Comedy is probably the most subjective genre of all, and what makes one person shoot milk from their nose in laughter may make another person yawn. To that end I’m happy to point out that two of the year’s funniest movies are hitting DVD today. They’re both perfectly cast and filled with plenty of laugh out loud moments, and that’s a guarantee. Whether or not you respond appropriately to them is your business… but I recommend soy milk as the nasal spurting liquid of choice.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Erik the Viking (UK)
Erik (Tim Robbins) is a really nice guy, but he’s a pretty shitty viking. Weary of looting and pillaging, and having never really discovered a taste for rape, Erik convinces his fellow vikings to head to sea in search of the legendary Rainbow Bridge. In addition to featuring the funniest “rape” scene ever filmed, Terry Jones’ mash-up of ridiculous comedy and adventure is a lot of fun. It sits comfortably somewhere between Jabberwocky and Time Bandits, and fans of the Monty Python boys should give it a chance if they haven’t yet. Arrow Video’s new (re)release includes both the original theatrical cut and a much faster moving director’s son’s cut plus tons of extras. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD which requires either a region-free player or the willingness to watch on your PC.**
Pitch: It’s like a funny version of Throw Momma From the Train…
Why Buy? Three friends (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis) meet each night to commiserate about their terrible employers (Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell), and finally decide their problems could be solved if they each killed the other one’s boss. Those first three are fantastic here, but that’s to be expected as they’re all funny guys. What surprises here though is the comedic brilliance on display from Spacey, Aniston, and especially Farrell. There are two versions hitting shelves with one containing an extra eight minutes of footage. I can’t vouch for those eight minutes as I haven’t seen them yet, but the remaining 90+ are damn funny.
Pitch: The American version of this would feature Will Ferrell and Frank Caliendo…
Why Buy? A British newspaper asks Steve Coogan (as himself) to tour some fine restaurants outside of London and write about the experiences, but when his girlfriend gets too busy to go he’s forced to ask Rob Brydon (as himself) along for the ride. The result is a near perfect mix of comedy and pathos as the two trade quips, celebrity impressions, and insults all while offering brief glimpses into Coogan’s emotional turmoil. It’s a movie of course, but the conceit of actors playing themselves allows for a sincerity of emotion that would otherwise feel false. That welcome darkness aside, the film is hilarious and fans of laughter should seek it out immediately.
Pitch: We can stop talking about Kevin now…
Why Rent? A normal couple (Michael Sheen and Maria Bello) with a college-age son are shocked numb when he shoots and kills dozens of fellow students before turning the gun on himself. Director/co-writer Shawn Ku’s film feels a bit on the nose at times as it works through the tragedy and the parents’ reactions, but there’s no denying the emotional pull of the topic. Sheen and Bello are also in top form as parents at a loss facing the loss, shame, guilt, and sadness that comes with such an event. As an added bonus the couple spends part of the film holed up with family in the form of the always awesome Alan Tudyk and Moon Bloodgood.
Pitch: Remember that time you said zombie movies need more parkour? Well here ya go…
Why Rent? A zombie outbreak in London sees a disparate group of survivors band together to, well, go on surviving. Lucky for them their numbers include a few guys very familiar in the art of murder. This is a small scale apocalypse to be sure, but director Mark McQueen keeps things moving at a brisk pace and fills the screen with lots of vicious action and fairly gory bloodletting. It’s worth noting (again) that the zombies here are of the fast and extremely athletic variety and would feel right at home in a District 13 film, but that’s not a bad thing. The action plus the blood help make up for a fairly charisma-free cast.
Pitch: Let’s just pause to imagine that this is the Leap Year film Amy Adams chose to make last year…
Why Rent? Laura (Monica del Carmen) is depressed, lonely and at her wit’s end. She’s not doing too well socially or professionally and decides that this February 29th will be a special day preceded by a month of shacking up with anyone who’ll take her. Until one of her one night stands turns into a relationship of welcome abuse. This is bleak and sad filmmaking to be sure, but there’s something about Carmen’s brave and tortured performance that makes it watchable all the same. Fair warning, in addition to its generally adult subject matter the film is also fairly explicit in regard to sex.
Pitch: Not all drug dealers are mean spirited and facially scarred. They do all appear to have thick accents though…
Why Rent? Howard Marks (Rhys Ifans) is one of England’s most successful businessmen. Of course, his business is in dealing drugs, but you can’t choose your passion right? Director Bernard Rose has crafted a small and often uneventful biopic that skates by on easy going charm instead of real depth. It’s played straight for the most part, but some odd stylistic choices including Ifans playing his character from a teen onwards and the worst green-screen you’ve ever seen make the tone difficult to pin down. Still, it’s well-acted, casually fun and features the occasional naked lady too.
The Tree of Life
Pitch: May just be the prettiest screensaver you’re ever likely to see…
Why Rent? A possibly unhappy and mute man (Sean Penn) rides up and down elevators while reminiscing about a childhood populated with abusive fathers (Brad Pitt), slight mothers (Jessica Chastain), and younger brother who will eventually die. This is purportedly a film about all the wonders of life, but if this was all you knew about humanity you’d think we were one depressing as hell species. None of these fuckers are happy for more than a minute or two as instead we’re treated to anger, sadness, confusion, jealousy, and every other unflattering trait. So if the very tiny amount of story that is here is lame why rent it? Because it’s a beautiful goddamn movie. The visuals and score work in wondrous tandem to create an experience you don’t usually find in feature films. Sure that’s because most movies at least try to include a story, but still…
Pitch: So he gets power from the ring, which in turn gets power from the lantern, which in turn gets power from…
Why Avoid? Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a cocky pilot with daddy issues when he’s called upon by a piece of jewelry to become a defender of the universe. Reynolds is a casually charismatic performer, but even he starts to annoy here. The biggest issue, aside from an abundance of mediocre and muffled CGI, is the attempt to make fear into something tangible. I know it’s part of the comic lore, but fear is far too abstract a concept to be measured by anything let alone an alien being and a ring. Martin Campbell and friends do get points for acknowledging the silliness of the mask though. Skip it and watch any of this past summer’s other superhero movies instead.
Pitch: Trim away everything but John C Reilly’s scenes and you’d have a fantastic short…
Why Avoid? An overweight and socially awkward teen (Jacob Wysocki) tries to navigate the wilds of high school with the help of a medicated uncle, an ambitious Assistant Principal (John C Reilly), and cute blonde girl (Olivia Crocicchia) open to being fingered in class. This attempt at indie comedy feels artificial from the beginning as so much of it is forced in its quest for a quirky feel. Reilly is the only real bright spot, but Crocicchia shows potential as a damaged teen. Both of them are drowned out though by the annoying sidekick constantly pulling his hair out and ruining every scene. Skip it and watch Lucas instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Bones: The Complete Sixth Season
The Child’s Eye
Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season
The Four Feathers (Criterion)
Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
The Princess of Montpensier
Root of Evil
Snuffbox: The Complete Series
South of Heaven
Workaholics: Season One
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?