This week on DVD, Liam Neeson (you know, the veteran Irish actor who your grandmother thinks looks nice) opens a can of whoop ass on unsuspecting kidnappers, much to our delight (Taken), while Michael Sheen (you know, the esteemed Welsh star of such Oscar contenders as The Queen and Frost/Nixon) plays a medieval werewolf in love in a fantasy-action prequel (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans). Elsewhere, Richard Kelly is chuckling to himself as an unofficial sequel to his cult hit Donnie Darko hits shelves (S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale), A-listers visit the depths of Direct-To-DVD Land, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles squeeze a few bucks from our pocketbooks, and Trekkies get a cornucopia of new nerdy delights.
Liam Neeson WANTS HIS DAUGHTER BACK in Taken, this week’s gloriously unapologetic exploitation thriller about a former CIA agent whose daughter (LOST‘s Maggie Grace) is kidnapped by slave traders while on holiday following U2’s world tour. Never mind the strangely coincidental plot points (these thugs definitely crossed the wrong dad), Taken delivers one of the most gleefully violent, guilty pleasure viewing experiences of the year. Who doesn’t want to see the 56-year-old former Darkman breaking necks, Jason Bourne-style? Watch an exclusive making-of video below.
Next: We’re likin’ Michael Sheen in Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans
In the third installment of the uber-slick Underworld series, we go back — way back — to the very beginnings of the bitter blood feud between Lycans and vampires through which Kate Beckinsale‘s black leather-clad Selene blasts her way in Underworld and Underworld: Evolution. And like all good vampire vs. werewolf stories (Twilight, anyone?), it all started with a love story. The ever-versatile Michael Sheen reprises his role as Lucien, a werewolf who leads his people in a slave rebellion against a class of vampire masters led by Viktor (Bill Nighy); when Lucian falls in love with Viktor’s daughter, Sonja (Beckinsale doppelganger Rhona Mitra)… well, we all know it can’t end well. A filmmaker commentary and featurettes highlight the DVD, with additional materials and a digital copy available on Blu-ray.
Next: S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale
If you thought Richard Kelly‘s cult hit Donnie Darko had its fair shake of “WTF?” moments, just try and wrap your mind around director Chris Fisher‘s direct-to-video sequel, S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale. Made without the involvement of Kelly himself, S. Darko follows Donnie’s younger sister, Samantha (played again by Daveigh Chase), who has left behind her Sparkle Motion days, become disconnected from her family, and is on a road trip with pal Corey (Step Up 2‘s Briana Evigan). Stranded in Utah, the girls endure dreamlike encounters with a bunch of locals, including the apparently disturbed “Iraq Jack” (One Tree Hill‘s James Lafferty) and a nerdy love interest (Twilight‘s Jackson Rathbone). Critics say, however, that Fisher’s sequel borrows too heavily from its predecessor and plays like feature film fan fiction, so we only recommend it for the most fervent Darko fans.
Next: Galaxy Quest: Deluxe Edition
By Grabthar’s hammer, Galaxy Quest hits shelves this week in a Deluxe Edition! The re-issue arrives just in time to remind Trekkies just how lovingly the parody addressed the nature of Star Trek fandom. Tim Allen plays the Shatner-esque Jason Nesmith, a washed-up actor still basking in the glow of his popular star vehicle, Galaxy Quest, when a band of dorky real aliens (led by the awesomely rubber-faced Enrico Colantoni) enlist him to save their planet. Pick up the Deluxe Edition for great extras, like Sigourney Weaver‘s backstage rap (featuring Sam Rockwell on the beat box) and a Thermian audio track. And remember: Never give up, never surrender!
Next: Ashton Kutcher nabs a cougar in Personal Effects
Ashton Kutcher takes a break from Punking, Twittering, and making terrible romantic comedies with this direct-to-video clunker, in which he stars as a promising college wrestler whose career is cut short when his twin sister is killed. Grieving in his hometown while awaiting the perpetrator’s trial, he enters into a May-December romance with a widow from his therapy group (Michelle Pfeiffer), whose deaf son is dealing with his own seething rage. As you might expect, lives collide, tragedy looms, and few viewers will actually care. A single making-of feature is included.
Next: Jena Malone, Leelee Sobieski, and Chloe Sevigny are Lying
What a week for subpar, star-driven dramas! Keeping company with Ashton Kutcher and Michelle Pfeiffer in Direct-to-DVD Land are fellow A-listers Chloe Sevigny, Jena Malone, and Leelee Sobieski, who co-star in this micro-budgeted indie drama about spoiled Gen-X women getting to know each other in the countryside. Newbie director M. Blash turned critics off with this overly pretentious film about, ironically, pretentious rich people — or the compulsive liars who pretend to be them, hint, hint — though the digitally-shot flick played the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes two years ago, for whatever that’s worth. The DVD also includes a commentary track with Blash, Sevigny, and Malone, and a featurette in which Blash is interviewed by filmmaker Todd Haynes.
Next: The Grudge 3: Even Grudgier
As if the Grudge franchise could ever end, a third film in the series lands on shelves this week. The direct-to-video Grudge 3 picks up where The Grudge 2 left off, as sole survivor Jake (Matthew Knight) conveniently passes on Kayako’s curse to a whole new group of unsuspecting victims. Inevitably, tragedy befalls those who cross paths with the Japanese ghost lady and her creepy little ghost boy, including Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Troi), Shawnee Smith (on loan from the Saw franchise), and, frankly, us viewers; director Toby Wilkins, whose recent horror flick Splinter earned a 71% Tomatometer, is unlikely to repeat freshness with this rote (and R-rated) Grudge extension.
Next: Heroes in a half shell – Turtle Power!
The long-running animated adventures of Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, and Leonardo (collectively known as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, naturally) kept children of the late ’80s and ’90s riveted — and buying action figures, comics, and other merchandise — for ten seasons; IGN named it the 55th best animated TV show of all time last winter. For those of us who played TMNT on the playgrounds (yours truly was always stuck as April O’Neil — lame), this week’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season 7 is a must-have item to add to your “I Love the ’90s” DVD collection. All 27 episodes of Season 7 will be released this week in collectible editions, though there is one huge, disappointing drawback: you have to buy all four “slices” (AKA releases, sold separately) in order to own the complete collection.
Next: Nerd out with Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture Collection Blu-ray
Did you love J.J. Abrams‘ Certified Fresh Star Trek reboot, but not as much as you love the first six original feature films? Are you dying to see what happens when William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and host Whoopi Goldberg get together in a room to dish their favorite Trek memories? And finally, are you willing to shelling out $79.99 (Amazon’s special price) to own yet another super special collector’s bonus edition of Trek materials, even though you probably already own the films individually? Then, Trekkers, the new Star Trek: The Motion Picture Collection on Blu-ray is for you. In addition to 12 hours of previously released bonus footage, the collection adds over two hours of new materials and Blu-ray exclusive interactive features (test your Trek knowledge against other superfans!) and more importantly, all six films have been digitally remastered. What are you waiting for, ensign? Beam up immediately!
Until next week, happy renting!