Welcome back to Daily Grindhouse’s weekly list of what’s new and interesting in the world of Blu-Ray and DVD releases. Everything that follows is available to purchase online or in stores as of yesterday. If any of the following titles catches your eye, please click through the Blu-Ray cover icons to buy them through us — it helps keep the lights on here (literally). Also, I hear it’s a great way to get into Heaven!
** PICK OF THE WEEK! **
The very definition of a movie that isn’t for everybody, POSSESSION is a movie which might be very much for you. The intrepid Sam Neill and the fearless Isabelle Adjani star in one of the most brutal collisions between married people ever committed to film. Essentially, Isabelle Adjani’s character hits Sam Neill’s character up for a divorce, without warning, seemingly goes insane and freaks him out, which eventually leads him to realize something supernatural is behind it all. I love POSSESSION because it is a story about two people and their strained relationship, a story which just happens to have a horrific, somewhat inexplicable, awful creature in it. The supernatural elements are a manifestation of the human element, whereas so many movies (particularly here in America) are the reverse, and that only if we’re lucky. I also love POSSESSION because it makes bachelorhood look like a pretty airtight plan. If this is what marriage is like — and it is what some marriages are like — good luck with it, amigo.
As much as I might hope this film were a biopic of a beloved fellow Daily Grindhouse personality, it seems to be the newest film from the prolific and mystifying anti-auteur David Gordon Green, who has made films as wonderful and as contrary as GEORGE WASHINGTON and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. I love this guy’s work — all of it — because he goes wherever his muse takes him. If he wants to make a Malick-esque rural romance, he makes ALL THE REAL GIRLS. If he wants to make a dick-joke comedy, he makes YOUR HIGHNESS. If he wants to do a little of both, he does PRINCE AVALANCHE. Doesn’t seem to much matter to him whether he’s in the arthouse or the multiplex. In that light, it makes perfect sense that he and Nicolas Cage would find each other. Teamed with longtime Green cinematographer Tim Orr and young actor Tye Sheridan, who was so great in last year’s MUD, Cage and Green tell the story of an ex-con and a teenage boy who affect each others’ lives in surprising ways. There’s more than a little Tom Sawyer t0 that set-up, but JOE looks more straight-faced drama than rollicking farce. Quite frankly, I’d take a David Gordon Green movie in either mode. Very excited to get to see this one.
P.S. His last name is “Momma.”
PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (1975)
Criterion presents the fourth film by Australian director Peter Weir, about the disappearance of a group of schoolgirls and their young teacher during the titular picnic at the titular location. Peter Weir reminds me a bit of Miloš Forman, in that both are humanists with wide-ranging, literate, and adventurous tastes who are somewhat under-discussed when it comes to the directors of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. This film was Weir’s international breakthrough, and a pivotal centerpiece of the burgeoning cinema of Australia. The cinematography is by Russell Boyd, whose work will no doubt look even better than usual on Blu-Ray.
** PICK OF THE WEEK! **
Can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to get my hands and eyes on this Criterion release. Apparently the title character has been around in films and novels for nearly a hundred years! “Judex” is Latin for “judge” and Judex is a masked vigilante with a secret identity and a severe moral code. He’s got twenty years on Batman! 1963’s JUDEX isn’t even the first Judex movie, but it is the one directed by Georges Franju, the French documentarian and fantasist who is best known for EYES WITHOUT A FACE [read my article here!], the eerily beautiful and horrible film he made three years earlier. In Franju’s JUDEX, which co-stars Édith Scob from EYES WITHOUT A FACE, the costumed hero appears early on in a disguise-within-a-disguise, at a masquerade ball, wearing a giant and oddly realistic bird-headed mask. Once you get a look at that image, you — like me — will be unable to resist wanting to get a gander at the rest of the film.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014)
