Happy Tuesday, film fans! This here is the return of our weekly column highlighting some of the most interesting new DVD and Blu-Ray releases of the week. You can buy all these picks through Amazon, and if you click through the images below to get to the Amazon links, you’ll be helping your buddies at Daily Grindhouse out too. Win-win! Okay, let’s get down to business…
GAME OF THRONES: The Complete Third Season
HBO’s adaptation of the George R.R. Martin fantasy series is super-popular and definitely something I’ve been meaning to get to watching. I read the first book and saw the first episode, but this whole 24-hours-in-a-day technicality has a way of limiting my intended actions. I hear great things about the show in general and this season in particular — something about a wedding celebration gone horribly wrong? I’ve been to a couple of those in my day.
My professional opinion is that anything which gets Peter Dinklage on magazine covers is good for the world. You throw in some boobies and some dragons and you’re really gilding the lily with the finest aspects of human existence.
THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX (2009)
Wes Anderson’s first animated movie is a seamless continuation of his distinctive brand of auteurism. Like Tim Burton, Anderson’s movies are so stylized that they can feel like cartoons already. Anderson, with Noah Baumbach, adapted a Roald Dahl book of the same time, and set the story to stop-motion. Jarvis Cocker does a voice, so a lot of reedy tweedy types are in on this thing. Voices are performed by Anderson regulars Bill Murray, Brian Cox, Willem Dafoe, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, and Owen Wilson, along with newbies George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Michael Gambon. I like this movie a lot, though I know plenty more adults who feel that way than little kids. Anderson’s stuff generally goes over better with critics and more discerning types than with mainstream audiences, not so much for the braininess as for the melancholy, I think. This isn’t my favorite Wes Anderson movie, maybe because I’m cursed with a mind that makes involuntary associations like this one:
FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940)
Alfred Hitchcock, one of the most important directors in the history of world cinema, if not the single most important, made nearly sixty movies in his career, most of them regarded as classics. This 1940 spy thriller, starring Joel McCrea and George Sanders, came closer to the beginning of Hitchcock’s filmography — it was his second American film, coming right after 1940’s REBECCA, a financial success and the Academy’s choice for Best Picture that year. FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT was nominated for the same award, which tells you plenty about both Hitchcock’s remarkable ability and about the studio system model back then. Now, I’ve seen thirty of Hitchcock’s movies — I counted! — but this is not one of them. This new Criterion edition gives me the perfect opportunity to remedy that.
Director Sam Raimi is most famous for six movies: three EVIL DEAD movies and three SPIDER-MAN movies. At the time he was announced as director of the first SPIDER-MAN, many people were thrilled but cautious — could a guy heretofore best known for horror movies be able to do a huge-budget superhero epic? Weirdly, I never stopped to consider that question, since the actual first Sam Raimi movie I ever saw was 1990’s DARKMAN, which qualifies for both genres. A year after Tim Burton’s BATMAN, Raimi’s own dark avenger character arrived, although Darkman owes more to pulp serial characters like The Shadow and to vintage horror movies like THE INVISIBLE MAN than to cleaner-cut do-gooders like Spider-Man or Batman. Dr. Peyton Westlake, the scientist disfigured by gangsters who returns for revenge, is an ominous figure with a bad temper and a tendency to murder his enemies. Here DARKMAN presaged another eventual trend, by predicting the recent success of Liam Neeson as an action star. The high profile of films like SCHINDLER’S LIST marked Neeson as a prestige guy, and the success of TAKEN surprised everybody, but again, he’d done it before. DARKMAN is very comic-booky and very fun, with a memorable villain in Larry Drake (from DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW), a memorable love interest in Frances McDormand, and cameos from Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell. This isn’t among Raimi’s very best films, but it’s certainly one of the most formative.
BAD DREAMS (1982) / VISITING HOURS (1988)
Scream Factory spoils horror fans this week, by not only releasing DARKMAN but also this double-feature of lesser-remembered 1980s horror flicks. BAD DREAMS, which is concerned with ghosts and evil hippies, sports one of the eighties-est casts ever, including Jennifer Rubin (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3), Bruce Abbott (RE-ANIMATOR), E.G. Daily (PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE), Harris Yulin (GHOSTBUSTERS 2), Sy Richardson (REPO MAN), and Dean Cameron (“Chainsaw” from SUMMER SCHOOL). Meanwhile, VISITING HOURS is a slasher movie starring Michael Ironside and William Shatner. In other words, this is a blind purchase.
