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Welcome to another time, another place, and a world where rock ’n’ roll meets the American Western alongside an infusion of rockabilly gangsters and neon living. Pop icon Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) has been kidnapped by the leader of the Bombers, Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe). Her only hope is an ex-boyfriend turned mercenary, Tom Cody (Michael Paré).
While wrapped in peculiar details, this oddball action/drama/musical is actually a pretty straightforward tale plot-wise, and it’s those details that make it stand apart. Well, the details, the cast, and the songs. The lead trio is joined by Rick Moranis, Bill Paxton, Amy Madigan, and other recognizable faces, and the songs are catchy as all hell. The UK’s Second Sight is releasing this Walter Hill cult classic to Blu-ray for the first time, and while I can’t personally vouch for the disc’s picture and sound, the label has a strong track record and the inclusion of a new, 80-minute documentary on the film is an incredibly intriguing extra.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Documentary, press kit, music videos] *This is a region-B release and requires an all-region player to be played in the US.*
Pitch: “The Definitive Story of the Greatest Band That Never Made It” Um, a band called Death may have something to say about that…
Big Star was a band that found immense critical acclaim across its three album releases throughout the ’70s but couldn’t quite make the same connection with audiences. That was the impression anyway, but as the years passed a growing affection for the group and their music was discovered among both traditional fans and those who would go on to become musicians in their own right. R.E.M., The Replacements, The Flaming Lips, and others are just a few of the groups who acknowledge Big Star as one of their biggest influences.
Drew DeNicola’s documentary is lightweight in the sense that it’s devoid of grand revelations, won’t change the way you think on a given subject, and won’t open your eyes to unknown world events, but there’s a pure entertainment and joy to it all the same. I won’t pretend I was cool enough to have already been familiar with Big Star’s output (aside from liking the opening credits song from That ’70s Show of course), but the doc opened my eyes and ears to their finely crafted melodies and lyrics. More than just a pop music primer though, the film offers a look at the varying personalities that made up the band and were both responsible for its failures as well as its eventual success.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, trailer]
Christian (James Deen) is living the high life with his trust fund and his girlfriend, Tara (Lindsey Lohan), but it all goes off the rails when he discovers she’s been cheating with a young actor. Neither the talent offscreen (Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis) nor the lack of it onscreen can prepare you for just how dull, poorly acted, and ridiculous this movie actually is. Sadly, it’s not ridiculous in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way, and the film limply plods along believing in all its heart that it’s a truly edgy endeavor. Skip it and watch Lawrence Kasdan’s Grand Canyon instead.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, trailer]
A most improbable group of strangers come together on a mountain hike, but their journey into nature turns into a vicious nightmare when every manner of beast begins to assault these bipedal invaders. It seems mankind’s casual abuse of the planet’s ozone layer has revealed the murderous side of the mountain’s furry, feathered, and scaly inhabitants. Director William Girdler follows his “killer animal” classic Grizzly with this goofy but charming ’70s romp.
Christopher George, Leslie Nielsen, and Richard Jaeckel co-star in this ecological horror film that deserves a spot alongside other fun, man vs nature flicks like The Prophecy and Orca. If nothing else, watching Nielsen’s descent into a one-man Lord of the Flies scenario is tons of fun. I can’t vouch for the image/sound quality of Scorpion’s remastered Blu-ray though.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, trivia, music-only track]
Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) is forced by an anonymous voice on the radio to cause vehicular mayhem in Bulgaria if he ever wants to see his wife again, and if that wasn’t bad enough he’s also forced to ride around with Selena Gomez. This is a ridiculous movie in every way, but two elements combine to make it worth a watch for folks with too much time on their hand. First, there’s a spectacular unbroken shot late in the film that reinforces how unimpressive the rest of the action is here. And two, the immense stupidity of it all leads to several unintentional bouts of laughter.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Max Jenke (Brion James) has killed over a hundred people, and now he’s paying the price with a date in the electric chair. Before he dies though he promises the cop (Lance Henriksen) who caught him that he’ll be back. Something goes awry with the execution, and while Jenke’s body is charred and declared dead, the killer continues killing from the other side.
This late ’80s slasher borrows a bit (atmosphere, score, etc) from films like A Nightmare on Elm Street but never quite finds its own voice. There are some fun effects, but the story and scares amount to very little. Skip it and watch Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead instead.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, trailer]
Who doesn’t love a Renaissance Fair? Everyone, obviously, but George Romero’s least Romero-ish film follows the fair’s denizens as they roll around on motorcycles and vie for attention from audiences and each other. Ed Harris takes charge as the King Arthur-like leader who finds a challenger in Tom Savini for his “throne” and all that it represents. Fans will most definitely want to pick up Shout! Factory’s new Blu-ray as it looks great and features some fine special features, but for the rest of us the film doesn’t quite carry its 145-minute runtime very well.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, trailer]
Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) and his friends have tried yet again to leave the C.I.A. behind, but their success rate remains the same. Tasked with stopping an impending attack, the gang (John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren) rallies together and heads back into the fray. The first film managed an entertaining balance between the action and the laughs, but this sad excuse for a sequel tries way too hard on the comedy side of things. Worse, none of it is funny. South Korea’s Lee Byung-hun does well with his brief scenes, but they’re not enough of a reason to watch the entire thing. Skip it and watch Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Red instead.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, gag reel, deleted scenes]
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
Bill Cosby: Far From Finished
Breaking Bad: The Final Season
Murdoch Mysteries: Season 6
Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman (Criterion)