Welcome back to This Belated Week in DVD! Last year SXSW caused me to post a lesser incarnation of this column as I had no time to check out most of the week’s releases. That didn’t go over so well, so this year I decided to simply delay the column so that I’d have time to cover the titles in my usual (ie more thorough) manner. So let’s get to it!
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
2011 was a good year for divisive film reactions as very few releases garnered anything resembling near-universal acclaim. (Even the year’s Best Picture winner experienced as much hatred as it did love.) Jason Reitman’s latest film had viewers split as well with its story of a selfish and often mean-spirited writer who returns to her home town to woo an ex-fling who’s now happily married. Charlize Theron gives a stellar performance as an unlikeable and possibly irredeemable protagonist, and Diablo Cody’s script is her most mature and intelligent effort yet. It’s funny, sad and one of the most honest films of last year.
The Adventures of Tintin
Pitch: It’s the second best animated film of the year regardless of what the Academy says…
Why Buy? A young newspaper reporter (Jamie Bell) sets off on an adventure involving pirates, unicorns, treasure and alcoholic ship captains. There’s also an incredibly talented and cute dog. Director Steven Spielberg’s first foray into animation by way of motion capture is an unparalleled success. Forget Robert Zemeckis’ mixed bag of mo-cap attempts as this is the first to make the animation and facial features feel alive. The story is filled with humor and action suitable for the whole family, and it will have you clamoring for the promised sequel from Peter Jackson.
Pitch: Tries really hard to prove that people in Hawaii have problems too…
Why Buy? Matt King (George Clooney) has it all on the outside… he’s well off financially, has a lovely family and has a stake in a large plot of Hawaiian land worth a substantial fortune. That plush world is turned upside down though when his wife has an accident and ends up in a coma and he discovers she had been having an affair. How can you grieve, love and hate simultaneously? Alexander Payne’s film is a funny, sweet and sad look at finding the important things in life and valuing them above all else.
Superjail! Season Two
Pitch: It’s like a homicidal Willy Wonka turned his chocolate factory into a prison…
Why Rent? An eccentric warden runs a jail for the worst of the worst where anything and everything goes. Season two features all ten animated episodes, and they’re filled with great laughs, spectacular violence and loads of comically spilled blood. I never saw season one, but the graphic violence and utter absurdity of it all has me jonesing for it. Adult Swim seems to be hit or miss with me, and while most seem to fall on the latter side of the equation due to intentionally terrible animation and humor-free writing this one is a keeper. If an R-rated Adventure Time appeals to you then pick this one up soon.
Pitch: That’s right bitches, ain’t nothing scarier than a Latin word…
Why Rent? A woman moves in with her older sister who’s still trying to move on from her husband’s disappearance several years prior, but strange things start happening that threaten them both. This creepy as hell little horror film manages several scares throughout thanks to sharp directing, editing and special effects. It accomplishes a lot without the use of a found-footage gimmick so popular these days, and genre fans are missing out if they pass it by.
Breakout Kings: The Complete First Season
Pitch: I’d have preferred an action series about the Burger King, but this okay too…
Why Rent? A pair of federal marshals devise a program that utilizes the skills of incarcerated felons to catch escaped convicts. The team is sprung on a temporary basis and for every runaway they capture time is knocked off of their own sentence. What could go wrong? This A&E series offers up some fun storylines, but it relies most on sharp writing and the charm of its cast of pseudo bad guys. The second season is currently airing, but here’s your chance to catch up on season one.
House of Pleasures
Pitch: HBO lies. Whorehouses aren’t nearly as carefree and fun-filled as they’d have me believe…
Why Rent? A brothel in late 1800s/early 1900s Paris is the focus of this alternately bleak, lively and enlightening period drama. The film follows a group of kept women who service johns of all ages, attitudes and temperaments. There’s a camaraderie between them that enhances the atmosphere and affects outcomes both for the better and worse. It’s ultimately a sad film, but it’s a pretty and well-acted dip into the past (and the present). Curiously, the official English title is House of Tolerance, but I suppose “Pleasures” is an easier and sexier sell.
