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Nightmares (Scream Factory)
A woman goes out for cigarettes on the same night a violent lunatic escapes from a nearby asylum, and she crosses paths with something far deadlier than lung cancer. A videogame-loving teenager (Emilio Estevez) is forced into a life and death battle when his favorite game explodes into the real world to play him. A priest (Lance Henriksen) suffering a crisis of faith finds himself doing battle with a devilish, driver-less pickup truck. A family discovers they’ve got a big rat problem.
This early ’80s horror anthology doesn’t get talked about a lot, but it’s actually a solidly fun quartet of supernatural tales. Chapter one plays off a common urban legend, but it executes the story with real suspense. Chapter two is fun-enough, but it works best as a precursor to the following year’s superior The Last Starfighter. Chapter three is a short, faith-oriented spin on Steven Spielberg’s Duel, and while Henriksen is always worth watching the highlight is that shot of Satan’s truck bursting out of the ground. The final chapter gets the longest run-time, but despite a menacing setup it suffers in the back half from some goofy story turns and less than ideal optical effects.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
Yeah, uh, it’s a pretty light week of new releases.
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
Det. Shaw (Dean Ambrose) is returning to duty after losing his partner in a shootout, but his first day back might just be his last. He’s only at the station a few minutes before he stumbles across evidence implicating a handful of his fellow cops in some highly illicit behaviors. The culprits throw the entire building into lockdown in the hopes of killing Shaw and destroying the evidence, but unfortunately for them he has twelve rounds in his handgun. So he’s good. This is another fairly generic WWE production, but while their stories and acting remain firmly in the direct-to-DVD bin the film is executed well enough. Action beats are solid, and while the movie doesn’t quite reach Cannon-levels of gritty, ass-kicking fun the studio is at least partway there.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (Scream Factory)
Dr. Bill is a physician with smoldering good looks and more than a hint of that old “mad scientist” vibe, and he begins his greatest experiment on the night his girlfriend loses her head in a car crash. Her body is destroyed, but her face and brain are in perfect working order ‐ and in a tray on Bill’s desk. He begins his search for a replacement body to make her good as new, but her rage at being kept alive leads to unforeseen complications. Namely, they lead to her psychic bonding with Bill’s other experiment that he keeps locked up in another room. This early ’60s horror flick rehashes a familiar plot, but it does so with respectable gusto and sleaze. It’s a bloody affair too, especially in the third act, but it’s not quite enough to make the film that memorable. Fans will be happy though as Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray not only features a nice, new transfer but also includes the complete MST3K episode of the film.
[Blu-ray extras: New HD transfer, Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, alternate nudie scene, commentary]
An evil Roman general (Adrien Brody) leads his men into Chinese territory he gets push-back from the leader (Jackie Chan) of the Silk Road Protection Squad. Another Roman general (John Cusack) teams up with the squad to repel the invaders. The historical basis for this film is fairly fascinating in the clash ‐ both violent and peaceful ‐ of cultures that occurred and seems to still be off most people’s radar, but the film is something of a mixed bag. Obviously it’s fun seeing Cusack and Brody hamming it up in a period piece clad in armor and swinging swords with abandon, Chan is as reliable as ever, and Lin Peng is a spunky charmer, but the CG used to create the historical city and various elements of the battle scenes is sometimes dodgy. Fans of the cast or of historical action films in general should find enough to enjoy, but others will be far less enthralled.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes, music videos, interviews]
Freddy and Mo are a couple of gay men with a strong desire to have a child. They’ve enlisted the aid ‐ and uterus ‐ of their friend Polly (Kristen Wiig) but so far the results have been less than stellar. Low sperm counts, bad luck, and stress seem to be the contributing factors with the last element consisting mainly of a neighbor whose odd actions grow more and more threatening. Writer/director Sebastian Silva (who also stars as Freddy) hits some tonal roadblocks here with the characters’ attempts at comedy, but the drama of their situation lands more often than not. Things do get a bit ludicrous in the third act though.
[DVD extras: Commentary, behind the scenes]
Peter lives the life of a poor orphan in war-torn London, but a whole new world opens up before him when he’s abducted by pirates in the middle of the night. They’re pirates in a flying ship, and they take him off to Neverland to work as a slave in the mines owned by the dread pirate Blackbeard, but Peter’s destined for so much more. Joe Wright’s big, loud prequel to the Peter Pan myth we all know so well is an absolute mess from beginning to end. Stabs at comedy fail to pierce the funny bone, musical numbers (Nirvana! The Ramones!) fail period, and the CG effects swings drastically between solid and visually abhorrent. And this is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but this film has the worst wire work I’ve seen in years. Hugh Jackman is having a grand old time playing Blackbeard, but Garrett Hedlund’s Hook is just misguided. But hey, at least we get Rooney Mara’s bare midriff for the kids in the audience to enjoy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary]
Most people believe Bobby Fischer’s (Tobey Maguire) greatest challenge was his legendary chess tournament against the Soviet Union’s Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), but it was actually his battle with mental illness that dealt him his biggest defeat. Ed Zwick’s latest explores both the historical match and Fischer’s internal struggle, but as talented as he and his cast are the subject never fully comes alive. The chess itself rarely feels as important or suspenseful as it should be, and while Maguire does good work ‐ he’s often been something of an underrated talent ‐ he can’t make Fischer’s constant shtick compelling enough to warrant the two hours. That said, the final half hour is fairly engrossing and the supporting cast adds value with fantastic turns from Schreiber, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Peter Sarsgaard.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Queen of Earth
Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) has seen better days. Reeling from the death of her father and the heartbreak of a break-up, she heads to the lakeside home of her longtime friend, Virginia (Katherine Waterston), for some much needed rest. That’s just not in the cards though as the trip is instead hampered by memories of the past and long-simmering friction between best friends. Alex Ross Perry’s drops the uber-talented Moss (Listen Up Philip) and Waterston (Inherent Vice) into an oppressively dramatic few days, and while both actors prove themselves the script isn’t nearly as skilled. The conflicts never feel as weighty as the characters and film want them to be leaving us instead with a outbursts that frustrate when they should be engaging.
[DVD extras: Commentary, behind the scenes]
You will believe a man can double dutch. A couple facing marital troubles ‐ well, the husband is a complete and total prick ‐ gets help from a wise old lady who suggests the wife dedicate a room in the house to strategic prayer. She has to love and respect her man *and* organize her wishlist for god, and then everything works out for the best.It’s really that simple. I enjoy fantasy films in general, but I’m obviously not the target audience for this kind of pandering garbage. It ends with a big, fat prayer for a “generation of believers” accompanied by a terrifying montage of just that.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, bloopers, music video]
Defiance: Season Three, Dominion: Season Two, The Giant King, The Wiz: Live!
Related Topics: Home Video