Rob Hunter loves movies. He also loves working for the BBC where his job entails erasing old show master tapes because they don’t have the foresight to know that people may want to watch them again someday. These two joys come together in the form of cash money payments that he receives every week and immediately uses to buy more DVDs. So join us each week as he 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.
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 column for reviews on the latest high definition Blu-ray releases!
Pitch: The surviving members of Python dig up Graham Chapman and talk about the old days…
Why Buy? If you even moderately enjoy the work of Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, then you will find much to love in this six-part documentary that examines the comedy troupe from their humble beginnings to where they all are now. Highlights include details behind the making of The Life of Brian as well as a televised clash with a bishop in defense of the film. Very funny and occasionally touching, even Python experts are bound to learn a thing or two from this release.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, interviews, sketches
Pitch: “The good news is your dates are here. The bad news is they’re dead…”
Why Buy? To put it simply, this is just an incredibly fun little horror movie. Alien slugs, zombies, axe-wielding maniacs, topless sorority sisters, and Tom Atkins come together for one of the many great horror/comedies of the eighties. This director’s cut restores the original ending that was too confusing for test audiences. It involves an additional scene with Atkins and a space ship…
Extra Features? Commentary, original ending, featurettes
Pitch: Seventeen episodes worth of questions you’ll never see answered…
Why Buy? This is just one of those shows that demands occasional viewing, and fans of “Lost” should definitely enjoy it. Even if you’ve caught the odd episode here or there on TV you’ve probably never seen them all, so why not pick up the DVD (or Blu-ray) and be ready the next time you get the urge to watch science fiction without the constraints of a traditional structure. Will it frustrate you that you’ll get no resolution? Probably… but that’s what AMC’s upcoming mini-series is for.
Extra Features? Commentaries, featurettes
Pitch: Zed’s dead, killed by the machinations of political intrigue and assassination baby…
Why Buy? The people at Criterion know how to put together a solid DVD release. Sure they don’t always pick really worthwhile movies to focus their attention on, but when they do it instantly becomes the film’s definitive DVD edition. So it is with Costa Gavras’ political thriller Z. The film wisely avoids specifying a geographical setting, but explores the assassination of a politician, the ensuing cover-up, and the thwarted will of a falsely democratic society.
Extra Features? Commentary, featurettes
Pitch: “Fuck it dude. Let’s go bowling.” And a small percentage of bathrobe-wearing potheads followed…
Why Rent? As far as pop culture sub-cultures go, fans of the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski are a pretty mellow bunch. They’re also fairly entertaining, and as this doc shows, extremely dedicated too. We get to follow some of them around as they attend one of the annual Lebowski Fests, meet cast members, and bowl.
Extra Features? None
Pitch: John Malkovich knows when you’re going to die…
Why Rent? Malkovich joins “Lost” cutie Evangeline Lilly in this odd little film about our acceptance of death and our readiness for it. Malkovich is a “messenger” who can see when someone is just a few days away from death, and he helps them get their lives in order. He introduces himself to a lawyer who had a near-death experience as a child and explains his ability, but not surprisingly the lawyer is more than a little lost. The movie is beautifully shot, but it feels like a (very) slow and lazy afternoon dream.
Extra Features? None
Pitch: The Cylons have a plan, and it involves all the BSG nudity you never knew you wanted…
Why Rent? I love BSG. I think the series as a whole is one of the best science-fiction shows to have ever aired. But this stand-alone movie sucks pyramid balls. The only reason I’m placing it under ‘Rent’ instead of ‘Avoid’ is that as a fan of the show there’s no way I couldn’t watch it… and the same will undoubtedly hold true for every other BSG lover too. The effects are occasionally on par with the series but more often than not are more reminiscent of standard SyFy movie junk. And while nudity can be fun do we really need the pan-down-zoom onto the guy’s fleshy viper in the co-ed bathroom scene? And half of the damn movie is recycled footage from the series! On the plus side though there are new scenes with Grace “Boomer” Park.
Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes
Pitch: An atheist and a theologian walk into a bar…
Why Rent? Hitchens is never less than entertaining with his opinions and beliefs regardless of whether he’s right or wrong, and even though he happens to be right in this instance Wilson is equally engaging in his stance. This documentary follows the two of them along an East Coast tour where they debate both publicly and privately the following question… “Is Christianity good for the world?”
