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DVD LOUNGE: MEMORIAL DAY EDITION

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Lots and lots of reviews, so fire up that queue list and sit back and watch!

The Rite
Warner Home Video / On Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, Movie Download & On-Demand 5/17/11

The Pitch
Inspired by true events, this supernatural thriller follows a seminary student (Colin O’Donoghue) sent to study exorcism at the Vatican in spite of his own doubts about the controversial practice and even his own faith. Only when sent to apprentice with legendary Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), who has performed thousand of exorcisms, does his armor of skepticism begin to fall. Drawn into a troubling case that transcends even Father Lucas’s skill, the young seminarian glimpses a phenomenon science can’t explain or control – and an evil so violent and terrifying that it forces him to question everything he believes.

The Review
As soon as student debt addled seminary graduate Michael Kovak (O’Donoghue) expresses doubt in his faith and considers resigning, his mentor, Toby Jones sends him off to the Vatican to study exorcism under Anthony Hopkins’ Father Lucas.  Apparently, this is based on a true story (of course), which sends Kovak into a world where there is a constant battle between the Church and the Devil and Kovak begins to this that the Devil has taken an interest in him, personally.

Although this ridiculous set-up could be interesting in the right hands, it’s pretty safe to say that those hands do not belong to neither writer Michael Petroni, nor director Mikael Håfström.  O’Donoghue has the charm of a Church pew and Anthony Hopkins spends his screen time overacting theatrically in what has become his default style for the camera,.

As any cinegeek can attest, films with the Devil can be legitimately scary (The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby instantly come to mind).  The Rite is not one of those films, in fact, it’s pretty mild.  The actual case within is short on both creepiness and shock, and instead gives us a far too familiar scenario.  The Blu-Ray Combo pack includes  a DVD of the film and Digital Copy,  a featurette, deleted scenes, alternate ending and BD Live. Unfortunately, The Rite is possessed by dullness and yet another disappointing performance by Hopkins.

The Trailer

I Am Number 4
Walt Disney Home Entertainment / On Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, Movie Download & On-Demand 5/24/11 

The Pitch
Three are dead. Who is Number Four? From director D.J. Caruso (Disturbia), producer Michael Bay (Transformers) and the writers of TV’s Smallville, comes this gripping, action-packed thriller.  John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) is an extraordinary teen masking his true identity to elude a deadly enemy sent to destroy him.  Living with his guardian (Timothy Olyphant) in the small town he now calls home, John encounters unexpected, life-changing events — his first love (Dianna Agron, TV’s Glee), powerful new abilities and a secret connection to the others who share his incredible destiny. Complete with deleted scenes and more, I Am Number Four is an explosive, suspense-filled ride that will take you to the edge of your seat and beyond.

The Review
Director DJ Caruso, who directed the fantastic film The Salton Sea, takes a step backward directing what essentially feels like a CW pilot. Caruso, who also directed episodes of Smallville a decade ago, finds himself essentially remaking the same premise with a less charming lead. Only Timothy Olyphant makes an impression in this otherwise forgettable stranger in a strange land tale which features a clunky backstory and some of the worst creature designs in recent memory. I Am Number Four feels like an unsold television pilot, which spends it’s running time establishing it’s premise, but sadly without any real resolution. Extras include featurettes, digital download, bloopers and deleted scenes. I Am Number Four struggles to find it’s voice, but an unsatisfying resolution, dull characters and a familiar premise make it watchable, but ultimately forgettable.

The Trailer

Lemonade Mouth
Walt Disney Home Entertainment / On DVD 5/24/11

The Pitch
This spirited, music-driven movie introduces an unlikely ensemble of five students — Olivia, Wen, Stella, Mohini and Charlie – who, after meeting in detention, gradually realize their shared musical connection and belief that it’s time for the students of Mesa High to stand up and be heard on things big and small (ranging from the school Principal’s exclusive support of the athletic programs to the removal of the popular organic lemonade from the cafeteria). Ultimately, as they open up to each other and form friendships, they start a band — Lemonade Mouth — that soon resonates with students sidelined by the high school elite. However, not everyone in the school is ready to cheer them on, especially since the popular rock group Mudslide Crush is determined to maintain their headline status and win the coveted Rising Star music competition.

