July was a rough month for BVB: Blood, Violence and Babes. It was super hot, which is never good. Our dog and cat both got sick. We forgot to pay the electric bill. It was basically a country song playing out in real time with me as the star. Everything was topsy turvy and nothing happened as it should, not even this column.
To that end, here's a look at all the Blu-Ray and DVD releases this past month with special attention paid to some of the best ones that deserve to get checked out and the ones you should avoid at all cost.
July 1, 2014
Cannibal Holocaust: Deluxe Edition (Grindhouse Releasing, 92 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): So that's what all the fuss was about. It pains me to admit that even as a diehard horror fan, I had never seen the controversial gorefest called “Cannibal Holocaust.”
This deluxe, high-definition collection includes the original 1980 film, unedited and uncensored, with all the animal abuse, innards eating and stomach churning imagery intact.
It's definitely shocking, especially given its time, but it's also an uneven mess of a movie about a movie about a documentary about a group of explores on a search and rescue mission who stumble across a primitive tribe of indigenous people who like their meat fresh off the bone.
I can imagine the uproar “Cannibal Holocaust” caused back in its day, but much like “Faces of Death,” its legend is far more interesting than its actual content.
One positive note, however, is that after watching this, you can't help but be excited for Eli Roth's upcoming homage, “The Green Inferno,” which likely will try to out-gross and out-shock its predecessor, if that's even possible.
Afflicted (Sony, 86 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): A stellar found footage thriller about two friends traveling across Europe and documenting their adventures for an online travel blog. One of the friends hooks up with a woman in Paris and suddenly begins to transform into something feral and dangerous. Much like “Chronicle,” which flipped the genre on its head with incredible special effects that looked much more expensive than a meager found footage budget should be able to afford, “Afflicted” dazzles with creative camera work, insanely inventive stunts and a healthy heaping of blood and gore. I loved it.
The Final Terror (Shout! Factory, 82 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): “The Final Terror,” a strange, long-lost artifact from the early 1980s, directed by the guy who gave us “The Fugitive,” “Above the Law” and “Under Siege,” is a survival thriller with very little actual bloodshed, whose box art makes it look more like an alien abduction thriller. This 1983 gem is the latest release by Scream Factory, which is making fan boys and girls drool with its amazing rollout of cult classic horror films from the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Helix: The Complete First Season (Sony, 530 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): One of the best new shows to debut in quite some time, and the first real original quality programming from the SyFy Channel since the reboot of “Battlestar Galactica.” Not surprisingly, “Helix,” a roller coaster of a pandemic outbreak in the bleak, frozen ravages of the Arctic, was created by Ronald D. Moore, the same guy who gave us “Battlestar.”
Bloody Birthday and Bloody Moon (Severin Films, 85 minutes and 90 minutes, R and Unrated, Blu-Ray): Two slices of vintage horror arrive courtesy of Severin Films. “Bloody Birthday” from 1981 is a crazy killer kids flick about a trio of special children born at the same moment during a full eclipse. Borrowing liberally from slashers like “Halloween,” “Bloody Birthday” wastes no time going full-bore gonzo as the kids begin slaughtering adults with glee. Twisted and entertaining, it has definitely held up well despite its age. “Bloody Moon,” also from 1981, is a Spanish shocker from famed director Jess Franco. It makes zero sense and flip-flops repeatedly between gothic soap opera and inspired gore, but it's a hoot to watch.
Scavenger Killers (Cinedigm, 100 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Interesting take on a pair of crazed sociopaths who randomly select victims to eviscerate in between bouts of torrid sex. The twist here is that the killers are a male judge and a female prosecutor who constantly try to one-up each other in the savagery of their kills.
No Vacancy (Lionsgate, 81 minutes, R, DVD): Much better than expected. This twist on the “Vacancy” franchise introduces a clever, if incredulous, group of sociopaths who gruesomely dispatch some insufferable twenty-somethings traveling to Las Vegas.
The Unknown Known
Once Upon a Time in Vietnam
Star Trek The Next Generation: The Sixth Season
Star Trek The Next Generation: Chain of Command
Monster High: Clawesome Double Feature
A Young Doctor's Notebook: Season One
Wild Brazil: Land of Fire and Flood
July 8, 2014
Sabotage (Universal, 110 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Poor Arnold. The big guy's return to Hollywood in his post-Governor days has not been a smooth, or profitable, enterprise.
He's toplined some so-so films with the best of the bunch being “The Last Stand,” but his latest, “Sabotage,” makes even writer-director David Ayer look incompetent, particularly coming off the impressive “End of Watch.”
