This week sees several new releases hitting shelves from big budget comedies like Due Date and Megamind to smaller films like Fish Tank and Psych 9, but the largest grouping seems to fall under the foreign film heading. Lisbeth Salander gets an attractively packaged trilogy box-set, French gangsters run rampant, a Russian teen fights crime in a flying car, and two flexible women spend a sex and talk-filled night in a hotel room. So yeah… foreign films seem to be the way to go this week.
Alien vs Ninja
Everyone knows aliens and ninjas are cool, but for some reason no one thought to put them together until now. Not surprisingly, it took one of the creators of The Machine Girl to make it happen. And that association should also tip you off as to the tone and aesthetic of the movie… this isn’t a big budget, brilliantly scripted action pic. But it is a tale of warring ninja clans fighting each other in the woods of Japan until they’re interrupted by the arrival of an alien ship. The aliens onboard look like bipedal dolphins crossed with a bowling ball, and they’re hungry for Japanese cuisine. There’s a rather dull half hour early on, but stick with it for the final 45 minutes or so which is chock full of some ridiculously fun action, solid fight choreography, and some inappropriate touching. Check out my full review here.
Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo Trilogy
Pitch: You’ll come for the conspiracy-filled action and suspense, you’ll stay for the frequently nude bisexual woman…
Why Buy? The set collects the three films that comprise the Millennium Trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest), and while the individual films vary in quality the set as a whole is an interesting and well-acted mystery that provides insight into modern-day Sweden. In addition to the three films and the (always cool) lenticular image on the case a fourth DVD is included featuring interviews, trailers, and a 48-minute documentary exploring Larsson’s early life, the creation of the Millennium Trilogy, and the success/fallout of the books after his early death. The narration is a bit dodgy since the speaker is very clearly not a native English speaker, but the information about the books, films, and author is interesting.
Pitch: “From the master of the Romantic Thriller…”
Why Rent? Haven’t seen this one yet, but the special effects and craftsmanship evident in the film’s incredibly awesome trailer earn it a blind recommendation this week. A young couple meet and fall in love, but their romance is threatened when a flock of menacing birds attacks the seaside town they call home. You may have seen acting as bad as this before, but I guarantee you’ve never seen CGI birds done this incompetently… ever.
Change Of Plans
Pitch: It’s what happens between L’amour and le divorce…
Why Rent? Movies about open relationships, friends with benefits, and infidelity seem to be all the rage recently, but most of these movies seem to telling their stories through a broadly comic lens. This ensemble comedy/drama from France chooses to focus on the characters instead. It begins with a dinner party of friends and significant others, but it flashes forward a full year several times throughout showing us what becomes of the characters and relationships. It’s alternately funny and tragic, sweet and cruel, but above all the film is filled with scenes of honest humanity… meaning people being people for better or worse.
Fish Tank (Criterion)
Pitch: If Criterion says it’s good then it mu– what’s that? They also released Armageddon? Err…
Why Rent? Haven’t seen this one yet, but just about everyone I know has raved about it and it stars Michael Fassbender so it earns a blind recommendation from me. (Neil Miller went so far as to make it his pick of the week, but as you can see above I decided to go a bit classier with mine.) A troubled teenager’s only real obsession in life is dancing, at least until her mom’s new boyfriend (Fassbender) arrives. Katie Jarvis received high praise for her raw talent in her feature debut.
Pitch: In the grand tradition of Volcano and Dante’s Peak comes the yang to Despicable Me‘s ying…
Why Rent? Two alien babies crash land on earth, and while one grows up to be a beloved hero the other is forced to become a super villain. But when Metro Man (Brad Pitt) is finally defeated by Megamind (Will Ferrell) a delicate balance is disturbed and chaos follows. This is easily one of the funnier Dreamworks animated films in some time and features some honest laughs without feeling the need to be bombastic (ahem, Monsters vs Aliens). Check out Dustin Hucks’ full review here.
Mesrine: Killer Instinct
Pitch: When’s the last time you saw a badass Frenchman? Exactly. So you should watch this rarity now…
Why Rent? Jacques Mesrine was not a nice man. This is the first of a two-film look at the legendary French gangster in all his violent, sexist, cruel, stubborn, reactionary glory. Vincent Cassel brings him to brutal life, and while he and the film-makers take some time to show his early exposure to a corrupt and ruthless military tour in Algeria they don’t shy away from showing him as a total bastard. Lots of gunplay, action, and Canadian shenanigans, but the highlight is probably Mesrine’s ridiculous and poorly planned attempt to bust some baddies out of prison. Part two, Public Enemy #1, will follow shortly. And be sure to check the contest page elsewhere on this site for a chance to win Killer Instinct on DVD or Bluray.