The Review
Somewhere along the line I started tuning into tween programs such as Wizards of Waverly Place, iCarly and Good Luck Charlie. Mind you, I don’t know when any of them are on, but if I come across one while channel surfing, I’ll usually stop. Say what you will, but these shows are usually pretty well produced and fairly entertaining.

Bridgit Mendler leads an affable cast in this Breakfast Club-esque story that like many Disney Channel telefilms, doesn’t insult the intelligence of the viewer or compromise the values of the audience. Although the film features a fairly archetypal structure: teens for varying backgrounds bond over music, appreciate one another despite their differences and end the film at a “Battle of the Bands”, Lemonade Mouth doesn’t ever belittle the audience or the film’s characters.  Extras include a digital copy, music videos and a featurette.  Lemonade Mouth is an extremely watchable and the rare family film that’s appropriate and entertaining for all.  Recommended.

Trailer

The Ron Howard Action Pack (Eat My Dust/Grand Theft Auto)
Shout! Factory / On DVD 5/24/11

The Pitch
Young Hoover Niebold is dying to impress Darlene. She’s into going fast, he’s into Darlene — but when they both get into a red-hot race car, the reckless fun accelerates into a wild ride. They’re off on the open road for a tire-squealing, fender-bending adventure to who-knows-where — and all Smokey can do is EAT THEIR DUST! Starring Ron Howard, Christopher Norris (Airport 1975), Dave Madden (The Partridge Family) and Ron’s brother and father — Clint Howard and Rance Howard.

Cross Romeo & Juliet with a demolition derby and you have Grand Theft Auto, Ron Howard’s directorial debut. Can Sam and Paula — a young runaway couple traveling in her father’s stolen Rolls-Royce — get hitched in Vegas before their parents, a jealous boyfriend, a private detective and a mob of bounty hunters catch them? The race is on! Starring Ron Howard, Nancy Morgan (The Nest), Marion Ross (Happy Days) and Ron’s brother and father — Clint Howard and Rance Howard.

The Review
One of producer Roger Corman’s most astute talents is recognizing and taking advantage of talent.  He has given opportunities to thousands of movie people and helped launch the careers of such established talents as Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Joe Dante, Jonathan Demme, Bruce Dern, Curtis Hanson, James Cameron, John Sayles and Ron Howard.

Shout! Factory has collected two Ron Howard projects, Eat My Dust and Grand Theft Auto, in a single set that will provide an evening of solid entertainment.  Howard starred in Eat My Dust for Corman in exchange for the opportunity to direct his first feature, Grand Theft Auto, and neither disappoint, providing simple, funny, goofy entertainment with lots and lots of car crashes. 

In addition to both remastered films with anamorphic widescreen transfers, the set is packed to the gills with extras including introductions, interviews, commentary tracks, featurettes and trailers/tv spots.  The Ron Howard Action Pack is ridiculously entertaining from start to finish and a must have in the collection of any self-respecting cinegeek.

Trailers

The Illusionist
Sony Home Entertainment / On Blu-ray™ Combo Pack 5/10/11



The Pitch
From the Director of the Oscar®-nominated classic The Triplets of Belleville, THE ILLUSIONIST is a story about two paths that cross. While touring concert halls, theaters and pubs, an aging, down-on-his-luck magician encounters a young girl at the start of her life’s journey. Alice is a teenage girl with all her capacity for childish wonder still intact. She plays at being a woman without realizing the day to stop pretending is fast approaching. She doesn’t know yet that she loves The Illusionist like she would a father; he already knows that he loves her as he would a daughter. Their destinies will collide, but nothing – not even magic or the power of illusion– can stop the voyage of discovery.

The Review
The secret to any good film is a solid screenplay and nowhere is that more apparent in The Illusionist, which takes an unproduced script from the late Jacques Tati and brings it to life, recreating the auteur as the lead character (and paying homage the auteur’s signature character, Monsieur Hulot.)