Extra Features? None
Pitch: The French horror invasion continues, now in two dimensions…
Why Rent? This flick showcases a handful of French animators with dark and twisted thoughts in their heads and behind their pens. And yes I do mean pens and pencils as these are CGI-free excursions into black-and-white terrors. Some are more successful than others, some creepy, strange, odd, and pretentious, and there are far worse things you spend eighty minutes doing than watching this.
Extra Features? Featurettes
Pitch: Mammals and dinosaurs living together, mass hysteria…
Why Rent? It’s easy to bash this animated juggernaut when comparing it to the Pixar brand (which is inevitably what happens), but taken on it’s own merits it’s a simple tale about friendship. It also happens to be beautifully animated with some of the best hair and water effects I’ve yet seen. The action scenes are fine with a standout being a too-brief aerial dog-fight between pterodactyls, and there’s enough humor for kids and adults to keep both parties interested for the duration of the film. Will it vacate your brain as soon as it’s over? Of course it will.
Extra Features? Featurettes, shorts, games
Pitch: The somewhat true story of Italy’s most infamous Prime Minister…
Why Rent? I’m going to be honest here and admit that I found it incredibly difficult to follow the multiple characters and back-room dealings in this flick. At the same time though I was often mesmerized by director Paolo Sorrentino’s incredible visual and audio style in his cinematography, on-screen text, and score. I’ll probably be watching this one again in the hopes of understanding it a bit better, but as it is I recommend it for fans of real-world political shenanigans.
Extra Features? None
Pitch: I’ll tell you right now, her head doesn’t fall off when the ribbon comes untied. Or does it…
Why Rent? This is two-thirds of a good, creepy little film about a nice little family and the weird Russian girl they invite into their home. Sadly, it’s also one-third recycled episode of “Law & Order:SVU” (and no I won’t tell you which episode). Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga both give strong performances and director Jaume Collete-Serra knows how to frame a shot… but the big reveal comes with a punchline that just may have you guffawing in your living room.
Extra Features? Deleted scenes, alternate ending
Pitch: A sauna hasn’t been this frightening since Viggo Mortensen fought naked in one…
Why Rent? A period horror film you say? Yes, from Finland. If that isn’t enough to make you race out to pick this up then I don’t know what else I can do here. But just in case, this is an incredibly atmospheric and effective chiller that moves at it’s own pace and reveals only what’s necessary through to the end… could be too slow for some, but worth it for those who like uniquely European horrors.
Extra Features? None
Pitch: Resting comfortably between the highs of “The Twilight Zone” and the lows of “Monsters”…
Why Rent? 24 episodes of a sometimes cool, sometimes cheesy horror anthology show that are definitely worth a rental. As with all anthologies some of the episodes work better than others, but season two has a few diamonds among the duds including one with Darren McGavin playing a version of himself circa his days on “The Night Stalker.”
Extra Features? Interview
Pitch: A POV snuff film for people who dislike puppies, cake, and rainbows…
Why Avoid? I’m not one to rail against torture porn (whatever the definition of that may be), but how does this shit not bore people? The high concept with this Korean release is that the entire film is done POV style with cameras attached to the heads of various “characters” so we see what they see and nothing more. This means lots of shaky cam footage as watching a man get raped from his wife’s point of view. The movie gets points for the lead villain wearing a pig’s head mask but little else. It sits somewhere between Hostel and Japan’s Guinea Pig series.
Extra Features? Alternate ending
Pitch: The director of Soul Plane tries to out-Friedberg/Seltzer the creators of Epic Movie and almost succeeds…
Why Avoid? Seriously, this is a 2009 release making jokes about The Ring, Titanic and The Notebook. Oh, and some black folks talk through The Blair Witch Project and it’s hilarious! And yes I know Diora Baird is in it and that her midriff is exposed throughout the entire movie, but that’s still not nearly enough to warrant sitting through this dreck.
Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes
Pitch: An older man has a psuedo-fling with a much younger woman and kvetches about it the entire time…
Why Avoid? “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is a fantastic and hilarious show, but Larry David is not an actor. Giving him a feature length film where he plays an even more egotistical and ruder version of his HBO persona is a mistake. Add to that Woody Allen’s stiff, play-like dialogue and scenes and you have a film that’s neither funny nor interesting.
Extra Features? None
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?