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 only one worthwhile purchase in the form of Wes Anderson’s weakest film, but there are several worth renting or avoiding including Jonah Hex, The Japanese Wife Next Door Part 2, Leaves Of Grass, Four Boxes, and the darkly disturbing “documentary” S&Man.
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: Sure it’s the weakest Wes Anderson film, but if you have his other movies in their Criterion form you have to get this one too…
Why Buy? Three brothers reunite in India to strengthen their familial bonds and maybe eat some naan. Their journey will reignite past issues and concerns and highlight their high level of dysfunction. Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrien Brody are the brothers and all three shine here as distinct personalities bonded to each other by blood. The laughs aren’t as plentiful as in Anderson’s best, but the quirk is in full force and the man remains a master of pairing beautiful visuals with soothing sounds. The opening cameo is pretty great too.
Extra Features? Hotel Chevalier short prequel featuring a sexy but too skinny Natalie Portman, commentary, behind the scenes, deleted scenes, featurettes, galleries
Pitch: First Asian: “Where’s my sister?” Second Asian: “I’m standing on her!” First Asian: “Yar!” Asian Sister: “…”
Why Rent? The men in a family of pole fighters are slaughtered by an evil warlord, but one of the sons survives to fight and ride poles another day. This flick is one of many Shaw Bros. films but it stands out for its dedication to its titular weapon of choice. The pole fighting here is fast and well choreographed even if the rest of the film falls into the traditional and generic traps found in all chopsocky flicks. Some good action and some (possibly unintentional) humor can be found here, but the film as a whole is overlong and kind of goofy.
Extra Features? None
Pitch: The Swedes give Ridley Scott a run for his money. They lose of course, but it’s a pretty valiant effort…
Why Rent? A noble Swede has an unwise affair and is sent to fight in the Crusades. The drama and action moves from the cold gray of Northern Europe to the blazing sun of the Middle East as he fights his way through the war and back towards his love. This Swedish production lacks the shine and high drama of something like Scott’s Kingdom Of Heaven, but it still manages to be a solid look at the historical crossroads that were the Crusades. Saladin and his army are presented less as overly dramatic foils and more as just another human side in an unnecessary conflict. It’s not a fancy film, but it’s an effective one.
Extra Features? Behind the scenes
Pitch: It’s not a cup of sugar she wants to borrow. (Hint: it’s poop…)
Why Rent? A man sits at a Saki bar with two fine Japanese women. He chooses one and soon his entire life is turned upside down when he discovers her family has some rather unconventional hobbies. The best pinku films combine hot sex with either real comedy or real drama. Some can work with just one of those ingredients, but it’s rare. Luckily, this sequel manages some solid laughs when it’s not titillating the hell out of your naughty bits. Directed by Mr. Pink himself, this one includes some full-on but fuzzed-over fellatio which is great (obviously), but it also has a, well, a somewhat disturbing scene involving a man, a dildo, and his easily disturbed bowels. You’ve been warned.
Extra Features? Artwork, trailer, interviews
Pitch: I feel like this is the ideal spot for an Asian sex reference. Or maybe an exotic disease…
Why Rent? The first of two, count em two, documentaries this week! This one examines life inside North Korea through interviews with people who’ve escaped, propaganda films showing the goofy leader in all his glory, animated historical sequences, and dance! Yup, dance. It all makes for an odd but highly satisfying and engaging look into one of the world’s strangest and most mysterious nations. The stories are shocking, sad, and highly relevant as Kim Jong-Il approaches retirement death and passes the jump suits onto his son. As fascinating as it is entertaining… and that’s before the dancing starts!
Extra Features? None
Pitch: Ed Norton and Brad Pitt play brothers on either side of the moral equator…
Why Rent? Norton takes dual roles here as two estranged brothers who get mixed up in drugs, murder, and American literature. Tim Blake Nelson writes, directs, and co-stars here, which technically means he one-upped Norton, and has crafted a fun little film that probably deserved better treatment than it received. The tonal shifts aren’t always successful, but the movie as a whole works thanks to the inspired zaniness of Norton and friends.
Extra Features? Making of, commentary, trailer
Pitch: The director of the original Inglorious Bastards has found a new hero. And his name is Erik Estrada…
Why Rent? Erik Estrada. And an evil dude causing havoc with his deadly laser beam. That is all.
Extra Features? None
Pitch: The lesson here is insecure guys should not be trusted with video cameras…
Why Rent? Director JT Petty veers away from his usual fictional horrors to examine the dark and often disturbing world of underground horror videos. These are cheap, fast, and brutally unappealing little films made for a very discerning clientele, and it’s not always easy to tell where the line between fantasy and reality is drawn. The most intriguing ones may just be the S&Man (sandman) series, but when Petty narrows his focus onto their creator he just might be surprised with the results. Creepy and fascinating in equal measure, this is a documentary that will hold your attention the entire way through.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, commentary, trailer, short films
Pitch: That’s right. Sexy, time-traveling ninjas…
Why Rent? Two ninjas, a dude and a sexy gal, fight over a special artifact… and find themselves transported to modern day Japan (circa 1980’s)! And as expected, the first thing the guy ninja does is grope some lady on the train. Priorities! Like Japanese Wife above, this one strives for a balance between laughs and sauciness, and while neither are accomplished to the same degree as the film above it’s still a fun watch. And besides, they’re sexy time-traveling ninjas!
Extra Features? Trailers, interviews, slideshow
Pitch: What’s in the box? You’ll wish it was your own head…
Why Avoid? Three friends take up residence in an abandoned house for some reason and become infatuated with a voyeur website in their downtime. It shows creepy people doing creepy things, and it’s actually effective when it’s not being ruined by some of the most annoying dialogue since George Lucas set digital pen to digital paper. The eventual payoff to the story is seemingly predictable at first. But then it keeps going… and ekes out a small surprise. But then it keeps going… and seals its fate as one of the stupider films you’ll watch this year.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, bloopers
Pitch: I’m no Megan Fox hater, but when she’s the best thing about a movie, that movie is in trouble…
Why Avoid? A Civil War soldier returns from the dead and chases after John Malkovich who was really only visiting for the paycheck. I’m not familiar with the comics, but I have to imagine they actually have a story. By contrast this flick is a mishmash of abandoned narratives, disappearing/reappearing characters, ill-fitting voice-overs, and worse. For very forgiving fans of garter belts and CGI only.
Extra Features? Deleted scene
In the interest of full disclosure, I received review copies of the following DVDs for this week’s column:
The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter
Arn: The Knight Templar
The Japanese Wife Next Door Part 2
Leaves Of Grass
Sexy Timetrip Ninjas
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
Angel: The Complete Series
How To Train Your Dragon
I Am Love
Lost Boys: The Thirst
The Magician (Criterion)
Renegade: The Complete Series
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?