Schwarzenegger tries hard, though, but he's undermined at every turn by a who's who cast of undercover DEA agents that includes some top talent (Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Sam Worthington, Terence Howard and Mireille Enos) who happen to play the most unlikeable bunch of cops ever put on screen.
Arnold's team all have cool nicknames, but that's about as far as cool gets them. They're basically a gang, a bunch of law-breaking thugs, who have little regard for authority or responsibility.
“Sabotage” is just not very much fun, even for a mindless action shoot-em-up. You don't care who lives and who dies. It's loud, brash and, ultimately, boring.
Stage Fright (Magnolia Pictures, 88 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): It's “Glee” meets “Scream” in this mildly enjoyable, if underwhelming, slasher set at a music camp. The songs are kind of funny. The killer is kind of cool. The death scenes could be better. The ending is pretty ridiculous. But hey, it's got Meat Loaf in a main role.
How It All Began
Walker: Texas Ranger – One Riot One Ranger
Nymphomaniac: Volume I and II
42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. 3
July 15, 2014
Under the Skin (Lionsgate, 108 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): I can only imagine that watching “Under the Skin” today is as close as I will ever come to the mind-blown exuberance that audiences must have felt watching “2001: A Space Odyssey” in 1968.
It's unbelievably transcendent. It's confounding. It's delirious and visually delicious and that's even before the final 10 minutes when – holy hell – your barn doors are literally blown wide open by one of the most jaw-dropping cinematic moments in recent memory.
I loved it. Loved, loved, loved it.
This is the kind of filmmaking without a net that makes movies such a palpable medium. “Under the Skin” sticks to your bones and your brain. It's impossible to shake. It challenges you to reconsider everything you've just seen.
Scarlett Johansson is brilliant in the title role as a nameless alien who cruises the rain slick streets and wide open countryside of Scotland, searching for men to seduce and lure back to…I don't even know what or where she takes them, but it's like an inky black womb of intergalactic goo that absorbs them and then literally sucks the very existence out of them before culminating in what I can only describe as the miracle of rebirth.
I've since watched “Under the Skin” three more times and each time I discover something new, a different perspective that helps clarify a point that bedeviled me.
Some people will hate it. They won't be able to get past the sparse dialogue and loosely constructed narrative. But for those who give over to the ride, and let the visual, visceral rush of imagery and imagination transport them to a world where anything is possible, “Under the Skin” will quickly vault to the top of your favorites list. The Raid 2: Berandal (Sony, 150 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Director Gareth Evans and martial artist extraordinaire Iko Uwais continue the story of Rama, a seemingly indestructible Indonesian cop who literally beats, maims, kills and crushes his way through hundreds of crime world underlings, big bosses and equally skilled henchman and henchwomen. This is the sequel to “The Raid: Redemption,” which is arguably the best action movie ever made, period, and as a follow-up, there is some noticeable let-down from the nonstop carnage and claustrophobia of the first film.
“The Raid 2: Berandal” expands the playing field, taking Rama's fight to the streets, but by increasing its scope and taking long stretches to introduce dramatic elements and subplots, the sequel loses some of the intensity and relentless energy that made the first film such an adrenaline rush.
It's fair to say that “The Raid 2” could be trimmed easily by 45 minutes and audiences would not notice. A condensed version of this film that serves more to spotlight the unbelievable carnage that Uwais dishes out and Evans' camera perfectly captures would be damn near perfect. The fights are definitely on par with “The Raid: Redemption,” and a couple, including the climatic big showdown rival the best moments of the first film.
If you loved “The Raid: Redemption,” you will thoroughly enjoy this sequel. If you never saw “The Raid: Redemption,” hopefully “Beranthal” will encourage you to immediately go out and rent it.
Sx_Tape (Well Go USA, 85 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): From a producer of “Paranormal Activity and Insidious” and the director of “Candyman.” I'm beginning to think that anytime a film has to namecheck the past accomplishments of its creative team, it should be avoided at all costs.
“Sx_Tape” is neither sexy nor particularly erotic. It's a basic, by the numbers 'four friends decide to check out an abandoned psychiatric hospital' thriller that spotlights unlikeable characters doing dumb, dumb things as they get picked off one by one.
Much like the recorded antics of Screech and Ray J, this is one sex tape that should never be seen.
Jodorowsky's Dune (Sony, 90 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): Fascinating and thrilling, this top-notch documentary truly leaves the impression that a possible cinematic masterpiece was shelved for no good reason in favor of a lesser, inferior work.
Before “Star Wars” ever tickled the imagination of George Lucas, acclaimed cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky (The Holy Mountain, El Topo) assembled the most all-star team imaginable for an epic film version of Frank Herbert's Dune.
Seriously, the level of talent that Jodorowsky pursued and wooed and convinced to take part is staggering: Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, Pink Floyd, H.R. Giger, Mick Jagger, Dan O'Bannon, and the list goes on.
Of course, studio executives fretted that Jodorowsky was too much of a gamble. The eccentric, psychedelic, surrealist auteur refused to budge from his vision, and he ultimately lost his quest to make his version of “Dune.” Instead, fans got David Lynch's “Dune” and we all know how that turned out.
Deadly Eyes (Shout! Factory, 90 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): The 1982 cult classic “Deadly Eyes,” based on a pulp horror thriller by author James Herbert called “The Rats,” is a hysterically cheesy B-movie that encapsulates the beauty of early 1980s horror.
There were no rules. Plot continuity and gaping plot holes didn't matter. It was all about pushing the limits of what audiences had come to expect. In this case, hundreds of mutated, giant, killer rats attack New York City with a fervor. They even eat a baby – a baby! Who would have the stones today to put that in a feature film that gets released in theaters?
One subplot involves a high school teacher being pursued by a Lolita-esque student who breaks into his apartment and shows up naked in his bed. Another subplot involves the same teacher fast-forwarding into a relationship with a female health inspector who somehow shows up in the same day at two random locations where the teacher is with his son, then calls the teacher and asks him out, then returns to her apartment where she has a wall of creepy ventriloquist dolls, then shows up at his apartment just in time to find the aforementioned underage student leaving the teacher's bedroom. The shame!
All the while, the giant rats, which look like small dogs dressed up in rat costumes, which is entirely possible given this was well before CGI existed, skitter across the city devouring all the human flesh they can find. Seriously tasty cheese that you need to seek out if you've never seen it.
Open Grave (Cinedigm, 102 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): A variation on the zombie genre that actually tries something different, “Open Grave” gets credit for its unique approach to the walking dead. It's a good, but not great, film overall, but Sharlito Copley's lead performance helps lessen the impact of several long stretches of slow plot progression.
A Day Late and A Dollar Short
How the West Was Won: The Complete Second Season
Lake Placid: Collector's Edition
The Class of '92
Black Dynamite: Season One
Hercules: Hero, God, Warrior
100 Years of WWI
Hell on Wheels: The Complete Third Season
Cedar Cove: Season One
July 22, 2014
Blue Ruin (Anchor Bay, 90 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): “Blue Ruin” is a devastating and crackling revenge thriller that wastes very little time and/or energy idling. It roars out of the screen from the opening sequence and maintains its momentum all the way through its bloody, inevitable conclusion.
This one deserves your time.
Transcendence (Warner Bros., 118 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): Beware the Johnny Interdepp.
Director Wally Pfister, the camera eye guru behind most of Christopher Nolan's best films, takes center stage and completely fumbles the ball. This rambling, talk-heavy slice of sci-fi ho-hum wants to be epic and grand and ahead of its time with its detailed discussions about the implications and possibility of merging human consciousness with a motherboard and the worldwide devastation that a sentient super-computer would wreak.
Hey Wally, they already made this movie, and much better, way back in 1992. It was called “The Lawnmower Man.” You should check it out.
In fact, anyone who spends more than five seconds contemplating renting “Transcendence” should do the same. Just rent “The Lawnmower Man” instead. You can thank me later.
The Wind Will Carry Us: 15th Anniversary Edition
Wahlburgers: The Complete First Season
Sector 4: Extraction
The Angriest Man in Brooklyn
Dalziel & Pascoe: Season Ten
Tyler Perry's The Single Mom's Club
James Clavell's Shogun
July 29, 2014
The Protector 2 (Magnolia Pictures, 105 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Tony Jaa is a serious butt kicker who goes on a bone-crunching, martial arts crusade to save his beloved elephant that is stolen and turned into a bomb by the evil RZA.
Nope, you read that right, and you know you totally want to watch it.
Noah (Paramount, 138 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): I learned several things watching Darren Aronofsky's passion project, “Noah.”
The Bible failed to mention the awesome rock monsters, OK, fallen angels humbled by God, who helped build the Ark.
Noah was kind of a big A-hole.
Methuselah really liked berries.
Sometimes, we all need a close friend to tell us that while passion projects may ignite and consume our creative fervor, they don't all need to be made.
Legendary (Lionsgate, 92 minutes, PG-13, DVD): Dolph Lundgren battling a prehistoric sea lizard? Oh yeah. Count me in.
The Ong Bak Trilogy
Adventure Time: Princess Day
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics
Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery and the Missing Pieces