Welcome back to This Week In Discs!
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Silent Night, Bloody Night
Jeffrey Butler has arrived in the small town his family called home to check out the house he’s inherited, but someone else has gotten there first! That someone is Butler’s lawyer, who’s arrived to finalize a deal and maybe squeeze in some infidelity with his sexy squeeze in an upstairs bedroom, but his coitus is interrupted by the discovery that someone else has gotten there first! That someone has an ax.
This low budget slasher premiered in the early ’70s, and while CodeRed apparently released a restored version as a double feature a couple months ago this new DVD from Film Chest is my first glimpse of the movie. It suffers from low budget woes, some serious ones at times, but if you can get past them you’ll find a fresh little tale that offers some genuinely creepy scenes alongside an interesting script. Again, it’s cheap as hell, but there’s a lot to love here for horror fans.
[DVD extras: None]
Big: 25th Anniversary Edition
Pitch: “Have you ever had a really big secret?” It involves finding an adult man’s penis in your pants…
Josh Baskin isn’t enjoying his childhood as much as he probably should, and more than anything else he wishes he was already big like an adult. Bam! The next morning sees Josh (Tom Hanks) awaken as a full grown man, but he’s still a kid inside leading to some unexpected adventures involving 9 to 5 jobs, responsibilities, and the opposite sex.
Penny Marshall’s second film as director remains her biggest hit (something she hasn’t had in almost two decades), but more importantly it remains a fun and smart comedy about the pains and joys of growing up. Hanks obviously nails it with a performance that finds the required innocence in his expressions and behaviors. There are several memorable scenes (the piano, the bunk beds, etcs), but it’s the film’s heart that beats just as strong even 25 years later.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Theatrical & extended cuts, deleted scenes, featurettes, musical slipcover]
Fast & Furious 6
Pitch: “All roads lead to this.” But they most certainly don’t end here…
Brian (Paul Walker) and Dom (Vin Diesel) have been living it up after their massive heist in Rio, but the one thing they don’t have is immunity and the option to return home to the United States. (That’s actually two things.) Their former adversary, a buff lawman named Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), offers them a chance at redemption if they agree to help capture a master of vehicular mayhem (Luke Evans).
The recent tragedy resulting in the death of Walker (and his friend Roger Rodas) has cast a dark shadow over what should be a celebratory release. This ridiculous franchise has somehow surpassed everyone’s expectations to not only grow more entertaining but also far more profitable, and this latest installment is big, beefy, nutty fun. It’s worth buying for the movie itself, but if you’re on the fence the fact that a portion of Universal’s proceeds will be going to Walker’s charity, Reach Out Worldwide should be enough to help make up your mind.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes, making of, deleted scenes]
Pitch: “The Lie Is Spreading” So be sure to wash your hands after playing with the children…
Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) has recently separated from his wife, and his career is at a bit of a standstill. He accepts an offer to help out in the local kindergarten where he’s beloved by the children and teachers alike, but an accusation surfaces that sends his life into a spiral of doubt, rage, and fear.
This is one of the year’s best films due in part to it featuring one of the year’s best performances. Mikkelsen shows an unfamiliar softer side before things go sideways and he’s forced into an emotional corner. The dueling rage and restraint he shows is a living creation that anchors the film’s drama in electric ways. Thomas Vinterberg crafts a terrifying look at mob mentality and the paralyzing loneliness that comes with being targeted at the center of a very real nightmare.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, alternate ending, making of, trailer]
Man of Tai Chi
Pitch: “No Rules. No Mercy. Pure Fighting.” You. Will. Owe. Keanu. A. Life…
Chen (Tiger Hu Chen) works hard for a meager living, but when an offer comes along to take part in the lucrative world of underground fighting he discovers a seemingly easy road to the high life. The man responsible for the offer, Donaka Mark (Keanu Reeves), soon wants more of Chen than he’s willing to give leading to a face-off of martial arts styles and flat emoting.
