It’s my birthday this week, and it therefore seems only fitting that the BUY section is overflowing with fantastic and fun titles worth picking up and enjoying with your friends, families, and parole officers. They even represent a pretty good blend of genres with horror (Insidious, [Rec]2), animated kid fare (Rango), and some classics from the silent era (Buster Keaton). Other titles out this week include The Lincoln Lawyer, Arthur, Battle Beyond the Stars and more.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Buster Keaton: The Short Films 1920-1923
Charlie Chaplin may be the most famous name of the silent film era, but equally beloved and far less controversial is the man behind Cole Abaius’s favorite film, The General. Buster Keaton had a long career both before and after that Civil War-themed classic, and this newly remastered set includes all nineteen of his solo shorts along with a roaring freight train full of extras.
The shorts are filled with sharp comedy and incredible physical stunts with some of the best being One Week, The Goat, and Cops. The extras include visual essays, deleted scenes, two additional shorts that see Keaton sharing the screen with the likes of Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Fatty Arbuckle, and newly recorded audio commentary with Keaton himself. Okay, that last one isn’t true, but this is still a brilliant collection.
Pitch: Be sure to lay the plastic tarp down to protect the couch cushions from your urine…
Why Buy? A couple and their young son move into a new home and discover they’re suffering from a mild case of haunting, but when they move and the problems move with them things grow a bit more deadly. This may be James Wan and Leigh Whannel’s most entertaining movie, and that’s due in large part to a big dose of fun and a shit load of scares. You will jump during this movie… repeatedly. The sound design is a bit excessive and the third act has an unnecessary turn of events, but this is a movie you want on your shelf to share with friends looking for some late night entertainment that won’t end in arrest, pregnancy, or suicide. It’s scary, creepy, funny, and stars the lovely Rose Byrne. Check out Brian Salisbury’s full review here.
Pitch: “It’s a puzzle! It’s like a big old mammogram…”
Why Buy? A pet lizard (Johnny Depp) yearning for adventure falls from his owner’s car during a cross-desert drive and finds himself embroiled in Wild West tale that’s part Man With No Name and part Chinatown. Director Gore Verbinski’s first animated film is a winner on both the technical and narrative fronts. The CGI looks absolutely amazing with a texture and vibrancy often missing from these films, and the story is filled with wit, character, and homage. It’s an incredibly fun free-wheeling adventure that also happens to feature Depp’s most engaging performance in years. Check out Robert Levin’s full review here.
Pitch: How do you say “Boo!” in Spanish…
Why Buy? The events of [Rec] are picked up again mere minutes after that film’s ending as a SWAT-like team enters the apartment building in search of answers. This is that rare sequel that manages to continue everything that made the first film so great. The terror-filled action is ramped up, a bit more of an explanation is offered as to the cause of it all, and the stakes are raised by the end of the film. The finale isn’t quite as hold-your-breath-terrifying as the first film, but it’s still plenty kick ass. Check out Cole Abaius’s full review here.
Battle Beyond the Stars
Pitch: “Zador you son of a bitch, here I come! This is Space Cowboy from the planet Earth…”
Why Rent? This Roger Corman epic (well, epic for Roger Corman anyway) is an acknowledged riff on both Star Wars and The Seven Samurai. It’s the story of a young man named Shad (Richard “Moley” Thomas) tasked with gathering a motley group of mercenaries to help defend his home planet from John Saxon’s evil ways. The wild bunch he assembles includes George Peppard as a space cowboy named Space Cowboy, Robert Vaughn as the universe’s deadliest assassin, twin midgets, quintuplet psychics, and Sybil Danning. Miss Danning is actually the highlight as the best special effect in the film is the one used to hide her nipples behind the tiniest strips of space fabric. Art director James Cameron had his hands full there.
Damages: The Complete Third Season
Pitch: And you thought Jiminy Glick was terrifying…
Why Rent? Glenn Close continues her reign of terror as legal genius Patty Hewes in a case that sees her go head to head with Lily Tomlin and Martin Short. Just as the show’s first season made viewers see Ted Danson in a new and dangerous light, season three turns Tomlin and Short into deliciously dramatic bastards. The series continues to feature sharp writing in addition to the consistently strong acting, and best of all Rose Byrne returns to the fold as well.
