DVD releases for January

There’s something for everyone as we enter the first week of a new decade. If you love lowbrow comedies, then ‘Dinner for Schmucks,’ starring Paul Rudd and Steve Carell in a tale about a rising corporate star who has to prove himself by bringing a bumbling fool to his boss’ dinner party, is for you. If you love revenge action flicks that exist only to kill off the bad guys and want to see perennial sideman Danny Trejo come to the fore as a hero pick up ‘Machete.’ Horror aficionados will appreciate ‘The Last Exorcism,’ which puts a new twist on demonic possession. And, finally, for anyone who reveals their self on social networks, ‘Catfish’ is a cautionary tale about virtual relationships. Happy New Year.

Keep looking to see how bad it is. Based on a Francis Veber French comedy that plays better than this version.

Machete

Danny Trejo plays Machete, a no-nonsense, ass-kicking ex-Mexican Federale who’s betrayed by his bosses and left for dead after being ambushed by the minions of drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal). Now living as an illegal in Texas, Machete gets involved with a political spin doctor (Jeff Fahey) to make a fake assassination attempt on a rabid anti-immigrant senator (Robert De Niro), and again gets double crossed, forcing him to go on the run and track down the bad guys with his weapon of choice: a machete. And the heads go flying.

Machete has no pretensions to be other than it is: a silly, overblown comic strip of a movie that harks back to ‘60s and ‘70s exploitation films. Machete just wants to get even with the villains and he’ll stop at nothing to succeed. The outrageous situations and bloody dismemberments have no shock value it’s all in fun. There’s no message accept that bad guys are really bad and that the good guys are really good and there’s absolutely no semblance of reality. It’s straight-ahead action and fun with bigger-than-life characters and dialogue (our favourite, when Machete is handed a cell phone: “Machete don’t text”). Co-directed by Robert Rodriguez.

The Last Exorcism

Another horror film revolving around a mock documentary, this time about a preacher who develops a conscience after many years of performing fake exorcisms. When he’s called upon to perform just another routine “exorcism” on a young girl, he brings along a crew to film a confessionary documentary of this, his last exorcism. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the young girl is really possessed by evil, and the reverend and his crew have to figure out how to beat the devil to save the girl and themselves before it’s too late.

This low-tech thriller takes viewers on a bumpy, scare-filled road that actually fleshes out its characters and makes you invest some time in their world before slamming you with horror not based on gore but things that go bump in the night. And we mean bump. Unfortunately, the story begins to fall about after the half-way point, leading up to a pretty unsatisfying ending.

Catfish

Here’s a documentary about the world of online social relationships that starts out as a love story and ends up as a detective mystery. Nev, a 24-year-old New York-based photographer (and brother to the film’s co-director), meets online an 8-year-old girl from rural Michigan who sends him a painting she made of one of his photos. Nev begins a friendship and correspondence with the girl’s family and even develops a cyber-romance with her attractive older sister, a musician and model. But some things about the family don’t ring true, and Nev, his brother (Ariel Schulman) and co-director Henry Joost hit the road in search of the truth.

Doubts have arisen as to how much of ‘Catfish’ was planned from the outset (it does look like there were staged scenes along the way), but truth be told, there’s really no such thing as a true, observational documentary cinema (unless you’re Fredrick Wiseman, and even then the master has to chose and edit his subjects). And this film has enough reality behind it to make any questions as to its veracity moot these things happened and these people are real. It’s a terrific cautionary tale about “connectedness” in the 21st century and it’s a terrifically involving and well-made film.

Other January DVD Releases:

‘Bitter Feast’: A celebrity chef exacts revenge on a food blogger who torpedoed his career.

‘Case 39’: A devoted family services specialist (Renee Zellweger) takes on the case of an abused child only to uncover horrific supernaturally-tinged secrets.

‘Howl’: 1950s-era story focusing on the famous obscenity trial launched to censor Allen Ginsberg’s ground-breaking book-length poem ‘Howl,’ with James Franco as a terrific Ginsberg.

‘The Lena Baker Story’: The story of an impoverished and uneducated black woman’s struggles in rural 1940s Georgia; Baker was the only woman to be sentenced to death by electric chair in the state.

‘Ticking Clock’: An investigative crime reporter stumbles upon the journal of a murderer and investigates on his own, finding that the trail leads to a 9-year-old.

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