Hey kids, it’s This Week In DVD time again! There’s a whopping six releases worth buying this week, and four of them are foreign language flicks. Make of that what you will. Look below for my recommendations on Gainsbourg, The Sitter, Hop, The Muppets, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and… Clown Hunt?
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
It’s the near future, and Japan has grown so tired of their violently out of control youth that they’ve organized an annual event featuring a randomly chosen class forced to fight to the death on a distant island. This release has been a long time coming. The movie is over ten years old, but while it’s utterly fantastic this is the first US release for reasons of misguided political correctness. It’s wonderfully violent and bloody film that also happens to have some interesting things to say about society and the cycle of violence… but you can ignore all that if you choose and just focus on the stylishly violent encounters between kids, cliques and even friends. Anchor Bay has released the film in two versions. The single disc only includes the director’s cut, which adds some interesting character bits but is slightly inferior to the theatrical. The one listed to the right though is their beautiful four-disc set that includes the theatrical and director’s cuts plus the mediocre sequel plus multiple extras.
Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life
Pitch: You know what they say about guys with big noses…
Why Buy? The life of singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg is the focus of this wondrous and often surreal biopic from writer/director Joann Sfar starring Eric Elmosnino in the title role. The film follows him from a childhood during WWII to the sexy, swinging Paris of the 60s, and it showcases his great loves along the way including the incomparable Brigitte Bardot (played beautifully by Laetitia Casta). Also along for the ride is Serge’s imaginary self representation brought to glorious life by Doug Jones in a stylish mask and costume who appears at various times throughout. The film is a wonderful mix of music, magic and beauty, and it’s not to be missed whether or not you’re familiar with Gainsbourg’s music.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Pitch: A: The only man from the Netherlands who knows what Rooney Mara’s sphincter smells like. Q: Who is Yorick van Wageningen…
Why Buy? A disgraced journalist (Daniel Craig) takes a job researching a murder from decades past, and with the help of a social outcast named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) he discovers far more than he bargained for. Stieg Larsson’s international bestseller gets the English language treatment with an adaptation that retains all of the story’s issues but does so in stunning and beautiful ways. I’m a fan of the books and original Swedish films, but David Fincher’s vision puts them to shame. Equally impressive is Mara’s turn as Salander which nudges even Noomi Rapace’s portrayal into second place.
Pitch: Worth it for the Muppet fisting scene alone…
Why Buy? Gary and Walter are two brothers who grow up doing everything together until the day Walter realizes he’s made of felt. He spirals into depression until he comes across The Muppet Show on TV and decides that he belongs with them in Hollywood. The pair head off, with Gary’s fiance in tow, and help bring the Muppets back to relevance. Segel co-wrote this overdue return to the big screen for Jim Henson’s most famous puppet troupe, and it’s pretty much a delight from beginning to end. Nitpickers will find thematic issues or details to complain about, but ignore them. Find some children, preferably your own, and settle in for an evening of laughs, music and bestiality subtext.
Pitch: Quincy M.E. meets Sherlock Holmes over a steaming bowl of rice…
Why Buy? A medical student in turn of the century Korea finds a body in a field and decides to practice his skills on it until he discovers the corpse is connected to a high ranking government official. Now caught up in a murder conspiracy he hires a local detective to help clear his name and solve the crime. This period mystery is a ton of fun thanks in large part to the two leads, Jeong-min Hwang and Dal-su Oh, plus a whip smart and sexy female inventor who acts as a sort of Q handing out gadgets before a mission. The story gets a little convoluted at times, but the personalities, humor and action make it an entertaining watch.
Pitch: “The dog committed suicide…”
Why Buy? A man and a woman live in opposite highrises, each of them struggling to fit in and connect in a world of social media and distance-creating online presences. They’re looking for each other even if they don’t know it yet, and writer/director Gustavo Taretto does a wonderful job flipping between the two and showing the myriad ways in which they just miss each other again and again, and he does it with style including animations, narration and more. The two proceed to live their lives, often doing the same things at the same time unbeknownst to the other, but there always seems to be something missing. It’s funny, sweet and features the nicest Where’s Waldo? reference ever.
