The 83rd Annual Academy Award nominations were announced today, and while it was the usual predictable affair there were a few surprises to be found. Winter’s Bone doesn’t deserve a nod for Best Picture, but it’s great seeing John Hawkes’ brutal and brilliant performance get some love alongside Jennifer Lawrence. In news more relevant to this particular column the disturbing and darkly funny Greek movie, Dogtooth, has been nominated for Best Foreign film. It will lose to Biutiful, but it’s great to see it make the top five. And since it hits DVD (and Netflix Instant) today you can check it out for yourself!
Titles out this week include James L Brooks’ classic film Broadcast News from the Criterion Collection, the visually rewarding and seizure inducing French flick Enter the Void, the all-star action romp that is Red, Ryan Kwanten’s Red Hill, the complete series box set of The Family Channel’s Zorro, 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 This Week In Blu-ray for reviews on the latest high definition Blu-ray releases!
Pitch: A love triangle in a network newsroom is the backdrop for one of the smartest, wisest, and greatest films of the eighties…
Why Buy? James L. Brooks’ greatest film also happens to be one of my all-time favorites. The three leads (Holly Hunter, William Hurt, and Albert Brooks) are pitch perfect in their performances and create a sincere triangle of real people. There’s no “baxter” here as each of the three is presented with both their pros and cons intact. Albert Brooks in particular creates the most endearing yet frustrating character ever put to film as he struggles with his unrequited love and the challenges of his career. The film is funny, smart, and fascinating, and its dissection of the media is just as relevant today as it was over two decades ago.
Pitch: A Greek couple leads a life of seclusion where they teach their three grown children terrifically false truths about the outside world…
Why Buy? This Oscar hopeful is as methodically and flatly paced as Enter the Void below, but like that French film its presentation and audacity make it compelling viewing worth re-watching. The three adult children are taught vocabulary that matches real words to incorrect definitions, they’re warned that man-eating house cats roam the world beyond the fence, and occasionally they find pocket-sized jetliners crashed in their yard. The film is equal parts absurd drama and black comedy, but its also a stern warning about the power of fear and ignorance over the unwitting. Check out my full review here.
Pitch: A young man is killed in Tokyo but continues on in spiritual form because of a promise he made to his always nude sister…
Why Buy? Director Gasper Noe is no stranger to outrageous film-making as his last movie, Irreversible, proved in rape-y spades. His latest tackles the idea of reincarnation, but both the story and the actors leave a lot to be desired. So why buy? Because the movie needs to be seen to be believed. It is a true visual tour de force featuring a fantastic mix of live action, miniatures, CGI, strobe effects, nudity, camera trickery, and more. It’s more of an experience than a proper movie, but it’s one you’ll be discussing long after the end credits roll. Check out Abaius’ and my discombobulated review here.
Pitch: They say no good deed goes unpunished. The same goes for blowjobs outside of your marriage apparently…
Why Rent? Whichever side of the political fence you stand on there’s no denying that Spitzer had balls, and that’s fitting seeing as it was his dick that eventually got him into irrevocable trouble. That’s right… he’s a Democrat. His political tenure was seemingly designed from the outset to create and fuel enemies across the aisle and in the world of big business, and while his own actions brought him down there is a wealth of information showing that he was not without accomplices. Director Alex Gibney’s doc is an honest look at a flawed man trying to do good in a corrupt system.
Pitch: A very small man fights crime throughout Europe from his headquarters in a Samsonite…
Why Rent? The 1960’s saw a steady stream of well known spy shows hitting the airwaves, and this is not one of them. But just because you haven’t heard of it before doesn’t mean it isn’t good, and having watched half of the 15 episodes included in this set I can assure you that it most certainly is good. Richard Bradford plays an ex-CIA agent exiled from the US and left to support himself with random jobs for hire across Europe. The show eschews the usual spy show tropes in favor of real world bad guys, plots, and beat downs, and it’s the better for it. It may have only lasted one season, but this British import is worth watching.
Pitch: John Lennon as a teen had a fake mother who loved him and a real mother who was in love with him. If you know what I mean. And I think you do…
Why Rent? Aaron Johnson does a fine job bringing young Lennon to life at the pivotal time in his life. Family dramas and how we deal with them are part of what frames our character, and if this flick is accurate Lennon had his share of dramas. Most notable among them is a loopy birth mother who re-enters his life and maybe this is just me but damn she sure does seem more than a little creepy in the way she looks at him and strokes his arms. The Beatles barely make an appearance towards the end when a young Paul McCartney and George Harrison arrive, but fans of the man and the band will definitely want to take a gander.
