Welcome back to This Week In Discs!
If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon.
Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a rising R&B star on he verge of making a splash at #1 on the album charts, but the pressure of it all is too much. She crosses paths with a young police officer named Kaz (Nate Parker), and an honest love grows between them, but fame and the people around her (including label executives and mom Minnie Driver) threaten to overshadow their relationship.
Writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s feature is the Notting Hill remake you didn’t know you wanted, but it’s also its own smartly entertaining creation. The two leads have strong chemistry together, and even as the story hits some familiar beats it maintains an engaging energy and heart. It’s a sexy, funny, heartfelt look at dreaming big and recognizing the fine line between ambition and greed, and it deserves a far bigger audience than it found in theaters.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, music video, theatrical and director’s cuts]
Hiro is a smart kid ‐ perhaps too smart for his own good ‐ but he finds direction when his older brother helps direct him towards a higher education. His enthusiasm is cut short though when his brother dies in a fire alongside Hiro’s high-tech microbots. His brother left behind his own invention though, a caregiver robot named Baymax, and along with some new friends the pair find themselves on an adventure of epic proportions!
Walt Disney’s latest just won Best Animated Film of the Year at the Oscars, and while I wouldn’t go that far it’s definitely in the top five. There’s plenty of solidly crafted action sequences and more than a few laughs, and the heart of the story works well enough. It’s essentially a superhero origin story, and hopefully it’s one that gets a sequel. All that plus Jamie Chung voicing one of the characters!
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Short film, featurettes, deleted scenes]
Federico Fellini began the 1960s with an image of modern Roman decadence and excess in La Dolce Vita and ended it a depiction of ancient Roman decadence with Fellini Satyricon ‐ an even more ambitious, loosely structured, and excessive film that capped off a decade of a director pushing the boundaries of filmic storytelling and form. Fellini’s film is a liberal adaptation of Petrnoius’s titular tome (an etymological source of the word “satire”) and it depicts a Nero-era young scholar and his manservant/lover as they follow a series of narratively dissociated episodes that demonstrate the chaotic excess of ancient Roman life.
Fellini revels in the shared beauty and vulgarity of the setting, which he depicts ancient Rome in lustrous color realized through ambitious production design. It’s like Spartacus depicted through the lens of a fever dream or under the influence of heavy narcotics. A film that is as alluring as it is alienating, as gorgeously rendered as it is disgusting, and as compelling as it is fragmentary, Fellini Satyricon is an inherently divisive work by one of our great directors. This is “Fellini-esque” taken to its most potent extremes. ‐ Landon Palmer
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Audio commentary; Documentary shot on the set of the film; New interviews with Fellini, Roman historians, cinematographer, set photographer; Historical ephemera; Trailer; illustrated booklet with essay by Michael Wood]
Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) have reaped the benefits of their adventure from the first film and have become their own bosses. It’s a triumph that they’ve channeled into a new invention set to be manufactured and distributed by their very own small company, but the caveat is that they need a little bit of funding to get them on their way. The help they need comes from local millionaire Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) and his son, Rex (Chris Pine), but when the father/son pair screws them over it’s not long before their experienced criminal minds are put to use once again.
Happily, their plan necessitates the return of Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey. All three bring varying degrees of laughs, but it’s franchise newcomer Pine who steals the show. As great as that supporting roster is though it’s the three leads who once again prove just how perfect their combined chemistry is here. Each of them are funny on their own, but together they achieve an immaculately balanced comedic nirvana. Bateman’s mastered the slightly off straight-man routine, Sudeikis is a genius at the incredulously dry delivery and Day has turned shrill panic into an art form. Any of them on their own could get old, but they’re kept in smooth motion here never giving us time to grow tired of their respective shtick.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Andrew (Miles Teller) wants to be one of those greats. His focus is drumming, jazz drumming in particular, and his immediate goal is to catch the ear of the Schaffer Music Academy’s legendary professor, Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). The man makes and breaks musicians, but his method of channeling R. Lee Ermey’s meaner cousin threatens to destroy Andrew’s dream before it even begins.
