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DVD Reviews For 8/27: "If Two Americans Die It Has To Be Unofficially."
by Peter Sobczynski

After taking a bit of time off for some intensive twerking lessons, I have returned to get you caught up on some of the more notable DVD/Blu-Ray releases of late, including the long-awaited arrival of one of the most underrated comedies ever made and just a hint of hi-def celebrity skin. Now to go look up what "twerking" means to make sure that I haven't embarrassed myself with that joke--at least no more so than usual.


AFTERSHOCK (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $24.99): In this unholy blend of the disaster and torture porn genres, a trio of pals (led by Eli Roth, which should serve as a dire warning) on holiday in Chile find themselves in an underground nightclub just in time for a massive earthquake--after avoiding the initial carnage, things get worse when they make it topside and have to deal with crumbling infrastructure, looters and a horde of dangerous criminals that have just escaped from the local prison. Gross, insensitive and just plain awful, this has to be one of the least entertaining movies of the year unless you are really into rape scenes, dismemberment, dead children and inexplicable cameo appearances by Selena Gomez.

AMOUR (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): No one has ever legitimately accused Michael Haneke of making light and frothy films--his works include such grim sagas as "The Piano Teacher," "The White Ribbon" and two iterations of the home invasion horror "Funny Games"--but even by his normally bleak standards, his latest effort (which earned him the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar) is almost unremittingly dark in the way it introduces us to a happy and long-married couple (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) and then shows what happens to them in excruciating detail after she succumbs--first slowly and then rapidly--to the horrors of Alzheimer's disease. The only thing that keeps this film from being completely unendurable is the inescapable fact that it is brilliantly made, powerfully acted and one of the most poignant and unflinching depictions of the ravages of Alzheimer's ever put on the screen. That said, this is not the kind of film that you are going to want to put on at the end of a long day but if you do feel brave enough to check it out for yourself, you will find it absolutely unforgettable.

THE BIG WEDDING (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.98): Slightly more depressing than "Amour," a all-star cast, including Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace and Robin Williams (as a wacky priest, no less), inexplicably turns up in this would-be farce about a long-divorced couple (De Niro and Keaton) who, for reasons that are best left unspoken as they defy belief, are forced to pretend to be married for the weekend of their adopted son's wedding. I could go on at length about how this is a bottomlessly horrible waste of time, money and effort but to save time, let me just say that this film is so wretched that Katherine Heigl is the most likable and sympathetic person in the whole unspeakable brawl.

COMMUNITY:THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (Sony Home Entertainment. $39.95): After the tumultuous firing of show creator Dan Harmon and a reduced order of only 13 episodes, many figured that the fourth season of this critically acclaimed sitcom about a group of misfits at an oddball community college was on its final legs. Matters weren't helped much by the fact that the season turned out to be everything that fans of the series feared it would be--a simulacrum of the original that attempted to replicate the show's wacko humor without any of the wit or heart that made its previous seasons so memorable. Ironically, the show saw an uptick in the ratings and was renewed for another season and NBC, in a rare bit of wisdom, actually brought Harmon back to once again oversee his creation. Hopefully the fifth season will begin with Joel McHale waking up, discovering the rest of the cast in the shower and realizing that the past season was only a dream. Other TV-related titles now available include "The Best of Fridays" (Shout! Factory. $34.95), "Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Third Season" (HBO Home Entertainment. $59.99), "The Borgias: The Third Season" (Paramount Home Video. $49.98), "Duck Dynasty: Season 3" (A&E Home Entertainment. $19.98), "Enlightened: The Complete Second Season" (HBO Home Entertainment. $39.98), "Girls: The Complete Second Season" (HBO Home Entertainment. $39.98), "The Good Wife: The Fourth Season" (Paramount Home video. $64.99) "The Mindy Project: Season One" (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.95), "NCIS: The Complete Tenth Season" (Paramount Home Video. $64.99), "NCIS: Los Angeles: The Fourth Season" (Paramount Home Video. $64.99), "Once Upon a Time: The Complete Second Season" (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $45.99), "Political Animals: The Complete Series" (Warner Home Video. $19.98), "Revenge: The Complete Second Season" (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $45.99), "Smash: Season Two" (Universal Home Entertainment. $44.98) and "Strike Back: The Complete Second Season" (HBO Home Entertainment. $39.98).

THE HOT SPOT/KILLING ME SOFTLY (Shout! Factory. $19.97): Homina homina homina homina homina Blu-Ray debut homina homina homina homina.

ISHTAR (Sony Home Entertainment. $19.98): Long tagged as one of the worst films ever made, due almost entirely to its enormous cost and anemic box-office returns, this 1987 tribute to the old Bob Hope-Bing Crosby "Road" movies from writer-director Elaine May is not only infinitely better than its reputation, it is actually one of the funniest and most politically astute comedies of the 1980's. Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman play a hilariously incompetent aspiring musical act who take a booking in Morocco and find themselves in the middle of a conflict between a corrupt emir, a band of rebels (led by Isabelle Adjani), the CIA (represented by a drier-than-usual Charles Grodin) and a blind camel. From the charmingly self-spoofing performances from Beatty and Hoffman to the endearingly awful song lyrics by Paul Williams to May's wonderfully screwball dialogue (told that a vulture hovering about is just waiting for him to die, Hoffman remarks "You mean they're working on spec?"), this is one of the funniest films that you have most likely never seen but now that it has finally arrived on Blu-Ray (following a weird last-minute scrapping of its original release date more than a year earlier), you should take the earliest possible opportunity to remedy that. You will be glad that you did.

