Today’s new DVDs are a fantastic assortment of films that run the gamut from the Oscar-winning Life Of Pi all the way to The Taint. In between we’ve got films starring Anthony Hopkins, Sean Penn, Aaron Paul, and Ray Liotta. We’ve got alcoholics and Easter bunnies. We’ve got drug mules and tooth fairies. We’ve got legitimate rock stars and fake gurus. We’ve even got some WWII Jewish refugees, both real and fictitious. All that and even some giant spiders!
Life Of Pi
This Must Be The Place
Rise Of The Guardians
The Devil’s In The Details
In Their Skin
The First Time
Streaming: Check out your choices here.
One of this week’s films has a 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, but you’ll have to continue reading to find out which one it is. Another one of these films is a biopic about a legendary director. You may think you know which one it is, but you’ll have to continue reading to be sure. If you’d like to bypass the DVDs this week, just use that streaming link above, but if you do you’ll be missing out on my detailed examination of The Taint.
Life Of Pi
Here is the latest of 2012’s Best Picture Oscar nominees to hit DVD, and while it didn’t win that award, it did take home four other Oscars, most notable among them being the award for Best Director. By now you all know more or less what it’s about, so I won’t bother recapping the plot. I will say, however, that I’m glad this is finally on home video so I can just f*cking watch it in peace and stop being harassed by literally every person I know for having not seen it yet. “What do you mean you haven’t seen Life Of Pi, didn’t you love the book?” Then I tell everyone I know that I haven’t read the book either, nor am I in any rush to do so. “Well, you should. The book is amazing. Like, life-changingly amazing. And the movie’s just as effective, and so, so beautiful.” I’m sure it is. For what it’s worth, I really do think that I will enjoy it -after all, Vince gave it a solid ‘B’ in his review, I just don’t see myself rushing to watch it anytime soon. The last time everyone raved about a modern-day fable starring an ethnic first-time actor, whose character also narrates the film, and which prominently features sequences of that character adrift at sea and also befriending gigantic man-eating creatures it ended up being Beasts Of The Southern Wild, and that movie was f*cking terrible.
Anthony Hopkins stars as legendary director Alfred Hitchcock in this film that focuses on the man’s professional and private life while making the horror classic, Psycho. Given the usual enthusiasm critics seem to have for this type of film, I was surprised they only gave this movie a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. Shouldn’t they have jizzed all over this flick, regardless of its actual merits? What went wrong? Are they just sick of anything Psycho-related? That would be understandable, as the 1960 film has spawned three sequel films, a ‘shot-for-shot’ remake, a 1987 TV movie spin-off (which co-starred Tank Girl and Jason Bateman), a theme park attraction, and coming this Monday, a new TV series –which is itself a prequel. The point is, this movie’s not destined to be remembered as a classic, so it’s a safe bet that in 50 years nobody’s going to be making a movie about this movie about the making of that movie. Or something. Behind the scenes featurettes kind of makes the whole thing moot anyway. Of course, in 20 years or so somebody could remake this movie and maybe it will end up being the superior film, and then 50 years after that — and it seems I’ve given myself a nosebleed.
This must be that movie in which Sean Penn plays an aging rock star searching for the Nazi who tortured his Jewish father during WWII. Personally, I find Sean Penn’s Robert Smith look and baby voice just a tad too off-putting. In fact, I couldn’t even bear to pull up the original trailer for this flick because it’s simply too much for me to handle. His voice in particular really puts me on edge, so instead, I’m sharing the German-language trailer because nothing is more relaxing than hearing the dulcet tones of the spoken German language.
Married couple Kate and Charlie’s relationship is built on a mutual love of drinking, but when Kate decides it’s time to for her to go sober, their marriage starts to crumble. I’m going to be perfectly honest: I really want to see this movie. First off, Charlie’s played by Aaron Paul, and anybody who has seen Breaking Bad knows he’s an actor to follow. Second, I’ve literally heard nothing but raves about Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance as Kate. Third, the supporting players include both Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, and as this is an Uproxx site, I’m contractually obligated to show favoritism to any project in which they participate. Last, and not surprisingly, the critics were pretty fond of this flick in general. In fact, the only potential downside I can find is that the co-writer/director earned his MFA from Columbia, which appears to be his highest artistic credential. I don’t know; it just seems like they hand those things out like it’s free candy or something.
