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 sees more Buy recommendations than we’ve ever had before! (I think.) And they include an ass-kicking serial killer flick from South Korea (The Chaser), a John Carpenter classic (Dark Star), and the brilliant new Back To the Future trilogy release. Others worth Renting or Avoiding include The Girl Who Played With Fire, Altitude, Winter’s Bone, Lake Placid 3, and more.

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!

Back To the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy

Pitch: You’ll come for the laughs, thrills, and special effects, but you’ll stay for the thinly veiled Reagan-era conservatism…

Why Buy? Odds are you’ve seen all three films in this classic eighties trilogy, and odds are you absolutely love the first film and enjoy parts two and three. So you already know this is a trilogy you want to own, but what you may not know is that there’s no better time than the present… this new release includes a stellar documentary filled with fun revelations and moments on set including footage from the Eric Stoltz debacle, close calls in regards to the film’s eventual title, and more. These are entertaining flicks with a charismatic cast, and you cannot resist the urge to own them. (Unless you own a Blu-ray player in which case you should pick it up in that far more futuristic format…)

Extra Features? Enhanced picture/sound, retrospective documentary, new and old featurettes, deleted scenes, Q&A, making of, behind the scenes,outtakes, music videos, photo galleries, commentaries

The Chaser

Pitch: The only person more unlikable than the killer is the hero…

Why Buy? An ex-cop who now works as a pimp is angered by the apparent desertions of some of his best girls, but when he sets out to find the rival pimp he assumes is wooing them with better benefits he instead finds something far worse. Now it’s a race against time to find a sadistic madman’s latest victim before it’s too late. This is brutal and devious filmmaking as the killer is identified and arrested early on, but the film still manages incredible suspense, shocks, and action. Watch it and love it before your mind is corrupted by the impending US remake.

Extra Features? Trailer

Dark Star: Hyperdrive Edition

Pitch: You’ll never look at a beach ball the same way again…

Why Buy? An interstellar intergalactic journey through space encounters trouble in the form of a smart bomb that decides it’s going to blow itself up in the ship’s cargo bay. The crew is forced to reason with it, but things look grim when even the ship’s deceased captain finds himself outwitted by the explosive device. Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon collaborated on this funny and inventive adventure, and while this new special edition can’t hide the fact that the movie is extremely low budget, no fan of these two talents should be without a copy of it in their collection.

Extra Features? Theatrical and original versions, commentary, documentary, interviews, introductions, trailer

Mutants

Pitch: It may not be the only French zombie flick, but it’s definitely the best…

Why Buy? A couple take refuge from a zombie onslaught in an abandoned factory where they find themselves facing off against enemies both living and undead. The pair’s situation isn’t helped any by the fact that the boyfriend is slowly turning into a zombie himself. As his transformation continues his girlfriend struggles to fight off the horde, human invaders, and the resignation that the man she loved is no more. This zombie flick has blood, gore, and action, but it also has an original plot and more heart than just the ones being eaten onscreen. It’s a fantastic example of dramatic horror done right.

Extra Features? None

Evening Primrose

Pitch: Imagine being trapped in a department store after hours with Anthony Perkins. Now imagine it’s a musical..

Why Rent? The setup is straight out of The Outer Limits… a young man hides away in a department store after hours in search of some peace and quiet but instead finds a thriving community of other like minded people. His discovery is thrilling at first but when he meets and falls in love with a young woman who hasn’t ventured into the outside world in years his intentions begin to waver. So he does what anyone would do when faced with a dilemma… he sings about it. Songs by Stephen Sondheim aurally illustrate this odd little tale that only aired once in 1967 and has never been seen on DVD before.

Extra Features? Interviews, test footage, 28-page booklet

The Girl Who Played With Fire

Pitch: This sequel is better than The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Jeff Hall disagrees. Don’t be like Jeff Hall…

Why Rent? Lisbeth Salander is wanted for crimes she didn’t commit. Okay, maybe she kind of committed some of them, but she had good cause. Now both the entire Swedish police force and a couple of truly evil men are after her, and the only person that stands in her corner is the frumpy magazine editor she boned in the last movie… Mikael Blomkvist. Now the two must work together (while actually being far apart throughout almost the entire film) to unravel a conspiracy that climbs to the highest halls of government

Extra Features? Trailer

Harrison Montgomery

Pitch: An example of a film where the parts are far greater than the whole…

Why Rent? Ricardo is a young man in San Francisco struggling to survive as a really crappy drug dealer, but he discovers there’s more to life than Asian hookers and smack when he meets his neighbors. Wanda from Big Love lives next door with a daughter who occasionally watches Ricardo masturbate, and Martin Landau lives downstairs in an apartment full of bugs and secrets. The film doesn’t quite gel like the filmmakers hoped, but there is one aspect that shines… Ricardo sketches random people throughout the film, and as the drawing is completed Landau narrates that person’s life story. It’s imagination presented as thought and art, and in a film that otherwise screams “indie” it’s also a series of beautiful and touching intermissions.

