Welcome to 2011! The doldrums of last week have been left far behind, and the powers that be have returned from the break to release a torrent of titles onto DVD and Blu-ray. There’s nothing truly great out this week, but there are at least two titles entertaining enough to buy. There are also a couple surprising ones to avoid, but as usual the bulk of this week’s new titles fit comfortably in the nether region between the two extremes. Which of course means they should be added to your Netflix queue…
Titles out this week include Robert Rodriguez’ ridiculous action romp (Machete), Joe Maggio’s foodie abduction thriller (Bitter Feast), the other social media movie of the year (Catfish), a mediocre remake of a very funny French film (Dinner For Schmucks), 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 seemingly legitimately titled This Week In Blu-ray for reviews on the latest high definition Blu-ray releases!
Pitch: An even better Mexsploitation film than Nacho Libre? Surely you jest…
Why Buy? A Mexican cop is double-crossed in spectacular fashion and left for dead, but he returns for vengeance and a green card. Robert Rodriguez’ latest film is a ridiculously over the top flick filled to bursting with blood, nudity, and Steven Seagal’s waistline, and it’s clearly not a film that will appeal to everyone. But those people are racist pussies. Danny Trejo, Seagal, Don Johnson, and Jeff Fahey alone make this a movie worth watching again and again, but toss in Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Cheech Marin, and Robert De Niro along with multiple scenes of decapitation, amputation, gratuitous lady flesh, intestinal tricks, gunplay, and priceless dialogue.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, audience reaction track
The Ricky Gervais Show: The Complete First Season
Pitch: Should probably be renamed The Karl Pilkington Show…
Why Buy? Ricky Gervais and and his ridiculously tall bespectacled friend Stephen Merchant sat down for a series of podcasts, and they brought along their third wheel, Karl Pilkington. Who’s he? Who knows, but when the three of them get together the result is comedy gold. The show sets the podcasts to animation of the three guys as well as interludes illustrating the topics at hand. You’re probably already familiar with Gervais and Merchant, two very funny men, but the laughs grow exponentially as they react to the things coming out of Pilkington’s mouth.
Extra Features? Featurettes
Big Love: The Complete Fourth Season
Pitch: When it’s not busy getting folks through tough times and encouraging mass oppression, religious delusion sure is entertaining…
Why Rent? The Henrickson clan continues their wicked ways by living in a plural marriage, but the secrecy may be nearing an end as Bill contemplates running for a state Senate seat. HBO’s show sees its fifth and final season begin later this month, and that’s a good thing. This past season saw the show reach some crazy highs and bland lows, and it’s clear the family has gone about as far as they can and still maintain any semblance of believability and entertainment value. The highlight of the show continues to be Ginnifer Goodwin as the youngest wife, Margene. She’s the closest we get to a normal character in an abnormal situation and offers some interesting insight into why someone would choose the lifestyle.
Extra Features? Featurettes
Pitch: This is why you don’t send back your gazpacho for being too cold…
Why Rent? A chef/TV personality loses his job after a popular restaurant critic bashes his food, but instead of changing careers he kidnaps the critic and subjects him to some real culinary torture. James LeGros stars as the angry chef, and he makes any film better, but even if he weren’t part of the cast Joe Maggio’s latest film would still be a smart and nasty little morsel about the effect our actions can have on others. Joshua Leonard, Mario Batali, and Larry Fessenden’s gigantic forehead also star.
Extra Features? Commentary, making of, interview, deleted scenes, trailers
Dinner For Schmucks
Pitch: Paul Rudd as the straight man? That idea’s so crazy it just might work…
Why Rent? A man looking to get ahead at work is invited to dinner at the bosses with the understanding that each person has to bring along a complete tool as entertainment. Paul Rudd chooses Steve Carrell, and the hilarity ensues. Well, hilarity ensues in the French original, but in Jay Roach’s remake that’s swapped out for some mild laughs. Rudd once again plays the straight man frustrated by everything around him, but Carrell goes a bit too far with the idiocy of his character. The story reaches what’s meant to be a poignant point, but his utter idiocy leaves us caring very little about him.
Extra Features? Featurette, gag reel, deleted scenes
Pitch: Never trust an Englishman with flat lips…
Why Rent? Edward is a charismatic and well read man who just happens to be a sociopath with manners. This series from the UK sees him recounting his tale regarding a series of deaths around him that he claims are not his doing, but we soon see his involvement is far from innocent. Martin Clunes makes for an appealing lead in that he entertains and wins the viewer over even as he’s planning and executing some dastardly deeds. He’s far from the balls out killer we see on Dexter and instead is more of an opportunist, and the result is a far lighter show with dark inklings beneath the surface.
Extra Features? Biography
Pitch: You mean the person I’m conversing with online isn’t who they say they are? That’s so last century…
Why Avoid? A photographer in NYC is contacted online by a young girl who sends him paintings and her older sister’s digits. A romance blossoms, but when he makes a surprise visit he finds the real world and the online one are rarely identical. Duh. This “documentary” probably contains the same percentage of truth as The Blair Witch Project, but at least that shaky cam horror flick had the decency to make it obvious at the end that it was fiction. With the exception of a brief scene involving a barn the entire movie feels intentional. You know where the film is going… there are only two real possible outcomes after all.
Extra Features? Featurette
Pitch: A bad man. A wronged woman. And the incredibly stupid whiner that comes between them…
Why Avoid? A lawyer forces himself on his secretary, and when she threatens to go to the police he hires a young man to kill her. Unbeknown to him, the would-be killer is his son from a fling long ago. Complications arise. This British mini-series has a solid enough initial premise to support a feature film, but at over three hours the material grows a little thin. Even worse, the character of the young man is so incredibly stupid and annoying in his actions that he fails to be an empathetic and dramatic focal point, most of the film feels like a TV movie, and the ending is limp and anticlimactic. In fact, the most interesting aspect of this whole thing is the discovery that Bill Pullman starred in a remake back in 2000.
Extra Features? None
Pitch: For Francophiles only…
Why Avoid? James Franco stars as Allen Ginsberg in this exploration of the poet’s formative years and the creation of his most famous poem. The film utilizes interviews, court documents, and more to ensure that every word spoken within was actually said by the real life characters. Mixed in with the narration and recreations are animated sequences that attempt to bring Ginsberg’s words to life. This feels more like an experiment than a film with narrative, and while originality is always appreciated it occurs here at the expense of an interesting story or character. That said… the DVD packaging and design by Oscilloscope is fantastic.
Extra Features? Commentary, making of, interviews, Howl readings
In the interest of full disclosure, I received review copies of the following DVDs for this week’s column:
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
The Last Exorcism
Man With A Video Camera
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?