Your Mid-Week Guide To DVD And Streaming: Affleck Shrugged

“So this one’s called the ‘glass-bottom boat’…”

Howdy friends! The big DVD this week is Argo, but we’ve got plenty to discuss beyond Ben Affleck and his striking resemblance to that guy from Die Hard.  There’s also flicks starring Keira Knightley, Ethan Hawke, John Cusack and Val Kilmer. We’ve got movies about serial killers, struggling rock musicians, capitalists, and criminals.  We’ve got small apartments and special forces.  There’s a junior high spy, a sushi girl, and even a talking cat!

The DVDs:
Argo
Anna Karenina
Sinister
Fun Size
The Factory
For Ellen
Riddle
The Package
Atlas Shrugged, Part II: The Strike
Small Apartments
Special Forces
Undefeated
Sushi Girl
Junior High Spy
A Talking Cat!?!
Snow Shark

Streaming: Check out your choices here.

One of these films went undefeated at last year’s Oscars.  If you want to know which movie it is, continue reading on the next page.  Two of these flicks co-star Dolph Lundgren.  Continue reading to find out which ones.  If you’ve given up physical media for Lent, click the link above and skip right to the streaming suggestions, but if you do you’ll never know which Oscar-nominated actor gives voice to that talking cat.

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Argo

As Vince pointed out only yesterday, this latest flick from director/star Ben Affleck has been raking in the awards, and now just in time for the Oscars this Sunday, we can all catch up with this film on DVD.  Of course, this movie has already won one of cinema’s greatest awards: inclusion (at 6th place) in FilmDrunk’s best film’s of 2012.  In other words, Vince liked it, giving it a ‘B+’ in his review. Of course the big controversy is that Affleck was ‘snubbed’ by not being nominated for the Best Director Oscar. After all, by my unofficial count, he’s won like a million directing awards for Argo, including the BAFTA, the Golden Globe, and the Director’s Guild of America award.  Ultimately though, that’s neither here nor there because the flick is up for Best Picture, and many prognosticators are giving it the edge over the former sure-thing, Lincoln.  Fun fact: If Argo does win Best Picture, as producer, George Clooney gets to come up on stage and accept the award (along with the other producers, Affleck and Grant Heslov).  Bet you didn’t even realize Clooney was nominated this year, did you?  Just so, if Django Unchained wins Best Picture, the dude who directed House Party and The Ladies Man becomes an Oscar winner. Weird, right?


Anna Karenina

From the same people who gave us Atonement and Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina is another Oscar-bait period piece adapted from a book I’ll never read.  The bait worked too, if you ignore the fact that Anna Karenina’s four Oscar nominations are all in boring categories: Cinematography, Costume Design, Score, and Production Design.  As long as we’re on the subject of movie’s I’ll never watch that are hitting DVD this week, here are a few more: North Sea Texas – gay Belgian teens discover their sexuality while, evidently, failing geography.  An American Girl: McKenna Shoots For The Stars – this stars Ian Ziering and Nia Vardalos as McKenna’s parents. That’s all that needs to be said, right?  Your American Teen – this documentary sheds light on the teen sex slave industry, and specifically its exploitation of American girls. Because those slutty teen whores from every other country on the planet are just getting what’s coming to them, I guess.


Sinister

Ethan Hawke plays Ellison Oswalt, a true crime writer who moves his family into a creepy house in which an horrific crime previously took place.  He hopes to write a book about the crime and finds old film strips that…blah blah blah.  It doesn’t really matter does it?  The poster, the title, and even the description sounds like literally dozens of other horror movies.  All that really matters is whether this one is any good or not.  Well, the critics liked it better than most horror flicks (which doesn’t mean they liked it –just that they liked it more than the others) and Ethan Hawke -while not exactly an A-list actor or a guy with a stellar track record- at least has a bit of a reputation for choosing his roles carefully, so maybe this is worth a shot? I have to admit, the red-band trailer (which I’ve shared below) has me intrigued.  It’s probably because it looks familiar to me; after we moved into our house, I was digging around and also found old footage of people getting strung up and lynched on a tree branch.  Not to worry though, my house isn’t haunted; it just turns out that the previous owner used to be head of the A/V department for his local white supremacy chapter.  Yes, my grandpa is a man of many interests.  Gave us a good deal on the house too, even if he does insist that we ‘jewed the price down’, whatever that means.  I can’t follow all of his folksy, old-timey slang.


Fun Size

Nickelodeon ‘presents’ this film directed by one of the co-creators of Gossip Girl, and it features Chelsea Handler in a catholic school girl costume in the trailer. I’d say that this film clearly isn’t for me, but as its worldwide box-office haul is still $4 million shy of its reasonably modest $14 million budget, I guess it would be more accurate to say that it really isn’t for anyone, which is kind of surprising given that a car gets humped by a giant chicken in the trailer.

