It’s a pretty small slate of releases this week, probably because the studios knew everyone would be too busy celebrating my birthday to have much time for movies. Here’s what we’ve got:
Escape From New York: Collector’s Edition –
There was a period of time when John Carpenter could do no wrong, and Escape From New York was right in the middle of that golden age. Kurt Russell plays one of his most iconic characters in the form of Snake Plissken, and even thirty-some-odd years later, this movie is a blast of pure post-apocalyptic fun. Now, the film has been available in many incarnations before, but this is the first one that gets it right. There was a previous collector’s edition DVD that had a ton of extras but was in standard definition, then MGM released the first Blu-ray of the film but with no extras whatsoever. This new Collector’s Edition from Shout Factory features a new high-def transfer, tons of extra features, and awesome new cover art. It’s basically cinematic perfection.
Joe Anderson is becoming this year’s Ben Foster for me. Sadly, that won’t mean much to most people, but basically, he’s that unknown actor who’s becoming one of my favorite people to watch on screen. In roles in films like Horns, The Ruins, The Grey, Hercules, and The Crazies, he’s usually the best thing on the screen, even if most people still have no idea who he is. In Supremacy, he’s all menace, anger, and intensity as a white supremacist out of jail for one day when he gets pulled over and ends up killing a cop. Taking refuge in a nearby house, he holds a family hostage. He plays one of the nastiest characters you’d ever want to meet, but he’s magnetic and you can’t take your eyes off him when he’s on screen. Danny Glover, Lela Rochon, Dawn Oliveri, and Anson Mount also star in this tense, electric home invasion thriller that’s definitely worth seeking out.
When you put together a mystery show set in an exotic location and populate it with terrific actors like Stanley Tucci, Christopher Eccleston, Michael Gambon, and Luke Treadaway, you would naturally expect the results to be pretty stellar. And I’m sure there are people out there who thing Fortitude is just that, but for me, it couldn’t have been more of a misfire. The show tells the tale of a number of small people in small mining town in the Arctic Circle whose community is rocked to the core when there’s a murder, which has basically never happened before. Unfortunately, despite some excellent performances, I found the show as cold as its arctic setting. The characters are uninteresting or unlikable, the pacing is glacial, and worst of all, the show is just boring. I really wanted to like it, but getting through it was just a chore, and that’s not what good television should be.
I’d never seen these horror cult classics from the ’80s. I remember when the movies came out (with a young Mariska Hargitay in a supporting role in the first movie), but I was too young to see them at the time. So I finally got the chance to see them courtesy of Scream Factory’s new double feature Blu-ray. And I have to say, the films are not at all what I was expecting. Instead of just being a bunch of little creatures running around, the whole thing is predicated on arcane rituals and demonic influences. They’re actually cult movies in the very literal sense of the word. The ghouls themselves play a pretty small part in the first film. And while I’m okay with dated ’80s cheesiness, the Ghoulies films are just kind of bad. Not so-bad-they’re good, just bad. If you loved these films back in the day, this will be a nice nostalgia trip, but other than that, there’s not much worth seeing here.
Salma Hayek plays the title role in Everly, a cross between a grindhouse film and the Ryan Reynolds action film Smokin’ Aces. This is a movie that can’t decide if it wants to be a hardcore action film or a stylized, over-the-top homage to the Kill Bill films, so it lands somewhere in between. Directed by horror auteur Joe Lynch (who I’m not a big fan of), this film continues Lynch’s trend of putting together good casts in movies with cool premises and then just not being a very good filmmaker. There’s plenty of action and Hayek’s performance is good, but the film has a nasty streak a mile wide and it just isn’t enjoyable to watch.
I can’t imagine a double feature Blu-ray that I could be more excited about than this one. Breakin’ and the imortally-titled Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo are pure time capsules; snapshots of the early 1980s that capture a moment in time perfectly. Plots are irrelevant with these films; they’re basically the Step Up series with break dancing. And they’re terrible, but they’re oh-so-good at the same time. You can’t take these films seriously, but who wants to? This is the first time the films have been released on Blu-ray, and you get two for the price of one. You can’t beat that. Push to pop it, rock it to lock it, break it to make it!
Liam Neeson’s Taken 3, Jennifer Aniston’s acclaimed role in Cake and direct-to-video sequel The Marine 4: Moving Target are also out this week. Unfrotunately, I have’t received my review copies yet so I can’t comment on them.
