Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Best Blu-ray & DVD Releases of the Week: 'Drug War,' 'Maniac,' 'Pacific Rim' and More

Welcome back to This Week In Discs!

If you SEE SOMETHING YOU LIKE, click on the title to buy it from Amazon.

Satoru Watarai (GAKU HAMADA) graduates from primary school with only one certainty. He plans on never leaving the "projects" where he lives. The gated community of apartment complexes also features stores, restaurants, recreation areas and more, and Satoru sees no reason to leave. As the years pass by he watches as his friends move away, he loses the love of his life, and he begins to question his physical inability to set foot outside the projects.

Director YOSHIHIRO NAKAMURA is no stranger to ridiculously good cinema, and anyone who's seen Fish Story, Golden Slumber, or A Boy & His Samurai knows that he mixes entertainment and emotion in wonderfully rare ways. His latest lacks a fantastical element or song-related hook, and instead focuses on the presumably stunted life of one man affected by a singular traumatic moment. The first half plays like a loosely melancholy comedy before a shift sets in to up the emotional stakes dramatically, and the result is an incredibly affecting look at the intersection of fate and the life we make of our own will.

[Region 2 DVD extras: Introduction, interview, trailer]

PITCH: "Your body. Their experiment." Our collective repulsion at this terrible cover art.

Dave (TREVOR MORGAN) and Jessica (TESSA FERRER) are young, in love, and in the wrong place at the wrong time when they enter Los Angeles' Griffith Park late one night. The two are darted and abducted by unknown, well, abductors, and when they awaken it's to a growing mystery. New couples appear periodically, but the information they provide is as helpful as it is contradictory. Who took them and why?

It's a shame how dumb, generic, and unfortunate this title is, because it and the terrible cover art are guaranteed to keep potential viewers away. That's too bad as the movie deserves better. It's really well written for a direct-to-DVD thriller, and the acting is equally strong throughout. The leads act like real people and rarely offer the opportunity for criticism of their actions, and the script keeps the mystery alive with an abundance of red herrings and possible explanations. Genre fans should look past its ugly exterior and give this one a chance.

[DVD extras: Making of, trailer]

PITCH: "High risk high return." Risk comes from not knowing what you're doing - Warren Buffett

China isn't fooling around when it comes to punishing drug offenders, and Timmy Choi (LOUIS KOO) has just been picked up for manufacturing tons of meth. Te sentence is guaranteed death, but Captain Zhang (SUN HONGLEI) has offered him a deal. If he informs on fellow dealers and his information leads to arrests, his sentence will be commuted. So he goes along with it. Sort of.

Director JOHNNIE TO's work is a mixed bag of the okay to the fantastic, and his latest falls into the latter group. (For reference his best are Mad Detective and Running on Karma IMO, although this lacks the humor of those two.) His latest is as much procedural as action film, but it builds to a tremendous shootout that should more than satisfy action junkies. Along the way though it becomes a fantastic dueling character piece between cop and criminal.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Trailer]

PITCH: "In 1943 sixteen German paratroopers landed in England. In three days they nearly won the War." In 2013 Shout! Factory brought it to Blu-ray

As the final days of World War II wind down the Nazis make a last ditch effort at possibly altering the course of the history, and it involves kidnapping Winston Churchill from a small town in England. They send in their best man (MICHAEL CAINE) along with a squad of soldiers and an IRA member (DONALD SUTHERLAND) whose hatred of the Brits is stronger than his love of a free Europe. Their plan is interrupted by an ill-advised good deed and the arrival of LARRY HAGMAN.

This is the kind of old-school war movie they just don't make anymore, and it's a damn shame because it's pretty damn spectacular. It was the last film directed by JOHN STURGES (The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven), and in addition to the cast above it also stars ROBERT DUVALL, DONALD PLEASANCE, JENNY AGUTTER, and TREAT WILLIAMS. The first half offers some fun character work and setup while the back end delivers on the (surprisingly) bloody action. It runs over two hours, but it flies by as you find yourself caught up in its adventure and characters.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, trailer]

PITCH: "A serial killer is on the loose, and only she can catch him." Well la-di-da

The city of Belfast is no stranger to violence, but when a serial killer (JAMIE DORNAN) starts targeting women for debasement and death the authorities call in a specialist from London. Stella Gibson (GILLIAN ANDERSON) is a no-nonsense detective in the Jane Tennison mold, but in addition to fighting sexist preconceptions she's also up against a political divide. The killer meanwhile has troubles of his own including an insecure wife, lovable kids, and that pesky desire to kill women.