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The Factory

Filmed in 2008, originally scheduled for a theatrical release in 2011, and now finally getting released straight to video in 2013, this flick stars John Cusack as a cop on the hunt for a serial killer that targets hookers, and who, as luck would have it, has mistaken Cusack’s daughter for a prostitute and has subsequently abducted her. Cusack’s character ‘drops all professional restraint’ in his efforts to rescue his daughter.  A daughter, I’d like to reiterate, that he loves so much and did such a good job raising that she managed to be confused for a prostitute.


For Ellen

In this indie drama Paul Dano plays a struggling rock musician in the midst of a custody battle and Napoleon Dynamite is his lawyer. I know there’s no accounting for taste, but I’d really like an explanation from each of the estimated 1600 people who paid actual money to see this movie in the theater.


Riddle

Val Kilmer plays a corrupt sheriff with a pony tail in this film which also features Diora Baird.  I wouldn’t complain if every single film’s synopsis included that previous sentence.


The Package

The synopsis:

Vengeance Delivered. Guaranteed. Steve Austin and Dolph Lundgren star in the bone-crunching action flick that delivers the goods: Austin is combat veteran Tommy Wick, a nightclub bouncer and stone-cold enforcer for a Seattle mob boss. Lundgren is `The German,’ an international crime lord and hardcore killing machine. But when Wick is asked to courier a mysterious package to The German, he’ll suddenly find himself hunted by relentless teams of hit men, mercenaries, assassins and sadists. Time is running out. The bodies are piling up. And for two very pissed-off men with a history of bad blood, the ultimate retaliation is about to be ripped wide open.

What the hell does that mean, ‘the ultimate retaliation is about to be ripped wide open’?  That doesn’t make any sense.  Are they trying to refer to ‘old wounds’ being ripped wide open?  If so, it still doesn’t make sense because the old wound, according to that phrasing, would be retaliation, and that still doesn’t make any sense. I’d hate to play madlibs with whomever wrote the last sentence of this synopsis, I can tell you that much!

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Atlas Shrugged, Part II: The Strike

Thanks a lot, Obama.


Small Apartments

Here’s that Johnny Knoxville/James Caan/Dolph Lundgren/Rebel Wilson/Billy Crystal flick you’ve always wanted to see, even though you never knew it existed.


Special Forces

Diane Kruger and Djimon Hounsou star in this French action flick. Kruger plays a French journalist in Afghanistan who gets kidnapped by the Taliban.  A French Special Forces unit led by Hounsou gets sent to rescue Krueger, but their escape chopper crashes so they must traverse the hostile environment on foot and without any other form of contact or support. As least that’s what I think this is about.  The dubbed English dialogue written to match French-speaking lips is just a little too distracting for me to focus on the plot.  And honestly, why bother with that instead of subtitles?  It’s as if they think that a major portion of the American DVD-buying public that would be drawn to a movie about buff guys with giant guns walking through Afghanistan indiscriminately killing terrorists would, for some reason, be borderline illiterate, or something.


Undefeated

This film about three inner-city Memphis high school football players and their volunteer coach won last year’s Best Documentary Oscar, and only now, a full year later and long after anybody was discussing this film, is it coming out on DVD. Somebody really dropped the ball with this DVD release. Yes, you could say that they struck out the puck, when they could’ve scored a grand slam dunk by releasing this film closer to last year’s Oscars.  Obviously, I’m a huge sports fan.

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Sushi Girl

The cast of this gritty B-movie ‘grindhouse’ flick is chock full of genre favorites, including Tony Todd, Mark Hamill, Jeff Fahey, Michael Biehn, and of course Danny Trejo. What’s really wild, though, is who they got to play the lead: Noah Hathaway.   That’s right, kids.  After an almost twenty year hiatus, the icon who portrayed Atreyu in The Neverending Story is back on screen. As for the quality of the film, meh, I could see it go either way.  I mean, sure it looks like it could be okay, but there’s no getting past the fact that their lead character is played by a former child actor who hasn’t worked in two decades. When they cast him they were probably just as surprised as I am that he’s even still alive.