Pitch: “Clowns aren’t people. Clowns are clowns…”
Why Rent? Forget duck and rabbit season, it’s clown hunting season! A group of white guys have gathered at a fully stocked Texas ranch to shoot their limit of the big-footed beasts, but they didn’t count on the legendary Albino Willie fighting back. Writer/director Barry Tubb’s super low budget comedy finds some real laughs at the expense of clowns and Southern hunter mentality, but it over reaches a bit with its allegorical tie between clowns and homosexuals. The closeted clown outside protests and clown nomenclature are all nice touches, but having a clown anally rape someone? Not cool. Or very clown-like.
The Deadly Spawn (UK)
Pitch: As if there’s any other type of spawn…
Why Rent? Space slugs land on Earth and quickly begin offing humans in grotesque ways. The action here is centered almost exclusively in a single house as a trio of nerdy high-schoolers and a horror-loving pre-teen find themselves trapped with the mutating and multiplying monster. This 80’s “classic” is ultra low budget and probably won’t appeal to most viewers, but if you have a high tolerance for low quality than it’s definitely worth a watch. And the film’s last few seconds will bring a smile to your face for both its simplicity and awesomeness. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD which requires either a region-free player or the willingness to watch on your PC.**
A Lonely Place to Die
Pitch: At least it’s a pretty place to die…
Why Rent? A group of friends hiking in the Scottish Highlands find a young girl held prisoner in a cage in the earth. They free her and head back to town but soon find themselves targeted by her captor and the murderous mercenaries tasked with retrieving her. The always reliable Melissa George leads the group here and does a fine job with both the emotional and physical demands of the character. The film features some gorgeous mountain scenery and works quite well until the third act where things descend both figuratively and literally from the previous heights.
Pitch: Anyone who would let a sleazy fat man watch their children is asking for their minivan to be damaged…
Why Rent? A young man (Jonah Hill) with limited options agrees to babysit three kids, but the night heads some unexpected directions when he takes them to score some coke and get sexed by his “girlfriend.” Surprise! David Gordon Green’s downward spiral continues with this R-rated riff on Adventures In Babysitting that sits somewhere between Pineapple Express and Your Highness on the funny scale (but leans towards the latter’s limited laughs). It’s a borderline rent only because Hill gets in more than a few successful zingers amidst all the jokes that fall flat.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Pitch: I’d kill for a cage match between these guys and the Butcher the Baker and the Candlestick Maker…
Why Rent? Shortly after a top British spy is forced out of his job he’s called back on a special mission… find the mole at the highest levels of the agency. Gary Oldman earns his Best Actor nomination with a stellar turn as George Smiley, and he’s surrounded by an equally talented and impressive cast including Colin Firth, John Hurt, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch and more. It’s just over two hours long, but I feel like there’s an additional hour or so worth of connective tissue scenes on the cutting room floor that would help tie things together better and fill in some of the action gaps. Still, director Tomas Alfredson’s English language debut is a shining and twisty success.
Pitch: All the cliches, none of the fun…
Why Avoid? A group of idiots heading for New Orleans get lost in the Louisiana woods after trying to take a shortcut, and soon they’re running for their lives from a legendary creature named Alligator Dundee. The setup here is as basic as it gets, and while that doesn’t have to be a bad thing the filmmakers do nothing to make their movie stand apart from the crowd. The effects are weak and not gory enough, the dialogue and acting are equally subpar and the movie is never scary. Skip it and watch Hatchet instead.
Pitch: Almost worth watching for the chick rebellion. Almost…
Why Avoid? E.B. is a young rabbit in line for the job of Easter Bunny, but his aspirations run higher than simply pooping candy for the children of the world to devour. Seriously. When he leaves Easter Island to make it big in Hollywood he meets James Marsden and the two have wacky adventures that aren’t frustrating in the least. Nah, I’m kidding. They have some unfunny and highly frustrating adventures. Skip it and watch Despicable Me instead. (Note: Hop actually releases on 3/23 for no good reason.)
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
General Orders No. 9
Letter Never Sent (Criterion)
The Legend of Awesomest Maximus
Snow White: A Deadly Summer
This Is Not a Movie
The War Room (Criterion)
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?