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DVD LOUNGE: Welcome To August

Things have been busy at FOG! Command and between our Comic-Con coverage and ridiculously hot summer days, I feel like I spend most of my time either in front of a television, movie screen or computer monitor.

After the jump, check out the latest batch of reviews.

Fire up your queues…


Arthur
Warner Home Video / Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, On Demand and for Download July 15, 2011

The Pitch
Russell Brand reinvents the role of lovable billionaire Arthur Bach, an irresponsible charmer who has always relied on two things to get by: his limitless fortune and lifelong nanny Hobson (Academy Award® winner* Helen Mirren) to keep him out of trouble. Now he faces his biggest challenge: choosing between an arranged marriage to ambitious corporate exec Susan (Jennifer garner) that will ensure his lavish lifestyle, or an uncertain future with the one thing money can’t buy – Naomi (Greta Gerwig), his true love. With Naomi’s inspiration and some unconventional help from Hobson, Arthur will take the most expensive risk of his life and learn what it means to be a man in this reimagining of the beloved Oscar®-winning* romantic comedy Arthur.

The Review
The thing about alcoholics is that they really aren’t that much fun to be around.

Or watch.

I was actually a bit surprised that this unnecessary remake of the 1981 film of the same name actually handled Arthur Bach’s alcoholism, whereas the trailers have promoted him as a man-child dressing as Batman and working in a candy store.

The cast all does a fine job with the exception of Nolte, who appears as if he was woken up just moments before filming each of his scenes. Extras include a featurette, gag reel and deleted scenes.


Arthur isn’t necessarily a bad film, just an unnecessary one about a mess of a human being without any tangible sense of reality or mortality.

And it’s a bit dull. Unless of course you see it drunk, which kind of defeats the point.

Trailer

Elektra Luxx
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment / Released June 21, 2011

The Pitch
What’s a pregnant porn goddess to do? Well, if you’re legendary adult film star Elektra Luxx (Carla Gugino), you decide to quit the industry, take a job as a “sexology” instructor at the community college and look forward to your new life with your baby. Except, that may not happen quite yet – not until she wrestles with a solicitous bride-to-be, an obsessed web streamer, a studly private investigator, a clothing –challenged neighbor, a criminal twin sister and even the Virgin Mary. It’s one hysterical ride with plenty of uninhibited comedy along the way.

The Review
A sequel to the little seen Women in Trouble, Elektra Luxx has some terrific actors (including Carla Gugino, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Timothy Olyphant,and Malin Ackerman) in a terrificly uninspired film.

Well, not entirely.

Director Sebastian Gutierrez is inspired, so much so by the work of Pedro Almodovar, that this can’t help but feel like not much more than a poor imitation of that auteur’s work. His female-centric, color infused tale with a soap opera infused plot sounds intriguing on the surface, but the film never goes much deeper than that. The film ultimately feels like a loosely structured, semi-improvised story that has unfunny actors convinced that they have comic timing, resulting in completely forgettable, unengaging schtick that doesn’t add up to much of anything.

Trailer

Source Code
Summit Entertainment / Released July 26, 2011

The Pitch
When soldier Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in the body of an unknown man, he discovers he’s part of an experimental government program called the “Source Code” that enables him to cross over into another man’s identity in the last eight minutes of his life. Armed with the task of identifying the bomber of a Chicago commuter train, Colter must re-live the incident over and over again, gathering clues until he can solve the mystery and prevent an even deadlier second terrorist attack.

The Review
Duncan Jones has crafted one of my favorite films of the year; crossing Groundhog Day with Quantum Leap in a Hitchcockian thriller which results in a terrifically tight and entertaining film. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a fantastic performance that changes subtly as he continues to find himself eight minutes in the past again and again. The other primary cast includes Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga and Jeffery Wright who all deliver truly fantastic performances. Extras include commentaries and cast interviews. Source Code is smart science fiction that is one of the rare films that is driven by both the plot and characters. Highest recommendation.

The Trailer




Limitless
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment / Released July 19th, 2011

The Pitch
Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), a burnt-out writer, discovers a top-secret pill that unlocks 100% of his brain’s capacity. He instantly acquires mind-bending talents and mesmerizing visions that bring him big money, beautiful women and limitless success. But his dream life soon becomes a waking nightmare, as the drug’s brutal side effects take their toll and Eddie finds himself entangled with a cunning Wall Street power broker (Robert DeNiro) who wants everything Eddie has… and more.

