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Rob Hunter loves movies.  He also loves working as Roger Thornhill’s personal drycleaner… between the dust-ups and the crop dusters, Thornhill has lots of suits in need of cleaning. 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-edgeofdarknessThe Edge of Darkness: The Complete BBC Series

Pitch: A dead daughter. A conspiracy that involves murder, corruption, and corporate greed. And a detective with nothing left to lose…

Why Buy? The Hollywood remake is due next month (surprise!) from Martin Campbell and Mel Gibson, and it promises to be damn good. But as well done as it may be, odds are it still won’t be able to touch the original BBC mini-series. Stellar acting from all involved, multiple layers of mystery and intrigue revealed masterfully by a script allowed to take it’s time, and a powerful indictment of government gone bad. What’s not to love?

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? Alternate ending, featurettes

dvd-foodincFood, Inc.

Pitch: Think you know where your food comes from? Think again…

Why Buy? Before you skip this title with some knee-jerk reaction about it being made by (and for) liberal vegans from the coast (either coast), trust me when I say it’s actually non-partisan. Neither Michael Pollan nor Eric Schlosser are telling you to stop eating meat and eggs, but both men want you to be more aware of what goes into the food on your plate. Their target is the corporate food industry, and the factual information they have to share is often frightening, sometimes shocking, and always interesting.

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? Deleted scenes, featurettes

dvd-northbyNorth By Northwest (50th Anniversary Edition)

Pitch: A case of mistaken identity sends a normal man on a cross-country run for his life. Sounds like a Hitchcock rip-off…

Why Buy? This is my second favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie (I still say The Birds is his best), and even at fifty years old it continues to hold up extremely well. Cary Grant is the face of the film and excels at portraying a man who alternates between cool and befuddled, and passive and active. Although it’s hard to consider Grant’s tall, tanned, and bisexual debonair self an “everyman” all that matters here is that he’s at the top of his game. The same goes for Hitchcock (the ‘top of his game’ bit, not the tall, tanned, and bisexual part) who never crafted a sharper, more fully-realized film. From the pacing to the camera shots to the musical choices to the excellent supporting cast, North By Northwest is masterful film-making.

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? Commentary, featurettes

dvd-disneyzorroWalt Disney Treasures: Zorro – The Complete First/Second Season

Pitch: Zorro was a hero to all the little boys unsure of how to use their own swords…

Why Buy? If you care at all about Disney’s “Zorro” show then these are the definitive DVD editions you need to buy. They come packaged in sturdy tin cases with the discs themselves in a standard DVD case within. For the tchotchke collectors out there they also come with a pin, postcard lithograph, and a numbered certificate of authenticity. That nonsense aside, the actual content is impressive. All thirty-nine episodes per season are included as well as two rarely seen two-hour Zorro movies, and they’re all remastered to pristine quality.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? Rare two-part TV movie, pin, lithograph, numbered certificate of authenticity

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dvd-answermanThe Answer Man

Pitch: A bestselling but reclusive author finally finds a reason to come out from hiding…

Why Rent? Jeff Daniels is fantastic and rarely gets a lead role, so we need to support him when it does happen. Luckily this is actually a pretty good little movie so our support is pain free. Daniels plays the author of a bestselling self-help book from twenty years ago who’s been in hiding since it’s success. He meets a few eclectic people who help open his door and his life to some new possibilities. The supporting cast is excellent including Lou Taylor Pucci and Lauren Graham, but Olivia Thirlby and Kat Dennings are wasted with little to do.

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, featurette

dvd-beastwithinBeast Within

Pitch: From bird flu to zombies in two easy steps…

Why Rent? No it’s not a remake of the classic ‘boy becomes an evil praying mantis’ movie from the early eighties. This is a European flick about bird flu ravaging a small town by turning the infected into zombies! It’s not a good movie really, but the final twenty five minutes or so include a pretty cool zombie assault on a barricaded house. Worth a watch for fans of the undead.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? None

dvd-beforethefallBefore the Fall

Pitch: The bad news is a meteorite will hit Earth in three days and destroy all life on the planet. The worse news is you might not live long enough to see it…

Why Rent? This is an interesting and suspenseful film from Spain that does a great job of turning a global catastrophe into a personal story. Three days away from certain doom, a man and his family are on the run and fighting for their lives when a madman comes looking for misguided vengeance. What would you fight for if you knew it wouldn’t matter in a few days?

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? None

dvd-botanyThe Botany of Desire

Pitch: Can plants and produce be interesting? Yes, and Michael Pollan proves it with a fascinating look at the apple, marijuana, the potato, and the tulip…

Why Rent? Pollan’s fascinating book makes for an equally interesting PBS special on the history and importance of four essential ingredients in American agriculture. It’s an engaging and enlightening look into how we use plants and how they use us. Sounds boring as hell though doesn’t it? But give it a chance and I guarantee you’ll learn a thing or two and be entertained in the process.

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? None

dvd-commandCommand Performance

Pitch: “Dying is easy. Rock and roll is hard.” Yes, Dolph Lundgren actually says this awesome line. Of course, he also says “Rock and load.”

Why Rent? This was a risky watch for me. I expected it to be the typical Lundgren direct-to-DVD dreck, and I was going to feel bad suggesting you avoid it when the man was kind enough to record a video bumper for us (here). Happily I can report in good concience that this flick is actually a good time. Lundgren directs as well as stars and the man does not skimp on the blood. People are shot and blood sprays. They’re stabbed and blood sprays. They’re punched and blood sprays… Lundgren looks convincing in his drum playing but even moreso when he’s jabbing a drumstick through a guy’s skull. It’s a fun little action film, and his best movie in years.