Also available on Blu-ray and DVD this week:
- Sean Patrick Thomas stars in Deep In The Darkness, a quirky horror film about a new doctor in a small town that harbors some pretty bizarre secrets, including a race of underground creatures. I can’t quite tell if I liked this film or not. It takes awhile to get going, but once it does, it’s kind of fun. I’d say it falls into that “solidly okay” territory.
- While the title of the show is the television equivalent of linkbait, Naked & Afraid: Season 1 is actually solid reality television. A cross between Survivor and anything Bear Grylls does, the show features two strangers, a man and a woman, who are dropped off in a remote location with nothing but two survival items; not even the clothes on their back are allowed. They have to survive 21 days and make it to their extraction point. And while I take all reality TV with a grain of salt, these people clearly go through some hellish experiences. It’s a better show than I expected it to be.
- Eric Mabius stars with a rotating cast of guest stars in Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Complete Series, a Hallmark series about s group of people who try to track down the recipients of undeliverable dead letters. The show is that perfect mix of Hallmark dramedy and syrupy goodness. People who like stuff like Touched by an Angel will enjoy it, even if it might be a bit too schmaltzy for anyone else.
- Stacy Keach, Harris Yulin, and Faye Dunaway star in the 1971 western Doc, a film from director Frank Perry, who delivered the classic Mommie Dearest. This film is yet another retelling of the gunfight at the OK Corral, this one focusing more on the psychological aspects of Doc Holliday than anything else. It’s a interesting film, but it definitely feels dated. It’s most interesting for young Faye Hemingway and Stacy Keach’s performances.
- Is The Walking Deceased funny or terrible? Well, pretty much a mixture of both. A low budget spoof film, the movie takes the mick out of not just The Walking Dead, but everything from Warm Bodies to Zombieland and everything in between. Some of the jokes hit, some of them miss, and some of them you can’t even tell if they were jokes or not. But die-hard zombie fans might have some fun with it.
- Tom Sizemore co-stars in Auteur, a film directed by Cameron Romero, zombie master George Romero’s son. This movie takes a somewhat interesting concept — a documentary filmmaker sets out to chronicle a horror icon’s infamous final film, which has resulted in several deaths — and ruins it with poor acting, a confusing execution that sees perspectives shift, and a found footage motif.
- More than just a documentary about monkeys, Nature: The Last Orangutan Eden follows ecologist Chris Morgan to Sumatra, where he tries to help save an orangutan population that is being decimated by deroestatiuon. This film follows both Morgan and the monkeys, showing us how they live, how they survive, and what we’re doing to help them.
- I have heard some fans say that Freezing Vibration: Season 2 isn’t as good as the first season. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the first season, so I can’t compare. I can say, however, that this is one of those shows that you should probably start at the beginning with. For a large part of my viewing, I had no idea exactly what was going on. Eventually, I pieced things together, but it took a while. Fans of the show, however, will be pleased to see Season 2 on Blu-ray and DVD so they can decide for themselves if it lives up to Season 1.
- A largely unknown cast fronts Bedlam, a low budget horror film from the still-going After Dark Originals series of films. Ultimately, this story of a man who checks himself into an asylum only to discover that he has a much better chance of dying horribly than getting cured is an incredibly uneven film. Some of the acting is good, some of it’s terrible. Some parts can be creepy, others are just lame. The movie isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great either. It’s just all over the place.
- Frontline: Being Mortal is a sobering but moving documentary about people nearing the end of their lives and the relationships they have with the doctors who help them through the end of life. But it’s not all warm and fuzzy, as this show explores how there are many doctors who are not equipped to deal with this. It’s interesting stuff, if a bit dark.
- Ho hum. Hit by Lightning is a romantic comedy starring Jon Cryer and Will Sasso (umm… they’re not the romantic couple in question, though.) Jon Cryer plays a nerdy guy who falls for a hot woman who wants him to murder her maybe-bad-guy husband. The film isn’t bad, it’s just a case of been-there-done-that. I like Cryer and Sasso, though, and the film is likable enough.
- Dinosaur Train: Explore Outdoors is the latest collection of the popular PBS cartoon for pre-schoolers. It follows a family of dinosaurs (mostly Pteranodons, but with one young adopted T-Rex thrown in for good measure) in prehistoric times, with a dinosaur train that takes them all over the land for new adventures. As with most PBS kids shows, the series mixes positive lessons about family, friends, sharing, behavior, etc. with a good dose of humor and adventure. There are also real lessons on dinosaurs as intersrtitials between halves of episodes, which feature real life paleontologist Dr. Scott Sampson.