This week sees a first in the history of the column… at least I think it’s a first. Not only are there no new DVDs worth buying this week, but there are also none worth avoiding. It’s an all rental week here at the West Coast offices of FSR! That may be because this is a fairly light week of releases in general which is odd considering the proximity to Christmas, but just because the pickings are slim doesn’t mean they’re not worth watching.
The DVD pick of the week is the surprisingly funny, dirty, and sweet romantic comedy Going the Distance. You shamefully missed in theaters… but now have a second chance to watch in the comfort of your own home and in the arms of someone you love to play with naked. Also out this week? Part three of the emotionally vacant Twilight series, Eclipse! Nicolas Cage playing with his wand in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice! Tom Cruise in Knight and Day, the better than expected action comedy with worse than expected CGI! Two documentaries about Walt Disney that both avoid the subject of cryogenics! 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!
Nothing I’ve seen worth buying on DVD this week, but head over to Miller’s Blu-ray column to see the ass kicking title making its US debut on that format.
Pitch: Imagine Before Sunrise with two fifty year olds instead of two hipsters…
Why Rent? A woman (Patricia Clarkson) arrives in Egypt’s capital expecting to meet her husband but is instead greeted by his acquaintance, Tareq (Alexander Siddig). He keeps her company over the next several days as she awaits her diplomat husband, and slowly the two develop a relationship neither expected. Clarkson and Siddig both shine here and converse so naturally you’d believe the two were truly captured just spending time together and learning about each other. The film’s third star is the city of Cairo and portions of Egypt around it… some beautiful images and cinematography. There’s a story here, but it’s a subtle one, and instead the film is more of a character piece about two people discovering secrets about themselves they thought died with their youth.
Extra Features? Trailer, alternate ending, commentary, making of, Q&A, short films
Pitch: Sure it’s a ripoff of Nicolas Cage’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but it’s still worth a watch…
Why Rent? Disney’s 1940 animated film meshes colorful shorts with recognizable pieces of classical music, and of course it’s best known for the sequence featuring Mickey Mouse fighting a flood caused by a bunch of headstrong mops. The other shorts are less charismatic, but they all play well with the accompanying music. My personal favorite is Mussorgsky’s building and booming Night On Bald Mountain, and it’s not just because it makes for fantastic fornication music. It’s mostly that, but not only that. This double-stuffed DVD also comes with the slightly less memorable but still interesting Fantasia 2000.
Extra Features? Commentary, featurette
Pitch: “Why is there not one baby pigeon in this city, anywhere?” Finally, a film that dares to ask the tough questions…
Why Rent? A fantastic blend of romance and raunch! Justin Long and Drew Barrymore play a young couple who meet and fall for each other but are soon faced with the prospect of dealing with a long distance relationship. Both actors have teased the line of annoyance in recent years, but they’ve never been better than they are here. They’re both funny, sweet, and surprisingly foul mouthed, and the supporting cast including Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Ron Livingston, and Jim Gaffigan are equally entertaining. Seriously, I know your gut reaction will be to avoid this flick but you’d be doing yourself a big disservice. This is a rare case of a romantic comedy that merges a talented and appealing cast with a smart and often hilarious screenplay. I’m actually buying a copy for myself so if you’re still not convinced it’s worth a rent you can swing by my place and we can watch it together. Of course, we’ll have to watch it naked…
Extra Features? Deleted scenes
Pitch: Tom Cruise passed the Salt and settled on something that could be metaphorically construed as pepper…
Why Rent? A mild mannered woman played by the always annoying Cameron Diaz meets a short, dark, stranger (Tom Cruise) who claims to be a secret agent and proceeds to take her on an international adventure. Cruise dropped out of Philip Noyce’s more conventional action thriller to star in this much more comedic one for director James Mangold, and the results are mixed. It’s a fun movie and filled with some solid laughs and action set pieces, but it also stars Diaz and features some truly bad effects during a motorcycle chase late in the film. Cruise’s newly found comedic chops make up for it though, and fans of lightweight entertainment should definitely give the movie a chance.
Extra Features? Making of, music video, trailer, two terrible attempts at “funny” viral marketing
Pitch: Watch this again while we wait for NBC to get off their ass and broadcast season three…
Why Rent? A wacky and disgruntled group of employees in a Pawnee, Indiana municipal building work their daily 9 to 5’s for our entertainment. This show is the least spoken of part of NBC’s Three Pronged Thursday Night Assault Of Laughs, but it holds its own against Community and handily beats The Office when it comes to best ensemble cast and most laughs per episode. If you haven’t been watching it, shame on you, but here’s your chance to catch up before the new season starts next year. Why it hasn’t started already is a mystery to me as NBC has instead foisted the terribly unfunny Outsourced onto us, but I’m looking forward to its triumphant return all the same.
Extra Features? None
Pitch: Silly Sicilian, going up against the mob isn’t for kids…
Why Rent? A teenage girl decides to testify against members of her town’s organized crime family after her father and older brother are both gunned down. This true story follows her attempts to bring the bad guys to justice in a world where every odd is stacked against her. Seems like the only kinds of dramas that come out of Italy are those related to mob doings, but it’s clearly a topic they know well. Co-writer/director Marco Amenta previously made a documentary on the same girl, but he gets to flesh out the characters and relationships a bit more here. The biggest negative here is a lead actress who performs every scene angry, but in general it’s a solid look at a serious subject and the people that make it a daily reality.
Extra Features? Making of, trailer
Pitch: Kooky Nicolas Cage playing an equally kooky wizard? Automatically watchable…
Why Rent? Cage plays a centuries-old sorcerer on a quest for the chosen one who will be capable of defeating Morgana. Or something. I don’t know, but I do know this flick is a pleasant surprise especially when you go in expecting cartoonish dross like Disney’s other big 2010 release, Prince Of Persia. Cage and Jay Baruchel as the apprentice have pretty good comedic chemistry, Teresa Palmer and Monica Bellucci both look fantastic (even though they have nothing to do here), and the special effects are actually impressive in a few of the scenes including the entirety of the dragon parade set piece.
Extra Features? Making of, deleted scene
Pitch: Did someone order a one-eyed monster…
Why Rent? One-Eye (Mads Mikkelsen) is a silent, bare-knuckle brawler from the hinterlands who joins up with some Christians on their way to the Holy Land, but the group loses their way and ends up lost in a surreal landscape of madness, murder, and pine trees. Ignore the cover art on this DVD because it’s filled with lies, and instead go into this flick expecting a leisurely paced adventure with brief bursts of violence, long stretches of silence, and some stunning cinematography. Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow-up to the colorful and chaotic Bronson is much more introspective but just as interesting.
Extra Features? Trailer
Nothing I’ve seen worth avoiding this week!
In the interest of full disclosure, I received review copies of the following DVDs for this week’s column:
Knight and Day
The Sicilian Girl
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
Life In Flight
The Special Relationship
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Waking Sleeping Beauty
Walt & El Grupo
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?