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Catch My Soul
A commune settled in the remote New Mexico desert is visited by a traveling preacher named Othello (Richie Havens) who quickly sets up shop and catches the eye of Desdemona (Season Hubley). The two wed shortly thereafter, but their love ‐ and Othello’s attitude, race, and faith ‐ upsets the group’s leader, Iago (Lance LeGault). He’s more than just a jealous man though. He’s the devil himself, and he won’t rest until he makes Othello lose everything he holds dear.
There have been a handful of film adaptations of William Shakespeare’s Othello, but this early ’70s feature stands apart for a few reasons. It’s a rock opera, it’s the only directorial effort of The Prisoner’s Patrick McGoohan, and it’s never before been available on any home video format. There’s an understandable familiarity to the tale, but the music is catchy, immersive, and pairs well will the desert landscapes. It’s an oddity, but a fascinating one thanks to this cast and presentation. It’s worth it alone for a rare lead performance from the gravelly-voiced LeGault as the malicious Iago. Vinegar Syndrome, by way of their Etiquette Pictures label, has restored the film to glorious life, and while it’s a bumpy ride at times it’s also a terrific glimpse into a previously lost history.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: 2K restoration, making of, interview, featurette, reversible cover, booklet]
A killer is killing hot, young, frequently naked members of a popular fitness club, and the list of suspects is growing by the moment. Could it be the frequently mentioned but never glimpsed majority owner? Or the on-site manager Rhonda who’s determined to keep the club open even as the dead bodies pile up? Or the mysterious new guy she catches rifling through her files? Only one thing’s clear. This place not only offers the workouts of your life, but it also, well, you know.
Olive Films/Slasher Video are releasing numerous titles this week, but while most are recommended only for hardcore fans of cheap as hell slashers this mid-’80s thriller finds some unexpected, campy fun. For one thing the killer is doing the deed with a giant safety pin. Why? No reason. Equally inexplicable is how we’re frequently reminded that the club is remaining open throughout the murders thanks to extended scenes of spandex-clad ladies gyrating just a room or two away from the latest killing. The film also deserves some credit for featuring a central mystery that teases a well thought out plot and motivation. What can I say, it’s a charming old-school slasher and good/bad cinema perfect for a late night double feature with Death Spa.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Original title sequence]
The 21,000 foot tall Mount Meru may not be the highest peak for climbers to explore, but it’s historically been one of the toughest. A shark fin-like peak in particular has been an elusive accomplishment in the Himilayas, but three men set out to change that only to discover the challenge was too much for even their combined skills. They make a vow to return, but life has a funny way of adding obstacles on an already challenging path.
This doc, co-directed by one of the climbers (Jimmy Chin) and the woman who would become his wife (Elizabeth Vasarhelyi), captures two attempts at the summit, but it’s about so much more. The time between ascents is just as important, as are the lives these three men led up to this point, and we’re made privy to both the triumphs and the disasters. Some of the mountain footage is terrifically terrifying ‐ the portaledge sleeping arrangements in particular are the stuff of nightmares ‐ but there’s a beauty through it all as we’re made privy to nature’s grandeur and the mindsets of three determined adventurers.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, interview, Q&A, additional footage]
White of the Eye (Scream Factory)
Arizona has never been the most hospitable place, but for young, wealthy women it’s becoming something of a death trap. A twisted serial killer is targeting them and leaving their mutilated and manipulated bodies in his wake. The police are at a loss, but they think they’ve found their man in a local A/V installation expert (David Keith). The evidence is circumstantial, and he himself doesn’t quite agree with their assessment, but as the clock ticks down it becomes clear that his wife may be next to die.
This is an odd thriller that’s 3/5 Southwestern giallo, 1/5 arthouse slasher, and 1/5 how-to manual on stereo installations. Director Donald Cammell fills the screen with stylish touches that elevate it beyond a simple serial killer flick ‐ imagine a film by Dario Argento with sunstroke ‐ and he does a solid job with the red herring too. Viewers are left off-kilter until the third act, and even that doesn’t quite play out as you’d expect. Scream Factory’s new HD transfer (recycled from Arrow Video’s recent release) brings this oddly engaging film to North America in an edition it deserves.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, interview]
Cinco De Mayo
El Maestro is a small town college professor trying to instill pride and a historical awareness in the students of his Chicano studies course, but his hopes are short-lived. The students are disrespectful, the town is filled with racists, and the school administrators have decided to fire him. Really, who can blame him for going mad and slaughtering half of the community? This indie slasher tries to incorporate comedy and social commentary alongside the kills, and it actually succeeds on occasion, but it’s hurt by its cheapness. The acting is sketchy, the kills are unmemorable, and the running time is barely over an hour (not counting the fairly annoying All Nite Long interruptions).
