Sweet Jesus there are a lot of new releases this week. If there’s one common theme among them it’s that (with only a couple wide release exceptions) all of this week’s titles are smaller films, older films, or foreign films. I’m as much a fan of blockbusters as the next guy, but there’s something to be said for the small joy of discovering a movie that never had a chance at your local multiplex.
Unfortunately, there’s a second theme in this week’s releases… specifically in the Avoid section. I love horror films, but most of the ones releasing on DVD today are simply not worth your time. Skip the three in the Avoid section below and instead check out some of the many titles worth Renting or Buying including Live Like A Cop Die Like A Man, Bodyguards and Assassins, Source Code, We Are What We Are, and more.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
A young high school student forms an online relationship with someone she believes to be a fellow teenager but who turns out to be a thirty five year old pervert. She quickly becomes the victim of sexual assault, but that’s just the beginning of her family’s nightmare as they all struggle with the truth of what happened. Director David Schwimmer does a fine and non-sensationalist job with a topic that could so easily have become exploitative, and he’s aided by two fantastic performances from Liana Liberato as young Annie and Clive Owen as her enraged, distraught, and destroyed father. The film avoids cathartic cliches and will leave you saddened, maddened, and hopeful.
Bodyguards and Assassins
Pitch: By this point you know I love me some Donnie Yen…
Why Buy? This is an epic mix of historical drama and action about a revolutionary thinker in 1905 Hong Kong targeted for assassination by those loyal to the ruling dynasty. The film’s first half introduces the myriad characters and sets events in motion before the last hour becomes a non-stop race through a meticulously recreated city block. Donnie Yen and others fight in the streets, buildings, and rooftops to protect the man, and sacrifices will be made. Some have found the first half boring, but I for one enjoyed the attention to detail and character before the action kicks in and everything goes nuts.
Herculoids: The Complete Series
Pitch: Were Gloop and Gleep television’s first homosexual couple? Or were they father and son? Trick question! The show was progressive enough to have it be both…
Why Buy? A family of brave humanoids (Zandor, Tara, and the boy Dorno) protects their planet Quasar against all threats with the aid of a flying dragon named Zok, a tank like rhino named Tundro, a grape rock ape named Igoo, and two amorphous blobs named Gloop and Gleep. Why are invaders so interested in their barren planet? No clue. This remains one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons thanks in large part to the diversity of characters and the fun action scenes. I also found it easy to put myself in young Dorno’s shoes. Moccasins? Skin boots? (Note: The Herculoids will be available via Amazon starting July 29th.)
Live Like a Cop Die Like a Man
Pitch: They make Dirty Harry look like a five year old girl with cancer…
Why Buy? Two Fanta-drinking, wheelie-loving, probably bisexual, Italian cops fight crime with testosterone, ironic cruelty, and overt sexism. Ruggero Deodato’s film opens with an exciting motorcycle chase through the crowded streets of Rome and goes on to include lots of violence, naked women, and wonderfully offensive dialogue. This probably belongs in the Rent category, but the damn thing is just over the top enough for me to want to revisit sometime down the road. RaroVideo’s DVD also features an informative and interesting forty minute documentary on the film too.
Pitch: “Fudge is seventeen times sweeter than cherries…”
Why Rent? Marie and Francis are close friends living out their twenties in Montreal until they meet Nicolas and soon find themselves involved in a seemingly complicated and uncontrollable threesome. Writer/director/co-star Xavier Dolan doesn’t dig very deep into the minds and emotions of his trio of characters, but he does show them in some beautifully stylish ways. The film is a marriage of soundtrack and imagery as sultry and catchy tunes play over slow-motion scenes of platonic erotica and fashion exhibitionism.
