This Week in DVDWelcome to FSR’s first DVD column for October 2011! There are lots of interesting titles hitting shelves today including two third or fourth generation sequels that surprise by being far more entertaining than anyone expected them to be. In addition to Scream 4 and Fast Five several smaller films are coming out too including the giallo-inspired art film Amer, Zach Braff’s indie drama The High Cost of Living, the sweetly comic UK coming of age film Submarine, and more.

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

Buck

Buck Brannaman has a special appreciation for the equine species that helps him understand and communicate with horses and their owners. He’s been labeled a real life “horse whisperer” and even assisted Robert Redford on his film of the same name, but his life wasn’t always a success story. This documentary takes a man and a subject so purely American and finds real heart, pain, and inspiration in the tale. All of it is engaging, but the bit towards the end about a damaged and violent colt is suspenseful and heartbreaking.

Fast Five

Pitch: I’m looking forward to Sexy Six

Why Buy? The Fast and the Furious gang including Vin Diesel and Paul Walker head to Rio for some high speed robberies, but unfortunately for them Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is hot on their trail. I’m no fan of the series, but this fourth sequel surprised the hell out of me with its pure bravado and adrenaline. It’s a dumb movie to be sure, and it has big problems in the script department, but the action is brilliantly executed by director Justin Lin. The rooftop foot-chase and third act robbery are reason alone to pick this one up… the sweaty bald man brawl is just a bonus. Check out my full review here.

Scream 4

Pitch: I scream you scream, we all scream 4 Schweddy Balls ice cream…

Why Buy? Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to Woodsboro on a book tour, and the killings come with her. Director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson return too, and they manage to create the best Scream film since the original thanks in large part to a solid combination of laughs, bloody kills, and surprising twists. Courteney Cox and David Arquette are back for more and joined by newcomers Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Alison Brie, Adam Brody, and a Culkin. Check out my full review here.

White Wash

Pitch: You’re gonna feel pretty stupid about all those “black people don’t like Annette Funicello” jokes…

Why Buy? The topic of this new documentary is deceptively simple in its description as a film about African American surfers. What that log line fails to include is the history of institutionalized racism that the movie dissects as an explanation for the lack of blacks in the sport of surfing. It’s a fascinating example at how America’s tortured past can have a such an unexpected and distinct effect on something so seemingly unrelated. It’s educational and engaging whether you care about surfing or not, and it’s the kind of documentary that should be shown in schools.

Amer

Pitch: Sexiest ad for a straight razor ever…

Why Rent? The film is told in three segments, each more confusing and beguiling than the last, and essentially tells the story of a girl’s sexual awakening. The fact that it does so from within the Italian giallo genre that focuses on sexy women, glove wearing killers, and beautifully framed set pieces just makes it that much more intriguing. That said, it’s a slow moving movie. And if nothing else the DVD cover art is pretty damn spectacular even if it is a censored version of the European artwork. Check out my full review here.

Escape From Vampire Island

Pitch: Speaking of which, why haven’t we gotten a Fantasy Island movie yet…

Why Rent? Akira and his friends discover that his older brother who had been assumed dead is still alive on an island populated by vampires. So obviously they decide to head out there for an ill advised rescue mission. This Japanese import mixes some fairly bloody vampire action with poor attempts at comedy, but the end result remains an entertaining action horror film. The CGI is solid enough for its purpose, the girls are cute, and the blood flows freely. The damn thing is about thirty minutes too long though.

The High Cost of Living

Pitch: “This is the reason why your headache didn’t go away: That’s actually pronounced analgesic, not anal-gesic. Sir, the pills go in your mouth…”

Why Rent? A drug dealer (Zach Braff) and a pregnant married woman (Isabelle Blais) cross paths when he hits her with his car and flees the scene. Guilt leads him to follow up with her and the two soon form an oddly affecting bond. Braff is hit or miss when it comes to drama due largely to the way his voice goes soft and slightly higher in pitch whenever he tries to talk “serious.” Seriously. I love Garden State, but that stretch towards the end where he spills his heart and concerns to Natalie Portman? How do you not laugh at him? Anyway. He manages to act honestly heartfelt and real here, as does Blais, and their story is never less than engaging.

Phase 7

Pitch: Somehow I missed Phases one through six…

Why Rent? An apartment building in Argentina is put under quarantine trapping the residents within. It begins like the fantastically scary Spanish horror film [Rec] but quickly shifts gears from terror to black comedy. The laughs are of the darkly comic variety as the movie becomes an absurd look at neighborly relationships under stressful conditions. It’s a virus that leads to the situation, but the residents soon start dropping for entirely different reasons. Check out my full review here.

Submarine

Pitch: “This is the moment where you leave him and come with me…”

Why Rent? Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) is a peculiar teenager trapped in an absurdly normal life. He has a new girlfriend who he doesn’t understand, parents on the verge of breaking up, and a next door neighbor (Paddy Considine) with a mullet and a van. Writer/director Richard Ayoade, he of The IT Crowd, has turned in a sweet, funny, and charming film that some have described incorrectly as Wes Anderson lite. Check out Landon Palmer’s full review here.

Grandview USA

Pitch: You know it was made in the 80’s because Jamie Lee Curtis shows her wonderful assets…

Why Avoid? C. Thomas Howell plays a high school graduate whose interests don’t quite match up to his family and town’s ideals, while Jamie Lee Curtis and Patrick Swayze work at the local demolition derby. The two stories bear a tenuous and forced connection, but they feel unavoidably distinct. Worse, neither half is all that interesting. This is the first time the film has been available on DVD, but it’s so flat and uneventful that only really big fans of the actors may want to give it a chance. Skip it and watch Red Dawn instead.

The Presence

Pitch: Mira Sorvino is haunted by the ghost of her past career…

Why Avoid? A woman (Mira Sorvino) heads to an isolated island cabin where she spent much of her childhood, but when her boyfriend joins her a ghostly visitor begins to disturb their vacation. There are a couple cool touches here, but they’re drowned out by a lack of energy and the ridiculous overuse of a specific image. Shane West plays the ghost, and the first twenty minutes alone shows him standing silently in a corner or a window roughly fifteen times. What should be a creepy vision instead becomes repetitive and comical, and that combined with a nonsensical script make for a slog of a thriller. Skip it and watch The Changeling instead.

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

Bored to Death: The Complete Second Season
The Heart Specialist
Jig
The League: The Complete Season Two
Lie to Me: The Complete Final Season
Sarah Palin: The Undefeated

Read More: This Week in DVD

What are you buying on DVD this week?


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