The Movie: Starving writer Bradley Cooper is introduced to an experimental drug that lets you access your brain’s full processing power all at once. Not only does it allow Cooper to finish his book in record time, but it practically turns him into an overnight millionaire. Who is also wanted by the mob, as well as Wall Street wackos, and who is suddenly finding that his brain is moving so fast that he’s blacking out and not even remembering things he did hours earlier.
That sounds like an intriguing enough premise, yet on both paper and in the trailer, there’s just something missing from Limitless needed to kick it up to a Must See level. And that’s why I’ve little doubt that Neil Burger’s (The Illusionist) film will develop a nice little following thanks to quick-spreading word of mouth. This is a “better than you expected” type movie at almost every turn. Bradley Cooper is more than just that handsome guy from The Hangover, the script takes some cool risks despite the PG-13 rating (and the unrated cut on this disc adds a bit more grit, though not substantially so), and Burger’s got some gorgeous visual tricks up his sleeve to show off the elevated state of consciousness the film’s drug takes its users to.
It’s not a flawless movie by any means -- can studios please stop casting Robert De Niro, he’s just sleep shuffling through every role these days? -- but it will pleasantly surprise you.
The Features: You need only listen to 5 minutes of director Neil Burger’s solo commentary track to realize how surprising Limitless really is. You’ll quickly find yourself wondering how in the world a guy who is this dry, who is delivering a commentary track this lethargic and barely informed could manage to make a movie this stimulating. You’d think considering how many highly complex cinematography and editing tricks were employed to pull off some of the shots in this movie that Burger would at least offer up some technical insights as to the making of his film, but you’d be wrong. If I didn’t know better, I’d think this was a commentary track from someone watching Limitless for the first time.
That really is a minor complaint, though. It hardly ruins the disc, it’ll just be a thorough disappointment to anyone who wants to listen to a thorough discussion of how this surprisingly complicated film was made. The two brief making-ofs will do the trick well enough (and the one focusing on Cooper makes it sound like he ran the show, anyway).
Buy It If: You like your thrillers with an excess of story and style.
The Movie: When Take Me Home Tonight hit theaters earlier this year, it was met with an almost universal chorus of condemnation. And while I’m normally willing to give movies about wild, life-changing parties the benefit of the doubt (I blame Can’t Hardly Wait for cementing this niche as a guilty pleasure), knowledge that Mike Dowse’s film had been sitting on the studio’s shelf for years collecting dust combined with the very vocal hate made this an at-home watch for me.
Well, surprise-surprise, I’ve once again found myself at odds with haters. That’s not to say I think TMHT is a misunderstood laugh riot that will find its true audience in a few year’s times, I just don’t think it’s the unfunny, complete waste of time many made it out to be. I actually think it’s stranger than it is bad. There are moments where you can see Dowse trying to make a comedy about high school regret that’s got some genuine (and bitter) teeth to it, only to then see the studio intervene.
You can practically read the studio’s notes on the edges of the frame. It reeks of reshoots and constant re-editing designed to cut out the heart and amp up the, “Hey, remember the ‘80s?” factor, to the point where it feels like the movie was just abandoned. Hell, there are moments where Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer are talking to each other and the only background sounds you hear are crickets. At a party. Filled with dozens of loud, drunk people. These are then followed by the appropriately booming sounds of instantly-recognizable ‘80s pop songs. Yep, that’s a soundtrack that’s been lovingly put together.
The Features: A few deleted scenes that could have slightly improved the film had they been left in (though probably not), a few trailers and an 8-minute chat with the cast that shows off their fun interplay, but never feels too substantive. There’s also a “Music Boombox” feature that sounds like it’ll be a playlist of all of the songs featured in the film, but what it actually does is just jump you to the scene that song played in. So if you like your ‘80s music without that kid from That ‘70s Show awkwardly trying to pick up his high school crush, you should stick to your cassette tapes.
Rent It If: You’re bored and have nothing else to watch. Take Me Home Tonight isn’t the kind of movie you actively seek out, it’s the kind of movie you sort of enjoy after being stuck with it on cable.
All the Rest:
Obviously Amélie is a lovely movie, but what film geek doesn’t already own it?
Not to be confused with the Thai martial arts flick about a girl who will kick your ass if you call her special.
Doctor Who: Series Six, Part 1 (BBC, $19.99)
The Reef (2010) (Image, $19.99)
I have surprisingly missed out on this killer shark flick, but it's from one of the co-directors of Black Water, a truly underrated and underseen killer croc flick, so I'm down.
Shark Week: Restless Fury (Gaiam Americas, $15.99)
Yes, someone made a movie out of the Tekken series of fighting games and it went straight to DVD. It surprised me too. But what’s even more surprising is that it’s actually not that bad of a movie. It’s got appropriate levels of cheese mixed in with some above average martial arts and a superhot female lead. That’s really all any movie adaptation of a video game needs to win in my book.