The resulting film is a magical story, long on charm and sentimentality that is sure to pull on the heartstrings of even the most jaded viewer.  The hand drawn animation lends a breath of fresh air to the far too cluttered CGI landscape.  One of the film’s greatest merits is the subtlety of the animation.  The body language and movement is both depressing and uplifting and is a testament to both the power of both film and animation.  Extras include a multi-part feature and making of featurette.  Not every audience wants or expects to be emotionally moved by animation, but director Sylvain Chomet makes it a poignant and humorous experience that shouldn’t be missed.  Highly recommended.

The Trailer

The Roommate
Sony Home Entertainment / On DVD and Blu-ray™ 5/17/11

The Pitch
She’s cute. She’s loyal. She’s psychotic. And, unfortunately for college freshman Sara (Minka Kelly) she’s The Roommate. When Sara arrives at school, she finds new romance with Stephen (Cam Gigandet) and forms a fast friendship with her roommate Rebecca (Leighton Meester). What begins as camaraderie soon turns creepy, and Sara comes face-to-face with the terrifying realization that her new best friend is obsessive, unbalanced…and maybe even a killer!

The Review
Lacking any real suspense, The Roommate offers little more than any typical episode of any teen television drama. The adorable Minka Kelly coos her way through a performance opposite Leighton Meester who attempts to be scary by glaring. The movie only comes alive when hamtastic Billy Zane is on screen portraying Sara’s fashion professor. Plot points are lifted from the far better Single White Female and Fatal Attraction. Extras include commentary, plus deleted & alternate scenes. The Roommate is mildly entertaining and is definitely limited by it’s PG-13 rating that prevents it from going bananas.

The Trailer

Childrens Hospital: The Complete 1st and 2nd Seasons
Warner Home Video / On DVD 5/24/11

The Pitch
Transitioning from the Internet to television, Childrens Hospital is a new comedy series that lampoons the medical show genre by exploring the emotional struggles and sexual politics of a group of doctors with supercharged libidos. The dedication of these doctors to their personal lives is relentless — and is interrupted only by the occasional need to treat sick children. No medical condition is too severe to distract these oblivious physicians from their primal need to flirt, gossip, make out, talk about sex, show their underwear and more, all in front of horrified children and their anxious parents. The series is based upon the Webby Award-winning digital show that debuted on TheWB.com in 2008 and quickly became a Web hit with its twisted take on network medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy and House.

The Review
Featuring the very funny ensemble which includes creator Rob Corddry, Lake Bell, Erinn Hayes, Rob Huebel, Ken Marino, Megan Mullally. Malin Åkerman and Henry Winkler, Childrens Hospital parodies the uber-serious tone and conventions of such ridiculous shows, in particular, E.R. and Grey’s Anatomy.  Originally airing online as a webseries, Adult Swim has ressurrected the series with more than double the original running time per episode (bringing it to 11 minutes) and rotating the staff and patients with a number of recognizable guest stars.

At Childrens Hospital, which is in fact, a children’s hospital, the staff is more interested in their own relationships than treating the patients.  In the lead, Corddry plays Dr. Blake Downs, a clownfaced doctor who believes in the healing power of laughter.  With political correctness non-existent, continuity damned (occasionally the hospital is in Brazil) and non-stop over the top situations and vulgar innuendos, Childrens Hospital is a very funny series that deserves a look.  Extras included are wrap-arounds, featurettes, faux interviews, music videos and more.  If you like sharp, absurdist comedy, check yourself in – – stat!  Recommended.

The Trailer

I Saw The Devil
Magnolia / On DVD and Blu-ray™ 5/10/11

The Pitch
While on holiday in Pattaya seven foot gentle giant Barney Emerald is drugged and robbed of all his personal possessions including his passport. Two Thai sisters find and befriend him by giving him a place to stay while he recovers and tries to figure out how to get his passport back. After eating some spicy “somtum” at their mother’s restaurant, Barney accidently flies into a fit of rage and demolishes the place. The sisters soon discover that when he eats the spicy “somtum,” it causes a physical reaction sending him into a violent martial arts frenzy. The girls decide to help him by using the “somtum” to control Barney’s powerful reactions to help earn his money back and take down the local crime lords.

