Join us each week as Rob Hunter 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.
And remember, these listings and category placements are meant as informational conversation starters only. But you can still tell Hunter how wrong he is in the comment section below. This week sees the arrival of a damn entertaining British series called Luther and the long-awaited DVD debut of The Six Million Dollar Man as well as The Expendables, Eat Pray Love, I’m Still Here, and more.
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 for reviews on the latest high definition Blu-ray releases!
Pitch: Maybe more series should limit themselves to fewer episodes per season so they don’t risk overstaying their welcome…
Why Buy? This six episode series about an emotionally unstable London-based detective named John Luther features stand-alone eps, but the over arching storyline includes a recent separation from his wife and a sociopath who develops an odd relationship with him. This is easily one of the best new shows of 2010, and along with Sherlock continues to show the BBC as source for entertaining and fascinating shows. Luther is an engaging creation who both embraces and exceeds simple cliché, and while his relationship with the sociopath echoes Silence Of the Lambs the show wisely never overdoes her appearances. The stories are often nutty and occasionally over the top, but the series is never less than wonderfully acted and highly watchable.
Extra Features? Making of
Pitch: Yeah, I’m as surprised as you are to see this in the BUY section…
Why Buy? Jerome Robbins created NY Export: Opus Jazz in 1958, and it was a huge success in the US and abroad. The mix of jazz score and lively and evocative dance struck a chord with audiences, but the years since have seen this particular “story in dance” disappear from general public awareness. Now I am no fan of jazz, and generally speaking I’m just as uninterested in dance. I fully expected to turn this DVD off in utter boredom less than a few minutes in… but instead I was fairly mesmerized by this modern day, faithful interpretation by members of the NYC Ballet. In all honesty the opening shot of an attractive Euro-Asian woman in bikini bottoms and wet suit top caught my eye at first, but the film managed (against all odds) to hold that attention throughout. The camera and choreography work in brilliant rhythm to create a visually exciting and surprisingly sensual experience. It won’t get me to start watching artsy fartsy shite on PBS, but I will be putting this disc on repeat while I dance clean around the apartment.
Extra Features? Jerome Robbins’ Ballets: USA, making of
Pitch: Should go without saying that this set is for extremely enthusiastic fans only…
Why Buy? A test pilot is injured in a crash and has his broken parts rebuilt with machinery. The first bionic hero remains the best as Lee Majors stars in this TV hit from the mid to late seventies. This has been the fourth most requested TV show for DVD release, and it finally arrives in fantastic form from TimeLife. The cool and practical case features a lenticular image on the cover and an audio chip that plays when opened, and includes six DVD hardcases inside, one for each of the five seasons and one for additional extras. The episodes are digitally restored and look as good as can be expected. The boxset isn’t cheap, but if you or someone you know is a big huge enormous fan of the show this is a must-have release.
Extra Features? Three pilot movies, all 100 episodes, three reunion movies, interviews, featurettes, commentaries,
Pitch: If someone kidnapped Gemma Arterton there’s really no guarantee anyone would pay to get her back…
Why Rent? Two men kidnap a young woman and set about getting a ransom for her safe return. This is a tight and effective little thriller that limits the action to three characters and almost a singular location. There are some nice twists and turns to be found here as well as three strong performances including a sharp turn by the always reliable Eddie Marsan. And if you’re a fan of nudity Miss Arterton is happy to oblige there as well. (Check out my full review here.)
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, featurette, outtakes, commentary
Pitch: “You guys aren’t gonna start sucking each others dicks now are ya?” [insert trademarked Bruce Willis smirk here…]
Why Rent? A group of mercenaries accept a job in some Central American country but soon find they’ve been deceived. Sylvester Stallone’s latest film as director and star is the R-rated companion to this year’s one-two punch of The Losers and The A-Team. It’s just as silly and unrealistic as those two, but features better and bloodier action. The dialogue is often cheesy and very few of the jokes succeed, in fact the only legitimate laughs come from a very brief scene featuring Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the action makes it worth a watch. Even if some of the bloody bits are done via CGI. (Check out Neil Miller’s full review here.)
