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Rob Hunter loves movies.  He also loves his job as a CPA who occasionally finds a little mystery thrown his way. 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!

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dvd-andybarkerpiAndy Barker P.I.: The Complete Series

Pitch: The short-lived adventures of a late-night talk show sidekick who gets mistaken for a detective…

Why Buy? Andy Richter is a funny guy, but he’s had more failed TV series than Nathan Fillion. One of those commercial failures featured Richter as a CPA who becomes an amateur detective. With a stellar supporting cast including Tony Hale, Harve Presnell, and Clea Lewis, the show managed to be hilarious each and every episode. Sadly, there were only six episodes… Shout Factory’s new DVD set includes all six along with some impressive extras for such a short-lived series. The gag reel alone is priceless just to see the clean-cut Richter say “fuck!” many, many times.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? Commentaries, featurettes, gag reel

dvd-moonukMoon (UK)

Pitch: Who knew the Brits would reach the Moon almost two months before the US…

Why Buy? Some of you may be checking your release date calendars right now and wondering what exactly I’m smoking as I write up this column. The US release of Moon (both DVD and Blu-ray) isn’t until January 12th, 2010, but the Brits got it yesterday! The good news is that you can too if you don’t mind a few extra bucks shipping to get it across the ocean. The UK blu-ray is an all-region release meaning it will play on any Blu-ray player including a Playstation3. This is a fantastic little sci-fi debut from writer/director Duncan Jones and anchored by another stellar performance from Sam Rockwell. Neil Miller loved it way back in January (review here), and now you can too.

Blu-ray? This is my Blu-ray Pick of the Week!

Extra Features? Commentary, featurettes

dvd-startrekStar Trek

Pitch: For every 1,701 remakes/reboots that get released each year, there’s always at least one that stands out as being even better than the original. This is that film for 2009…

Why Buy? This flick ended up being one of my favorite cinematic surprises this year. There were several better films, but few I expected so little of before seeing. There’s almost universal acclaim for the film from critics (FSR’s review here) and fans alike (KangarooBeStoned being one of the rare exceptions). Sure you can nitpick little details here and there, but there’s just no getting around how damn entertaining the movie is. JJ Abrams has crafted a fantastic piece of pop entertainment that bodes very well indeed for the future of the franchise. (If I hadn’t already picked my Blu-ray of the week above, this would have been it. Check out Neil Miller’s exhaustive Blu-ray review here.)

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? Deleted scenes, commentary, featurettes, gag reel

dvd-stevecoogancollectionThe Steve Coogan Collection

Pitch: Think you’ve seen all of Steve Coogan’s comedic glory? Think again…

Why Buy? Who knew this guy had a career before Tropic Thunder? Kidding. I knew, but I just didn’t realize it was so damn extensive.  This extremely comprehensive set covers pretty much his entire BBC career from Paul & Pauline Calf’s Video Diaries to his most famous creation, talk show host Alan partridge. Eight TV series and several hours worth of bonus material are spread across fourteen (!) dvds guaranteeing even the most devoted Coogan fan will find something new here. Of course, all the content in England wouldn’t matter if it was all shite… luckily Coogan is funny as hell in almost everything he does.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? Commentaries, featurettes

dvd-thirstThirst

Pitch: A stylish and bloody vampire film for adults. Kinky, fun-loving adults…

Why Buy? In a world besieged by sparkling vampires that do more moping and sulking than ravishing and blood sucking, Park Chan-wook’s ode to those who crave the sticky red stuff is a breath of fresh air. Park’s style and dark sense of humor are all over this film about a priest who becomes a vampire. As if dealing with a newly discovered thirst for blood wasn’t bad enough, he’s also developed a fairly strong libido… luckily he meets a very attractive married woman. Unluckily she may be even more dangerous than he is. (My review here)

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? None

dvd-section-rent

dvd-brunoBruno

Pitch: A gay, Austrian fashionista comes to America solely to piss off Harrison Ford…

Why Rent? This is an odd bird. I saw a sneak preview of about twenty minutes of footage back at SXSW (here) and it was hilarious. I literally had tears in my eyes from laughing. But when the movie actually released this past summer something had changed. Maybe it was the fact that the scenes we saw had been trimmed down for the feature. Maybe the humor just wasn’t as funny the second time around. Or maybe the film’s overly planned structure and screenplay didn’t feature enough raw and unpredictable moments. Watching the movie now I can only manage a few laughs, but your mileage may vary. The extras add a few more laughs as well, so it’s worth a rental.

