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 and in stores already. Have been for a week, in fact. Happily, this column is only one week late, which — hey — beats the one I posted last night!
Not that I have a right to ask a favor with all this delinquency, but: If any of the following titles catches your eye, please click through the cover icons to buy them through us! We may not always be the most punctual, but we do our best to bring you quality film writing, and every little click helps us keep it up.
** PICK OF THE WEEK! **
THE ‘MAN WITH NO NAME’ TRILOGY:
A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964)
FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965)
This won’t take long. I don’t want to insult you. You’ve come to visit Daily Grindhouse so you’re clearly a discerning person of excellent taste, one who doesn’t need me to explain to you the infinite glory of these three movies. This is what I wrote about the first of them, and this is what I wrote about the third. Here is my tribute to the co-writer of the second two, who left us last year. I love these three movies more than I love many people I know. Sometimes I wish that wasn’t true, but it probably is. What we’re talking about here is cinematic perfection; I am fully prepared to concede that my word choices are inadequate descriptions of them. These movies are proof positive of why we watch movies in the first place — always we hope we might find something that hits these heights. To me there’s something otherworldly about these movies, their eternal freshness and their international alchemy. None of these are over-statements. Those who have seen them know what I mean; those who haven’t are in for an enviable experience. If you already own these three movies on Blu-Ray, you don’t need to pick up this collection — it’s simply a repackaging of the previous release. (True devotees may even chafe at this design, seeing as how it emphasizes the infamous and technically inacurrate “Man With No Name” marketing hook; that man in point of fact had a few names.) If you don’t own these movies, though, this is a smart purchase — an affordable collection of three beautiful-looking, brilliantly-crafted, and enormously-entertaining films which immediately improve any home library.
I didn’t hate it. I didn’t like it. I still pretty much wish it hadn’t happened. It’s like a sixth toe. It doesn’t do anything terrible, but it doesn’t help, and it’s annoying to know it’s hanging around down there. Here’s my extensive review. In it I said “You kind of can’t have a movie where Samuel L. Jackson looks at the screen and yells “MOTHERFUCKER!” and bleep it out. That’s like making a Godzilla movie where Godzilla has rainbows instead of fire coming out of his mouth.” God help us if they remake ROBOCOP 2 next.
IN THE BLOOD (2014)
You say you’ve got Luis Guzmán and Danny Trejo in your Gina Carano action movie; I say “I’m here. I’m listening. Please go on…”
LONE SURVIVOR (2013)
Haven’t seen this movie yet. I read the book first. Not sure it matters. This is clearly the Hollywood version, though Pete Berg is a solid filmmaker and in fact 2007’s THE KINGDOM is the film of his I most prefer thus far. That would bode well for LONE SURVIVOR, which has parallel subject matter. I’ve heard mixed things but I like to reserve judgment for the ultimate authority. No, not Him.
SON OF GOD (2014)
They could’ve had my ticket money if they’d only invested in five extra letters…
SUPER DUPER ALICE COOPER (2014)
A documentary about the man who came to be known by the name of his band, the scourge of parents and teachers and church groups back in a time when a rock star could still be that, the occasional horror film actor, the great Alice Cooper. The super duper Alice Cooper, in point of fact. Clearly this film has the title to beat, even though it does put me in mind of this absolutely unrelated song, for some dumb reason…
SUGAR COOKIES (1973)
“A softcore crime film,” starring Corman regular Mary Woronov, co-written by Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman, and co-produced by Oliver Stone, SUGAR COOKIES sounds pretty rad, although I don’t think the title refers to the pleasant pastry dessert. Still I will take any available opportunity to think about desserts. (Something about smut turns me into Homer Simpson.) Sugar cookies and exploitation films are both very nice treats, but you know what’s an even better treat? A Paul Freitag-Fey review: READ IT HERE!
DEATH BED: THE BED THAT EATS (1977)
Heretofore best known for the aforementioned Patton Oswalt routine, it turns out he only scratched the surface of how bizarre a cult item DEATH BED truly is. If it were only a monster movie about a bed that eats human beings, that’d be one thing, but DEATH BED is far more phantasmagorical, far less straightforward than that description makes it sound. It’s also even cheaper-looking than you’re probably imagining it to look. Maybe that’s for the best. You wouldn’t want a $100 million movie about a killer bed anyways. Aside from the fact that no one would ever finance such a thing, part of what gives cult movies like this one their inexplicable charm is their homespun quality. There’s no weirdness like truly personal, unfiltered weirdness. This new Blu-Ray edition features a commentary by director George Barry, who hopefully sheds just a little light on all the WTF darkness therein.
NATURE: SNOW MONKEYS (TV) (2014)
Not gonna lie: I put this here just so I could look at pictures of snow monkeys.