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? Featurettes

dvd-gijoeG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Pitch: Elite soldiers fight each other in tight leather outfits…

Why Rent? So why would I recommend avoiding Transformers 2but sugegst renting this equally inane CGI explosion? Simple. Michael Bay’s movie was big, stupid, empty, and boring. Stephen Sommers’s popcorn movie is almost as big and equally stupid and empty… but it’s actually kind of fun at times. The chase through Paris, the ninja fight, the bitch fight… I wouldn’t own this movie but I probably wouldn’t mind watching it again. Just not anytime soon…

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? Commentary, featurettes

dvd-notforgottenNot Forgotten

Pitch: A young girl is kidnapped and her father will stop at nothing in his quest to find her, even if that means digging up some ghosts from his past…

Why Rent? I love being happily surprised by little films I’d heard nothing about beforehand, and this is one of those films. Simon Baker is fantastic as a family man with a beautiful new wife (Paz Vega), a precocious pre-teen (Chloe Moretz), and a secret (something crazy). The movie does a great job of shifting suspicions once the daughter is kidnapped leaving you unsure who the bad guys and good guys are or if those terms even apply anymore. I’m not entirely sold on the ending, but four-fifths of a really good movie is still better than most of what hits theaters these days. And Baker’s use of a broken and jagged bottle as an interrogation tool is bloody unsettling.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? None

dvd-pelham123The Taking of Pelham 123

Pitch: John Travolta’s least annoying bad guy ever gives Denzel Washington’s least active good guy a hard time…

Why Rent? I heard such critical comments on this one during it’s theatrical run that I never quite got a round to seeing it until now. And it ain’t half bad people! (Which makes it almost half good…) Travolta usually overplays his villains into the realm of high camp (Swordfish, Broken Arrow), but he manages to keep his hijacker reigned in a bit here. Tony Scott and friends do as good a job as can be expected with a film about a modern-day subway hijacking in NYC even if they offer up little in the way of surprises. The film’s no masterpiece, but neither was the original.

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? Commentary, featurettes

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dvd-alienintheatticAliens In The Attic

Pitch: Raccoon-sized aliens crash land on a family reunion and cause decidedly unraccoon-like havok…

Why Avoid? The two-word reason for skipping this one is simply ‘Ashley Tisdale.’ The longer and more detailed reason list includes it being loud, unfunny, poorly written, lacking in humanity, and starring Ashley Tisdale.

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? Deleted scenes, alternate ending, featurettes

dvd-darkmirrorDark Mirror

Pitch: Oooh, a horror movie about haunted mirrorzzzz…

Why Avoid? Seriously. Haunted mirrors have become the new cabin in the woods and I’m already bored of them. I’ll stick with Prince of Darkness and Candyman because they were both smart enough to use the mirrors as portals for something scary, not as the actual horror punchline.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, featurette

dvd-hardwiredHardwired

Pitch: Watch Val Kilmer and Cuba Gooding Jr. pay their utility bills…

Why Avoid? The movie gets points for opening with a guy’s head exploding and for a few funny corporate product placements (like the Trojan brand name on the Washington Monument), but the rest of the flick doesn’t work as well. It’s “a few years from now” and corporations rule the world and implant people with virtual advertisements. That’s obviously not a good thing, so Gooding Jr goes about setting things right.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? Featurette

dvd-bethcooperI Love You, Beth Cooper

Pitch: A dork’s graduation speech includes an ode to the school’s #1 hottie and leads to an extremely uninteresting movie…

Why Avoid? I give Cole Abaius flack for the inaccuracy of his reviews on a fairly regular basis, but once in a while the bastard gets it right. His review here is one of those times. This movie is absolutely terrible. None of the jokes work. The supposedly ‘hottest girls in school’ range from barely cute at best to chubby idiot at worst. The inevitable ending isn’t even remotely authentic. None of the characters are interesting or redeeming (although the lead’s best friend comes close). And speaking of the the lead, he’s way too geeky for a believable ‘nerd/hot girl romantic comedy.’

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? Deleted scenes, alternate ending, featurettes

dvd-clonewarsStar Wars The Clone Wars: The Complete Season One

Pitch: The Star Wars universe comes to life in animated form, and I’d rather be watching “The Star Wars Holiday Special”…

Why Avoid? Obviously the super Star Wars fans will watch and possibly love anything with the Lucas stamp on it, but this animated series is more new trilogy than good trilogy. I can’t pretend to follow the uninteresting characters and slightly annoying animation style, but your mileage may vary (as always).

Blu-ray? Yes

Extra Features? Extended cuts, featurettes

dvd-salvationmachTerminator Salvation: The Machinima Series

Pitch: Not enough action in Terminator Salvation for you? It’s all here. In a way…

Why Avoid? This animated tale from the Salvation universe focuses on resistance fighter Blair Williams (voiced by Moon Bloodgood), but fails for two reasons. For one, Bloodgood still doesn’t go topless. But more importantly, the animation is reminiscent of a videogame in a jerky and unimpressive way. Skip this, and rent the upcoming director’s cut of the actual movie.

Blu-ray? No

Extra Features? Featurettes

Read More: This Week in DVD

What are you buying on DVD this week?


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