husband. Jolie took over for Tom Cruise who vacated the film to do Knight & Day instead, but little was changed for the transition. Well, presumably Cruise’s character would have been trying to protect his wife. Fears that the film would become a copy of Kevin Costner’s excellent No Way Out are unfounded as the story moves into different and eventually ridiculous directions. That said, director Phillip Noyce knows how to shoot solid action scenes for his ultimately average films, and this is no exception. Speaking of which… if you want the chance to win a DVD copy of the Salt theatrical edition leave a comment below with the word ‘Contest’ and the name of your favorite Noyce film.
Extra Features? Featurettes, commentary
Pitch: The Germans have finally learned how to have innocent fun with ovens…
Why Rent? A small restaurant in Germany sees ups and downs as the owner experiences an absent girlfriend, a bad back, a criminal brother, and a head chef prone to threatening the customers with knives and foul language. Faith Akin’s film is an honest delight and one of the most purely entertaining films to come out of Germany. Adam Bousdoukos shows heart and humor as the restaurateur who finds his life in shambles but remains a loyal friend and brother to those around him. The movie is full of life and highly recommended.
Extra Features? Trailer, making of
Pitch: Money may not sleep, but the same can’t be said of this film’s audience…
Why Avoid? Decades after Gordon Gekko went to jail for his bad deeds in Wall Street he’s released into a changed world. His crimes are now small time compared to the billions being moved, lost, and stolen by the financial villains of today. His estranged adult daughter (Carey Mulligan) is engaged to a young stock broker named Jake (Shia LaBeouf) who’s specializing in alternative energy. Jake has a great tip on a fusion reactor project if only he could find an investor with $100 million to spend… Oliver Stone’s film is a surprise in how generic and predictable it feels. Things play out exactly as you’d expect, and it’s missing the element of danger and anger that was present in the original (and in much of Stone’s earlier work).
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, trailer
In the interest of full disclosure, I received review copies of the following DVDs for this week’s column:
Let It Rain
Map Of the Sounds Of Tokyo
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus
Step Up 3
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?