The Review
Bradley Cooper’s performance anchors my other favorite smart science fiction film of the year.  Director Neil Burger has crafted a visually rich, kinetic film that ultimately becomes a game of cat and mouse as Cooper finds out the ramifications of the drug might be more dangerous than not.  If you analyze the science (and at times the film itself), it’s a bit silly,  but why analyze it?  It’s tremendously entertaining and an original piece of filmmaking.  Extras include an extended cut, a commentary, featurettes and an alternate ending.  Limitless is a thrill ride that will leave you with a smile on your face.  Highest recommended.

The Trailer

Damages Season 3
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment / Released July 12, 2011

The Pitch
Inspired by recent worldwide economic events, the acclaimed third season of the award-winning legal thriller stars two-time Emmy®-winner Glenn Close as litigator Patty Hewes. Confronting the most challenging case of her illustrious career, Patty and trusted lieutenant Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan) meet their match against the manipulative Tobin family empire, matriarch Marilyn (Lily Tomlin), son Joe (Campbell Scott) and the clan’s loyal attorney Leonard Winstone (Martin Short). When former protegee Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) is also pulled into the maelstrom, she discovers she hasn’t escaped Patty Hewes after all.

The Review
Glenn Close’s Patty Hewes is like the monster at the end of a horror film that can’t be killed.  Despite whatever obstacles or machinations that are devised to bring an end to her immoral and unethical reign as a lawyer, she somehow finds herself safe.  Rose Byrne, who’s character evolved during the first two seasons and managed to find herself free of Hewes’ manipulations is once again finds herself in the middle of a situation that makes her question her own morals and ethics as she can’t help but admire Hewes’ attempts to get justice for those who have been victimized.  In this season, it’s those that have been taken advantage of in a Bernie Madoff-like Ponzi scheme.

At this point, many of the plot devices are a bit deja vu from the first two seasons, but the structure of the plots can’t help but be suspenseful as there are flash-forwards used to reveal what’s going to happen; and getting there is half the fun.  Extras include commentaries, blooper tracks, featurettes and deleted scenes.  Three seasons in, Damages continues to be one of the television’s most captivating procedurals, aided immensely by series regulars Close, Byrne and Donovan.  Highly recommended.

Season 3 Television Trailer

Stake Land
MPI Media Group / Released August 2, 2011

The Pitch
America has fallen. A vampiric scourge sweeps the nation, turning brother on brother and parent on child as the blood-hungry beasts take deeper and deeper hold upon the land. It’s hard for the survivors to know whether to be more afraid of the creatures themselves or the violent religious groups that have sprung up in response, but there is clearly only one choice: fight or die. Connor Paolo stars as Martin, a teenager whose family has been slaughtered. His traveling companion is a taciturn, hardened vampire killer known simply as Mister (Nick Damici), and together they trudge across the land in search of the rumored safe haven of New Eden.

The Review
Stake Land is short on plot, but long on atmosphere, and in this case the atmosphere is a husk of a landscape following the vampire apocalypse.

Now these aren’t the vampires  or other pop culture.  In Stake Land, these vampires are simply monsters; hunting and killing prey.  They have one goal, which is to feed.  Mister and Martin travel across the ashen terrain; moving for the sake of not stopping.  As they make their way across the landscape, they find other survivors who join them on their journey.  Ultimately, they piss off a religious cult (Hardcore Aryans who believe that the vampire apocalypse will cleanse the land), which gives them a second enemy to fight off.  Essentially, Stake Land is the far more entertaining Zombieland crossed with the equally depressing The Road.  Extras are plentiful, including commentaries, a making of, 7 prequel short films, video diaries, and more.  Despite wanting to, I didn’t really connect with Stake Land; it’s not in any way a bad film, just a depressingly familiar one.   Mild recommendation.

Trailer

Trust
Millennium Media / Released July 26, 2011

The Pitch
A suburban family is torn apart when fourteen-year old Annie (Liana Liberato) meets her first boyfriend online. After months of communicating via online chat and phone, Annie discovers her friend is not who he originally claimed to be. Shocked in disbelief, her parents (Clive Owen and Catherine Keener) are shattered by their daughter’s actions and struggle to support her as she comes to terms with what has happened to her once innocent life.

