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DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews For 7/29: "Somebody Has To Pay!"
by Peter Sobczynski

Killer rats, exploding heads, giant floods and babes from outer space--these are just some of the sights to be savored in this roundup of new titles on DVD?Blu-Ray


ACTION ADVENTURE MOVIE MARATHON (Shout! Factory. $9.98): Shout! Factory offers up a quartet of action films from their archives for your entertainment pleasure. Of them, the first three--the James Cagney vehicle "Shake Hands with the Devil," the Jim Brown prison break epic "I Escaped from Devil's Island" and the terrorist thriller "The Final Option"--are perfectly serviceable but it is the last title, "Treasure of the Four Crowns," that makes this set worth owning. For those who don't recall it, or who weren't little boys back in 1983, the film is a ultra-cheesy and ultra-obvious ripoff of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" that was made by the same people responsible two years earlier for "Comin' At Ya!," a spaghetti western that kicked of the brief 3-D revival of the 1980's. The super-silly "Crowns" was also produced in 3-D but while the version presented here is flat, Shout! Factory makes up for it with a commentary track by fan of the film Russell Dyball that is affectionate while still honest about the ridiculousness of the entire venture..

BAD WORDS (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut with the rude but ultimately misfired dark comedy in which he plays a ne'er-do-well who exploits a loophole that allows him to complete in a national spelling bee meant for kids for reasons known only to him. Alas, that reason is both crashingly obvious and not enough to make up for the fact that Bateman's character is still a hateful jerk who is never particularly compelling or interesting to watch. There are a couple of amusing moments here and there but unless people swearing around little children is your particular soft spot for humor (and you cannot easily get ahold of a copy of "Bad Santa"), you can easily give this one a pass.

DEADLY EYES (Shout! Factory. $26.99): X Rats that have been super-sized after eating grain laced with steroids threaten to devour the entire population of Toronto unless a hunky basketball coach, a comely health inspector and Scatman Crothers can save the day. Really--what more do I have to say?

GINGER SNAPS (Shout! Factory. $29.93): Two outcast sisters (Emily Perkins and Katherine Isabelle) are eking out lives of bored desperation in suburbia when the older one is brutally attacked by a wolf-like creature. She heals quickly but something is now different about her and her sister in convinced that she is becoming something monstrous. One of the most underrated horror films of recent years, this smartly done work from director John Fawcett combines black humor, grisly gore, serious-minded drama and an intriguing feminist spin on the classic werewolf myth that makes for an undeniably gripping genre entertainment--the kind that could play equally well in grindhouses and arthouses alike. This special edition set includes commentaries from Fawcett and screenwriter Karen Walton, deleted scenes, audition footage and interviews with many of the key principals.

JODOROWSKY'S DUNE (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): Years before David Lynch brought his version of Frank Hebert's 1965 sci-fi classic to the screen, the equally surreal Alejandro Jodorowsky, then hot off of the cult favorites "El Topo" and "The Holy Mountain," was hired to do the job. Inevitably, it all fell apart but this fascinating documentary recounts the story of what might have been and how it all went wrong through interviews with some of the surviving participants (including Jodorowsky himself) and images from the stunning conceptual designs drawn up by the late, great H.R. Giger. While the film somewhat overstates the case of the project's greatness--if only because it is impossible to determine the brilliance of a film in which not a single frame was shot--the end result is still pretty much a must-see for fans of the novel and of Jodorowsky.

NOAH (Paramount Home Video. $29.99): For the followup to the massive and unexpected success of the surreal psychological thriller "Black Swan," the always-interesting Darren Aronofsky offers viewers a jumbo-sized retelling of the most famous of Bible stories with Russel Crowe as the man who is compelled by the voice of God to build an ark and acquire two of every animal in anticipation of a massive flood set to wipe away mankind so that everything can start over again. Needless to say, the resulting film is not your typical Biblical saga (no doubt the reason why it received criticism in some quarters) but a complex drama that is just as interested in delving into the mindset of a man convinced he is hearing from God as it is in presenting moments of big spectacle. Happily, Aronofsky is able to pull off both aspects of the film and gets strong performances from the likes of Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson to boot.

NYMPHOMANIAC VOL 1 & 2 (Magnolia Home Entertainment. $34.98): Both halves of Lars von Trier's 4 hour-plus epic chronicling the erotic life of a woman (played in her younger years by newcomer Stacy Martin and in her later years by Charlotte Gainsbourg) that takes her from innocent teenage nonsense to marriage and motherhood to S&M and which eventually leaves her beaten and left for dead in an alley (not a spoiler as this is how the movie opens). Not for the prudish or squeamish, the film allows von Trier to play around with his notions of female sexuality at length and the results, not surprisingly, are sometimes silly, sometimes offensive, sometimes arousing and almost always fascinating to watch. Although both halves (which are also available separately) are good, I prefer the first half, partly because it is a little lighter in tone and partly because it includes a brief but brilliant appearance by Uma Thurman as a scorned wife who turns up to visit our heroine, who has been sleeping with her husband with her kids in tow in order to show them "the whoring bed".