Entourage: The Complete Seventh Season
Pitch: Where else are you going to see a topless Sasha Grey? Exactly…
Why Rent? Vince whines, Ari is high strung, Eric is boring, Drama is annoying, and Turtle sticks his head out. And they’re still the luckiest SOB’s on TV. Look, this was not a good season of the show and it really should have ended a few years ago, but before the finale starts on HBO later this month it’s probably worth watching season seven as a reference point for the episodes to come. There are some mildly fun cameos including John Stamos, Randall Wallace, and Jeff Garlin, but they’re not really enough to make the show anywhere near as entertaining as it was in the first few years.
The Lincoln Lawyer
Pitch: Sorry, Fure. The McConaughey keeps his shirt on throughout this thriller…
Why Rent? A somewhat sleazy lawyer (Matthew McConaughey) is hired by a wealthy family to defend one of their own accused of a violent crime, but his conscience starts to get the best of him as more details emerge. Echoes of the superior Gary Oldman/Kevin Bacon film Criminal Law abound, but McConaughey’s charisma and long-forgotten talent keep the attention through to the end. Unfortunately, the third act wrap-up is a bit underwhelming and abrupt. Still, the film is a reminder that its star is a star for a reason… if only he’d stop picking roles like Surfer, Dude. Check out Benji Carver’s full review here.
Pitch: A Jew and a Palestinian walk into a bar. The bartender runs out…
Why Rent? The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is explored from an unusual perspective: the Palestinians. Julian Schnabel makes beautiful films, but while this one offers a rare look at issues from the non-Israeli side of things it lacks any real engagement on a personal level. His The Diving Bell & the Butterfly succeeded at putting viewers into the mindset of its unique protagonist, but this film never quite manages the same feat. Still, it’s visually captivating at times, has an attractive score, and gives insight the Western world rarely sees.
Robot Chicken: Star Wars III
Pitch: If you thought the Star Wars teat had already been milked dry of laughs you’d be wrong…
Why Rent? The Robot Chicken folks take a third crack at George Lucas’s Star Wars films, and the result is forty-five minutes of solid stop-motion hilarity. There are lots of laughs to be found here, certainly more than were featured in Family Guy‘s similarly themed third installment of Star Wars mockery. Just don’t expect this to be a parody strictly of Episode Three as the brief bits jump around the entire six-film series with gleeful abandon. The disc is loaded with special features, some of which offer additional laughs, but interestingly Seth Green and friends come off pretty douchey and unfunny in person.
The Third Wave
Pitch: Volunteering isn’t all fun and games…
Why Rent? This documentary opens with disturbing, sad, and graphic footage from the hugely devastating 2004 tsunami before following a group of volunteers and the challenges they faced in their efforts to help. It’s difficult to take some of them seriously when they refer positively to “the big fella upstairs” having a plan for them when this same fictional fella just killed over 100,000 people, but hey, to each their own. And regardless of their beliefs the fact remains they’ve done good work here. There are some pacing issues with the doc, but there’s far more worthwhile here than not.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Pitch: Someone tell Steve Austin that Bigfoot has been spotted in Thailand…
Why Rent? A dying man is visited by friends and family who have crossed over before him as he comes to grips with his impending demise and his place in the world. From Landon Palmer’s review: “Uncle Boonmee is a hypnotic film that is unlike anything you’ll see in this or any other year, and the fact that [Apichatpong] Weerasethakul is clearly continuing to challenge and explore only gives this already promising director even more promise.” Check out Palmer’s full review here.
Pitch: Greta Gerwig is a gazillion times better than Liza Minelli, but everything else is a step back from the original…
Why Avoid? A wealthy retarded man (Russell Brand) is forced to choose between his inherited millions and true love. Brand finds a few laughs in the form of asides that he probably ad-libbed, but the rest of the film is surprisingly free of comedy. The bigger surprise though is how unconvincing he is when he’s intentionally playing drunk… he’s done it convincingly before in film’s like Get Him To the Greek, but he seems incredibly forced and artificial here. Check out Abaius’s full review here. Skip it and watch the Dudley Moore original instead.
George Romero Presents: Deadtime Stories
Pitch: I’d say Romero should stick to directing, but he hasn’t been all that hot there recently either…
Why Avoid? George Romero “hosts” this horror anthology of mediocre to shitty tales. Even when the story’s setup seems to have promise it quickly falls apart with poor acting, writing, effects, and denouements. Romero’s hosting duties are probably the lamest part of it all as he reads sad little rhymes from an armchair sometimes changing outfits inexplicably mid shtick. Skip it and watch Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Card Subject To Change
Dinocroc vs Supergator
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?