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Jakob is a rookie cop in a small town where he gets little in the way of respect from co-workers or residents, but their attitude doesn’t interrupt his focus on the case at hand. It seems a large wolf has been entering the rural village at night causing mayhem and the occasional bit of pet-related carnage, but when Jakob investigates he crosses paths with something far more unexpected. A large man, in a dress, and wielding a samurai sword.
Repression and decapitation dance at the end of a katana in this oddly endearing face-off between a rookie cop and the cross-dressing psycho stalking his small town, and metaphor and dream-like imagery abound ‐ all beautifully serving Jakob’s trip down a rabbit hole quite possibly of his own devising. The two men, halves of the same coin in some ways, become an unlikely pair as each is forced to respond to the other’s actions, but it’s Jakob’s shell that’s soon forced to split open and reveal what hides within. Oh, and it deserves an award of some kind for one beheading scene’s mix of visual flourish and soundtrack choice. Artsploitation returns from the dead with their first Blu-ray release, and they couldn’t have picked a more uniquely entertaining film.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, behind the scenes]
Coffy Coffin (Pam Grier) is a nurse who’s sick and tired of seeing the parade of young people passing through doors dying or dead from drugs and the violence they attract, and her anger is made personal when her sister succumbs to the same path. Pissed off and armed with guns, attitude and a penchant for stripping naked Coffy goes on a rampage of revenge.
Writer/director Jack Hill sets the story in motion and captures it for all of us to see, but this ride belongs wholly to Grier whose energy and personality keep things moving at an exciting pace. From the opening shotgun blast to the head to its bloody finale this is an affecting and effective revenge thriller about one person’s quest for justice, and it’s clear how it secured Grier’s stardom onscreen. The action is sharp but messy, the dialogue is fun and quotable and the lead is someone we can’t help but root for.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Bianca (Mae Whitman) is a normal teenager with best friends, a high school crush and a wardrobe filled with overalls and flannels, but her world is shaken when Wesley (Robbie Amell), the captain of the football team, reveals a dirty, little social secret. He says Bianca is the DUFF ‐ the designated ugly, fat friend ‐ of her particular circle who’s kept around simply to make her two incredibly hot friends seem even more beautiful and special. Her friends deny it, but after a quick online visit to Urban Dictionary confirms this is a real acronym Bianca unfriends the pair in person and across social media. She makes a deal with Wesley after his grades get him suspended from the football team ‐ she’ll help him pass his tests, and he’ll do his best to “un-DUFF” her so she can land a boyfriend. I wonder what happens next!
While the narrative here is little more than an updated She’s All That and the outcome is clear from very early on, Whitman and Amell are an immensely appealing team. They play childhood friends turned high school acquaintances, and their banter shows a degree of chemistry too often absent from romantic comedies. Their repartee is playful and sharp, and while the script deserves credit for the words the two performers bring real heart and humorous rapport. They’re highly entertaining, but that chemistry also plays a big role in making the story turns to come more convincing than they’d otherwise be.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, gag reel]
Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is a member of her majesty’s other secret service, the Kingsmen, a top-secret organization of white men who work to save the world from evil villains and their dastardly plots. A mistake in the field years prior left one of their own dead, so when the man’s now eighteen year old son, Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin, gets himself into trouble Harry recruits the young man into the agency. Gary’s training coincides with the efforts of a billionaire tech mogul named Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) to fix the global warming problem by eliminating 99.9% of what he sees to be the cause ‐ humanity.
Kingsman’s over two hours long, but the forward momentum is so propulsive as to make it feel far shorter. Witty banter is the norm for all three central players as they interact with acquaintances and enemies alike, and Vaughn’s camera displays equal vitality in capturing the dialogue as it does the action. The sweet, sweet action. The laughs and the action are wildly entertaining and potentially enough to forgive the film’s flaws including some shockingly shoddy CG and unnecessarily sexist treatment of women. Both of those are issues, but damn, that church fight is pure magic.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Camp New Horizons is something of a social experiment as it attempts to bridge social and economic gaps by pairing rich kids with poor kids for a summer of fun in the woods. Unfortunately for them all, Angela Baker (Pamela Springsteen) is along for the ride. She’s already slaughtered her way through two other campgrounds filled with immoral campers, and by the looks of these “kids” she has a lot more cleaning up to do.
