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New on DVD and Blu-ray Week of January 22-28

View Harley Lond's Profile

By Harley Lond - 01/22/13 at 02:15 AM CT

THIS WEEK'S PICKS:

"End of Watch," director David Ayer's follow-up of sorts to "Training Day" (which he wrote; he also wrote the screenplay for the original "The Fast and the Furious"), is a no-holds-barred look at the bloody war raging on the streets of Los Angeles between the cops and the Mexican gangs. As in "Training Day," Ayer doesn't glamorous his cops -- but he does glorify them to a certain extent -- and there's nothing wrong with that, since Michael Pena and Jake Gyllenhaal in a top action film from 2012, End of Watch these guys don their blue suits every day to protect us from some of the worst scum imaginable that bubbles up to the surface of the mean streets of L.A. Officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) are brothers in arms -- both on the beat and in their private lives -- but their partnership and lives are threatened when they inadvertently get way over their heads with gang members from the Mexican cartel -- and get marked for death. The film is augmented with footage from the handheld HD cameras of the police officers, gang members, surveillance cameras, and citizens caught in the line of fire -- which can be very disconcerting since at times it's pretty hard to figure out exactly what's going on. Still, "End of Watch" is a well-wrought, powerful film.

Here's a film that the critics either really, really liked -- or really, really hated. Audiences hated it. It's trashy, melodramatic, steamy, sordid ... and the kind of exploitation film that just isn't made any more. Which is why I loved it. If off-the-wall filmmaking piques your interest, you gotta see this. From director Lee Daniels ("Precious"), "The Paperboy" takes audiences deep into the backwaters of steamy 1960s South Florida. Miami Times reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey, in another great acting turn this year) returns to his sleepy home town of Lately, Florida, where a decades-old facade of Southern gentility strains against the sweeping social changes of the 60s. Ward is chasing the career-making story of violent swamp rat Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack), who claims to have been framed for the murder of a corrupt local sheriff. Drafting his younger brother Jack (Zac Efron) to serve as his driver, Ward tries to unravel the mystery of the crime, aided by a mountain of evidence amassed by sultry death-row groupie Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), who turns out to be Van Wetter's fiancÚ. But when Ward's investigation reveals a web of deception it sets off an explosive chain reaction that pulls everyone involved into a quagmire of evil.

"Imposter" is a chilling factual thriller that chronicles the story of a 13-year-old boy who disappears without a trace from San Antonio, Texas in 1994. Three and a half years later he's found alive, thousands of miles away in a village in southern Spain with a story of kidnapping and torture. His family is overjoyed to bring him home. But all is not quite as it seems. The boy bears many of the same distinguishing marks he always had, but why does he now have a strange accent? Why does he look so different: His eyes and hair and build are different. And why doesn't the family seem to notice these glaring inconsistencies? It's only when an investigator starts asking questions that this strange tale takes an even stranger turn: The young man is actually an imposter who fooled the family -- and virtually the entire suburb, including the kids and the teachers at the local high school -- to get into the states and live a new life. The stranger than fiction mystery, which features many twists and turns, combines documentary footage as well as stylized visualizations. A must see thriller that validates the old saw that "truth is stranger than fiction."

"Searching for Sugar Man" is the true story of Rodriguez, the greatest 70s rock icon who never was. Rodriguez was discovered in a Detroit bar in the late 1960s by two celebrated producers who were struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics. They recorded an album, which was expected to secure his reputation as the greatest recording artist of his generation, but in contrast, the album bombed and Rodriguez disappeared into obscurity amid rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide. Nonetheless, a bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa and, over the next two decades, his music became a phenomenon and an anthem for the people. "Searching for Sugar Man" follows two South African fans setting out to discover what really happened to their hero, leading them to a story more extraordinary than any of the existing myths about the artist known as Rodriguez.

Also this week: "Keep the Lights on," an autobiographically inspired, fictional relationship drama that chronicles the emotionally and sexually charged journey through the love, addiction, and friendship of two men; "For a Good Time, Call...," about two women, once enemies but now roommates, who team up to operate a phone-sex line; and "Pina," Wim Wenders' 3D documentary about the German modern-dance pioneer Pina Bausch.

DVD Collectibles:


