Welcome back to our weekly look at new DVD releases! Last week’s trend of TV on DVD continues as we’re heading into the Fall TV season and studios want to remind you just how great some of their shows are. As you’ll find out below though not all of those shows were actually all that great. The summer’s first comic book superhero movie hits shelves today too alongside a handful of horror flicks, a martial arts movie, and this week’s surprising pick of the week.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
A small group of pioneers hire an adventurer named Meek (Bruce Greenwood) to lead their three wagon train west to California, but it quickly becomes clear that he may not be as capable as they believed. Tension escalates as they run low on food, water, and patience, but it’s the arrival of a lone Native American that may fracture the group for good. Kelly Reichardt’s film is an oddly attractive creation that lumbers slowly towards an uncertain fate, and while I’m still unsure of my thoughts on the ending the film as a whole refuses to leave my mind. There’s a haunted quality about it that works its way inside like so much dust and warm air and it keeps you mesmerized even as deceptively little is happening onscreen. Of course, Michelle Williams in a saucy bonnet doesn’t hurt either.
Pitch: Includes the best Lethal Weapon sequel since part two…
Why Buy? The gang’s sixth season sees them tackle everything from gay marriage, class warfare, unplanned pregnancy, and more in their own inimitable style, and the results are unsurprisingly hilarious. The show’s writing is almost as sharp as it’s ever been, but the real joy here remains the performances of the lead quartet and Danny DeVito. Charlie Day is the understandable standout, but Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, and Kaitlin Olsen all continue to exhibit fantastic comedic timing.
Pitch: I’d let Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings behind my Asgard any day (and no, I’m not sure what that means either)…
Why Buy? Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is banished from his own world for his arrogance and actions against his father (Anthony Hopkins) and sent to Earth as punishment. His brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) sees that as his cue to take over Asgard, and it’s up to Thor and his new Earthbound friends to stem the tide of evil. Director Kenneth Branagh took some flack for his dutch angles, but he also managed to turn in a fun and entertaining comic book movie (that also appears to be the highest grossing superhero movie of the summer). Check out my full review here.
Pitch: Magnum NKOTB…
Why Rent? The Reagan’s are a three generation NYC police family and include the city’s police commissioner (Tom Selleck), a rule breaking detective (Donnie Wahlberg), and fresh from the academy rookie (Will Estes). Thankfully, the final sibling is a lovely Assistant DA (Bridget Moynahan). This first season does a fine job with the character dynamic amidst the family, but the writing does suffer a bit when it comes to a convoluted and cliched over-arching plotline involving a secret brotherhood within the police. Still, it’s great to see Selleck on a weekly basis again, and fans of cop shows in general should find something to enjoy here.
Pitch: Come back to a time when “the sword in the stone” was a euphemism…
Why Rent? The story of King Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) is told from his teen years when he’s forced by circumstance into a battle for his life alongside the wizard Merlin (Joseph Fiennes). Together they face off against the beautiful but deadly Morgana (Eva Green), the brutal King Lot (James Purefoy), and others wishing to wrest power from his grip. Like seemingly every other period show on cable TV the producers of this Starz production have loaded it with nudity and sex thinking that’s enough to make us watch. They’re not necessarily wrong, but luckily the show is actually pretty engaging too.
Pitch: At no point does Teri Polo get in the water…
Why Rent? A family moves into new apartment and the wife (Teri Polo) begins seeing strange and ghostly things. This is probably a TV movie in DVD clothing, but that doesn’t stop it from being an effective little chiller as well. There’s a scene early on as the family is unpacking in their new home that is creepier than most feature horror films can muster. It’s fast but scary (and even scarier when viewed in frame by frame mode). The side characters are fairly interesting (even when the actors behind them aren’t all that great) and the story is far from predictable, so fans of the ghost genre should definitely check it out.
Pitch: The second film was released the same year as Halloween II, and it appears to have been shot in the same hospital that forgot to pay its electric bill…
Why Rent? Shout! Factory returns with another double feature release and thankfully they’ve put each film on its own DVD. Bad Dreams stars Jennifer Rubin as a woman who survived a cult mass suicide as a child and now finds herself haunted by the cult’s supposedly dead leader (Richard Lynch). Visiting Hours sees an outspoken talk show host (Lee Grant) stalked by a sadistic madman named Colt Hawker (Michael Ironside). Neither film is anywhere near a classic, but both have some worthwhile bits to offer. The latter film in particular features some interesting set pieces and camera shots.
