Rob Hunter loves movies. He also loves the tender moment between first kiss and the gentle unclasping of the bra. And yes, we said ‘moment.’ These two joys come together in the form of cash money payments that he receives every week and immediately uses to buy more DVDs. So join us each week as he takes a look at new DVD releases and gives his highly unqualified opinion as to which titles are worth BUYing (these are the ones you’ll want to watch again or share with friends), which are better off as RENTals (these are the ones worth watching once and then forgetting), and which should be AVOIDed at all costs (these wouldn’t even make worthwhile coasters).
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 hilariously titled This Week In Blu-ray column for reviews on the latest high definition Blu-ray releases!
Pitch: A true story about a man made of equal parts ambition and insanity…
Why Buy? This Steven Soderbergh flick starring Matt Damon as a corporate whistle-blower was unjustly ignored at the box-office and deserves better on DVD. I think the problem was that people didn’t quite know what to make of its tone… Damon is fantastic as a man who attempts to do the right thing for the wrong reasons and then watches helplessly as his elaborate plans fall apart. It’s alternately damn funny and terribly sad, and Damon plays it all perfectly. Give it a shot and enjoy one of the best performances of the year that no one is talking about.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes featuring even more of Damon’s awesome ‘stache!
Pitch: Two hopeful lovers stopped cold by a kiss they’ve yet to share…
Why Buy? This French kiss of a film is sweet, sexy, and unpredictable in ways that so few American romantic comedies are these days. Two strangers meet, have a fantastic evening, and when he leans in for a kiss she stops him… with a story. We’re actually given multiple love stories that move in fresh directions and potential lovers who speak their emotions, and they’re all wrapped up in a sweetly romantic and refreshing confection.
Extra Features? None
Pitch: A teenager fakes his death and devastates his family just so he can become a vampire. Hilarious…
Why Rent? This attempt at starting a brand new film franchise for tweeners has a lot going for it… based on a bestselling series of YA books, fantastic special effects, an established director in Paul Weitz, talented folks like John C Reilly, Patrick Fugit, Willem Dafoe, and Ken Watanabe, and a teenager who becomes a vampire (that’s all the rage now right?). But sadly it also has the blandest lead actor since Hayden Christensen last film. This kid (Chris Massoglia) has less personality than a jar of mayonnaise. The movie itself is also pretty generic. Damn, now I’m wondering why I’m even suggesting you rent it… so let’s say for Fugit’s performance as a snake boy. He has less than twenty minutes of screen-time here but he packs his character with more personality and warmth than Massoglia does in an entire film.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, featurettes
Pitch: You got your Nazis in my zombies! No, you got your zombies in my Nazis…
Why Rent? It’s Nazi zombies people. That alone should tell you whether or not you’re going to check this one out… and we all know you are. It’s far from a great movie, but it has its share of fun moments.
Extra Features? Outtakes, featurettes
Pitch: Robert DeNiro travels the country to visit his ungrateful, grown children…
Why Rent? DeNiro’s kids are played by Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, and Sam Rockwell, so we know the flick has some top-notch talent onscreen. And the movie also gets points for not having the obvious happen (as in the father visiting his kids one last time before he kicks it). But… the subplot involving his fourth kid and the reason the other three are avoiding him is pretty lame and melodramatic. Worth a watch for DeNiro playing a normal guy, but don’t go out of your way to see it.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, making-of (a music video?)
Pitch: The true story of two resistance fighters battling Nazis in Denmark. Their most effective weapon? A variation on SNL’s “Land shark” routine…
Why Rent? My allergies towards gingers had me predisposed to not liking this historical action pic about two well known members of the underground movement in WWII Denmark, but I ended up enjoying it anyway. Flame was a young and brash redhead and Citron was a more mature family man, but both of them fought against Nazi tyranny with deadly force. I can’t vouch for the film’s accuracy, and it’s easy to get lost in the flood of names, ranks, and alliances, but the drama, suspense, and action are more than enough to engage you for two hours.
Extra Features? None
Pitch: A mafia don’s wife goes into witness protection as a nurse at a big city hospital…
Why Rent? Edie Falco doesn’t actually play Mrs. Soprano, and that’s a good thing. In fact, I expected to hate this show because I was never a fan of Falco previously… but she owns this Showtime series and makes it shine. She manages to create a character that’s at times morally reprehensible but also impossible not to love and root for. In fact, the show is a fantastic companion to another Showtime hit, Californication. Both feature questionable leads, entertaining and engaging supporting characters, and a solid mix of laughs and tears.