This ridiculous slasher romp immediately became my favorite of the franchise on just my first viewing. Shot back to back with part 2, it’s clear the film was a rushed production, but the damn thing is just incredibly entertaining all the same. Springsteen in particular is a joy thanks to line deliveries making it clear just how little she cares for the people she’s stabbing, shooting and mowing. The addition of Michael J. Pollard and Jill Terashita don’t hurt either. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray includes a work print version of the film ‐ missing audio at times, no score, etc ‐ that features the original gore scenes that had to be excised for the MPAA.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, behind the scenes, featurette, interviews, work print featuring additional gore footage]
Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) has never quite fit in with the rest of his family. Sure he looks nothing like them, but they also don’t share a single personality trait. His paranoia grows as he notices them and others around town acting peculiar when they normally just act superior. And then there’s the shunting. The sexy, slimy, shape-changing shunting.
Brian Yuzna seems most commonly associated with Stuart Gordon’s directorial efforts, either as a producer or writer, but he’s actually been behind the camera on a more than a few of his own creations. He directed both Re-Animator sequels, but it’s his first film as director that stands as his most memorable. Society is a not so subtle commentary on the class war that translates the rich people’s attitudes into something physical. And wet. And disgusting. It’s best to avoid images of the film before you see it ‐ just no that the goofy nature of its first act gives way to some carnal transformations of the icky kind.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, featurettes, booklet]
Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr.) was once chauffeur to the Merrye family, but as the years past his duty shifted towards one specific directive. The parents passed away and left him to look after and protect their children from the world. Unfortunately they said nothing about protecting the world from the children. The Merrye family bloodline carries a terrible disease, one that reverts the children backwards mentally as they grow physically. The result is grown young adults with no concept of right or wrong. They only know they like playing rough with their “toys.” Bruno’s job grows more complicated when distant relatives arrive to take ownership of the house and put the children in a home.
Jack Hill also directed two of the Pam Grier films hitting Blu-ray this week, but neither of those could prepare you for this crazy mix of terror and black comedy. Make no mistake, this is a very funny film ‐ imagine a much darker take on The Addams Family, one that benefits from a complete lack of the supernatural ‐ with Chaney and the children all in on the joke. It’s also creepy and endearing, sometimes in the same scene, and that eclectic mix makes it a memorable descent into madness.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes, interviews, short film, booklet]
Foxy Brown (Pam Grier) has waited patiently for her special agent boyfriend to recover from a murder attempt and his subsequent facial reconstruction surgery, but when he’s killed just days after returning home she decides it’s time for revenge. If that means she has to shoot her own brother and pose as a high-priced prostitute then so be it. This is a solid follow-up to Coffy and reunites Grier with director Jack Hill for some action both in and out of the bedroom. It lacks the emotional weight of the earlier film, but it’s still good fun.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Friday Foster (Pam Grier) is a photojournalist on the hunt for a big story, and she finds one when a simple assignment reveals an assassination attempt. Armed with her camera, her breasts and a private eye named Colt Hawkins (Yaphet Kotto) she attempts to investigate the conspiracy behind it all before those responsible add her to their kill list. The film survives in large part on a cast that also includes Carl Weathers, Scatman Crothers and Jim Backus, but its tonal issues nearly pull the whole thing down. The story involving black leaders and social power is deflated by attempts at comedy that rarely succeed and a general sense of idiocy amid the murders.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
EB.J. Hammer (Fred Williamson) moves from the warehouse floor to the boxing ring when his fighting skills are glimpsed by some folks in the game, but as his star rises the price of fame comes calling with an order to throw a fight. Fools. This is one Hammer who refuses to fall. There’s some fun to be had here for fans of the blaxpoitation sub-genre, but it’s not a very memorable outing. The fights ‐ the crux of the film’s action and drama ‐ are lazily choreographed and shot, and with only one-note performances and drama backing them up the film becomes fairly forgettable.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Viktor is nearing the end of an almost two-decade prison sentence, but his freedom is threatened after he’s moved to a minimum security facility in rural Australia and finds an enemy in a fellow prisoner. He also finds someone willing to give him a chance in Matt (Hugo Weaving), an officer there who moonlights as a caretaker in charge of the rehabilitation of injured birds of prey. The human tale here is simple enough and presented with strong performances, but it’s the addition of the birds and the accompanying cinematography that lifts the metaphor beyond the mundane.