Reeves makes his directorial debut here, and while there’s definite room for improvement when it comes to the story and such he shows an immense knack for the action side of things. The multiple fight scenes, choreographed by the legendary Yuen Wo Ping, feature some of the year’s best action, and Reeves even acquits himself fairly well in that regard. Imagine the blissful fun of Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-li infused with spectacular fight action, and then sit back and enjoy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of]
Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project (Criterion)
Pitch: No, this isn’t a box set of The Departed/Infernal Affairs…
Classic Western cinephilia has had a history of relegating particular non-Western nations and regions to only a few canonized directors: Japanese greats like Kurosawa and Ozu for some time stood in for all of East Asia, while Satyajit Ray and Ousmane Sembene represented South Asia and Africa respectively. The Criterion Collection itself can be taken to task for perpetuating such a reductive lens on the cinematic world outside of Western Europe and the United States. Martin Scorsese’s founding of the World Cinema Project in 2007 attempts to remedy this problem head-on by restoring great international works that have heretofore been seen by too few eyes for one reason or another. And now Criterion has released six films restored by the WCP: Djibril Diop Mambety’s Touki Bouki (1973) from Senegal, Emilio Gomez Muriel’sRedes (1936) from Mexico, Ritwik Ghatak’s A River Called Atlas from India (1973), Metin Erksan’s Dry Summer (1964) from Turkey, Ahmed El Maanouni’s Trances (1981) from Morocco, and Kim Ki-young’s The Housemaid (1960) from South Korea.
This impressive set culls together an incredibly diverse intersection of films unified only by their shared marginalization, and provides a fantastic introduction to a world of cinema that has too often been unacknowledged by restorations, commercial releases, and film history books. These are films that don’t fit the typical frameworks of film history, a history-behind-the-history if you will (for instance, Mambety had no formal training, Ghatak wasn’t appreciated during his lifetime, and Kim gained a cult following only decades after his work). As such, there’s an urgent moral impetus underlying this rich collection ‐ a tangible sense of the reality that great works can be erased simply by negligence. I hope this release means specialty labels like Criterion will continue searching for lost masterpieces through an ever-expanding view of “world cinema.” ‐ Landon Palmer
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Introductions by Scorsese for each title, Interviews or video essays by filmmakers and critics for each title, new English subtitle translations, an illustrated booklet with essays accompanying each title]
Pitch: “Killers have never been so average.” Romance has never been so blackly comedic…
Chris (Steve Oram) and Tina (Alice Lowe) are a couple of socially awkward individuals who find comfort in each other’s company. They get each other, and they get along, so when he invites her on a road trip across England in his caravan she of course says yes. And then people start dying. The annoying people, the rude people, the ones you’ve secretly wished would suffer an agonizing death just for littering, and Tina begins to wonder if maybe she’s made a big mistake.
I say this as a huge fan of Kill List, but this may actually be director Ben Wheatley’s best film so far. It’s so simple and unassuming, but before you know it the film becomes one of the funniest and darkest road movies you’ve ever seen. Oram and Lowe carry it with understated but perfectly suited comedic performances, the deaths offer up some gory fun, and the script doesn’t quite end up where you expected.
[DVD extras: None]
Lil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright) have been best friends since they were children, but the first real challenge to their friendship comes after Lil’s husband dies. No, that’s not the problem. The conflict arises when each of the women start sleeping with the other’s 18 year old son (Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville). This of course causes problems between the previously tight boys too. Drama! Oh, and it stars Ben Mendelsohn as the cuckold too.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Michael Walker (Harry Connick Jr.) is no fan of Christmas. A childhood tragedy left him unmoved by the holiday, and now with a wife (Connie Britton) and child of his own he insists their house be free of decoration. Then Willie Nelson sells him a house. This is lightweight holiday fare that seems to have been made solely as something to do in Austin, TX. It’s as intent on pushing Salt Lick BBQ as it is the idea that Christmas lights are the one true sign of holiday spirit.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Battle of the Year
I’m a strong advocate of separating the art from the artist meaning I can still enjoy Mel Gibson movies regardless of the dumb things he says in the real world, but a line has to be drawn somewhere, and that line is Chris Brown (Victor Salva is well beyond that line obviously). That’s not to imply that this B-Boy dance flick would have been any better without Brown’s involvement of course. Fans of these kinds of choreographed shenanigans will probably enjoy it though.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, extended dance sequences]
Cult Movie Marathon: Volume Two
Like biker flicks? Here’s Angels from Hell! Like women in prison flicks? Here’s The Naked Cage! Like Linda Blair narrating a T&A action flick? Here’s Savage Island! But who am I kidding. This set is worth buying for one movie alone, and that’s Chatterbox. Why? Because it’s about a woman whose vagina starts talking and singing eventually leading to a recording contract and the cover of Time Magazine. So, there’s that.
