I just returned from vacation this afternoon, and yes, I did have a great time. Thanks for asking. I spent most of my days (and some of my nights) outside but still found time to check out this week’s DVD releases to help you determine which ones are worth owning, watching, and avoiding.
This weeks titles include Limitless, Peep World, Take Me Home Tonight, Small Town Murder Songs, two TV series from the UK, and more!
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series
A ragtag group of Brits and their American leader collect and use alien technology to stem the tide of intergalactic ne’re-do-wells. This UK series is a spirited blend of X-Files and Primeval in more ways than one, and as a sucker for both of those series I quickly became a fan of this one. It’s kind of a spinoff from Dr. Who, but that knowledge isn’t necessary to enjoy the action, stories, and fun exuding from many of these episodes. I only discovered the connection after watching the show and then reading up on the Captain Jack character via Wikipedia… something I don’t recommend until you finish the series for fear of spoilers.
Amelie (New on Blu-ray)
Pitch: A magical and whimsical romantic comedy that remains one of my favorite films of any genre and in any language…
Why Buy? A lonely young woman (Audrey Tautou) takes it upon herself to help strangers in mysterious ways, but when it comes to her own heart she finds that she’s the one in need of a helping hand. There aren’t any DVDs worth buying this week (aside from Torchwood above), but this incredibly charming, endearing, and beautiful French film finally hit Blu-ray here in the US and it’s most definitely worth owning. I’m buying a copy and anyone who loves film should do the same.
Pitch: You can keep your crude oil and natural gas, I prefer Imogen Poots…
Why Rent? An alluring teacher (Eva Green) at an all-girls boarding school becomes the catalyst for feuds, jealousies, and the darkest desires her teenage students can imagine. Jordan Scott (daughter of Ridley) makes her feature directing debut with this stylish glimpse at the power struggles, competition, and relationships between teenage girls and their mentor. The story goes where you expect, but it does so with dark beauty and a sexually charged atmosphere. Green does well in the role of a teacher who quite clearly does not have her students’ best interests at heart (and is obviously more than a little bonkers). The skinny dipping scene doesn’t hurt either.
Pitch: There’s no limit to how much potential can be squandered…
Why Rent? A writer (Bradley Cooper) finds himself in possession of pills that unlock the full capacity of the human mind, but while his intelligence, creativity, and abilities all increase a hundredfold so does the cost of success. Robert DeNiro co-stars, but it’s a relatively small role, leaving Cooper alone to try and carry the film. His charisma combined with the premise goes a long way towards making this film watchable even if the payoff isn’t nearly as satisfying as you’d hope. Even less effective, and incredibly annoying, is the non-stop narration by Cooper’s character. Seriously, he does not shut up.
Reggie Perrin: Set 1
Pitch: Americans aren’t the only ones capable of hating their jobs, lives, and predicaments apparently…
Why Rent? An advertising executive (Martin Clunes) grows to despise almost everything about his life and fantasizes on a daily basis about ways things could be improved. This blackly comic series succeeds for two main reasons… the writing and Clunes’ performance. The comedy is bitingly sharp but never less than honest as Reggie Perrin says and/or imagines the things we’d all like to say and do. And key to getting away with it all is the delivery and facial expressions from Clunes.
Small Town Murder Songs
Pitch: There’s been a murder, and Peter Stormare isn’t too blame. Probably…
Why Rent? A young woman is found raped and murdered in a small Canadian town, and the local law enforcement officer (Peter Stormare) thinks he has an idea who’s responsible. Unfortunately the prime suspect is a man with close and violent ties to the sheriff himself. This is a low-key drama more interested in nuanced characters than gunfights and chase scenes, and at it’s center is a strong and atypical performance from Stormare. The original songs by Bruce Peninsula are unusual and dramatic-sounding, but they’re a perfect fit for the beating heart at the film’s core. Check out my full review here.
Pitch: Set it to 350 degrees and then walk away…
Why Avoid? A baker (Lea Thompson) is elected mayor of her small town and discovers doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest thing. And then there’s a metaphor for baking. This little film looks like a made for TV affair (it isn’t) and it’s almost worth watching for Judd Nelson’s mustache (it isn’t), but it’s blandness makes it incredibly uneventful viewing. The performances are fine across the board and the film’s heart is in the right place, but boring is boring. Skip it and watch Dave instead.
Pitch: Some folks think Peeps are best when stale. These people are dysfunctional…
Why Avoid? A group of dysfunctional adult siblings clash at a dinner party over the youngest brother’s bestselling tell-all book that’s now being made into a movie. The cast list alone should make this worth watching as names like Michael C Hall, Rainn Wilson, and Sarah Silverman are reliable performers, but while it’s pitched as a comedy the laughs are far from evident. Instead we get thinly drawn characters, weak punchlines, and a group of actors who probably deserve better. Check out Robert Levin’s full review here.
Take Me Home Tonight
Pitch: Skip This One Tonight, And Tomorrow…
Why Avoid? A young man (Topher Grace) whose post-high school life hasn’t quite gone as planned decides to throw caution to the wind and ask out the hot exchange student (Teresa Palmer) from Australia who’s pretending to be American. The resulting evening sees grand theft auto, boobs, cocaine, and a bumpy ride in a very big ball. I both wanted and expected to like this comedy as I’m a fan of Grace, Palmer, and Anna Faris, but it just never comes together. The laughs are absent, the story feels like an old episode of That 70’s Show, and while it plays up the 80’s factor it never really feels like the 80s. Skip it and watch The Wedding Singer instead. Check out Nathan Adams’ full review here.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Beastie Boys Anthology (Criterion)
The Double Life Of Veronique (Criterion)
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?