This Week In DVD: January 3rd

This Week in DVDWelcome to 2012 and the last year of your life! That’s not me threatening you by the way, it’s the Mayans. And who better to predict the end of civilization than a culture that’s long since gone extinct. This week’s DVD releases are filled with other things looking to kill you including Contagion, Shark Night, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and a really well put together woman named Frankenhooker.

As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.

The Guard

A smuggling ring in a small Irish seaside town draws the attention of an FBI agent (Don Cheadle), and he’s forced to team up with a local cop (Brendan Gleeson) of dubious morality if he hopes to crack the case. John Michael McDonagh’s wonderfully foul and often witty black comedy offers a great pairing with Gleeson and Cheadle playing off of each other to perfection.

Gleeson in particular shines as a rude, sarcastic and possibly racist hick who may be a better comedian than police officer. This one gets compared to the superior In Bruges for a few different reasons, but it stands quite strong on its own.

Frankenhooker (UK) (Blu)

Pitch: “The vivacious young girl was instantly reduced to a tossed human salad. A salad that police are still trying to gather up. A salad that was once named Elizabeth…”

Why Buy? A young man’s girlfriend is killed in an unfortunate lawnmower accident, but he saves her head in the hope of reconstructing and resurrecting her. Of course he’ll need additional body parts which is where some of NYC’s finest hookers come in to the picture. Director Frank Henenlotter’s most entertaining movie gets the special Arrow Video treatment, and the result is a great looking presentation paired with some solid extras. **This is a region free Blu-ray from the UK. It will play on your Blu-ray player.**

3D Sex & Zen: Extreme Ecstasy (UK)

Pitch: You’ll come for the topless Asian women playing mahjong in 3D, but you’ll stay for the five foot long CGI phallus spinning the wagon wheel…

Why Buy? A scholar meets and marries a beautiful woman but when he realizes he can’t quite please her fully he heads to an underground love den for lessons in the sexy stuff. This is clearly a niche flick, but anyone who knows me knows that it’s a niche I like to frequent. The 3D element provides a few laughs, but the main draw is obviously the sufficiently erotic and often over the top soft-core sex scenes. So sue me. The movie loses its way though around the hour mark when it starts turning more than a little violent and misogynistic, so it’s not worth more than a rental. A very sexy rental. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD which requires either a region-free player or the willingness to watch on your PC.**


Pitch: Goesintight. Spank you…

Why Rent? Gwyneth Paltrow goes to Hong Kong, and the only gift she brings home to her family is a deadly bat/pig disease. Soon the virus is spreading around the world, and Steven Soderbergh’s film tracks the various people falling victim to it and racing to fight it. The film is an engaging and seemingly realistic portrayal of what would happen in this situation, but none of the characters are ever given time to really connect with the audience. Still, the movie is a fairly fascinating watch for fans of the end of the world as we know it.

I Am

Pitch: “Holy testicle Tuesday…”

Why Rent? Tom Shadyac has directed seven feature films (from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective to Evan Almighty), and all but one of them were big box-office hits. But a few years ago he had an accident that led to some fairly startling life changes. His latest film is a documentary about his search for answers to the question of how we can fix humanity’s biggest and most important issues. Shadyac is a funny and unpretentious guy, and his quest leads him to talk with scientists, politicians, spiritual leaders, philosophers, and others. The end result is more a collection of common sense conclusions than anything else, but Shadyac’s personality and sincerity make for a compelling and entertaining watch.

I’m Glad My Mother Is Alive

Pitch: This is the film We Need to Talk About Kevin should have been…

Why Rent? A young man named Thomas has a troubled childhood in the knowledge that he and his brother were adopted after their mother gave them up when he was just a small boy. Once he reaches adulthood he seeks her out and strikes up an odd relationship with her and her new son. This is a fairly bleak drama at times that works as a sad and emotionally charged slowburn of sorts. Vincent Rottiers plays Thomas as a young adult and does a spectacular job of portraying the confusion and mixed emotions that meeting his birth mother creates. The film jumps back and forth in time to tell the boy’s story and to set up the eventual ending. Heavy stuff, but worth a look.

Justified: The Complete Second Season

Pitch: Don’t ever doubt the sizer of Robert Fure’s Olyphant boner…

Why Rent? US Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) continues to fight the good fight in Kentucky against bad guys of all stripes, but this season the worst one isn’t a guy at all. Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) and her boys (including Lost‘s Jeremy Davies) take charge of the area’s criminal activity. Raylan’s history with the Bennett’s further complicate his job as peace-maker, but it also allows for some fantastic interactions with the three sons. Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) remains a player as well, but his arc here is a bit less satisfying than it was in season one in part because it teases the unrealistic. Still, Olyphant and Goggins have great chemistry together, and the show remains a fun and exciting watch.

