Rob Hunter loves movies. He also loves Maurissa Tancharoen. 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!
Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog (Blu-ray Pick-o-the-Week!)
Pitch: The penis is my hammer…
Why Buy? If you’re a fan of Joss Whedon then this purchase is a no-brainer. If you’re not (and that’s okay), then just know that this is a wildly entertaining short film filled with big laughs, quotable dialogue, catchy songs, and a tremendous emotional punch. A villain (Neil Patrick Harris) fights an ongoing battle against a hero (Nathan Fillion) all while pining for his true love Penny (Felicia Day). And if you’ve only seen it online then know that the disc is filled with fantastic extras including a fun making-of, a traditional commentary, and an amazing additional commentary done entirely as a musical.
Extra Features? Commentaries (one traditional and one musical!), making-of, featurettes
Instant Swamp (region 2)
Pitch: It’s like instant pudding, only Japanese and a bit more metaphysical…
Why Buy? The term ‘magical’ gets tossed around a bit too much to describe movies reportedly filled with wonder and whimsy, and it’s often used inappropriately. That said, this Japanese flick is pretty magical. It’s the story of a woman who lives with zero tolerance for things that aren’t concrete and tangible. Her dad walked out when she was a child, her mom sees water sprites in their garden, but one day she discovers that her real father is unaware of her existence and living nearby. She sets out to make his acquaintance and learns more than a few things about herself in the process. It aims for an Amelie-like wonder that it doesn’t quite achieve, but it’s still a fun, sweet, and rewarding film. Not available in the US, but if you have an all-region DVD player I recommend it the next time you’re placing an Amazon UK order.
Extra Features? Trailers
My Dog: An Unconditional Love Story
Pitch: Dogs rule, cats drool…
Why Buy? This light-hearted look at dogs and their well-known owners may not seem like an obvious pick for the Buy section, but there are two reasons why I’m putting it here. First, it’ll make you smile. You can’t help but grin at both the antics of these mutts (and some purebreds) and at the pure joy evident on the faces of Christopher Meloni, Richard Gere, Edie Falco, and others. And second, 20% of the money earned from the DVD goes towards non-profit charities for animals.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, interviews (with the owners, not the dogs)
Pitch: Nestled between the unfunny and obvious Broken Lizard gang and the very funny and odd Kids In the Hall sit the boys of Derrick Comedy…
Why Buy? This little flick has gotten a lot of love around these parts thanks to Neil Miller’s crush on Dominic Dierkes and Cole Abaius’ unrequited love affair with DC Pierson. Having finally seen the movie I’ll have to claim Donald Glover (NBC’s Community) as my favorite. Jason (Glover) is the master of disguise, Duncan (Pierson) is a genius, and Charlie (Dierkes) is the strongest boy around… at least that’s how they see themselves. And the shtick usually works as the three use their skills to find lost valuables and rescue kittens from trees, but what happens when a murder case involving stolen goods, alcohol, and strippers lands in their virginal laps? Something just shy of hilarity, that’s what.
Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, gag reel, making-of, comedy short, and more
Pitch: Because the name Dole was already taken…
Why Buy? This “magazine” on DVD is worth a buy for a few reasons. For one, it’s a collection of short films and while they’re not all winners enough of them are to make this a worthwhile purchase. For another, it’s from the fine folks at McSweeney’s. And lastly, short films and the minuscule film-makers behind them have so few outlets for their work that it’s worth supporting them in any way possible. Standouts in this issue include a tale from New Zealand about the odd wonders of childhood (in spite of the unnecessary roly-poly abuse), a hilarious and dirty-mouthed bit capturing a couple’s break-up, a beautifully shot and dialogue-free trip through time (with vikings!), and a very surreal ode to life and the environment by way of a plastic bag… narrated by Werner Herzog.
Extra Features? None
David Cross: Bigger and Blackerer
Pitch: Once you go blackerer you never go backerer…
Why Rent? I’m not a big fan of stand-up comedy in general, and the comedians I actually find funny onstage can probably be counted on one hand… Patton Oswalt, Mitch Hedberg, David Cross, and maybe one or two more. So there you go. Cross is a funny guy although strangely, some of the funniest bits are on here as extras instead of being part of the main feature. Worth a watch for a few good laughs.
Extra Features? Additional stand-up segments
The Guild: Season Three
Pitch: These are not the cool people playing Modern Warfare 2, these are the people playing World of Warcraft…
Why Rent? My lady-friend suggested I place this in the Avoid section for the simple reason that Felicia Day is her arch-nemesis. But after catching up on the web series’ first two seasons and then watching this one I realized this had to be a rental. Yes, Day headlines this funny (and surprisingly crass) look at online gaming and gamers, but there’s also the cute Asian chick to consider. Why should Tink (Amy Okuda) be punished for the transgressions of the ginger? And like I said, the show’s actually pretty funny at times. The more into online gaming you are the more you’ll find to enjoy here as this ragtag group of gamers deals with inner strife and an evil villain played by… Wil Wheaton?
