Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead DVD review


  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: February 12, 2013
  • Run Time: 100 minutes



                There is a really interesting premise in this film, albeit one which is reminiscent of a recently successful horror film, while also blatantly ripping off a classic. Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead uses the structure of the beloved classic zombie movie, while also utilizing the insertion of helpless victims into the roles of the movie characters. If only this premise weren’t so unbelievably similar to Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods, it may have actually been slightly effective. Unfortunately, with originality removed, all that is left behind is bad acting and poor effects.


                The story begins with a party following a horror convention. A bunch of movie geeks gather at a house, only to awaken the next day finding themselves dressed and placed in seemingly random areas. Eventually they piece together the details and realize that they are living out George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Once they know this, you would think that they could predict what was going to happen and stop it, but this is where the storyline finally deters away from the previously established structure of a well-known horror classic. Unfortunately, the film drags its feet so slowly through the first portion; it almost just feels like a bad remake of the original.


                Perhaps I am being too unkind to this independent horror film, but there are just so many of these to wade through that I tend to feel unimpressed by a majority of them. Mimesis isn’t a good film, but by comparison it also isn’t one of the bad ones either. It falls somewhere in the middle, in the easily forgettable zone. The DVD includes an audio commentary by director/co-writer Douglas Schulze and co-writer Joshua Wagner.

    Robot & Frank DVD review

  • Actors: Frank Langella, Liv Tyler
  • Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Dubbed: Portuguese, Spanish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: February 12, 2013
  • Run Time: 89 minutes



                Science fiction has crept into independent filmmaking in a big way these last few years, from visions of the apocalypse to space discovery. By comparison, Robot & Frank seems nearly grounded in reality, aside from the fact that a co-star is a robot. It is a comedy which just happens to utilize some of the benefits of science fiction, though no amount of special effects could detract from Frank Langella’s performance. Fortunately, the director doesn’t even try, knowing that the simplicity of the film is what makes it work. Not ever science fiction film needs to have a special effects budget that is larger than the cost of the cast.


                Langella stars as Frank, a retired cat burglar whose aging has begun to worry his children (James Marsden and Liv Tyler). Their only solution is to buy their father a robotic caretaker, to cook him healthy meals and clean the house. The robot becomes something of a friend to Frank, as well as a useful tool when the retired thief decides to get back into the game. Between Frank’s experience and the robot’s mechanical abilities, they are able to pull off near impossible thefts together.


                The main reason that Frank finds to come out of retirement is a friendly librarian (Susan Sarandon), whose kindness gives Frank reason to find ways to repay her the only way he knows how. Realizing that the robot has no moral programming for theft, it makes him the perfect partner. The only danger is the recorded programming which threatens to give away their crimes together, and erasing the memory would mean erasing the friend he has adopted in the robot as well.


                The DVD includes a commentary track with screenwriter Christopher Ford and director Jake Schreier, as well as a robot poster campaign feature.

    Dangerous Liaisons Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Cecilia Cheung, Dong-gun Jang, Ziyi Zhang, Shawn Dou, Lisa Lu
  • Director: Jin-ho Hur
  • Format: Dolby, Surround Sound, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: Cantonese
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: February 12, 2013
  • Run Time: 110 minutes



                The last thing this world needed was another Dangerous Liaisons remake, regardless of the fact that it was made in a different country. Now it has become just as common for foreign countries to remake films as Hollywood is likely to remake films them. We are all just borrowing from each other, and Dangerous Liaisons has been made in several different countries, different time periods and in different languages. The problem is, the story s the same no matter how you tell it, and this latest version has absolutely nothing new to contribute besides some glossy new photography.


                Set in 1930s Shanghai, known by some as the “Paris of the East,” there are comparable replacements in the storyline from the original French text. There have also been some alterations to the relationships between characters, even further castration of any risqué material. Aging socialite Mo Jieyu bitterly plays with the lives and emotions of others around her, including her ex-boyfriend Xie Yifan (Jang Dong-kun), who often joins her in destructive manipulations.


                Xie still pines after Mo, so they make a wager that will allow Xie to fulfill his carnal indulgences with his past lover. All Xie has to do is seduce a virgin socialite, though along the way he discovers a true romantic interest in humanitarian Du Fenyu (Ziyi Zhang). This ill-fated romance between a womanizer and a humanitarian is difficult to believe in the rushed 111 minute running time. Though I am grateful that the story I was already familiar with was not dragged out any longer than it was, something was missing to make me believe in the romance at the center of film’s plot.


                The Blu-ray includes a making-of featurette and a behind-the-scenes featurette, as well as a trailer gallery.

    Bully Bu-ray review

  • Actors: Alex Hopkins, Tyler Long
  • Director: Lee Hirsch
  • Writers: Lee Hirsch, Cynthia Lowen
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: The Weinstein Company
  • Release Date: February 12, 2013
  • Run Time: 99 minutes



                As I watched Bully, I found myself wishing I could reach through the screen and hug some of these children. There is only so much that can be done about bullying, especially when it is not a physical threat but mere teasing instead, and the kids that are different are always going to be the likely targets. Some of the bullies angered me, but more often I simply felt empathy for the kids who don’t fit in. They are different, and even when they aren’t being picked on, you can see the sadness some of them would still carry simply from the loneliness of having no friends. I felt for these kids more than I felt anger at the bullies, who often seem to be struggling with their own fears and insecurities of childhood.