Extra Features? Commentary, featurette, deleted scene, gag reel, trailer
Pitch: I expected a film about Sam Rockwell coaching a girls’ team to be a bit raunchier…
Why Rent? An alcoholic ex-coach is brought out of retirement to guide a high school girls basketball team to victory. Sam Rockwell is the heart of this film and delivers another standout performance while the movie itself is a solid if unassuming little film focusing on relationships between coach and players. Some of the familiar faces include Emma Roberts, Rooney Mara, and Rob Corddrey. (Check out Neil Miller’s full review here.)
Extra Features? None
Pitch: Ten years before Kevin James would besmirch the title for his own nefarious purposes Sam Neill released this drama…
Why Rent? Sam Neill plays a zookeeper looking after an abandoned zoo in war torn Eastern Europe. His attempts to stay out of trouble and the politics of it all are tested when a young boy and his mother arrive in need of sanctuary. Neill gives a strong and heartfelt performance as a man tested by turbulent times and forced to face his own limitations. This often bleak tale is based on a true story and reveals both the best and the worst our species has to offer. The best being Neill’s character and the worst being the annoying as hell little shit that comes to stay with him.
Extra Features? Trailer, behind the scenes
Pitch: The least exciting post-apocalyptic adventure since The Road…
Why Avoid? Five years after a nuclear attack one man roams the wasteland looking for the wife who left him. This is a tough call as it’s a borderline RENT for me. The filmmakers are obviously sincere, and one of the characters (Jax) is pretty damn entertaining, but… this is one dull flick. Roughly a quarter of it consists of flashback sequences that rarely add up to anything worthwhile dramatically. The remainder of the film is a mix of dialogue heavy scenes and poorly staged action. For fans of the genre only.
Extra Features? Commentary, making of, trailer
Pitch: Bitch Moan Whine…
Why Avoid? A woman in the midst of an existential crisis decides to runaway from her first world problems by visiting Italy, India, and Indonesia. Julia Roberts stars as real life author Elizabeth Gilbert, but she’s not enough to save this character or film. Gilbert whines about relationships, treats men poorly, and defines “finding herself” as following the instructions of a toothless old man. And no one in the goddamn movie says thank you! She gives a woman $15k for a house but gets no thank you! The singular positive element of this film is Billy Crudup as the first man Gilbert dumps. He’s funny, sweet, and heartfelt… everything this movie isn’t. (Check out Robert Levin’s full review here.)
Extra Features? Featurette
Pitch: “A visually spectacular fantasy adventure from the director of Catwoman…”
Why Avoid? A fire dragon appears over the kingdom of Carpia, so a spunky princess and a rugged hero-type decide to resurrect a fearsome ice dragon to fight back. They apparently misread the old saying about fighting fire with fire. I’m not clear on the origins of this film and am too lazy to look it up, but it looks like a made for TV film… perhaps of the SyFy variety. The dragon design is fairly cool, but the effects throughout are less than impressive. That combined with the obvious story make for eighty-five minutes of meh.
Extra Features? Making of
Pitch: And nobody cares…
Why Avoid? This doc purports to follow Joaquin Phoenix’s much publicized retirement from acting. It was clear from the beginning that this was a hoax, but some folks apparently bought into it until Phoenix and director Casey Affleck acknowledged it was a fake. The question is what effect does it have on the viewing if you know the doc is part of a shtick? The “car crash” element is no longer present, so the movie has to entertain on content alone. And it doesn’t. Unlike similar faux-docs like Borat, there is little to no entertainment value here. There are no laughs (aside from his Letterman appearance we’ve already seen), and instead we’re stuck with an annoying, rambling, and obnoxious windbag with bad hair.
Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, featurette, outtakes
In the interest of full disclosure, I received review copies of the following DVDs for this week’s column:
The Disappearance Of Alice Creed
Fire & Ice: The Dragon Chronicles
I’m Still Here
NY Export: Opus Jazz
The Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Collection
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
2010: Moby Dick
Countdown To Zero
I Spit On Your Naked Corpse
The Pillars Of the Earth
The Tudors: The Complete Series
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?