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John Huston and Jesus Christ (Franco Nero) are in a never-ending war with Satan, and their latest battleground is Atlanta, GA, where the soul of a child holds the key to saving the universe. Probably. Lance Henriksen, Glenn Ford, Shelley Winters, and Sam Peckinpah join in the fun as Huston struggles to stop the girl’s descent into evil and tendency towards causing bodily harm.
It’s hardly news to say that this thirty four year old movie is a mental fingerbang that bends genres and somehow teases both brilliance and stupidity, but I’m saying it anyway. Both highly derivative and wholly original, the film cherry picks elements from The Omen, The Fury, Phantasm, and more, and then swirls them together in a psychedelic mélange of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and pure nuttiness as it tells the story of good and evil battling over a young girl’s potty-mouthed soul. Drafthouse Films brings this gem to HD for the first time, and while the extras are unfortunately scarce the film alone is enough to warrant a purchase. Read my full review.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, trailer, booklet]
Pitch: “The extraordinary true story of Solomon Northrup”
Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free black man in New York with a family and a successful career as a musician, but when two scoundrels trick him he awakens as a piece of human property in the slavery-powered South. He spends the next twelve years waiting and struggling for his freedom.
Director Steve McQueen‘s third film just won the Oscar for Best Picture this past weekend, and it’s a well-deserved accomplishment. It’s an indictment of slavery, but more than that, it’s an exploration of one man’s perseverance and will to live against incredibly dire circumstances. As should be expected, it’s a rough watch at times, and while that might diminish its re-watch value it doesn’t decrease its value as truly great cinema. The acting is incredibly strong across the board in a cast that also features Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Scoot McNairy, Taran Killam, Michael K. Williams, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, and in a star-making turn, Lupita Nyong’o.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Pitch: “Once Upon a Time in Kung Fu”
Ip Man (Tony Leung) is a legendary kung fu master who lived a life of tragedy, turmoil, and triumph. He and his family struggle through the devastation of early 20th century China on his way to becoming the man who would change the martial arts world forever.
The story of Ip Man has come to the screen before, most notably in two films starring Donnie Yen as the martial arts master, but while those movies focused on the fights that made Ip Man a legend this one is more interested in being a work of art in its own right. That’s not to say Wong Kar Wai’s film is the lesser creation, just that it’s different. The fights here are more about style and editing flourishes, and with the exception of the ones involving Ziyi Zhang they don’t impress on their physical abilities. Luckily the movie as a whole is an absolutely gorgeous and frequently compelling romantic drama. This is the 108 minute cut, so if you have an all-region player you might consider importing the longer, original version.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Huff (Charlie O’Connell) is a sadistic and sex-crazed stepfather to three “teenage” girls, but when the girls run away with money meant for a drug deal he sets off after them. The highlight of this terrible film is the bit in the opening credits that says the film is actually “Inspired by the Story of The Three Little Pigs.” Pretty much says it all right there. Skip it and watch Freeway instead.
[DVD extras: Interviews]
A group of “teens” on a boat trip decide to take a quick look around a seemingly deserted island only to discover that it’s not actually deserted! Uh oh. They find themselves in a most dangerous game indeed. Hint hint. This b&w thriller lacks an original thought, but the script is pretty sharp all the same. The 68 minute runtime doesn’t hurt either.
[DVD extras: None]
A homicidal A/V freak creates a fake cult just so he can kill its members. A found footage horror film that reveals the ending in the first few minutes, has a nonsensical screenplay, and is edited like a narrative film thus defeating the purpose of the found footage format? No thanks. For what it’s worth, the director of the film claims it isn’t found-footage, so there’s that. Skip it and watch Martha Marcy May Marlene instead.
[DVD extras: None]
A single mother/motel owner (Alice Eve) gets caught up in the world of crime when a mysterious newcomer (Brian Cranston) takes her hostage and forces her to help him recover a large sum of cash from the local cop. This is as generic a thriller as you could get, and it’s recommended for Cranston fans only.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes]
A man (Paul Walker) loses his wife in childbirth but gains a son, but his struggle is just beginning as Hurricane Katrina leaves the hospital they’re in an abandoned danger zone. Unable to leave his son’s side, the man fights off sleep, inclement weather, and scavengers in an attempt to keep the infant alive until help arrives. Walker’s recent death leaves a pall over this otherwise average dramatic thriller, but it works as often as it doesn’t. Fair waring though, the trailer pre-roll features an ad for Walker’s charity, and it lands a stronger emotional punch than the film itself.
[DVD extras: Music video]
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has outsmarted the makers of the games, but now shes made herself and the people she cares about even bigger targets for the government’s wrath. Forced back into another game, she finds herself once again struggling for a way out. The second film in the franchise succeeds where the first film failed and fails where the first one succeeded. Basically, the character work is far stronger here while the action sequences are dull affairs neutered with an over-reliance on CGI instead of excitement.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, deleted scenes]
Who knew Iran had basketball teams? Kevin Sheppard does, partly because he was invited to join a brand new team in the country for a year. This doc follows him from his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands to the culture shock of Iran, but the surprises come in how “normal” many of the country’s citizens are. Friendships are born, relationships forged, and we’re given a glimpse of the real Iranian people. A trio of women in particular, risk their own freedoms and share honest thoughts on their nation.
[DVD extras: Short film]
A crew readies their departure from the surface of Mars, but before they can leave a discovery draws their attention to the possibility of alien life. Should have left when they had the chance. Think 28 Days Later and you’ll have an idea what the film is going for, but think 28 Weeks Later and you’ll have an idea of what they almost achieved. A solid cast and a couple creepy moments help make it a mildly effective but immediately forgettable thriller.
[DVD extras: Making of, featurettes]
A man (Josh Brolin) is abducted and held captive for two decades without explanation, but when he’s suddenly released he’s given a few days to solve the mystery. Spike Lee‘s redo of Park Chan-wook’s original is the empty imitation you’d expect, and it adds nothing to the experience. And good lord, Sharlto Copley. Eesh, Skip it and watch Oldboy instead.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, featurettes, alternate scenes, workout video]
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
1000 to 1
The Agony and the Ecstasy
Ancient Aliens: Season 4 Volume 2
Bible Secrets Revealed
Rawhide: The Seventh Season