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Takafumi (Nao Ohmori, Ichi the Killer) is a mattress salesman raising his young son alone while his wife wastes away in a coma, but he needs something to take the edge off. He joins a very special S&M club that promises a world of unexpected pleasure in the form of unplanned appearances by leather-clad women intent on inflicting pain and humiliation upon him. They cross a line though by bringing the fun into his home, and soon he’s fighting an enemy capable of causing far more pain than he anticipated.
It all sounds so ominous, but Hitoshi Matsumoto’s film is actually a tremendously funny black comedy with a surprising amount of heart. Takafumi loves his son and misses his wife, and the sensation he gets from the dominatrices has him feeling again for the first time in a long time ‐ but ‐ we also get characters like the Queen of Saliva and the Queen of Gobbling that have to be seen to be believed.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: 12-page booklet]
The Breakfast Club: 30th Anniversary Edition
Five teens walk into detention as strangers and leave as the best of friends, but in between those two extremes is a day filled with honesty, surprises and failed expectation. The Basket Case (Ally Sheedy), the Brain (Anthony Michael Hall), the Criminal (Judd Nelson), the Jock (Emilio Estevez) and the Princess (Molly Ringwald) discover that they’re far more than the labels placed upon them by themselves and each other.
John Hughes guided many of us through the ’80s with his insights into the teenage mind, and while Ferris Bueller’s Day Off will always be his masterpiece this classic is equally and deservedly beloved by millions. There’s a rare honesty at play here between the teens and the groups they represent as each recognize their vulnerability in different ways, but while the character drama is rich the movie is also damn entertaining and very funny. It may not be “The best high school movie of all time” ‐ everyone knows that’s Three O’Clock High ‐ but it is a film that never fails to put a smile on my face.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Trivia track, documentary, featurette, commentary]
Don’t Go in the Woods
Four friends head into the woods for a few days of backpacking fun, but unbeknownst to them an overweight man wearing beaver pelts on his body and friendship bracelets on his face is roaming the forest killing people with his jingle stick. On the bright side at least, “jingle stick” is not a euphemism.
James Bryan’s early ’80s slasher is not a good film, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining. Sure it fails as an attempted knock off of the successful Friday the 13th films, but there’s a charm to the ineptitude on display. The movie has a place in history too as one of the “video nasties” banned in the UK during the decade even though it’s difficult to see what exactly there is to object to here. Vinegar Syndrome’s new Blu-ray is a 2K restoration and looks great, and the disc features plenty of fun special features as well. Genre fans should definitely check it out.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Three commentary tracks, featurettes]
Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) is a blind war veteran newly arrived to a quiet retirement community on the edge of a large forest. Well, it’s quiet most of the time, but once per month screams echo through the neighborhood as a savage beast of some sort attacks and kills a local. He’s never been one to roll over in the face of danger, and when he realizes the police are worthless he decides to take action on his own.
Damici is a hard-assed powerhouse here, and his character follows suit with smart moves and aggressive energy, but the supporting players don’t fare quite as well thanks to a sketchy script. It’s a shame as these moments of misaligned tone interrupt the residual effect of some very cool sequences. One thing that tone can’t diminish is the film’s central transformation sequence. Creative camerawork and some fantastic prosthetic work combine for a fairly stunning sequence the likes of which we haven’t seen in years. Director Adrian Garcia Bogliano‘s (Here Comes the Devil, Cold Sweat) English-language feature debut is flawed but easily his most cohesive and entertaining film. The premise is straight-forward and propelled by strong effects work, well-crafted scenes of suspense and a fun finale. It’s no lycanthropic masterpiece (An American Werewolf in London, The Howling), but it deserves a spot further down the shelf beside the likes of Silver Bullet. (That’s a compliment.)
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette]
Listen Up Philip
Philip (Jason Schwartzman) is about to see his second novel published, and he’s pretty certain it’s going to be a big deal. He’s so certain in fact that he’s already taken to acting like an insufferable douche to everyone around him. His actions lead to friction with his girlfriend Ashley (Elisabeth Moss), but he also finds a new friend in an older, wiser and equally cantankerous author named Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce).
Writer/director Alex Ross Perry’s film is one of the best examples of asshole cinema to come along in years, and there’s no one better suited for the title role than Schwartzman. Perry wisely shifts the film away from Philip periodically to keep us from drowning in his prickishness, and the time spent with Ashley provides a powerful and sweetly emotional balance. Moss is fantastic as a young woman who finds her own strength outside of another person’s attention and affection. All corners of the film are sharply honest, but it remains remarkably funny all the same.
[DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, commentary]
Joe Albany (John Hawkes) is a man with a strong desire to play jazz piano, but his heroin addiction is equally powerful. Unfortunately he’s highly accomplished at both. Stuck between his twin interests is a daughter he loves more than anything, Amy-Jo (Elle Fanning), but she may not be enough of a reason for him to choose music over drugs.
This true story is based on Amy-Jo’s memoir of growing up in ‘60s/’70s Hollywood with an acclaimed but troubled musician for a father. Populated with rich character, honest emotion and a stellar supporting cast (including Lena Headey, Glenn Close, Peter Dinklage and more) the film immerses viewers into a beautifully heartbreaking world. Hawkes and Fanning both give tremendously affecting performances too.
[DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, interview]
Remote Area Medical
By some estimates the United States currently has over 45 million citizens without proper access to health coverage and/or health care. Remote Area Medical, or RAM, was founded in 1985 with the goal of providing pop-up medical clinics for the indigenous people along the Amazon in South America, but today over 60% of their clinics are for locations within the U.S. They offer dental, optical, and general health work that people couldn’t and wouldn’t otherwise be able to get.
This doc looks at one three-day clinic in Bristol, TN in April of 2012, so it’s timed before President Obama’s health care changes took real effect. There’s real sadness here in the stories of people who’ve gone without care, but it’s equally joyful as we watch what happens when they finally get some. One man’s reaction after getting some much-needed dentures is to smile for the first time in a long time, and the tears he’s crying will probably be matched by your own.
[DVD extras: Short films, deleted scenes]
Neal and Isaac are recent college graduates who’ve lucked into a dream job with a big financial firm, but when they discover the boss (Alan Thicke) is planning to screw over students through their school loans the two friends jump into action. The setup is sincere enough, but good god is it wasted by a terribly unfunny script, broad performances and an utter lack of conviction.
[DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, featurettes]
A military-grade team transporting a pair of supernaturally-empowered siblings runs into trouble on the road because, well, they’re transporting a pair of supernaturally-empowered siblings. This is a Syfy movie through and through, and it stars Tom Sizemore, so that should be enough to let you know whether or not it’s for you. The film earns points for a tale that feels fresh and original, but the abundance of sad CG effects weigh down the fun.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Dixie Ray: Hollywood Star
Nick Popodopolis (John Leslie) is a private investigator in serious trouble thanks to a case that’s left his freedom in jeopardy. The police arrive to discover a dead body on his floor, and as Nick explains what led to her death the truth shoots out from his penis. Okay, that’s not true, but Nick’s story does feature him having graphic adult relations with every female he comes across. [ahem] Anthony Spinelli’s big, fat, veiny porn film has a legitimate pseudo-noir at its center ‐ a fact made evident in the included R-rated version which is only 15 minutes or so shorter. The story wouldn’t necessarily stand out in the mainstream market, but it’s far more fulfilling than X-rated narratives usually feel. I mean, from what I understand about adult films.
[DVD extras: Two versions, the X-rated and R-rated]
Two ass-kicking sisters head into the hell of a white slavery camp in search of their third sibling, but their efforts to find her lead to all-out war between rebels, pirates and bouncy ladies. There’s some fun to be had with this slice of Filipino sleaze, but there’s also a surprising amount of down time devoid of the expected thrills, action and perversions. A boat battle late in the film is great fun, but the movie needs more sequences like that to be memorable.
[DVD extras: None]
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
The magic responsible for bringing museum displays to life is in danger so Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) and his friends head to London in the hopes that their antics will save the day. Robin Williams and Owen Wilson are along again for the ride and Rebel Wilson is added to the mix, but the end result is pretty much exactly what we got from the first two films. Dumb, mindless fun for the kids with little to nothing of value for those over the age of ten.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary]
Mary’s life is in a bit of turmoil after breaking up with her cat-killing boyfriend and being evicted from her apartment, so when a wealthy foreigner offers her $10k to be his “pet” for a couple days she quickly agrees. She’ll be naked, leashed, left to sleep in a cage and unable to speak. And she loves it. If only she had been warned that being a licensed pet means she’s also come to the attention of a black market organ ring! This is a real rarity in that it’s an objectively terrible film. Sure the women are fully nude most of the time, but it’s never remotely erotic or sexy. The acting is bad across the board, the dialogue even worse, and while the ideas at play here are more legitimate than the likes of Fifty Shades of Grey ‐ at least until it conflates BDSM with human trafficking and organ theft ‐ there’s not a single compelling element in the characters or story to hold our interest.
