discs toad road

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Discs Section: Pick of the Week

disc toad roadToad Road

James (James Davidson) is a slacker, but that shouldn’t be mistaken for meaning he sits around all day doing nothing. Instead, he sits around all day smoking, popping, and snorting anything he and his friends can get their hands on, but that starts to change when he meets the new girl, Sara (Sara Anne Jones). She’s new to the drug scene, he introduces her, and she gets hooked just as he wants out. He agrees to one last trip with her. Shrooms in hand, the two head out to the legendary Toad Road to investigate rumors of the seven gates of hell. It goes according to plan until he wakes up to discover she’s disappeared.

Writer/director Jason Banker’s debut feature is low budget, raw, messy, unsure of itself, and yet oddly mesmerizing. The “horror” element introduced via the title feels almost like an afterthought added to make the film more marketable, but the core of the film works as a frequently intense and often painful look at the obvious and not so obvious struggles that come with drug addiction. The doomed love story adds to the film’s tragic allure, but the real life fate of Miss Jones sadly cements it.

[DVD extras: Commentary with writer/director Jason Banker and friends, deleted scenes, featurettes, booklet]

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disc the beast withinThe Beast Within

Pitch: “This motion picture contains of graphic violence and violent horror.” Thank you…?

Like many teenagers, Michael MacCleary is hitting a few bumps along the road to manhood. He’s having increasingly unpleasant reactions to his maturing body, he discovers his “father” was a creature who raped his mother, and now Michael himself is turning into something… yucky. His quest for answers reveals a small town’s sordid history and the malevolence of a man wronged years ago.

Director Phillipe Mora‘s early ’80s shocker has a bit of a well-deserved reputation about it in regard to the violence, gore, and sexual assault contained within. It features all three, and while rape scenes are never pleasant to watch they’re at least the less frequent of the trio. The gore effects are pretty great though, and even better, the film actually manages some legitimate scares and overall creepiness at times, something many horror films tend to forget. All that plus Ronny Cox!

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary with director Phillippe Mora and actor Paul Clemens, commentary with writer Tom Holland, trailer]

disc justified4Justified: The Complete Fourth Season

Pitch: Four seasons and counting, all based on a single short story…

U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) digs up an old crime and new enemies when he begins investigating a cold case with ties to his own father. Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) meanwhile has his own problems when a shifty preacher comes to town promising redemption and competition.

This remains the FX network’s best hour-long drama, and the writing continues to be a strong point. Olyphant’s ridiculous charisma and charm have offered even more reason to watch, but recent seasons have seen more of the supporting cast come into their own as well. The fourth maintains the show’s quality while finding a deeper storyline than previously tried, and any series that brings Patton Oswalt in for a recurring character is aces in my book too.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, outtakes, deleted scenes, featurettes]

disc prisonersPrisoners

Pitch: “Every Moment Matters” At 153 minutes long they better…

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is a practical man, but when he and his wife (Maria Bello) visit nearby friends (Viola Davis, Terrence Howard) for holiday dinner his very controlled life comes to a crashing halt. His little girl is abducted alongside the neighbors’ child, but when the number one suspect (Paul Dano) is arrested by a detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) and released Dover takes action on his own to find the truth about the children and justice for the person responsible.

Denis Villeneuve‘s Hollywood debut is the kind of big, dense thriller for adults that rarely seem to get made these days. While it has a few issues in the script department, the film maintains a steady feeling of tension and suspense throughout. This is especially impressive for a 153 minute movie. Ultimately though, the film is a success thanks to the performances of Jackman and Gyllenhaal who keep every minute an intense and powerful one.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

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Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

Bob (Casey Affleck) and Ruth (Rooney Mara) were young, in love, and on the run until a shootout with police sent Bob to jail while a pregnant Ruth was left to raise their child. But now Bob’s escaped intent on reuniting with his family, and all that’s standing between him and them are members of law enforcement, hundreds of miles of Texas badlands, and the other man (Ben Foster) who loves Ruth. This is a gorgeously shot film and incredibly well acted too, but there’s not enough here to maintain interest for very long. The story’s simplicity leads to an emptiness that the beautiful cinematography can’t fill.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, deleted scenes, music video, behind the scenes, trailer, St. Nick feature]

Devil’s Pass

The true story of nine Russian hikers who died under mysterious circumstances on a remote mountain pass is the starting point for this found-footage horror film from director Renny Harlin (The Long Kiss Goodnight). A group of American students set out to recreate their journey, the one that ended in nine deaths, to see what could have led to those deaths. Stupid Americans. It plays out pretty much as you’d expect, but it loses even more points with its insistence on CGI “creatures” that look even worse in night vision. Skip it and watch The Philadelphia Experiment instead.