The Review
Despite a long running time, I Saw The Devil moves briskly, delivering a first rate, but extremely unsettling thriller.  With cringe inducing violence, this revenge film delivers without shirking away from the tension and intensity that the story warrants.  There’s very little morality within this vigilante tale, but there is a sense of honor as the film examines the very nature of evil.

I Saw The Devil is both visually stunning and at times, viscerally shocking.  It is gut-wrenching, disturbing and shocking to watch.  Director Kim Ji-woon has made a masterpiece of vengeance, but the film is unsettling, inducing anxiety through it’s gorgeous and grotesque tone, imagery and situations.  Extras include deleted scenes and behind the scenes footage.  I Saw The Devil is not for everyone (I’m not really sure how I feel about it), but it is a well made despite it’s brutal emotional and visual content and is, an interesting film.  Enjoyable?  I’m not so sure.  Recommended for the not so squeamish.

The Trailer

The Big Bang
Anchor Bay Entertainment / On DVD and Blu-ray™ 5/24/11

The Pitch
Los Angeles private investigator, Ned Cruz (Banderas) encounters a recently paroled Russian boxer with an intriguing job offer: find Lexie, his missing girlfriend—and the 30-million dollar stash of diamonds she’s hiding. As Detective Cruz sets out to find her, the clues send him into the city’s seediest corners, from a Hollywood action star with a dirty little secret (James Van Der Beek, “Dawson’s Creek,” Varsity Blues), to an enterprising porn producer who takes a personal interest in his own work (Snoop Dogg, Old School, Starsky & Hutch), and a kinky waitress with an unusual fetish for particle physics (Autumn Reeser,“No Ordinary Family,” “Entourage”).

With time running out, Cruz discovers the trail leads to reclusive billionaire (Sam Elliott, Thank You for Smoking, Tombstone), and his physicist (Jimmi Simpson, Date Night, “Breakout Kings”), intent on recreating The Big Bang underneath the New Mexico desert. Tailed by a trio of cops also looking to find the missing diamonds, and with the body count piling up, Cruz soon realizes that what appeared to be a standard missing person’s case is anything but, and could quite possibly bring about the end of the world as we know it.

The Review
The Big Bang is not only a bad film, it’s a terrible one. With a large ensemble cast led by miscast former star Banderas, The Big Bang stumbles with an intricate plot that not only makes no sense whatsoever, but also is so unnecessarily complicated it’s hard to care about any of it.  Banderas tries to make it work, but unfortunately neither the cast, director or writer is sure if it’s meant to be a hardboiled detective story or a parody of one. One of the more disappointing aspects is that the film wastes a truly eclectic and talented cast in this incomprehensible mess.  Extras include a commentary, a featurette and deleted scenes.  The Big Bang is an explosive waste of time.  Skip it.

The Trailer

Brad Meltzer’s Decoded: Season One
A & E Home Entertainment / On DVD 5/24/11

The Pitch
What if everything you learned in history books were only half true? In Brad Meltzer’s Decoded: Season One, best-selling author and history buff Meltzer separates fact from fiction as he investigates the hidden history and coded truths behind everything from the Statue of Liberty to the dollar bill to the assassination of President Lincoln. Mysteries explored in BRAD MELTZER’S DECODED: THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE include: the real story behind the White House cornerstone, which has been missing for two centuries; the location of the lost Confederate treasury; the hidden messages of the Statue of Liberty; and whether Lady Liberty is anti-religion.

The Review
If you’re a fan of Meltzer’s novels or comic book work, you won’t be surprised that Decoded is an absorbing and fascinating watch. Like many other series on the History Channel, Decoded works best because it profiles some of history’s quirkier elements and Meltzer and his team work to uncover or explain various rumors and/or urban legends throughout American history.