The Killing: The Complete First Season
Pitch: You’ll never guess what happens in the end. Or even what doesn’t happen…
Why Rent? A teenager goes missing and is eventually found dead, and as the police investigation proceeds a whirlwind of suspects and secrets shake loose. This AMC series starts fantastic and ends somewhere less than that, but there’s still more good than bad to be found. It does make a major misstep at the end that many people found unforgivable so consider yourself forewarned. I for one am still engaged enough to continue watching when the series returns on April 1st.
Pitch: Twilight fans take note, this is a Peter “Carlisle Cullen” Facinelli joint…
Why Rent? A low-level thief in his late thirties decides it’s time to come clean when he discovers he’s about to be a father, but quitting the crime business isn’t as easy as he had hoped. Peter Facinelli wrote the film and stars in this fairly entertaining mix of charm and fast-footed hijinks. Facinelli has an untapped comedic side that has so far only seen the light on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, but he gets to mix it up some here with laughs and drama. The supporting cast is also fun with names like Joe Pantoliano, Michael Madsen, and Vincent Gallo along for the ride.
The Tribe: Series One Part One
Pitch: Post apocalyptic soap opera for teens? Okay…
Why Rent? A mysterious plague has wiped out all of the adults and has left behind a world of children and teenagers. There’s nothing for them to do but break apart into gangs or tribes and start dressing like extras in George Miller’s Mad Max movies. You’d think there would be other options, but you’d be wrong. This popular TV series from New Zealand ran five seasons (a whopping 260 episodes), and the first series introduces a group of stragglers who unite to form the Mall Rats and then follows their various adventures trying to survive other gangs, starvation and thirst, and their own hormones. It’s goofy, melodramatic fun that also happens to be a strangely addicting watch. (I usually automatically move partial season sets to the Avoid section as ripoffs, but half a season here is 26 episodes so it’s an understandable split.)
Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention
Pitch: It’s educational claymation without the moral superiority and proselytizing of Davy & Goliath…
Why Rent? Aardman Studios tackles the educational niche with this look at technology and real world inventions introduced by their most famous characters, Wallace and his dog Gromit. The duo host a TV show that features live action segments that wouldn’t be out of place on a really cool and interesting PBS show. Some of the inventions covered are far more interesting than practical, but they’re never less than fascinating to see in action.
The Women on the 6th Floor
Pitch: It’s like a funnier, kinder, smarter, less fecal-filled companion to The Help…
Why Rent? Paris in the 1960s is a serious time for Mr and Mrs Joubert, but when he discovers a floor filled with immigrant maids and servants living on the top floor of his building Jean-Louis finds himself changing in some unexpected ways. This French box-office hit is a delightful little comedy of both manners and expectations. It also works as an examination of classes and immigration as it follows the clash of cultures represented by the well to do’s and the servants.
Pitch: You’d be depressed if you were Kirsten Dunst too…
Why Avoid? A young woman struggles on her wedding day to find any degree of joy, but as events fall apart around her she tumbles into a dark depression. Oh, and a newly discovered planet is on a collision course with Earth. Director Lars von Trier follows up his controversial Antichrist with this beautiful but boring meditation on depression that is more endurance than enlightenment. The imagery is often stunning, but the people and their actions are so relentlessly bland and/or unlikeable as to mute the otherwise limited appeal. Skip it and watch Another Earth instead.
The Three Musketeers (2011)
Pitch: It’s a bad sign when the best thing about your movie is Orlando Bloom…
Why Avoid? A young manboy (Logan Lerman) heads to Paris to make his fortune and somehow joins up with the legendary Three Musketeers. Supposedly entertaining antics ensue. Paul WS Anderson squirts out another CGI and stupidity-filled present to his wife, Milla Jovovich, and the result is this turd that mistakes flashiness with anything resembling real entertainment. A couple of the sword fights are well choreographed, but they’re too small a part of this mess to care. Orlando Bloom seems to be the only one in on the joke. Skip it and watch The Three Musketeers (1973) instead.
this last week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Bag of Bones
The Dish & the Spoon
Happy Feet Two
My Pure Joy
My Week With Marilyn
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?