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DVD Reviews For 8/20: “A Little Less Than Kin But Less Than Kind”
by Peter Sobczynski

The pickings are admittedly slim this week--one of the biggest titles is arguably the year’s worst film to date--but then again, things can’t be that bad when they also provide viewers with a wild Korean western, Blu-ray Shakespeare and the long-awaited return of moose and squirrel, can they?


THE ASSASSIN NEXT DOOR (First Look Films. $24.98): And since she is played by Olga Kurylenko, here’s hoping that she drops by sometime to borrow a cup of bullets. Anyway, she stars in this direct-to-video drama about a female assassin forced to work for the mob against her will who teams up with her next-door neighbor, a abused housewife, to fight back against their oppressors and take control of their own lives for good.

CEMETARY JUNCTION (Sony Home Entertainment. $24.95): The latest collaboration from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the guys behind “The Office” and “Extras,” is this 1970’s-era comedy drama centering on a personal and professional conflicts of a young man (Christian Cooke) who sees his new job as an insurance salesman as a way for him to break free of his humdrum existence and see the world. Despite the high profile names behind this project, it was bypassed for theatrical release in America and is making its debut as a direct-to-DVD for reasons that may one day inspire a darkly hilarious Gervais monologue.

THE CITY OF YOUR FINAL DESTINATION (Screen Media Films. $24.98): In his first screen project since the death of longtime collaborator Ismail Merchant, James Ivory directs this story of a grad student (Omer Metwally) whose plans to write the authorized biography of a famous Latin American author send him off to meet the late writer’s brother (Anthony Hopkins), widow (Laura Linney) and mistress (Charlotte Gainsbourg) in order to get permission to do it. Despite the presence of a good cast, this is achingly middlebrow filmmaking at its most mundane and while it never trips into the outright awful, it is still pretty much a chore to sit through.

FURRY VENGEANCE (Summit Entertainment. $22.99): The recent spate of slapstick-heavy family comedies involving wacky animals has inspired a number of truly terrible films but this one, in which a bunch of woodland creatures band together to prevent hapless idiot Brendan Fraser’s company from tearing down their forest in order to build an allegedly eco-friendly housing development, may well be the worst of the bunch. Seriously, despite the influx of awful films that have been released so far this year, this is still a leading contender for the title of Worst Movie of 2010.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD (MPI Home Entertainment. $24.98): In one of the wildest and most breathlessly entertaining films in recent memory, South Korean director Jee-woon Kim (who also gave us the gripping horror film “A Tale of Two Sisters”) gives us a strange and stylish homage to the spaghetti westerns of the late Sergio Leone with this tale of a trio of bandits whose search for a treasure map in 1930’s Manchuria finds them going up against the occupying Japanese army as well as bands of Chinese of Russian criminals. Trust me, you are going to be exhausted by the time this one ends, but in a good way.

THE LAST SONG (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.99): Following in the footsteps of such earlier teen idols as Mandy Moore, Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum when they wanted to prove that they could handle dramatic material, Miley Cyrus stars in this soap opera from the mind of Nicholas Sparks about a troubled teen who spends the summer with her estranged dad (Greg Kinnear) and comes to terms with things thanks to a little romance, a little tragedy and several montage sequences. Cyrus probably does have the talent to move on from “Hannah Montana” to more serious roles but not even she can overcome the treacly and borderline laughable material she is working with here.

L’ENFANCE NUE (The Criterion Collection. $29.95): This 1969 debut from acclaimed French filmmaker Maurice Pilat (“Loulou,” “A Nos Amours”) follows the life of an emotionally damaged pre-adolescent foster child (Michel Terrazon) as he is shuttled from one set of parents to another and as he begins to lash out as a result. Instead of the cloying sentimental melodrama that one might expect, Pilat treats it in a tough, terse and realistic manner (many of the foster parents were played by non-actors who were themselves foster parents) and the result is an unusually powerful look at a subject that isn’t often discussed and one that still holds up after all these years.

THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN (Shout! Factory. $19.97): Affable genre parodist Larry Blamire follows up his Fifties-era sci-fi homage “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra” with this sequel in which the search for a rare element in the deepest jungles of the Amazon reveals any number of cheesy-looking creatures, not to mention one very familiar skull. This week also sees the release of another Blamire epic, “Dark and Stormy Night” (Shout! Factory. $19.97) in which a group of strangers are forced to spend the night in a mysterious and possibly haunted house and find themselves being bumped off one by one.

ORLANDO: SPECIAL EDITION{/b] (Sony Home Entertainment. $19.94): Although everyone seems to agree that Tilda Swinton is one of the most exciting and unique actresses working today, her big breakthrough came with this 1993 adaptation of the Virginia Woolf novel that takes us through 400 years of British history as seen through the eyes of a nobleman (Swinton) who doesn’t age, though he does unexpectedly go from a he to a she at one point. This audacious work from writer-director Sally Potter is visually stunning and dramatically fascinating but Swinton holds it all together with a performance that remains one of the highlights of her admittedly illustrious career.

(Shout! Factory. $19.98): Well it’s about damn time--more than five years since the last DVD set featuring the adventures of everyone’s favorite moose and flying squirrel, the second-to-last season set of the landmark animated TV comedy has finally arrived with every groan-inducing pun intact to mark its 50th anniversary. The adventures collected here include “Painting Theft,” “The Guns of Abalone,” “The Treasure of Monte Zoom,” “Banana Formula” and the immortal “Goof-Gas Attack.” Other TV-related items appearing this week include “Cougar Town: The Complete First Season” (ABC Studios. $39.99), “Dexter: The Fourth Season” (Showtime/Paramount. $49.99), “Friday Night Lights: The Fourth Season” (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98), “Keeping Up With the Kardashians: The Complete Third Season” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99), “One Tree Hill: The Complete Seventh Season” (Warner Home Video. $59.98) and “Ugly Betty: The Complete Fourth and Final Season” (ABC Studios. $39.99).

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S HAMLET (Warner Home Video. $34.99): Kenneth Branagh’s epic-length screen version of the immortal Shakespeare tragedy, presented with the entire text intact (resulting in a 242-minute running time) and an all-star cast (including Julie Christie, Kate Winslet, Jack Lemmon, Gerard Depardieu, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and a smashingly effective Charlton Heston as the Player King) makes its Blu-ray debut in an edition that contains an introduction from Branagh, a commentary featuring him and scholar Russell Jackson, a behind-the-scenes featurette and the promo reel that was shown at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. Although no home viewing option can ever come close to replicating the awesome experience of seeing this film presented in the large-screen glory of 70mm, this beautiful-looking disc nevertheless is still a joy to watch and it remains the best of Branagh’s adaptations of the Bard to date.

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originally posted: 08/20/10 06:40:52
last updated: 08/20/10 08:31:06
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