Welcome to the last DVD column of 2011! There’s been quite a bit of chatter about how dismal of a year it was for film, but while there’s no doubt the box office haul is lower than the year before the same can’t be said for film quality. This week’s releases include the dirty fun of A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, the cool deaths (but little else) of Final Destination 5, two found footage films of varying quality (The Tunnel, Apollo 18) and two future cult classics (Kill List, The Skin I Live In) possibly worth an import for folks who don’t want to wait several more months for US releases.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
A comet heads toward Earth, but as the planet awaits destruction a few strangers sit in a record shop discussing how a mysterious song from decades ago just might save the world. From that starting point the film moves across space and time to tell a story about friendship, heroism, fate and more. Director Yoshihiro Nakamura (Golden Slumber, A Boy and His Samurai) has a true talent for tying multiple threads up with real heart and character. The movie is actually a few years old, but it’s also the reason the term ‘blind buy’ was invented. Seriously. This is near perfect mix of whimsy, action, suspense and heart, and deserves to be seen by everyone. Check out Cole Abaius’ full review.
Archer: The Complete Season Two
Pitch: Your fate and breasts are in his hands…
Why Buy? Sterling Archer (H Jon Benjamin) is the pride of ISIS, an international spy organization charged with protecting America’s freedoms and such. Unfortunately for America, he’s pretty much a moron. Happily though, he and the show are also funny as hell. Adam Reed’s animated FX comedy is now in its third season, and thanks to sharp writing and an even sharper cast of voice actors it remains one of the more hilarious shows on TV. Chris Parnell, Judy Greer, Aisha Tyler and Jessica Walter co-star, and together they help make this one of the best ensemble casts on the air.
Kill List (UK)
Pitch: “Prey you’re not on it!” is the kind of tag line a shitty movie with this title would use. This is not that movie…
Why Buy? A retired hitman finds his day to day domestic life anything but blissful, and when his old partner offers him one more job with a lucrative payday he jumps at the chance. He learns too late that you should always look before you leap and soon finds himself in over his head. His inner sadist comes out, the hits become highly suspect, and something unexpected is waiting around the corner. Ben Wheatley’s second film is a violently twisted thriller that fuses intensity with a blackly comic heart. Avoid images from the film as many of them are spoilers and see this movie now (or in April when IFC releases it stateside). Check out my full review. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD which requires either a region-free player or the willingness to watch on your PC.**
The Borgias: The First Season
Pitch: Who knew the Church was filled with such perverts…
Why Rent? Rome, the 15th century, and the Pope has just died. The cardinals all vie for the job, and through a successful combination of deal making and blackmail the last man standing is Rodrigo Borgia (Jeremy Freakin Irons). This series follows his rise to power and his family’s corrupt rule including all the violence, sex and misbehaving afforded to a pay cable show. Actually, it’s fairly light on the nudity compared to shows like Camelot and Game of Thrones, but Neil Jordan’s creation is still constantly engaging and well made.
Pitch: “He really loves the one where Arnold and Dudley almost get fingered by that guy in the bicycle shop…”
Why Rent? Lance Reed is about to have a very bad day. A stranger offers him a ride after his car dies, but the help ends with him drugged and tied to a chair where the madman proceeds to cut off body parts until Lance apologies for something he’s done in the past. But what misdeed is he paying for here? And will he remember his transgression before he’s nothing but a head and a torso? This latest addition to the BloodyDisgusting Selects label is a fun and gory horror comedy that surprises with a sharp script and some honest laughs. It could have been bloodier though.
Final Destination 5
Pitch: Why hasn’t anyone tried to kill Tony Todd’s character yet? Seriously. Kill that bastard…
Why Rent? You know the drill. The movie opens with a group of young people getting killed in a wonderfully gory accident which is then revealed to be a premonition which saves several lives until death returns and begins claiming the survivors in the order they should have died. Again, in the goriest ways possible. The acting, writing, dialogue and story are all a wash, but the movie is watchable for one reason… the same reason the series as a whole is watchable actually. The deaths are often creative and wonderfully bloody fun, and the gymnastics one here is alone worth the price of admission. Check out Kate Erbland’s remarkably kind full review.
