Welcome back to This Week In DVD! Some great releases hit shelves today with two of the best hailing from the UK. Also out this week are the McG misfire This Means War, the classic TV series Route 66, the hilarious tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen Red Tails, Daniel Radcliffe’s creepy period piece The Woman In Black, and many more. Bonus points to anyone who can match the three ‘giant’ items from this week’s title above to the three characters/performers below.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
A chef (Ewan McGregor) and an epidemiologist (Eva Green) meet and fall in love just as a strange new disease begins to spread worldwide. People are struck with a strong emotional response immediately followed by the loss of one of their senses. It’s like Contagion but with heart and personality. This is a beautiful film about life, love and what it means to be human. It’s a must-see about mankind’s resilience in the face of loss and devastation. Just be sure to watch it before your vision and hearing fade away.
Route 66: The Complete Series
Pitch: For dads who were young during the 60s or anyone who’s a fan of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road…
Why Buy? Two young friends take a road trip across America in their shiny red Corvette and discover kindness, hatred, love, racism and lots of excuses to fight throughout their journey. Shout! Factory’s box set includes all four seasons across 26 discs, and while the extras are pretty sparse the set is worth it for the show alone. You’d expect a series from the first half of the 60s to be fairly light and proper, but Tod and Buz never shy away from controversy and are as quick with their fists as they are with some truly funny sarcasm and wit. This is a surprising entertaining show, and while the real Route 66 isn’t quite what it used to be the series has captured a perfect snapshot of the America that once was.
Sherlock: Season Two
Pitch: Watch it now before the American version with Lucy Liu blows it out of the water…
Why Buy? The BBC’s phenomenal modern-day interpretation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Watson stories continues with a second season (or series if you prefer) of three more 90-minute installments (“A Scandal In Belgravia”, “The Hounds Of Baskervilles”, “The Reichenbach Fall”), and they’re just as smart, entertaining and fun as the first round. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman excel in their roles, the films look beautiful and stylish and they continue to remind why the British model of much shorter TV seasons is really the way to go.
Pitch: I’m no detective, but letting everyone and their brother handle a ransom note before evidence can be gathered is pretty unprofessional…
Why Rent? A detective (Jon Voight) mere months away from retirement is tasked with finding a missing girl, but while the evidence points one way a young psychic insists the truth lay elsewhere. This direct to DVD thriller is surprisingly good for DTV with a sharp enough script to constantly move viewers’ suspicions from one suspect to the next. It’s also beautifully shot and takes full advantage of its Alaskan setting with some truly impressive cinematography. Voight actually gives one of his better performances here as keeps himself in check and never goes overboard.
Certified Copy (Criterion)
Pitch: It’s like Before Sunrise but with mature adults and a touch of The Twilight Zone…
Why Rent? A British writer (William Shimell) and French woman (Juliette Binoche) meet in Italy and wind up spending the day together, but as the sun moves across the sky the nature of their relationship gets more than a little murky. Are they strangers, have they met before, or are they actually a couple of some sort? Writer/director Abbas Kiarostami isn’t telling (or is he?), but while questions abound for his characters there’s no doubt his actors are at the top of their game. Folks who love this one really really love it, but while my response is a bit more lukewarm I do agree it’s a film in need of being watched.
Pitch: According to the cover blurb from Film School Rejects this is an “exceptional film…”
Why Rent? Ed Burns wrote and directed this indie look at romance at relationships as it follows a young(ish) couple, a long-married couple and a free spirited young woman. There are serious and dramatic threads throughout, but it plays mostly as an observational comedy. Burns intersperses brief interview sections where the characters talk directly to the camera in his effort to explore motivations and behavior, but the introspection they provide could probably have been delivered via the narrative itself.
Pitch: “Oh my god. They are African…”
Why Rent? An all black squadron in WWII is finally given the chance to prove themselves in the skies above Italy, and they surprise the world by actually being good at their job. That’s right you racists bastards, skin color doesn’t determine whether or not they can fly a plane and shoot straight. Sadly, this powerful lesson is paired with one of the year’s worst screenplays with the result being that this is one terrible movie. Still, my rule that it only takes one redeeming value to make a film worth a rent finds purchase here with some fun aerial combat scenes. Don’t get me wrong, they’re ridiculously unrealistic, but the videogame-style action is worth a watch. Just fast forward all the scenes on the ground.
