Hello, and welcome back to our newly-refurbished new home video release column. I’ll be taking this detail over from Jon for the foreseeable future, because I figure if I’m going to have a near-clinical problem buying more Blu-Rays than I know what to do with, I might as well write about them. However, we’re also going to be doing things a little differently.
Instead of listing every release of every week we’re going to be giving you a curated list of ten — Count ’em, TEN — titles, with some choice words about them from yours truly. Because let’s be real here, cash rules everything around me, and you so all you need is the C.R.E.A.M at the top. There’s no doubt this column will grow and evolve in its approach, but if nothing else, I’m hoping that there will be something on this list for everyone, and if that’s the case, just click on through the poster, buy yourself a little weekend viewing, and even help us out a little bit. Anyway, enough of this preamble, lets go straight-up Van Halen and check out this week’s explosion of shiny Blu gems.
RIVER OF GRASS (1994)
This is a pretty legendary movie in indy circles, which marks both Kelly Reichardt’s directorial debut, and one of the first films starring/produced by indie horror maestro Larry Fessenden. I’ve written before about the importance of Fessenden as a creative force, but Reichardt is just as important, as her films consistently showcase an astounding visual eye and a knack for exploring the quiet moments in the framework of genre films, such as MEEK’S CUTOFF and NIGHT MOVES, all of which began right here with RIVER OF GRASS, which runs like Generation X’s answer to BONNIE AND CLYDE. This is a newly restored print out of Oscilloscope Laboratories that I was lucky enough to see when I was at TIFF, and I can tell you it is simply stunning.
I wrote about this before in my Arrow Video round-up for the month, but goddamn I feel like John Milius is underrated sometimes. Maybe its a political thin,g but he’s rarely, if ever, brought up in conversations about the New Hollywood of the ‘seventies, of which he was an essential player. With DILLINGER, though, Milius started taking the steps outside of just being a writer into being a true artist and examiner of men made into myths. This is a lean and mean little movie with a cast (Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Richard Dreyfus, and goddamn Harry Dean Stanton) in some of their most definitive roles that makes this flick feel bigger than DILLINGER‘s supposed third leg.
KRAMPUS was definitely one of my favorite movies of 2015, which I think is definitely saying something, since I saw it during what was maybe the worst theatrical experience of my life. Just a perfect storm of bad presentation and patrons, but despite all that, I was still able to see this as the gnarly little gem that it is. Writer/director Michael Dougherty’s already got a holiday classic under his belt with TRICK R’ TREAT, but taking similar aim at Christmas, he manages to bring some pretty dark shadows out from the shiny wrapper around the holiday. Hell, he even manages to utilize KRAMPUS, a folktale that has been increasingly overused in recent years (who woulda figured?) and manages to create a demented fairy tale with some real pathos. Sure, late April might seem like a weird time to get in the holiday spirit, but if it means I can finally see this in crystal clear 1080p, I’ll take it.
THATS SEXPLOITATION! (2013)
Directed by schlockmeister Frank Henenlotter (BASKET CASE 1-3, FRANKENHOOKER, BAD BIOLOGY) THAT’S SEXPLOITATION! Looks like the definitive documentary on a time and genre of cinema that I for one know next to nothing about, so best case scenario, it could be something akin to similar genre docs, like AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE or NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD. Even if its just a collection of clips from various dirty movies, and with a run-time of over two hours, you can bet theres going to be some, er, padding, but it’s definitely gonna be worth a watch both for Henenlotter’s obvious affection for the material, and for the sheer scope of the smut on display.
Look guys, this is a site called Daily Grindhouse. Even we weren’t required by internet law to give it a shout-out, DOLEMITE would still be on this list. Why? BECAUSE ITS GODDAMN DOLEMITE. It’s about as definitive as you can get with a blaxploitation movie, and because it’s from our friends over at Vinegar Syndrome, you know it’s going to get the definite Blu-Ray treatment. Dolemite’s back on the scene, so you best get with it (good lord, I am far too white to write stuff like this).
So, full disclosure: I have never seen this movie before, nor have I ever heard much about it, but there are two things going in its favor: One is that title, which is just the kind of ridiculous that I can get behind, and two, apparently, its about a mad scientist who turns his lab assistant into a snake. Even if it turns out to be the ‘seventies answer to TUSK, that’s too insane not to pique your curiosity a bit.
THE ZERO BOYS (1986)
This seems like one of those movies that’s better remembered for its VHS cover art than for the movie itself, but hey, that just means it’s ripe for rediscovery. The plot seems to be a bit of a DELIVERANCE meets SAW type thing, but director Nico Mastorakis has a filmography filled with some pretty out-there genre films, although as far as I’m concerned, this might be necessary viewing, because of the inclusion of NIGHT OF THE COMET‘s Kelli Maroney, but that just be my predilection for women with machine guns talking.
JANE GOT A GUN (2016)
Of all the picks I have on here, this one probably comes with the biggest asterisk next to it. Originally to be directed by RATCATCHER and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN director Lynne Ramsay, the film went through a pretty public crunch when Ramsay quit unexpectedly and the producers had to quickly replace her with Gavin O’Connor, whose last film, WARRIOR, I liked a lot, but is also so stylistically removed from Ramsay, a lot of what had piqued my interest in the project originally left me feeling cold. Still, noting my previously stated affinity for women with guns, Natalie Portman holding a six-shooter is still a hell of an image, no matter who’s behind the camera, and female-led Westerns are still such a minority within the genre that any attempt is worth some level of support.
SON OF SAUL (2015)
Look, it might seem like a populist choice to include an Academy Award winner on here, but with something like SON OF SAUL, I think it’s worth plugging. A lot has already been written about how in director Laszlo Nemes’ films, almost the entire narrative is told in over-the-shoulder shots of its main character, making the viewing experience not unlike that of a modern video game. I can’t really speak to that, since I haven’t really played a video game in over three years at this point, but I can definitely see the influential shift come through and appreciate that approach as viewers will feel a complicity with a man made to take part in the worst atrocity in history.
DEATH BECOMES HER (1992)
Fun fact about me: This movie utterly terrified me as a kid. Well, this and LAKE PLACID. I’m not kidding.
Anyway, years later, after watching HELLRAISER for the fourth time, I realized I was being ridiculous and finally got around to re-watching it, and I was suitably embarrassed for myself and also able to appreciate it for what it is. Can’t claim it’s a favorite of mine, but it’s sort of become my go-to whenever I get into a discussion about Robert Zemeckis and how he might be one of the most misanthropic directors working. Oh sure, he sugarcoats his films, but pretty much every single one (or at least the ones with actual human beings in them) has a pretty dim view of humanity, or at least worth actively exploiting, and nowhere is that more apparent than in DEATH BECOMES HER. This isn’t a criticism by-the-by, it’s Zemeckis without any of his usual Oscar-bait pretensions, just running through the muck and dragging us along with him, and damn if I don’t respect him for it.
Oh, and the special effects are pretty good too.
So that’s it for this week’s picks and flicks. Come back next week for another ten that will no doubt make you want to bust out your wallet and make your landlord curse your name. But hey, if I didn’t highlight a new release you were excited about, feel free to give it a plug in the comment section. Lord knows I’m not the ultimate arbiter of good taste, and I could always use some recommendations myself.
Keep on grinding,