[DVD extras: None]
Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor ‐ 50th Anniversary Special
Artwork that comes to life and escapes London’s National Art Gallery is the least of the problems faced by the good Doctor in this anniversary special that sees a few of Who’s incarnations meeting face to face through time. Throw in the Daleks, Queen Elizabeth, John Hurt and more, and you have 75 minutes of joy for the show’s fans. As someone who hasn’t watched the series since the Tom Baker days though I just couldn’t get into the goofy tone and sketchy effects work.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, behind the scenes, mini-episodes, trading cards]
Fanny Hill / The Phantom Gunslinger
Vinegar Syndrome is a tiny label, but they put more love into their releases than most of their bigger contemporaries. That trend continues here with restorations of two mostly forgotten films from the ’60s, but an excellent presentation is no guarantee of the actual movie’s quality. Exhibit A is Russ Meyer’s slapstick adaptation of the erotic classic, Fanny Hill. It’s mildly titillating, but unlike the heaving bosoms almost all of the laughs fall flat. Exhibit B is a comedic western called The Phantom Gunslinger, but as with the first film the comedy is pretty much absent.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, interview, reversible cover]
Futurama: Volume 8
Fry and the gang are back for more future-set action, hilarity, and galactic consequences. The show has moved around over the years, but the one constant has been a steady stream of gags, character antics, and smart comedy. There are still a lot of laughs to be found in these new episodes, but I’m always hard-pressed to recommend purchasing TV show releases that aren’t complete seasons. These 13 episodes constitute half of the seventh season, so proceed accordingly.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, deleted scenes, making of, featurette]
Gao (Jay Chou) lives a happy go lucky life above the town of Galilee where he gets to sing, dance, and leave his shirt unbuttoned all day long, but a chance meeting with a lovely lady gives him something to be truly excited for. This of course leads to more singing, dancing, and shirtless shenanigans. Chou also directs this colorful romp, and while it lacks weight it should appeal to fans of Bollywood films and Baz Luhrmann.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Trailer]
Saving General Yang
The illustrious General Yang has been captured by the Khitan army, and the only hope of rescue comes in the form of his seven sons. The young men join up with a handful of other warriors and head into battle against an army numbering in the thousands. The glut of Chinese period films have rendered many of them indistinguishable from each other, but this one stands out for its somewhat less traditional plot and some impressive battle scenes. An early arrow assault is especially exciting.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, trailer]
The Seasoning House
Ignore the marketing on this one, and by that I mean both the ad copy and the blurb, as there is no revenge here, ingenious or otherwise. There is brutality though as the film’s first hour is a grim look at sex slaves in the Balkans and the final thirty is all about survival. That first stretch is a chore to watch, but props go to the film’s effects department as the gore work is fantastic.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, trailer]
Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a massage therapist who, rather inconveniently, suddenly becomes unable to touch or be touched by others. Her brother (Josh Pais) meanwhile is a mild-mannered dentist who discovers that his hands hold the power to heal. Writer/director Lynn Shelton’s dramatic comedy toys with some interesting ideas, but it never quite comes together into an engaging whole. The cast, which also includes Ron Livingston, Scoot McNairy, Ellen Page, and Allison Janney, is fantastic though.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Outtakes, deleted scenes, interviews, featurette, commentary, trailer]
TV Terrors: The Initiation of Sarah / Are You In the House Alone?
Scream Factory delivers a double feature of made for TV movies, and while neither will blow your socks off both offer up some entertainment. The Initiation of Sarah is a riff of sorts on Carrie goes to college, while Are You In the House Alone? plays like a creepy After School Special about the dangers of rape. Shelley Winters overacts, Morgan Fairchild plays a bitch, and Dennis Quaid acts inappropriately.
[DVD extras: None]
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
Berberian Sound Studio
The Big Gundown
Cult Movie Marathon
Despicable Me 2
Grey Gardens (Criterion)
Jayne Mansfield’s Car
Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition
Post Tenebras Lux
The Snake God