The River: The Complete First Season
Pitch: If only Jeff Corwin had gone missing before he started eating all those rare animals he had previously taught us to respect and protect…
Why Rent? A TV host disappears in South America after thirty years of adventure television, but when his wife and grown son refuse to accept his death they head down to the Amazon to investigate and hopefully bring him home. This ABC series is meant to be a scarier Lost with an ongoing mystery wrapped in an enigma sealed in a puzzle… you get the idea. Oren peli, the man behind Paranormal Activity, brings his love of found footage to TV, and while it means plenty of creepy scares it also means all of the format’s weaknesses are present too. Still, it’s entertaining enough for fans of long-form speculative television.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Alpha
Pitch: Still waiting on my H.A.W.X. movie…
Why Rent? Tom Clancy’s fictitious but deadly Ghost Recon team head out on a mission to kill some baddies and deactivate some nukes in this prequel to the latest Ghost Recon game. It’s less than thirty minutes long, but this short features some fairly kick-ass action and cinematography. I’d love to see directors Hervé de Crécy and Francois Alaux get their hands on a decent budget for a feature length action film. The gunfights and tech on display are spectacular (yes, even the Harry Potter-inspired invisibility cloak), and while it’s too short to warrant a buy action junkies should definitely give it a watch.
The Woman In Black
Pitch: Speaking of Harry Potter…
Why Rent? A young, widowed lawyer (Daniel Radcliffe) travels to a remote village on assignment but finds a populace terrorized by the vengeful ghost of a recently deceased woman. The locals try to force him out of town, but he needs the job to support his child and stays to confront his fears and earn a paycheck. Bad move Harry. This Hammer Films release is suitably spooky at times and features a pretty ballsy ending, but the atmosphere succeeds far better than the pacing and script. Genre fans should give it a watch for a handful of solid scares.
Pitch: “As long as Yatterman is here, evil’s flower will never bloom…”
Why Rent? Gan and Ai spend their days fighting evil, giant mechanized creatures and gravity in this film adaptation of this classic Japanese TV kids series. The evil in question is personified by the sexy as hell Doronjo, a woman prone to wearing tight outfits designed to maximize her cleavage, and the action is of the kind that will appeal to fans of the Wachowski’s Speed Racer for its mix of CGI and whip-fast editing. The always unpredictable Takashi Miike directs this one that quality-wise lands squarely in the middle of his output. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD/region B Blu-ray which require either a region-free player or the willingness to watch on your PC.**
Teen Wolf: The Complete Season One
Pitch: Michael J Fox is shaking in his grave…
Why Avoid? A high school dweeb is bitten by a werewolf and forced to deal with being a teenager and a lycan. MTV forgoes the broad comedy of the Michael J Fox/Jason Bateman films in favor of a more serious tone, but they try to have it both ways with an incredibly weak comedic element too. At least they solved the dilemma of how to keep a pre-teen demographic watching once the lead turns into a werewolf. Say hello to the only werewolf with a hairless torso. He grows teeth and claws, but his sexy teen chest stays as smooth and hairless as his scrotal sack. For twelve year old girls only. Skip it and watch The Vampire Diaries instead. (Yeah I said it.)
This Means War
Pitch: This is most likely the closest we’ll ever get to a Spy vs Spy movie…
Why Avoid? FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are best friends who also happen to be two of the CIA’s best agents, but when they both fall for the same girl the two spies turn their skills on each other. McG’s latest film manages to be less funny than We Are Marshall, which is saying something, and while some of the action is precisely okay none of it is worth watching. It’s good seeing Hardy in something light and mainstream too, but again, that joy is not worth putting yourself through this otherwise joyless mess. Skip it and watch True Lies instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
After Porn Ends
My Babysitter’s a Vampire: The First Season
Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete Second Season
The Secret World of Arrietty
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?