June 2015 DVD Reviews

Share this:Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0
June 2015 DVD Reviews

Atlantis: Season 2, Part 1
BBC Home Entertainment
Street: 02.10

After watching the first season of Atlantis, fans waited eagerly on the edge of their seats for an explosive second season. The first half premiered, featuring an exciting assortment of political intrigue and violence, kind of like a smaller, more British version of Game of Thrones. Characters fall from power, and others rise (did I mention it’s the women rising to power? Get it, ladies!) and there is so much backstabbing and betrayal I can hardly keep track of everyone and their motivations. Binge-watching this first half of the second season is tiresome because of the surplus of fight scenes and deep levels of treachery. The BBC seemed to agree because Atlantis was cancelled in January with the final episodes to air starting April 11. Jason (Jack Donnelly) was just not hunky enough and Hercules (Mark Addy) could not save it with his quips. The addition of guests like Robert Pugh (Game of Thrones) and Peter De Jersey (Broadchurch) try to grab the attention of fans of the other popular shows, but it was a few new characters too many to keep Atlantis above water. –Rebecca Frost

Breakin’ / Breakin’ 2 “Electric Boogaloo”
Shout Factory
Street: 04.21

In a world where male choreographers in ladies’ scoop neck shirts introduce themselves as the “tough guy” there exists a beach community that only cares about breakdancing. They quit their damn jobs to breakdance. Get your cardboard and Jheri Curl ready because Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2 are now on Bluray with surprisingly good commentary and documentaries on hip-hop culture. I learned that during filming, Muhammad Ali made scrambled eggs and performed magic tricks for dancer and actor Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones, who plays Ozone. Kelly, played by Lucinda Dickey, is a moon-faced, crane-necked jazz dancer who apparently isn’t attracted to her androgynous dance instructor in Breakin’. She hooks up with the pencil mustachioed Ozone to learn how to breakdance and battle their rival dance crew, Electro Rock. Breakin’ 2 is pretty much just one long dance montage with random inserts of sweater vest-wearing city planners threatening to take down the beloved rec center, which just so happens to be where all this dancing makes berth. Turn Breakin’ 2 into a drinking game. Every time there’s a montage, you take a shot. You’ll be fucked. The commentary with director Sam Firstenberg and Quinones really makes the Breakin’ saga even more awesome. Feel-good ‘80s movies about dancing remind me that almost every dispute can be settled by a good dance-off. –Darcy Russell

The Gambler
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Paramount
Street: 04.28

I was wondering when Hollywood would start running out of films to remake, but surely this adaptation of an obscure 1970s film is proof that they’re getting close. The Gambler tells the story of Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), a literature professor with a raging gambling addiction. Bennett begins the film with a huge gambling debt and spends the next hundred minutes or so trying to square things with some surprisingly reasonable gangsters. I think we’re supposed to give a shit about Bennett, but watching his mother (Jessica Lange) pay off his first gambling debt only to see him accrue a second while he muddles through a contrived relationship with one of his students (Brie Larson) makes it difficult. While the story was flat and the character development was stunted, the script did have a few punchy moments. Wahlberg is good at finding the charm in an otherwise unlikable character, and John Goodman’s role as Bennett’s merciless debtor-turned father figure was regrettably short-changed. The Blu-ray copy contains a making-of featurette, along with one about the process of adapting a mediocre film starring James Caan into a mediocre film starring Mark Wahlberg. –Alex Springer

 

Ghost Story: The Turn of the Screw
BBC Entertainment
Street: 04.28

Henry James’ gothic novella, The Turn of the Screw, is required reading for anyone interested in the lineage of ghost stories, and The BBC does have a soft spot for Victorian period pieces. The film begins with the story’s main character, a young governess named Ann (Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery) and her extended stay in an insane asylum. The dashing Dr. Fisher (Dan Stevens, also of Downton Abbey) takes it upon himself to hear her tragic tale of ghosts, haunted manors, and creepy blond children. As a horror movie, Turn doesn’t offer much in the way of scares. The haunted estate of Bly is a perfectly dreary backdrop, but the real gravity of this film is the way it explores the psychology of its main character. Either the ghosts of two perverts are actually trying to possess the eerily angelic Flora (Eva Sayer) and Miles (Josef Lindsay), or Ann is letting her own sexual repression surface in some seriously unhealthy ways. Dockery’s performance evokes Ann’s conviction in her beliefs, and she manages to keep us guessing right up until the end. It’s good to see classic horror get the BBC treatment, and I hope there is plenty more to come.  –Alex Springer

