Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and welcome to a mostly turkey-free edition of This Week In DVD. Two big releases hit shelves this week that on the surface couldn’t be further apart, but in actuality share at least two things in common… both Conan the Barbarian and Super 8 are fun but incredibly flawed. Also out this week are a couple forgettable horror movies from Asia, a mediocre film with a fantastic lead performance (or two), a must own Criterion title and more.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
The Adventures of Tintin: Season One
Young Tintin is an intrepid reporter constantly on the trail of bad deeds and bad guys as he sets out to solve mysteries along with his dog Snowy and a group of oddball friends and acquaintances. This short-lived series from the early nineties is loosely based on the classic French creation (and shares some specific story elements with the upcoming movie). The adventures are entertaining and filled with action, and they feature elements that never talk down to kids including murder, drug smuggling, alcoholism and more. So yeah, it’s my kind of cartoon.
12 Angry Men (Criterion)
Pitch: Juries belong in movies, not in courtrooms…
Why Buy? Twelve men head into the jury room to deliberate the fate of a young ethnic man accused of killing his father. All but one of the jurors are already convinced of the man’s guilt, but #8 (Henry Fonda) thinks the matter is worth discussing and proceeds to work his way through the others. Sidney Lumet’s feature debut is probably one of the finest single-room films ever made, and it’s a veritable master class on acting and screenwriting. In addition to Fonda the film features several more memorable faces including Martin Balsam, Jack Klugman, EG Marshall, Lee J Cobb and Jack Warden. Check out Cole Abaius’ Old Ass Movies entry here.
Conan the Barbarian
Pitch: Guaranteed to be better on DVD thanks to the lack of 3-D…
Why Rent? Robert E Howard’s most famous character gets a reboot in Marcus Nispel’s gory, goofy, violent film starring Jason Momoa as the legendary Cimmerian warrior. This remake avoids the serious tone and artistic touches of the Arnold Schwarzenegger “classic” but still manages to entertain. Granted, that’s all it does and all it wants to do. The action is well choreographed, the women are often topless, and the comedy is occasionally on the nose. (That last one will make more sense once you’ve seen the movie.) It’s big, dumb entertainment. Check out my full review here.
The Devil’s Double
Pitch: It’s like The Parent Trap, only with dictators and murder and stuff…
Why Rent? Everyone knows Saddam Hussein employed body doubles, but less well known is the fact that at least one of his sons did too. This fact-based (but probably loose) film explores Uday’s forced employment of a man named Latif to be his double, and it stars Dominic Cooper in both roles. There’s a hint of the isolation and sadness that inhabits both men, but for the most part the film is focused on the action, terror and debauchery. The best thing about the film, aside from Cooper’s stellar performance, is the poster/DVD cover art. That said, it’s a fun enough watch that offers a glimpse into the mad world of a Middle Eastern dictator.
Marvel Knights: Collection
Pitch: For folks who like their comics to move…
Why Rent? The Marvel Knights animation series continues to find solid and engaging stories from the comic world and then bring them to life in atmospheric and polished motion comics. This set collects five of the series including Astonishing X-Men, Black Panther, Iron Man, Spider Woman and Thor & Loki, and they come from some of the best writers around including Joss Whedon, Warren Ellis, Brian Michael Bendis and more. The only real negative here is that for some reason the titles in the box set have been packaged in traditional DVD snap cases instead of the thin and stylish hard-paper cases they were originally released with. It makes for an unnecessarily bulky set.
Pitch: Where’s my Super 8MM mash-up? Could be the world’s first snuff film with lens flare…
Why Rent? A group of kids unwittingly record evidence of “something” while making a movie on a Super 8 camera, and soon their small town finds itself ground zero in a battle between the military and this previously unknown visitor. Director/writer JJ Abrams has crafted two thirds of a good movie here, but he drops the ball in a third act filled with inane set pieces, logical gaps, and an unearned emotional ending. It’s easily the weakest of his three features so far, but in his quest to become Steven Spielberg he at least got the spectacle and precocious kids right. Check out Abaius’ full review here.
Conan the Adventurer: Season Two Part 1
Pitch: No gore and no nudity but plenty of cartoon action…
Why Avoid? Conan’s early nineties animated adventures see him traveling the world in search of a cure for his stoned family. See, they’ve been turned to stone. His nemesis, Wrath-Amon, is a reptilian baddie capable of magic and evil deeds. The series eliminates Conan’s historical penchant for violence and sex… it is a cartoon for kids after all, but that’s not the reason this is marked as an Avoid. This column has a long standing policy towards TV season releases done in parts… as in there’s no reason for them aside from simple cash grabs. Shout! Factory released season one in its entirety, and they’ll do the same with season two eventually. Wait for that. Skip it and watch Conan the Barbarian instead.
Pitch: “Boo” in any language is still “boo”…
Why Avoid? The old Changi Hospital in Singapore is reportedly haunted by the ghosts dead patients and war prisoners, and one group of young filmmakers is determined to discover if tehre’s any truth to the rumors. They head into the building hoping to make history, but fate and the undead may have different plans for them. We’ve seen this film before many times and usually done better. While it doesn’t really work for various reasons there is a certain appeal to seeing the topic explored by way of the country’s local history… just not enough of an appeal to recommend it. Check out my full review here. Skip it and watch Grave Encounters instead.
Pitch: See? I don’t give a pass to things simply because they feature attractive Asian women…
Why Avoid? Japan is a divided country as a wall separates humanity from zombies. Into this unfortunate world comes a girl betrayed by her mother and forced to confront the zombie problem in order to save herself and her people. Director Yoshihiro Nishimura is no stranger to over the top comedic gore fests, but his latest is almost a complete misstep. For one thing, a movie filled with this much blood and violence shouldn’t be so goddamn boring and drawn out. The story is convoluted, the characters are far from engaging, and teh tone is unpleasant at best. The third act does feature something pretty damn cool though straight out of a Clive Barker short story (“In the Hills the Cities” in particular), but it isn’t enough to save the movie. Check out Abaius’ full review here. Skip it and watch Tokyo Gore Police instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
The Family Tree
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?