For all you parents out there, here is the latest flick from Dreamworks Animation, released just in time for your kids to shriek at you for a few weeks before you finally break down and shove it into their Easter baskets, hoping to shut them the hell up. If you care, this is the story of Jack Frost helping Santa, The Tooth Fairy, The Easter Bunny, and The Sandman battle an evil dude named Pitch. I don’t know, I guess Pitch is going to turn children’s dreams into nightmares or crap in their Christmas stockings or something. Look, I understand having Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and The Easter Bunny team up on an adventure; they are all mythical characters who bring you stuff, and I guess I can see where they are coming from with The Sandman, assuming he only brings nice dreams, but what the f*ck is up with having the main character be Jack Frost? Do kids really believe in him and thank him for snow days? I guess I’m just bitter because this movie fills kids heads with stories about these magical creatures who give them great gifts and holidays to celebrate, and it’s all fakey-fake bullsh*t. Jesus is the real and only reason for the seasons, not these made-up characters that were refined over years of carefully managed propaganda just to get dim-witted folks to give up their hard-earned cash in the hopes of maintaining their delusion that there’s some ‘guardians’ looking out for them. It’s just disgusting.
There are several decent looking documentaries hitting DVD today, and this first one we’re featuring is this flick, directed by Dave Grohl -who has been talking the movie up on pretty much every late night talk show he can manage. It’s about Sound City, a recording studio in Van Nuys, California and the studio’s legendary analog recording console. There’s a pretty long list of classic albums that were recorded at this studio with this equipment, and the trailer does a nice job of highlighting several of them. Any fan of rock music of the last 40 years will probably find this movie engaging. If you need more encouragement to see the flick, this film is rocking (see what I did there) a full 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Comparatively, another doc hitting DVD today, The Last Gladiators –a film about hockey enforcers in general and enforcer Chris Nilan in particular- looks like utter trash with only a pathetic 90% rating. I mean, why bother?
A vet named Thomas Conrad returns home from ‘the war’, only to have his family kidnapped by a drug cartel. He must smuggle drugs for the cartel or else his family will be killed. Desperate for help, Conrad turns to ex-Navy SEAL Ray Liotta for help. Straight-to-video action ensues. Somehow I don’t think anyone involved in this formulaic cookie-cutter action flick quite understands what that title means. Its meaning is certainly lost on whoever provided this synopsis to IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes:
7 minutes from now in Nogales, Arizona. Thomas Conrad’s life will forever change when he gets caught up in a Mexican cartels poetic game of drug mule chess.
Everybody knows the most poetic game is border coyote bingo.
The guy who plays Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock plays a psycho (see what I did there?) who, along with his psycho wife –played by Macaulay Culkin’s ex-wife- decide to take over the lives of a grieving couple played by this film’s screenwriter and Selma Blair. Instead of just killing them outright and taking over their lives, the psychos torment the innocent family and explicitly tell them their cruel intentions. (See what I did there, Selma Blair fans?) Why would they do all that talking when simply killing the other family makes so much more sense? I’m guessing they’ve taken over peoples’ identities and personalities before and the last family they did this to were overly-chatty morons.
Hey look, a PG-13 rom-com about high schoolers trying to lose their virginity! I have no doubt that this film will be terrible, but it looks a million times better than another film with a similar plot hitting DVD today, Casting Couch. If you couldn’t guess, Casting Couch is about a group of bros who decide the best way to get laid is by lying to women. Specifically, by telling them they are auditioning for a fake movie and then subsequently pressuring them into having sex in order to get a non-existent role. This movie looks truly disgusting: as near as I can tell, there is no greater lesson learned by the characters or higher purpose for the film. It kind of seems like the real-life filmmakers see this as a funny topic and that the whole message of the film is, “Dude, those bros totally tricked those bitches with the giant knockers into f*cking them! That’s awesome!” I mean, at one point in the real Casting Couch trailer (included below) there’s a giant ‘BOOBS’ title-card (over a blurred topless girl) followed by a guy saying he wants to ‘eat her p*ssy’. You really have to wonder if this real movie was made simply as a pretense to –at the very least- create an excuse to cast and subsequently film women willing to be naked on camera, which makes the whole thing horribly meta for a low-budget jerk-off comedy. At least with real porn you can watch it and masturbate in the full knowledge that the women involved know the real reasons they are appearing on camera: namely, a history of sexual abuse and/or drug problems.
American filmmaker Vikram Gandhi directs and stars in this documentary. In the film, Gandhi travels around Arizona, pretending to be an Indian guru named Kumaré. He gathers all sorts of followers, despite the fact that he has no great wisdom or connection to a higher power and is in fact pulling everything out of his ass. To put it more simply, it’s a documentary about a guru.