Inherent Vice
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Warner Bros.
Street: 04.28

Ever the polarizing figure when it comes to filmmaking, Paul Thomas Anderson has created some of the most awesome and puzzling films of the past 20 years. There’s really no middle ground when it comes to works like Magnolia, Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood or The Master—you either love them to death or hate them with a passion. Inherent Vice falls right into the same critical drama, as critics praised this adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel, while average viewers questioned what exactly they were watching. The film is lush with characters and unbeatable scenes that rival many of Anderson’s previous works, with Phoenix and Brolin fighting for the best lead. While you do get a DVD/Blu-ray combo in this package, you get zero special features, which is shocking to not have in an Anderson movie— Like ice cream and no sprinkles after getting sprinkles your entire life. It’s still a damn fine film, and a must-have for Anderson fans. –Gavin Sheehan

Inside Amy Schumer: Seasons 1&2
Comedy Central Home Entertainment
Street: 04.07

I have a confession: I’ve got a gigantic girl-crush on Amy Schumer right now. I binged-watched this entire three-disc set from start to finish, and it is the best sketch show Comedy Central has on air at the moment. Schumer is one of the funniest comedians currently on the scene. Her show is a mix of cleverly crafted sketches, brilliant stand-up and New York City street interviews. To anyone under the impression that women can’t be funny, this will permanently change your mind and show you how very wrong you’ve been. Schumer takes on horrible sex advice in women’s magazines, quirky corporate hotel chains and even hits on God for good measure only to find out she’s barking up the wrong tree. She then sprinkles in a dose of feminist issues and social humor—like envisioning a male version of Hooters, satirically called “Nutters.” Her stand-up is wonderfully on point, and she walks the perfect line between crass and brutally honest. Once you throw in an all-star cast of guests with everyone from Rachel Dratch to Paul Giamattii and Patrick Warburton, you’ll be addicted, too. –Rachel Jensen

 

Joe 90: The Complete Series
Shout! Factory
Street: 04.14

Another gem from the Gerry Anderson Collection, Joe 90 is a “Supermarionation” television show from 1968. Much like shows of its time, the British-centric series ran for a single season before getting the axe, but not before doing a complete run of 30 episodes. In quick fashion, the show gets the main plot out of the way in the first few minutes of the first episode, by using a giant scientific device to put all the knowledge of an adult into the brain of a 9-year-old boy, instantly making him eligible to do James Bond-like missions. This is a fantastic children’s program to relive—or, for the cynically nostalgic adult, something to get drunk to and laugh at from an era now gone by. This DVD set brings out the full color of the series and there really isn’t a disappointing episode, as long as you go into it with the knowledge that it is sci-fi. The only part that’s lacking is the special features, but only the hardcore fan would see an issue there. Snag it and enjoy it with the kids. –Gavin Sheehan

The Legend of Korra Book Four: Balance
Nickelodeon
Street: 03.10

Avatar: The Last Airbender and its followup series, The Legend of Korra, have always walked a difficult line between kid’s cartoon and serious-minded fantasy anime. In a sense, that tension gives the two stories their unexpected charm, and as Korra winds to a close, it’s clear that the creators of this fine series were willing to continue pulling those two worlds even closer together. This two-disc Blu-ray set collects the final season, in which the titular Korra struggles with spiritual and emotional trauma, while a militaristic dictator seeks to unify the Earth Nation by force. While this is not the kind of subject matter you’d expect in a kid’s show, there’s still enough levity and excitement to keep the pre-teens from revolting, and the writers handle the darker themes of the show with surprising starkness and honesty. Such depth of plot comes as a welcome surprise to anyone accustomed to rolling their eyes at “kid stuff,” and the action sequences alone are worth the trip. The special features are mostly forgettable, but the blu-ray edition contains a three-part animated feature that dishes some backstory details on Mako and Bolin in a cute, paper-puppet animation style. –Henry Glasheen

