Welcome back to This Week In DVD! Another week another ton of DVDs hitting shelves both real and virtual, and while there are several worth renting and avoiding there are only two worth buying. One is visible immediately below, and the other? One of last year’s best films.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Perfect Sense (UK)
A chef (Ewan McGregor) and an epidemiologist (Eva Green) meet and fall in love just as a strange new disease begins to spread worldwide. People are struck with a strong emotional response immediately followed by the loss of one of their senses. It’s like Contagion but with heart and personality. This is a beautiful film about life, love and what it means to be human. It’s a must-see about mankind’s resilience in the face of loss and devastation. Just be sure to watch it before your vision goes. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD which requires either a region-free player or the willingness to watch on your PC.**
Pitch: Don’t ever tell Albert Brooks to sit on his jacket…
Why Buy? A Hollywood stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) moonlights as a getaway driver, partly for the cash and partly for the thrill, but when he gets too close to another man’s woman (Carey Mulligan) the road ahead gets far bumpier than he could have imagined. The plot is pretty straight forward, and most of the broader beats are easy to see coming in advance, but director Nicolas Winding Refn tells his tale with such style and skill that it becomes a mesmerizing exercise in awesome. The cinematography, score and attitude combine to evoke a cooler eighties than the one that really existed.
Pitch: “It’s not what you got, it’s where you put it in…”
Why Rent? Kim (Felicity Jones) used to be a hotshot skateboarder headed for stardom, but a car accident took away her motivation and her mother. She gets a job as a chalet girl watching over a wealthy family’s mountain retreat and soon discovers a new strength within in the shape of a snowboard. She also hot tubs in the buff. This British import is a sweet and affable comedy that relies on quite a few cliches but still manages to charm thanks in large part to Jones’ performance. Plus, snowboarding!
Frontline: A Perfect Terrorist
Pitch: I’d listen to Will Lyman narrate paint drying…
Why Rent? The 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai was an organized and well planned assault, and while the world watched it unfold on live television no one could have suspected that one of the key men behind the plot was a US citizen. This Frontline/ProPublica special looks at the life and times of David Headley who at various points in his life worked as a drug dealer, a US informant and an invaluable aid to Muslim terrorists. It’s a shocking but fascinating exploration of one man’s evil deeds and a government’s unknowing complicity.
The Mill & the Cross
Pitch: I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. Hobos with shotguns. Paintings that come to life…
Why Rent? Pieter Bruegel’s (Rutger Hauer) famous painting, “The Way to Calvary”, comes to life in this at times whimsical and at times dry exploration of how art is created. The subject is the crucifixion of Christ relocated to the 16th century, and it shows a field and hillside populated with all sorts of people going about their business. Hauer wanders throughout the image capturing it with his eyes, soul and mind before re-imagining it onto canvas. Rarely has a film moved as slow as this, but if you appreciate art and creative visual styles in film then give it a shot.
The Other F Word
Pitch: “The cool thing about what I do for a living is that the expectation of me as a father is so fucking low…”
Why Rent? Punk is more than a music or a dress code, it’s an attitude. But what happens when those who’ve spent their lives raging against the establishment join it for the sake of their children? This documentary follows a handful of punk music’s front-men including Jim Lindberg (Pennywise), Mark Hoppus (Blink-182) and more as they navigate between the attitudes that fuels their music and their role as fathers. It should come as no surprise that a good dad is a good dad, regardless of their occupation, and seeing these guys with their kids is a sweet, endearing and often hilarious experience.
Texas Killing Fields
Pitch: It’s like an American remake of Memories of Murder. So yeah, it’s no where as good as Memories of Murder…
Why Rent? Two detectives (Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Sam Worthington) with differing attitudes towards life and the job work together to catch a serial killer who leaves his violated victims to rot in a nearby marsh shrouded in fog and mystery. Jessica Chastain and Chloe Moretz are also on hand as another detective and a young local girl (respectively) who catches the killer’s eye. Michael Mann’s daughter, Ami Canaan has crafted a moody and evocative thriller filled with atmosphere and dread. Some slow spots and questionable events weigh it down, but it’s still a film worth seeing for fans of the dark and gritty.
The Thing (2011)
Pitch: No, not that thing. The other thing…
Why Rent? A research camp in Antarctica discovers a space ship and its pilot frozen in the ice, but when they foolishly attempt to defrost it all hell breaks loose. Yes, this is a remake of John Carpenter’s classic and far, far better film from 1982, but if you can push that knowledge aside long enough to watch the movie you’ll see that it isn’t nearly as bad as people would have you believe. Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s film is a competent monster movie, and aside from relying way too much on CGI it manages to entertain just fine on its own. But seriously, don’t try comparing it to the original.
The Big Year
Pitch: Ever notice that Steve Martin more often than not plays wealthy men? It’s true…
Why Avoid? Three disparate individuals (Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, Jack Black) vie for one of the stupidest honors known to man as they each try to see the most species of birds in a twelve month period. Through the year long process they learn truths about themselves, find new friendships and watch as the fat guy inexplicably gets the hot, smart girl (Rashida Jones). This is based on a true story. People do this. Skip it and watch The Birds instead.
Dead Hooker In a Trunk
Pitch: This is why getting a Carfax report is so important…
Why Avoid? Two identical but completely different twin sisters, a short rocker chick and a cliched Christian guy take a ride in a car, but when they discover a deceased prostitute in the boot of the car their simple joyride turns very complicated. Real life twins Jen and Sylvia Soska wrote, directed and star in this low budget grindhouse effort, and the result is unfortunate. The script has issues but offers up some funny lines, and had the sisters passed it to a more accomplished cast and crew the movie would probably have been entertaining. As it stands though the entire thing screams amateurish, and that’s even before you factor in the bad CGI work. Skip it and watch Hobo With a Shotgun instead.
Pitch: If I knew anything about sports I’d engage in some basketball wordplay right about now…
Why Avoid? A senator is murdered, and when a young FBI agent (Topher Grace) suspects it to be the work of a Soviet assassin long thought dead he calls in the help of the ex-CIA agent (Richard Gere) who spent years trying to catch him. The setup is fairly rote, but the movie earns a couple points for a script that twists conventions well beyond the expected. Unfortunately it keeps on twisting all the way to stupidly unbelievable. Fans of the actors may want to check it out, but if you like your thrillers to at least pretend to be smart I wouldn’t recommend it. Skip it and watch Double Indemnity instead.
Pitch: The box is Amanda Seyfried…
Why Avoid? An unknown future event cause old adages to come true and mankind now trades time as money. Everyone has a clock embedded in their arm that counts down to the moment of death, and the wealthy hoard minutes, days and years just as they do cash and happiness today. One beautiful young man (Justin Timberlake) stands up to the system with Amanda Seyfried by his side. Writer/director Andrew Niccol starts with an intriguing concept (liberally cribbed from Harlan Ellison) but turns it into a stupidly generic waste of time. Skip it and watch Timer instead.
Pitch: Definitely an exit only kind of hole…
Why Avoid? A group of friends decide to go squatting in an empty apartment, but they learn too late that trespassing is punishable by death! From my full review: “Spiderhole had promise, theoretically, but it fails to generate much in the way of suspense or scares. Shots of dusty pipes, slime dripping from faucets, and spiders crawling about are no substitute for real atmosphere, character development, and emotional investment.” Skip it and watch Arachnophobia instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Outrage: Way Of the Yakuza,
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?