Welcome back to This Week In Discs!
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
Safety Not Guaranteed
A trio of magazine writers (Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni) head to a small coastal town in Washington to investigate an intriguing classified ad. Once there they discover as much about themselves as they do the oddball (Mark Duplass) behind the time travel-themed ad. If the synopsis sounds hokey just know that the resulting film is a sweet and simple delight from beginning to end. Plaza balances her usual cynicism and sarcasm with a true emotionally satisfying performance while Johnson and Duplass bring heart and laughs as well. It’s rare to see such a small film manage such an uplifting finale, but writer Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow manage something special here that deserves an audience. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Featurettes]
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection
Pitch: It’s quite possible that Alfred Hitchcock has starred in more critically acclaimed films than anyone else…
Why Buy? I haven’t seen this one yet, but it’s a beautiful-looking box set featuring fifteen of Hitchcock’s classics on Blu-ray, and many of them are loaded with extras. It includes Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, Rear Window, The Trouble with Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, The Birds, Marnie, Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy and Family Plot. [Extras: Loaded with extras] *Note: If you can wait two weeks, the UK Blu-ray is region-free and available from AmazonUK for $70 less than the US one. It is missing North By Northwest, but you can buy that Blu separately and still come out well ahead.
Pitch: It’s Politician Ricky Bobby vs. Politician Seth Galifianakis…
Why Rent? Because even when they’re playing their own tired characters, Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are funny. And The Campaign relies heavily on that fact, placing most of the comedic weight on the two men who grace its cover (and the baby, of course). With a number of supporting roles filled by genuine titans of comedy (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow, along with a splendid performance from Dylan McDermott), Jay Roach’s election lampoon gets its laughs when it needs them. And it needs them often to distract you from the fact that there isn’t much of a story here. That said, Will Ferrell does punch a baby. And if that’s not worth your Redbox dollar, well then I’m not sure what to tell you. [Extras: Line-o-rama, deleted scenes, gag reel] - NEIL MILLER
Pitch: RIP Tony Scott…
Why Rent? Susan Wheeler (Lauren Ambrose) is a med student at a high profile hospital who discovers a strange pattern exhibited by some recent patients. She investigates against the judgement of her superiors and finds a high ranking conspiracy with shocking implications. Robin Cook’s bestselling novel was already made into a feature many years ago starring Michael Douglas and Genevieve Bujold, but Ridley and Tony Scott’s miniseries remake is an equally satisfying creation. It has a great cast too including Geena Davis, James Woods, Ellen Burstyn and Richard Dreyfuss. [Extras: None]
The Night Child (UK)
Pitch: As if having a ginger child wasn’t bad enough…
Why Rent? A documentary filmmaker whose wife recently died heads to Italy with his daughter and her nanny to make a film centuries old art. One of the pieces has a profound effect on the child leading to possession, murder and creepy wind machines. Italian horror films are known for their flamboyant and often gory excesses, but this mid-seventies spooker relies more on atmosphere than hardcore scares. It’s a bit slow-going at times, but it manages to work its way towards a truly satisfying climax. [Extras: Trailers] *Import DVD requires a region-free player*
Pitch: A writer is lonely, so he invents a woman with his typewriter…
Why Rent? Paul Dano stars as a very talented writer who is having trouble putting words to page. As an exercise prescribed by his shrink, he begins to write about his dreams. These dreams, as it turns out, include an adorable pixie dream girl played by Zoe Kazan. Not long after, the words on the page manifest and he finds her standing in his kitchen. Realizing that he brought her to life all Weird Science-style, he is left with a dilemma: how do you solve a problem like Ruby, a girl over which you have complete control? It’s a charming film that has some interesting thematic issues and works because Dano and Kazan are a good on-screen match. It’s character have problems being grounded in any sort of reality, but it is a movie about a guy who manifests a girl with the power of prose, so you have to take what you can get. Also available on Blu-ray. [Extras: Featurettes] - NEIL MILLER
Super Bitch (UK)
Pitch: She’s not really that much of a bitch…
Why Rent? An escort service that acts as a front for drug running is infiltrated by an undercover cop, and when a Turkish gang starts threatening the organization he orchestrates a war between the two groups. This 70s era cop flick from Italy is loaded with blood and boobs, but while it’s played straight the movie is also a fair amount of fun. The outside gang is led by an old woman and features a member who resembles Sonny Bono and strums a guitar while his friends maim and murder, and the lady flesh is both pleasing and frequent. The original titles, Mafia Junction and Blue Movie Blackmail, are far more accurate, but Super Bitch has a certain charm to it. [Extras: Featurettes] *Import DVD requires a region-free player*
A Christmas Story 2
Pitch: It’s definitely a number two…
Why Avoid? I haven’t seen this one yet, but watching the trailer tells me all I need to know. Ralphie and the rest of the family are back for another Christmas adventure, but this time they’re brought to terribly unfunny life with all new actors and filmmakers including Daniel Stern and the director of Snow Dogs. It looks like the script essentially recycles jokes and gags from the superior original while adding new words and events around them. Also available on Blu-ray. [Extras: Alternate ending, featurettes] Skip it and watch It Runs in the Family instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
All in the Family: The Complete Series
Complete Fractured Fairy Tales
Copper: Season One
Rosemary’s Baby (Criterion)