Extra Features? Commentaries, gag reel, multiple featurettes
Pitch: Just be thankful it wasn’t a baboon’s heart…
Why Rent? Josh Lucas seems to have found a nice home for himself in the direct to DVD market these days, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing if he can keep up the quality. This flick sees Lucas as the recipient of a recent heart transplant, but things go awry when the sound of his new heart beating begins to echo through his head and he sees visions of a murder. Which lead him to one of the murderers. Which leads him to revenge! Anyway, it’s a pretty straight-forward tale inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s story but with a solid ending all its own. The fantastic Brian Cox and the beautiful Lena Headey are along for the ride.
Extra Features? None
True Blood: The Complete Second Season
Pitch: Sookie! Sookie. Sookie! Sookie. Sookie! Sookie. Sookie! Sookie. Sookie! Just sounds silly and made-up now doesn’t it…
Why Rent? As if Louisiana didn’t already have enough problems with hurricanes, oil spills, and swamp gas, this HBO series tosses in a crawfish kettle’s worth of supernatural shenanigans too. Sookie Stack(ed)house is a goofy-toothed psychic waitress played by the terrible Anna Paquin, and her immortal love is Bill the vampire. Season one focused on their relationship and a serial killer in the bad luck town of Bon Temps, but season two goes absolutely nuts. Lady comes to town who can shimmy and shake and make everyone start rubbing their giblets together, vampire politics cross paths with religious extremists, and Bill continues to hone his skill at saying “Sookie!” like he really means it. And Sookie herself continues to be one of the most annoying characters on TV. Still some good gory fun though and worth catching up on Netflix before season three starts.
Extra Features? Commentaries, featurettes
Van Diemen’s Land (region 2)
Pitch: Tastes like chicken…
Why Rent? You’d think cannibalism is something that people in desperate situations would have to struggle with before settling in for a fleshy meal, but this true story shows us that isn’t always the case. It’s 1822, and a group of prisoners on the island of Tasmania have just escaped from their captors. They head off into an unforgiving landscape of harsh temperatures, scarce resources, and no end in sight. Soon the men turn on each other not out of rage but out of hunger… I first watched this Australian flick at last year’s Fantastic Fest (review here) and my opinion stands. It’s a beautiful and beautifully acted film that truly shows the hardship of trekking through the Tasmanian outback. But it fails to show why these men resorted to killing and eating each other so quickly. Definitely worth a watch though. (Like Instant Swamp above, this import DVD requires an all-region player.)
Extra Features? None
The Virginian: Complete First Season
Pitch: The old west as it really was when men were men, women were women, and fifteen year-old girls were women too…
Why Rent? Fans of old-school westerns will enjoy this first season of the legendary series for its scale and stories, but I’m recommending it for another reason as well. The first episode is hilarious. Unintentionally so, but still hilarious. A stranger comes to town to seek revenge for his father’s execution and he is the goofiest goddamn cowboy since Cleavon Little. And he may be a pedophile too. He gets a 15 year-old girl to rub his shoulders and blow on his hands, and he says things like “You’re a fine colt, and I’m gonna ride you now” and “I can do things with my body and hands…” He dances around like a dirty Dick Van Dyke and it’s some funny stuff. That plus the usual western shenanigans make this set worth a rental.
Extra Features? Interviews
Hoarders: The Complete Season One
Pitch: So do hoarders hoard garbage cans? And just not use them…
Why Avoid? Seriously. Why would you go out of your way to buy or rent this set? A whole season of depressing and f*cked up people crying because protective services is threatening to take their kids away from their dump of a house? Almost every episode features what amounts to child abuse in the form of these kids living in squalor because their mom buys everything and never throws anything away. Rotten food, boxes soaked in rat urine, animal droppings, hallways lined with unopened packages from Amazon.com… Open your eyes, clean that shit up, and start teaching your kids about responsibility before they become as messed up as you are. This is something you watch accidentally on a lazy afternoon, not something you intentionally seek out, pay for, and then sully your player with.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes
Pitch: You know a movie’s bad when not even Gary Oldman can save it…
Why Avoid? I wanted to like this movie, really I did. For one thing there’s the Oldman factor. And for another the director’s name is Max Mannix. How cool of a name is that? And he wrote one of my favorite films from 2008 too (Tokyo Sonata). But sadly, this thriller based on a novel by Barry Eisler is so poorly paced as to be the exact opposite of thrilling. Oldman plays a bad CIA chief who spends 3/4 of the movie in a control room yelling at his underlings and the plethora of computer screens around him as they try to track rogue agent John Rain and a missing memory stick!
Extra Features? Interviews
Pitch: Take the road less traveled and avoid this one…
Why Avoid? Yeah, I’m in the minority here. On the plus side, the movie is better than the book and probably the best film that could have been made from that source material. And there’s some pretty scenery. Other than that though this is a dull and lifeless movie. A father and a son roam an apocalyptic landscape looking for an elusive coast and the promise of safety from illness, starvation, cannibals, or worse. They walk, they come close to something happening, they avoid it, they walk some more… nothing happens here. And then it ends.
Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, featurette
Also out this week, but review material unavailable in advance: Babysitter Wanted, Dear John, Finale, The Hanged Man, The Landlord, New Town Killers, Owl and the Sparrow, Someone’s Knocking At the Door, Stagecoach (Criterion), White Wall
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?