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? Deleted scenes, commentary, featurette

dvd-downhillracerDownhill Racer (Criterion Collection)

Pitch: It’s no Better Off Dead, but it’s still a fascinating look into the world of competitive skiing…

Why Rent? Maybe ‘fascinating’ is a bit too strong, but it is interesting at least. Robert Redford plays a cocky Olympic skier and Gene Hackman is his coach. Both men are incredible actors so you can watch it for them alone, but director Michael Ritchie also manages to make downhill skiing look exciting and dangerous. It’s a movie worth watching, and if you’re going to watch it may as well be the Criterion.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? Featurettes

dvd-evilutionEvilution

Pitch: Zombies and a clever combination of two words mashed together into a brand new one? Irresistible…

Why Rent? Maybe I’m being nicer to this movie than I normally would, but thanks to last night’s arrival of Left4Dead 2 on my PC I’m in a zombie-loving (and zombie-killing) mood. There’s nothing new here, but the zombies and the carnage they wreak look good and bloody. What more could you want? Sure, sure, a better script, better actors, blah blah blah. Just enjoy the zombie mayhem!

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? None

dvd-franklynFranklyn

Pitch: Real-world drama concerning three Londoners dealing with depression, loss, and suicidal thoughts. Oh, and there’s a masked vigilante in a Dystopian alternate reality too…

Why Rent? This is an example of great concept/poor execution, but the concept is enough to make it worth watching. The story moves between a London we recognize where we meet a suicidal woman, a depressed man, and an older man searching for his missing son. But there’s also an alternate London, one where religion has become mandatory, atheism is outlawed, and a masked avenger stalks the streets looking to beat the snot out of some club-carrying priests. Interesting, odd, and often beautiful to look at, the film doesn’t manage to to pull it all together cohesively.

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? None

dvd-sunnychristmasIt’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas

Pitch: The gang explores the meaning of Christmas, and no part of the holiday is safe. Especially Santa Claus…

Why Rent? This show continues to be one of the funniest on TV, and I would normally have recommended any release from it as a Buy… but this lists at $27 for what amounts to a 43 minute extended episode. So rent this one and wait for the next full season DVD release which will most likely include this as well.

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? None

dvd-mysisterskeeperMy Sister’s Keeper

Pitch: Parents with a dying daughter choose to bring a second child into the world to act as a living organ donor…

Why Rent? I didn’t really like this movie all that much, but the premise is incredibly interesting. Sure it’s played more for the melodrama than the ethical debate, but it’s still a pretty good conversation starter. If you can handle the emotional manipulation and the atrocious acting of Cameron Diaz then you may want to give it a shot. Or as Kevin Carr says in his review (here), you’ll like it if you “looooooooooove tear-jerkers.”

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? Deleted scenes

dvd-theopenroadThe Open Road

Pitch: A father and son who’ve grown apart embark on a cross-country road trip! Two cliches for the price of one…

Why Rent? Jeff Bridges gives yet another thoughtful and impressive performance here as a famous retired baseball player who had let the game and the fame steer him away from his family. Justin Timberlake isn’t bad as his son trying to get him across the country to see their wife/mother in the hospital. A few laughs and a bit of heart make for an okay little film.

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? Commentary, featurettes

dvd-romecompleteseriesRome: The Complete Series

Pitch: Swords and sandals and sex! It was an HBO series after all…

Why Rent? I didn’t catch this show when it actually ran on HBO, but catching up with it now I can finally see what the critical fuss was all about. Engaging characters, fantastic acting, beautiful set design and CGI work, and some very deep and detailed story lines make this a show that will capture your attention.

