Welcome back to This Week In DVD! Not a big or high profile week of releases, but there are some solid titles just the same. And there’s even a theme! Of sorts. More than a few of the titles below far exceeded my expectations including HBO’s Boardwalk Empire which I feared would be little more than a period piece Sopranos, Anna Faris’ latest comedy (What’s Your Number?) that I never expected to be so damn funny and charming, and my pick of the week about the accounting behind the business of baseball. Because seriously, how could that not be boring as dirt?
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the general manager of the Oakland A’s, tries to end his team’s losing streak with an unorthodox mathematical approach to picking and playing his players. We all know baseball is the most boring team-based sport in the world, so it would seem to follow that a two-hour plus movie about the behind the scenes management of a baseball team would be a complete and utter snooze-fest. But Moneyball is a fascinating watch even when Pitt and Jonah Hill are just bouncing stats back and forth and comparing players. The end feels a bit underwhelming, but getting there is far more interesting and engaging than any baseball game.
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season
Pitch: I wish I’d stop confusing Paz Vega with Paz de la Huerta. It’s just not fair to Paz…
Why Buy? Atlantic City, 1920. Prohibition has made the production, transportation and sale of alcohol an illegal act. It also makes a handful of men very, very rich when they do just that. HBO’s epic series follows the local politicians, gangsters, immigrants, gunmen and more and creates a rich, character driven drama with violence and sex-filled punctuations. Fantastic characters and performances abound, but the four highlights are Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald and Michael Stuhlbarg. The DVD is loaded with bonus features too meaning you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Pitch: Jackie Chan’s 100th film takes place the year he was born…
Why Rent? The early 20th century saw China’s grand Qing Dynasty overthrown and the founding of the nation’s new republic take place. It’s a source of great pride in the Communist country, and film goers were treated to a few renditions of the event last year on the 100 year anniversary. Jackie Chan’s 100th film dove-tailed nicely with it all, and he directs and stars in this historical action/drama. The war violence is solid, but it’s a bit too easy to get lost amidst the events, characters and motivations of it all. Still, Chan is as engaging as always and you can never, I repeat never, go wrong with Bing Bing Li.
Pitch: I’ll take generic straight to DVD comedies for $100 Alex…
Why Rent? A college TA (Christopher Gorham) on the fast track to a career and guaranteed tenure (due his father’s place at the university) finds himself at a crossroads between following the expected path and forging a new one. The lovely and big-cheeked Arielle Kebbel plays the “only in the movies” hot girl who is immediately attracted to the trivia-loving geek. This is a harmless and mildly entertaining comedic diversion that you won’t regret watching… even if it is because you’ll almost immediately forget watching it. It’s also advertised as being from “the producer of ‘Funny or Die!'” as if that should mean something to anyone. But in case you’re curious, no, Will Ferrell is not in this movie.
GI Joe: Series 2- Season 1
Pitch: “Got to get tough! Yo Joe! Got to get tough! Yo Joe…”
Why Rent? Shout! Factory continues to fight the good fight with this release of all 24 episodes from the 1989 second series including the 5-part miniseries, “Operation Dragonfire.” The animation is a bit dodgy compared to the first series, but it’s still a fun show for fans who remember playing with the action figures and vehicles. And President Obama could learn a lesson from the episode “General Confusion” which sees the Joes’ budget cut when their costs are viewed as excessive and unnecessary. Can they defeat the liberal bean counters in time to defeat COBRA?
What’s Your Number?
Pitch: Of all the sexist double standards this is most definitely one of them…
Why Rent? A woman (Anna Faris) discovers she’s slept with almost twice the average number of men American women have been with and decides she can’t add any more to the list. So she begins to go back through her dating history in the hopes of finding an ex to marry since they won’t add to her double digit number. But uh oh… she may not be able to resist the charms and pecs of her equally slutty neighbor (Chris Evans)! Both leads are funny here, and they’re joined by several small, supporting performances that also bring the laughs including Joel McHale, Chris Pratt, Andy Samberg, Martin Freeman and more. You probably won’t agree, but I found this to be a far funnier and more “pro-female comedy” than Bridesmaids.
A Darker Reality
Pitch: “You know what scrotum tastes like? I got lots of friends in here…”
Why Avoid? A pair of crazies kidnap and torture women then send clues to a cop and a criminal psychologist. This is an ugly film both in tone and technical style, but while the former can be forgiven in the face of talent the latter proves there’s no talent to be found. Daniel Baldwin, the brother with the lowest self esteem, stars as one of the psychosWhen the highlight of your movie is the possible sighting of an uncredited John Murray (one of Bill’s younger brothers) it really doesn’t bode well for the rest. Skip it and go watch Homicide: Life On the Street instead.
Pitch: Guns don’t kill people. These guys kill people with guns…
Why Avoid? When Danny’s (Jason Statham) mentor (Robert De Niro) in the espionage game is kidnapped he’s forced to carry out a series of final missions in order to win the old man’s freedom. Clive Owen stars as his mustachioed enemy, and he’s also the only reason for watching the movie. So why is it in the Avoid section? Because there isn’t nearly enough of him in this near six hour long flick. Well, it feels like six hours anyway. It’s reportedly based on a true story, but the action scenes, while underwhelming, still feel far removed from reality. Skip it and go watch The Killer Elite instead.
There Be Dragons
Pitch: Where’s a bald Matthew McConaughey when you need him…
Why Avoid? A journalist (Dougray Scott) is tasked with covering the story of a priest up for sainthood, but his investigation reveals his own father shared a past with the man that included drama, betrayal and the horrors of the Spanish civil war. Director Roland Joffe makes visually attractive films, of which this is one, but unfortunately that’s the only positive this time. The story is a slow slog that moves between the son’s present and his father’s past, but the events never add up to anything of real weight. And you know it’s a lost cause when even Olga Kurylenko can’t save a movie. Skip it and go watch Reign of Fire instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Australia After Dark
The Hellstrom Chronicle
Project Nim (UK)
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?