This is a busy and full week for DVD releases with a common theme… many of them are movies you’ve probably heard of over the past year, but judging by their minuscule box-office you most likely didn’t see any of them. The other common theme? Pretty much none of them are as good as the internet told you they were. I know. It’s shocking. But sometimes the internet does in fact tell lies.
Titles out this week include The Tillman Story, Conviction, Let Me In, Hatchet II, Welcome To the Riley’s, Never Let Me Go, Monsters, 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 now legitimately titled This Week In Blu-ray for reviews on the latest high definition Blu-ray releases!
Pitch: American heroes, American villains, and the gray space in between…
Why Buy? Documentaries rarely make it to the BUY category, but this look at one family’s struggle to find the truth about their son’s death is both important and fascinating. Pat Tillman’s death in Afghanistan moved quickly from tragedy to family drama to public spectacle and became an event other people and institutions could latch onto for their own purposes. The machinations and motivations of those in power at the time are predictable and disgusting, but they’re more than balanced by the sheer force of will that is the Tillman family. The complete truth of what happened may never be publicly revealed, but thanks to their determination a grave wrong was corrected. Is a film that criticizes members of the US military and government a patriotic one? One look at the actions of those who loved Pat should answer that question with a resounding yes.
Pitch: Aside from the implausibility of a female lead detective (silly Brits), this is basically a more emotional Prime Suspect…
Why Rent? Detective Janine Lewis has been promoted to Chief Inspector, and she gets her first lead case when a teacher is found disemboweled in the garden. The show follows her balance of work and home life, something made more difficult when the pregnant mother of three finds her husband in bed with another woman. There’s little action to be found as the series focuses more on the relationships, dramas, and mysteries themselves.
Pitch: Not even three of my least favorite actresses can extinguish the charisma of Sam Rockwell…
Why Rent? This true story about a man convicted of a brutal crime and his sister’s two decade-long struggle to see him freed plays like a glorified TV movie in many ways, but it’s still an interesting tale. This woman put herself through law school so she could make progress on her brother’s case, and the result is fairly extraordinary. Even if the movie isn’t. Hilary Swank, Minnie Driver, and Juliette Lewis all take turns fogging up the screen with their “talents” but their painful presence is relieved somewhat by Sam Rockwell’s charismatic and tortured performance.
Pitch: Twice as much gore! Half as much fun…
Why Rent? Victor Crowley returns in a sequel that picks up moments after the end of the first film, albeit with an entirely new lead actress, and soon the blood and body parts are flying once again. I’m a big fan of the original film which was a fantastic mix of great gore effects, an entertaining script, and a fun attitude, but this sequel skimps on the fun with a non-story and a complete lack of fresh ideas. So why rent? Because Adam Green and friends still know how to craft solid practical gore effects.
Pitch: A coming of age tale featuring vampires, bullies, and an older woman crawling naked into a little boy’s bed…
Why Rent? A troubled young boy finds a new friend in the vampire girl next door. Matt Reeves took on the unenviable task of remaking a beloved foreign film that’s only a few years old, and he fared much better than expected. He sticks quite close to the original, but he makes just enough changes to give the film a distinct American feel. Both child actors do fine jobs, Richard Jenkins is predictably fantastic, and the movie features one hell of an awesome car crash scene.
Pitch: For folks who thought Cloverfield showed too much of the monster…
Why Rent? It’s a brave new world as illegal aliens have taken over much of Mexico, and a journalist is tasked with escorting a perky tourist through the forbidden zone back to the US border. It’s also probably worth noting that the “aliens” are actual extraterrestrial creatures of ginormous size and attitude. Don’t let the marketing fool you… this indie flick features very little action or aliens. It’s worth watching for what Gareth Edwards was able to achieve with limited funds and resources, but it’s lacking in several areas. Namely compelling characters, action, alien visuals, and a solid ending.
Pitch: Clones are people too! Well, not British clones apparently…
Why Rent? An alternate history has led to a world where lifespans regularly far exceed one hundred years thanks to medical advances and the use of clones for body parts. But what do the clones think of all this? This is a beautiful movie with a strong cast of young talents… but it fails in one fundamental way. It all but acknowledges these clones are not human by the very fact that they don’t fight in any way for their survival. Sure sure, it’s about the acceptance of death, but all humans fight that inevitability. These three just sit back and let it happen. But hey, the three of them are still beautiful to look at in their inactivity.
Pitch: Anthony Mackie is The Black Panther…
Why Rent? A young man returns to Philadelphia after several years and discovers the racial tensions, corruption, and daily struggles remain. Even worse, his old friends who were once members of the Black Panthers, believe he snitched on them before he left and have targeted him for death. The film plays out fairly predictably, a mentally unstable character in particular follows the exact path you’d expect, but the setting, topic, and acting are all interesting enough to make the film worth a watch.
Pitch: It’s like an Irish Hot Fuzz! But without the action, laughs, and gunplay…
Why Rent? A big city cop returns to his hometown in rural Ireland and finds that just because it’s quiet doesn’t mean there’s nothing criminal happening beneath the surface. This is not the fastest paced cop show you’ll ever see, but it just may be one of the slowest. That’s not a criticism either, as it allows time for more character development and it fits in with the small town’s atmosphere as well. Some of the show’s resolutions are fairly predictable, but the journey towards them is rich and rewarding enough to make up for it.
Pitch: Oh look. It’s a stripper with a heart of gold…
Why Avoid? James Gandolfini plays a distraught store owner who takes his mind off his long dead teen daughter and shut-in wife (Melissa Leo) by setting out for a convention in New Orleans. He meets a skinny stripper (Kristen Stewart) whose signature dance move involves playing with her hair and proceeds to take her under his wing as a substitute for the daughter and wife he’s lost. The rest of the film is equally as obvious. Stewart is actually pretty good here (even if she never really gets to demonstrate her stripping technique), but she can’t save this movie. Go rent Atom Egoyan’s Exotica instead. Hell, Jessica Biel’s Powder Blue is a better choice too.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received review copies of the following DVDs for this week’s column:
Blue Murder: The Complete Collection
Never Let Me Go
Night Catches Us
Single Handed: Set 1
The Tillman Story
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2
Mean Girls 2
A Woman A Gun And A Noodle Shop
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?