Extra Features? Commentary, behind the scenes, deleted scenes, trailer

The Infidel

Pitch: When is a Muslim not a Muslim? When he’s born a Jew apparently…

Why Rent? A British Muslim leads a happy Muslim life in London until the day he discovers he was adopted and his birth parents were Jewish. This causes some angst, and understandably so… especially as his son is due to marry the daughter of a radical cleric. There are some similarities here to Four Lions in the film’s ability to find the funny in a story about religious beliefs in conflict with reality. Even as you laugh, and you will laugh, the film also manages an honest and heartfelt look at family and faith. The ending gets a bit too feel-goody, but the film overall is a solid and surprising comedy.

Extra Features? Commentary, interviews, trailer, gag reel

Maniac: 30th Anniversary Edition

Pitch: Think Henry: Portrait Of a Serial Killer with imagination…

Why Rent? A wacko (Joe Spinell) stalks and kills young woman in an effort to collect their scalps for his mannequin collection, and Caroline Munro looks pretty while taking some pictures in the park. As serial killer flicks go this one is pretty unexciting, but horror fans and gore hounds should enjoy the scalpings and one hell of a shotgun blast to the head courtesy of Tom Savini. And by courtesy I mean it’s his effects work and his head.

Extra Features? Commentaries, interviews, trailers, featurettes

Winter’s Bone

Pitch: Insert tasteless joke about Jennifer Lawrence warming your bone here…

Why Rent? A teenager in the Ozarks is forced to confront some harsh realities when her father fails to make a court appearance and she has to run all over town looking for the truth. The film was a big hit at Sundance due mostly to Lawrence’s lead performance as the determined and incredibly persistent young woman. She gives an incredibly strong core to this interesting look into a world most of us will thankfully never experience. But as good as she is I’d like to see more praise going towards John Hawkes as her ex-convict uncle. He’s as chilling as he is pure, and it’s an incredibly raw and electric performance.

Extra Features? Commentary, making of, deleted scenes, alternate opening, trailer

Altitude

Pitch: This is one mile-high club you won’t want to join…

Why Avoid? Five friends hop into a twin-engine plane for a short flight, but this is going to be one bumpy ride. And by bumpy I mean annoyingly stupid. The premise of being trapped in a confined space that itself is trapped within a wide open nightmare is compelling, and the addition of a Cthulhu-like creature is an added bonus… but the entire endeavor is bungled with two horrifically written (and performed) characters and a ridiculous explanation/resolution straight out of an EC Comics.

Extra Features? Commentary, behind the scenes, featurette, gallery

Lake Placid 3

Pitch: Betty White is rolling over in her grave…

Why Avoid? So there’s a lake that people think is safe. Surprise. It’s filled with gators. This is just an embarrassing movie for everyone involved, and it starts with the mentally-challenged animators behind these CGI alligators. Good god they’re sad. The acting is almost as bad, the screenplay is laughable, and not even Michael Ironside fighting reptiles with an oar can save this flick. At least the director has the decency to open the movie with some full frontal female nudity…

Extra Features? None

Last Day Of Summer

Pitch: You won’t like DJ Qualls when he’s angry…

Why Avoid? A lanky young man gets fed up with his fast food restaurant job and decides to shoot his boss. He gets fired instead, and in a moment of confusion decides to take a young woman hostage. In case it isn’t clear, this is not a comedy. That said it’s also a pretty piss poor example of a drama. Qualls and Nikki Reed have zero chemistry, and the story’s attempt at closure and a happy ending goes in complete contrast to the jumbled, depressing, and abusive behavior that came before.

Extra Features? Making of

In the interest of full disclosure, I received review copies of the following DVDs for this week’s column:

Altitude
Evening Primrose

The Girl Who Played With Fire
Harrison Montgomery

The Infidel
Lake Placid 3
Last Day Of Summer

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:

Attack On Darfur
The Bisbee Cannibal Club
Death Tube
House (Criterion)
Make-Out With Violence
Nice Guy Johnny
Paths Of Glory (Criterion)
Sex And the City 2
South Of the Border

Read More: This Week in DVD

What are you buying on DVD this week?


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