Join us each week as Rob Hunter takes a look at new DVD releases and gives his highly unqualified opinion as to which titles are worth BUYing, which are better off as RENTals, and which should be AVOIDed at all costs. And remember, these listings and category placements are meant as informational conversation starters only. But you can still tell Hunter how wrong he is in the comment section below. Several of this week’s new titles seem to be coming in pairs including… Bong Joon-ho’s first film as well as his latest, a pair of Roger Corman’s Cult Classics, the BBC’s Being Human and Look Around You, A Couple of Dicks from Kevin Smith, and more.
See all of this week’s relevant DVD releases after the jump…
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 hilariously titled This Week In Blu-ray for reviews on the latest high definition Blu-ray releases!
Barking Dogs Never Bite
Pitch: Animal lovers rejoice! Bong Joon-ho’s debut film finally gets a US release…
Why Buy? This fantastic black comedy follows two people living in an oppressive apartment complex and dealing with all the little things that keep them down. A man trying to tune out distractions and annoyances is constantly bothered by a yapping dog somewhere beyond his walls, while a young woman finds herself busy dealing with a neighbor’s missing dog. Coincidence? Doubtful… Bong’s only made four feature films and odds are you’ve seen at least one of the last three (Memories of Murder, The Host, Mother). His debut film has never seen a US release before now, and while it’s not as riveting or big as his other films Barking Dogs Never Bite is still an impressive and a darkly comic little gem.
Extra Features? None
Pitch: Damn you scientists! Damn you to hell for constantly messing around with science…
Why Buy? Silly scientists mess with the wrong genetic code and create a mutant creature with a taste for human blood! So that’s not good. But at least our hero, Mike Colby (like the cheese), has time to relax and get busy with two of the female scientists. Nudity, gore, and good cheesy fun are abundant in this flick, and it’s the kind of movie you can watch more than once. If that’s not enough of a reason to buy for you though you’ll also have a ton of fun with the extras in this latest release from Shout Factory’s line of Roger Corman’s Cult Classics.
Extra Features? Theatrical and director’s cuts, commentary, interviews, featurette
Look Around You: Season One
Pitch: This show taught me that germs originated in Germany. I can only assume this means A Flock Of Seagulls first formed in Iran…
Why Buy? Education has never been this much fun. It’s also never been this wrong, but that’s obviously a big part of the joy to be found in this series of eight episodes from a faux science show circa 1970′s. Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper, along with silent guest bits from Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Edgar Wright, and others, are scientists enacting horribly misguided experiments for your edutainment. The voice of the show is narrator Nigel Lambert who sounds like he’s telling the truth even when you know he’s not. Episodes are under ten minutes each, but they all come packed with jokes and gags of both the verbal and visual varieties.
Extra Features? Un-aired pilot episode, commentaries, featurettes
Pitch: Albert Brooks stars as a mentally challenged man charged with murder and his only hope is Debbie Reynolds…
Why Buy? Oh, my bad. Wrong Mother… but that would be pretty cool wouldn’t it? Anyway, this is Bong Joon-ho’s latest film, and while it isn’t quite as good as his Memories of Murder it’s still a darkly brilliant look at the search for a killer. This time the focus is on the simpleton charged with the crime and his devoted mother who will go to almost any lengths to clear her son’s name. Beautifully shot, fantastic lead performances, and some real suspense help make this yet another winner for Bong. He’s four for four now people… it’s unheard of!
Extra Features? None
Being Human: Season One
Pitch: Vampires, ghosts, and werewolves oh my…
Why Rent? This recent show from the UK is worth a watch for the premise alone. A werewolf and a vampire are flat-mates in an apartment haunted by the ghost of a young woman. The three make quite the odd and interesting group of friends, and the show mixes different elements almost as flawlessly as it does horror character-types. There are some comedic moments but there’s also a dramatic sadness across the six episodes that make up season one as well.
