Welcome back to This Week In Discs!
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The World’s End
Twenty years ago five friends attempted an epic pub crawl, but their effort fell apart before reaching the final bar, The World’s End. Now the group is reluctantly back together again to try and rewrite history, but the past is an ever-growing obstacle thanks in large part to how much remains unchanged in their old stomping grounds of New Haven. Things get worse though when they realize why exactly that is.
Edgar Wright’s final entry in his thematic Cornetto trilogy found a divisive reception from fans of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, but in many ways it’s the best of the three. It’s incredibly funny, highly energetic, and perfectly cast (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Pierce Brosnan, and Rosamund Pike to name a few), but it stands out for two other reasons too. First, the film’s structure and execution are incredibly deep and detailed to the point that multiple viewings continue to reveal new connections. Second, and most surprisingly, it has the best fight scene of any film this year.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, storyboard, trivia, featurettes, deleted scenes, outtakes]
Pitch: 4 hands, 2 boobs, and millions of dollars…
Bobby (Denzel Washington) and Stig (Mark Wahlberg) are two criminals planning to rob a bank holding one drug dealer’s savings, but the surprise they find in the vault is nothing compared to the one they find in each other. Bobby’s actually DEA, Stig is Naval Intelligence, and both of them are in way over their heads.
Lots of films aim to recreate the Shane Black-style buddy action/comedy of the ’80s and ’90s, but few have been able to get as close as this. Writer/director Baltasar Kormákur, along with a cast that also includes Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, James Marsden, Edward James Olmos, and Fred Ward, have delivered a breezy, funny, and exciting flick highlighted by some snappy dialogue and joyous chemistry between the two leads. There’s lots to pick at here if you’re so inclined, but there’s also a lot of fun.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, commentary]
Assault on Precinct 13
Pitch: “The gang that swore a blood oath to destroy Precinct 13… and every cop in it!” Silly blood oath…
Gang members (including Frank Doubleday, aka Romero from Escape From New York) kill a little blond girl obsessed with vanilla twist ice cream, but when her father shoots one of them in revenge they chase him to a nearly abandoned police building and lay siege on everyone inside. It’s Officer Ethan Bishop’s (Austin Stoker) first day on the job, and along with a death row prisoner (Darwin Joston) trapped in the building mid transfer and a few others, he begins the longest night of his life.
John Carpenter’s 1976 action thriller was one of his earliest films, but it remains one of his best. It’s the closest he ever got to making a full-fledged western, and he brings his own genius touches throughout in both character and setup resulting in a film that entertains and thrills with action, dialogue, and engaging characters. If that’s not enough it also features one of his best scores. Scream Factory’s brilliant new release recycles some past special features, but the new interview with Stoker alone makes it a must buy.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews, commentary, trailer]
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (UK)
Pitch: “From deep space…” Comes evil vegetables…
Wispy pods float and tumble across an alien surface before launching themselves into the atmosphere on a journey towards a blue dot in the vast distance. Earth receives these seemingly fragile invaders with a whimper, but as rains fall tiny tendrils appear on plants before giving rise to small, strange flowers. Soon people are acting unlike themselves and those who suspect something is amiss are labeled as paranoid or overly stressed. Certainly it’s nothing a little sleep in a dark place wouldn’t help, right?
Jack Finney’s classic sci-fi novel gets its second adaptation (of at least four), and the result is a film that continues to thrill, chill, and entertain thirty five years later. Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Brooke Adams, and Veronica Cartwright are just a few of the recognizable faces that bring the story of identity, paranoia, and assimilation to life for director Philip Kaufman. Check out my feature review for a more detailed look at the film and the disc.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, making of] *This is a region-B release requiring a region-free player to play in the US.*
Night of the Comet
Pitch: “It was the last thing on Earth they ever expected.” And their first reaction was to go shopping…
Regina and Samantha (Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney) are sisters stuck indoors while the rest of the city is outside watching a very special comet speed super close to the planet. Good thing too, as it leads to them being two of only a handful of survivors. Everyone else has either turned to ash or turned into zombies, and now the two young woman are on their own against a nightmare of unfatho ‐ oooh let’s go to the mall!