KILLING SEASON (Millennium Films. $28.99): In their first on-screen pairing, John Travolta and Robert De Niro make utter fools of themselves with this turgid war post-war drama with torture-porn overtones in which the former plays a Serbian war criminal who tracks down the latter, a former U.N. peacekeeper in the region, as part of an elaborate but idiotic revenge plan. The movie is top-to-bottom terrible--violent, stupid and historically shaky just for starters--and the only thing that makes it worth watching, if only for a few minutes, is the mesmerizingly awful performance by Travolta. While De Niro is content to once again sleepwalk in front of the cameras in lieu of actual acting, Travolta throws himself into his part with insane zeal and while everything about him is just plain wrong--from his Boris Badenov accent to highly questionable facial hair--he commits to it so completely that you have to admire him for his efforts, however misguided they may be.

ON THE ROAD (IFC Films. $24.98): Ever since it was first published more than a half-century ago, people have been trying to figure out a way to bring Jack Kerouac's groundbreaking novel to the screen and now they may find themselves spending the next half-century wondering why anyone bothered to in the first place. One of the problems in bringing it from the page to the screen is that there really isn't much of a strong narrative--its power rested almost entirely in the thrilling and compelling voice that Kerouac deployed in bringing to life the sex and drug-filled misadventures of charismatic anti-hero Dean Moriarity and fledgling writer Sal Paradise. Unfortunately, neither screenwriter Jose Rivera nor director Walter Salles are able to conceptualize that voice in cinematic terms and the result is a plodding bore that feels more like an ad campaign for a clothing line inspired by the book rather than the book itself.

THE PICK-UP ARTIST (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $17.99): In what continues to be one of the oddest films in his oeuvre, writer-director James Toback took some of the key thematic elements that have driven him throughout his career--infidelity, gambling and sexual obsession--and wedded them to Brat Pack-style whimsy in this odd 1987 comedy-drama about a serial Lothario (Robert Downey Jr.) who meets his match in a beautiful museum guide (Molly Ringwald) who is too busy trying to repay her father's (Dennis Hopper) debts to notice. This is not one of the great Toback films--it lacks the power of such favorites as "Fingers," "Exposed" and "When Will I Be Loved?" and the ending is so haphazard that it feels as if Toback simply decided to wing it on the last day of filming--but it is endearing in an odd way and Downey and Ringwald (in their first big adult roles) do make for a charming couple.

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): After the semi-triumph of "Blue Valentine," writer-director Derek Cianfrance and star Ryan Gosling (though not Michelle Williams, who was the best thing about that earlier project) reunited for this sprawling story involving a motorcycle trick rider (Gosling) who delves into bank robberies to help pay for the child he just discovered he fathered with a sexy carnival enthusiast (Eva Mendes), an ambitious cop (Bradley Cooper) who crosses paths with him one fateful day and their respective sons who, more than 15 years later, are still being profoundly affected by that long-ago encounter. Yes, the film is ambitious as all get out but, as this film painfully and pretentiously proves, ambition doesn't mean a thing if there isn't a compelling story to tell or a particular point to be made. I realize that this movie did earn rave reviews in some corners but I think I can explain why--those people were just plain wrong.

SCARY MOVIE 5 (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $29.98): Do I really have to explain to you at length as to how much this one sucks or can you just take my word for it so that we can all move on?

TO THE WONDER (Magnolia Home Entertainment. $26.98): In his comparatively quick follow-up to "The Tree of Life," director Terrence Malick pushes his famously enigmatic style of filmmaking to such extremes that even some of his most loyal followers were left scratching their heads in confusion. In this one, a French woman (Olga Kurylenko) falls in love with an American man (Ben Affleck) and decides to uproot herself and her young daughter to return to the U.S. with him--after a brief period of bliss, however, he finds himself dissatisfied and turning to the arms of a former love (Rachel McAdams) while she is left to fend for herself in an unfamiliar land. On the one hand, it is easily the least of Malick's films to date--it drifts along with a marked lack of dramatic urgency even by his standards and it never seems as if he quite knew what he wanted to say this time around. On the other hand, it is still a fascinating film to watch, both for Malick's cheerful disregard for pretty much all the basis of proper narrative storytelling and for the ravishing visual poetry that shines through in virtually every frame. My guess is that most of you are probably going to hate this one and I can even understand why you would feel that way. However, if you manage to find yourself on its particular wavelength (especially on a second viewing), there is a good chance that you might find yourself hypnotized by its strange power as well.


ACTION JACKSON (Warner Home Video. $19.98)


A BOY AND HIS DOG (Olive Films. $26.99)

THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE. . .(The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

EPIC (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98)

FLASHDANCE (Paramount Home Video. $19.98)

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98)

MUD (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.98):

THE MUPPET MOVIE (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $26.98)

MY FAVORITE SPY (Olive Films. $24.95)

OBLIVION (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98)

OLIVER & COMPANY (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.99)

PASSENGER 57 (Warner Home Video. $19.98)

THE PRESIDIO (Paramount Home Video. $19.98)

QUICKSILVER (Image Entertainment. $17.97)

ROADIE (Shout! Factory. $19.97)

ROBIN HOOD (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $36.99)

SHAFT (Paramount Home Video. $19.98)

SHANE (Paramount Home Video. $19.98)

SILVER STREAK (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $17.99)

SWAMP THING (Shout! Factory. $26.99)

THE SWORD IN THE STONE (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $36.99)

THE UNSEEN (Scorpion Releasing. $26.98)

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originally posted: 08/28/13 01:00:46
last updated: 08/28/13 02:29:06
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