This Week in DVDAnother week, another pretty solid group of DVD titles released for your viewing pleasure. Our wallets and bank accounts will be a lot happier this week too as compared to last Tuesday when the number of DVDs worth buying numbered eight. Eight! That’s more than most DVD columns feature in their entirety! But like I said, this week is filled with rentals (and one title worth buying) including Crazy Stupid Love, Cars 2, Bunraku, Trespass and more.

As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.

The Adventures of Mark Twain (UK)

“Naked people have little to no influence in this society.” So says the always wise and wonderful Mark Twain as captured in clay in this funny and whimsical claymation adventure. The film mixes bits and pieces of several of Twain’s works, short and long, into an adventure that sees Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Becky Thatcher join Mr Samuel Clemens himself on a steam powered airship across the sky. Twain is hoping to find Halley’s Comet so he can end his life in its flames, but the children attempt to convince him that he still has much to offer mankind and that mankind has much to offer him. Fanciful visuals and eminently quotable observations from Twain’s writing make this a fun film that speaks to kids as well as adults. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD which requires either a region-free player or the willingness to watch on your PC.**

Crazy Stupid Love

Pitch: Funny funny funny…

Why Buy? Cal (Steve Carell) discovers that his wife (Julianne Moore) had an affair and soon finds himself a newly minted bachelor. His efforts on the singles scene mark him as an amateur and quickly get him noticed by a playboy named Jacob (Ryan Gosling) who takes him under his perfectly toned wing to turn him into a proper player. Emma Stone is also thrown into the mix as a young woman dealing with her own relationship foibles. This film from the directors of I Love You Phillip Morris got a mixed reaction in theaters, but I personally found it incredibly funny from beginning to (highly contrived) end. Everyone does a great job here, but special mention goes to Gosling who turns in the most entertaining performance of his career.

Black Moon Rising

Pitch: Written by John Carpenter! Kind of…

Why Rent? A thief (Tommy Lee Jones) is forced by the FBI to steal some information, but when he’s almost captured he hides the data in a super cool prototype car called Black Moon. Things get even more complicated when another thief, a much hotter thief (Linda Hamilton), steals the car. Carpenter didn’t direct this mid-eighties effort, but it’s still a fun piece of cheesy action (even though little of his original story remains). There are a handful of fight scenes and car chases, and while neither are done exceptionally well they’re still entertaining enough. Fans who consider themselves Carpenter completists will want to check it out as will fans of Hamilton’s boobs.

Bunraku

Pitch: The original title was Bukkake until the writers discovered that nonsense word was already taken…

Why Rent? Future society has attempted to stamp out increasing global violence by outlawing guns and projectile weapons of all kinds. In their place grows a more honorable system of fisticuffs, swordplay, and paper mache storytelling. Two strangers (Josh Hartnett and Gackt) enter a small town and reluctantly join forces to bring down the big baddie (Ron Perlman) who’s been making everyone’s life miserable. Guy Moshe’s film is a highly stylized western that takes some getting used to but eventually finds its own rhythms and strengths. The acting from the leads as well as Woody Harrelson, Demi Moore, Kevin McKidd, and others is equally non-naturalistic, but it suits the style and format the film is using. If nothing else the film is visually stimulating enough to warrant a watch.

Californication: The Fourth Season

Pitch: Fourth verse, same as the first! Well, same as the second anyway…

Why Rent? Hank Moody (David Duchovny) continues his booze and babe-filled journey through life trying to balance his much desired home life with wife and daughter against his unquenchable ego and libido. The fourth season sees Hank facing his day in court over the unintentional statutory rape charge that occurred in the first episode of the first season. The series continues to be raunchy and funny in equal measure, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it’s lost some of its heart along the way. Still, Duchovny is always worth watching.

Hot Coffee

Pitch: So you’re saying I shouldn’t put a paper cup filled with scalding hot coffee between my legs while driving? I’m sorry, I thought this was America…

Why Rent? Remember the woman who burned her thighs with McDonald’s coffee she got from a drive-thru who then sued the fast food chain and won millions of dollars? Well it turns out that what you remember is only part of the truth, and how big or small of a part may just surprise you. Director Susan Saladoff’s film looks at this case and three others that have been deemed by many as frivolous attempts to squeeze corporations for money. It goes a bit too far at times in diminishing personal responsibility, but it also sheds a much needed light on the real crime here… the reduction and elimination of our rights as citizens in the face of big business.

