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DVD Reviews For 10/27: "Well, That's Cast A Gloom On The Evening!"
by Peter Sobczynski

Jeez, from the amount of horror-related titles included in this round-up of newly available DVD/Blu-ray releases, you would think that Halloween was fast approaching or something.


AFTER EARTH (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): In what proved to be one of the most ridiculous vanity projects to hit the screen in years, Will Smith and son/education expert Jaden starred in the bit of future schlock in which they crash-land on Earth, which was abandoned a thousand years earlier, and the later is forced to confront any number of nasty creatures in his attempt to contact a rescue party. The younger Smith is obnoxious and unlikable throughout, the older spends most of his time confined to the wreckage of their ship while muttering aphorisms that sound like a combination of Scientology and Bazooka Joe gum wrappers. Working more or less as a hired gun this time around, co-writer/director M. Night Shyamalan can't even summon up the enthusiasm to make something as absurdly awful as "The Village" or "The Happening"--he seems as utterly bored with the material and his stars as you will be.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM (Fox Home Entertainment. $49.98): For all of you who thought that there was no way that the second season of this F/X horror series could possibly top the first in terms of sheer weirdness and perversion, Ryan Murphy and company certainly proved you wrong with this storyline set in a home for the criminally insane run by a monstrous nun (Jessica Lange) and dealing with, among other things, rape, mutilation, demonic possession, aliens and a serial killer known as Bloody Face whose sartorial leanings might have caused even Hannibal Lecter himself to lose his fava beans. Whether it is brilliant or exploitative trash is in the eye of the beholder, but it is something that, once seen, is not easily forgotten. Other TV-related titles now available include "90210: The Fifth Season" (Paramount Home Video. $49.99), "Bones: The Complete Eighth Season" (Fox Home Entertainment. $59.98)[/i/, "Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 2B: The Complete Series" (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.95), "Hart of Dixie: The Complete Second Season" (Warner Home Video. $59.98), "Nikita: The Complete Third Season" (Warner Home Video. $59.98), "Primeval New World: The Complete Series" (E1 Entertainment. $29.98), "The Untold History of the United States" (Warner Home Video. $49.99) and "White Collar: Season Four" (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.98).

BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): Nine years older and somewhat wiser than when we last saw them, Celine and Jesse (Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke), who met in 1995's "Before Sunrise" and reunited in 2004's "Before Sunset," are back for another extended bout of talking about their hopes, fears and dreams, not to mention the increasingly complex nature of their relationship. Considering that the previous films in this loose trilogy were among the best screen romances (although they were more than just that) of recent times, it would seem almost impossible for a film to top them and yet this one manages to do just that thanks to beautifully fluid direction from Richard Linklater (who also did the earlier films), a wonderfully smart and incisive screenplay and performances from Hawke and Delpy that are so convincing and deeply felt that they really and truly feel like a genuine couple. One of the best films of 2013.

THE CONJURING (Warner Home Video. $28.98): In a summer that saw one big-budget behemoth after another fail to inspire much excitement in their audiences, one of the few that really connected with viewers was this masterful old-school spook story, loosely inspired by actual events, about a once-happy family who have run afoul of a particularly vindictive spirit inside the rambling old house they have just moved into and the pair of married paranormal investigators (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) who try to rid them of it before it is too late. Instead of blasting audiences with elaborate special effects sequences, this decidedly low-fi haunted house tale from James Wan (who previously did the equally impressive and surprising "Insidious" as well as its lackluster sequel) prefers to creep out viewers with a deft use of shadows, an incredibly detailed soundscape, strong performances across the board and yes, some of the most ridiculously effective "BOO!" shocks in recent memory.

CORRUPTION (Grindhouse Entertainment. $29.95): One of the ickier films that you have probably never seen, if only because this DVD marks its first-ever legitimate home video release in the U.S., this 1967 horror film stars the legendary Peter Cushing as a brilliant surgeon whose fashion model wife is grotesquely disfigured in an accident and who decides to process his grief over her misfortune by engaging in wholesale slaughter of various beautiful hippie types in an effort to restore her looks. I remember seeing the trailer for this movie at some horror convention a few years ago and thinking that it could not possibly live up to that preview but man, does it ever live up to it and then some. That trailer, by the way, is one of a slew of extras that also includes extra helpings of nudity and gore considered too shocking for American audiences, production documents including the shooting script belonging to director Robert Hartford-David, and, to quote the packaging, "OTHER SURPRISES!"

