Welcome back to This Week In Discs!
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
John Dies at the End
David and John are college dropouts with no direction in their lives, but thanks to some very special soy sauce (that isn’t really soy sauce) they’re also the only ones standing between our world and the monstrous denizens of another dimension. You don’t need to know any more plot synopsis than that. (Especially since you already know how it ends…)
The only bad thing about this release is the cover art. Director Don Coscarelli has always had a comedic side, but it’s only over his last few films that he’s really brought it to the forefront of his work. His latest finds the sweet spot that manages to be both very funny and incredibly creative on the horror side. Seriously, there is some crazy stuff here. Rush out and buy this one so Coscarelli can get moving on adapting David Wong’s sequel, “This Book Is Full Of Spiders.” Granted, he’ll probably have to change the title. [Blu-ray extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, making of, featurettes]
That Thing You Do!
Pitch: Hey, hey, it’s the Oneders…
What’s It About? It’s the 1960s, and a group of friends in a band have seen their first glimpse of stardom. A big-shot manager (Tom Hanks) takes them on, but the road ahead may be a lot rougher than the one that got them here.
Why Buy? Hanks made his writing/directing debut with this sweet, funny and melodic little surprise. The cast is a who’s who of young talent (at the time anyway) including Liv Tyler, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry, Johnathon Schaech and Charlize Theron(!). The laughs are legit, the drama is solid enough and the music is actually catchy. The film is making its HD debut and is well worth a buy. [Blu-ray extras: Extended cut, music video, featurettes, making of]
What’s It About? Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.) is a young boy growing up in a fatherless home and desperate to be a man, but when his ex-convict uncle Vincent (Common) comes to stay, he gets a crash course in growing up. Vincent is struggling to set a new course in his life, and over a single day he sees exactly how difficult that’s going to be.
Why Rent? Common isn’t necessarily a good actor, but his flat emotions work well for a character who’s trying his best to remain calm in the face of life’s cruel jokes. Rainey does good work here though, and he’s the core of what keeps the story interesting. It’s pretty easy to see where things are heading, but it’s an easy watch and one that benefits from a supporting cast including Danny Glover, Dennis Haysbert and Charles S. Dutton. [DVD extras: Making of, deleted scenes, featurette, commentary, trailer]
Pitch: Clowns. Why’d it have to be clowns…
What’s It About? Stitches (Ross Noble) is a rude, unprofessional and flat out terrible clown whose latest gig at a children’s party turns out to be his last. The kids whose antics led to his demise grow up and fall apart socially, but the promise of a party brings them all back together again. Unfortunately for them, Stitches is also keen on attending.
Why Rent? Director/co-writer Conor McMahon makes it clear early on that he’s only interested in making a fun, gory and none too serious flick, and he succeeds on all counts. There are a few laughs and lots of solid (and practically created) gore effects, and even though it’s not necessarily all that memorable, it remains a fun watch for genre fans. [Blu-ray extras: Commentary, making of, bloopers, trailer]
Pitch: It’s the gift that keeps on giving…
What’s It About? Far from the tourist areas of Buenos Aires lays the Villa Virgin, a shanty town populated with the city’s undesirables, and its newest resident is a priest struggling with this reality. Nicolas’ (Jeremie Renier) last charitable effort ended in mass murder in the jungle, and his latest isn’t looking that much safer.
Why Rent? Director Pablo Trapero follows up the insurance thriller Carancho with this drama featuring political commentary, moral complications and brief bits of action. Ricardo Darin plays an older, wiser priest looking for a successor, and the rest of the cast elevates their game to his level. The drama and character work are engaging even if the commentary is played a bit thick at times. [DVD extras: None]
Hemingway & Gellhorn
Pitch: He was a man’s man in search of a woman. Or two. Or three…
What’s It About? Ernest Hemingway (Clive Owen) is one of the world’s great authors, and Martha Gellhorn (Nicole Kidman) is a high profile war journalist. Together they form a dynamic and combustible couple who move from the battlefield to the bedroom with no break in the fighting.
Why Avoid? Director Philip Kaufman’s HBO production is a bit of an odd duck. The visuals range from the appealing to the clearly manipulated. The acting by the leads would work better in an exaggerated comedy. And the story misses the point of its own focus on Gellhorn. On the bright side, the supporting cast (including David Strathairn, Tony Shalhoub and Parker Posey) is pretty good. [Blu-ray extras: Behind the scenes, making of, commentary]
Skip it and watch The Year of Living Dangerously instead.
Pitch: Almost any episode of Bugs Bunny is more psychologically disturbing…
What’s It About? Two boys exit a 3D horror film obsessed and haunted by its rabbit imagery, but things get even weirder when a man (?) in a rabbit suit starts stalking their daily lives.
Why Avoid? Director Takashi Shimizu helped jump start the Asian horror boom several years back with his film Ju-on aka The Grudge, but he’s been unable to follow that success with anything near as good. While that film featured some legitimately creepy imagery and scares alongside its casual pacing his latest is weird but incredibly dull. It’s a companion piece to his own Shock Labyrinth, which not coincidentally was also a bland horror film with weak special effects. [Blu-ray extras: 2D & 3D versions]
Skip it and watch A Tale of Two Sisters instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
The Baytown Outlaws
The Bible: The Epic Miniseries
Dark Matters: Twisted But True ‐ Season One
Fangoria Presents: Inhuman Resources
The Killing: Complete Second Season
Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One ‐ Avengers Assembled
Meet the Fokkens