This five episode season from the UK offers up one of the smarter and less traditional female detectives in many years, and Anderson nails the role with wit, intensity, and an undeniable sexuality. That's not just me flashing back to my X-Files affection either as the character is allowed to be as sexually active as the genre's usual male counterparts. The show and its villain are equally smart resulting in an escalating tension that makes for one of the more exciting British imports in years.

[DVD extras: Behind the scenes]

PITCH: "Inspired by real events" Budget wasn't big enough to afford a "based on real events" unfortunately

The MV Rosen is a Danish cargo ship hijacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean. The crew does their best to hang on, but events and their lives are out of their control. Instead a battle of wills develops between the pirates' "interpreter" and the company's CEO.

If you can see only one movie about Somali pirates, you really need to manage your time a hell of a lot better. (But seriously, go see Captain Phillips.) Initial setup aside this is a far different story from Paul Greengrass' phenomenal new film in that it's as much the CEO's tale as it is the crew's. We see the toll it takes on him too, and while he doesn't have a gun to his head the effect is just as damaging at times.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes, featurettes, trailer]

PITCH: "I warned you not to go out tonight." Without your umbrella I mean

Remakes of older horror hits (and misses for that matter) have become the norm, but few have managed to re-imagine the original into something as fresh, memorable, and effective as FRANCK KHALFOUN's Maniac. The storyline, about a lonely guy with mother issues who takes out his psychosis on beautiful women, remains the same, but this time the tale is told almost exclusively through the killer's (ELIJAH WOOD) POV.

And the result is a film that finds a rare beauty for the genre through its technically impressive shots, spectacularly gruesome gore effects, and score (by ROB) that reminds of Drive in all the best ways. It's not for the faint-hearted or easily disgusted, but genre fans should most definitely give it a spin. (Especially while it's eleven bucks for the Blu-ray on Amazon!)

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, commentary, deleted scenes, poster gallery, trailer]

PITCH: "To fight monsters, we created monsters." Because bunker-buster missiles are too expensive apparently

The Kaiju first glimpsed in old Godzilla movies are real, and after years of devastation caused by monsters rising from the seas mankind develops giant, bipedal, mechanized creations called Jaegers to fight back. Because the best weapon against monsters are Rock'em Sock'em robots.

This is an unpopular opinion in a world where GUILLERMO DEL TORO is revered as a geek god, but Pacific Rim is a severely flawed and incredibly dumb movie. Sorry. So why is it under the "Best" section? Because it's about giant f*cking monsters fighting giant f*cking mechs! Even with every epic brawl inexplicably having to take place on a rainy night the action is still is (almost) orgasmic to anyone who was ever an imaginative child. That combined with IDRIS ELBA, RINKO KIKUCHI, CHARLIE DAY, RON PERLMAN, and a fairly in-depth set of special features make for a must-own Blu-ray.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, gag reel]

America's inexplicable love affair with post-talent CHARLIE SHEEN continues as his second hit series churns out twenty two more indistinguishable episodes. If grade-school innuendo, laugh tracks, and poor comic timing are your thing then this is for you!

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Gag reel]

The world has become an arctic wasteland, and what remains of mankind has been forced to hold up in a series of underground colonies, but down there survival has taken on a whole new meaning. Okay fine, it means the same thing, but the difference comes in how far each person will go to ensure their own, and when a nearby colony sends out a distress call LAURENCE FISHBURNE, BILL PAXTON, and KEVIN ZEGERS discover the truth is bloody and more than a little gristly. Part Syfy Orginal movie and part legitimately exciting action/horror hybrid, this little thriller is not a bad way to spend ninety minutes.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes, interviews]

The Syfy channel is best known for airing ridiculous movies about Sharknados, Badgercanes, and Gerbilnamis, but they also produce original series content. This is one of those. The effects are solid, and there's a broad array of character types, but it's not immediately engaging or all that interesting.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel, featurettes]


Why make a generic vampire movie when you can go straight to the most famous bloodsucker of all? There's probably some logic in that, but it doesn't explain why said film needs to be so damn generic in its look and feel. JON VOIGHT long ago stopped adding anything resembling cache to his film projects, and while the title actor does his best Bruce Payne impression the result remains a fairly forgettable affair all around. (Note: this is a Walmart exclusive for a limited time.)