[DVD extras: Commentary with Renny Harlin and producer Kia Jam, deleted scenes, making of, trailer]

Elysium

It’s the future, and Earth is a slum complete with wealthy landlords living miles above on a space station called Elysium. Max (Matt Damon) is a blue collar worker on the planet’s surface, but with few options he agrees to take part in a plan to socialize Elysium’s technical and medical advancements. Neill Blomkomp‘s long-awaited follow up to District 9 is a visual stunner that fails on almost every other level. It will surprise no one that Sharlto Copley once again overacts, but he somehow infected Jodie Foster too, and that’s not cool.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

The Family

A mob boss (Robert De Niro) and his family hiding out in a small French town under the Witness Protection Program discover that the ability to blend in just isn’t in their DNA. Things get worse when the mob finds out where they are and sends a team of killers to silence them forever. Seems like only yesterday I was wishing for more Luc Besson-directed features, but I won’t be making that mistake again. As action comedies go it fails to impress or entertain on both counts, and its insistence that we cheer for a family of violent pricks is insulting. Skip it and watch Hiding Out instead.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, featurette]

Ghost Team One

Two friends discover their house is haunted and bring in a hot girl and some video cameras to try and catch the ghost on camera. With a tagline like “Arouse the Dead” you’d expect the film would deliver something at least a little bit arousing right? Nada. Add in a severe lack of laughs and the obvious absence of scares and you have a ghostly dud. Skip it and watch any Paranormal Activity film instead.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, video diary, bloopers, behind the scenes]

Kick-Ass 2

Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has become a bit of a minor celebrity since introducing the world to self-made superheroes, but Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) is trying to go straight. Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) meanwhile is out for revenge. The first film worked thanks to shock factor and a somewhat sharp script, but neither of those are present here. The film, the characters, and the story all feel cruel and devoid of fun. Jim Carrey makes it a bit more interesting, but there’s not nearly enough of him. Skip it and watch Super instead.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Alternate opening, unshot scene, featurettes, commentary]

The Lone Ranger

The team behind the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy reunite to attempt the same “magic” with the story of The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) and Tonto (Johnny Depp). They manage a couple exciting setpieces, but the majority of this 149 minute film is an unfortunate misfire. The comedy lands with a thud due to the script as well as Depp’s turn as a Native American and Hammer’s flat delivery, and the story never achieves the dramatic underbelly it’s aiming for.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Bloopers, deleted scenes, featurettes]

Mischief Night

A young woman suffering from psychosomatic blindness destined to be cured in the nick of time finds herself targeted by a psychotic killer on the night before Halloween. This straight to DVD slasher starts low with an opening double kill that’s both poorly written and acted. One element aside (something that happens, or rather, doesn’t happen in the finale), the movie never improves from that lame beginning.

[DVD extras: Behind the scenes]

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) has been the big man on campus since he saved mankind by catching the lightning thief, but classmates and teachers have started seeing him as a one hit wonder. To combat that opinion, and to save the world yet again, he heads out in search of the Golden Fleece. Yawn. The action sequences pale beside even the mediocre first film, and the script fails to offer up much in the way of interest or excitement. Skip it and watch the original Clash Of the Titans instead.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Motion comic, featurettes]

The Whip and the Body

A man (Christopher Lee) with a taste for the addictive highs of S&M returns to his family’s castle only to die under mysterious circumstances. Not that death is going to keep his love of the lash from striking out at those who survived him. The best friend Mario Bava ever had is Kino Classics, as once again the label has lovingly brought one of the Italian director’s films to newly mastered Blu-ray. The film is a visual treat, as are most of Bava’s movies, but its edginess is less effective than it is appreciated.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary with Tim Lucas, trailer]

Discs Section: Also

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:

Alien Uprising
The Blue Angel
Burn Notice: Season Seven
Crawlspace
Family Guy: Volume Twelve
Force of Execution
Hospital
Leviathan
Line of Duty
Mischief Night
Night Train to Lisbon
Nothing Special
One Direction: This Is Us
Torrente
The Whip and the Body


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