TOURIST TRAP (1979)
TOURIST TRAP is a horror movie I’ve heard plenty about, but never had occasion to see before. It’s a movie about killer mannequins. Now that you’ve ordered it, I can add that TOURIST TRAP stars pro athlete Chuck Connors and former SHEENA: QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE Tanya Roberts. The score is by genre mainstay Pino Donaggio. This movie looks like a lot of fun and I’ve been assured that it is.
BATTLE OF THE DAMNED (2013)
Dolph Lundgren is the single best Expendable, hands down. The only one who comes close is Terry Crews. This has been determined by a scientific algorithm so don’t even bother debating it. You’d sooner win an argument with gravity. Anyway, this is Dolph’s newest direct-to-video (in the States anyway) action film, in which he portrays a character named Max Gatling and leads a team of robots against an army of zombies. If you need a moment to take in that information, I understand. This paragraph will be here waiting when you get back. Now I haven’t seen BATTLE OF THE DAMNED — yet — but I’ve seen my fair share of Dolph Lundgren DTV movies, including some of the ones he directed himself, and I can happily tell you that many of them are surprisingly watchable. Like I said, best Expendable out there.
Click here to read our pal Vern on BATTLE OF THE DAMNED.
AFTERNOON DELIGHT (2013)
Kathryn Hahn is a dedicated scene-stealer, primarily in comedies and probably most well-known for her role in STEP BROTHERS. She’s one of those actors you may not know by name, but as soon as you see them, you know something’s about to happen. This is a well-deserved starring role, in a movie I haven’t seen but will be adding to my watchlist.
HELLBENDERS 3-D (2012)
Everything I just said about Kathryn Hahn? Same deal with Clifton Collins Jr., a remarkably prolific character actor who’s been in everything, it seems, from TRAFFIC to CAPOTE to BABEL to STAR TREK to BROTHERS to EXTRACT to SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD to last year’s PACIFIC RIM. You need a scary bad guy? He can do that. You need a hilarious comedy character? He can do that too. You need a cop? A crook? A soldier? A banker? A cowboy? A future man? All that and more. Anything you need. Now this talented actor joins the great, great Clancy Brown (about whom an entire second enthusiastic essay could be written) in a horror-comedy about a gang of debauched exorcists and demon-hunters. HELLBENDERS is the new movie from JT Petty, the writer & director of THE BURROWERS, a 2008 horror flick set in the Old West which I liked. I’ll be giving this one a shot.
FISTS OF LEGEND (2013)
Not to be confused with the Jet Li vehicle FIST OF LEGEND or Bruce Lee’s FISTS OF FURY or Yuen Woo-Ping’s TRUE LEGEND, FISTS OF LEGEND is a new Korean sports film about a televised mixed martial arts tournament. Since I’ve seen the first three movies I mentioned, there’s no reason to believe I won’t see this one too.
I have no idea what’s going on here. This is a movie produced by The Asylum, the outfit behind movies like SHARKNADO. They’re the ones who supply the SyFy Network with half their programming and who quick-release all those knock-offs of big-budget Hollywood movies. SNAKES ON A TRAIN, THE DA VINCI TREASURE, PIRATES OF TREASURE ISLAND, TRANSMORPHERS, I AM OMEGA, 18-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, THE TERMINATORS, PARANORMAL ENTITY, 6 GUNS, TITANIC II, ALMIGHTY THOR, ATLANTIC RIM, and ANDROID COP — that’s all them. If this JAILBAIT movie is based on a comic book it’s certainly not one I’ve heard of before. I didn’t know there were comic books “in the vein of Orange Is The New Black,” which is the Netflix TV series about life in a women’s prison. I do know JAILBAIT was made by the director of ATLANTIC RIM, who is clearly trying to stretch artistically, God bless him. Really, I’m confused by the existence of this movie, which means I will definitely be watching it soon.
APOCALYPSE POMPEII (2014)
This is much more familiar Asylum territory — since mainstream Hollywood is unleashing a new POMPEII movie into theaters this week, the Asylum has their own version to beat it by a couple days. But while POMPEII looks to be a disaster movie masquerading as a period-piece, APOCALYPSE POMPEII is a straight-up disaster movie, about a Special Ops commando visiting the historical site with his family when the fabled volcano erupts in the modern day. What we’re dealing with here, essentially, is a pre-emptive knock-off of a Paul W.S. Anderson movie, which are — even if you’re one of those types who somehow like Paul W.S. Anderson’s movies — already highly derivative of other movies. If you’re ever curious about what life is like inside a Russian nesting doll, this is it.
So that’s our list for this week. See you here next week for an all-new batch!
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