The Best Blu-ray & DVD Releases of the Week Include ‘The Act of Killing,’ ‘Top of the Lake,’ and ‘Key of Life’
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The Act of Killing
Indonesia, like many countries, has a dark and bloody past filled with brutal death squads and mass killings. The difference is that unlike those others the people of Indonesia continue to celebrate the murderers, and many of those killers still walk the streets as heroes of a cruel and sadistic history. This documentary puts us in the killers’ midst as they tell their story using the medium they love so much, film.
Joshua Oppenheimer’s film is an absolute marvel both in what it sets out to do and in what it accomplishes. The “characters” here are madmen in charge of their own fates and world, and the view they have of their shared history is more disturbing than any horror film. The only thing more terrifying than hearing them talk about what they’ve done and how they feel about it now is watching their efforts to recreate it all in front of the camera.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Theatrical and director’s cuts, interview, commentary with Oppenheimer and Werner Herzog, featurette, deleted scenes, trailers, booklet]
Key of Life
Pitch: “If your life has you down, try out someone else’s.” Just maybe choose someone other than a hitman…
Sakurai can’t catch a break, and in desperation he decides to end it all. Like everything else in his life though he fails at his suicide attempt and decides to go metaphorically drown his sorrows at the local bathhouse. When a stranger slips and gets amnesia Sakurai steals his identity in the hopes of starting fresh, but he’s not prepared for the life of a hitman. Things get even more complicated when Kondo wakes up and sets out to find himself again.
Kenji Uchida’s film is a comedy not only of manners but also of character, and while it involves attempted suicide and successful murder it retains a light touch that makes for fun and casual sense of humor. If you pay attention though the film actually has heart and brains to along with that funny bone.
[DVD extras: Short film]
Star Trek ‐ Enterprise: Season Three
Pitch: Greatest Star Trek opening credits song? Or greatest opening credits song period…
A new alien race called the Xindi have fired a deadly weapon as a preemptive strike against humanity, and the result is the death of millions of people. Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) and his crew are tasked with finding the culprits and ensuring they don’t get a second shot.
The fifth Star Trek TV series (not counting the cartoon) had the second shortest run and seems to have gotten the least respect, but as a casual fan of the franchise I found Enterprise’s third season to be one of the more memorable. It’s a darker, angrier season, and it benefits from having a major story arc running through several of the episodes. Add in Bakula, Jolene Blalock, and Linda Park, and I’m sold.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Documentary, featurette, commentaries, deleted scenes]
Top of the Lake
Pitch: “No ordinary place. No ordinary crime.” Welcome to a different part of the Shire…
A young girl walks into a freezing lake, but when she’s rescued the reason for her madness becomes clear. She’s pregnant, terrified, and won’t reveal who the father is. Detective Robin Griffin (Elizabeth Moss) is fairly fresh to the job, but this was once her stomping ground. That familiarity does more harm than good though as she gets wrapped up in the dealings of a local criminal (Peter Mullan) on her journey to the truth.
Jane Campion wrote and directed this lushly photographed miniseries, and while it gets super goofy at times (thanks Holly Hunter) the mystery at its core along with some strong characters keep things interesting and engaging. The story has time to slowly unfold and unfurl, and it wraps up before it wears out its welcome.
[DVD extras: Interviews]
It seems the Mayans were right about the impending end of the world, and only an eighteen year old girl and her five golden rings can stop the apocalypse. Your enjoyment will depend on how much bad CGI effects you can handle while being occasionally entertained by the goofiness of it all. Like Big Ass Spider below this one looks like a Syfy movie, but in this case it actually is one.
[DVD extras: None]
Badges of Fury
Jet Li in a contemporary action film? Hell yes. At least, that was my initial thought, but his latest is actually far more of a comedy. That isn’t a deal breaker on its own, but the comedy is incredibly broad and unfunny, and even worse the action is sub-par too thanks to an over-reliance on wires and CGI. Consider this one for serious Li fans only.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, behind the scenes]
Big Ass Spider
Is a synopsis really all that necessary with a title like this? At first glance this creature feature could be mistaken for a Syfy production, but while the CGI effects are less than impressive (less than good really) the frequently funny script and cast keep things fairly lively.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, trailers, featurettes]
A terrorist attack in the UK sets in motion a criminal trial teeming with corrupt maneuvering. Two lawyers (Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall) find their collective past putting their future at risk. Both leads are engaging actors given the right material, but this is not that material. The story is far too simplistic and predictable, and that ending? Oh my. Skip it and watch The Attack instead.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
The Following: The Complete First Season
FBI Agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) made a name for himself when he captured a serial killer named Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), but when Carroll escapes Hardy’s life is once again thrown into turmoil. This Fox series seemed solid at first, but it only takes a few episodes for the rhythm of stupidity to fall into place. Agents and cops are all dumb, Carroll is always ahead of everyone, and the show repeatedly reveals new members of Carroll’s cult whenever a convenient out is needed. Skip it and watch NBC’s Hannibal instead.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: ?]
House of Lies: The Second Season
I’m once again boggled by the idea that anyone is enjoying Showtime’s Don Cheadle-led series about crisis management experts. Sure sure, I’m no fan of Kristen Bell, but the comedy fails, the characters are cartoonish, and I still have little sense as to what it is they actually do. Skip it and watch Episodes instead.
[DVD extras: Commentaries]
I’m So Excited!
A plane heading from Spain to Mexico malfunctions, and as the crew awaits a rescue plan from below they set about keeping the passengers and each other distracted with drugs, drink, and sexy chatter. Pedro Almodovar’s broad and bawdy comedy won’t appeal to a wide audience, but those who appreciate farcical banter and behavior will want to climb aboard.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, making of]
A college student (Justin Timberlake) financing his schooling with online gambling heads off to the Caribbean after losing it all (all but the cost of an airline ticket to the Caribbean apparently) to confront the website’s owner (Ben Affleck). He gets a job with the man, but soon finds his new career threatened by corruption and alligators. It’s fitting that this comes out the same day as Closed Circuit as it’s also a simplistic and predictable “thriller” in name only. Skip it and watch Author! Author! instead.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes]
Thanks for Sharing
This ensemble comedy/drama about a gaggle of recovering sex addicts and their various situations starts with an 80 minute slog of unfettered blandness. Only then does it get a bit interesting as conflict and character moments are added to the mix, and those later minutes as well as a cast that includes Patrick Fugit, Josh Gad, Tim Robbins, and Mark Ruffalo makes it a pretty okay movie overall. Although I still don’t believe sex addiction is an actual disease.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette, gag reel, commentary]
There aren’t enough westerns being made these days, and sometimes you have to settle for a mediocre ones to get anything resembling a fix. Say hello to The Virginian. Trace Adkins is the star, for lack of a better word, but the presence of Ron Perlman helps more than a little and distracts from the inexpensive feel of it all.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes]
We Are What We Are
The Parkers have mastered the art of the awkward family dinner, but their time together may be coming to an end. Jim Mickle’s remake of the recent Mexican thriller has grown on me with repeat viewings, and while I still don’t love it I’ve come to appreciate its intense darkness and gothic nature quite a bit more.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, interviews, commentary]
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
Archer: The Complete Season Four
The Cassandra Crossing / The Domino Principle
Copper: Season Two
Duck Dynasty: Season 4
Inequality for All
Many Wars Ago
Throne of Blood (Criterion)
The Wicker Man