This Week In DVD: October 18th

This Week in DVDLet’s just get this out of the way right now. You probably won’t agree with my placement of one or more of the three films in the AVOID section below. And that’s okay. If you like an actor or filmmaker behind one of the films then definitely check it out for yourself. Just know that they’re not good movies. All three of them actually came close to joining the RENT category but for every one thing that worked ten others failed miserably. The directors behind them (Jake Kasdan, Kevin Smith, Chris Weitz) have made far better films in the past, and they’ll probably go on to make more going forward. But these are their bumps in the road, and they should probably be saved for cable.

As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.


China’s Tangshan earthquake killed 240,000 people in 1976, and from that disaster comes this affecting and emotionally powerful tale of loss, guilt, and forgiveness. A building collapse traps two twins, a boy and a girl, beneath a concrete slab. Saving one means killing the other, and their mother is forced with making a heart-wrenching choice… “Save my son.” Unbeknownst to her though, the little girl survives and never forget her mother’s words. Now thirty years later a second earthquake draws that adult daughter back to China to help the victims and confront the mother who left her for dead. The film skips what would have been a couple of truly powerful emotional scenes (although it’s evident why), but it makes up for it with an incredibly strong ending that may or may not have moistened my eyes substantially. But good luck proving that.

The Last Circus

Pitch: Goddammit. Now the clowns have guns…

Why Buy? The Spanish Civil War was home to many strange and brutal sights, but none were as frightening what’s on display here including a clown slicing up the enemy with a machete. Years later his son has become a sad clown of his own and joins a circus where he falls in love with a beautiful but abused acrobat. Her abuser? Another clown. And the stage is set for a fantastical battle between two demented men with painted faces in a film about obsession, madness, and the sacred responsibilities of clownhood. Check out Cole Abaius’ full review here.

Grave Encounters

Pitch: It’s a title with double meaning! And ghosts…

Why Rent? Lance Preston and the crew of his ghost hunting TV show arrive at the Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital to to spend the night in the supposedly haunted building for one of their latest episodes. Of course, it may just be their last! Spooky right? This found footage film does a pretty good job of being both entertaining and frightening. At least until the third act when it goes a little too nuts. Unlike many horror films this one also manages to fit in more than a few laughs, and it bodes well for future terrors from The Vicious Brothers.

The Names of Love

Pitch: Those names are Arthur and Baya apparently…

Why Rent? Arthur (Jacques Gamblin) is a scientist in a suit who one day crosses paths with a spitfire liberal named Baya (Sara Forestier). Her shtick is to identify conservative looking guys and sleep with them in an effort to swing their political views. Forestier is a beautiful and sexy woman prone to walking around nude, and she’d probably be the only viable reason for voting for Michelle Bachmann. (Kidding.) (Not really.) The story takes a bit of time to find its rhythm, but once it does it becomes a sweet and sexy little comedy that pokes some strong jabs at politics and class.

Page One: Inside The New York Times

Pitch: The doc refers to the NYT as “too big to fail…”

Why Rent? Director Andrew Rossi gained unprecedented access behind the scenes of The New York Times, and his cameras captured a fascinating world that few people ever really see. From the personalities who work at the paper as writers, editors, and more, to the decisions made by these people on a daily basis… this is is an engaging and interesting exploration of a dinosaur of what may very well be a fading environment.

Robotech: The Complete Original Series

Pitch: I like to think of it as Starblazers meets Transformers

Why Rent? Aliens invade the Earth, and mankind unites together to fight back using the creatures own technology. This box set collects the three series that make up the entire Robotech story which means 85 episodes spread across 17 discs. As one of the earliest animes to hit American TV it can look a bit rough at times, but the story still engages through plenty of action and drama. Of course, as dubbed cartoons go it can also feel incredibly goofy at times. Keep an eye out for a more complete review of the set coming soon.

Subspecies: The Complete Chronicles

Pitch: The original Twilight

Why Rent? Radu (Anders Hove) is a pissed off vampire who returns to Bucharest to claim his father’s castle and comes face to face with his hybrid brother and three young women studying the folklore of the area including one he’s determined to make his own. The first film is almost worth renting for Laura Tate’s appearance alone. She’s the only one of the three that doesn’t end up showing her ta-tas, but she’s still quite the beauty. But if a really attractive actress isn’t enough for you the series is still good fun for fans of eighties monster horror. The Eastern European setting is fairly stunning at times, and the films hit all the right notes for semi-serious horror from the eighties.