The Review
It’s had to say if I liked Trust or not.  It’s a well made film with some really fantastic performances, but the subject matter and execution was a bit startling.  I’ve seen my fair share of Chris Hanson’s To Catch a Predator, so I figured this wouldn’t be more than a fictionalized account of one of those situations.  I was wrong.  In Trust, what’s more revelatory and disturbing is the psychological manipulations and damage caused by such a predator.  Unfortunately, in the case depicted Annie has become so emotionally attached, that they don’t even recognize that they have been assaulted, much to the shock and disbelief of her parents.  The film’s perspective shifts as the focus centers on Owen, who becomes obsessed in finding the monster that manipulated Annie.

Liberato, Owen and Keener are all excellent as are Jason Clarke as a FBI investigator, Viola Davis as a therapist and Chris Henry Coffee as the predator Charlie, who plays his character with an affable smile).  Director David Schwimmer (yes, that David Schwimmer) does an excellent job with the actors, but the script’s various plot threads don’t come together in this otherwise must see cautionary tale.  Recommended.

Trailer

[REC]2
Magnolia Pictures / Released July 12, 2011

The Pitch
The highly anticipated sequel to one of the scariest films of all time, [REC]2 picks up 15 minutes from where we left off, taking us back into the quarantined apartment building where a terrifying virus runs rampant. What they find inside lies beyond the scope of medical science – a demonic nightmare more terrifying than they could possibly imagine.

The Review
The original [REC] (remade as Quarantine) was a truly terrifying movie and the sequel delivers with a scenario that is a logical, but sometimes surprising narrative progression from the first film.  The original film utilized a news camera’s P.O.V. to present the action, while the sequel utilizes cameras attached to the helmets of tactical police officers to document this story.  The  mythology of the first film continues to evolve and more importantly, the film is scary.  Smartly, the filmmakers don’t try to top the first film by being unnecessarily over the top, instead they build tension and anxiety with a potent combination of twists and scares that result in a worthy sequel.  Extras include featurettes, a set walkthrough, deleted and extended scenes and more.  [REC]2 is not only an excellent sequel, but a flawless continuation of the first film.  Highly recommended.

Trailer

Supernatural: The Anime Series
Warner Bros. Home Video / Released July 26, 2011

The Pitch
The otherworldly TV phenomenon that is Supernatural makes history entering another world: as the first-ever live-action television show to be reimagined as an animé series. The internationally acclaimed animation powerhouse Madhouse Studios produces the show with the blessing of original series creator Eric Kripke. With storylines mirroring Supernatural’s first two seasons plus supplemental tales derived from prequels and spinoffs, this 3-Disc, 22-Episode Collection expands the dimensions of the familiar Winchester mythology. Journey down the backroads of America with brothers Sam and Dean as they search for clues to their father’s disappearance, hunt down the supernatural in all its unearthly forms and enter into the unexpected mystery of their destinies – in vibrant, exciting animé.

The Review
When I first heard that Supernatural: The Anime Series was being released domestically, I was pretty excited.  What better way to explore the mythology of the tv show than with an anime series that isn’t hindered by the effects budget (more blood and monsters).

Unfortunately, while good, Supernatural: The Anime Series isn’t that great.  Adapting a dozen episodes from the first two seasons, with nine new stories and one story based on a comic book tale, the overall series just doesn’t “feel” like Supernatural.  The character designs are off for many of the recurring characters and series stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles voice their respective characters (albeit Ackles only voices 2 of the 22 episodes with soundalike Andrew Farrar voicing the others).  Smartly, the series does reinterpret the adaptations and the original episodes do play off of unexplored plot threads, but it feels like another series altogether rather than a companion piece to Supernatural.  Extras include episode introductions by Paladecki and Ackles, a making of documentary, interviews, and tv spots.  Supernatural: The Anime Series might be more appealing to anime fans rather than Supernatural ones, but if you’re a fan of the series, I find it hard to believe that you wouldn’t want to check it out and is worth a watch.

Featured Clip

MST3K Vs. Gamera: Vol. XXI
Shout! Factory / Released August 2, 2011

The Pitch
What could possibly be better suited to the always-quotable wisecracks of beloved SoL captive Joel Robinson and his faithful robot sidekicks, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, than a monster movie about a giant flying turtle? The answer is — four other movies about same flying turtle! Behold the first-ever themed collection of Mystery Science Theater 3000 classics: all five Gamera episodes from the particularly fertile third season of the long-running cult comedy television series . . . in their own shell!

