Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher get Hamm-sandwiched into an international espionage plot when it’s revealed their new neighbors (Jon Hamm, Gal Gadot) are actually gainfully employed action spies. Try Keeping Up with the Joneses as it inspires this week’s gallery of 24 more horrible (or horribly exciting) neighbors!
It’s officially the last DVD release week of the year, although much like the box office, most big-ticket new releases debuted last week in time for Christmas. Nevertheless, we’ve got a few notable new titles, especially for you lucky readers who found a Blu-ray player under the tree this season!
Aaron Eckhart takes on the most unlikable role of his career in this 1980s-set suburban drama adapted and directed by Oscar-winner Alan Ball (American Beauty) from Alicia Erian’s novel of the same name. Worth a viewing for those interested in seeing what Ball has to offer on the big screen after giving TV audiences such award-winning series as Six Feet Under and True Blood, although those averse to the idea of Eckhart’s onscreen relationship with a 13 year old girl may want to skip it, as most audiences did in theaters.
Next: Conservative hijinks in An American Carol
2. An American Carol — 13%
One might argue that liberals get most of Hollywood’s output to consume, so why not throw right wingers a cinematic bone once in a while? Spoof veteran David Zucker (Airplane!) did just that, rallying all the conservative A-listers he could find (Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Jon Voight), a few C-listers (Kevin Farley, Leslie Nielsen) and even – gasp! – David Alan Grier. Cast interviews and a commentary by Zucker might make this watchable…nah, probably not.
Next: Watch Bob Saget squirm at his Comedy Central Roast!
Now here is controversial comedy at its finest: the art of the roast, practiced for years by the Hasty Puddings crowd until the masterminds at Comedy Central put the ploy to good use. After all, who doesn’t love seeing celebrities (or better yet, comedians) suffer through jokes at their own expense? Saget takes it well, considering the line-up: Jeffrey Ross, Cloris Leachman, and even Uncle Jessie himself. While this roast didn’t quite measure up to, say, the beating inflicted on poor little Flava Flav (or, as we call him, “Flava Flaaaaaaaaaaaaav!”), Norm MacDonald’s bizarrely straight-laced bit is worth watching again.
Next: Did you know Matthew McConaughey had a 2008 movie worse than Fool’s Gold??
Despite having “direct to video” written all over it, Surfer, Dude actually did open in theaters — and, three weeks later, exited them — last September. And despite having a few stars who could open a film once upon a time (Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, and, um, Willie Nelson), the comedy about a surfer dude (McConaughey, naturally) who just wants to…surf, tanked big time. Something tells us that after making only $52K during its theatrical run (with a budget of $6 million, according to Box Office Mojo), even the best possible DVD campaign won’t dry the tears everyone involved with Surfer, Dude. After all, bongos don’t buy themselves.
Next: Nip/Tuck heads to Hollywood
The twisted lives of plastic surgeons Christian Troy and Sean McNamara continue in Season 5, Part 1 of Nip/Tuck. (One of history’s longest-running single seasons, Part 1 spans 14 episodes that ran on F/X from October 2007 to February 2008. Part 2 begins airing in January.)
Re-watch what happens when Sean (Dylan Walsh) and Christian (Julian McMahon) pack up shop, head to Hollywood and become consultants on a medical soap, Julia (Joely Richardson) introduces a lesbian lover (Portia de Rossi) and her trouble-seeking daughter (90210‘s AnnaLynn McCord), and Matt (John Hensley) discovers his new girlfriend is his biological sister. But what’s even scarier than reality TV, sociopaths, and incest? The return of Dawn Budge (Rosie O’Donnell)!!!
Next: ABC Family goes Greek
ABC Family struck gold with their turn towards teen-friendly programming in recent years, as evidenced by the network’s trio of shows hitting DVD shelves this week, starting with Greek. The seriocomic adventures of undergrads at Cyprus-Rhodes University continues in Chapter 2, in which the guys of Kappa and the girls of Zeta Beta Eta Whatever get wrapped up in more riveting shenanigans; should the semi-skanky Rebecca get booted from sorority life for appearing in a Girls Gone Wild-esque video? Who will win Greek Week? Audio commentaries and a handful of extras sure to delight the teenage ABC Family-watching crowd are also included.
Next: Get in on the Secret Life of the American Teenager
Think Juno meets 7th Heaven and you’ll get a good idea of what this ABC Family series is about; in it, a soap-ishly intertwined network of high school kids and their parents deal with the “secret” realities of teenage life: kids have sex, and sometimes they also get pregnant. (But hey, on this show, so do their parents.) More akin to 90210 (the new version) and Degrassi than the cheeseburger phone-wielding-hipster-zeitgeist of Juno MacGuff, The Secret Life of the American Teenager frequently pulls more viewers than Gossip Girl (to which we say, ZOMG!), making Season 1 a good post-holiday gift for the teenager on your list. You know, because having “the Talk” is way awkward. Let Molly Ringwald do the talking for you.
Next: Zzyxzs, belly buttons (or lack thereof), and Kyle XY Season 2
Wrapping up the ABC Family slate hitting DVD this week is Kyle XY, a show about a teenage boy who wakes up one day with no memory, no belly button, and lots of questions. In Season 2, Kyle explores his link to a shady company called Zzyzx. And never mind the show’s unmistakable Christian subtext — there’s a show on TV teaching kids words like “zzyxz,” and how awesome is that?
Kyle XY The Complete Second Season comes with all twenty-three episodes spread across six discs, and include audio commentaries, an alternate ending, and more.
The movie often called “Top Gun on Wheels” scored middling reviews with critics and doesn’t hold up especially well, but will make a decent addition to your growing Blu-ray collection if you love racing, like over-the-top sports movies, and have ever considered naming a pet “Cole Trickle.” The 1990 NASCAR flick starred a young, post-Maverick Tom Cruise (who also shared story credit) and boasted memorable supporting turns by Robert Duvall, Michael Rooker, and Dennis Quaid (not so much for the then-23-year-old Nicole Kidman, who played Cruise’s leggy brain surgeon love interest). Unfortunately, Days of Thunder on Blu-ray lacks considerable bonus features, so the only reason to buy it (other than your ceaseless love of early ’90s action flicks and/or obsession with celebrity Scientologists) would be to crank up the volume and listen to its AWESOME soundtrack in glorious, lossless High Def audio.
Next: Do you dare climb aboard the Event Horizon on Blu-ray?
Lastly, we recommend another critically-dubious but awesome-in-HD title this week: Event Horizon. Love it or hate it, Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1997 sci-fi horror tale has become a cult hit of sorts thanks to its gory space happenings, so horror-inclined Blu-ray enthusiasts should take heed. As with many a Blu-ray title released these days, Event Horizon will serve as little more than an HD library addition thanks to only moderately upgraded audio and visual enhancements; however, the bonus menu contains a wealth of special features, though all have previously been released. That said, how many other space ships do you know that have been to Hell and back?
Until next week, happy renting (and happy holidays)!
Margot at the
Wedding (in theaters November 16): Like how Life
Aquatic paraded the worst habits of
the Wedding brings out writer/director
misanthropy at its most unsalvageable.
stars as Margot, who journeys from Manhattan to rural suburbia for her sister Pauline’s wedding. A breakdown in
virtually every relationship involved ensues. Baumbach’s a master at writing
small, poignant scenes, but edit them all together and the Margot struggles to be more than an ugly volley of self-analysis, emotional violence, and neurosis. Watching the
movie has a sum negative effect: Baumbach got me invested in his characters but
since he doesn’t even bother directing them towards any resolution, one can feel
energy and effort dissipate from the body, wasted.
Nothing is Private:
Now here’s how you make a misanthropic movie.