This straight-to-video action flick stars Jason Statham-lite, a.k.a. Luke Goss, and if you recognize the name ‘Luke Goss’ you watch entirely too many straight-to-video action flicks.
In the gripping autobiographical documentary THE FLAT, filmmaker Arnon Goldfinger travels to Tel Aviv to clean out the apartment of his recently deceased German-born Jewish grandmother. While going through her belongings, Goldfinger finds evidence suggesting that she and her husband were good friends with Leopold von Mildenstein, a leading official in the Nazi propaganda ministry and remained friends with him following World War II. Disturbed that his grandparents could have continued a close relationship with an influential Nazi after the Holocaust, Goldfinger begins an unsettling journey into his family s history, visiting a peaceful town in Germany to interview von Mildenstein s elderly daughter about what really went on with their ancestors 75 years earlier and discovers that knowing the truth can be a terrible burden. Both arresting and heartbreaking, THE FLAT is a real-life suspense story about how the past can return to haunt the present.
This film looks fascinating to me. I can’t imagine what it would be like to find out that your grandparents secretly fraternized with Nazis, but that’s mostly because my grandparents were pretty open about it to begin with. You know, now that I think about it, they are also probably responsible for why I find the German tongue so calming.
This week’s Dove Foundation-approved family flick with horses has an absolutely amazing cast of actors whose careers have seen better days. There’s Krista Allen, Willie Garson, Steve Guttenberg, Charles Durning, Louis Gossett Jr., Claire Forlani, Daryl Hannah, Eric Roberts and even Michael Madsen! Interestingly enough, despite being three of the four disembodied heads on the box cover, Forlani, Hannah, and Roberts aren’t listed on this flick’s IMDb page. Strange, no? Also strange is the complete lack of Steve Guttenberg in the trailer. I can understand omitting the likes of Willie Garson and Charles Durning (may he rest in peace), but Officer Mahoney? That’s just poor marketing, plain and simple. Anyhow, there’s a lot more than just star power that sets this apart from films like last week’s Midnight Stallion. For instance, this movie features harness racing. Also, the wise old dude is black instead of white, and an Oscar winner instead of just a nominee. And that’s it for the differences. Still, I wouldn’t be avoiding my job if I didn’t copy and paste some warnings from Dove’s 5-Dove review, so here goes: “SEX: A couple kisses a few times; a teen boy kisses a teen girl on the forehead. LANGUAGE: G/OMG-3, Geez-3, H-4, D-1, Suck-1. VIOLENCE: A man swings a baseball bat at a man; a man holds a baseball bat against a man’s throat; a man is hit in the leg with a baseball bat; a horse is whipped; a teen girl hits a fire hydrant in car and is placed in the hospital following the accident. DRUGS: Wine is seen on table; a passenger has open liquor while riding in a truck with a man; man chews tobacco. OTHER: Death and grief with tears; a man attempts to give a horse a deadly shot; a man pays two men to shoot a horse but the horse is spared; a few characters have told lies; a few characters say they hate a character for lying but they actually own up to loving the person; a character is constantly after revenge; tension between a couple.” This is far from the first time Dove’s warned about it, but I’m still amazed and confused by the concern about wine. Last time I checked (this past Sunday at about 9:45 in the morning), communion wine was a part of many church services. Surely wine seen on a table is okay, right? Especially in light of all that liquor being drunk by that truck’s passenger. As for the forehead-kissing teen, I’m just assuming the girl who received it was tempting the young man beyond all reason. She probably raised an eyebrow or two, and it was all over. I’m also kind of dumb-struck by the implication that there’s no middle ground between love and hate, and even if you say you hate someone, you really love them. Maybe it was just that kind of mixed signal that got that girl forehead-raped. Sure she said she hated the boy, but we all know she really loved him. In conclusion, while the Dove Foundation doesn’t condone rape (unless the two people are a married man AND a woman), the mixed signals caused by a woman’s naturally deceitful and/or confused chattering can lead to rape-adjacent acts of cranial carnality.
