Whether you are after a lazy, Sunday night rental or are looking to build up your movie collection, Couch Tomato will keep you up to date on the best films and TV released on DVD and Blu-ray in Australia each week. Let’s begin…
Consensus: Ricky Gervais’ consistently sharp performance and beautifully dry execution transform this otherwise mainstream comedy into an endearing, funny, and altogether snappy romantic comedy. With ghosts.
Misanthropic dentist, Dr. Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais), is a surly chap with a disdain for the living. His anti-social behaviour crosses the bounds of nature, however, when a near-death experience leaves him with the startling ability to, if not communicate then at least bicker, with the dead. Every ghost in New York seems to be desperate for his help, including Frank (Greg Kinnear) the caddish ex of Pincus’ neighbour and love interest, Gwen (Téa Leoni).
Viewing tip: this could have been stock-standard fare with a saccharine twist of Jennifer Love Hewitt / Ghost Whisperer earnestness. Instead it is a rom-com with lots of rom and com so whip this one out for date night. Dim the lights, hold hands and have a tissue handy in case one of you gets a bit weepy and needs comforting.
DVD and Blu-ray special features include commentary by David Koepp and Ricky Gervais and short featurettes: Making Ghost Town, Ghostly Effects and Some People Can Do It.
Below, watch Ricky Gervais’ acceptance speech for his Rotten Tomatoes Certified Fresh Award for Ghost Town.
Consensus: Traditional in form yet effective in execution, this taut thriller updates the “danger on a train” scenario with atmospheric sense.
Set deep in the wild wild east on the Trans-Siberian Railway, the twists and turns in director, Brad Anderson’s (Next Stop Wonderland, The Machinist, Session 9), film are driven by genuine surprises rather than big-budget bangs. Woody Harrelson plays the dopey tourist well, right down to his indignant and futile cry of ‘but we’re American’ as things start to go pear-shaped for him and his troubled wife, a flinty Emily Mortimer. Also starring Ben Kinsley, Eduardo Noriega, and Kate Mara.
Viewing tip: you will need a bottle if ice-cold vodka and some shot glasses to get you through this one. For the teetotallers, a plate of potatoes and some sweet, black tea will capture the mood just as well. Do not watch before making the trip yourself. It will scare the tourist right out of you!
Special features include a making-of featurette.
Consensus: JCVD is a touching, fascinating piece, with Jean-Claude Van Damme confounding all with his heartfelt performance.
Mickey Rourke isn’t the only 80s star making a comeback these days. Jean-Claude Van Damme is back on our screens in this self-reflective and strangely amusing film. JCVD presents a faded action star at odds with his celebrity, and his life.
Part bank heist, part confessional, this film is a world away from Bloodsport. Not just for the Van Damme fans, it is worth watching for the monologue that punctuates the film in an intriguing way.
Viewing tip: this film must be viewed in conjunction with the Mussels from Brussels’ earlier work. You will find them all in the rotten end of the Tomatometer.
Consensus: Bolt is a pleasant animated comedy that overcomes the story’s familiarity with strong visuals and likable characters.
Bolt (voice of John Travolta) is a canine television star who believes his own hype. Having been accidentally shipped to New York, he uses his imagined super powers to fight his way back to Hollywood and his person and co-star, Penny (voice of Miley Cyrus).
Viewing tip: this film is great for adults as well as kids, so use them as a beard and then watch it with them. If you share a house with tweens, there is enough Miley Cyrus here to keep them sated before Hannah Montana The Movie is released so use it as a stop-gap before they take over your home entertainment system.
DVD and Blu-ray special features include never before seen bonus short Super Rhino, interviews, deleted scenes and the music video I Thought I Had Lost You!
Consensus: Despite its striking visuals, The Tale of Despereaux as a story feels familiar and unimaginative.
Tale of Despereaux, the Other Rodent Animation, is so exquisite you can almost forgive the laboured storyline. It is a heartfelt tale about courage that delivers its message with all the subtly of a good bludgeoning. It is pretty while it does it, however, so fans of animation will enjoy the Blu-ray version and the little ‘uns will be captivated for the duration.
Viewing tips: watch it for the art and have no expectations about the story-line.
DVD and Blu-ray special features include Despereaux’s Quest video game suitable for DVD Player, PlayStation or PC.
René Clément’s story of loss and war, as told through the eyes of children, has entered the realm of cult. Its unsentimental gaze at a young child’s preoccupation with death after losing her parents and pet dog to Nazi bombing, has divided audiences for years.
François Truffaut targeted this film in his 1954 diatribe, ‘A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema’, for being a symptom of the staid old-guard of filmmakers he rallied against. It was refused entry to the Cannes Film Festival, yet won the Golden Lion Award for Best Picture at the Venice Film Festival. It also won an Honorary Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Viewing tips: this is not the first time this film has been released on DVD but it holds an important place in French film history and as such belongs in any good DVD collection. It is rather harrowing so while it stars children, for goodness sake don’t let your kids watch it. Or if you do, keep a close eye on the family pets in the days following.
The creator and Executive Producer of True Blood is best known for writing the Academy Award-winning American Beauty and creating the Emmy Award-winning HBO series Six Feet Under. Now from the deep, dark depths of Alan Ball’s mind comes the sexiest vampire series to hit the small screen.
Set deep in the backwoods of Louisiana, True Blood tells the story of Sookie Stackhouse, played by Anna Paquin (The Piano, X-Men). She’s a waitress who can read people’s minds. While it has its uses, this skill that has rendered her a bit of a freak in her small-town world; a world in which vampires just happen to be out of the closest and living amongst us.
The fantasy element of this HBO series is downplayed, with the tensions between humans and vampires being reminiscent more of racism and segregation than Buffy-like demon fighting. It is dark, sweaty and yes…very sexy. It also doesn’t pull any punches on the violence. Not for those with a queasy stomach.
The first season is based on the Sookie Stackhouse book, ‘Dead Until Dark’ by Charlaine Harris.
Viewing tips: don’t watch with your grandma. They like to get it on down there in the deep south! If you watch too many episodes in a row you may find yourself sleeping with the light on.
DVD and Blu-ray each come in a 5 box disc set.
Yes…yes…these seasons have already been released on DVD but for those of you hard-core fans, this time around you can see the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 in all their glory on Blu-ray. Presented in a widescreen theatrical format with a pristine picture and theatre-quality sound, they will now be stranded in high definition.
And just to prove that J.J. Abram’s mind-bending series really does go on forever, there is an additional 11 hours of bonus material across the two series.
Viewing tips: pack some sandwiches and a thermos. This one will suck you into its time vortex. You will sit down to watch one episode and get off the couch two days later.