This Week in DVD

Welcome back to This Week In DVD! Has anyone seen our brother column, This Week In Blu-ray? I’m worried it may have been abducted and diddled against its will…

As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Eighth Season

Larry David’s divorce from Cheryl is finalized, and he finds himself heading for New York City after a characteristically disastrous social interaction. Typical Larry. Some viewers are unable to find the humor in David’s character and shenanigans and instead see nothing but frustration… and that’s an understandable reaction. He speaks his mind at all times, and while I don’t always agree with him I do find his complete lack of social skills refreshing and often hilarious. Plus, Michael J Fox and those damn girl scouts had it coming anyway.

Safe House

Pitch: It’s barely even a house, so don’t get your hopes up for how safe it is…

Why Buy? A young CIA agent (Ryan Reynolds) spends his days watching over a safe house in Cape Town, but twelve months of boredom comes to an end with the arrival of his first guest, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington). Frost has barely been settled in when the house comes under attack and the two men are forced on the run. Daniel Espinosa makes his Hollywood debut here, and it’s a definite success on the action front. Some of the story turns are predictable, but the fights scenes and action set-pieces are invigorating and shot with style and energy. Washington and Reynolds both have fun in their roles as well.

Act of Valor

Pitch: Real Navy SEALs. Real weapons and tactics. Real lack of acting ability and script-writing…

Why Rent? A CIA agent is kidnapped in South America so a team of Navy SEALs is sent in to rescue her. The marketing focused exclusively on the gimmick in its casting of real active duty SEALs. I’m not sure how that works as I would have thought they wouldn’t want their identities out in the public eye, but here they are. On the plus side they look professional in their handling of the hardware, but unfortunately the film also shows them speaking and sweet jesus can these guys not act. They deliver their dialogue flatly, and the ridiculously hokey and unbelievable script doesn’t help. Luckily the action is pretty spectacular and at times shot like a FPS to really immerse viewers.

Declaration of War

Pitch: Apparently the French don’t always surrender…

Why Rent? A young couple meet, fornicate and discover they’re pregnant, but when their child is born with life threatening defects they declare war on the disease and make every effort to fight it. This French drama about a family fighting for their son’s life constantly avoids the typical maudlin traps by staying alive, positive and filled with energy. The music and the editing give it an anthemic feel as the couple marches forward into battle, and you can’t help but cheer them on in their fight.

Desire

Pitch: For folks who wish Marion Cotillard dabbled in porn…

Why Rent? Cécile (Déborah Révy) is a young woman dealing with the recent death of her father by expressing her sexual freedom. That’s good news for the folks she comes across (as well as for viewers) because she resembles a softer, friskier Marion Cotillard. Writer/director Laurent Bouhnik weaves a light discussion on the economy and politics around some incredibly sexy scenes. To what end? I’m not sure, but holy hell is it hot. Strand’s DVD is cut from the very explicit original (which I highly recommend if you can find it), but it remains a casually erotic delight.

Falling Skies: The Complete First Season

Pitch: Think The Walking Dead with less impressive effects and Moon Bloodgood…

Why Rent? An alien invasion leaves mankind decimated and scattered as rebel resistance groups fight for humanity’s survival. This TNT series plays more like the original V miniseries than the recent V remake did, and that’s a compliment. The focus is on the run and gun tactics of the rebels, led in part by Noah Wyle, but it slowly doles out details and information about the aliens themselves. I think it’s a mistake to open the series after the invasion as we miss out on seeing these characters transition from normal to not, but the show manages to make it work as the episodes move forward.

The Awakening

Pitch: I’m no wordsmith, but having watched this across two sittings I think the title is more than a little ironic…

Why Avoid? An archeologist (Charlton Heston) in Egypt discover a lost queen’s tomb just as his daughter is being born, so the angry mummy imprints on the baby and eighteen years later BOOM! Evil. I was torn on the placement on this title because I’m a fan of the Warner Archive series. That said, this Bram Stoker adaptation is a slog. The supernatural shenanigans are never scary, always expected and anti-climactic. Skip it and watch The Monster Squad instead.

Bad Ass

Pitch: Fear the fanny pack…

Why Avoid? A Vietnam vet (Danny Trejo) living in Los Angeles loses his cool on a city bus then loses his best friend to the criminal element. He decides to stand up against the baddies and becomes a hero in the process. The movie is inspired by a real-life incident, but it quickly takes the story into some B-movie territory thanks to goofy action and one-liners. Unfortunately it never reaches anywhere near the level of something like Hobo With a Shotgun, and instead stays cheap and uncreative. The action is tepid and poorly choreographed too. Skip it and watch Machete instead.

The Collapsed

Pitch: A prolapsed anus would be more entertaining. Probably…

Why Avoid? A family of four struggles to survive after a holocaust of some kind, but their own stupidity becomes a real impediment to their escape. Seriously, the decisions these four idiots make should have led to their deaths ten times over. The acting is poor which means they never become sympathetic characters worth caring for, there isn’t a tense moment to be found, and the third-act mystery leaves a lot to be desired. The only real question in need of answering is in regards to the DVD cover’s multiple blurbs… what movie were these people watching? Skip it and watch The Book of Eli instead.

John Carter

Pitch: The controversial true story of a high school basketball coach who benched his entire team for breaking their academic contract with him…

Why Avoid? A Civil War veteran (Taylor Kitsch) is transported to Mars and finds himself caught up in a civil war all over again. This time with aliens, monsters, flying machines and a hot princess. Pixar alum Andrew Stanton makes his live action debut with this adaptation of an Edgar Rice Burroughs’ story, and the result is uninspiring. The problems are numerous, but they include a lead actor with zero charisma, an opening that serves only to confuse, action that fails to impress and a tone that can’t decide between serious and goofy as hell. Skip it and watch Total Recall instead.

Knockdown

Pitch: Always nice seeing a film student’s thesis project get a DVD release…

Why Avoid? A disgraced boxer spends his forced retirement hanging out in Bangkok, but when a gangster sets his sights on the man’s talents he discovers there are more things worth protecting than a man’s reputation. The story here is pretty generic, but that’s not automatically a bad thing. What is bad though, and by bad I mean terrible, are the direction and editing. This movie is a pain to watch with its unnecessary rapid-fire jumps, color tinting and “style.” Acting-wise the high point is Tom Arnold… so take that how you will. Skip it and watch Downton Abbey instead.

Rogue River

Pitch: Ugh River is more like it…

Why Avoid? A young woman heads to a rural area to dispose of her father’s ashes, but when car trouble forces her to accept the kindness of strangers she finds herself falling prey to their sadistic whim. There’s nothing new here to add to the capture/torture/kill genre that often dominates direct-to-DVD horror films, but lack of originality doesn’t have to be the end. Sometimes the familiar can still be made entertaining. This is not that time. The lead is uncharismatic, the brutality is nonsensical and the killers are just lame. Skip it and watch The Loved Ones instead.

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

Breaking Bad: The Complete Fourth Season
Dear God No!
Fairly Legal: Season One
Hate Story
In Plain Sight: Season Four
John Carter
Journey 2 the Mysterious Island
Machine Gun Preacher
Pretty Little Liars: The Complete Second Season
Workaholics: Season Two

Read More: This Week in DVD

What are you buying on DVD this week?


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