Ready for some wild Japanese action films this week? First up is the hard-boiled Japanese gangster film "Hard Romanticker" (2011). Based on director Gu Su-yeon's semi-autobiographical novel, "Hard Romanticker" is a violent outing that delivers its story with equal amounts style and carnage. Bleached blond Gu (Shota Matsuda) -- a stand-in for the director -- is a young cocky Korean-Japanese hoodlum living in the seaside city of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture, a working-class hellhole. The Japanese gangsters look down on the "zainichi" (Japanese-born, but of Korean ancestry) punks, but that doesn't bother Gu, who regularly Hard Romanticker DVD Cover cruises the city looking for fights with the Yakuza as well as the Korean gangs (referred to derogatorily as NK, for North Korean). When someone accidently kills the grandmother of a ruthless rival thug, Gu soon finds himself on the receiving end as he becomes the target for bloody, even deadly revenge. And it doesn't help that the police are on his tail as well. There's lots of brutality, chases and fights and no one comes out ahead. Extras include a 12-page collectors booklet that includes an essay on "Hard Romanticker," a study of Toei Studios Yakuza films by Japanese cinema expert Patrick Macias, and a gallery of original Toei movie posters. On DVD from Artsploitation Films ... at the complete other end of the spectrum is the comedy-actioner "Dead Sushi" (2012), a wacky martial arts film about the daughter of a legendary sushi chef who finds work at a rural hot springs inn where a pharmaceutical firm is holding a work retreat. When a disgruntled former researcher uses a serum to awaken the murderous instincts of ordinary sushi, turning them into bloodthirsty monsters, the girl must use both her sushi training and her martial arts skills to save the others and defeat the monsters. You've never seen anything like a small slab of sushi flying through the air chomping down on unsuspecting humans (and, as the film progresses, there's hundreds of the killer sushis floating about) nor the human-sushi-zombies who spit up rice as they amble around the retreat. It's crazy and fun and loaded with CGI blood. From Millennium Entertainment/Action Slate.

I don't watch much television (cable or broadcast), preferring that any time I spend in front of a small screen be devoted to watching movies on DVD and Blu-ray. I have a bare-bones satellite set up, with MSNBC, a smattering of PBS stations, and local outlets; if I had any movie channels (TCM, for example), I'd never sleep. So you'll have to excuse me when I come late to well-touted series and then champion them; "better late than never," my parents used to say. Last year I "discovered" the Swedish "Wallander" and gobbled down the series in a week long orgy of viewing (with the British "Wallander" for desert). Now, I've come across the Waking the Dead DVD Cover immensely popular "Waking the Dead" and, I'm ashamed to admit, have only jumped on board for last week's release by BBC Entertainment of Season Seven (2008: Three-disc set with 12 episodes, $39.98). But what I've seen so far has knocked me out. Like "Wallander," "Waking" revolves around a moody, older police detective who heads up a crime unit (in this case, a special "cold case" team) that goes after murderers, dope and human smugglers, kidnappers, racists, terrorists and other assorted perverts and miscreants and brings the perps to justice (though justice here is a relative term since there are psychological bills to be paid by some of the criminals). And while the group of detectives, psychologists and forensic experts work as a smooth team, there's an edginess to their relationships that, at times, mimics the extreme edginess of the story lines. And, much like the American "Law & Order," cases are not always what they seem to be and change and morph as new clues are uncovered. So don't bother me now; I'm watching TV.

And don't forget this week's Blu-ray debut: "Ivan's Childhood" (1962), the debut feature by the great Andrei Tarkovsky ("Andrei Rublev"), is a poetic journey through the shards and shadows of one boy's war-ravaged youth. Moving back and forth between the traumatic realities of World War II and serene moments of family life before the conflict began, Tarkovsky's film remains one of the most jarring and unforgettable depictions of the impact of war on children. High-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack, from The Criterion Collection.

Buzzin' the 'B's:


"Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai" (2011 -- Japan) is director Takashi Miike's tale of revenge, honor and disgrace. When a mysterious samurai arrives at the doorstep of his feudal lord, requesting an honorable death by ritual suicide in his courtyard, the lord threatens him with the brutal tale of Motome, a desperate young ronin who made a similar request with ulterior motives, only to meet a grisly end. Undaunted, the samurai begins to tell a story of his own, with an ending no one could see coming. A remake of Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 classic samurai film, "Harakiri." From Tribeca Films ... "Tai Chi Zero" (2012 -- China) is the first chapter in a planned trilogy by director Stephen Fung ("House of Fury," "Jump"); it's a Hara Kiri Blu-Ray Cover steampunk-infused martial arts epic featuring martial arts choreography by the legendary Sammo Hung. The film follows Yang Lu Chan, a young genius who, tired of being picked on, travels to Chen Village to learn the art of Tai Chi. Luchan finds out the hard way that it is forbidden for a villager to teach an outsider when the villagers, from strong men to old women to little children, repeatedly challenge him to a series of fights, all of which he loses quite badly. But when a frightening army of steampunk soldiers bearing strange machines show up, the villagers realize that in order to save their home, they must trust this strange outsider with the knowledge of Tai Chi. On DVD and Blu-ray from Well Go USA ... In "Officer Down" (2012), starring Stephen Dorff, James Woods, Stephen Lang, Dominic Purcell and Walton Goggins, a dirty cop, shot in a drug bust gone wrong and saved by a stranger, gets a second chance to clean up his life and must go rogue to find the men responsible for a string of assaults on young women. On DVD and Blu-ray from Anchor Bay.