Within the series, Meltzer acts like “Charlie”, setting the scenarios and mysteries up for his “Angels”, trial attorney Scott Rolle, mechanical engineer Christine McKinley and English professor and journalist Buddy Levy to uncover and solve. The personalities and chemistry between the trio is some of the most entertaining material within the show. Unfortunately, the series never produces any definitive conclusions, often leaving the viewer with some answers and even more questions. Nevertheless, if you enjoy conspiracies like D.B. Cooper to the Lincoln assassination to various secret societies, Decoded is an extremely entertaining watch. Recommended.

Decoded Looks At The Lincoln Assassination

The Kids in the Hall: The Complete Series Megaset
A & E Home Entertainment / On DVD 5/24/11

The Pitch
For five groundbreaking seasons, Canadian-bred comic prodigies THE KIDS IN THE HALL stretched sketch comedy to its ultimate limits with hilariously off-the-wall results. With a cast of comic creations only the brilliant– or truly twisted — could imagine, THE KIDS IN THE HALL: THE COMPLETE SERIES MEGASET presents the Kids’ nearly 800 sketches from every single episode of each season in this stunning 22-disc set with 50% less packaging, but 100% of the laughs!

From the infamous Chicken Lady and Crushing Your Head to Buddy Cole and the romantically challenged Cabbage Head, these pioneering, edgy, and ever-charming comedians always managed to land on the stranger side of funny–and look good in floral dresses while doing it.  This best-selling MegaSet, now refreshed with new eye-catching art in a slim, shelf space saving package, includes all five of the groundbreaking, Emmy®-nominated series, plus two bonus discs featuring the new IFC 8-part mini-series “Death Comes to Town.”

The Review
Um…2701 minutes of some of the most talented sketch comedians to ever walk the Earth?

Yes, please.

The Kids in The Hall: The Complete Series Megaset belongs in the collection of any fan of comedy. More similar to the fellow comedians from SCTV or Monty Python’s Flying Circus, than from Saturday Night Live, The Kids in The Hall feature filmed sketches, recurring characters and irreverent and often slightly bent humor. The ensemble of Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson is amazing, with the members and material focusing more on social satire than pop culture skewing.

This set includes featurettes, performance footage, archival footage, Death Comes To Town mini-series (see review below) and more. The Kids in the Hall: The Complete Series Megaset is one of the most essential comedy collections available on DVD and a must have. Highest recommendation.

Preview Clips

The Kids in the Hall : Death Comes To Town
A & E Home Entertainment / On DVD 5/24/11

The Pitch
For those died-in-the-wool-dress KiTH fans, this May, A&E will release THE KIDS IN THE HALL: DEATH COMES TO TOWN a must-own, all-new 8-episode comedy series that originally ran on IFC in 2010.  It will be available individually, as a 2-DVD set,  as well as part of the KiTH MegaSet.

When Death gets off the Greyhound bus in small town Shuckton, Ontario, everyone in town is implicated when one of its most distinguished citizens is found murdered. As a suspect is arrested and the trial plays out, the entire town is affected and its dark secrets are unraveled and exposed.  Featuring the Kids playing all the characters, this uproarious mini-series showcases Canada’s most irreverent exports in a must-see production that marks the return of the audacious comedy troupe to U.S. television for the first time since their cult series ended in the mid-1990s.  Extras include audio commentaries with Dave Foley and Bruce McCulloch; deleted and extended scenes and bloopers.

The Review
Like their film, Brain Candy, Death Comes To Town offers a singular narrative as opposed to the sketch structure that they became famous for. The mini-series is a murder-mystery set in the town of Shuckton with the Kids playing all of the major roles. Unfortunately, the series lacks much of the energy of their older work. There’s also a newer level of creepy as the once “Kids” are now middle-aged, and giving it their all with mixed results. Most of the new characters aren’t particularly memorable (which only becomes more obvious by the cameos of several of their older characters), but the nostalgia factor of seeing the troupe together again outweighs any criticism. Even at their unfunniest, the KiTH are more entertaining than most anything else. Extras include commentary tracks and deleted scenes. If you’re a fan, The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes To Town, doesn’t even require a second thought and belongs in your collection.

Trailer

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