This mid-eighties horror comedy is a mixed bag of fun that manages some laughs and thrills without necessarily excelling at either. It’s fondly remembered though for good reason. There’s a casual likability about it, from the cast to the entertaining homage to several genre classics. This is the kind of slight gem that Scream Factory is tailor suited for, and they deliver in kind.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, trailer, interviews]
Star Trek: The Next Generation ‐ Season Five
Pitch: “New Stars. New Stories. New Worlds To Explore.” Same old captain though…
Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his crew enter the fifth season of their journey and discover new adventures alongside friends and enemies new and old.
I was no fan (or viewer) of this show during its original run on TV, but these new Blu-rays from Paramount and CBS have been the ideal way to experience the show for the first time. The HD restoration has been a mostly gorgeous affair through previous seasons, and that continues here with enhanced and in some cases totally recreated visual effects. The actual episodes run the gamut from forgettable to fantastic, and that in itself is a real accomplishment for a show in its fifth season.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, commentaries, deleted scenes, gag reel]
The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series
Pitch: “You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone.” And the stop after that? Willoughby…
Rod Serling’s acclaimed series features some of television’s most memorable TV episodes including “To Serve Man,” “Time Enough at Last,” “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” and many, many others.
Just about everyone has at least one favorite episode from this show, and the fact that the series is half a century old means that’s an amazing feat. CBS has released multiple versions of the show to DVD before (it’s even been released on Blu-ray), so if you have previous season sets or the complete collection then there’s nothing new here for you. If you have yet to pick them up though this new bare-bones release is an ideal way to correct that oversight. Every DVD library should have this on the shelf.
[DVD extras: None]
All Is Bright
Even apart Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd are often enough to make any film worthwhile, so combining the two seems like a no-brainer. Surprise! It’s not a lost cause exactly as the two manage some fine and fun moments in this comedic drama about to losers and their last-ditch attempt to stay solvent by selling Christmas trees, but there’s just not a lot to enjoy aside from some aspects of their performances. Both the drama and the laughs are far too inconsistent.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
And While We Were Here
Kate Bosworth stars as a woman in an unsatisfying marriage who travels to Italy with her husband only to discover herself along the way. A dalliance with a younger man helps of course, but that’s really just a trigger. Writer/director Kat Coiro’s film is a quiet drama that finds some beauty even though it never really takes hold as emotionally as it would like.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Director’s preferred black & white version]
Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus
A visiting American (Michael Cera) and his Chilean friends make plans for a hopefully transcendent hallucinatory experience involving cactus, but their schedule is slightly derailed by the arrival of a second American named Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman). Friction, laughs, and copious amounts of Hoffman-related nudity follow. Cera’s second team-up with director Sebastián Silva gives a better end result than Magic Magic, but there’s still a lot of aimless and unaffecting wandering to be found.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes, trailer]
Drew: The Man Behind the Poster
Drew Struzan is a legend in the sadly fading world of hand-drawn movie posters, and odds are he’s the man behind some of your own favorites. From the high profile films of George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Jim Henson to older and far more obscure “classics” like Squirm and C.H.O.M.P.S. Hell, he even did an awesome job for the Bigfoot flick Abominable. This doc offers a brief bio of his life alongside a series of interviews with the filmmakers and associates who’ve worked with him and come to love his work over the years.
[DVD extras: Comic-Con panel,extended interviews, trailer]
Eve of Destruction
Jim McQuade (Gregory Hines) is an expert on threats of all kinds, but his latest assignment has brought him face to face with something he never could have predicted. A robot. Shaped like a woman. It will take all of his resources to stop this android before it’s too late. It’s not that this is a bad movie necessarily, but I would question its inclusion under the usually stronger (and more horror-oriented) Scream Factory label. Because if you’re going to give a Hines genre effort the Blu-ray treatment I’m still waiting on a special edition of Wolfen.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
I Am Zozo
Horror movies that open with a statement saying it’s “based on a true story” are a preposterous breed, and in many cases it’s a desperate move for attention when the film that follows lacks other attributes. This is one such case. The film follows a group of “teens” who risk it all by playing around with a Ouija board, but the game turns dangerous when a spirit named Zozo accepts their invite. Shaky and uninteresting terrors follow.