Extra Features? Featurettes
Pitch: I received a review screener of this movie for free, so according to Kevin Smith I have no right to talk about it…
Why Rent? And yet here I am suggesting you give it a rent. But before I continue, if you have a Blu-ray player you really owe it to yourself to rent this movie on that format instead of plain old DVD. The movie itself isn’t any better, but the Blu-ray’s Maximum Movie mode with Smith is funny as hell and enhances the movie quite a bit. If you’re stuck with the DVD version though I still think it’s worth a watch for fans of Bruce Willis and Tracey Morgan, and that regardless of what most critics said (including our own Neil Miller) the movie is funny enough. Some gags work, others don’t, but it’s far from the worst movie of the year (Inception anyone?) or even the worst film on Smith’s resumé.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes
Galaxy Of Terror
Pitch: Joanie loves maggot rape…
Why Rent? I know, I know, Erin Moran (Happy Days) isn’t the unlucky spaceship crew-member who gets forcibly diddled by an alien larva… that honor falls to Taafe O’Connor. A spaceship crash lands on a nasty little planet and the crew find themselves being hunted by alien creatures. This is another release in the Roger Corman Cult Classics collection from Shout Factory, and while it shares some genetic material with Forbidden World it lacks that movie’s cheesy fun. The extra features are enjoyable and worth a rental and you know you want to sound intelligent while you discuss the maggot rape scene amongst friends, but the movie just isn’t a keeper.
Extra Features? Commentary, featurettes
Pitch: In my initial review for this flick I compared it to the gloriously entertaining but stupid as hell Tango & Cash. A second viewing has confirmed that assessment…
Why Rent? Some movies set out to change your world or stimulate conversation and debate (Killers anyone?), but some are simply content with entertaining you. The Losers falls into that latter category, and while it has plot holes and logic gaps a’plenty it also has an unavoidable charm and style to it. A ragtag group of military types are framed and forced to work outside the system to clear their name and save the world from a deliriously evil and zany Jason Patric, and while the plot is fairly similar to the more recognizable A-Team this is actually the better movie. It’s goofy fun, Chris Evans (of all people) steals the show along with Patric, and while Zoe Saldana needs to gain some weight she still manages to lift spirits here and there. This is actually a borderline Buy for the energy and joy on display, but I’d want just a little bit of brains to push it across that imaginary line.
Extra Features? Featurette
Pitch: I love rock and roll, especially when it includes kisses of the sapphic variety…
Why Rent? If this rock n roll biopic is to be believed, Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) are apparently the only members of The Runaways worth talking about. The fact that I can’t name any of the others probably supports that argument, and that’s fine. The film is more about the idea of young girls struggling to become rock stars than it is the reality of what happened with the girls, the band, and their success. It’s a bit too disjointed and spotty, but it’s fun seeing both Stewart and Fanning playing against type. Michael Shannon’s portrayal of oddball music producer Kim Manners received some praise from critics, but it’s actually more than a little grating.
Extra Features? Commentary, making of
A Town Called Panic
Pitch: A cowboy, an Indian, and a horse walk into a patisserie…
Why Rent? Who would have predicted that a stop-motion animated film from Belgium would win the Audience Award at last year’s Fantastic Fest? No one, that’s who. And yet A Town Called Panic did just that and won high praise from several critics along the way. Horse, Cowboy, and Indian live together in a small rural community, and the story begins with the two latter characters cooking up a plan for Horse’s birthday present. That simple idea quickly evolves into a rollicking adventure involving evil men in wetsuits, polar scientists, and the Earth’s core. And that structure expertly mimics the best adventures you had as a kid playing with toy figures mixed and matched from different collections, the stories you devised in your head that would leap across genres and plot-lines in seconds, and the imaginary journeys that were always more important than the destination.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, interviews, featurette
Pitch: The original French title is simply Joss…
Why Avoid? I seem to be alone here, but Jean-Paul Belmondo is a terribly unconvincing action star, and this movie is equally bland and ridiculous. Belmondo plays Josselin Beaumont, a spy given up by his own government who has to fight his way out of custody, complete his mission, and clear his name. The fights are horribly choreographed, the gunplay is mediocre, and while there’s one mildly entertaining car chase it isn’t worth sitting through the rest of the movie. Skip it, jump ahead thirteen years, and watch another French production of the same name instead. Natalie Portman is far more threatening than Mister Breathless here.
Extra Features? None
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen it and review material was unavailable:
2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams
Black Narcissus (Criterion)
Just Another Day
The Red Shoes (Criterion)
In the interest of full disclosure, I received review copies of the following films for this week’s column: Barking Dogs Never Bite, Being Human: Season One, Cop Out, Look Around You: Season One, The Losers, Mother, The Professional
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?