Lost River
Director: Ryan Gosling
Warner Bros.
Street: 05.11

Warner Brothers is one of the best movie studios in the business. Putting out controversial movies such as A Clockwork Orange, Natural Born Killers and One Eight Seven, it’s clear that this is a studio that likes to takes risks with films. They prove it yet again with the directorial debut of Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling’s arthouse flick, Lost River. I’ll start by saying this about the film; it’s absolutely gorgeous to look at. Gosling has an eye for camera placement and style, taking a page out of the David Lynch school of directing. Unfortunately that’s where the praise stops, as this is one boring and rather pointless movie. The story centers on a single mom played by Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), who lives in the virtually abandoned city of Lost River with her two kids, one of which has run afoul of the local gangster played by Matt Smith (Dr. Who)—a Gangster so mean that it’s widely known in the community that he loves to cut off the lips of those who cross him. As for the DVD, it has no special features to speak of—it’s literally just the movie. In the end, it’s clear that Gosling wants to shed his pretty boy persona and come across as more intellectual and thoughtful. Hopefully, the next time he decides to get behind the camera, he has a better script to film. –Kenny Tadrzynski

 

Metal Hurlant Chronicles: The Complete Series
Shout! Factory
Street: 04.14

When a cheap looking sci-fi show comes around that I never heard of, I immediately fear the worst. Metal Hurlant Chronicles came along, toting a big cast with recognizable names like Michael Jai White (Black Dynamite), Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner), Michael Biehn (Aliens) and John Rhys-Davies (Raiders Of The Lost Ark). I thought there might be a chance that it could be good. I was wrong.  Based on the popular comic of the ‘80s, Heavy Metal, each episode is its own story, with a different cast that takes place on a different planet. This idea I love because it gives the viewer a new story every episode. The only problem is that almost every episode sucks. Bad writing, acting and special effects make it seem like something that would air after Sharknado on SyFy (Fitting, considering it’s the same network). Another problem is how they end each episode—there always has to be some type of M. Night Shyamailan twist that, more often than not, you see coming a mile away. One positive thing I can say about the show is that it looks great on Blu-ray. –Kenny Tadrzynski

Selma
Director: Ava DuVernay
Paramount
Street: 05.05

While director Ava DuVernay could have helmed a sprawling biopic that chronicled the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from his birth to his death, she and screenwriter Paul Webb instead chose to focus on his three-month campaign to secure voting rights for African Americans. It’s this emphasis on a particularly tumultuous moment in the Civil Rights Movement that allows the filmmakers to explore the depth of Dr. King as a person. David Oyelowo’s performance reaches a cinematic sweet spot that few actors have managed to achieve. His interpretation of Dr. King is seamless, and, coupled with the amazing work of the film’s production and costume design teams, it’s easy to become immersed in the retelling of this historical story. The Blu-ray/DVD release comes equipped with a few featurettes about the film’s production, shedding some interesting light on how Oyelowo’s passion for getting the project greenlit inspired Oprah Winfrey to become involved. Since it was her influence that got such a powerful film off the ground, I won’t harp too much on the fact that she’s on the cover despite her minor role as Annie Lee Cooper. You win this time, Ms. Winfrey. –Alex Springer

Silicon Valley: The Complete First Season
HBO Home Entertainment
Street: 03.31

Mike Judge has always had a special place in the hearts of geek nation—Office Space alone launched a million memes and gave cubicle drones a film to bond over. Silicon Valley hits the core of the developer side of that culture with a fictional look into the minds of programmers trying to launch a startup company. All the awesome hilarity that could be found in self-driving cars, buying drugs from kids, pissing your pants, getting turned on by programming code and “mean jerk time” is here from a cast that embodies the what it’s like to be a closed-off personality writing technobabble for a living. The series comes with special features like a tour of the set and a behind-the-scenes feature, but not much in the realm of commentary, bloopers or deleted scenes you’d normally find in a show like this. Overall, still worth checking out. –Gavin Sheehan

Photos: