Let’s be honest, folks; when the Renee Zellweger – Harry Connick Jr. romantic comedy New In Town is the biggest title in new release, you know it’s a direct-to-video kind of week. So why not embrace the DVD movie boom with a Crash-esque LA indie drama (Powder Blue, starring Jessica Biel and Forest Whitaker), a cult film in the making (Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus), an Elmore Leonard adaptation (Killshot, starring Mickey Rourke), or a cutesy romantic comedy about culture clash (Ramen Girl, starring and produced by Brittany Murphy)? High definition owners have a modern sci-fi classic to check out (Children of Men on Blu-ray). Read more inside!
The fish-out-of-water formula is applied to the romantic comedy genre – and the dismal economic climate, here used as a plot tool – in New In Town, a decidedly American story told by Danish helmer Jonas Elmer in his English-language debut. Renee Zellweger stars as Lucy Hill, a high-powered Miami executive who is sent to a blue-collar Minnesota town to prove herself by shutting down a manufacturing plant. Will she do it, putting the entire community out of work? Or will the love of a local (Harry Connick, Jr.) help turn the icy Lucy into a down-home gal? Critics widely panned this by-the-numbers and predictable affair; a making-of feature, commentary, and deleted scenes are included in the release.
Next: Biel strips down in Powder Blue
Let’s cut to the chase: Powder Blue is the direct-to-DVD movie where Jessica Biel gets naked. Sadly, that doesn’t make it watchable. Biel gives it her all as a stripper named Rose-Johnny, a tortured, coke-snorting wretch who, after pouring hot candle wax over herself while crying onstage in the film’s infamous nude scene, describes herself to a prospective beau as “a single mother with a kid in a coma who takes off [her] clothes for a living.” It’s Indie Drama 101 thanks to writer-director Timothy Linh Bui, whose biggest feat here was nabbing the likes of Forest Whitaker (as a suicidal ex-priest), Ray Liotta (as a terminally ill ex-con), Kris Kristofferson (as a crime boss who rides the bus), and Patrick Swayze (as a long-haired, eyeliner-wearing sleazy strip club owner) for this wannabe Crash. Only Sanaa Lathan gets off the easiest, appearing for literally five seconds before moving on to better movies. If only we could have done the same.
Next: Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus!
If you’ve seen the hugely popular trailer, then this is a must-watch: after all, when will we ever again see the combined forces of a giant shark, a humongous octopus, Lorenzo “Renegade” Lamas, and ’80s pop star Debbie Gibson? In the epic creature feature from studio The Asylum (the folks who brought you such classic “mockbusters” as Transmorphers, Snakes on a Train, and The Day The Earth Stopped), two prehistoric monsters – a shark and an octopus – are awakened in the present day, and wreak havoc up and down the Pacific until a commando (Lamas) and an oceanographer (Gibson) join forces to pit the two creatures against each other. (Along the way, the Mega Shark kills the Golden Gate Bridge and eats a plane.) You probably won’t have a better time on home video this week; we only wish we could see Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus as it was originally intended: in 3D.
Next: Killshot finally gets a release
After being notoriously shuffled around the release slate for the last three years (it was originally set to debut in theaters in March 2006), Killshot finally finds an audience this week on DVD. Based on the Elmore Leonard novel of the same name, the crime thriller follows a couple (Diane Lane and Thomas Jane) on the run from an assassin (Mickey Rourke) and his deranged side-kick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) after the Witness Protection Program fails to protect them; Rosario Dawson and Hal Holbrook co-star. Directed by John Madden (the one that earned a Best Director nod for Shakespeare in Love, not the NFL commentator), Killshot is messy, but watchable, especially for Rourke’s performance as Blackbird, a Native American hit man who lives by his own code of morals.
Next: The anime feature, The Sky Crawlers
Young Japanese fighter pilots wage battle in a televised war backed by corporations in this adaptation of the novel series by Hiroshi Mori, directed by esteemed anime filmmaker Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell). Though peppered with aerial dogfight sequences, this is more an existentialist film than an action pic, as its adolescent protagonist Yuichi Kannami (voiced by Letters From Iwo Jima‘s Ryo Kase) begins to question the joyless, wartorn lifestyle he and his fellow pilots live. For hardcore anime fans, behind-the-scenes features offer in-depth exploration of Oshii’s production.
Next: High school rugby inspires in Forever Strong
If soccer is still the second-class citizen among popular American sports, then rugby’s got to be even farther behind; how many people know what a scrum is, let alone can follow the confusing rules of a game that plays like a soccer-football hybrid with no pauses and no pads? The makers of Forever Strong must have been betting that the strength of their film would not depend on the popularity of the sport (which, incidentally, yours truly played in college) but the critics say the tale of a juvenile delinquent (Sean Faris), who joins a rugby team only to face off against his own coach father in the championships, falls victim to the same sports movie clichés that we’ve seen a hundred times. Neal McDonough, Arielle Kebbel, Gary Cole, and Gossip Girl‘s Penn Badgley co-star, while Rudy himself, Sean Astin, shows up as a guidance counselor.
Next: Land of the Lost The Complete Series
Revisit Sid and Marty Krofft’s 1974 Saturday morning series Land of the Lost — and, naturally, get excited for the forthcoming big-screen adaptation, starring Will Ferrell — with an all-new issue of the complete series on DVD! The three-season adventures of Rick Marshall and his kids, Will and Holly, as they navigate an alien world filled with dinosaurs and strange creatures, arrives this week along with audio commentary by the Kroffts and a peek at the new feature film; pick up the set in its collectible lunchbox for a real blast from the past.
Next: Brittany Murphy is Ramen Girl
If you’ve been wondering, “Where did Brittany Murphy go?” the answer comes this week in Ramen Girl, a dramedy/romantic comedy about an American woman (Murphy) who moves to Japan for a boy, gets dumped, and finds solace in learning the ancient culinary art of… making noodles. Culture shock and a plotline akin to the Karate Kid (only with ramen, see?) ensue, resulting in a strange but fine enough international vehicle for Murphy, who also produced.
Next: Get Carnivorous with DMX!
We prefer this direct-to-video creature feature’s original title: Lockjaw: Rise of the Kulev Serpent, but to be honest, the strength of its title is irrelevant; critics say this B-movie Anaconda rip-off isn’t even “so bad it’s good” bad. And although he’s got top billing, rapper DMX doesn’t show up until late in the film, after the titular mystical snake-alligator creature — conjured with a voodoo-powered crayon – has wreaked considerable havoc. A commentary and featurette might enhance the viewing experience.
Next: Children of Men on Blu-ray
Alfonso Cuaron’s 2006 dystopian action pic is at once spartan and complex, and looks great in high definition; if you loved the futuristic film about a man (Clive Owen) begrudgingly shepherding a young woman through violent, dangerous terrain, then we highly recommend you pick up the new Blu-ray release. Sound and picture look appropriately impressive, but the disc’s best offerings are the behind-the-scenes features you can watch in tandem with Cuaron’s film which give incredible insight into how cast and crew pulled off some highly orchestrated sequences in the making of the film.
Until next week, happy renting!