The Last Mountain

Pitch: Fails to answer the question as to which Baldwin brother Robert F Kennedy Jr. is equivalent to…

Why Rent? The Appalachian mountains of West Virginia are the setting for this documentary that pits activists and residents against the powers of large coal companies wanting to blow up mountain tops in search of the black stuff. The resulting damage to the environment, streams, and surrounding wildlife becomes a point of contention when weighed against the prospect of jobs and the potential profits to be made. Like Hot Coffee above, this doc takes a clear stand on the side of the little guy while at the same time showing how fruitless a position that can ultimately be.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Pitch: They’re sisters from different misters…

Why Rent? Two friends who’ve grown apart in modern day Shanghai experience a tragedy that leads one to reflect on a similar bond between two other sworn sisters who lived centuries before. Wayne Wang brings this tale to the screen with the same skill and honest affection he applied towards The Joy Luck Club, although this film may not resonate as strongly with some viewers. The story is less about family than it is about friendships and bonds that feel just as strong as ones of blood. It’s fairly bleak at times, but the ending (and a cameo from a certain Australian actor) make it worth a watch for fans of chick flicks, foot binding, and/or solid relationship dramas.

Tabloid

Pitch: Love comes in all shapes, sizes, and degrees of insanity…

Why Rent? Director Errol Morris delivers a documentary about obsession, love, and bondage, and does it all with humor and mentally deranged heart. Joyce McKinney was a former beauty queen contestant who fell madly in love with a Mormon man and followed him across the Atlantic Ocean. Where she promptly kidnapped him, raped him, and set him free. Or not. Her story gets weirder and weirder as it goes on, and McKinney’s present day interview segments prove that the unpredictable wackiness hasn’t worn off over the decades. The truth is hard to pin down, but the entertainment value is on display for all to see and enjoy.

Trespass

Pitch: Directed by Joel Schumacher! Starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman! Straight to DVD! Oh, wait…

Why Rent? Kyle and Sarah Miller (Cage and Kidman) seem to have a perfect relationship, but beneath the surface they have more than a few issues. Four more problems walk into their lives in the form of a quartet of home invaders after diamonds and cash in Kyle’s safe, but the evening isn’t about to go according to plan for anyone involved. Cage gives a muted performance here in comparison to many of his recent ones, but he does give an occasional glimpse into nasal craziness. The twists and turns are often predictable, but there are some solidly entertaining bits and the presence of Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom) as one of the burglars can’t hurt either. Far worse movies make it into theaters every week, so it’s anyone’s guess why this one went straight to DVD.

Cars 2

Pitch: This is what a billion dollars in merchandising profits gets you…

Why Avoid? Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen takes backseat to Larry the Cable Guy’s Mater in this mix of race cars, spy vs spy action, and utter stupidity. I haven’t seen the first film, so I can’t speak to this being better or worse, but aside from a pretty stellar and exciting opening scene this movie is an unfunny and boring dud. Wilson’s no charisma giant, but he’s sorely missed here as he’s relegated to second fiddle behind Larry’s ignorant redneck of a truck. Skip it and check out Ronin instead. Or A Bug’s Life.

An Invisible Sign

Pitch: It’s Honey meets A Beautiful Mind! Well, you’ll wish it was anyway…

Why Avoid? A young girl’s childhood is emotionally stunted when her father has a stroke (or something resembling a stroke). She gives up everything that makes her happy and grows up to become Jessica Alba with bangs. This well intentioned but ultimately misguided and miscast effort sees Alba as an introverted (and occasionally mentally challenged it seems) woman who becomes a teacher who discovers her love of math can overcome any obstacle. Or something. It’s not good. And while I consider myself an Alba fan even I’ll acknowledge that dowdy and sincere are not her strong points. Chris Messina and JK Simmons add some charisma to this otherwise lackluster tale. Skip it and check out Idle Hands instead.

Victorious: Season One Volume Two

Pitch: You shouldn’t do that on television DVDs…

Why Avoid? A school for the arts in Los Angeles is home to an oddball group of cool kids and good friends. There’s also a kid with a puppet. Regardless of the quality of this show it’s the policy of this column not to support such clear, obvious and unnecessary money grabs as this. A TV season is easily released in its entirety, but Nickelodeon insists on putting out their shows piecemeal in an effort to maximize profit. Seasons are split into two three releases… the first half, the second half, and the whole thing. Even the far superior iCarly went this route, and those too are releases worth avoiding. That said, Victorious is a lackluster and unfunny show. Skip it and check out any full season of iCarly instead.

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and/or I have no blind opinion:

Water for Elephants

Read More: This Week in DVD

What are you buying on DVD this week?


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