This is a percussive thriller that drops viewers into the middle of an obsession, one that assaults the eyes and ears with a painful beauty and the occasional misstep before reaching an incredibly invigorating finale. Equal parts suspense and musical drama, the film is a blistering experience. Teller, who played the instrument earlier in his life, is incredibly convincing playing amped up jazz drums. His talent and dedication are visible in his motions and on his face, and while he does good work elsewhere in the film he’s a force of nature behind his kit and demands your recognition and respect. Simmons shows a different kind of intensity with his performance, and while he earns laughs through a never-ending rainbow of profanity and callousness, he also reveals his character’s truth between the slurs.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes, short film]
Italian immigrants making a home and a name for themselves in turn of the century Californian wine country, but when a railroad tycoon (Dennis Hopper) tries to muscle his way into their property a war is triggered amid the grape fields. Eric Roberts is the young stud leading the rebellion against Hopper’s politically-enabled corporate machine, and that should pretty much tell you all you need to know about this one. There are two bonuses though ‐ Hopper does a tremendously bad Irish accent and Julia Roberts co-stars as her half brother’s cousin.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
The Sentinels are the self-appointed neighborhood watch for their high school, but their morally misguided efforts come under scrutiny when a targeted student is found dead. Albert Pyun’s teen-centric thriller is a capable ’80s throwback with a solid soundtrack, twenty-year-old high school students and a morally superior finale that doesn’t wholly satisfy. It’s fun.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
A team of paranormal investigators is sent to check out a small, rural church that may or may not be home to supernatural shenanigans. What they find will probably bore you. This is yet another found-footage horror story, but while it at least moves the action to a church instead of the usual house, cabin or forest the result remains mostly the same. Lots of bland chatter, lots of shaky cam action and far too many instances of digital equipment failure. Also, it’s not scary.
[DVD extras: Featurette]
Danny (Scott Adkins) once led his neighborhood’s football hooligans, but he escaped that life years ago. He returns to town when his younger brother is killed in a fight and soon finds himself wrapped up in the violence once again. Adkins gets some mild fighting action in late in the film, but for the most part this is a movie about assholes who think opposing sports teams are worth hurting and maiming each other over.
[DVD extras: Featurette]
Rose (Miranda Cosgrove) has just moved into an old house with her father (Donal Logue), but it’s not long before the past comes back to haunt them both. The previous tenant disappeared, strange noises can be heard and Tom Sizemore lives across the street. So yeah, it’s pretty scary. Well, in theory anyway, as too much of the film feels generic in its visuals and presentation of “creepy” situations. If nothing else, it’s fun seeing Cosgrove out of her usual iCarly vibe.
[DVD extras: Featurettes]
An anonymous caller announces his plans to kill one person at the stroke of midnight in each of the country’s four time zones ‐ to clarify, they’ll all be killed in New York City, but it will happen at each of the four midnights. The film reveals the killers face early on, so this isn’t a whodunnit with a masked killer, but it also confuses the issue with a second psycho in training. There are some solid sequences here as far as serial killer thrillers go, but ultimately it’s no surprise that the film didn’t find the same kind success other holiday-themed slashers received.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews]
Rachel Schpitendavel (Britt Ekland) is a nice young Amish woman who wants only to dance, but when a burlesque theater’s owner (Elliott Gould) attempts to use her as a pawn in his battle with a morally-outraged citizen his plan goes somewhat awry. William Friedkin’s late ’60s feature is a constantly moving comic romp, but there aren’t much in the way of actual laughs.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
A trio of fools kidnap a young woman in the hope of snagging a healthy ransom from her drug cartel father (Danny Trejo), but their plans fall by the wayside when their supposed victim works to outwit them all. There’s some fun to be had with this highly combustible little thriller, much of it in the final bloody minutes, but there are some problems too. Chief among them are a pair of rough performances among the kidnappers, but even with the rough spots this is a fast ride to a chaotic and messy conclusion.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, bloopers, alternate ending]
Emily (Carre Otis) arrives in Rio de Janeiro to start a new job, but it’s her libido that goes to work when she meets the mysterious and wealthy James (Mickey Rourke). The man has odd tastes ‐ he doesn’t like to be touched! he likes to watch! ‐ but all he needs is the pure love of a good woman. Zalman King directs this artsy romp, and while it’s not all that good it’s far sexier than a certain piece of adult erotica currently in theaters.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
The end times are here, and they’ve taken the form of the undead. This anthology collects several zombie-themed shorts connected by a newscaster (Bill Oberst Jr.), but unfortunately too many of them are incredibly cheap-looking and underwhelming. One of the rare exceptions is an incredibly fun piece about Jesus being responsible for starting a zombie outbreak with his first stab at resurrection. There are some great laughs alongside a mix of practical and CGI effects, and it has a spirit the rest of the shorts lack.
[DVD extras: Short film]
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:
Dragonheart 3: The Sorcerer’s Curse
Eat Drink Man Woman
Sons of Anarchy: The Final Season
Watership Down (Criterion)
Zoey to the Max
Related Topics: Home Video