Rob Hunter loves movies. He also loves guarding empty bases in non-strategic valleys during pointless wars. These two joys come together in the form of cash money payments that he receives every week and immediately uses to buy more DVDs. So join us each week as he 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.
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 column for reviews on the latest high definition Blu-ray releases!
Pitch: My unapologetic and totally platonic love affair with Timothy Olyphant continues…
Why Buy? Studio horror films get a bad rap for being uninspired and tepid, and it’s usually warranted. But once in a while one sneaks through that manages to impress with the suspense, scares, and bloodletting. That one film this year happens to be a remake of a far inferior George Romero flick. Timothy Olyphant stars as sheriff of a small town where the residents start behaving strangely, and by strange I mean with homicidal glee. Soon the entire town has gone mad and the sheriff along with a small group of the uninfected are struggling to survive. Great performances, legitimate suspense, and some worthy scares make this one a keeper.
Extra Features? Commentary, behind the scenes, featurettes, motion comics
Pitch: Remember the movie Colors with Sean Penn and Robert Duvall? This is completely unrelated…
Why Buy? This is a hard sell if you’ve never played Halo, but if you have played and enjoyed the classic Xbox series then this set is a no-brainer. What began as a few friends making shorts for their own amusement blossomed into an internet phenomenon. And deservedly so. These guys use the game’s engine to create cinematics then lay their scripted dialogue over it to tell a multi-episode narrative that will have you laughing your ass off the couch. One of the game’s more popular maps is the setting for the story and the more familiar you are with the games the more enjoyment you’ll find in the sharp dialogue. Even if you’ve watched all the episodes online during their initial release this DVD set is packed with additional material worth watching.
Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, featurettes
Pitch: No, not that one…
Why Rent? Is it me or do ghost stories just feel that much more sincere and real when they’re set in Ireland? No? Just me? Screw you. This subtle Irish tale follows a widower whose wife has recently passed leaving him with two young children. He begins receiving ghostly (and jarring) visitations from his father-in-law who, as it turns out, is still very much alive. He strikes up a potentially romantic relationship with an author of supernatural stories and is pummeled by a drunken Aidan Quinn. This is more drama than horror film, and as such it moves at an often laboriously slow pace. Fans of the actors or or Ireland may want to check it out, but all others may want to think twice.
Extra Features? Making of
Pitch: Watch as one of the year’s best titles translates into an incredibly mediocre flick…
Why Rent? Three friends (and another guy) travel back in time via hot tub to the eighties where they try to recapture the lives that eluded them. That synopsis makes it sound more focused than it is… basically three middle-aged guys go back in time to a decade without responsibilities. This movie really should have been a lot funnier than it is. John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Clark Duke are all funny guys (although Cusack doesn’t seem quite as comfortable with the often crass material), but the movie never really gels together. Worth watching for a few funny gags and to see Cusack drop the f-bomb roughly fifteen times. Which is probably about twelve more than he’s done throughout his entire career.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes
Pitch: And it made some terribly shitty films…
Why Rent? George and Mike Kuchar are legends in the underground film scene for directing numerous shorts of varied artistic quality over the past fifty years. I had never heard of them before watching this documentary, and having seen clips from several of their films I have to say it’s a wonder they have a fan base at all. These things are ridiculously bad (admittedly I’m only seeing them in clip form), but the brothers and the doc from filmmaker Jennifer Kroot are actually pretty damn fascinating. People love the Kuchars’ work, and one of their biggest fans is John Waters who’s on-hand to provide some fairly choice thoughts on the brothers and their films. I’m dismissive of the brothers’ films, but I have respect for their obvious passion and persistence.
Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, short film
Pitch: Stolen baby stolen…
Why Rent? Josh Lucas and Jon Hamm play men in two different decades who share a common nightmare when their sons go missing. The film moves between the two stories as both men deal with their loss and we learn their fates may be connected in more direct ways as well. Both actors do fantastic jobs here and director Anders Anderson has crafted a sharp looking film, but it all feels a little pointless by the end. The kidnapper is fairly obvious to anyone who reads the cast list or watches the first twenty minutes of the movie and yet the film insists on playing it like a mystery. Lucas needs more recognition so his presence alone makes it worth a watch.
