This week: Mel Gibson goes a little madder, Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau's classic '90s bromance makes its high-def debut and a bizarre Norwegian monster movie.
If you can get beyond the outlandish premise that a depressed CEO has a break from reality and starts communicating with the world via a hand puppet with a thick cockney accent, you might have the temperance to tolerate director Jodie Foster's dysfunctional family drama. Gibson stars as Walter Black—the aforementioned toy company CEO who sleeps most of his days away due to a crippling depression. His wife, Meredith (Foster), finally has enough and sends Walter packing. Walter tries to off himself in a hotel and ends up being knocked out by a falling TV. When he wakes up, the beaver hand puppet he had rescued earlier from a dumpster suddenly take on a life of its own. Walter begins to talk through Beaver—a distinct and separate personality who is funny, engaging and way more confident than Walter ever was. Is the real Walter still in there or has the Beaver taken over?
You might not be OK with Gibson anymore because of his well-publicized personal troubles, but the Oscar-winning actor gives a challenging split-personality performance here. Does the movie work as an earnest drama? That depends on your own mental state, but it doesn't for this writer. There are dizzying moments of unintentional hilarity, like when Gibson and Foster have ménage-a-trois lovemaking sessions with the puppet and when Gibson and the Beaver fight each other to a bloody pulp. There is also an unnecessary side story about Walter's son (Anton Yelchin) chasing after a beautiful valedictorian with her own dark family secrets that ultimately distracts from the talking Beaver in the corner of the room.
Best extras: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain audio commentary by Foster, deleted scenes and the making-of featurette "Everything Is Going to Be O.K."
Verdict: Rent Me (out of morbid curiosity or some politically incorrect laughs)
Doug Limon’s hilarious 1996 indie sensation Swingers is the endlessly quotable "money" guy comedy to revisit for a little ’90s nostalgia now that it is making its Blu-ray debut. Before Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn got “all grown up” on us, the two played best buds trying to make it big in Hollywood in the ’90s. Favreau is Mike, a lovesick comedian transplant from New York who is having trouble letting go of the girlfriend back home who dumped him, and Vaughn plays Trent, a fast-talking playboy actor who tries to shake his best friend out of his rut by taking him on an impromptu trip to Vegas and giving him tips on scoring with "beautiful babies" as the two navigate the Los Angeles hipster landscape.
The swing-dance scene is all but a memory in Los Angeles, just like smoking in bars and using the Club in your car, but Swingers remains a seminal bromance that shows us how much some things never change even when everything else does in pop culture. Like Trent says, “Mikey’s the big winner. Mikey wins.” So does Swingers in high definition.
Best extras: This Blu-ray debut has filmmakers’ audio commentary, the four-part “Making It in Hollywood” documentary, five extended and alternate scenes from the cutting room floor and the silly "Swing Blade" short film—a parody of Swingers and Sling Blade.
Verdict: Buy Me
At first glance of its box art, this Norwegian fantasy thriller looks like it might be a bargain-basement monster movie featuring a man in a costume, but it actually shares more cinematic DNA with The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. A group of Norwegian film students set out to capture footage of real-life trolls by following an expert into the woods on an expedition. They discover that not only are trolls real and there are different varieties, the government has covered up their existence for years.
The trolls in this movie are giant CGI creations, and there are some terrific scenes of them wreaking havoc on the desolate countryside. The filmmakers adhere to old folklore by having the trolls either turn to stone or explode when exposed to sunlight (or a handy portable UV light). The less of the trolls' faces you see, the better the movie works as you see trees bend in the distance and hear their thunderous footsteps. Still, it's amazing what was done here on a non-Hollywood budget, and fantasy fanatics will get a kick out of this foreign found-footage find.
Best extras: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain a making-of featurette, deleted scenes and an HDNet special.
Verdict: Rent Me
Also New This Week: Bambi II, Hostage (BD), Last Dance (BD), Rounders (BD), Super Hybrid, Win Win, Blitz, Little Big Soldier, The Women in Cages Collection, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Henry's Crime and Road to Nowhere