It’s an interesting week for home video, and here’s why; we’ve got new films from a celebrated cinematographer adapting a video game (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, directed by Andrejz Bartkowiak), a rap-rock front man doing a sensitive coming of age tale (The Education of Charlie Banks, directed by Fred Durst), an action veteran gunning for hire (12 Rounds, directed by Renny Harlin), and, well, Uwe Boll (Tunnel Rats). The week also features a recently unearthed film from comedy director Hal Ashby (Lookin’ to Get Out, starring Jon Voight and Angelina Jolie in her first role) and an anthology film dedicated to the city of Tokyo, Japan (Tokyo!, directed by Michel Gondry, Joon-Ho Bong and Leos Carax). Last but not least, The Asylum gives us the highly anticipated sequel to their Transformers knock-off “mockbuster” (Transmorphers: The Fall of Man)!
Out of 50 reviews counted since its late February debut, only two gave Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li a pass. (Even more incredibly, those Fresh reviews came from Variety and The New York Times.) Most everyone else awarded this video game redo the lowest of low marks, calling it worse even than its 1994 predecessor, a vehicle that starred Jean-Claude Van Damme. Kristen Kreuk (Smallville) stars as Chun Li, a pianist-turned-pugilist out for vengeance against the steely Bison (Neal McDonough), who employs thugs the likes of Michael Clarke Duncan (as Balrog) and Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas (as his doppelganger, Vega). Luckily, Chun Li’s got a few allies on her side, including Gen (Robin “Liu Kang” Shou!) and Nash (Chris Klein, who, as critic Alonso Duralde put it, “fail[s] to walk into a room convincingly“). Former cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak directs, but is conspicuously absent from the DVD and Blu-ray commentary track by producers, McDonough, and Klein; deleted scenes and a ton of featurettes tell you more than you ever wanted to know about one of 2009’s worst films.
Watch an exclusive clip below!
Next: Fred Durst, director! The Education of Charlie Banks
We’ll get the obvious out of the way: The Education of Charlie Banks is directed by Fred Durst. Yes, that Fred Durst, lead singer of the rap-rock outfit Limp Bizkit. In Charlie Banks, Durst made his debut foray into feature filmmaking (although his second film, the football story The Longshots, made it into theaters first) and like many first-time filmmakers, critics say Durst suffers from a bounty of good intentions that don’t quite seem to be coherently conveyed. Jesse Eisenberg does his best “privileged geek” thing as Charlie, a Greenwich Village kid in the ’80s who finds his freshman year at an Ivy League college turned upside down with the unannounced arrival of Mitch (Jason Ritter, earning kudos), an old neighborhood bully who may or may not be still holding a grudge against Charlie. With shades of The Great Gatsby and over-earnest direction, Charlie Banks is nevertheless a notable first film that offers a glimmer of talent to come from director Durst (who contributes a commentary with star Ritter). Read our Five Favorite Films with Fred Durst here!
Next: Michel Gondry, Joon-Ho Bong, and Leos Carax pay homage to Tokyo!
Fans of Michel Gondry (The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind) should give this triptych anthology a view not only for the director’s take on relationships in modern day Japan (in his short film Interior Design), but also for an introduction to his star, Japanese writer and actress Ayako Fujitani (whose father is action star Steven Seagal). French critic and filmmaker Leos Carax contributes the short Merde, about a sewer-dwelling monster who becomes a media sensation, while Joon-Ho Bong rounds out the film with his story Shaking Tokyo, about one of the city’s “hikikomori,” or shut-ins, who dares to leave his home for the first time in years, for love.
Next: Renny Harlin directs John Cena in 12 Rounds
It’s a set up that begs the question: too soon? In 12 Rounds, director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger) gleefully wreaks havoc in post-Katrina New Orleans while ripping off not only Die Hard 3 (AKA Simon Says) but Speed and, let’s face it, lots of other action flicks. But given that it’s all just a star vehicle for WWE star-turned-actor John Cena, so what, right? This WWE Studios production catches up with New Orleans cop Danny Fisher (Cena) one year after indirectly causing the death of criminal Miles Jackson’s girlfriend; now, Jackson (The Wire‘s Aiden Gillen, vamping it up) is back to put Fisher through a series of tasks — let’s call them rounds, shall we? — in order to save his kidnapped fiancée (Ashley Scott). Or is that Jackson’s real plan? Resist the urge to overthink this one and you might get a kick out of seeing buses careening out of control, entire houses exploding in flames, and the entire Big Easy without power, its infrastructure incapacitated…
Next: Bijou Phillips and Izabella Miko in the noir musical Dark Streets?