THE OTHER WOMAN (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): Proof positive that "Sex Tape" was the worst Cameron Diaz vehicle of 2014--as unlikely as that sounds--this miserable stab at giggly girl power comedy features her as a woman who discovers that her lover is married to another woman (Leslie Mann) and collaborates with the wife and another girlfriend on the side (swimsuit model Kate Upton) to bring him down by any mean necessary. Alas, not even the considerable jiggle factor supplied by Diaz and Upton can make up for the shockingly inept screenplay, unlikable characters, listless direction and complete lack of anything vaguely resembling an actual laugh. This may not be the worst film of the year to date but I assure you that it is definitely in the running for that title.

SCANNERS (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): David Cronenberg had his first major commercial hit with this 1981 mind-blower (in more ways than one) about the civil war that breaks out between a group of people who have been born with terrifying telepathic abilities due to a mutation caused by a faulty pre-natal drug--some wish to live in peace while others want to use their powers to take over the world. Although lacking the psychological depth of Cronenberg's best works, this is nevertheless a swift-moving and always interesting thriller and the stand-out moment featuring a man's head exploding into goo before our eyes is still a grisly beauty to behold. To celebrate the film's Blu-Ray debut, Criterion has put together an excellent package that includes a documentary on the making of the film, an archival interview with Cronenberg, newer interviews with co-stars Michael Ironside and Stephen Lack and, perhaps most valuable of all, a presentation of Cronenberg's first feature, the even-stranger 1969 effort "Stereo."

SOUTHERN COMFORT (Shout! Factory. $29.93): Combining elements from "Deliverance" and America's misadventures in Vietnam, this 1981 effort from cult filmmaker Walter Hill follows a group of nine National Guardsmen (including Powers Boothe, Keith Carradine and Fred Ward) on weekend maneuvers in the Louisiana bayou whose blunders incite the anger of some local Cajuns, who proceed to use their innate knowledge of the land to hunt down the poorly armed and desperately outmatched intruders. Although often overlooked today, even by Hill's fans, this is a taut and endlessly inventive thriller that transcends its crashingly symbolic premise with beautifully staged action scenes, a nice sense of atmosphere and a slowly mounting sense of suspense that puts us right in the quaking boots of the characters on the screen.

TRANSCENDENCE (Warner Home Video. $28.98): Johnny Depp's latest big-budget disappointment was this ridiculous futuristic thriller in which he played a brilliant scientific genius who is slowly dying--the result of a botched assassination attempt--and who plans on uploading his intellect to the Internet. Before you can say "Lawnmower Man," Depp 2.0 gets more powerful by the moment and his thirst for more power and knowledge threatens to destroy the world as we know it. Essentially a very stupid version of the infinitely superior "Lucy," this is one of those would-be intelligent thrillers that is nowhere near as smart as it thinks it is--it actually gets dumber as Depp's character gets smarter--and wastes the talents of Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany and Rebecca Hall along the way. That said, Richard Roeper did give it four stars.

TWIN PEAKS: THE ENTIRE MYSTERY (Paramount Home Entertainment. $134.99): David Lynch's groundbreaking television series, which had the entire country asking "Who killed Laura Palmer?" (and later "What the hell is going on?") during its 1990-1991 run, makes its Blu-Ray debut in a set that encompasses virtually every element of the franchise--the blockbuster TV pilot (presented in both its original broadcast version and in a slightly reedited cut released theatrically in Europe), the entire two season run of the show, the highly controversial and generally underrated 1992 prequel "Fire Walk with Me" (one of the bleakest bits of mainstream cinema to emerge during the decade), tons of extras and, perhaps most tantalizing for fans, over 90 minutes of much-discussed but little-seen deleted scenes from "Fire Walk with Me." Essential. Other TV-related titles now available include "Hell on Wheels: Season 3" (eOne Entertainment. $39.98), "Mystery Science Theatre 3000: Vol. XXX" (Shout! Factory. $59.93), Orphan Black: Season 2" (BBC Home Entertainment. $24.98) and "Prisoners of War" (Shout! Factory. $29.93).

UNDER THE SKIN (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.95): In this odd sci-fi/horror drama from Jonathan Glazer (whose previous films included "Sexy Beast" and "Birth"), an alien that has assumed the form of a beautiful woman (assuming that Scarlett Johansson does that for you) who prowls the streets of Scotland to find men that she can lure back to her home where something inexplicable happens to them while they are too distracted by her seductive moves to notice until it is too late. While the description may make it sound like some kind of cheapo Skinemax exploitation item, it is actually a somber and serious-minded mood piece that contains a brilliant central performance from Johansson, haunting cinematography, one of best scores in recent memory and a sequence involving a day at the beach gone bad that is perhaps the single most terrifying thing that i have seen in any movie in a long time. One of the very best films of the year to date and an absolute must-see.


THE BABY (Severin Films. $24.98)

THE BIG CHILL (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

BLOODY BIRTHDAY (Severin Films. $24.98)

CURTAINS (Synapse Video. $24.98)

HERZOG: THE COLLECTION (Shout! Factory. $159.99)

INSOMNIA (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

LAKE PLACID (Shout! Factory. $29.93)


ON MY WAY (Cohen Media Group. $29.98)

PICKPOCKET (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

POINT BLANK (Warner Home Video. $19.98)


RIO 2 (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.95)

THE TIME MACHINE (Warner Home Video. $19.98)

THE WIND WILL CARRY US (Cohen Media Group. $29.98)

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originally posted: 07/29/14 04:47:47
last updated: 07/29/14 11:18:23
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