                The film follows five children with different issues making them a target for bullies. Over the course of one school year we see their personal struggles, each unique to the specific types of bullying they must endure. We follow a lesbian in a Midwestern small town public school, as well as a young boy whose social awkwardness makes it difficult for him to make friends in a tougher school. Other stories are not as traditional to follow, including the incarcerated young girl who pulled a gun on a school bus after having been bullied for the last time. Another story follows the grief of parents who lost their son to suicide after the bullying became unbearable.


                The filmmaking is adequate enough, but the true reason for the compelling nature of this documentary is simply the human element. These are real people struggling with real hardships and life realities. In some cases the children seem to handle the abuse far better than the parents, who feel a sense of helplessness to the situation. There is only so much that they can do for their child, especially when the school officials are also unable to legally do much. ‘Kids will be kids’ seems to be the mantra of the bullies and their parents, leaving the victims with little choice but to endure, usually with the parents constantly encouraging them to stand up for themselves.


                The Blu-ray includes the PG-13 version of the film, which merely means that a few of the foul words are bleeped out. There are many special features, including another version of the film for an even younger age group. There is also an update on the children from the film, deleted scenes and many featurettes about getting involved in the campaign to stop bullying.

    A Late Quartet Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, Wallace Shawn, Anne Sofie von Otter
  • Director: Yaron Zilberman
  • Writers: Yaron Zilberman, Seth Grossman
  • Format: Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date: February 5, 2013
  • Run Time: 105 minutes



                A Late Quartet is one of those gems of movies that you can be proud to introduce to cultured friends with good taste. Although few are likely to have heard of it, I found the acting and the drama to be comparable if not better than most of the films nominated for awards this season. Philip Seymour Hoffman was nominated for his performance in The Master, but I found him equally compelling in A Late Quartet, even when the melodrama of the film pushed the boundaries slightly.


                The film is about a perfect quartet, which is forced to change when the eldest member and cellist (Christopher Walken) announces that he has a debilitating medical condition which makes his career as a musician impossible. This news sends shockwaves through the other three members of the group, which include his daughter (Catherine Keener) and her husband (Hoffman). Each of them take he news differently, with the famed first violinist (Mark Ivanir) taking the most clinical approach to replacing a friend.


                This is a performance-based film, though this is not code for boring. I found myself enthralled by the acting in this film, regardless of the fact that much of the film is just four characters arguing and discussing music. The screenplay obviously comes from a place of well researched understanding of classical music, and those are the parts which stand out above all else. The Blu-ray includes a solitary making-of featurette, though the film alone is a beautiful accomplishment.  

    Chicken With Plums DVD review

    Actors: Mathieu Amalric, Maria De Medeiros
    Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
    Language: French
    Subtitles: English
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    Number of discs: 1
    Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
    Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
    Release Date: February 26, 2013
    Run Time: 91 minutes



                The presentation of Chicken with Plums is so whimsical and fun, I was taken aback by the darker shift in narrative towards the film’s end. There was no preparation for the level of seriousness, mostly because the tone is set at a much lighter level when we begin. Previously, filmmaker Marjane Satrapi dealt with heavier themes within the lighter context of animation in Persepolis, but it doesn’t work out quite as well in live action.


                Though this film feels uneven at times, there is still much to be admired. Performances and creativity alone make it a worthwhile film to watch. The movie begins with a world-renowned violinist seeking a new instrument to play after his is damaged in a fight with his wife. Each instrument he finds fails to produce the same sound as his beloved violin, so Nasser-Ali Khan decides to go to bed and await death. As he starves himself to death, he has visions and insight, along with memories of his youth. These discoveries are made on his death bed, as his children and wife watch him selfishly wither away.


                There is a love story amidst all of the selfish behavior, though it is not one with his wife, making our protagonist more than a little unlikable at moments. The film doesn’t really stop long enough to examine the faults in the protagonist, instead glossing past it into the romantic side of the storytelling. The DVD includes a commentary track with directors Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, as well as a Q&A with them.


    The Sessions Blu-ray review

  • Actors: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood, Annika Marks
  • Director: Ben Lewin
  • Format: Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date: February 12, 2013
  • Run Time: 95 minutes



                The Sessions is a nice performance based independent film, one which deals with drama and comedy with the same light touch. There is nothing remarkably daring or profound within the screenplay based on a true story written by filmmaker Ben Lewin. In fact, some aspects of the film feel too safe for an independent film, even if the subject matter would suggest material more risqué or daring. This is a safe little film which is ultimately a performance piece within a dramedy.


                John Hawkes stars as Mark O’Brien, a poet and journalist who has been paralyzed and confined to an iron lung since childhood. Despite his handicaps, he was able to attend a university and receive a degree, and can even provide for himself with a job. The one thing he has never gotten around to accomplishing is the manhood rite of passage that is losing his virginity. As a devout Catholic, Mark seeks counsel from his priest (William H. Macy), who is more than encouraging in the endeavor.


                Mark seeks out a sex therapist (Helen Hunt), whose professional attitude and kind demeanor help the uncomfortable paralyzed 38-year-old have sex for the first time. They have a finite number of sessions together before the arrangement is completed, and the meetings inevitably become about more than just mere intercourse. There are some awkward bits within the screenplay, but even those are glossed over so quickly that this often feels like a Hollywood imitation rather than the edginess I would have once expected from an independent film.


                The Blu-ray includes a number of features, from deleted scenes to a handful of featurettes. There are some real-life behind-the-scenes featurettes, to show the inspiration behind the story. There are also featurettes for each of the main actors, who are showcased within the film and have been the highest selling point during this award season. There is also a general featurette about the cast.