That cover image encapsulates THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, and maybe even Wes Anderson’s entire career so far, so perfectly: It’s an invented monument of a building in the countryside of a nation that does not exist, soaked in color and leaping out from its drab surroundings. That bright pink hotel looks to me like a rich, fancy dessert, the kind that you can’t attack all at once, not even back when you were a candy-craving kid. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is the most Wes Anderson-y of all the Wes Anderson movies to date — he has with each subsequent film come up with an intricately-designed, entirely invented realm in which his casts of eccentrics and potty-mouthed poets take refuge from the world the rest of us know — Max Fischer’s school plays, Royal Tenenbaum’s mansion in the middle of Harlem, Steve Zissou’s ship (the Belafonte), the Darjeeling Limited (the finely-painted train traversing India), every minute of THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX, Sam and Suzy’s secret cove (which they call Moonrise Kingdom). This time around, the sphere of existence inhabited by the film’s characters travels beyond the titular location — Anderson has invented an entire country! Not only that, but the story is a flashback within a flashback: Tom Wilkinson plays the older version of Jude Law, who plays a writer interviewing the owner of the hotel who is played by F. Murray Abraham, who in turn recounts the escapades of his younger self (played by the winningly expressive Tony Revolori), the apprentice to a charismatic iconoclast named Gustave H. (a thrillingly unlikely comic performance by Ralph Fiennes), who has a flair for theatrics and a lust for geriatrics. It’s even more whimsical than it sounds, and normally I can’t stand whimsy. But the effusiveness of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, and nearly every performance within it, is contagious. The cast is a menagerie of wonderful actors, most of whom have at least once worked with Anderson before. The newcomers fit right in with the stock players — even Harvey Keitel, perhaps the most unlikely casting choice of them all, who nimbly plays past his characteristic gruffness, as a heavily tattooed gulag lifer. Keitel has rarely been this animated and enthusiastic. Don’t mistake this for an unequivocal rave — THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL continues the odd trend of Anderson underusing Bill Murray, which has been going on since THE LIFE AQUATIC. (I get the feeling Bill Murray keeps showing up just because he enjoys the company, and Wes Anderson keeps finding a place for him just because he’s goddamn Bill Murray.) But I did enjoy the time I spent with this movie, particularly any of the scenes with either Tilda Swinton or Willem Dafoe, both of whom add unforgettable new grotesques to their lengthy repertoires. I also liked that THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is the most violent Wes Anderson film since THE LIFE AQUATIC; the moments of darkness are essential to counterbalance the otherwise madcap nature of the proceedings, and they disarm the common argument (one I’ve flirted with at times but invariably discounted) that Anderson as a filmmaker is merely an indulgent quirkster. I’m really not sure where Wes Anderson can go next, since THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL goes so far up into what he does that I’m not sure he can go any further. I’d love to see him attempt a hardcore genre picture, maybe science-fiction or even horror, but I won’t count my chickens.
ERNEST & CELESTINE (2012)
A French-produced animated film based on a series of Belgian childrens’ books, ERNEST & CELESTINE features the voices of Forest Whitaker, Lauren Bacall, Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy, Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, and Jeffrey Wright. That’s a vocal murderer’s row. This is one of those movies I hope I can persuade my six-year-old niece to watch with me, because I’d like to watch it myself.
THE LEGO MOVIE (2014)
Everything Is Awesome Edition
To hear plenty of my highly-informed peers tell it, THE LEGO MOVIE is a miracle. It’s got the internet pussy-struck. Don’t let me kill the mood even a little bit. I mean look, one time I was having an epic space duel with my dad and he lopped off my right hand with his light-saber and all my friends wanted to build me a robot hand but instead they showed me THE LEGO MOVIE and the hand grew back all on its own. THE LEGO MOVIE is holistic medicine. THE LEGO MOVIE saves lives. THE LEGO MOVIE brings families together. THE LEGO MOVIE loves you. THE LEGO MOVIE is people.
Hey, I’ve seen it. It’s real good. All kids’ movies should be this good. It’s a lot of fun. I liked it. But you people are talking about THE LEGO MOVIE like rednecks talk about faith healers. Scale it back a bit, boys. We’re supposed to be the grown-ups here. You’re confusing the kids. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy the touchdown, but at least act like you’ve been in the endzone before.
House of Cards: The Complete Second Season (TV) (2014)
Don’t tell me anything. I didn’t look anything up for this entry. Not even done with the first season yet, so I’m on spoiler-lockdown.
HEARTS AND MINDS (1974)
The Criterion essay by Peter Davis about HEARTS AND MINDS, an epochal documentary about the then-recently-concluded Vietnam War, is so much more thoughtful and profound than anything I can offer. Please take a moment to read it if you can.
HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN (1976)
British director Pete Walker is a cult figure among cult figures. His genre films had more sex on the brain than most; for example this one is about a priest who goes after beautiful young constituents for perceived moral lapses. I am entirely unfamiliar, and could use some educating. Again, I defer to a higher authority.
And if that isn’t enough wonderful for you, here’s Tristan Risk with a look at HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, another Pete Walker film.
HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT (1979)
More Pete Walker for your ass: This one’s about a musician who gets in trouble with an underage girl, not like that’s a thing that’s ever happened before. Kino Lorber is putting these films out via the Redemption Films label. This particular film looks like more of a straight-up drama than a horror film, but again this isn’t coming from a well-informed position. More to learn, always.
THE FINAL MEMBER (2012)
There are more polite ways to put it, but we don’t have all day, so let’s just get it said: This is a documentary about a museum in Iceland devoted exclusively to animal dicks. This dick museum has a dick for every mammal except one: the human being. So the movie is about the effort to obtain a human dick for the dick museum. By all accounts, THE FINAL MEMBER is clever and witty in all the ways I am not currently being — everyone who’s seen it has only rave reviews, and it’s a release from Drafthouse Films, who at this point are fifty for fifty with me. If they endorse a movie, it’s a must-see.
THE MACHINE (2013)
This interesting-looking sci-fi film is about future scientists who build a self-aware android lady, which is not on the face of it the most unique sci-fi premise, but it is in my opinion an under-explored premise. There have been android ladies in movies from METROPOLIS to BLADE RUNNER to THE STEPFORD WIVES (spoiler?) to CREATOR to CHERRY 2000 to the third TERMINATOR movie, and we even have an android-lady pop star (Janelle Monáe) yet still we are a long ways from android-lady media saturation. So bring on THE MACHINE; I will happily take a look.
WALK OF SHAME (2014)
I like Elizabeth Banks but I don’t have a great feeling about this one.
ALMOST HUMAN (2013)
A low-budget alien-abduction thriller with a terrific trailer — I’m in.
THE MONKEY’S PAW (2013)
Based around a short story that is now 111 years old (awesome), this horror film was written by Macon Blair, star of one of 2014’s best films, BLUE RUIN. The earlier film from Macon Blair and BLUE RUIN director Jeremy Saulnier, MURDER PARTY, is grisly and wild, so I’m more than willing to give a Macon-Blair-penned horror flick a chance. It’s what gamblers call a calculated risk. But with the word “monkey” in the title, I’m feeling great about these odds.
13 SINS (2014)
A horror thriller where a random phone call and the promise of a cash windfall plunges the main character into a game where he has to commit thirteen sinful acts if he wants the money — this sounds like a scary version of 12 ROUNDS, a punches-and-explosions movie with John Cena, which in turn is based on the Herculean myth. 13 SINS is like, almost twice as many as there were in SEVEN. That either means this movie is twice as scary, or twice as long.
JOY RIDE 3: ROAD KILL (2014)
2001’s JOY RIDE, which was co-written by JJ Abrams and directed by John Dahl, was a solid, enjoyable thriller. I did not know that there was a JOY RIDE 2, let alone a JOY RIDE 3. What I do know is that the evil truck in JOY RIDE was basically a normal truck that just acted mean, like the one in DUEL, whereas apparently the evil truck in JOY RIDE 3 is a monster truck with a skull face on it! Sold!
Crap, I’m an easy mark.
RUNAWAY NIGHTMARE (1982)
[LIMITED EDITION — ONLY 1000 COPIES AVAILABLE!]
Allow me to reprint a one-line summary of this film: “Two dorky Nevada worm wranglers are kidnapped by a gang of beautiful women as part of a plot to steal plutonium from the Mafia.” Apparently the reason only 1000 copies were made is that this movie has one of the most incredible ideas for a movie you will ever hear in your life. This Blu-Ray of RUNAWAY NIGHTMARE would seem to be a precious jewel which no doubt will supplant diamonds and gold as a premium engagement gift for your beloved.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Hope you found some things you like. Be sure to tip your waitresses on your way out, but please don’t tip the cows on your way home.
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