[DVD extras: Making of, deleted scenes]
Nagiko (Vivian Wu) was raised in part as a canvas of sorts for her father’s calligraphy, and as a young woman she’s continued in that role for a series of lovers. The latest man (Ewan McGregor) to press his brush to her skin grows to share her passion, quickly becoming a blank slate for her own artistic writings, but his role soon shifts from literary utensil to revenge tool. Peter Greenaway’s (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover) dramatic exploration of memory and mortality is filled with flesh and wonder, but its execution ‐ picture in picture, shifting frame ratios, onscreen text ‐ distracts from the emotional push and pull occurring beneath it all. Film Movement makes their Blu-ray debut here, but their love of film remains just as clear.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, booklet]
Four friends build a time machine after discovering the schematics in their basement, and soon they’re enjoying the perks of their little “do over” device. They get better grades on tests, get revenge on bullies and even win the lottery, but when one of them uses it to get some serious nookie they discover that time travel should require an age limit. There’s potential in the setup here as youthful brainiacs and hot girls combine forces to have some travel fun, but it’s squandered by several factors. Most notably, it’s just a dumb, poorly made movie. The decision to make it found footage-ish with the kids shooting all the action adds nothing to the story aside from constant distraction as it makes many of the format’s typical errors. Script-wise it seems content with numerous inconsistent and idiotic turns with no concern for repercussions or real dramatic impact. I get that it’s an MTV production, but so was Election.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes]
George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) is attempting to build a logging empire in early 20th century America, and his prospects grow when he meets and marries the very capable Serena (Jennifer Lawrence). Trouble arises though as his past comes between them and her thirst for power grows beyond them. The film opens with a dialogue exchange that hints at a “when animals attack” type thriller and later scenes feature some slasher-like kills, but in between there’s a whole lot of mush. Lawrence also seems incapable of mustering the authority the role demands, meaning she instead ends up feeling far out of place, and while Cooper does fine work it’s in service of a story that never comes close to captivating or even engaging the viewer.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, making of, featurettes]
Five years after Angela Baker (Pamela Springsteen) revealed both her wang and her penchant for killing sinners at summer camp she resurfaces at a new camp excited to have some good, clean fun. It doesn’t last long. This sequel takes the franchise in a much sillier direction than the original film explored, and little effort is made to create a scary or suspenseful experience. That doesn’t stop it from being fun though thanks to some creative kills and Springsteen’s enthusiastic performance.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, behind the scenes, interviews]
A jumbo jet lands at the airport with two unexpected and unwelcome surprises ‐ all but four of the people aboard are dead, and a monster is waiting in the cargo hold. Soon the creature, its victims and the vampiric virus at its core are on the loose and on the pat towards wiping out humanity. Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi/horror trilogy gets the TV series treatment with mixed results. The elements that don’t work are pretty much all related to the clunky and frequently terrible writing, but the visuals go a long way in making the show entertaining anyway. It’s big and gory fun even as it leaves you shaking your head at the stupidity. FX has also released the season in a special edition featuring a bust of the Master.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentaries, deleted scenes]
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:
Cas & Dylan, Comeback Dad, Cupcakes, Der Todesking, The Golden Year: 1939, The Last Ship: The Complete First Season, Red Army, She-Devil, The Squeeze, Thunderbirds: The Complete Collection
Related Topics: Home Video