Rob Hunter loves movies. He also loves stealing Quorn brand faux-chicken nuggets from nasty old farmers. 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: A fox commits multiple burglaries and is then surprised when the victims seek retribution…
Why Buy? Because it’s the Best Animated Film of the Year (according to several people not named Oscar). I have great respect for the stop-motion process and in many ways prefer it to more traditional forms of animation, and while I have some issues with the movie I think it’s still the one that will continue to entertain on multiple viewings. The voice-work by George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and several others seemed off in the initial trailers but work extremely well on the whole. It’s legitimately funny, and the DVD contains a fantastic making-of feature that provides real insight into the amazing and arduous process behind the movie.
Extra Features? Featurettes
Pitch: 288 minutes of Chinese history, epic warfare, and doves…
Why Buy? This film is nothing short of stellar and is one of the most impressive war films of recent years. Director John Woo has created an epic that centers on a few of the most important days in China’s long history. As the country’s ruler runs roughshod over the land, three local leaders and their men stand together against him. The battle scenes are immense and crafted with such beautiful precision as to almost be works of art. Strategies are developed and played out before our eyes in detail usually not afforded to that side of warfare. History has rarely been this entertaining, and mark my words, Woo may just be the next big name from Asia… he should be expecting a call from Hollywood any day now.
Extra Features? Featurettes
Pitch: 140 minutes of Chinese history, epic warfare, and, sorry, the doves didn’t make the theatrical cut…
Why Buy? This will obviously be viewed as inferior to the full cut (above) and for good reason. It lacks two hours of sweeping drama, character interaction, and history. But it doesn’t lack the action, and in fact it stands on its own as a kick-ass war film. At over two hours there’s still drama, characters, and history aplenty, but it cuts to the chase quicker and immerses the viewer into the action faster and more frequently. It may be less of a drama, but it’s still a solid action flick, and sometimes that’s all you really want. If you can only pick up one of these, I’d go with the International cut, but if you can get both you won’t be disappointed.
Extra Features? Featurettes
Pitch: A wacky clash of personalities while on a road trip that rips off When Harry Met Sally…
Why Rent? What I’m about to say may be potential blasphemy to some, but this isn’t really that great of a movie. Don’t get me wrong, I respect its place in cinematic history but that has little to do with the quality. Neither character comes off as all that charismatic, and the story drags most of the time they’re on the boat. And they’re on the boat for most of the movie… The final ten minutes along with a handful of scenes involving verbal and visual innuendo were some of the limited bright spots. But if you are one of the millions who love the movie then I’d recommend you pick up the special Commemorative Box Set for some very cool extras (see below).
Extra Features? Featurettes (Commemorative Box Set also includes lobby cards, four-frame Senitype, book by Katharine Hepburn)
Pitch: Where would all the poor, black children be if it weren’t for the kindness of honkies strangers…
Why Rent? This flick is notable for two things. One, it made tons of cash. And two, it won an Academy Award for Sandra Bullock. Even with those two positives though the movie is looked upon as a manipulative and generic movie that takes almost two hours before the slightest bit of conflict appears. And that’s all true… but just as the box-office and awards don’t make this a good movie, these three things don’t mean it’s bad.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes
Pitch: It’s either a tale of love and family divided by guilt, or it’s just Hollywood’s latest attempt to piss off Aleric…
Why Rent? Yes, it is about a soldier who returns home effed up in the head, but that doesn’t mean you’ve seen this story before. (Unless you’ve seen the Danish movie it’s based on of course…) Some of the best acting of 2009 can be found here, and it’s too bad so few people have seen it. Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllanhaal are both bundles of electric intensity, and Natalie Portman is the beautiful and emotionally torn woman in between. But just as good as those veterans is little Bailee Madison as the frightened and confused eldest daughter, Isabelle. It hurts to watch the anguish and anger in her face, and it’s a relief to see her smile.
Extra Features? Commentary, featurettes
Pitch: The meek shall inherit the Earth. By way of guns, knives, acid, and more…
Why Rent? The concept here of the picked upon becoming the aggressors is strong and (unfortunately) always timely, and the movie does a pretty good job with it. Things fall apart a bit towards the end (and the ending itself is incredibly weak), but it’s gory and interesting enough to warrant a watch. Plus, one of the bullies looks like the love child of of Casper Van Dien and our own Robert Fure!
Extra Features? Deleted scene, featurette
Pitch: You can never go home again. Well, you can, but you’re probably going to regret it…
Why Rent? When will people learn? If you manage to get away from the small, backwoods town you grew up in or the abusive parents who made your life hell, do yourself a favor and stay away. Seriously, it won’t end well. A man’s mother dies so he returns to the rural community to take care or her house and strange things start happening almost immediately. And I do mean immediate… she pops up and scares the shit out of him the first time while he’s identifying her dead body. But he still goes to walk around her creepy, poorly-lit house in the middle of the night! That said, it’s pretty good.
Extra Features? None
Pitch: Trust no one. Especially assholes, crazy bitches, and chubby wimps. Oh, and the psycho killer…
Why Rent? This is a slight riff on the inane Saw mentality that says murder can be a good teaching tool, but the action is moved from a warehouse to a house in the middle of nowhere. A group of college friends find themselves at the mercy of a killer who tells them their only chance of survival is to be the last one standing come morning. What follows is a whittling of the group as some try to save their friends while others try to save themselves. The whole thing becomes predictable pretty quick as the characters fall into place as cliche fodder, but it still manages to be entertaining enough. Barely. On the plus side, there’s one good scare and an even better boob shot.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, featurette
Pitch: An Australian documentary about a teenage girl who drowns but returns home anyway…
Why Rent? Yes, I know it’s yet another horror film masquerading as a real footage, but this one’s a bit different. It’s a documentary-style look into the death of a young teen and the mysterious events that followed. It initially looks to go exactly where you think, but then swerves wildly away into the unexpected. It’s less about the shock moments then it is the characters and the slow build.