Room In Rome
Pitch: Imagine Before Sunrise but with two attractive women spending an entire night scissoring in an Italian hotel room…
Why Rent? Director Julio Medem is a fan of beautiful women, especially those in a state of undress. His film Sex and Lucia paired sexy scenes with a deeply thought-provoking plot, but he’s chosen a different route for his new one. This time there’s twice as many naked and erotically charged women… and very little plot. Two women meet, talk, return to a hotel room, and spend the time until dawn rubbing nubs and chatting about their lives, loves, and loyalties. I’ll be honest and admit the conversations hold very little value…
Pitch: “The film they don’t want you to see…”
Why Rent? Two men, related by blood but in different decades, struggle to unravel the same conspiracy that has taken control of our lives. It seems in the near future people have chosen a life of false, drug induced happiness over the harsh realities of life. A secret organization (corporation?) is behind the lie, but the film is just as interested in why the people are going along with it all. The movie is a low budget affair and a jumbled narrative can make it a challenge to watch at times, but sci-fi fans and those interested in human behavior may want to check it out anyway.
Pitch: It’s Spider Man meets Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but without the fun of either…
Why Avoid? Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) produced this uninspired and lightweight Russian romp and will apparently be directing a US remake. Hopefully he’ll drop the idea though as we in America already have the same story better told in a little movie called Spider Man. An awkward young man is gifted with an old car that he soon discovers is capable of flight. He immediately sets out to earn money from this new ability and acts with a disregard for those around him… that selfishness even leads to the death of his father at the hands of a street thug. Sound familiar? His rage and guilt lead him to fight crime instead blah blah blah boring. The effects are okay, but the characters, story, and script leave everything to be desired. Skip it and watch Spider Man instead.
Pitch: Imagine a meaner and far less funny Planes, Trains, & Automobiles…
Why Avoid? A tightly wound man (Robert Downey Jr) is trying to get home for the birth of his child, but the incompetence and interference of a rotund man turns the trip into a nightmare. Unlike the John Hughes film that clearly inspired it this comedy of frustrations seems to mistake loud and cruel for funny and honest. Neither character is likable in the slightest, and aside from a few random laughs the movie as a whole isn’t either. Check out Cole Abaius’ full review here. Skip it and watch Planes, Trains, & Automobiles instead.
Eyes Of the Mothman
Pitch: An hour in you’ll be wishing the Mothman would come put you out of your misery. And there’s still ninety minutes left…
Why Avoid? The Mothman Prophecies is a thriller from 2002 starring Richard Gere that in addition to purportedly being based on true events is creepy as hell. The tale of a giant humanoid creature with wings and glowing red eyes is unbelievable but succeeds thanks to the film-makers ability to create atmosphere and tension. This doc manages none of that. It’s filled with uninteresting and unconvincing talking heads, and instead of setting the tone before settling in to explain it opens with thirty minutes of blandly told historical irrelevance. Skip it and watch The Mothman Prophecies instead.
Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Four
Pitch: This gets a fourth season, but brilliance like Community is struggling through a second? Makes sense…
Why Avoid? The History Channel has taken a page from other cable channels in recent years and abandoned the idea of creative programming in favor of “reality” television. It can be argued that “history” should be able to provide them with an endless supply of reality, but what do I know… so this series follows truck drivers in and around Alaska (look! I see Russia!) as they compete to see who can haul the most loads back and forth across icy, snowy, and generally cold roads. The show is edited within an inch of its life in an attempt to heighten the suspense, but it fails time and again. Skip it and watch The Wages Of Fear instead.
Pitch: Terrible things happen in the psych ward of an abandoned hospital. Shocking…
Why Avoid? Sara Foster stars as a young woman who takes a job shuffling papers overnight at a recently closed hospital, but her nights are interrupted by a demanding boyfriend, a mysterious doctor on the psych ward above, and a serial killer roaming the streets outside. What’s happening? Who’s the killer? What’s Sara’s connection to it all? The mystery gets points for being far from obvious, but the execution and eventual payoff are severely lacking in reward and scares. Skip it and watch Session 9 instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Huge: The Complete Series
The Killing Jar
Last Train Home
Sweet Smell Of Success (Criterion)
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?