"Abel's Field" (2012), starring Kevin Sorbo, Samuel Davis and Richard Dillard, is a melodrama about a high school senior, left motherless by tragedy and abandoned by his father, who has to support his little sisters while putting up with the daily bullying of the high school football team -- until he fights back. From Sony ... "Death Race 3: Inferno" (2013) stars Luke Goss, Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames and Dougray Scott in the second "Death Race" sequel, in which the legendary Frankenstein partakes in an unimaginably vicious new competition that pits teams of hardened convicts against each other in a blood-spattered, The Nest Blu-Ray Cover winner-take-all race through South Africa. From Universal ... "Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft" (2012) stars Fivel Stewart, Booboo Stewart, Eric Roberts and Vanessa Angel in the fairy tale update that has a modern-day Hansel and Gretel entering an elite boarding school where they meet up with a coven of witches. From Lionsgate ... When a former member of a religious cult dies in a mysterious accident in Amish Country, his wife begins to fear for her life and the lives of her friends at the hands of the evil cult and its fanatical leader in "Deadly Blessing" (1981), starring Maren Jensen, Susan Buckner, Sharon Stone, Jeff East, Lisa Hartman, Lois Nettleton and Ernest Borgnine. On DVD and Blu-ray from Shout! Factory ... In "The Nest" (1988), starring Robert Lansing, Lisa Langlois, Franc Luz, Terri Treas and Stephen Davies, cockroaches overrun the quiet town of North Port when an innocent experiment conducted by the nearby INTEC Corporation goes terribly wrong, making ordinary roaches turn into creatures with a taste for blood. Worse, the roaches are genetically mutating ... literally becoming whatever they eat. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Shout! Factory ... A dropout comes to the aid of a chubby and suicidal high-school kid by recruiting him as the drummer for his upstart punk-rock band in "Fat Kid Rules the World" (2012), directed by Matthew Lillard and starring Billy Campbell and Matt O'Leary; from ARC Entertainment.

On the Indie Front:


Polar-opposite brothers Randy and Kirk never saw eye-to-eye, but their rivalry is taken to a new level when Randy hijacks Kirk's son's sleepover, taking the boys on a Scout Trip to remember in "Nature Calls" (2012), starring Patton Oswalt, Johnny Knoxville and Rob Riggle; from Magnolia Home Entertainment ... A hip Silver Lake (Los Angeles) family's relaxed dynamic is tested after they take in a young artist so she can complete her art film in "Nobody Walks" (2012), starring John Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby and Rosemarie DeWitt. On DVD and Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment.

Special Interest:


"American Experience: The Abolitionists" (2013) is a documentary on the dedicated citizens who tore the nation apart in the 19th century in order to create a more perfect union. Men and women, black and white, Northerners and Southerners, poor and wealthy, these passionate anti-slavery activists fought body and soul in the most important civil rights crusade in American history. Brings to life the intertwined stories of Frederick Douglass, Birders: The Central Park Effect DVD Cover William Lloyd Garrison, Angelina Grimke, Harriet Beecher Stowe and John Brown. $24.99 from PBS Distribution ... A diverse group of full-of-attitude New Yorkers reveals how a hidden world of beautiful wild birds in the middle of Manhattan has upended and magically transformed their lives in "Birders: The Central Park Effect" (2012). The film reveals the extraordinary array of wild birds -- more than 200 avian species, from hummingbirds and herons to owls and hawks -- that make regular layovers in Manhattan's grandest park and the equally colorful New Yorkers who schedule their lives around the rhythms of the birds' migration patterns. From Music Box Films ... "The Men Who Built America" tells the story of the men who played a significant role in the shaping of this country. From Carnegie, Morgan, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Ford, the miniseries looks at how these individuals took a nation decaying from the Civil War into the greatest economic and technological superpower the world has ever seen. Three-disc DVD ($29.98) and Blu-ray ($39.99) from Lionsgate ... "Beauty is Embarrassing" (2012) is a biography of Wayne Beauty is Embarrassing DVD Cover White, a designer, painter, puppeteer, sculptor and musician who has made an indelible mark on the creative world, tracing his career from his stint as an underground cartoonist in New York's East Village to his big break as a designer, puppeteer and voice-over actor on "Pee-wee's Playhouse" (for which he won three Emmys), as well as his work animating music videos for The Smashing Pumpkins and Peter Gabriel. From Docurama ... "Dirty Energy: The Deepwater Horizon Diaster" (2013) is an award-winning documentary that shares first hand stories from the fishermen, local environmentalists, scientists and members of the cleanup crew who were hardest hit by the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon accident that began on April 20th, 2010, when the drilling rig exploded off the Gulf of Mexico, taking the lives of 11 workers and pouring millions of barrels of oil into the ocean, creating one of the worst environmental disasters in history. From Cinema Libre Studio ... "Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis" (2011) is an Encore channel documentary that examines the career of one of the nuttiest and most innovative comedic minds of all time. $19.98 from Anchor Bay.

Check out other new January 22-28 DVD releases at OnVideo.

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philS

Wrote on 01/26/13 at 02:26 PM CT

I saw End of Watch, that was a good movie i would suggest it, Gylenhall did a great job, very believable. i watched a little of Imposter but wasnt really in the mood for it at the time but looked like a good documentary and I actually have a copy of Paperboy, dont really know why so i might watch it just to see what it is. Good review though very thorough

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