Welcome back to This Week In DVD! Lots of new releases to choose from, but sadly, most of them are better left unwatched.
As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.
The Weight of the Nation
Americuh! This should come as news to no one, but the United States is full of fatties. Almost 70% of Americans are technically overweight or obese, and the causes for this are as numerous as ice cream flavors. The people themselves are ultimately responsible of course, but corporations, schools, and government inaction are equally culpable. This devastating HBO doc is broken into four parts: Consequences, Choices, Children In Crisis and Challenges. It looks at the problem from all sides identifying causal factors and their eventually deadly outcomes, and in a perfect world it would be mandatory viewing for classrooms and households alike.
Nothing else worth buying this week!
Pitch: The Breakfast Club meets a writer/director who can’t say no to himself…
Why Avoid? A group of high school misfits mess with the bull and get the horns in this kitchen sink film from writer/director Joseph Kahn about a killer stalking jargon-spewing teens. And time travel. And the 90s. And Dane Cook. Kahn overdoes just about every aspect of the film, and while elements like the opening scene and a handful of gags do work far more of it crosses into groan-inducing territory. I’m no fan of the movie, but I put it in the Rent section because the effort and affection that went into it deserve to find an audience. (An audience that doesn’t include me.) Could that be said for every movie I dislike? No. Check out my full review.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXIV
Pitch: There’s no actual mystery or science to be found here, but the theater’s pretty fun…
Why Rent? The classic series continues with Joel, Mike and a handful of smartass robots poking fun at four more bad movies from around the world. This time around the gang has fun laughing at Fugitive Alien, Star Force: Fugitive Alien II, Samson vs the Vampire Women and The Sword and the Dragon. As usual the results are a mixed bag, but while this is an automatic buy for fans the rest of should give it a rent for some guaranteed laughs. [Extras: Featurettes]
The Night Porter (UK)
Pitch: He’s taking pork off the room service menu…
Why Rent? The night porter (Dirk Bogarde) for a fancy Austrian hotel recognizes a young woman (Charlotte Rampling) from his time in WWII. He was a Nazi soldier then, and she was his teenage plaything whom he loved even as he abused both physically and mentally. Now, thirteen years later, the two pick up those same roles again and begin a dangerous affair that threatens to catch the attention of some ex-Nazis looking to eliminate any witnesses to their past atrocities. This 1974 film caused more than a little controversy when it premiered, and it’s easy to see why. But it’s that same controversial relationship that is the film’s weakest element. Bogarde gives a fantastically layered, guilt-filled performance, but his depth exists in contrast to the rest of the film’s exploitative paucity. [Also available on Blu-ray]
Waves of Lust
Pitch: Giorgio & Silvia & Irem & Barbara…
Why Rent? Irem and Barbara are a young couple traveling through Europe who meet up with another, slightly deranged couple. Giorgio is a cruel, physically and mentally abusive prick, and his girlfriend Silvia lets him treat her that way. The four new “friends” head out on a yacht trip, and the next few days will be filled with deception, sex, mindgames and murder. Director Ruggero Deodato tones down his penchant for graphic gore (a la Cannibal Holocaust) to deliver a nasty little thriller high on naked flesh and callous behavior. [Extras: Deleted scenes, featurette, booklet]
We the Party
Pitch: There hasn’t been a fantasy this unbelievable in theaters since The Lord of the Rings trilogy…
Why Rent? A group of friends in their Junior year of high school deal with girls, friends, teachers and societal expectations. Writer/director Mario Van Peebles’ film is extremely positive and inspiring, but it comes at the cost of being heavy handed and utterly unbelievable. But it’s also sweet, occasionally funny and ultimately harmless. As a side note, the opening credits last 16 minutes, and while it’s mostly a style choice it’s also due to a cast list that includes all 76 members of the Van Peebles clan. [Extras: Commentary, music videos]
Pitch: Error: Insufficient funds…
Why Avoid? Three co-workers (Alice Eve, Brian Geragthy, Josh Peck) make a late night stop at an inexplicably remote ATM shack, but before they get what they want a mysterious killer arrives intent on their demise. Single location thrillers are tough to pull off, but when they work they can be something special. ATM fails though due to a script that has absolutely no clue what to do with the setup. The trio’s actions are contrived and idiotic, the killer’s behaviors are illogical and false by any standard and the ending is just ridiculous. Skip it and watch Phone Booth instead. [Extras: Featurette]
Pitch: Zombies have officially outlived their welcome…
Why Avoid? A global virus (surprise!) leads to a zombie outbreak that threatens to wipe out humanity. Two survivors join together and set out for a supposedly zombie-free island, but since that would have resulted in a short film they instead find the place crawling with the undead. This is a competent-enough production, but zombie movies are so ubiquitous these days that a film really needs to do something special to stand out. This one doesn’t. Skip it and play Left 4 Dead instead. [Extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, featurette, outtakes]
Pitch: It’s exactly like Up In the Air if Up In the Air was a weak direct-to-DVD action movie starring an ex-MMA fighter…
Why Avoid? A supposedly Special Agent (Randy Couture) boards a high-tech jumbo jet and discovers midair that terrorists have been given a free upgrade to first class. Angered, he works with a small team of frequent flyers to take them out one by one. DTV movies aren’t automatically a sign of bad things to come, but the action here is weak and forgettable, the plot is uninteresting and the plane’s interiors are the most unbelievable aircraft innards since Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet. Skip it and watch Executive Decision instead. [Extras: None]
Pitch: When the highlight of your movie is a teenage girl fingering a dead chicken you may have missed your mark…
Why Avoid? Lola (Miley Cyrus) leads the complicated life of a high school girl dealing with boys, friends, her hymen and the voice of a heavy smoker while her mom (Demi Moore) tries to reconnect with her ex (Thomas Jane). This is apparently meant to be a glimpse of teenage life in a social media world which is odd seeing as Lola spends half the film handwriting in a journal. She spends the other half rasping her way through Three’s Company-like misunderstandings and failed attempts at crying on cue. At least there’s a Battle of the Bands! Skip it and watch Little Darlings instead. [Extras: Commentary, featurettes]
Pitch: His medal may be gold, but his heart is red, white and blue…
Why Avoid? An East German Pentathloner (?) wins gold in Seoul then escapes to a life of freedom in the USA instead of returning home. When the wall comes down a few months later his cruel and incredibly patriotic trainer (David Soul) comes looking for him. Lundgren is a capable action star, but this film is uninspired in almost every way up to and including a ludicrous finale. Actually, ludicrous would have been an improvement over dull. The only possible plus side to sitting through this is that it stars the hot Evil Leaper from Quantum Leap. Skip it and watch Universal Soldier instead. [Also available on UK Blu-ray]
Pitch: Crazy is as crazy does…
Why Avoid? A mentally challenged young man allegedly assaults his caregiver, and his overprotective mother sets out for revenge against the young woman. Margo Martindale plays the mother, and while she’s usually a reliable actress her performance swings back and forth between strong and shrill. The film is told in a fragmented manner both chronologically and by shifting perspectives between the three key players. Opening with the mother snapping deflates any chance for suspense, and the film’s chosen “revelation” is more of a nonsensical head-scratcher then shocker. Skip it and watch the second season of Justified instead.
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:
Hatfields & McCoys
The Kent Chronicles
Le Havre (Criterion)
Read More: This Week in DVD
What are you buying on DVD this week?