Extra Features? Commentaries, featurettes
Pitch: Imagine a remake of Bottle Rocket that replaces the Wilson brothers with retarded Canadians…
Why Rent? I had never heard of these Canadian comic geniuses before seeing this movie, and having finally watched it I can understand why. That sounds harsher than it should, but I only mean they’re not all that funny for a trio that has managed to star in two movies and a TV series. The movie about three dysfunctional friends who get released from prison only to immediately return to their illegal ways has a few laughs… one character’s penchant for always carrying a glass of whiskey in every scene gets some chuckles (due to the filmmakers wisely never drawing attention to it). It’s also not as “slapsticky” as I expected for some reason, which is a good thing, and instead it plays like a real movie. But “funniest Canadian movie ever” is a false cover claim… that honor still belongs to Porky’s.
Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes
Pitch: Mumblecore is a four-letter word…
Why Avoid? On the plus side, Jess Weixler is talented, and the movie is under seventy-five minutes long. On the negative side is everything else including the fact that this short movie feels three times longer than it is. Everyone from the actors to the director (Joe Swanberg) do nothing but ramble on and on about absolutely nothing worth mentioning.
Extra Features? None
Pitch: Richard Kelly struggles to prove he’s not a one-hit wonder with an unwise adaptation of a one-note story…
Why Avoid? Kelly adds quite a bit of nonsense to the original tale about a couple who receive a box on their doorstep and an offer they can’t refuse. Open the box and press the button within and they’ll receive one million dollars… and someone they don’t know will die. The plot hook here works best in short story or TV episode form, but as a feature film? Not so much. It doesn’t help that Kelly’s narrative explanations are absolutely ridiculous. You’ll be laughing when you should be going “ooh” or “ahh” which would be fine if this was a comedy. An intentional comedy I mean…
Extra Features? Interview with author Richard Matheson who laments the fact that director Richard Kelly is a one-hit wonder
Pitch: Prank phone calls are all fun and games until you dial the wrong number and hear “Flavor Flav!” on the other end of the line…
Why Avoid? Mr. Flav doesn’t actually answer the phone here, but he does introduce the flick for all of ten seconds. Seems like an afterthought… The movie itself is pretty straight-forward with a group of party goers making prank calls who end up being stalked by one of their intended victims. It’s shot competently enough, but it’s not scary, not suspenseful, and not worth watching.
Extra Features? Featurette and a plea by Flavor Flav to join the Sprint network
Pitch: The entire world falls asleep while watching the first season of Flashforward…
Why Avoid? I kid! (Kind of…) I only caught the first four episodes of the show, but the blueprint seems to be fifty minutes of talking and ten of something fairly cool. Although the initial reveal of a moving figure in an otherwise unconscious stadium in particular is well done. But that pattern isn’t the reason why I’m calling this one an Avoid. Instead, it’s my long-standing opinion on cash-grabs partial seasons being released to DVD that makes this one worth skipping. Wait for the full first season to be released so the networks stop releasing these scams.
Extra Features? None
Pitch: “I love the smell of vinegar in the evening. It reminds me of my virginity…”
Why Avoid? This cheap little flick from Portland filmmakers gets at least two things right that Lesbian Vampire Killers got wrong. A bevy of naked and frisky lady vampires make it sexier, and lines like the one above (and their delivery by Adam Davis) make it funnier too. But despite its charms, the ultra low-budget is impossible to ignore. A severe lack of professional actors, a non-existent effects budget, some sketchy ADR work, and absolutely terrible lighting make it difficult to watch. It does its best to distract you from those negatives with several fairly lengthy, somewhat explicit, and oddly out of place scenes of vampire fornication, but as it stands this one is reserved for really big fans of the genre, even bigger supporters of indie cinema, and folks who like their softcore porn to have some bite to it.
Extra Features? Commentary, featurette
Pitch: America’s fascination with idiots continues…
Why Avoid? This sums it up nicely.
Extra Features? Hair gel, gold necklaces, and a home pregnancy test
Pitch: Someone’s slaughtering snotty sorority girls…
Why Avoid? This slight remake gets points for maintaining an R-rating instead of going the typical PG-13 route, but that’s it for the compliments. Even my love for Jamie Chung isn’t enough to make this one worthwhile. Just about every aspect is typical and predictable, none of the characters are interesting or believable, the killer’s identity and (especially) their reason for killing is absolutely ridiculous, and most egregious, the only pair of boobs we see are fake and unattractive (redundant I know). Skip it and watch Scream instead.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, outtakes, featurettes
Pitch: Some bad guys piss off a professional wrestler and he gets his scripted revenge in a steel cage…
Why Avoid? A generic action picture is bad enough, but when certain “talents” are advertised and top-billed you expect to see them in the first hour of a ninety-minute movie. Your expectations will not be met here… instead you’ll get a sub-standard revenge pic with uninspired action and fights, poor acting, and uninterested writing and direction.
Extra Features? Featurettes
Also out this week, but review material unavailable in advance: $9.99, Battle Girl: The Living Dead In Tokyo Bay, Captain Abu Raed, The Damned United, Howard’s End (Criterion), I Am Virgin, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Motherhood, Open Graves, The September Issue, Swedish Auto, The Vicious Kind
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?