Video on Demand Report: Action Heroines, Tear-jerking Chimps, and Lots and Lots of Murder

The Headliner

The Hunger Games

Parents of teen and tween girls must have felt somewhat conflicted when Suzanne Collins’s young-adult novel The Hunger Games came out. On one hand, it featured Katniss Everdeen, a young female protagonist who, unlike Bella Swan of Twilight, exhibited agency in her life and choices and wasn’t particularly interested in either of the boys in her orbit, never mind mooning over them to the exclusion of all other activity. On the other hand, part of the reason Katniss doesn’t waste a lot of energy thinking about her future romantic prospects is that she’s determined not to bring any children into a dystopia in which teenagers are forced by the state to battle each other to the death until only one is left standing.

Eh, even with all the death, The Hunger Games is still better than Twilight. And actually, the Hunger Games movie is kind of better than the Hunger Games book — HEAR ME OUT. While Collins does a great job in the novel of creating this world — from its bloody history of civil war to its current political and economic structure to the technological developments that make the titular Hunger Games possible — pitching the book at a high school reader’s level means that her descriptions can be a bit sparse, whereas director Gary Ross (and production designer Philip Messina) make it thrillingly vivid onscreen, while also being as gentle as possible in portraying, you know, a couple dozen murders so that it can still be appropriate for older kids to watch. As Katniss, Jennifer Lawrence is excellent, but keep an eye out for Stanley Tucci, hilariously committed under his ridiculous blue wig.

New And Notable

The Dictator

If critics are to be believed, Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest “outrageous” target (the tyrant leader of fictional fascist state Wadiya) is for completists only, which is too bad, because it co-stars genius Jason Mantzoukas. I guess he’ll have to break out somewhere else.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I am not dumb, but this movie made me feel like I was. Now that it’s on VOD, I might try it again — this time with the Wikipedia synopsis of the John Le Carré novel on which it was based open on my iPad so that I can keep track of what the hell is happening. (Even if you can’t follow the plot, the performances of every great British actor of our time make it a must-watch — particularly that of Gary Oldman, who got his first Oscar nomination for his role.)

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax

First of all, try “Seuss’s”; check your Chicago Manual of Style. Second, this movie is utterly unnecessary: The 1972 TV special adaptation of the book was already perfect.

A Separation

The story of a complicated divorce, this Iranian film won the Oscar this year for Best Foreign Language Film.


School of Rock director Richard Linklater and star Jack Black reunite for this story about a murder — but the fun, quirky kind, in which the victim is a rotten old bitch and everyone’s pretty glad she’s dead.

Death of the Virgin

The murders in Death of the Virgin are based on the works of Caravaggio, and as such, are not as quirky as the ones in Bernie.

A Kiss and a Promise

Some Canadian prostitutes get murdered, because murder is something that can happen even in Canada despite what you may have heard from Michael Moore.


Good grief, more murders? These are in Thai.


Tim Allen narrates Disney’s latest nature documentary, about an orphaned baby chimpanzee. The trailer alone made me cry, so I probably can’t handle the whole movie, but maybe you can.


Robert De Niro, Forest Whitaker, and 50 Cent star in this generic cop drama from “a producer” of 16 Blocks.

One In the Chamber

Finally, the face-off that action movie fans have been clamoring for: Dolph Lundgren vs. Cuba Gooding Jr.! (Somehow Christian Slater didn’t book this one.)


Bones co-star T.J. Thyne lives his life out of order in what looks a bit like a less romantic Time Traveler’s Wife.

Hide Away

There was a time when it seemed like Josh Lucas might be the next Paul Newman, but after his failed TV series adaptation of The Firm, it’s more likely that he’ll just have to do a bunch of this “In every life there comes a journey” baloney instead.


Slumdog Millionaire co-star Anil Kapoor stars in this London-set Hindi-language action thriller. I can’t really tell what’s going on, but that was kind of true of the trailers for the Bourne movies, too.

Opportunistic Backlist Revival Themes of the Week: Tough Women/Action Classics

Pegged to The Hunger Games and its ass-kicking heroine, several older movies with tough female protagonists have been curated for your further viewing, including Aeon Flux; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Million Dollar Baby; Kick-Ass; both volumes of Kill Bill; Charlie’s Angels; and, most important, The Silence Of The Lambs.

But if that theme doesn’t grab you (and your testosterone has spiked after your screening of The Expendables 2), there’s also a collection of truly classic ’70s and ’80s action hits: Rambo; The Terminator; Lethal Weapon; Blade Runner; Dirty Harry; Mad Max … and, for some reason, one of the Resident Evil movies and Law Abiding Citizen? It doesn’t matter, because this list also includes what is arguably the greatest action movie of all time: a little joint called DIE HARD. If you haven’t watched it lately, you should. It’s still so good.

“In Theaters” VOD Picks

Side by Side

Keanu Reeves interviews directors — including Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, David Lynch, Christopher Nolan, Robert Rodriguez, and Lena Dunham — about the ways in which digital photography has changed filmmaking.

Weird Indie of the Week


The YouTube description for the Sedona trailer promises “A new, charming, inspirational, quirky, feel-good, magical, mystical adventure,” which is two to three more adjectives than I am comfortable with.

Early VOD Premiere of the Week

The Diary of Preston Plummer

Too bad for Rumer Willis that her big movie is coming out on VOD the same week everyone’s just going to want to watch her dad in Die Hard again.

Masochist’s Choice

Home Run Showdown

You liked the story of a scrappy team of Little Leaguers and their dissolute coach when it was called The Bad News Bears and starred Walter Matthau, but what if I told you there’s a new take on it that’s basically the same, only crappier, and with Matthew Lillard????!?

Filed Under: The Dictator, The Hunger Games, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, VOD OCD