A military cargo plane has crashed in the middle of London and something has escaped the wreckage. That something has found its way into a storage facility, and is now stalking the people trapped inside. I’ve seen this sci-fi horror flick, and while it is far from good, it wouldn’t seem that bad…if you’ve never seen a single movie like this before. Everything in this movie has been done before and done better. The obvious frontrunner for the ‘watch this instead’ suggestion is Alien, at least in that it makes sense for the characters to be trapped. In this film, the security gate (which looks to be made out of aluminum) has locked in the down position over the front doors, and apparently there’s no fire code in London as at no point do any of the characters ever try to find a different exit from the storage facility. The creature would be charming if it had been created via old-school stop motion, but unfortunately it’s just CGI that has been poorly animated with that old-school jerkiness, making it resemble a blurry version of stop-motion animation. The characters are all completely stock, but that doesn’t mean they don’t switch from one trope to the next as the plot requires, logic be damned. The only stand-out is the one guy who plays Captain Hook on Once Upon A Time, and even then he only stands out because I recognized him from Once Upon A Time. (F*ck you, I have kids.) While I’m sure the decision to set this film in a storage facility was purely a financial one (one generic corridor set, one generic storage unit set, and boom –an entire storage facility), the end result is that the viewer never has any sense of spatial awareness, but that visual sameness doesn’t seem to affect the characters, who start out the film lost in the corridors, but quickly learn to navigate them in seconds flat. (The only thing faster from point A to point B is the creature itself; it either teleports with expert awareness as to where to find his prey, or can just creep along really stealthily for a 12 foot beast.) As this is a mid-budget horror flick, the movie ends with a surprise twist, but as is so often the case, the trailer gives that twist away. On the off chance that there’s someone out there reading this who plans on watching this, I won’t specify what in the trailer is a twist, but I will say it isn’t anything in the first 1:26 of the trailer, or anything after the 1:30 mark. F*ck it, the twist is that the black guy survives. I think it’s because he’s got a British accent. It’s like some international horror film loophole or something.
Despite having the same director (Tibor Takacs) and star (Patrick Muldoon), this is not a sequel, prequel or remake of the 2007 film, Ice Spiders. This is a wholly original work about giant mutant spiders taking over New York City. I apologize for any confusion.
Like most weeks, there are plenty of sh*tty looking found-footage horror flicks hitting DVD today, but this one stood out from the pack for a couple of reasons: 1.) It isn’t found-footage. 2.) It’s from Troma. 3.) Naked boobs in the trailer. 4.) I was so enchanted by the various shots of heads getting bashed in, crushed, and split apart in the trailer that it took me two viewings to even notice the pluming dicks. Seriously. Pluming dicks.
This week we’ve got two DVDs that are also streaming: Kumaré and Amazing Racer, so you’re in luck if you feel like streaming something either of those. As for my suggestions, I thought I would use this week’s DVD release of Life Of Pi as an opportunity to showcase some films from the 2012 Best Director Oscar Winner, Ang Lee:
The Wedding Banquet
Ang Lee’s second film, and his first to get an Oscar nomination (for Best Foreign Language Film). In this film, a gay dude tries to hide his homosexuality from his parents by agreeing to discretely marry a friend so that she can get her green card, but his parents, thinking they are in love, insist on throwing them an elaborate wedding. Apparently Ang Lee based parts of this movie on the real-life experiences of a friend of his. I’m sure his friend, who went to obnoxious lengths to lie both to his parents as well as to the US government, was just thrilled to be a source of inspiration for his old buddy Ang.
Ride With The Devil
Ang Lee made this Civil War-era western in 1999. It stars Lee-favorite Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich (really) and Jewel. Yes, the singer, Jewel. In fact, Jewel freely admits that Lee cast her because he thought her crooked teeth looked like the type of teeth a poor woman in the 1860s might have. So, just to recap, she got the role because he thought her teeth looked like the teeth of somebody too poor to have received even the most basic and arcane dental attention. In the 1860s. Ang Lee’s shaping up to be a real classy guy.
Just like with Life Of Pi, Ang Lee won the Best Director Oscar for this flick, despite it not winning Best Picture. You all know about this one, but if you haven’t actually seen it yet, you should. The movie’s really good. Fun fact: When Ang Lee won his Oscar for this film, the Chinese media celebrated and covered the news story enthusiastically because a win for one Chinese artist is a win for all of China. The problem is, Lee’s not Chinese -he’s Taiwanese. When he thanked Taiwan in his speech, they just edited it out. Further confusing matters, the flick was banned in China due to the homosexual subject matter so nobody was even allowed to see the film they were celebrating.
Set in Shangahi during WWII, this 2007 effort from Ang Lee tells the story of Wang Jiazhi, a young woman who begins a relationship with a man named Mr. Yee, and gets caught up in espionage and intrigue as a result. Citing explicit sexuality, this film earned an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. In a move straight out of Casting Couch, Ang Lee reportedly auditioned 10,000 actresses for the sexually graphic lead role before making his final casting selection. Ang Lee: living proof that great directors always keep things professional and classy.