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, Q&A, deleted scenes, outtakes, behind the scenes, featurette, short film]
Eddie Israel (Harvey Keitel) is a film director with a wife, a child, and a bad reputation. His latest movie is about a marriage falling apart at the seams, and his style is to make his two leads (Madonna, James Russo) feel every minute of it. He presses and pushes until the pair are themselves falling apart, but he’s not immune to his own misdeeds. Director Abel Ferrara’s bleak drama is something of a tough watch as the darkness starts oppressive and just gets worse from there. The performances are intense, but it’s a difficult film to recommend.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Unrated/theatrical versions]
The Deadliest Prey
Mike Danton (Ted Prior) moved on from the nightmare he endured a quarter of a century ago when he was hunted by armed assailants and forced to watch his wife murdered, but now that nightmare has returned. The mad colonel who tormented him years before has been released from prison with revenge on his mind, and now once again Danton is on the run with an army of mercenaries hot on his trail. David Prior’s sequel to his own cult classic is, for better or worse, more of the same. The plot plays it pretty damn identical to the original with only minor changes, and it even copies the first film’s best kill. Fans of cheap action flicks will have some fun with it.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews]
Mike Danton (Ted Prior) just wanted to take the trash out, but when he’s abducted by a merciless group of mercenaries he discovers this chore is going to have a body count. His old Vietnam colonel is the man behind this turkey shoot, but he didn’t count on Mike’s skill and will to survive. Low budget, late ’80s action flicks are a pile of genre fun unto themselves, and this silly but still deadly serious entry has become something of a cult classic. It’s a harmless watch.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview, outtakes]
The Shady Palms Clinic isn’t anyone’s first choice when they’re in need of medical treatment, and for good reason. Nurse Edith and her brother, Dr. Gordon, welcome patients with open arms, deadly experiments, and a big bill, but their murderous scam is threatened when a state inspector comes snooping around their facility. This shot-on-video thriller is pretty much the bottom of the barrel. It’s only an hour long, but every second is a chore.
[DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes, Q&A]
Death Nurse 2
The medically-educated, death-dealing siblings are back to help the sick, injured, and mentally troubled shuffle off their mortal coils. Once again they face possible disruption when authorities come asking questions, and once again this is a godawful “movie.”
[DVD extras: Commentaries, interview, outtakes, featurette]
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies ‐ Extended Edition
The menacing Smaug’s devastation of Laketown comes to an end when a tenacious human named Bard (Luke Evans) fells the beast, but the troubles have only begun. The dwarves have taken control of the mountain, and while they claim possession as 9/10ths of the law armies of humans, orcs, elves, birds, and CG animators converge on the location ready for war. The film is all about the battles, but the heart of it is a pair of relationships ‐ a friendship and a romance ‐ that bring flesh and blood drama into the cartoon conflict. This extended release adds roughly twenty minutes, and while none of it is essential some of the flourishes add battle cuts that elevate it to an R-rated affair. It’s worth a watch, but it’s a purchase for die-hard fans only.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes]
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
The Cold War is burning its way through U.S./Soviet relations, but when a mysterious third party threatens to ruin things for everyone two men ‐ one American (Henry Cavill) and one Russian (Armie Hammer) ‐ are forced to set aside their ideological differences to defeat this new enemy. Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes-like update of the classic TV series is a stylish, fun affair hampered somewhat by spotty CG and two flat leads. The pair land some funny lines, but they lack the manic energy of a Robert Downey Jr. to keep things charismatic. Alicia Vikander almost makes up for it ‐ her too-brief dance scene is enough to power a week-long smile ‐ but she’s just not onscreen enough. It’s definitely a film worth seeing for fans of light-hearted romps, but I don’t expect a lot of replay value.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, featurettes]
Requiescant (Arrow Video)
A young boy’s family is slaughtered, and he’s taken in by a traveling preacher and his family. The man of god raises him to be a man of peace, but when his step-sister disappears into a dangerous town he follows and finds things that challenge his pacifist upbringing. Namely, he finds an opportunity for revenge. This is a solid spaghetti western that puts a typical plot ‐ revenge ‐ into motion with an unusually reluctant protagonist. Arrow Video’s release is once again a top notch package starting with a cleaned up image that brings the dusty, bloody action to vivid life.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: 2K restoration, interviews, reversible cover, booklet]
Shock ’em Dead
Martin is a loser, and his one stab at fame ends when he auditions for a rock band only to realize he’s a terrible guitar player. That changes though when he asks a local voodoo priestess for help and wakes up to a brand new life. He’s now an immensely talented guitarist, the ladies love him, he has a fancy pad, and, oh yeah, he has to kill periodically to keep from losing it all. This goofy rock n roll horror show is billed as a Tracy Lords vehicle, but she’s a supporting player throughout the shredding (both of music and flesh). It’s fun enough and makes for a worthwhile entry in the hard rock horror sub-genre (Deathgasm, Trick or Treat).