[DVD extras: Featurette, interview]
2011’s Better This World is an interesting documentary that explores the arrest and conviction of of two young men for plotting to injure police with unregistered Molotov cocktails during a protest. They claimed entrapment at the hands of a high-profile left-wing activist named Brandon Darby. This new doc explores the same story, but it does so with the focus squarely on Darby (who participates in multiple interviews and reenactments) providing a fuller picture of his life before, during, and since the incident. He comes out smelling no better here.
[DVD extras: Featurettes, interview with Andrew Breitbart]
Harrison Ford! Gary Oldman! Liam Hemsworth…? This contemporary thriller about corporate espionage, greed, and dumb techno-gadgets forgets to add the thrills and instead delivers a mix of obvious and far-fetched plot turns. None of the events carry any dramatic weight, and while it’s fun watching Ford and Oldman get in each other’s faces it’s not enough to justify your time. Skip it and watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory instead.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
People start dying in horrific ways, and in addition to having been torn apart and/or partially eaten the other common factor among them is a connection to a man named Martin. He sees glimpses of the attacks in his mind and sets out to get at the bottom of things, but he’s unaware that the carnivorous monster behind it all also bears a very special connection to him. It’s low budget horror to be sure and includes all the trappings that come with that, but there’s a charm to the monster and to the filmmakers’ decision to flat out ignore the lesson of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and instead show the creature in all its cheap glory.
[DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, interviews]
Alexander Sokurov’s film is an interesting look at Russian history and art, but its true calling card is the stunning fact that the film consists of a single 96-minute, unbroken tracking shot. It’s a marvel of planning and execution and well worth a watch, but it’s unclear how much appeal there is for repeat viewings among non-academics. Regardless, Kino’s Blu-ray looks fantastic and the included documentary on the film’s making is also a must-watch.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, trailer]
Star Trek: The Next Generation ‐ Unification
The fifth season of the series also hits Blu-ray today, but as they’ve done with earlier seasons, CBS/Paramount is also releasing a stand-alone two-parter fused into one feature-length film. Leonard Nimoy guest stars as Spock in an epic story of political intrigue, a fight for peace, and multiple bad haircuts. If you like the show enough to buy this you may as well just pick up the full season which includes both episodes.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scene, making of]
The To Do List
Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) is a goody two-shoes who creates a sexual bucket list of things to do before she heads off to college, but her excitement over receiving a pearl necklace is only the start of her confusing and often funny troubles. Writer/director Maggie Carey has crafted a love letter of sorts to the ’90s, and while there are plenty of laughs to be found in the first two acts the final thirty minutes just falls flat. The script is as to blame as Plaza’s inability to deliver the necessary emotions. It’s still worth a rental though thanks in part to a supporting cast that includes Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, and more.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Gag reel, featurettes, deleted scenes, commentary]
Violet & Daisy
It’s a wacky action/comedy featuring Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Bledel as snappy hit-women! It’s also a tonal misfire. James Gandolfini brings some real warmth and wisdom to his supporting role, but seriously, Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone handled the balance between whimsy and coming-of-age violence better (and those machine guns fired creme puffs).
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Trailer, posters]
We’re the Millers
Yes, this comedy about four misfits who come together as a pretend family in an effort to smuggle a smidge of marijuana into the US from Mexico did earn over $266 million worldwide. No, that doesn’t mean it’s worth a blind buy. There are laughs here, mostly due to Jason Sudeikis and Will Poulter, but there just aren’t enough to fill a feature film. Fans of the cast (which also includes Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, and Ed Helms) and of prosthetic penis gags will want to give it a rent though.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, outtakes, gag reel, deleted scenes]
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
Maniac Cop 2
Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence
The Pom Pom Girls
Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps
Tokyo Story (Criterion)