Pitch: Say hello to The AARP-Team…
Why Rent? Of the many action movies last year centered on a ragtag group of misfits fighting against a government that framed them… this is one of them. I’m still partial to The Losers, but this ensemble offers a lot of fun action, dialogue, and performances. Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, and John Malkovich are all fairly brilliant in their own ways here, and while the whole thing is incredibly lightweight and mostly forgettable it’s still a solid piece of entertainment. Check out Abaius’ review here.
Pitch: No, seriously. What the fuck is wrong with Kansas…
Why Rent? The past few years have seen a visible shift in the extremes at both ends of the political spectrum, and while it’d be great if all of these people were exiled to the Gaza Strip the reality is we’re stuck with them for the foreseeable future. So the next best thing to exile would be to learn what makes them tick. I guess. This doc looks at those on the right through the spectrum of one state, Kansas, and avoids passing judgment (aside from via the title) by letting the people speak for themselves without confrontation. They describe their daily lives, their beliefs, and their hopes for the country, and it all just sounds so normal and acceptable… until they describe how they want those beliefs forced down everyone else’s throats too. Keep an ear out for a “biologist” working at the Creation Museum who gives a ridiculous argument for believing in the bible.
Pitch: George Hamilton’s Zorro: The Gay Blade was played straighter than this Family Channel series…
Why Rent? This is an interesting show. The action is so poorly choreographed that you can actually see the actors pausing to allow their opponent time to complete their part of the staged fight. It’s slapsticky, beyond simple, and apparently written for the highly sought after helmet-wearing demographic. And yet I’d be lying if I said the episodes aren’t capable of entertaining with their unintentional comedy.
Pitch: Imagine High Fidelity but for folks with ADD and a lesser taste in movies…
Why Avoid? A man sits at the brink of suicide as he recalls his last five relationships, and by the time its over you’ll be pulling for him to succeed. With the suicide. And that can’t be a good thing for a romantic comedy right? The film’s exploration of his relationships is accomplished via narration, special effects, brief interview cutaways, camera trickery, etc… everything except a smart and warm screenplay. The observations on love are occasionally interesting, but they’re muted by the constant barrage of visual gags. The viewer never really gets the chance to know or care about this guy.
Pitch: Imagine Demons but in Australia and with far stupider people…
Why Avoid? A group of “friends” head out into the wild for some camping frivolities, but they soon find themselves on the menu of an ancient evil. Some of them are possessed and become ravenous, animalistic beasts, and the remainder try to avoid becoming an Outback steak. There’s potential here, but the tone never settles enough to get a grip on things. Misplaced humor pops up periodically, and while there’s no problem with horror and comedy sharing the screen it never meshes well here. On top of that the characters are annoying, the effects are inconsistent, and the ending face-off is terribly predictable. Scenery looks nice though. Check out my review here.
Pitch: Imagine any western where a really bad guy is heading to town, but replace the ominous villain with a disgruntled Luis Guzmán…
Why Avoid? True Blood‘s Ryan Kwanten stars as a young police officer relocated to a small Australian town on the same day an escaped convict is heading back for revenge. At the risk of upsetting Fure and the man-crush he has on Kwanten, I’m giving the thumbs down to this bland attempt at a modern day western. I realize it’s trying to say something about the hero concept, but it does so at the expense of an interesting story and lead character. As if Kwanten’s limp protagonist wasn’t bad enough the villain of the film looks less threatening than Sookie Stackhouse. (He’s also far less annoying.) It’s difficult to take him seriously even as he turns the town into hell on earth. Check out Fure’s review here.
Pitch: Imagine Bronson but with far less narrative structure…
Why Avoid? Ian Dury led a fairly wild and traumatic life before, during, and after his time with The Sex Pistols, but this biopic tries a bit too hard to display those punk sensibilities via a jumbled narrative and an anarchic editing style. Andy Serkis does a fine job as Dury, but the script never allows him to become as interesting as the real Dury reportedly was. Fans of the music will want to watch it for some song recreations, but those unfamiliar with the band should probably just stay that way.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received review copies of the following DVDs for this week’s column:
Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
Man In a Suitcase: Set 1
My Last Five Girlfriends
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
What’s the Matter With Kansas?
Zorro: The Complete Series
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
AKA Tommy Chong
Dead Space: Aftermath
The Flash: The Complete Series
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
Open Season 3
Saw: The Final Chapter
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?