Extra Features? None
Pitch: The US government won’t forgive my student loans on the grounds that I’m a swell guy, but they can spend millions on psychic experiments…
Why Rent? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, George Clooney plays goofy better than any other living actor. Here he takes on the role of an ex-soldier who was was once part of secret military training to develop and hone psychic abilities. Ewan McGregor plays the journalist along for the ride who first broke this supposedly true story. The whole thing is a lark and instantly forgettable for the most part, but there are enough laughs to warrant a watch.
Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes
Pitch: A man wakes up in a small town that won’t let him leave. Oh, and Ian McKellan is his neighbor…
Why Rent? This AMC mini-series seemed to divide viewers straight down the middle… those who had never seen the original British series seemed to think it was pretty good, while fans of the original show weren’t that thrilled by the changes and differences. And now that I said that division exists I’m going to admit that I’m straddling the line pretty evenly. I’ve only seen a few episodes of the original show, and I actually enjoyed this new version. It looks good, the mystery and suspense is maintained, and the payoff is actually rewarding.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, commentaries, featurettes
Pitch: Beautiful art often comes from the most unappealing sources…
Why Rent? I’d never heard of Seraphine De Senlis before watching this movie, but I’m an IT worker not an art historian, so you should really cut me some slack. The film gives us a look into a mind filled with hurt, loneliness, and possible insanity, but there’s also an indistinguishable beauty. This isn’t a tale about the romantic side of art and artists. Instead, we bear witness to the darker side of creativity and to the mix of sadness, madness, and passion often required to see the world as undeniably beautiful. And that beauty is visible in more than just Seraphine’s paintings, it’s visible throughout the film itself as well as the performance of lead actress Yolande Moreau. Think A Beautiful Mind, but strictly right hemisphere…
Extra Features? None
Pitch: Really? Stargate Atlantis ran for five full seasons? Who knew…
Why Rent? I didn’t. And I also haven’t seen it. So what’s it doing here? To be honest, I actually just received a copy of the complete series a day before this post was due to go live… that’s one hundred episodes on twenty-six DVDs. I’m no math whiz, but even I know those numbers equal up to more than an evening’s worth of viewing. So to be fair I’m listing it here as a Rental just to make sure people are aware it’s coming out… and I’ll be doing a stand-alone DVD review once I’ve had time to watch more of the series. So until then just know that this set includes a bonus DVD featuring two brand new featurettes about the show in addition to the episodes, commentaries, and special features found in the previous DVD releases.
Extra Features? Commentaries, featurettes, bonus disc featuring two brand new featurettes
Pitch: A viral outbreak turns people into flesh-eaters, and only a Jihadist and two homos can save the day…
Why Rent? Before you start accusing me of hate speech, the “Jihadist and two homos” are the heroes of this flick and they refer to each other with these terms. Also, one of them looks like a terrorist and the other two most assuredly smoke pole. Bottom line is zombie comedies are usually more miss than hit, and this is one of the good ones. Well, pretty good ones anyway. The ending is ridiculously underwhelming, but there are plenty of good laughs and solid gore moments along the way.
Extra Features? Featurette
Pitch: A gargoyle masquerading as a banshee(!!!) uses hallucinations and teeth to terrorize some folks in the woods…
Why Avoid? Do you remember Ray Bradbury Theater? They had a fantastic first season episode called “Banshee” that was scary, cool, and funny. Good stuff. Anyway… this is a pretty ambitious flick at times with its fairly big cast and CGI creature, but unfortunately few in the cast can act and the CGI isn’t that good. And what’s the point of the banshee(!!!) causing hallucinations anyway? It never seemed to use it to any worthwhile effect like make someone think their house is on fire so they have to run outside, or that their boobs got muddy so they should probably strip down and take a shower. Hmm, have an urge to watch Zapped! now.
Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, bloopers
Pitch: A man’s theory on fear leads him to a major misconception on vegetarianism. Vegetarianism tainted with incest, but still…
Why Avoid? The film changes the ending of Clive Barker’s short story substantially, but that’s not why I’d recommend a pass here. The movie is well acted and sticks with Barker’s initial premise, but it also suffers in two major ways. It’s poorly lit throughout leaving several scenes in the dark when they really don’t need to be… suspense scenes are one thing, but dialogue scenes actually benefit when we can see the actors. The other problem here is the pace and energy of the movie. As in there really isn’t any. Skip it and re-read Barker’s “Books of Blood Volume Two” instead.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, featurettes
Pitch: Small town citizens are the lawyers and dog chasers of horror cinema. Meaning they’re pretty much always portrayed as terrible people…
Why Avoid? The cleavage was almost enough to warrant a rental, but it was soon overshadowed by ridiculously bad splashes of CGI blood and sheer stupidity. Seriously, the blood here makes Ninja Assassin look CGI-free. And the moronic character decisions are legion. But that cleavage sure is nice…
Extra Features? Commentaries, featurettes
Pitch: A boating trip through the marshlands (?) of England goes awry when people start dying. Isn’t that always the way…
Why Avoid? The first twenty minutes or so of this flick appear to be setting up an Eden Lake-type scenario, but it’s not nearly that simple. I won’t ruin the mystery for you except to say I’m not entirely convinced the film-makers knew exactly what was going to happen either. It’s a bit too ‘kitchen-sink’ for my tastes, and by the time the ending arrives we’re left wondering if this was originally three different movies combined into one.
Extra Features? None
Also out this week, but review material unavailable in advance:
- Bigger Than Life (Criterion)
- Free Willy: Escape From Pirate’s Cove
- Mad Men: Season Three
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?