The Review
The latest MST3K collection is a rare, but extremely welcome themed collection, collecting all five MST3K Gamera films (Gamera, Gamera Vs. Barugon, Gamera Vs. Gaos, Gamera Vs. Guiron, Gamera Vs. Zigra) all starring my favorite Gizzmonic Institute employee, Joel Hodgson.  Considered to be among MST3K‘s best episodes, litigation has prevented them from being in print; and thankfully Shout! Factory has put out one of the must have DVD sets of the year.  The Gamera films are fun to begin with, but add MST3K riffing at what many people consider the peak of the series and you really can’t go wrong. Packed in a tin box with postcards, the set is packed with extras including the featurettes, So Happy Together:  A Look Back at MST3K & Gamera, Gamera Vs. the Chiodo Brothers (the auteurs behind Killer Klowns From Outer Space), and Gamera Obscura:  A History by giant monster expert August Ragone.  Also included are the original Japanese trailers.  This is a must have and essential for any geek collection.  Highest recommendation.

Trailer

Barney’s Version (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment / Released June 28, 2011

The Pitch
The story of the politically incorrect life of Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti), who meets the love of his life at his wedding – and she is not the bride. A candid confessional, told from Barney‘s point of view, the film spans three decades and two continents, taking us through the different —acts of his unusual history. There is his first wife (Rachelle Lefevre), a flagrantly unfaithful free spirit; His second wife(Minnie Driver), a wealthy Jewish Princess; His third wife, Miriam (Rosamund Pike), the mother of his two children, and his true love. With his father, Izzy (Dustin Hoffman) as his sidekick, Barney takes us through his long and gloriously full life, played out on a grand scale.

The Review
Paul Giamatti’s performance is something to behold.  As Barney, it’s his story, and we follow Giamatti through thirty years of it.  All of the characters in the film are not only flawed in one way or another, but also fairly unlikable.  Despite a smooth direction and solid screenplay, the movie feels disjointed throughout; the scenes are good individually, but I didn’t always feel like it meshed as a cohesive whole.  The characters aren’t particularly likeable and Giamatti’s Barney is bumbling and loathsome.  Despite this, the entire ensemble is truly fantastic.  Blu-ray/DVD combo extras include commentary, interviews and featurettes.  Barney’s Version is a mess, but so is life; overall, an average film with several extraordinary performances.  Recommended.

The Trailer

Hobo With a Shotgun (2 Disc Collector’s Edition)
Magnolia Home Entertainment / Released July 5, 2011

The Pitch
A train pulls into the station – it’s the end of the line. A Hobo jumps from a freight car, hoping for a fresh start in a new city. Instead, he finds himself trapped in an urban hell. This is a world where criminals rule the streets and Drake, the city’s crime boss, reigns supreme alongside his sadistic murderous sons, Slick & Ivan. Amidst the chaos, the Hobo comes across a pawn shop window displaying a second hand lawn mower. He dreams of making the city a beautiful place and starting a new life for himself. But as the brutality continues to rage around him, he notices a shotgun hanging above the lawn mower… Quickly, he realizes the only way to make a difference in this town is with that gun in his hand and two shells in its chamber.

The Review
Expanding upon the trailer that was created for Grindhouse, Hobo With a Shotgun is just plain, unpretentious fun.  Lately, poorly produced films have used the “Grindhouse” label to make up for poor writing, acting or filmmaking; Hobo With a Shotgun suffers from none of those maladies.  Like the recently reviewed Drive Angry, this film takes the conventions of the Grindhouse label and plants it firmly in a film that’s better than it deserves to be.  Rutger Hauer commands the screen with the same intensity that he had decades earlier in films like The Hitcher and Blade Runner.  With a teen prostitute sidekick Abby (Molly Dunsworth) at his side like a perverse Dynamic Duo, the Hobo serves vigilante justice through gritted teeth.

The 2-disc edition is packed with extras including commentaries, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, video blogs, featurettes, a Faux Trailer Contest Winner, TV spots, trailers, and more.  Hobo With a Shotgun is a splatter-filled love letter to the genre.  Highly recommended.

Trailer

13 Assassins
Magnolia Home Entertainment / Released July 5, 2011

The Pitch
Cult director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, Audition) delivers a bravado period action film set at the end of Japan’s feudal era in which a group of unemployed samurai are enlisted to bring down a sadistic lord and prevent him from ascending to the throne and plunging the country into a wartorn future.

The Review
Feudal Japan gets the Miike treatment with this reworking of The Dirty Dozen meets The Seven Samurai.  Fortunately, the inventive director’s trademarked stylized depiction of violence is in full effect with blood geysers splattering and amputated limbs flying.  But, the film is much more than that as he examines his recurring themes of honor, betrayal, loyal and revenge.  With unbelievable sequences (um, a bull running through the town on fire) to an almost hour long battle that depicts the last stand for our heroes, 13 Assassins is a testament to Miike’s talent for taking an established genre and reworking it to a point that it feels virtually unrecognizable and epic.  Extras include an interview with Miike, deleted scenes, a trailer and a digital copy.  Highest recommendation.

