Welcome back to This Week In DVD! We take a look at fifteen new releases below, and a whopping eleven of them are good to great and worth your time!
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
A man (Stephen Dorff) awakens in a plexiglass box that itself rests inside a car’s trunk. Confused at first, he soon learns his captors are after a very specific piece of information they need to complete a terrorist attack. Can he hold out against their threats and actions? This film bears thematic similarities to 2009’s Buried, but it’s a far superior experience (at least until the end anyway). Dorff does a fine job as the highly stressed lead, the story’s twists and turns are a solid mix of the expected, the smart and the unpredictable, and there are several genuinely exciting moments. Just be sure to turn it off about two minutes before the credits roll. [Extras: Commentary, featurette, music video]
Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season One (Blu-ray)
Pitch: A partially bald ship captain? Yeah, good luck getting a second season order…
Why Buy? Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi experiment 2.0 became a much bigger success than its predecessor, and it all starts with the twenty-five episodes that make up season one. The show follows the new adventures of the new USS Enterprise and its crew as they romp around the galaxy doing good deeds. I’m not a big fan of the show in general, but there are some standout episodes here. More importantly, CBS and Paramount have gone the extra mile (are there miles in space?) with the show’s first HD appearance. The set’s making-of covers it in great detail, but the effort is all onscreen with the incredibly sharp image, crisp sound and visibly enhanced special effects. [Extras: Featurettes]
Boss: Season One
Pitch: Sideshow Bob isn’t playing around any longer…
Why Rent? Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer) is the mayor of Chicago, and he’s just learned he has an inoperable brain disorder. If you think that’s going to get in the way of him steamrolling his way through the city’s people and politics you think wrong. This Starz series is essentially a modern day version of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, and that’s not a bad thing. Morally dubious characters, sex and violence, twists and turns and fantastic acting are the norm here, and at only eight episodes it’s the perfect length as well. The only downside is that Merrill Barr likes it, but hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day. [Extras: Commentaries, featurette]
Pitch: Imagine Dreamcatcher without the budget, aliens or eyebrows…
Why Rent? A group of friends head out to a remote cabin for a few days of relaxation, but when they discover a mysterious and shimmering hallway in the woods they quickly start to lose their grip on reality and sanity. There are some very cool elements here including the premise and a handful of shots in the third act, but sweet jesus does it meander its way towards a conclusion. The acting is good, which is a nice change of pace from most indie genre films, but the script lacks clarity and focus. And if nothing else one of the guys looks like Bradley Cooper, so there’s that. Check out Cole Abaius’ full review.
The Deep Blue Sea
Pitch: You’ll never see the shark coming…
Why Rent? A woman (Rachel Weisz) in a loveless marriage to an older man leaves him for Thor’s brother (Tom Hiddleston) in this post-WWII drama from writer/director Terence Davies. The film has a sumptuous look to it and features emotionally strong performances from its two leads, but the drama inherent in the story is muted substantially by the film’s time-hopping structure. Viewers aren’t given the opportunity to feel and care about her situation before events require us to be involved. Still, the acting and look of the film warrant a watch. [Extras: Booklet, commentary, featurettes]
Drew Peterson: Untouchable
Pitch: This is, literally, the best made-for-TV movie ever…
Why Rent? Drew Peterson (Rob Lowe) is an ex-cop suspected in the disappearance of his fourth wife and the possible murder of his third, and this Lifetime Original Movie looks at the case with a very specific mindset. And that mindset is how to present it as sleazy and ridiculous as possible. Success! This is far from a good movie, but goddamn does Lowe’s hilarious performance as Peterson make it worth watching if you’re looking for cheap laughs.