THE CURSE OF CHUCKY (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Although one of the sillier maniacal killers in horror film history--is it really possible to terrified of a doll that looks like a drunken Cabbage Patch Kid and sounds like B-b-billy from "Cuckoo's Nest"?--homicidal plaything Chucky has proven to be a surprisingly resilient slasher icon and is up to his old tricks in this new effort that finds him, having apparently shed Jennifer Tilly along the way, wreaking havoc on a new set of people for barely understandable reasons. Yes, this direct-to-video item is really stupid but to be perfectly fair, it is no worse than any of the others in the series and is actually better than some of those that actually received theatrical distribution.

EMBRACE OF THE VAMPIRE (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $24.95): Apparently lingering under the mistaken impression that people have been rewatching the 1995 softcore horror semi-classic of the same name because of its intricate plotting and not because it gave viewers a chance to see Alyssa Milano naked and unashamed (at least until she saw the final film, of course), some people had the bright idea of remaking the story of a sheltered young woman who goes off to college and becomes seduced by a slick vampire type with a cast that is absolutely 100% Milano-free. (What--couldn't she have played the photographer?) The end result is no stupider than before but without the lure of celebrity flesh, my guess is that most people will skip over this one entirely and stick with the original. Making things easier in that regard, what should be making its Blu-ray debut but the original "Embrace of the Vampire" (New Line Home Entertainment. $19.95) in all its lurid and freeze-framable glory.

THE HANGOVER PART III (Warner Home Video. $28.98): The first two "Hangover" movies are among the least-amusing comedies that I have ever seen but they at least made some vague token effort to be funny. For this unspeakably lazy conclusion to the most unnecessary trilogy of recent times, the plot is more or less the same (although there are no actual hangovers to be had) but there are long stretches of time in which the film isn't even trying to be funny, unless you consider the idea of a plainly bored Bradley Cooper, Zach Galiafianakis and Ed Helms coasting through their parts to be inherently hilarious.

THE HEAT (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): A.K.A. The movie that you'll wish featured Sandra Bullock and her co-star floating around in space with no hope of rescue. Trust me, spending two hours driving around Lake Zurich is infinitely more appealing that slogging through this obnoxiously buddy cop spectacular in which she and co-star Melissa McCarthy strike zero comedic sparks together.

I MARRIED A WITCH (The Criterion Collection. $29.95): This absolutely delightful 1942 screwball comedy-fantasy from Rene Clair, arguably the high stars Veronica Lake, in one of her best performances, as a witch who, after cursing all future male descendants of the Puritan who condemned her to be burned at the stake a few centuries earlier (she got better), finds herself unexpectedly falling in love with one (Frederic March) and using her powers, supernatural and otherwise, to tear him away from his spoiled fiancee (Susan Hayward). Although the special features on this disc may not be numerous, they make up for it in value--an archival audio interview with Clair and a booklet featuring another Clair interview and an appreciation of the man and his work by Guy Maddin. If you are looking for a cinematic Halloween treat but have no interest in blood or scares, this is the perfect choice.

THE INTERNSHIP (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.99): Arguably the most shameless example of cinematic product placement since the legendary "Mac & Me" ("Harley Davidson & the Marlboro Man" does not count by virtue of its sheer awesomeness), this desperately unfunny comedy finds Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as a couple of down-on-their-luck dopes who hope to turn their career paths around by competing with tech-savvy whiz kids half their age for jobs at Google, depicted here as a workplace so glorious that it makes Shangri-La look like Wisconsin. Stupid, senseless and sexist in equal measure, my guess is that most viewers, after enduring Vaughn's increasingly irritating motor-mouth routine and Wilson's palpable sense of utter boredom, will respond to the proceedings by making a mental note to switch over to Bing as soon as they get back to their computers.

JUST LIKE A WOMAN (Cohen Media. $24.98): Sienna Miller and Golshifteh Farahani play a couple of women who become friends when they decide to break free of their humdrum existences by taking up belly-dancing. Alas, as I was slightly distracted by the stuff involving Sienna Miller belly-dancing, I failed to pay much attention to the rest of the film to offer any sort of value judgement. However, I will try watching it another six or seven times or so and get back to you with any further developments.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.98): Shot in a couple of weeks during a lull in the production of "The Avengers" with his own home as the central location and members of the unofficial repertory troupe of actors he has gathered over the years, Joss Whedon tackles the Bard with this modern-day take of his popular comedy about the intricacies of love with the eternally feuding Beatrice and Benedick (Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof) at its center. Although contemporary stagings of Shakespeare's work can be pretty horrifying in the wrong hands, this one is actually a surprisingly effective production that wisely concentrates its efforts on the chemistry between the actors, all of whom are quite good, and on the still-witty byplay than on an elaborate staging.

ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Starz/Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $24.99): Not even God herself could forgive this savagely violent and achingly pretentious reunion of actor Ryan Gosling and writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn (who previously collaborated on the excellent "Drive") that finds Gosling as a mid-level criminal in Thailand whose carefully cultivated life of brooding is thrown into upheaval when his crime boss mother (Kristen Scott Thomas) demands that he avenge the murder of his older and apparently better brother, who was killed simply for savagely killing an underage prostitute with his own bare hands. Pretty much a failure on every possible level and so pointlessly brutal that even gorehounds will be turned off by the bloodshed, the only point of interest to be had is the frothing-mad performance by Thomas, a display of overacting so determinedly demented that it can only be regarded as some bizarre practical joke on her part.

PACIFIC RIM (Warner Home Video. $28.98): In this enormously expensive homage to the Godzilla movies of old, Guillermo del Toro presents a tale in which mankind is threatened by enormous alien creatures who have come up from the sea in order to destroy everything in their path and defends itself from extinction via an elite fighting force of equally gigantic manned robots. That sounds awesome, to be sure, and del Toro has both the imagination and the technical expertise to bring the battles to eye-popping life but after a while, the battles are so relentless that even the giddiest of viewers will eventually find themselves growing weary of the whole thing. It looks incredible and is undeniably ambitious but if you ever wanted a prime example of the concept of "too much of a good thing," this movie will more than fit the bill.

THE PURGE (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): When this low-budget horror thriller positing that in the future, no doubt as a direct result of Obamacare, America will designate one night each year as a period when any and all crime is legal (though few seem to take advantage of the opportunity to order sushi and not pay) opened last May with little fanfare, it went on to be one of the biggest unexpected hits of the summer season. Since the film itself is little more than hollow and exploitative crap--the kind of idiotic nonsense that is nowhere near as smart or clever as it clearly believes itself to be--its startling popularity can only be reasonably attributed to one thing; people really want to see Ethan Hawke slaughtered before their eyes and if a film even hints that it might include such a sight, they will come out in droves.

SHREK THE MUSICAL (Dreamworks. $19.98): As someone who has never particularly warmed to the enormously successful string of animated fairy tale spoofs featuring the misadventures of everyone's favorite genially grumbly ogre and as someone who would rather do most anything than sit through a contemporary Broadway musical, I am perhaps not the best person to judge this home video version of the hit stage show based on the original movie and featuring 17 new songs as well as the unofficial theme "I'm a Believer." However, if you do enjoy such things--or you have enough kids to make an excursion to see it performed live to be prohibitively expensive until your local high school tackles it--this DVD/Blu-ray should prove to be most satisfying.

THE UNINVITED (The Criterion Collection. $29.95): If "The Conjuring" has put you in the mood for seeing more haunted house tales that rely more on heavy atmosphere than elaborate special effects to spook viewers, this 1944 classic should more than fit the bill. In it, Ray Milland plays a composer who winds up buying a lavish cliff-side manor for a ridiculously low price and moves in with sister Ruth Hussey. Naturally, the joint turns out to be haunted and as the tension mounts, it appears that the haunting is connected a neighbor woman whose family used to live there when she was a child (until they all died, of course) and with whom Milland is, of course, falling in love. Unlike similar genre films of its time, this one was clearly conceived as an A-list project right from the start and as a result, it is a far more stylishly made movie than one might expect and one that really has managed to stand the test of time.


THE EXORCIST: 40TH ANNIVERSARY (Warner Home Video. $49.99)

EYES WITHOUT A FACE (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

FANTASTIC VOYAGE (Fox Home Entertainment. $24.99)

THE HAUNTING (Warner Home Video. $19.98)

THE HITCH-HIKER (Kino Video. $29.95)

IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (New Line Home Entertainment. $19.95)

LOVE ACTUALLY (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)

MANIAC (IFC FIlms. $29.98)

MONTY PYTHON'S THE MEANING OF LIFE (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.99)

SNUFF (Blue Underground. $29.98)

STALAG 17 (Paramount Home Video. $19.98)


VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (Fox Home Entertainment. $24.95)

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originally posted: 10/28/13 05:23:41
last updated: 10/29/13 01:49:26
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