The First Grader
Pitch: Strongest memory I have of the first grade is accidentally tripping Sister Hermina…
Why Rent? Maruge (Oliver Litondo) is in his eighties, but after a lifetime of strife and warfare he’s finally taking the opportunity to go to school. His arrival causes an uproar though due not only to his age but also to his historically unpopular past. Justin Chadwick’s kind-hearted film is based on a true story that is effortlessly inspiring as it explores one man’s self worth when held up against his country’s own. This is a sweet movie that succeeds on a charming innocence, and while it feels more than a little lightweight at times that doesn’t diminish its message.
A Good Old Fashioned Orgy
Pitch: A rare sex comedy that tickles your heart as well as your naughty bits…
Why Rent? A group of thirty-something friends are forced to say goodbye to the beach house they use for parties and decide to go out with a bang. They plan to have an orgy! TV writers Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck make their film debuts here, and the results are far funnier than most of the big name comedies that you actually saw in theaters this year. The laughs come from the script and situations, but the cast’s comedic timing is an even bigger factor. Jason Sudeikis takes a rare lead role, and he’s joined by Tyler Labine, Nick Kroll, Martin Starr, Leslie Bibb, Will Forte and the lovely Michelle Borth. Fans of laughter and awkward nudity should definitely give it a chance.
Lovely By Surprise (UK)
Pitch: Like a light-hearted film from the Polish Brothers…
Why Rent? A young author having trouble finishing her latest novel decides to kill off her main protagonist, but he escapes her prose and enters the real world on the run. A used care salesman struggles as a single parent after the death of his wife also extinguishes his fighting spirit. This indie flick brings these two stories together into one, and while parts are slow going and seemingly pointless there’s more than enough charm on display here to carry viewers from scene to scene. Fantastic ending too. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD which requires either a region-free player or the willingness to watch on your PC.**
The Skin I Live In (UK)
Pitch: Puss. In a body stocking…
Why Rent? A young woman spends her days in a sparsely decorated room wearing a form-fitting body suit and practicing yoga. Any potential for voyeuristic sexiness is thrown out the window though when it’s revealed that she’s an experiment in progress under the watchful eye of Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Bandaras). But who she is and why she’s there will be the biggest revelations of all. Or not. Director Pedro Almodovar’s latest is a horror film of sorts about identity, affection and gender politics, and it is absolutely gorgeous to look at. It’s also a much needed reminder that Bandaras can in fact act. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD which requires either a region-free player or the willingness to watch on your PC.**
Pitch: Seems like a missed opportunity not calling this The Chunnel…
Why Rent? Journalists uncover a minor conspiracy within the Australian government to conceal the existence of and block access to a series of tunnels beneath the city streets. They procure a guide and head down into the network of steam tunnels and sewers and eventually discover the secret. Now they just need to get back out alive! Seriously though, this is a legitimately creepy little film that does found footage right. The actors are solid, the shakey cam is kept to a bearable minimum, and the scares are actually scary. The film was financed with an interesting business model as well (I donated!), and if nothing else their official site is an interesting read.
Pitch: It’s human hubris to think pet rocks can be domesticated…
Why Avoid? Did you know NASA conducted space missions that aren’t in our history books? It’s true. Probably. Anyway, this film posits an ill-fated Apollo mission that sent three bland astronauts to the moon only to see the whole thing fall apart when something alien begins to infect the crew. As evidenced by the film directly above the found footage genre can still produce the occasional winner, but more often than not it’s a refuge for lazy film makers looking for a horror movie with a high profit margin. This film clearly cost less than a used DVD of Apollo 13, and it’s entirely scare-free. There’s a singular cool shot (little beasties inside a man’s helmet), but it’s not worth watching the entire film. Check out Robert Levin’s full review.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Hostel: Part III
In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds
The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret: Series One
The Pool Boys
Shameless: The Complete First Season
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?