Jackboots On Whitehall
Pitch: They had me at leather-clad, Nazi bitch Barbie doll twins…
Why Rent? An all doll cast is used to tell an alternate tale of WWII as the Germans invade London and a farm boy (voiced by Ewan McGregor) leads the resistance to save England. The film is played straight for the most part, and the result is an incredibly bland first hour. That all changes in the final twenty minutes though as the big battle begins and the blood, jokes, Mel Gibson references, and action finally ramp up to some highly entertaining levels.
Machete Maidens Unleashed
Pitch: “I used to think I’d let all of you pee in my face just to see where it came from, but hell not anymore…”
Why Rent? The makers of Not Quite Hollywood return with a look at the exploitation cinema created with love, a lack of safety, and low wages in the Philippines during the 70s and 80s. There are some fun clips to be found here, but it’s far from the massively entertaining retrospective found in its Australian counterpart. In addition to being incredibly short this doc also spends a fair amount of time on the history and politics of the country at the expense of more footage of boobs, blood, and beasts. Also unlike the Aussie film, you won’t find yourself taking notes during this one with the intention of seeking these forgotten films out later. Aside from the Weng Weng movies of course. (Note: This is supposedly releasing today but I can only find it on Amazon Canada. It’s still a Region 1 release.)
Pitch: Til death do us part. And then some…
Why Rent? A man’s soon-to-be fiancé dies in front of him, but she returns as a ghost a year later while he’s struggling to settle down with a new woman. Complications ensue. Regardless of what the DVD cover would have you believe, this is less of a horror film than it is drama with equal parts ghosts and romance, and that’s not a bad thing as the romantic element adds weight to both the drama and the ghostly chills. The film also does a solid job of recreating early twentieth century Shanghai.
Pitch: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it…
Why Rent? A day in the life is explored through dozens of Parisians going about their lives in an office, a park, and a hardware store. There’s no real central plot to speak of as the movie is more of a gently paced look at these people’s actions and interactions with each other. Some characters appear and reappear throughout while others are onscreen for mere minutes, but you’ll still find yourself invested in the laughs and romance they all have to offer. The film’s 80-90 speaking parts include Mathieu Amalric, Catherine Deneuve, and a host of other French faces both recognizable and new.
The Puppet Monster Massacre
Pitch: “Chill as a man collapses from the aroma of a thousand bunny farts, shriek as puppets make sweet monkey love in a spooky graveyard…”
Why Rent? Stop me if this sounds familiar… a group a randy teens dare each other to spend the night in a reportedly haunted house, but just as they’re settling in they realize they’re not alone. A mad scientist and his monstrous creation are hiding in the basement, and they’re about to come up to greet their guests. Now imagine it’s all done with puppets but never shies away from the gore and sex inherent in the horror genre. Although it does add laughs. With the new Muppet Movie hitting the big screens this year it’s only fitting that you check out a puppet film forced to rely on wit and originality instead of big stars and nostalgia.
Scream Of the Banshee (After Dark)
Pitch: It’s the rare SyFy film that escapes the curse of shittiness! Barely…
Why Rent? A gaggle of researchers led by Lauren Holly unwittingly invite the medieval legend of the screaming banshee into their lives… and deaths! SyFy films are often ruined by cheesy and obvious CGI work, but there are some solid practical effects and gore to be found here. Unfortunately that’s the end of the good news. Those creepy effects scenes are surrounded by long stretches of boredom, inconsistent logic, and a script that consistently turns the characters into idiots. Oh, and that goddamn strobing effect during every scene of horror is annoying as hell. Still though, horror fans who make it through all the gibberish should enjoy the bloodletting and the cameo from Lance Henriksen.
The Sentiment Of the Flesh
Pitch: This confirms my suspicion that my doctors are aroused when they stick things in me…
Why Rent? A radiologist (Thibault Vincon) obsessed with innards meets a young woman (Annabelle Hettmann) studying for a degree in anatomical drawing, and the two embark on a journey of mutual self-discovery. And by that I mean they look for new ways to explore each others bodies while having lots and lots of sex. This French drama is slow going at first (albeit sexy too), but things pick up a bit when the sexual attraction takes a dark and disturbing twist.