THE MOTEL LIFE (2012)
An indie about Reno drifters, the presence of Emile Hirsch and the legendary Kris Kristofferson makes this movie look more promising than it might otherwise. Anybody seen it yet?
GOODBYE WORLD (2014)
Ideally, when the world ends, you will not be in the company of a cast member from Entourage. As far as those guys go, Adrian Grenier is closer to the tolerable end of the scale, but there are a couple guys in that group who could conceivably have a hand in the end of the world. Isn’t that Los Angeles in the background there? The Entourage movie is supposedly shooting now — time will tell if this Blu-Ray cover proves prophetic.
THE LOST FUTURE (2010)
That’s two apocalypses in a row now. Hate to say it, but with Sean Bean’s onscreen mortality track record, he’s not a good bet to survive should the four horsemen of the Entourage movie come calling.
This is a Dutch crime comedy, and it’s only really here because I think that cover rocks. May have to check this one out. It’s rare you see key art that has a lady with a hatchet on it. Name another one. Besides JULIE & JULIA.
** PICK OF THE WEEK! **
RAVENOUS was the name-making script from Ted Griffin, who soon wrote OCEAN’S ELEVEN for Steven Soderbergh and later created the wonderful, lamented Terriers for FX. The script was dramatically rewritten several times (I once got to see an early iteration) but what resulted was a fairly unique anomaly, a lost gem from a year generally considered to have been one of the strongest years for movies ever. An odd, eerie genre-hybrid, RAVENOUS was historical horror at a time there was hardly any of it, nimbly directed by the late British filmmaker Antonia Bird. The truly eclectic cast is stacked deep with weirdos — Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, David Arquette, Neal McDonough, Jeremy Davies, and Jeffrey Jones — any one of whom would be enough to knock any mainstream feature slightly off-kilter. Their combined weirdo powers ensured that not a moment of normalcy would ensue. RAVENOUS couldn’t have been an easy sell, as a period picture about the horrors of cannibalism, but that doesn’t mean the marketing department had to put out a trailer where Jeremy Davies wails “He was LICKING meeeee!!” You put out something like that and only the hardcore freaks are showing up to the theater. Well now you can know what those freaks have known for fifteen years: RAVENOUS is the rare film to warrant that most overused of compliments, “underrated.” Strangely funny throughout, even as events progress from tenuously civilized to nightmarish, with Robert Carlyle vaguely resembling Vlad The Impaler as the remote locations emphasize the character’s inevitable doom and as the unusual score from Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman clinks and plunks along underneath it all, it’s quite frankly a marvel that RAVENOUS was ever made and released by a major studio at all, let alone proved to be as strangely excellent as it is.
THE BIRDCAGE (1996)
In retrospect, we might tremble at the prospect of Robin Williams and Nathan Lane playing a gay couple, one of whom dresses as a woman as a ploy to appear more conventional when their daughter’s conservative soon-to-be-in-laws come for a visit. We may sigh with relief to recall at least Robin Williams had recently gotten Mrs. Doubtfire out of his system, and left the drag to Nathan Lane. Then we remember Hank Azaria’s character, and suspect that much of this film may be regrettable after all. It’s been almost two decades, and I don’t think I’d like to see THE BIRDCAGE again, from my modern enlightened vantage point, but maybe it’s worth noting that back in 1996, mainstream films like this one and 1993’s PHILADELPHIA and 1995’s CLUELESS and 1997’s CHASING AMY were some of my generation’s first exposure to gay issues and characters, and as such they did have redeeming social value, despite the fact that some of them may not have held up to time. To see actors I liked playing gay characters surely contributed positively to my development as an open-minded and accepting person, and there are many like me in that regard. And I suppose THE BIRDCAGE has some obvious merits in its own right: The cinematography was by the virtuoso cameraman Emmanuel Lubezki (GRAVITY), so the film pops with South Beach color and energy. And you can not ever go wrong with Gene Hackman. Writer Elaine May and director Mike Nichols certainly know how to stage gags and farce. There are virtues here. I just feel like THE BIRDCAGE is a product of its time, and we’ve since moved further along the progressive continuum.
THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963)
The problem with all those who make reference to Jerry Lewis being so unfunny only the French appreciate him — besides being a goldmine completely stripped bare and one which never really had any gold in it to begin with — is that I don’t think any of those who float that cliché have ever actually seen a Jerry Lewis comedy. All I’m saying is, check him out before dismissing him. Start with THE NUTTY PROFESSOR. It’s funny. Plain and simple. There are a couple gags in it that make me laugh just to think about — the dumbbells, for example. Jerry was a remarkably talented physical comedian who could carry off some brilliantly-executed stupid jokes, he could portray drastically different characters with a few minor contortions of his face and adjusted octaves of his voice. In later years Jerry has made the news more often by digging in his heels on positions that make him sound like a remarkable dick: “women are never funny” and so on. But again, to discount his body of work just because of inadvisable public comments would be a mistake. It’s true that the Adam Sandler tradition of women as the lovely bystander on the sidelines the main comedic action probably can be traced back to Jerry — for example Stella Stevens in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, pretty but thin as a character — but that also overlooks the comedic contributions of the great, brassy Kathleen Freeman (who you probably know best as “The Penguin” from THE BLUES BROTHERS). In other words, sometimes you need to look past the awful shit people say and simply focus on the work. Then you can judge from a more informed vantage point. And while you’re sifting through all the sociopolitical stuff, you will probably again notice how funny THE NUTTY PROFESSOR is. It’s no wonder Eddie Murphy wanted to remake it. There’s gold in them thar hills. Jerry is hilariously goofy as the decent but clumsy Julius Kelp and hilariously awful (and eventually just awful) as his alter ego, the arrogant crooner Buddy Love — and by the way, did you remember that when Professor Kelp first takes the potion, before he turns into Buddy Love, he first turns into some weird werewolf kind of monster? If you don’t find that scene hysterical I’m not sure what to do with you.
This is the “Ultimate Cut” of Oliver Stone’s dream project, a new edition for the film’s ten-year anniversary. Stone has put out a few different cuts of the film since its original theatrical release. It’s possible he may never be done, although “Ultimate” does kind of directly mean it’s the last one. If you want three and a half hours of ALEXANDER, that ship has come in at last. The theatrical cut, at a mere three hours, is also available still. There are plenty less watchable people to spend that much time with — ALEXANDER features Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Rosario Dawson, and Christopher Plummer. Now that’s a cast. Anthony Hopkins is on hand to play what screenwriting textbooks now refer to as “the Anthony Hopkins role.” ALEXANDER has an increasingly rare score by Vangelis, and cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto, one of my favorites. But more than anything, this movie is about Oliver Stone, one of the more provocative filmmakers of the last few decades, running rampant over an epic period piece. For some reason Warner Brothers gave this maniac several hundred million dollars to make a gigantic, vicious, and indulgent movie, and yeah, that’s very much a thing worth looking at.
KING & COUNTRY (1964)
I wrote a little bit about director Joseph Losey in an earlier column. After being blacklisted by Hollywood, he decamped to Great Britain and continued to make films for many years, many of those with Dirk Bogarde. This is from that era. It’s set in World War I and focuses on a military legal case, where Bogarde plays an officer charged with defending an accused deserter. The film was based on a stage play but it’s not terribly hard to see how the story may have resonated with its filmmaker. VCI Entertainment has been doing a great job making older titles available — I haven’t even heard of the vast majority of the films they offer, and to me that’s tremendously appealing!
YOU, ME & DUPREE (2006)
It’s been a long time coming, but finally, all the YOU, ME & DUPREE superfans can pack up their tents and walk into the store they’ve been camping outside, waiting for this Blu-Ray to arrive. Finally, it can be seen as it was always meant to be seen, on Digital HD Ultraviolet™ — it’s up in the cloud now, up where it belongs. Fly!
THE OUTSIDERS (1983)
I’m not sure if it’s part of the standard curriculum today, but for some reason, when I was growing up, there were more copies of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders in schools than there were encyclopedias. If our school library was Cheers, then The Outsiders was Norm Peterson. It was always there, everywhere. You’d think it was Moby Dick or something. The school boards of the 1980s were evidently very strongly convinced that elementary school kids needed to read about 1960s teen greaser gangs. Look at how weird things were in 1983: That’s like a Mount Rushmore of soon-to-be-stars on that cover photo, but the name given the most weight is Leif Garrett. “AND Leif Garrett.” And man, look how young they all are. All those guys are grandfathers now. (Except one, who’s unfortunately ghost like Swayze. RIP.)
Six months after THE OUTSIDERS was released, Francis Ford Coppola released RUMBLE FISH, which also starred Matt Dillon and Diane Lane. From Mario Puzo to S.E. Hinton, with just a little Joseph Conrad in between: in that decade Coppola had his own school library going. Compared to THE GODFATHER and APOCALYPSE NOW, THE OUTSIDERS definitely has the feel of a B-side — which is not to undersell its effectiveness — but it and RUMBLE FISH were clearly personal projects for Coppola, who is one of the most idiosyncratic of all the great directors.
THE RINGER (2005)
Full disclosure: I actually worked on this movie, for over a year. Stop me in the street sometime, we can rap about it. In the meantime, if you go buy this Blu-Ray you’ll see my name in the credits. In high definition!
Next up: Tomorrow brings a whole new crop of new releases. That column will arrive, appropriately, tomorrow, and then we’re all caught up. What have we learned? There is no shortage of movies to watch, and to write about, and to read about. Stay with me and we’ll go through a lot more of them.
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