[DVD extras: Interviews, featurette, commentary]

Why yes, it is a remake of "the erotic cult classic" that starred Alyssa Milano and answered all your prayers after years of watching Who's the Boss? Obviously a Milano-less remake can't achieve the same level of naked wow, but it's still a fairly sexy affair. This is due in part to the lesbian sex scene between two members of the world's most attractive female fencing team. But is it good beyond that? Well there's also some topless hazing shenanigans.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

CLINT HOWARD didn't always need his big brother to sign his paychecks. He may have needed a helping hand from DENNIS WEAVER and a lovable black bear, but his acting chops and adorable little face certainly helped. Much like Lassie or Flipper, this is essentially a lightweight, family-oriented adventure with an animal hook, and even though Ben wasn't always front and center in the story his presence was always felt just off-screen. Kind of like Ron Howard throughout the rest of Clint's career.

[DVD extras: Commentaries, photo gallery]

I won't pretend this show is compelling must-watch television, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't occasionally entertaining and completely harmless fluff. RACHEL BILSON finds new life post The O.C. as a young doctor transplanted from NYC to a small Southern town, and while it's often a game of musical beds the cast is filled with charmers including JAIME KING and CRESS WILLIAMS. Sometimes all you need is something light and instantly forgettable, and this is that something.

[DVD extras: None]

All you need to determine whether or not this movie is for you is that it's a buddy cop comedy from PAUL FEIG, the director of Bridesmaids, and it stars SANDRA BULLOCK and MELISSA MCCARTHY. If that recipe appeals to you than odds are you're going to have a great time here, but if, say, you think Bridesmaids is a tad overrated and McCarthy is a bit of a one-note performer than expect to be underwhelmed. That said, the bloopers (aka boners) are hilarious and one of the five (five!) commentary tracks includes the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Theatrical/unrated versions, featurettes, bloopers, deleted scenes, commentaries]

It's a comedy about the guys who invented those "hilarious" talking bottle openers! It's also four years old, which is odd seeing as I've never heard of it before. That's in part because it originally went under the title Lightbulb, but it's probably mostly due to the fact that it's super generic and lightweight. For fans of JEREMY RENNER and DALLAS ROBERTS only.

[DVD extras: Behind the scenes, interviews]

Indie horror fans will want to check this one out as it's already received quite a bit of well-deserved praise for being a fairly original take on a familiar subject. The third act can't quite seal the deal, but writer/director CHAD CRAWFORD KINKLE tells his story with a strong voice and some equally compelling performances.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, trailer]

Interested in a movie "from the director of Twilight?" Like seeing EMILY BROWNING's naked, preteen boy-like body? Intrigued by the thought of CAM GIGANET playing the baxter instead of the stud? Prefer your rock n roll lifestyle flicks to feel wholly inauthentic? If you answered yes to any of these questions then this movie about an alternative rock singer (Browning) dealing with the death of her brother (THOMAS DEKKER), plummeting album sales, and a bisexual bandmate into infidelity and murder is for you!

[DVD extras: Music videos, teaser trailers for other CATHERINE HARDWICKE movies]

Hip-hop and graffiti come together in a narrative-fueled, documentary-like feature good enough to deserve anniversary editions every five years or so. Fans of rap and vandalism are guaranteed a good time, but for fuddy duddys like myself there's little here to enjoy, so instead I'll just share that Billboard Magazine calls this the "#1 Hip-Hop movie of all time."

[DVD extras: Photo gallery, commentary, interviews, featurettes, booklet]


Bewitched: The Complete Series

Exploding Sun

Eyes Without a Face (Criterion)

The Hitch-Hiker

I Dream of Jeannie: The Complete Series

Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain

Night Tide

The Stranger

The Partridge Family: The Complete Series


Rocko's Modern Life: The Final Season

The Sky Is Falling

Strong Man

Thankskilling 3

Vikings: The Complete First Season
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