Today’s edition of This Week In DVD is brought to you from the Brazilian city of Manaus where I’m currently winding up a week of fantastic film festival fun. The only downside is that I’m on Brazilian time which means I’m not on time with this column. But it’s here now, so let’s get to it. Not a lot came out today, most likely because this week’s biggest release is a mighty one. The final installment of the Harry Potter franchise is here along with Catherine Breillat’s The Sleeping Beauty, the holiday horror film you never knew you wanted, Thankskilling, the classic Dragon’s Lair cartoon series, and more.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Little Big Man (Blu-ray)
Yes, this week’s pick is a bit of a cheat seeing as it’s a Blu-ray and not a DVD, but none of today’s DVD releases really deserved the honor. Arthur Penn’s 1970 classic however, does, and one viewing will show you why. Dustin Hoffman stars as an old man named Jack Crabb who reflects on his life with tales of action, drama, and absurd comedy. He was abducted and raised by the Cheyenne from the age of 10 before being “rescued” by US soldiers six years later and later went on to cross paths with Wild Bill Hickok and General Custer. The film is an emotional ride at times but rarely strays from the laughs for long as it uses crimes and fictions from the past to scrutinize crimes and facts of the then present (Vietnam War). It’s almost like Forrest Gump with real heart and character instead of platitudes and CGI. The new Blu doesn’t offer much in the way of extras, but the picture looks fantastic and the film holds up well as both a comedy and a western.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Pitch: The boy who lived finally dies. Or does he? Probably. Or not…
Why Buy? The eighth blockbuster film in the bestselling seven-book series brings JK Rowling’s epic story to its end as Harry Potter and Voldemort’s dueling destinies finally face off against each one last time. Like any series the Harry Potter films have varied in quality and emotional power, but while this final installment isn’t the best it’s still quite strong. The drama of the story and the weight of the relationships in and around Harry’s life are tangible and rewarding, and they make up for any small issues the film may otherwise exhibit.
Dragon’s Lair: The Complete Series
Pitch: The adventures of Dirk Diggler and his broad sword…
Why Rent? Dirk the Daring is on a quest to save the beautiful Princess Daphne from the reptilian scourge Singe, a dragon with immense strength and fire breathing capabilities, and only you can help him! Everyone knows that movies based on videogames are almost always pretty crappy, but the art of adapting a game wasn’t always a losing prospect. This short-lived cartoon series is based on Don Bluth’s 1983 blockbuster arcade game of the same name. The game used cutting edge laser disc technology to display stunning hand-drawn animation instead of the usual videogame sprites, and the TV show matches the game’s style and spirit frame for frame. It’s good, goofy fun from when Saturday morning cartoons were actually worth watching.
Five Minarets in New York (UK)
Pitch: Did you know that not all Muslims are terrorists, but all Americans are assholes? Of course you did…
Why Rent? Two Turkish policemen come to New York City in search of a Muslim suspected of terrorist acts and involvement with an upcoming attack. They arrive in NYC and are quickly become embroiled with a belligerent FBI agent named Becker (Robert Patrick), an American Muslim (Danny Glover) trying to protect their target, and the supposed terrorist’s wife (Gina Gershon). This Turkish production opens with a strong gun fight before settling into a more dramatic story about suspicion, stereotype, and the evil Americans. It’s that last one that holds the movie back quite a bit, but it still manages to offer some fresh insight into the topic. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD which requires either a region-free player or the willingness to watch on your PC.**
Life In a Day
Pitch: The unsung heroes of YouTube have finally found a home…
Why Rent? July 24th, 2010, was just like any other day around the world in most ways. People woke up, lived their lives, and went back to sleep. But on this day in particular thousands of those very same people set out to document their existence on video and then submit them to directors Kevin Macdonald and Natalia Andreadis who had the unenviable task of combing through them all. The result is a film that works its way through the day and around the globe by way of glimpses into everyday people’s lives. Much of it is mundane, but the film features more than a few scenes and images that will lift your spirits and or break your heart.
Panic Button (UK)
Pitch: Congrats on winning! Your prize is death…
Why Rent? A group of contest winners board a plane bound for the US but quickly discover their presence has been orchestrated with murder in mind. This is in essence a single room thriller, and for the most part it works. The setup and plot revelations are pretty solid and features some original twists and turns. Unfortunately the third act can’t maintain the freshness or suspense as it descends into a very familiar denouement. Still, it’s always exciting to see a movie attempt to build mystery and drama in such a confined space. Fans of another UK thriller, Exam, should give it a chance. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD which requires either a region-free player or the willingness to watch on your PC.**
The Sleeping Beauty
Pitch: Fairy tales about children aren’t always for children…
Why Rent? A young girl’s life becomes fodder for witch play after her mother is the subject of competing spells and curses in their magical kingdom. The child winds up living through a series of dreams including one in the modern world as a teenager where she discovers love and a life of her own. Director Catherine Breillat is known for her provocative and sometimes explicit films, but while this one features nudity and a sensuous sensibility it still feels like a storybook fable brought to life. It may also be Breillat’s most accessible movie to date.
Pitch: “Warning! Tits in the first second!” That cover claim is actually a lie. It takes 35 seconds…
Why Rent? The true story of the first Thanksgiving comes to light in this ultra low budget horror re-release about a murderous turkey prone to one-liners like “You just got stuffed!” Yes, it’s pretty much as bad as you’d expect complete with laughable acting and effects. But, surprisingly, it manages its own brand of cheap charm. CGI blood mars some otherwise enjoyable gore, and some of the gags actually warrant a laugh including a riff on Leatherface that earns laughs for its absurdity and execution. Just don’t go in expecting anything that resembles a professional film.
Pitch: “Why do you need a tissue?” “To wipe my vagina…”
Why Rent? A twenty-something with issues (Jonathan Groff) somehow manages to woo his way into the vaginas of an equally issue-filled family. Writer/director Jeff Lipsky’s film is written like a play as very little happens but quite a bit is discussed. Some of the dialogue feels false in its delivery and import, but even when it doesn’t ring true it still teases interesting entertainment. The first act is helped by the absolutely adorable Portia Reiners who appears quite nude and incredibly charming. It’s an indie movie, and feels like it, but fans of stage dialogue and beautiful naked women may want to give it a rent.
Nothing worth avoiding this week! Viva Brazil!
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Atlas Shrugged: Part One
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?