Next week’s DVD picks run the gamut from the sublime to the worthless. You can decide for yourself which is which.

Please note that a new California law forcing Amazon to charge California residents California state sales tax has led Amazon to terminate their contracts with Amazon Associates who are based in California. Apparently if someone in Ohio buys a product from Amazon using a link provided by an associate in California, the sales tax rule applies. Since Amazon will no longer compensate Living in Cinema for products sold through Living in Cinema, I’m no longer linking to Amazon products.

I’m still providing the Netflix links for your convenience.

Anyway, if none of the following appeal to you, check out LiC’s DVD Shelf with a growing list of recommended movies going back to 2009 currently available on DVD from the retailer or rental house of your choice.

  • 13 Assassins (**** 1/2). Takashi Miike’s brutally violent and fantastically entertaining remake of Eichi Kudo’s 1963 film of the same name tells the story of a group of samurai taking on an evil warlord with connections to the emperor in feudal Japan. It’s one of those “noble few against the evil many” action pictures along the lines of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samuari, but it also toys with the more corrosive effects of high minded samurai ideals like honor and duty. The best part is that Miike makes his point without denying the audience the action thrills a title like 13 Assassins promises. The climax is a violent, biblical ass-kicking complete with the fires of hell. Good stuff! Note that the version of the DVD generally available in the US is the US theatrical version of the film which has been trimmed by 15 minutes. If you’re a purist and have a region free DVD player, you might want to track down the full version. I haven’t seen both, but I thought the US version was fantastic for what it’s worth. (Opened: 4/29/11) TrailerRent
  • Of Gods and Men (****). Based on the true 1996 story of a group of French monks kidnapped in Algeria, Of Gods and Men is, among other things, an examination of faith and duty. It excels because it doesn’t boil down to Christianity vs. Islam. It’s very slowly paced – lots of time is spent quietly watching the monks carrying about their daily business from their regular chants to administering to the sick from the nearby village to selling their wares in town – but at the same time there’s a slow motion suspense as danger begins to seep into the peaceful abbey from all sides. Winner of the Cannes Grand Prix in 2010 and nominated for the foreign language Oscar, Of Gods and Men is one of the better movies of 2011. (Opened: 2/25/11) Trailer –  Rent

  • Hobo with a Shotgun (*no stars*). Movies like Hobo with a Shotgun are review proof, which is good because I stopped paying attention to this phony exploitation picture half way through and can’t really write an honest review of it. I even tried watching it twice – once with alcohol. Suffice it to say, I hated it but I’ll allow that maybe the second half was so amazing that I’m just not giving the movie a fair chance. Ok, not really. Based on a prize-winning fake trailer inspired by the trailers sandwiched between Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse features, Hobo with a Shotgun is a greasy, lurid revenge picture that might have come out of Troma in its Toxic Avenger heyday. It’s one of those movies that dares you to dislike it for being poorly made and identifies you as a humorless twat if you don’t enjoy the ride. Besides ample shlocky violence and headache-inducingly stupid dialogue like “She’s so hot, I want to cut off my dick and rub it on her tits,” the main drawing card here is the great Rutger Hauer. As you’ve learned to expect from the man, he leans into his role as a vengeance dealing hobo with a gusto that occasionally threatens to elevate this soggy turd out of the toilet bowl. Unfortunately, it’s never for long and then we’re right back in the shit. Look, I can get behind the idea of a Troma-style revenge picture with Rutger Hauer defending a hooker with a heart of gold from a town populated by a bunch of psychotic morons, but the execution in this case is just an ugly, punishing waste of time. The beauty of real exploitation pictures is that they’re not made ironically. If there is irony, it’s supplied by the audience. Not so with Hobo. With a wink and a smirk, Jason Eisner appears to have set out to make a shitty movie and he’s succeeded in every way. Judging by the mostly admiring reviews from critics high and low however, I’m pretty much alone in being unable to get into the spirit with which Hobo with a Shotgun was intended. Your results, as always, may vary. (Opened: 5/6/11) Trailer – Rent

 

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