Six Feet Under and
Alan Ball makes
his directorial debut with Nothing is Private, whose reputation as
Toronto’s most subversive film is well-deserved. Adapted from the novel
Towelhead, it focuses on the growing pains of 13 year old Jasira, who is
groped, raped, and routinely abused, emotionally and physically, throughout the
course of the movie. And, yes, this is a comedy. Ball shows much of its subject
matter in graphic, wincing detail, though the jokes don’t come cheaply and you
never feel too
bad for laughing. Nothing is Private, unfortunately, crumbles a bit at the end
when it starts vilifying characters, something Ball had expertly avoided up to that point. But I guess a movie about racism, pedophilia, and child
abuse can’t be all fun and games.
Warner Independent Pictures picked this up during the festival, and will release
it next year.
This week in RTIndie, we have a roundup of the some key indie acquisitions from the Toronto Film festival. Also, our DVD Pick of the week spotlights the latest from a legend of the French New Wave.
TIFF Acquisition Roundup: Nothing is Private, The Visitor
According to the trades, this Toronto Film Festival it’s been a relatively light on the distribution deal front. But several of the fest’s more talked-about movies recently got purchased, and will hopefully find their way to a theater near you soon.
One of Toronto’s most controversial selections is the Alan Ball (Six Feet Under)-helmed Nothing is Private, starring Aaron Eckhart, Toni Collette, and newcomer Summer Bishil. It’s the dark story of an Arab-American teenager who suffers abuse from her family members and her neighbor, a racist Army reserve officer. Warner Independent and Netflix’s Red Envelope Entertainment picked up the movie for about $1.25 million.
In addition, the Weinstein Co. announced the pre-festival purchase of The King of the Hill, a Spanish thriller about a man and a woman lost in a remote rural area. And Lumina Films nabbed Heavy Metal in Baghdad, a documentary about a hard rock band
The latest from Left Bank filmmaker Alain Resnais (Hiroshima Mon Amour, Last Year at Marienbad) was quite the festival attraction. For American audiences, the bonus of watching Lambert Wilson (The Matrix Reloaded‘s Merovingian) act forlorn and speak in his native tongue is a pretty solid incentive to commit to this two-hour French confection. Involving a cast of strangely whimsical, emotionally awkward people, Private Fears in Public Places tracks these lonely city dwellers in their respective stations in society as they bump into each other and occasionally find warmth together against the backdrop of a wintry Paris. It’s a beautiful film, the sort you can sink into. At 78 percent on the Tomatometer, Private Fears in Public Places shows the 85-year-old Resnais is clearly still fresh. “Resnais and his superb cast have poured their hearts into this film adaptation and anyone seeking mature entertainment should search for this gem,” writes Ted Murphy at Murphy’s Movie Reviews.
Sara Schieron contributed to this article.
Well, it certainly hasn’t been a dull festival. Tons of films big (Michael Clayton) and small (Juno) have screened to kudos, and on the whole there haven’t been very many outright disappointments (notwithstanding George Romero‘s Diary of the Dead and a few others).
It’s now a week into the Toronto Film Festival, and we definitely have our favorites. They include, in no particular order: the Ian Curtis biopic Control, the quirky teen comedy Juno, Lars and the Real Girl starring Ryan Gosling, and Julie Taymor‘s ambitious Beatles-infused Across the Universe. Many other entries are good as well (No Country for Old Men, Michael Clayton, Lust, Caution, Disengagement). A few in particular are unconventionally enjoyable (Sukiyaki Western Django, Nothing is Private).
Plenty of other films have gotten mixed receptions as well. Julie Taymor notoriously battled with studio execs over her Across the Universe, which combines a 1960s-1970s love story with historical events, all set to a near non-stop soundtrack of Beatles songs. Sound good to you, fellas? Unsurprisingly, Across the Universe seems to leave many male reviewers cold, while women (and predisposed lovers of musicals) enjoy it much more. The film is out in limited release this week. Full review to come!
Speaking of high profile cinematic gambles, I’m headed out to the late night screening of Todd Haynes‘ I’m Not There. Cate Blanchett nabbed Venice honors for her portrayal of Bob Dylan; six more actors take on different aspects of the legendary musician’s life and persona, including Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, and Richard Gere. More on that very shortly.