Extra Features? Behind the scenes
Pitch: Hey look! It’s yet another epic period war film from Asia…
Why Rent? If it seems like there’s been a glut of films in this genre recently it’s because there has been. But even as that formula begins to wear out its welcome, it’s hard to say no to one of these films when the cast is this interesting. Three huge names in Asian cinema join forces here as Jet Li, Andy Lau, and Takeshi Kaneshiro come together as blood brothers to fight a common enemy. Solid production values, large scale action scenes, and strong acting from all three men help make this a good movie. At just over two hours it could actually use a bit more action, but it’s worth watching for genre fans.
Extra Features? Production journal, deleted scenes
Pitch: It’s pre-WWI and something terrible is happening in a small German town. Shocking, I know…
Why Rent? A doctor on horseback is tripped and injured by an intentionally placed wire, a mentally challenged boy is beaten, a barn is burned to the ground, and a woman is mysteriously killed. Sounds a lot more exciting than it is, and yet there’s still something interesting about Michael Haneke’s latest film. Shot in crisp and beautiful black and white, the movie is less interested in the the action or in finding out who’s responsible than it is in simply watching the people and their behavior. There’s definite value to be found here, but I can’t see it warranting more than a single viewing.
Extra Features? Making of, short documentary on the director, interview, featurette
Pitch: A man is kicked out of his friend’s apartment and dumped by his married girlfriend. Give him five minutes and you’ll see why…
Why Avoid? There’s a lot to dislike about this meandering film from producer Mark Duplass, but let’s start with star/director Linus Phillips and his black V-neck t-shirt that he wears for most of the movie. The V almost reaches his navel. That combined with his haircut, voice, and mannerisms manage to make him both annoying and at times creepy. But those are superficial problems. His character is directionless and uninteresting (and did I mention he’s kind of creepy), and his journey is equally banal and bland. There’s a ten minute stretch about thirty minutes in as Linus begins his trip that simply numbs the brain to watch. I don’t need my lead characters to be likable, but I do prefer them to be interesting.
Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, making of, bloopers
Pitch: A boy discovers his father has a god complex. And it’s apparently genetic…
Why Avoid? The idea here is potentially interesting one. Modern day teens discover that they’re the children of classical gods and are soon dragged into a conflict brewing between them. Ex-future-Spiderman Logan Lerman takes the lead as Jackson, and we follow him from the discovery of his true identity to a training camp where a naked and well hung Pierce Brosnan teaches him something to a rooftop where a nonsensical fight for humanity’s survival takes place. Fans of an over reliance on CGI may find some enjoyment here, but those who value strong characters, well written dialogue, and solid action scenes will want to avoid.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, featurette
Pitch: Monorail, monorail (sung in a Phil Hartman voice…)
Why Avoid? Yeah, there’s no monorail involved in this movie about three guys who invest their time and money into a sure-fire transportation solution. In this case, their bright idea is a personal jet pack. Not surprisingly things don’t go all that well for their business plan. Billy Crudup plays the quirky and clueless idea man and Paul Giamatti is the engineer behind the tech. Both actors do a fine job, but there’s very little to see here beyond their respective performances. They each have their shtick, you can see exactly wear things are heading, it reaches that point, and the movie ends.
Extra Features? None
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen it and review material was unavailable: Crazy, Creation, Don McKay, Everlasting Moments (Criterion), Inbred Redneck Vampires, Kill Switch, Suicide Girls Must Die, Warehouse 13: Season One
In the interest of full disclosure, I received review copies of the following films for this week’s column: Bass Ackwards, The Eclipse, It Came From Kuchar, Pretty Bird, Red vs Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles, Stolen, The Warlords
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?