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The Vincent Price Collection
Six of Vincent Price’s horror pictures for AIP are collected here in HD including The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit & the Pendulum, The Haunted Palace, The Masque of the Red Death, Witchfinder General, and The Abominable Dr. Phibes.
Scream Factory hits another one out of the park with this fantastically produced and packaged collection of films featuring Price in all his glory. All but the final film bear some connection to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, a couple of them being very tenuous connections at best, and three were directed by Roger Corman. The movies run the gamut from good (Palace) to great (Masque) to WTF (Phibes), and they all look better than they ever have thanks to new HD restorations and a bevy of extras. Price was always an interesting and underrated actor, and this set offers a glimpse at a fun and fascinating variety of performances.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Introductions, commentaries, interviews, trailers, featurettes]
Pitch: “Based on the true case files for the Warrens” with the understanding that the Warrens define “true” a bit differently from the rest of us…
When Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn (Lili Taylor) Perron move into their new (to them) rural home the hope was that it would be the start of a new life for them and their five daughters. Unfortunately they’re not alone. Nighttime hauntings begin, and the couple bring in renowned ghost hunters, The Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), to save their sanity and possibly their lives.
Director James Wan has delivered six feature films so far, but this is only the second to see him part ways with frequent screenwriter Leigh Whannel. His fellow Aussie’s absence doesn’t hurt though as the film remains a creepy and occasionally frightening period pic. Who knew clapping could be this terrifying? The “true story” angle is dumb, but it doesn’t hurt the movie. I recently watched this one in a small attic with friends around midnight, and the screaming was wondrous.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
The Uninvited (Criterion)
Pitch: To truly understand the Alanis Morissette song, see the scary movie from the ‘40s…
Lewis Allen’s The Uninvited is credited as the studio system’s first serious ghost story. I would argue that such a declaration dismisses Hitchcock’s Rebecca, but that’s beside the point: The Uninvited is an excellent gothic scare-fest from WWII-era Hollywood that holds up remarkably well. A London-based composer (the subtly charismatic Ray Milland) and his sister (Ruth Hussey) move into a criminally inexpensive seaside mansion, but realize that they may have bought a clunker once they begin to experience unexplained chills that ultimately reveal themselves as two restless spirits.
Impressive practical effects, dynamic chiaroscuro photography by Charles Lang, a séance, and a little bit of camp make for a sleek, entertaining, and creepy classic of the genre. The Uninvited follows all the tropes that we’re used to (the dog knows something’s up before the people do, naturally), but as the film that virtually invented ‐ or, at least, solidified ‐ these tropes, it’s strikingly elegant and timeless in doing so. The Uninvited is a seminal addition to Criterion’s annals of horror classics. ‐ Landon Palmer
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: An excellent visual essay by filmmaker Michael Almereyda, 2 radio adaptations, trailer, illustrated booklet]
The Way Way Back
Pitch: “We’ve all been there.” But sadly, we didn’t all have Sam Rockwell along for the ride…
Duncan (Liam James) isn’t expecting to have that great of a summer vacation thanks to a dickish new step dad (Steve Carell), but that cynical outlook is thrown for a loop when he gets a job at a water park run by a bunch of goofy, happy-go-lucky people (including Sam Rockwell and Maya Rudolph). The season becomes his coming of age as he discovers the importance of friendship, being true to yourself, and how to arrange pool chairs.
Writers/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash take supporting roles onscreen (and offer up plenty of laughs in doing so), but their real success is in crafting a movie that manages to be extremely funny and surprisingly real in its look at one summer in the life of a very awkward teenager. The film handles the balance of comedy and drama exceptionally well, and while Rockwell steals the show, the entire cast delivers from beginning to end. Sweet, funny, and just one hell of a delightful film.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
The story of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) continues nine years after the final, wondrous scene of Before Sunset, and as the world has aged, so has their love. The third film in Richard Linklater’s “Before” series has been almost unanimously praised as the best of the three, but even after multiple viewings I just don’t see it. Maybe my love of Sunrise and Sunset is blocking an acceptance of this film’s left turn into reality, but the script does Celine no favors, resulting in a lopsided affair devoid of magic, imagination or intimacy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, Q&A, trailer]
Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear
Five short horror films based on the five senses come together in a rare Scream Factory misstep. It’s not that the stories in this anthology are bad, it’s that they’re just not all that good or memorable. The final two segments are the best, each offering some interesting visuals, but they may not be enough to warrant a watch of everything that comes before.
Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scene, TV spots, still gallery
I Give It a Year
My first viewing of this atypical British rom-com had me in tears from laughing, but while a second viewing only had me giggling like a normal person I still stand by this being a hilarious flick. Comedy is subjective so your mileage may vary, but I for one found the cast to be fun, witty, and game for just about anything. Rafe Spall is particularly good, but Anna Faris, Rose Byrne, Stephen Merchant, and Simon Baker are equally on point.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Bloopers, outtakes, deleted scenes, making ofs, interviews]
A sad bid to recapture the box-office glory of Wedding Crashers, this nearly two-hour infomercial for all things Google manages to reunite Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson while forgetting to invite some laughs as well. Neither man actually acts here choosing instead to devolve into shticks that sum up much of their resumes for the past decade. On the bright side though there are some nice shots of the San Francisco Bay Area.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Theatrical and unrated cuts, commentary, deleted scenes, featurette]
The JFK Collection
The History Channel presents eight documentaries across three DVDs for folks who just can’t get enough of the Kennedy family. The set includes JFK: A Personal Story, Parts 1 & 2 / Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis / John F. Kennedy Jr.: The Death of an American Prince / Joseph Kennedy Sr: Father of an American Dynasty / Robert F. Kennedy: His Many Sides / Ted Kennedy: Tragedy, Scandal and Redemption / JFK: Three Shots That Changed America
[DVD extras: None]
Just Like a Woman
Ever wondered what a bleaker Thelma & Louise would like like? If so, what’s wrong with you? But seriously, this drama is about two women (Sienna Miller and Golshifteh Farahani) hitting some serious bumps in the road of life. They both offer up strong performances, but the darkness they face feels a bit contrived on more than one occasion. The family in the RV is particularly egregious.
Blu-ray/DVD extras: Picture gallery, trailer
Louis Sarno (Kris Marshall aka Colin Frissell from Love Actually) lives a dull life in New Jersey where he does little but pine for the days he spent hanging with Pygmies in Central Africa. The discovery that his liver is failing sends him back to the jungle in search of happiness and an elusive musical legend, and while the film works as a character piece it’s also a wise and occasionally beautiful look into a place and people that most of us only know through National Geographic magazines.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Only God Forgives
The director, star, and composer of Drive return for a gorgeous, but absolutely empty “thriller” about revenge, honor, and the Oedipal tension between a man and his twisted mother. It looks and sounds beautiful, but the film is an unrewarding chore that feels like punishment for those of us who actually loved the pacing and themes of Drive.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary with Nicolas Winding Refn, behind the scenes, interviews, music featurette]
Primeval: New World ‐ The Complete Series
The pesky dinosaur portals that ravaged England over the past few years have now started appearing in North America! Luckily there’s a spunky group of Canadians ready to tackle the carnivorous mystery with guns, wit, and the backing of millionaire inventor Evan Cross. Is it forgettable fluff? Sure, but it’s a fun, dinosaur-of-the-week series, and while the CGI creatures aren’t overly impressive they’re more than good enough.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Originally aired on the Syfy Channel, this monster picture is a passable affair thanks almost entirely to its dueling headliners Billy Zane and William Devane. Both men are always fun to watch, especially when they know exactly what kind of film they’re making, and this one about carnivorous leprechaun is no different. The creature is more Pan’s Labyrinth cover art than Warwick Davis, but there’s still a wee bit of fun to be found.
[DVD extras: Commentary]
WWII: 3-Film Collection
The History Channel presents three docs that offer unusual looks at the war that came after the war to end all wars. WWII In HD was the first to feature original color footage from the war, WWII In HD: The Air War drops viewers into some colorful air battles, and WWII From Space uses CGI to show us how the war looked and how it shaped the Earth from the viewpoint of a satellite.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
Action Packed Double Feature: Love and Bullets / Russian Roulette
As Cool As I Am
Dead In Tombstone
John Cassavetes: Five Films (Criterion)