This Week In DVD: February 14th

This Week in DVD

Welcome back to This Week In DVD, and happy Valentine’s Day you sexy sons of bitches! In honor of the holiday I’ve themed this week’s pitches to the idea of love. As in if you love the environment you should buy a copy of the re-issued The Lorax.  Or if you love your adopted Asian daughter you should check out Woody Allen: A Documentary. You get the picture.

Speaking of love, if you happen to be currently unattached (or maybe your better half is just out of town) FSR has partnered with an intriguing new dating service. How About We matches people by the date itself instead of shared personality traits or surface-level preferences. I know, it’s a weird thing for a movie site to do, but sometimes you just want to go watch The Vow with someone who won’t judge.

As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.

Take Shelter

Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) is a husband and father who fears he may be slowly falling victim to schizophrenia. The alternative is that a storm of end-times proportions is heading his family’s way, and he’s not sure which outcome is ideal. Writer/director Jeff Nichols’ film is a successful slowburn of a drama that rewards viewers who stay with Curtis throughout his troubles. The film explores the onset of possible mental illness as a parallel to the hardships of a down economy and daily stresses, and in addition to a powerhouse performance from Shannon it’s a movie that will have viewers talking, debating and thinking. Imagine that.

How to Die in Oregon

Pitch: For people who love the idea of inheritance on-demand…

Why Buy? In the mid nineties Oregon became the first state in the country to legalize assisted suicide. Only two other countries offer anything similar. This documentary from HBO examines the argument for the existence of such a law with a strong focus on the people who’ve found themselves in need of a controlled and dignified final exit. Some voices of opposition are present, but the stories of needless pain and suffering easily overwhelm them. Still, the slippery slope argument and the one about the cost of health care persist. I usually only recommend the purchase of titles with a high replay value, something that this sad and emotionally draining doc lacks, but it’s a film that should be shared with loved ones outside of Oregon and Washington.

The Lorax

Pitch: For people who love ecological medicine prescribed by phony doctors…

Why Buy? Dr. Seuss presents a fable of an alternate future where trees and wildlife are little more than memories, and a reclusive old man shares the story (and the hope for a better tomorrow) with a curious and caring young boy. I love this tale, both its message and presentation, and believe it along with The Butter Battle Book should be mandatory reading in grade school. I’m expecting good things from the feature length adaptation due out next month, but regardless of how it turns out the original classic deserves a spot on everyone’s DVD shelf. It has catchy songs! And a paper sleev– oh, shit.

The Debt

Pitch: For people who love their bread Jewish side up…

Why Rent? Three Israeli agents in the mid-1960’s are tasked with capturing an ex-Nazi for his crimes during WWII, but the job goes awry and the good doctor ends up dead. 30 years later though the heroes of history find their story threatened by his return. Now the three must return to the trenches to save face and keep a bad man down. This Israeli thriller was recently remade by Hollywood, but in its original form at least it feels a bit anticlimactic. Still a solid film though.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

Pitch: For people who love bad-ass cops, regardless of the language they speak…

Why Rent? Capt. Nascimento heads up a unit of Rio de Janeiro’s elite special ops police force, but when an operation goes wrong and ends up with unnecessary deaths he expects his career to be over. The public sees it differently though, and his hard stance on crime instead earns him a promotion. But the world of office politics exposes him to a new level of criminals, and soon he’s fighting for his life all over again. Director José Padilha and lead Wagner Moura fill the screen with exhilarating action sequences and brooding charisma. Police corruption has rarely looked so Brazilian.

Mozart’s Sister

Pitch: For people who love dreaming about a world where women are as talented as men…

Why Rent? Everyone knows the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart thanks in large part to that movie with the guy from Animal House, but few of us are aware that Salieri wasn’t the composer/performer trapped in his shadow. Mozart’s sister, Nannerl, was by all accounts a better musician, but the culture of the times prevented her from enjoying and cultivating that gift. Director René Féret tells her story in this sumptuous period piece anchored by stirring classical music and a strong central performance by Féret’s own daughter, Marie.

My Kingdom

Pitch: For people who love the idea of Fight Club: The Opera

Why Rent? Guan and Meng are step brothers who watch their father lose everything when he’s challenged and humiliated in his own opera house. Challenged how you ask? In an opera duel of course. But instead of Italian singers these opera stars get all costumed up and fight until one of them cry uncle. The two boys grow up and head out for revenge. Pavarotti style. There’s a lot of wire work to be found here, which is never really a good thing, but the fights still manage to entertain and thrill.

Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story

Pitch: For people who love kicking others out of their homes when they fall behind on their mortgages…

Why Rent? Monopoly has been around for over three quarters of a century, and unlike many games it’s never seemed to suffer a lull in its popularity. This playful documentary examines the game’s Depression-era origin up through the world championship tournaments that take place every four years. It’s clearly a lightweight topic, but the filmmakers find some interesting stories and engaging graphics that play into the game’s history.


Pitch: For people who love the angle of the dangle…

Why Rent? Gary Hustwit is interested in man-made shapes and designs. After examining typography (Helvetica) and manufactured goods (Objectified) he’s now turned his eye outwards and upwards to dissect the structure and design of our urban centers. From the angles, heights and front edifices of buildings to the layouts of streets, parks and other public spaces, Hustwit builds a fascinating look at the people behind the places we pass through everyday.

Wainy Days: Seasons 1-4

Pitch: For people who love fondling sweaters…

Why Rent? David Wain is the writer/director behind Wet Hot American Summer and Role Models, but while his latest endeavor is on a much smaller scale it’s only slightly less funny. Episodes run just a few minutes each, but they’re loaded with guest appearances from some of the funniest people around. Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Jason Sudeikis, Rashida Jones, Nick Offerman and Amanda Peet are just a few of the comedic wizards joining Wain on his quest for imaginary love. Sadly, Megan Mullally also appears.

Woody Allen: A Documentary

Pitch: For people who love auteur directors. And their adopted Asian daughters…

Why Rent? For much of his career Woody Allen has been somewhat of an acquired taste. His comedies shared more than just surface similarities, but somewhere along the way he began to branch out and explore a wider realm of stories and relationships. Just as omnipresent as his once-a-year film releases is the persona of “Woody Allen” that pervades public perception. He’s actually far more fascinating than his movies would lead you to believe, and Robert Weide’s epic documentary on the man covers it all from Allen’s early days as a writer and stand-up comedian all the way through (the surprisingly overrated) Midnight In Paris. It offers new and often fascinating insights into the man and his art.

The Mortician

Pitch: For people who love this Kids In the Hall sketch…

Why Avoid? A shy, inner city mortician (Method Man) with the highest ratio of beard-to-face since Bigfoot has painful childhood memories dredged up when a murdered woman appears on his slab. When the dead woman’s son arrives the mortician reaches out to protect him from a potentially abusive father. It’s never fun knocking such a sincere and well intentioned film, but writer/director Gareth Maxwell Roberts’ latest movie has some real tonal issues. The darkness feels too light, the light feels too schmaltzy, and we’re left with a story and characters we just can’t take seriously.

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:

The Dead
The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence
My Pure Joy
Ocean Heaven
The Rum Diary
Three Outlaw Samurai (Criterion)
Tiny Furniture (Criterion)

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What are you buying on DVD this week?

Rob is the Chief Film Critic of Film School Rejects. He doesn't eat cheese on weekdays.

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