Trancers: The Ultimate Deth Collection

Pitch: Seriously. There were five of these movies…

Why Rent? Tim Thomerson is Jack Deth, a cop from the future who’s sent back to eighties Earth to stop a time traveling baddie from Angel City. As if that’s not bad enough he also gets saddled with Helen Hunt… for three whole movies! Luckily he dodges that bullet for films four and five. Think of this as Timecop‘s low rent brother, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. Hunt aside, the movies are fun excursions into low budget sci-fi/action, and Thomerson is always worth watching.

Turkey Bowl

Pitch: Easily the most engaging and entertaining football film I’ve ever seen. Aside from The Replacements

Why Rent? Ten friends reunite once a year for a game of touch football, but when two of them don’t show up two new faces join the teams. Over the course of one game presented (mostly) in real time we get to know these characters and their varied relationships. It’s only an hour long, but the characters manage to entertain and introduce themselves as well as a more traditional film could ever hope to do. Writer/director Kyle Smith has managed to make a sports film that appeals to viewers who couldn’t care less about sports. That’s a pretty damn impressive feat.

Twilight Dinner

Pitch: “What made you literally eat her pussy…”

Why Rent? Kazuhiko meets two sisters who move into his building and soon falls in love with the younger of the two. Unfortunately for him the women are vampires, and if he doesn’t watch his ass neck they’re going to make him one too. This is a pretty solid mash up of pink (Japanese sex) film and horror that is not for all tastes. The dirty stuff is frequent and suitably sexy, but when it morphs into horror things get really bloody really quick. The quote above for example goes from erotic to violent (and bloody and gross) in short order. An interesting watch from a constantly surprising international genre.

Bad Teacher

Pitch: I blame the teachers’ union for allowing this to happen…

Why Avoid? Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is on a quest for fake boobs, and the quickest way to accomplish her goal is to manipulate the system, lie, cheat, steal, and generally behave like a complete asshole. The ads for the film showed real promise and actually offered several laughs. Unfortunately, they were the only laughs in the movie. Halsey is a complete failure as a character as she’s never appealing as either a protagonist or antihero, and she doesn’t deserve any of the good things that come here way. Jason Segal is wasted here, and Justin Timberlake proves again that he doesn’t really act as much as he puts on a comedic persona. Skip it and go watch Teachers instead. Check out Robert Levin’s full review here.

A Better Life

Pitch: An important story blandly told…

Why Avoid? Carlos Galindo (Demian Bichir) is a hard working single dad who happens to be an illegal immigrant. His son doesn’t quite understand the extremes his father goes to to for him and makes things even more difficult, but when the father’s major investment is stolen the two come together in the hopes of recovering their future. Chris Weitz directs this story that never quite feels as important as it wants to. So much of it feels understated, and while Bichir’s performance and the film’s end reveal a rare honesty it’s just not enough to make the film worthwhile. Skip it and go watch The Terminal instead. Check out Landon Palmer’s full review here.

Red State

Pitch: I watched a review screener so you should probably ignore my thoughts…

Why Avoid? A group of friends looking for !SEX! willingly enter a trailer with a Melissa Leo and exit as prisoners of a religious fundamentalist cult with murderous cleansing on their little minds. ATF agents lay siege to the compound and soon everyone finds themselves with a one way ticket to hell. This is almost worth a watch to see Kevin Smith trying his hand at something completely different from the norm, but that doesn’t make up for the terrible script. The acting is solid from just about everyone including John Goodman and Michael Parks, but that doesn’t make up for the terrible script either. Skip it and go watch The House of the Devil instead. Check out Benji Carver’s full review here.

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:

Hellraiser: Revelations
The Howling Reborn
Kevin Smith: Too Fat for 40
Kuroneko (Criterion)
Monte Carlo
The Robber
V: The Complete Second Season

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What are you buying on DVD this week?

Rob is the Chief Film Critic of Film School Rejects. He doesn't eat cheese on weekdays.

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