Pitch: “It’s like Groundhog Day but on a train” – the entirety of the film’s pitch meeting…
Why Rent? A man (Jake Gyllenhaal) awakens on a train in someone else’s body, and a few minutes later it explodes. The train, not the body. Then it happens again. He soon learns that the bombing has already happened, and he’s got a few minutes each time to try and identify the bomber to help prevent an impending attack. Confused? You won’t be. Duncan Jones’ follow-up is lightweight fare compared to his fantastic debut Moon, but it manages some solid excitement. Michelle Monaghan is of course the highlight, while the biggest misstep is how incredibly obvious the bomber is to everyone but Gyllenhaal.
We Are What We Are
Pitch: It’s people. Taco Bell is made out of people. They’re making our food out of people. Next thing they’ll be breeding us like cattle for food. You’ve gotta tell them…
Why Rent? The patriarch of a poor Mexican family dies leaving his wife and three children to survive on their own. The problem is that not only was he the bread winner but he was also the one who prepared the meals… oh, did I mention they’re cannibals? That particular element could be removed and the film would still be a compelling family drama (well, until the third act anyway), but with it the movie is a dark and bloody look at the lengths we’ll go to for our loved ones.
Pitch: Who knew they still made horror films where the black guy gets it first? And not even ironically so…
Why Avoid? A terrorist attack over Southern California leaves millions dead. A hazmat team enters the infected zone and discovers something is amiss. I can appreciate that someone with a camera was given overnight access to an office building and then convinced a few friends to come act in their movie, but I don’t have to like it. The end result is slow going, under-lit, poorly written, and not scary in the slightest. Seriously, there’s just nothing inherently frightening about a killer “zombie” who crawls at supersonic speed. The torture/autopsy scene is pretty cool, but those thirty seconds aren’t worth watching this ninety minute movie for. Skip it and watch 28 Days Later instead.
Pitch: Congrats Russia! You can make big, bland epics as big and bland as any other country…
Why Avoid? This is the story of the Ukraine’s unfortunately coiffed Cossacks and their attempts to defend their homeland from the invading Polish military. But seriously, how difficult could it be defeating an army that can’t even screw in a light bulb? I kid. The battle scenes are kinetic and bloody, but viewers must wade through ninety minutes of dialogue heavy confusion as the movie deals with families, allegiances, and honor with generically shot and paced scenes. Skip it and watch Night Watch instead.
Dylan Dog: Dead Of Night
Pitch: Benji has more bite…
Why Avoid? A private investigator (Brandon Routh) in New Orleans takes a case involving a supernatural murder, and it’s not his first time dealing with the undead. This is based on the same Italian comic series as the far superior Rupert Everett film Dellamorte Dellamore, but turns the story into more of franchise starter. Well, it tries to. There are some fun creature effects to be found, but unfortunately they’re surrounded with unfunny dialogue, a predictable plot, and a lead performance lacking in personality. Routh should stick to humorous cameos where he shines and avoid starring roles because he is flatter than an Olsen twin. Skip it and watch Cemetery Man instead. Or Clive Barker’s Lord Of Illusions. Or Constantine. Or Cast a Deadly Spell.
The Task (After Dark)
Pitch: You’ll never look at fat, bald, mustachioed men the same way again…
Why Avoid? A group of reality show contestants are tasked with spending the night in an abandoned prison, but they soon realize losing is the least of their concerns when the ghost of the murderous warden arrives intent on doling out more capitol punishment. What follows is exactly what you’d expect as the cast and crew start getting picked off one by one. On the upside it goes with a relatively fresh and nontraditional ending. Oh wait… no it doesn’t. Skip it and watch Husk (another AfterDark film) instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Another Take On Catherine
Born To Ride
Burn Notice: The Fall Of Sam Axe
Leon Morin Priest (Criterion)
Life During Wartime (Criterion)
My Dog Tulip
Supernatural: The Anime Series
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?