I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day yesterday, and by that I mean I hope you all went about your business as if it was just another Monday. I know my girlfriend certainly did. The holiday has never held much appeal for me, regardless of my relationship status at the time, aside from the fact that it’s a perfect excuse to settle in for a double feature of Closer and Notting Hill. Granted, I do that a couple times per year anyway, but there’s something special about watching these two films right after another on Valentine’s Day… and it works to completely different effect depending on which order you watch them in too. Will Julia Roberts find happiness or will she be emotionally devastated? You hold the power in your hands.
But let’s move on to this week’s DVD releases. Surprisingly there are no romantic comedies hitting shelves today, although my pick of the week probably comes closest.
A teenage geek is asked by a very cute classmate to accompany her home and pretend that he’s her boyfriend. The visit gets off to a bumpy ride as he meets her wise grandmother and the rest of her extended family, but things take an even worse turn when a cyber attack in Japan’s biggest online world (think Second Life, only popular) causes havoc in the real one and he’s accused of causing it. Anime isn’t something that normally appeals to me for various reasons, but if there are more like this one that may have to change. The story takes a little while to come together and take hold, but when it does it becomes a fun and touching adventure about love, family, and responsibility.
Pitch: Not all train movies are metaphors for my sex life you know. This one is, obviously, but I’m just saying not all of them are…
Why Buy? Human error leads to a runaway train packed with dangerous chemicals, and the only chance to stop it without casualties rests with the odd couple crew of a second train. Denzel Washington and Chris Pine both do fantastic and effective jobs conveying the everyman aspect of their characters, and the movie is ninety minutes of solid thrills and suspense. This is Tony Scott’s best film in years, and he does exciting things with the simplistic premise thanks in part to his two charismatic and personable leads.
Pitch: Tom Baker as the Ghost of Doctors Past makes sense, but Russell Brand as the Ghost of Doctors Future doesn’t bode well…
Why Rent? The Doctor’s companions are trapped on a ship headed into the sun as part of a rock concert special effect, and the only way to save them is to help an old miser recant his lifestyle and open his heart joy, charity, and goodwill. You really can’t go wrong with adaptations of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, and this episode also serves as a solid stand alone introduction to the world of Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who.
Pitch: Nazis ruin everything…
Why Rent? Romola Garai stars as a young woman who discovers a conspiracy between some upper-crust Brits and the German high command in the days leading up to WWII. The film features some great actors including Bill Nighy, Julie Christie, and Christopher Lee, and it succeeds at creating an often eerie atmosphere as the young woman’s sanity comes into question. It’s an interesting enough thriller even if the ending isn’t quite as dramatic and powerful as it believes.
Pitch: Three geeky adults are all that stand between the minions of Cthulhu and the end of the world. So, good luck with that…
Why Rent? A relic is discovered that opens the possibility to Cthulhu’s return, and the last blood relative of HP Lovecraft is tasked with stopping him. This little film aims for the laughs and charm of a Shaun Of the Dead, and while it doesn’t quite achieve those highs it does manage more than a few legitimate laughs along the way. It’s also filled with fun practical effects we just don’t see much of now that CGI has taken over the industry. I’d like to see these guys get a bit bigger budget for the sequel though to really show what they’re capable of creating.
Pitch: They had me at O…
Why Rent? Haven’t seen this one yet, but it appears to be right up my alley. A young Asian woman discovers she’s the latest in a long line of female warriors, and when she’s mysteriously transported hundreds of years into the past she must rally with other capable and scantily clad women to fight some bad dudes. To sum up, topless Japanese ladies kicking ass. So, yeah, it’s a rental.
Pitch: Apparently it no longer takes a village. Now it takes a superhero…
Why Rent? Haven’t seen this one yet, but it appears to be similar to last year’s The Lottery which I found to be heartbreaking wake up call about the state of education in this country. Especially the part where the child who won the lottery was stoned to death at the end. Here, director Davis Guggenheim takes a look at the US school system, particularly those in urban areas, and finds them lacking. Surprise!
Pitch: Who knew William Burroughs was such an oddly fascinating and conflicted guy? Aside from his readers I mean…
Why Rent? Director Yony Leyser has crafted a loving and detailed look into the life of one of the more intriguing literary icons the world has seen and uses the writer’s own words alongside interviews with his friends and contemporaries to do so. William S Burroughs was an elder statesman of the beat generation even if he seemed like he didn’t really belong. His writings, including the novel Naked Lunch (made into a nutty film by David Cronenberg), are an acquired taste to put it mildly. But even those of us who don’t count themselves as fans of his work will appreciate this exploration of his life.
Game Of Death
Pitch: They picked the wrong man to audit…
Why Rent? Marcus Jones (Wesley Snipes) is an honest agent in a dishonest world, and when he’s double-crossed and framed by his employers he’s forced to kick ass to clear his name. Snipes’ recent output has been a series of direct to DVD action flicks, and while most of them are lacking in the finer points of cinema they’re usually pretty good in the action department. This one tries hard to keep up as he’s still a fast and effective fighter, but the gun play isn’t quite as entertaining (one hospital hallway shootout for example is ludicrous). The editing is ridiculously out of place including a terribly awkward flashback and some truly odd visual stuttering. Snipes’ face is even displayed large behind him at one “tense” moment… and the screenplay mistakes “diabetic” for character. But you can’t go wrong with Zoe Bell and Robert Davi right? Right?
Pitch: Almost worth a watch for the Dokken title track…
Why Avoid? Aaron Kwok and Ekin Chang star as two friends, nicknamed Cloud and Wind due to their gastrointestinal issues, who have tremendous powers of the CGI variety meant to combat the evil of Godless. One of them trains too close to the dark side and is overcome with the need to do bad things, and now the two friends must face each other in a battle of the brightly lit flatulence. I kid obviously, but this is not a good movie. Way too long, way too much of a reliance on showy CGI, and very little actual fighting worth a damn. Some great hair though.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?