This Week In DVD: July 5th

This Week in DVDHappy day after the Fourth of July! I hope you got plenty of patriotic presents under the flagpole this year, but if you received gift-cards like I did you’re in luck as there are a couple DVDs worth picking up this week. Sure one’s Japanese and the other is Canadian, but that doesn’t mean they’re not pro-democracy, pro-freedom, and all kinds of awesome.

As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it (and help out FSR in the process).

13 Assassins

A group of samurai choose honor over duty and make a stand against an evil lord who murders, rapes, and maims with impunity. Takashi Miike crafts one of his rare straight-forward films that eschews zaniness and offensive visuals for plot, character, and sincere action. Short fight scenes dot the opening hour, but most of that time is given over to the samurai coming together and planning their attack.

The final hour is where it all comes together as the baker’s dozen go up against a few hundred of the lord’s soldiers with bows and arrows, swords, and trap-filled architecture. It’s an exciting and thrilling adventure filled with heroism, integrity, and bloodshed, and it’s not to be missed.

Hobo With a Shotgun

Pitch: “Tell it to Mother Teresa while she’s finger-banging you in hell…”

Why Buy? A hobo (Rutger Hauer) stops off in a crime-ridden town and quickly becomes a surrogate father to a cute hooker as well as a vigilante hero to a fearful populace. Hauer aside this is not a well acted movie and there isn’t a single subtle frame to be found, so why is it a BUY? Because the damn thing is loaded with fun, gory, ridiculously violent scenes and some stellar dialogue. Much like the soon to be released Insidious, this is a movie that makes up for its flaws with sheer energy and entertainment value. This is one you’ll show to friends for shit and giggles… just don’t always expect a thank you afterwards.

Bloodrayne: The Third Reich

Pitch: Uwe Boll remakes his own disastrously dull Auschwitz and adds swordplay, vampires, and hot lesbian sex…

Why Rent? A centuries old female vampire (Natassia Malthe) joins the Allied cause against Hitler and his stupid Nazis, but when she accidentally turns Michael Paré he begins to build an undead Nazi army. For what it’s worth, this is probably one of Boll’s better movies. The action is competent, the sex is even better, and you can never go wrong with Nazis as the bad guys. In fact the film’s biggest weak point is the fact that Boll rolls credits 80 minutes in just as a big action scene is about to start.

Henry Of Navarre (UK)

Pitch: Ignore the trailers and DVD cover quotes and you should enjoy the film just fine…

Why Rent? This historical epic explores the life of France’s King Henry IV from his childhood to his eventual reign. The extremes are given fairly short shrift in favor of a detailed midsection that sees the ongoing war between the Catholics and the Protestants grow through battles as well as bloody murders. The film’s marketing makes the film seem heavily action-oriented, but that’s a lie. The action scenes are fairly infrequent and small scale, and instead the film seems to follow the HBO/Showtime model of period pieces in that sex scenes make up a quarter of the run time. This is not a bad thing. Still, it’s an engaging drama for fans of 16th century shenanigans. *NOTE – This is a UK region 2 release so you’ll need to play it in a region-free player or your computer.*

Nightmares In Red White & Blue

Pitch: May just be the only documentary you’ll ever see narrated by an android. At least until the machines rise up and learn to start making movies…

Why Rent? American horror films are the subject of this documentary that examines their evolution from the early silent days up to the last decade. The focus here is on mainstream titles so genre fans won’t necessarily learn anything new, but interviews with directors like John Carpenter, Joe Dante, and George Romero keep things interesting as they attempt to define the connection between horror cinema and the nation’s political reality at any given time. And Lance Henriksen’s dry, raspy voice is perfect for something like this too.

The Pack (UK)

Pitch: Never pick up hitchhikers. But if you do, don’t stop for food with them. But if you do, don’t go looking for them in the bathroom…

Why Rent? A young woman sees her act of kindness result in abduction and imprisonment by a restaurant owner with mouths to feed. Unfortunately for the girl those mouths are attached to a pack of cannibalistic undead creatures. This French flick gets points for the monster design (and for having monsters at all… something that’s far less common than it should be in horror these days) as well as for the cast which includes acclaimed actors Yolande Moreau and Phillipe Nahon. It loses points though for a third act that never quite follows through on the promise of those creatures. *NOTE – This is a UK region 2 release so you’ll need to play it in a region-free player or your computer.*

The Sacrifice

Pitch: Nothing will prepare you for the Benny Hill-inspired scene at the end…

Why Rent? Andrei Tarkovsky’s final film sees a family gathered to celebrate the grandfather’s birthday, but when the news declares WWIII has begun around the world it becomes the crappiest party ever. But seriously… this is a slow movie. At times it felt like Chernobyl would become fertile again well before the end credits on this thing rolled. But if the narrative and pace failed to engage me the same can’t be said of the visuals. This is one beautifully somber film filled with images of landscapes, objects, and characters that feel like art unto themselves. The pacing may lose me, but the visuals succeed in imparting Tarkovsky’s philosophy on mortality and beyond.

Transformers: Japanese Collection – Headmasters

Pitch: “Head on! Apply directly to the forehead. Head on! Apply directly to the forehead…”

Why Rent? This Japanese series picks up where the mid-eighties US series concluded, kind of. A new group of Transformers is introduced featuring bots that retain their morphing abilities but with an added element… they can also become the head of a series of larger bots. All the old favorites are here from Optimus Prime to Soundwave to Hot Rod, and the episodes are filled with as much action and intrigue as can possibly be jammed into a 22-minute cartoon. And if none of that appeals to you there’s also a song over the end credits that teaches you how to be a human Transformer.

Wake Wood

Pitch: Sometimes, dead is better. And by sometimes I clearly mean always…

Why Rent? A young couple’s daughter is savagely mauled to death by a dog, and they head to a small town in the country to grieve. Of course they’ve picked the one town in the UK capable of bringing the dead back to life, so we pretty much know there’s some undead trouble ahead. This British flick comes from the new Hammer banner and is easily the best of the original films they’ve released so far. It owes a debt to Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, but it manages plenty of fresh creepiness on it’s own as well as some strong performances.

Victorious: Season One Volume One

Pitch: It doesn’t bode well when a show’s highlight is a curly-haired white ventriloquist with his hand up a stereotypical African American-sounding puppet…

Why Avoid? A group of friends at Hollywood Arts High School learn how to be convincing actors, and then they do the opposite. As with all of Nickelodeon’s live action sitcoms (and Disney’s for that matter) the show consists of “attractive” and/or “funny” teenagers engaging in wacky adventures. It just doesn’t work here. I’s tempting to blame the actors as their delivery often leaves much to be desired, but the real issue here is the writing. The jokes aren’t funny, the characters aren’t engaging, and the stories aren’t interesting. Even if the show wasn’t lacking in those things it’d still be an AVOID because breaking seasons into multiple volumes is a cheap money-grab. Skip it and go watch iCarly instead.

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:

The Cape: The Complete Series
Empire Of Assassins
Ferocious Planet
Passion Of Darkly Noon
Wisconsin Project X

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What are you buying on DVD this week?

Rob is the Chief Film Critic of Film School Rejects. He doesn't eat cheese on weekdays.

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