Scream Factory

Scream Factory

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Discs Section: Pick of the Week

PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE bluPhantom of the Paradise

Winslow Leach (William Finley) is a musician and songwriter hoping to make it big, but his efforts to get his work noticed by the infamous producer and personality, Swan (Paul Williams), results in trouble. Swan hears, loves, and steals Winslow’s music leaving the artist deranged and badly burned in the process, but Winslow returns behind a mask to wreak havoc on the man’s hot new club. Toss in a thief of another kind, a dame named Phoenix (Jessica Harper) who steals Winslow’s heart, and the stage is set for tragedy.

It’s Phantom of the Opera meets Faust, part comedy and part musical, and it had to have been clear from the outset that it was not going to find a home with general audiences. It also has some not so subtle critiques for both sides of the entertainment industry, from the selfish cruelties of corporate interests to talent who are accepting of it all in search of fame of fortune. The message never gets in the way of the zaniness or the musical numbers though. There are some new extras here as well as ones ported over from Arrow Video’s recent Blu, and the best supplement remains Guillermo de Toro interviewing/chatting with Williams.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, making of, alternate takes, outtakes, trailer, gallery]

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This is not a great week for Blu-ray/DVD releases.

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Anna

John Washington (Mark Strong) is a memory detective. With a combination of hand-holding and a little bit of coaxing he can enter a person’s memories, whether they be formative or traumatic, and while he can’t interact with them his observations reveal information that can be used later in therapy or criminal trials. He’s hired to enter a teenage girl — get your mind out of the gutter — played with an intriguing coldness by Taissa Farmiga, but he realizes too late that something is dangerously amiss in this girl’s memories. Anna is an easy watch and probably worth it for fans of Strong and Farmiga, but don’t expect it to stick around in your memory for long afterwards. My full review.

[DVD extras: None]

The Birthday Boys: The Complete First Season

It’s a new sketch comedy show with a sketch comedy troupe called The Birthday Boys and executive produced by sketch comedy success story Bob Odenkirk! If only the sketch comedy here was actually funny… he said knowing full well that comedy, more than any other thing in existence, is subjective.

[DVD extras: Commentaries, making of, featurette, bonus videos]

Californication: The Final Season

Hank Moody (David Duchovny) is still an immature and unreliable goofball, but now in the seventh and final season it’s time to put up or shut up when it comes to his one true love, Karen (Natascha McElhone). He’s found a job on a TV show with the hope it will help him on the way to being a far better person, but exposure to new people means exposure to new vaginas… and we all know how that ends. I’m a huge fan of this show’s first season, — when it should have ended — but while each new one brought some good laughs and sexy shenanigans they were also incredibly repetitive. Karen grows dumber while Hank continually gets what he wants as the show plays out like a guy’s ideal world. And this season is no different. Worse, the show was always at its best when Hank converses with his daughter Becca, but she’s absent until the final two episodes.

[DVD extras: None]

Community: The Complete Fifth Season

The gang returns for a fifth year of community college! Creator Dan Harmon returns after a season away, and the result is pretty good. It lacks the comedic consistency of the first two seasons, but it’s just about on par with the third (for what that’s worth). There are highlights like the G.I. Joe-like animated episode and the more frequent presence of John Oliver, but it doesn’t have the vitality of the earlier eps.

[DVD extras: Commentaries, featurettes, outtakes]

Divergent

It’s the near future, and a world fractured by war has settled into a peace enforced by factions. No, it doesn’t make sense in the movie either. Shailene Woodley plays a “teen” who’s theoretically able to handle more than one interest at a time, but multitaskers are a threat to peace so sh has to fight or something. Look, this is a terrible movie even by YA standards, and I’m disappointed in all of you who made it a bigger hit than Beautiful Creatures. My full review.

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

I’ll Follow You Down

Erol (Haley Joel Osment) was only a boy when his father disappeared, but now he’s a man with similar scientific interests… interests that lead him to time travel! I’ll Follow You Down is a strong idea ensconced in a muted and occasionally muddled execution. It remains interesting up to the very end though thanks in large part to an engaging cast and the core conceit that time travel is an endlessly fascinating narrative concept. If only the writer/director could go back in time to fix the missteps in his script before they even happened. My full review.

[DVD extras: Behind the scenes, deleted scenes, trailer]

Oculus

Tim and Kaylie (Karen Gillan) watched as a haunted mirror tore apart their family when they were kids, but now they’re all grown up and determined to kick that mirror’s ass. They put a detailed plan in motion to take that bastard down, but then, well, things go downhill from there. Oculus is well-acted, looks quite good and manages some moments of entertainment, but as the minutes tick by it grows weaker and weaker until its final cheat designed to allow for a shocker ending. On the sliding scale of “mirror horror” this one sits somewhere between Mirrors and, well, Mirrors 2. My full review.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette, short film, commentary, trailer]

Ping Pong Summer

The improbably named Rad Miracle (Marcello Conte) is a 13 year old spending the summer of ’85 with his family at a beach town on the Maryland coast, and it quickly goes from a disaster to the best vacation of his life. The film features elements of everything from The Way Way Back to The Karate Kid, but it neglects to include anything resembling originality or quality. It tries incredibly hard to be a fun (and funny) period piece, but its attempts at nostalgia are transparent and disconnected from character and narrative. It seems there are some strong bits of dialogue, but most of the film’s acting flattens all of them to ineffective utterances. It feels like a lesser Project Greenlight film which means exactly what you think it means. 

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of]

The Trip to Bountiful

Carrie Watts (Cicely Tyson) really wants to visit her hometown of Bountiful in her final years, but her overprotective son is having none of that. So of course she ditches him and heads off on her own. It’s a good thing too as she discovers a renewed connection with the place and people from her past. This Lifetime TV adaptation of the award-winning play is a fine little drama that at its best moments offers some wise commentary on the lost art of respecting our elderly.

[DVD extras: None]

WithoutWarning

An alien begins hunting humans, and it’s up to Martin Landau, Jack Palance and a gaggle of twenty-something teens to stop it. Scream Factory brings this slice of sci-fi/horror to DVD/Blu-ray for the first time complete with director’s commentary and interviews, but the real selling point is the movie itself. It’s fun enough, features some solid gore effects and includes a scene where Palance tries to distract an alien by running around yelling “Aliennn! Aliennn!” The script and budget keeps the action to a minimum, but it’s still an entertaining watch for genre fans. 

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, trailer]

Discs Section: Also

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

12 O’Clock Boys
Around the Block
Getting Go
God’s Not Dead
Ironclad: Battle for Blood
Ja’mie: Private School Girl
Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume 3
The War Around Us


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