Pitch: He’s his brother from another mother. And father…
Why Rent? Thor, the god of thunder, is facing a double blow. He’s lost his father, and now his trickster brother Loki has taken the throne and tossed him in shackles. In order to secure his place and power Loki is tasked with executing his brother, but can the dark exist without the night? (Technically yes, but work with me here.) The Marvel Knights animation style is a mix of panels and computer imagery, but it works with dense stories like these. The voice acting is stellar and a solid match for the atmospheric animation.
Pitch: “Soon enough your flowers will be plucked, hastening the moment will only result in bruising of the petals…”
Why Rent? The House of Batiatus is a gladiator training academy where the strongest slaves become the fiercest warriors. Starz had a hit two years ago with Spartacus: Blood & Sand starring Andy Whitfield as a man forced to fight for his freedom and the hope of returning to his wife. It’s a highly stylized, sex and gore filled experience that managed to find heart and emotion due mostly to Whitfield’s performance of the tragic Spartacus. This new variation is a prequel that explores how Batiatus initially gained power, and while it’s just as visually appealing in regard to style, sex, and gore, it lacks its predecessor’s humanity.
Pitch: Actually, the truthiness is in doubt…
Why Rent? A man’s family is attacked and he’s forced into hiding, but soon the assailant returns and the two must battle it out one last time. Oh, and they’re brothers. So that’s awkward. Woo-ping Yuen directs this odd martial arts effort with lots of style but little in the way of consistency. The opening scene is kick-ass, and there are multiple cool touches and fights throughout, but there’s also a bland middle and some highly suspect CGI/wire-fu. Martial arts fans should definitely give it a shot as should fans of the wonderful Michelle Yeoh. Check out my full review here.
Pitch: For a while there I almost forgot about Daniel Baldwin…
Why Avoid? A man’s (Daniel Baldwin) wife is slaughtered and his children taken by scaled, dread-locked humanoids who burrowed up from the dirt. Lucky for him the author of the only book on the creatures is giving a signing nearby. This is a low budget affair, but it earns a bit of good will by being a creature feature. Unfortunately it loses it all with silly writing and sheer incompetence when it comes to character behavior. Skip it and watch The New Daughter instead.
Why Avoid? A group of artistically “talented” and multi-ethnic “teens” battle to the death sing and dance most of the school day away. The show’s first season was engaging, catchy, and humorous enough to make it an entertaining watch, but the sophomore follow-up tosses all of that out the window in favor of gimmicks involving hot (at the time) Billboard hits and poorly written stories. There’s no character growth here either leaving us with flat characters acting like assholes and idiots in between dance numbers. Skip it and watch Modern Family‘s second season instead.
Pitch: Technically he uses three…
Why Avoid? A Spanish mobster (Paul Naschy) is injured in a shootout, but his quick thinking minions save his life by transplanting his brain into another man’s body. Of course they could have probably chosen a better donor. This is the first release from Arrow Video’s new ArrowDrome line, and unfortunately it’s not a good or fun movie. Sadly, it’s also the cut version lacking the saucy sex scenes that made this a real sleazefest. Arrow has added the scenes as an extra, but the film would have been a bit peppier had they been incorporated back in. Skip it and watch The Man With Two Brains instead. **NOTE – This is a region2 DVD which requires either a region-free player or the willingness to watch on your PC.**
Pitch: It’s not just a title, it’s what happened to the show’s scripts…
Why Avoid? A company moves its operation to India and one of its managers with it. I won’t pretend I watched the entire season of this crappy NBC show, but I gave three or four episodes a chance and found it lacking in every way. Maybe it was because the show paled beside every other sitcom in the Thursday night block and therefore had no chance of feeling as funny, but, you know, it’s not funny. I didn’t laugh once. And I drink on Thursday nights. Skip it and watch Outsourced (the movie) instead.
Pitch: In case you were wondering, Heather Graham is still adorable and gorgeous…
Why Avoid? An odd solar event sends the world into a tizzie, and when an opportunistic reporter (Heather Graham) witnesses a young man (Joseph Cross) crying blood at church she thinks she’s found the new messiah. This is meant to be a sly commentary on religion, faith, and people’s need for answers, but unfortunately it’s a bit too unfunny and on the nose. In addition to Graham the movie also features a roster of actors once known for bigger and better things. Skip it and watch Defending Your Life instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fourth Season
Blue Mountain State: Season Two
Brand New Day
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop
The Good Wife: The Second Season
Grey’s Anatomy: The Complete Seventh Season
Private Practice: The Complete Fourth Season
Rescue Me: The Complete Sixth Season
Supernatural: The Complete Sixth Season
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?