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interview, featurettes, deleted scenes]
Swim Little Fish Swim
Leeward and Mary are something of a mix-matched couple ‐ she’s a professional adult, he’s a childish musician ‐ but they’ve stayed together in part for the sake of their daughter. When Lilas, a young woman visiting from France, hits some hard times and finds herself in need of a place to stay Leeward invites her into his family’s already cramped quarters. This doesn’t quite go over all that well with Mary. This American/French co-production is a sweet albeit slight little comedy about making life work. Characters and interactions move between the real and the offbeat, but the film’s strength rests on the varying likability of the leads. They entertain more than they engage.
[DVD extras: None]
Children in the slums of Rio pass their days scavenging massive trash dumps for valuables, but when two young friends find a dead man’s wallet they also find a world of trouble to go with it. Corrupt government agents are in pursuit of the secrets within, and they’ll stop at nothing to retrieve them. The boys turn to an American priest (Martin Sheen) and a young English teacher (Rooney Mara) for help, but their troubles continue to grow. Where did this movie come from? I’m usually pretty aware of what’s out there and coming down the cinematic pike, but this came out of nowhere. It’s directed by Stephen Daldry (The Reader) and written by Richard Curtis (Love Actually), but its arrival on my doorstep was the first I heard of it. The film itself is perfectly serviceable and manages some semi-exciting action/chase beats too. Sheen and Mara are supporting players here as the boys take center stage, and while they’re not nearly as accomplished acting-wise they don’t embarrass themselves.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Tracy is failing her college class, or at least she would be if the teacher stopped accepting oral favors in place of attendance. Instead of going to class she fills her time reading a book called Trashology, and each of the book’s tales make up segments of this anthology. The common theme among them is the degree of foulness on display from the female characters (played by women and men), and the common element throughout the entirety of the film is the amateurish nature. It’s a 2012 release, but it feels and plays like a lost homage from the ’80s. And yes, the end result is something that probably could have stayed lost. Elements could be forgiven if any of them worked, but it’s neither funny nor well-acted/written.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, short films]
Troll / Troll II (Scream Factory)
Tenement buildings can be a special kind of hell, but one takes on a more literal transformation when a troll makes his home there and starts converting the apartments with an eye for nightmarish interior design. The terror multiplies in the sequel as the beastly creatures devise an organized campaign to lure unsuspecting humans to a small town that offers only death. Neither of these films are all that good ‐ the sequel is often, and erroneously, referred to as the worst film of all time ‐ but there’s definite fun to be had with both. Cheesy creatures, silly gore, and questionable script choices are their own kind of entertainment. The double feature is made even more attractive by Scream Factory’s inclusion of the doc Best Worst Movie on its own DVD. It offers a look into the ridiculous making of Troll II, and it’s not to be missed.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of Troll, behind the scenes photos, commentary on Troll II, bonus DVD featuring Best Worst Movie]
We Are Your Friends
Cole (Zac Efron) is a struggling soul with dreams of being a successful DJ, but the day to day antics he finds himself in with his three best friends show no sign of leading to a career. He gets a taste of the good life though when a professional DJ (Wes Bentley) extends a helping hand, but friendship, sex, and the California nightlife might just get in the way of a good thing unless Cole can grow up and find his own voice. It’s unclear who wanted a movie about the EDM scene, but it seems we got one anyway. The end result is a mixed bag ‐ the story arc is obvious and cliched, but Efron is charismatic and occasional glimpses of visual creativity keep things lively.
[DVD extras: Featurette]
The Apu Trilogy (Criterion), Cemetery Sisters, Faust, A Horse Tale, In Cold Blood (Criterion), Jimmy’s Hall, McHale’s Navy: The Complete Series, Splatter: Architects of Fear, The Stanford Prison Experiment