Junior High Spy

As you’ve surely guessed, this is a lower-rent version of Spy Kids. But it has something that that film does not: The Dove Seal of Approval!  Wait, strike that.  They both have the Dove Seal of Approval.  In fact, both films have exactly 3 out of 5 Doves. So how can we tell which is more wholesome and therefore deserving of our praise?  There’s really only one way, kids, and that is for us to compare Dove’s content warnings: ‘SEX: Kissing between the mom and dad (Spy Kids). Husband and wife kiss (Junior High Spy). LANGUAGE: Stupid (SK).  Big Dummy (JHS). VIOLENCE: A character is thrown through a glass window (SK). A father and son horse around and a glass table is broken (JHS). NUDITY: Cleavage (SK). Cleavage (JHS). OTHER: A discussion about a girl skipping school several times without telling her parents (SK).  A boy tries to pretend he did his homework when he didn’t but his mom knows it and boy confesses (JHS).‘  Holy sh*t, these flicks seem identical. In fact, the only significant difference between the two reviews is when the Dove review of Spy Kids warns that ‘pig intestines are part of a dinner one evening’.  I’m guessing they mean tripas, a meat used in Mexican cuisine, and there’s no real reason to warn viewers about that, unless what Dove is really trying to do is passively-aggressively warn them that the characters are Mexican.  So Dove is a little racist, I guess.  There’s a surprise.


A Talking Cat!?!

This is the latest family friendly animal flick from twinks-in-trouble auteur David DeCoteau.  Watch the trailer below and, if you’ve watched even one trailer for any of his soft-core gay porn 1313 flicks, you may recognize the house that DeCoteau evidently uses as the main setting for all of his films.  Definitely do watch this trailer, by the way; it’s fantastic and the effects used to animate the talking cat (voiced by Oscar-nominee Eric Roberts) are simply amazing.  Speaking of Roberts, I’m not saying he should’ve given this role more effort, but it is pretty obvious that he phoned his performance in. Literally.


Snow Shark

With a title like Snow Shark, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is simply Sand Sharks but without the obvious benefit of showing girls in bikinis, but you’d be so wrong.  Despite the lack of scantily clad women, this film has something Sand Sharks never even tried for: sincerity.  Whereas Sand Sharks and its ilk try for a campy, humorous approach, this film is deadly serious in its desire to frighten you.  The problem is, the entire production -from cinematography, to acting, to music- has a ‘workplace safety video’ vibe that is just so charming in its well-meaning ineptitude.  Even the snow shark is inevitably lamer –and yet, somehow, more clever- than you’d imagine.  The whole experience is like the cinematic equivalent of a mentally handicapped chick:  You aren’t really interested in it/her, but you know that they both mean well and they are trying their best, so even though you know you aren’t really interested, you’re still going to enjoy the blow job you trick them into giving you.

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I’d kill to have Affleck’s beard. His facial hair’s not bad, either.

This week we’ve got three of our new DVDs available via streaming: there’s last year’s Best Documentary Oscar-winner, Undefeated, the absolutely beguiling A Talking Cat!?!, and –if you hate yourself- Paul Dano and his stupid face in For Ellen.  As for my picks, with all the praise Ben Affleck has been getting lately as a director, I thought it might be good fun to recall some of his films as an actor:

Chasing Amy

This was Affleck’s first semi-high profile starring role and he stars as a comic-book writer who manages to f*ck the gay right out of a lesbian.  I’d like to say it’s more complicated than that, but this film is from Kevin Smith, and it really is just that simple. The film was praised at the time of its 1997 release for being an evocative look at relationships and dating in the mid-90s, but now is remembered mostly for being ‘the one where Silent Bob speaks’.

Shakespeare In Love

After appearing in Phantoms and Armageddon, Affleck tried his hand at ‘serious’ acting by co-starring in this Oscar-winner (which was co-written by Tom Stoppard, screenwriter of this week’s Anna Karenina).  Affleck’s part isn’t that huge, but he tries an English accent and this was the first taste audiences had (after the seeming fluke of Good Will Hunting’s success) that he might have artistic aspirations beyond being a one dimensional, hunky, Hollywood star. Hailed at the Oscars as the Best Picture of 1999 (beating out Saving Private Ryan), the film is now best known as ‘the one where Gwyneth Paltrow shows her boobs’.

Gigli

You knew this one was coming.  This was -and still is- considered to be one of the worst flops both critically and financially in recent Hollywood history.  There’s no two ways about it: everything about this  2003 film is terrible.  Most people saw this film as evidence that Affleck’s acting career had surely hit rock bottom, but after Gigli he still made Paycheck, Jersey Girl, Surviving Christmas, and the straight-to-DVD Man About Town before bumping back with Hollywoodland. Today this film is still recognized as terrible, but many of its flaws are blamed on Jennifer Lopez and her insistence on kidnapping young girls throughout the filming of the production, an experience Affleck readily admits served as the basis for Gone Baby Gone.

Extract

Even after the success he found as a director with Gone Baby Gone, Affleck still found time to ham it up in goofy flicks like this one from Mike Judge.  In what must surely have been an inspiration for his character in Argo, in this film Affleck sports long hair and a beard (as seen above).  Just so, Affleck insists that his rumination on the title of this flick -and also the very concept of extraction- was the basis for his desire to make Argo. That, and a deep abiding desire to piss off the Iranian government.

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