[DVD extras: Interview]
New oil reserves appear in the North Sea, enormous and guaranteed to lead to billions in profit, but reaching the ocean floor and laying the pipeline represent a fresh challenge for the interested countries. A corporate partnership between Norway and the United States sends down a team of divers, but when something goes wrong leaving one dead the man being blamed suspects foul play. This is a sharp-looking film that captures the cold grays of the shoreline and tight confines of the underwater chambers they divers call home. That last area is the film at its best as the claustrophobia sets in for viewers, and the cast delivers the spectrum from ambition to fear to frustration as the danger and suspicion ramps up. Unfortunately though for as good as the cast and photography are the film is remarkably dull. There’s some tension in those claustrophobic scenes, but the majority of the film consists of an investigation, and while it clearly aims for Silkwood-style thrills and suspense it manages nothing of the sort.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
The Red Road: The Complete First Season
Long-standing feuds, both personal and historical, bring two communities toward collision when a cop’s wife is involved in a hit and run incident involving a young Native American boy. The cop (Martin Henderson) is forced into an unlikely and unhealthy alliance with a thuggish local (Jason Momoa) as the two attempt to calm tensions for their own reasons. This Sundance series is well-produced and strongly acted, but while the story holds interest the wife character is continually nearing the point of utter annoyance. Julianne Nicholson does good work, but the character’s behaviors are alienating and annoying.
[DVD extras: Featurettes]
The Red Tent
This is the story of four women and the man they all call husband. It is also a story from the bible. The strength here is almost fully in the casting ‐ Morena Baccarin, Minnie Driver, Iain Glen, Debra Winger ‐ as the actual narrative feels fairly unfulfilling. There are strong women here in theory, and the performances make them easy to watch, but their stories are neither interesting nor empowering.
[DVD extras: None]
Teeth & Blood
An actress is killed during production on a low budget horror film, but when her body disappears a pair of local cops suspect the case is related to the city’s mysteriously dwindling blood supply. Also, vampires. Indie horror films fight an uphill battle, but enthusiasm isn’t enough to make up for bad writing, sketchy acting and poor special effects.
[DVD extras: None]
White Haired Witch
The government is a corrupt force oppressing the people with violence and taxes, but standing against those in power is Jade (Fan Bingbing), a magical warrior intent on defending those who can’t defend themselves. When she’s framed for a murder her and her followers become even more targeted outlaws than they already were. Fantasy-infused period pieces loaded with wire-work are common place and too frequently they blend into each other with their similarities, but this one stands out in part at least due to Fan’s presence. She’s a big enough reason to watch even as the wire-fu gets overused for everything from jumping two feet to getting on horses.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Lou Garou is a pretty terrible cop, but that changes when he wakes up one morning after a wild night. And now he’s a werewolf! This is the kind of idea that makes you pause for the briefest second before smiling, nodding your head and saying “Sure, why not?” The film goes the shedding (or werewolf within) route where Lou’s skin tears and falls apart to reveal the hairy creature beneath, and the effects work is wonderfully wet, fleshy and effective. But while there are moments and sequences throughout the film’s 79-minute run-time that fully embrace and live up to that premise there are many, many more that fall flat or feel rushed. This is horror/comedy with a heavier leaning on the latter than the former, and like WolfCop tagging some graffiti punks with his urine a few of the jokes and gags hit their mark. One bit involving a guy whose face is ripped off is compulsively funny, but too many of the jokes land with a thud that barely reaches the level of sophomoric or poorly written. One example? The coroner likes to eat while he’s working with dead bodies. Crazy!
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, music video, featurettes, outtakes]
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:
Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B
Alpha and Omega 3: The Great Wolf Games
Come Back to Me
The Flintstones and WWW: Stone Age Smackdown
Gomer Pyle: The Complete Series
Jasper: Journey to the End of the World
Life of Riley
Matlock: Greatest Cases
Peekarama: Hot Legs / California Gigolo
Petticoat Junction: Family Favorite Episodes
Two Lane Blacktop (Criterion)