Trailer

Challenge of the Gobots: The Original Mini-Series
Warner Archive / Released  May 17, 2011

The Pitch
From Gobotron to your home, it’s the original 5 episode mini-series that brought the GoBots to life. When Cy-kill embarks on his mad quest to conquer the galaxy starting with Earth, only Leader-1 and his band of Guardians stands in his way. The mini-series that launched a legend!

The Review
Mediocre animation and a premise that sounds suspiciously like The Transformers‘ evil clone, Challenge of the Gobots is surprisingly watchable.  Taking plot cues from a number of more successful franchises, this mini-series actually made me smile by how unintentionally funny it was.  My familiarity with The Transformers is limited to the Michael Bay films, but based on those, I don’t get the feeling that there’s much humor intentional or otherwise.  Gobots is pure Eighties animation kitsch, and that rarely lives up to one’s nostalgiac memories.  Remastered with a stunning picture, Challenge of the Gobots sure isn’t good, but sure is entertaining.

Featured Clip




Pretty Little Liars: The Complete First Season
Warner Home Video / Released June 7, 2011

The Pitch
When their best friend Alison mysteriously vanishes, four girls believe their secrets are safe forever. But when they begin to receive threatening messages from someone named “A,” the truth may be only one text away. Filled with mystery, scandal, intrigue and nail-biting suspense, Pretty Little Liars is based on the best-selling book series for young adults from Alloy. Set one year after the disappearance of Alison, the manipulative and vindictive queen bee, the one-hour drama revolves around four 16-year-old girlfriends –Aria, Hanna, Spencer and Emily — who have lost touch with one another until each begins to receive mysterious messages suggesting that Alison is watching them and knows their most private details they are desperate to keep hidden. Suddenly, living in their picturesque suburban community is far from perfect as secrets, lies and betrayals threaten everything they hold dear. Even after Alison’s body is discovered, the messages don’t stop….

The Review
From Degrassi to Dawson, there’s nothing like teen melodrama to keep one engaged, which is why I found myself embarrassingly devouring the first season of Pretty Little Liars.  Ironically, I’m not sure how appropriate it is for young teens, as it’s filled with overtly underage sexuality, drug use, underage alcohol, betrayals and that whole murder thing.   Thankfully, I am an adult and find the series despite any gaps in logic, both compelling and damned entertaining.  Extras include featuettes, interviews and deleted scenes.  Pretty Little Liars is damned addictive and although you might not learn who killed Alison, by the end of the first season you have an awful lot of suspects.  Recommended.

DVD Promo

Doctor Who: Series Six, Part 1
BBC America Home Video / Released July 19, 2011

Matt Smith and Karen Gillan make their triumphant return as the Doctor and his companion in an all-new series of Doctor Who! The new series will split in two parts, with DVD/Blu-ray release dates in July and in early November, closely following their premiere runs on BBC America, and then a complete series gift set just in time for the holidays. In Part 1, the Doctor, Amy and Rory find themselves in Sixties America, battling the invasion the world forgot, then journey on the high seas of 1696 aboard a pirate ship, to solve the mystery of the Siren. In a bubble universe at the very edge of reality, the Doctor meets an old friend with a new face, and in a monastery on a remote island in the near future, an industrial accident takes on a terrible human shape. And waiting for them, at the end of all this, is the battle of Demon’s Run, and the Doctor’s darkest hour. Can even the truth about River Song save the Time Lord’s soul? Only two things are certain. Silence will fall. And a good man is going to die…

The Review
It’s hard to believe that over the course of six seasons, the revamped Doctor Who has fostered an almost insatiable audience.  In just seven episodes, newest Doctor Matt Smith and his companions find themselves in a number of darker and more serious scenarios than ever before.  Before the teaser for the second half of the season which has the Doctor save Hitler, we learn the secrets of River Song, travel to 1969 United States, visit Area 51, cross paths with Richard Nixon, battle the nightmarish alien force The Silence, fight pirates, encounter Gangers, fight a disembodied voice inside the TARDIS and maybe, just maybe learn who killed the Doctor.  Extras include featurettes and Monster Files.  This half season might not be for the newbie, but it is a must own for any self respecting geek.  Highest recommendation.

Featured Clip

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