The Girl From the Naked Eye
Pitch: The slightly more chaste sister of The Girl From the Whispering Eye…
Why Rent? Jake (Jason Yee) is a driver for the girls of the Naked Eye strip club and bar, but when the escort with a heart of gold (who he happens to love) is murdered he sets out on a quest for revenge. This above average direct to DVD action flick is stylish, populated with attractive women (although unfortunately only the fake-boobed ones go naked), and thanks to Yee it also includes some solid fight scenes. His acting is pretty flat, but the action and pseudo-noir dialogue make for an entertaining romp. Check out my full review. [Extras: None]
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Pitch: “It’s very painful training, which is very Japanese…”
Why Rent? Jiro Ono is an 85 year old sushi chef who runs a small restaurant in a Tokyo subway station, but don’t let the location fool you. It only seats 10, but reservations are required, it’s not cheap and it’s the only restaurant of its kind to receive Michelin’s 3-star rating. The doc examines Jiro’s techniques, his teaching style with his sons and apprentices and his outlook on life in general. It’s inspiring and mouthwatering in equal measure, and it will have you craving sushi by the midway point… and I’m a vegetarian. [Extras: Commentary, deleted scenes]
Pitch: It ends where Saving Private Ryan begins…
Why Rent? The pre-WWII occupation of Korea by Japanese soldiers leads to a competitive friendship between two boys. As the years move forward the film follows the two onto the battlefield where they fight for opposite sides to prison camps where they share a cell, and ultimately their journey takes them to the beaches of Normandy where only one of them will survive. This is essentially a Korean Michael Bay production as it’s filled with spectacular visuals and action but hampered by poor writing and an excess of cheese in its artificial heart. Check out my full review.
Pitch: It’s the best kind of fruit magic. After peach of course…
Why Rent? A young girl struggles to save her down on their luck family suffering from job loss, depression and disappointment, and the key she believes is in winning her middle school science fair. This is a sweet little indie that offers up a child’s perspective on love, family and what it means to face good times and bad. It’s lightweight to be sure, but part of its joy is in the simplicity and familiarity of it all. Check out my full review.
Pitch: Ironically enough, Elijah Wood isn’t playing the one with the peg leg…
Why Rent? Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic adventure story of pirates, treasure and treachery comes to life, again. The Syfy miniseries proves the network capable of more than just sketchy horror and sci-fi movies with a talented and respectable cast, location work and real sense of scale (even if some scenes clearly benefit from effects work). Eddie Izzard is wonderfully charismatic and memorable as Long John Silver, and Elijah Wood entertains as an almost convincing rough and tumble pirate. [Extras: Commentary, featurettes]
Age of the Dragons
Pitch: Danny Glover’s too old to solve crimes with Mel Gibson, but this shit he’s okay with…
Why Avoid? Herman Melville’s epic Moby Dick gets a fantasy re-imagining with a big white dragon in place of the whale. Ishmael, Queequeg and the rest of the gang are on hand as Captain Ahab (Glover) sets out on his quest, but aside from the CGI dragons the film adds nothing new to the story. (Well, there is a sexy and capable young woman named Rachel…) The dragon effects are okay, but the acting and script are fairly flat. And when are people going to stop casting Vinnie Jones in anything? Skip it and watch Reign of Fire instead. [Extras: Commentary, featurettes, outtakes]
Pitch: Scandinavian countries do not trust their citizens to take care of themselves…
Why Avoid? A woman (Noomi Rapace) and her young son are relocated under protective custody after suffering at the hands of her husband, but their new apartment takes on a sinister tone when menacing voices begin emanating from the baby monitor. After two questionable appearances in Hollywood productions Rapace reminds us that she can in fact act (provided it’s in her native tongue). Sadly, that’s the best thing about this thriller as the first two thirds are more frustrating than terrifying. The end offers up something interesting, but it’s too little too late. Skip it and watch The TV Set instead. [Extras: Deleted scenes]
On the Inside
Pitch: Anyone still looking for Nick Stahl should consider checking the direct to DVD shelf…
Why Avoid? A college professor (Stahl) kills the man he believes raped his girlfriend, but when he’s arrested for the crime he discovers he murdered the wrong man. His extenuating circumstances and good behavior gets him transferred to a minimum security joint complete with visits from Olivia Wilde, but the actions of another inmate set them all on a course for tragedy. Thea acting here is earnest and fine enough, but it’s unclear exactly what the point of it all is. It’s about redemption in theory, but in practice it completely misses the mark. Skip it and watch The Shawshank Redemption instead. [Extras: Commentary]
Pitch: Forget the full house, someone’s not playing with a full deck…
Why Avoid? A young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) returns to a family cabin with her father and uncle for renovations, but when an intruder arrives she’s forced to fight for her survival in real time. The film (a remake of the very similar Uruguayan thriller) pretends to proceed in one take but is actually nine single takes seamlessly cut together. It’s an interesting technique, but it’s also one that ends up hurting the final film as it leaves no time for character building and forces long, dull, artificially suspenseful stretches throughout. The original was no winner, but it’s an improvement that never felt the need to spell every last detail out in the third act. Skip it and watch House instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Children’s Hospital: The Complete Third Season
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?