Film noir meets musical fantasy in this independent film from newbie director Rachel Samuels, about a womanizing nightclub owner (Gabriel Mann) who becomes embroiled in a mystery about the city’s dwindling power supply while wooing two of his club’s singing femme fatales (Bijou Phillips and Izabella Miko). But despite the stylistic flair of its 1930s noir set up, critics say Dark Streets is a thin, strange mess of clichés whose only highlights come from its soundtrack of original period-style tunes by the likes of Chaka Khan, Etta James, and BB King.
Next: Uwe Boll is back with Tunnel Rats!
Yes, it’s true; Uwe Boll has made a movie NOT based on a video game! (Technically, his pre-House of the Dead films weren’t video game adaptations, either.) What’s more, Tunnel Rats is based on the true experiences of soldiers who specialized in dangerous underground missions during the Vietnam War, which qualifies this as a serious Boll film — historical fiction, even. Tunnel Rats tells the fictional story of a group of American soldiers who patrol the underground tunnels of Cu Chi, avoiding booby traps and fighting the Viet Cong armed only with pistols and flashlights. In between bloody, brutal set pieces, Boll’s actors amble about camp (he claims the script was largely improvised) and critics, though mixed, admit that it’s pretty good, considering the source. Will you give this Golden Raspberry-winning film a shot this week?
Next: Joaquin Phoenix bids adieu to Hollywood by wooing Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw in Two Lovers
In what could be Joaquin Phoenix‘s last acting gig before rap music stardom (though we doubt it), a struggling depressive (Phoenix) latches onto an equally damaged blonde (Gwyneth Paltrow) while trying to make his parents happy by wooing a nice Jewish girl (Vinessa Shaw). Angst and longing ensue, in what critics call a “romantic drama for grown-ups.” That means those expecting Kate Hudson-Matthew McConaughey-type romantic comedy antics will be sorely disappointed, because in the real world, relationships are, you know, hard. A few making-of features and commentary by director James Gray (We Own the Night) accompany the film.
Next: A lost Hal Ashby comedy gets the Director’s Cut treatment
Even comedy legends like Hal Ashby (Being There) can turn out a dud. Case in point: 1982’s Lookin’ to Get Out, a film meant as a vehicle for star Jon Voight, who co-wrote the script. Voight stars as a sort of Danny Ocean wannabe, a compulsive gambler who heads to Vegas to pull one huge blackjack scam, with the help of a few old friends (and Ann-Margret); seven-year-old Angelina Jolie makes her screen debut in a small role, along with mother Marcheline Bertrand. Twenty-seven years after Ashby notoriously fought with studio suits over the film and lost final cut, his actual director’s cut is being released to home video for the first time. Might Ashby’s true vision vindicate this lost gem?
Next: Danny McBride is Kenny Powers in Eastbound & Down, Season One
That’s right, people — Kenny F***ing Powers is coming to DVD! Watch as the former major league pitcher (Danny McBride) returns to his North Carolina home town after a disgraceful exit from baseball in Season One of the HBO hit show. If you liked their indie hit film The Foot Fist Way, show creators Ben Best, Jody Hill, and McBride (and executive producers Adam McKay and Will Ferrell) will charm the pants off of you, have Kenny Powers sign them, and sell your pants back to you on eBay for a cool thousand bucks. OK, maybe not really, but we’re just saying…that’s how Kenny Powers rolls. The extras included in Eastbound & Down‘s Complete First Season are plentiful and awesome, including audio commentaries with McBride, Hill, and David Gordon Green, behind-the-scenes features, a Kenny Powers demo reel, deleted scenes, outtakes, fake commercials for Ashley Schaeffer’s (Will Ferrell) car dealership, and more. (You can also follow Kenny Powers on Twitter!)
Next: The Asylum releases their mockbuster sequel, Transmorphers 2!
In what seems like sheer coincidental timing — what with the massive, historically significant box office performance of last week’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen –the good folks at The Asylum have released a sequel to their hit DVD film, Transmorphers! Transmorphers: The Fall of Man builds upon the mythos established in its predecessor by telling the prequel story of how alien-controlled robots (controlled by aliens who ARE robots!) came to Earth and took over in the first place. Sci-fi staple Bruce Boxleitner stars; watch the trailer here!
Until next week, happy renting!