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? Commentaries, featurettes

dvd-vampirepartyVampire Party

Pitch: We know the French can do hardcore horror better than most, but how about the horror/comedy…

Why Rent? Turns out they’re pretty good at this too. A group of friends worm their way into a high class party in a large mansion outside of town, but soon discover the revelers are divided into two groups… party guests and party snacks. One guess which group are friends are on. The laughs are solid, the effects are limited but well done, and the great Tcheky Karyo stars as the lead vampire. Side note, the French title translates to The Teeth of the Night which is a lot better than the generic American one.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? None

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dvd-basementjackBasement Jack

Pitch: An abused child grows up to become a serial killer. He gets points for killing sans mask though like most movie psychos…

Why Avoid? But he loses those points two-thirds of the way in when he inexplicably starts wearing a mask anyway. That’s a quibble, but the film’s major flaw that I can’t forgive is the use and abuse of CGI. A stabbing should never be accomplished via CGI, yet every single knife attack here is done with a computer. Knife through the head? CGI. Knife through the chest? CGI. So sad. There’s only a handful of practical effects visible here, and that’s inexcusable Mr. Jack.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? None

dvd-hangerHanger

Pitch: The product of a motel abortion is tossed in a dumpster and comes back for revenge eighteen years later…

Why Avoid? Ugh. The director of one of my least favorite Canadian films (Ryan Nicholson, Gutterballs) returns with another lowest common denominator flick filled with bad acting, explicit behaviors, and solid effects. A prostitute is given an abortion by her pimp, the fetus grows up and goes looking for the pimp, prosthetically ugly people fill the screen… blech. Skip it.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? Deleted scenes, commentary, featurettes

dvd-humpdayHumpday

Pitch: Two guy friends grow bored in their search for the clitoris and decide to go for the easy O instead…

Why Avoid? Two guys ramble on and on to each other. Occasionally other characters join in on the rambling. Miller liked it (review here) a lot more than I did, but that probably says more about him than anything else.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? Deleted scenes, commentary, featurette

dvd-limitsofcontrolThe Limits of Control

Pitch: A mysterious man meets other mysterious people in Spain. The real mystery though is how this movie could be so incredibly boring…

Why Avoid? Seriously, it’s mind boggling how boring this film is. It’s basically a character going from A to B by way of the rest of the alphabet. (My review here) It looks beautiful thanks to cinematographer Christopher Doyle, and the talent on display is fairly hefty including Bill Murray, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, and Gael Garcia Bernal. One of the film’s few saving graces is a bespectacled and naked Paz De La Huarte as one of the many oddballs Isaach De Bankole meets as he walks his way towards a somewhat obvious conclusion.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? Featurette

dvd-samuraiprincessSamurai Princess

Pitch: Scantily-clad Asian chick kicks ass. On a budget of $12 US…

Why Avoid? With that pitch above you may be surprised to see me recommend you avoid it. But I have some standards people, and one of them is that a movie shouldn’t look like it’s budget came from the coins found underneath couch cushions.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? None

dvd-taintlightTaintlight

Pitch: High-brow satire this is not…

Why Avoid? There’s exactly one gag that works in this spoof of the Twilight franchise, and it involves a mime pretending to talk on an imaginary cell phone while driving an imaginary car. It’s funny, and I laughed, but it was a lonely chuckle with nothing but silence and sighs to keep it company for the rest of the run time. That gag aside, the creativity and humor in this amateurish (but sincere) movie starts and stops with the title.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? Commentary, featurettes

dvd-trainTrain

Pitch: Some American Turistas mistake a moving train for a Hostel

Why Avoid? Thora Birch is the weakest link on an American wrestling team traveling in Eastern Europe, and when the group misses their train out of town they’re forced to settle for a less luxurious form of rail transport.  Cue massive amounts of blood, gore, and stupidity… the first two are actually the only things this dumb movie has going for it. From the opening credits to the final scenes we’re witness to copious amounts of the red stuff and some very well done practical gore effects. But the characters are impossible to like or care for, the plot is simply Hostel on wheels, and the predictable survivor does so by using an inexplicably effective wrestling move.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? None

Read More: This Week in DVD

What are you buying on DVD this week?


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