The Last Lions

Pitch: Ladies listen when Scar speaks. They also lose their knickers…

Why Rent? Jeremy Irons narrates this National Geographic documentary about the lions of Africa, and while it focuses on a female and her cubs the tale is reflective of the species’ future in general. We follow a male, female and three cubs as they struggle to survive the elements, other lions and everything else life can throw at them, and it isn’t long before they’re dropping like flies. The male lion’s demise early on is a sad and vicious heart breaker, but the crocodile-infested river crossing wears on the nerves like nothing else. NatGeo doesn’t fool around with as much narrative as Disney docs do, but they provide enough to hold onto so that you’ll care what happens to these lions in particular and their kind in general. And it’s not looking all that bright unfortunately.

Mildred Pierce

Pitch: Look! Kate Winslet playing a drab American housewife whose husband cheats on her…

Why Rent? It’s the early 1930’s, and Mildred Pierce (Kate Winslet) is a divorced mother of two after her husband walks out on them. She struggles at first to hold her head high for both her pride and her children, but eventually succumbs to a depression ravaged world and the meager opportunities that are available. Winslet does a fantastic job here with a character who constantly walks the line between likeable and not, and supporting cast members including Guy Pearce, Melissa Leo, Evan Rachel Wood, James LeGros and more help flesh out the story. Director Todd Haynes does a brilliant job in presenting the details of the time in such a lush and expansive way. My only real gripe, and it’s not a small one, is that the story being told doesn’t really need a five plus hour running time.


Pitch: Who would win in a battle between Chris Evans’ pecs and Taylor Lautner’s abs? We all would…

Why Rent? Mike Weiss (Chris Evans) is one half of a low profile law firm content with small cases and smaller payoffs, but when a potential bombshell comes across his desk he decides to risk it all and take on a giant corporation and industry. The fact that Weiss is a hard living drug addict is the least of his worries. This true story plays like a smaller scale Erin Brockovich, and while Evans is no Julia Roberts he does a fine job with the role and manages to show both a self destructive side as well as one concerned for the well being of others. The story is a bit rote at times, but Weiss offers up some interesting character flaws including an ending that I didn’t see coming.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Pitch: Because you won’t be afraid of this movie…

Why Avoid? A woman (Katie Holmes) moves into a creepy old house with her new husband (Guy Pearce) and his daughter, but soon an infestation of little humanoids comes spilling from the basement furnace to make their lives miserable. This remake of the classic TV movie is one of last year’s bigger disappointments. All three of the leads are fine (yes, even Holmes), but the film is never scary. The creatures are shown too soon and too clearly, the characters are frustrating idiots, and the little girl in particular will have you wishing she’d get eaten within the first thirty minutes. Skip it and watch The New Daughter instead.

The Fat Boy Chronicles

Pitch: “How come you’re always such a fussy young man? Don’t want no Captain Crunch, don’t want no Raisin Bran. Well, don’t you know that other kids are starving in Japan, So eat it, just eat it…”

Why Rent? An overweight kid has a hard time in high school. I feel bad knocking such a sincere effort, but this is barely inspiring and not very well written. It’s also a veritable checklist of cliches including generic bullies who lack math skills and have demanding parents, oblivious teachers, an emo girl who cuts herself because of deep seated scars, a troubled kid with an alcoholic and abusive father (who wears a wife beater) and a heavy dose of melodrama. This feels like a fat kid version of “It gets better” in that it advocates passivity, time and wishful thinking over taking your future into your own hands. To be fair, Jimmy does exercise and lose some weight, but that’s presented as a side accomplishment in addition to the ridiculous resolution we get instead… bullies will respect you if you tutor them in math and emo girls will like you because they can see the inner you! The programs to teach kids self defense/restraining moves against bullies make more sense and deserve more exposure. Skip it and watch Heavyweights instead.

I Don’t Know How She Does It

Pitch: Olivia Munn is the only worthwhile part of this film. Which should tell you something about the movie…

Why Avoid? A woman (Sarah Jessica Parker) somehow manages to work full time while also being a parent! What will Hollywood try to make us swallow next? The incredulous nature of this tale is only slightly lessened by the fact that Parker’s character has a nanny. But somehow she still manages to do it! What she can’t do apparently is make a worthwhile movie with any point, heart, or laughs (aside from the one’s Munn provides). Skip it and watch Mr. Mom instead. Greg Kinnear, Pierce Brosnan and Kelsey Grammar also show up for a paycheck here.

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:

Don’t Let Him In
Red: Werewolf Hunter
Shark Night

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What are you buying on DVD this week?

Rob is the Chief Film Critic of Film School Rejects. He doesn't eat cheese on weekdays.

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