DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews For 8/25: "Joe Couldn't Find A Prayer In The Bible."
By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 08/26/14 00:36:19
What better way to celebrate the anniversary of Sean Connery's birth than by reading this round-up of recent releases on DVD and Blu-ray, including one of the best vampire movies in years, a horror cult classic and another piece of crap with Nicolas Cage? Oh yeah, there is also a lot of smut to be had as well.
NEW AND NOTABLE42ND STREET FOREVER: PEEPSHOW COLLECTION VOLUME 4 (Impulse Pictures. $24.95): Crack out your raincoats for another collection of lovingly curated smut from the golden age of theatrical porn--15 8mm loops dating from the 1970s-80s and featuring such titles as "Tammy and the Doctor," "Leather Lust," "Wheelchair Mary" and "One in the Oven." No, these are not particularly good as films or as erotica but as examples of cultural anthropology, they do have some interest. If you enjoy this, you might also get a kick out of "Grindhouse Trailer Classics" (Intervision Picture Group. $19.98), which is exactly what it claims to be--two hours of astoundingly lurid trailers for such sleazo classics as "House of Whipcord," "They Call Her One-Eye" and "Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS." And while we are talking about long-vanished forms of cinematic entertainment, please consider "Looney Tunes Platinum Collection 3" (Warner Home Video. $44.98), another helping of classic animated shorts from the WB vaults making their Blu-ray debuts.
THE BLACKLIST: SEASON 1 (Sony Home Entertainment. $69.99): One of the very few new shows of the past television season to score with critics and audiences alike, this very entertaining star vehicle for the irrepressible James Spader features him as a longtime fugitive who turns himself into the FBI with an offer to help them find even-more-shadowy bad guys on the single condition that he only works with a brand-new recruit (Megan Boone) with no apparent connection to him. Other TV-related titles now available include "Community: Season 5" (Sony Home Entertainment. $35.99) and "Bitten: The Complete First Season" (Entertainment One. $39.98)
DIVERGENT (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.98): Although the release of "The Giver" means that this will only go down in history as, at most, the second-worst teen-oriented epic about a seemingly ordinary kid living in a dystopian future run by slumming Oscar winners who discover that they have the power to bring the entire corrupt system down, that doesn't make this dreadful and dreadfully boring adaptation of the YA best-seller even remotely watchable. The story is idiotic, uninspired and largely composed of ideas lifted wholesale from other and better sources, the characters are one-dimensional bores that not even the supremely talented likes of Shailene Woodley (our heroine) and Kate Winslet (our villainess) can do much with and director Neil Burger presents them in a manner so poky that it would require a shot of adrenaline delivered straight to its heart to jolt it to the level of somnambulistic. Although not quite the "Hunger Games"-sized blockbuster that its producers presumably hoped for, it was a big enough hit to pretty much ensure that a follow-up will be coming soon, meaning that movie fans are in for a future bleaker than anything presented on the screen here.
GOD'S NOT DEAD (Pure Flix Entertainment. $24.99): In this totally realistic drama, Kevin Sorbo plays a college professor who is such an atheist that he requires all of his students to sign a piece of paper at the beginning of the term avowing that God is indeed dead. It is all swell until, in a stunning turn of events, a Christian student refuses to sign and instigates a battle of wills that ends with. . . well, I suppose that they should have called it "Spoiler Alert: God's Not Dead." As for the rest of the film--well, to avoid getting a smattering of complaints, I am just going to leave this one alone and move on.
LOCKE (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.98)[: Tom Hardy stars as a man trying to juggle his increasingly messy personal and professional lives through a series of phone calls made from his car while driving to what may or may not prove to be his destiny. As the film is literally a one-man show in which the action never leaves the confines of the car, there is the possibility that some people may dismiss it as a stunt film along the lines of what Larry Cohen used to crank out back in the day. What elevates hit from being a mere curio is the mesmerizing performance from Hardy, who manages to hold viewers rapt with attention from start to finish with nothing more than the power of his voice.
MOTEL HELL (Scream Factory. $29.95): Imagine "Sweeney Todd" without all that pesky music with more chainsaw battles and you pretty much have this cheerfully disgusting and frequently hilarious 1980 black comedy down. Grizzled veteran actor Rory Calhoun, in the performance of his career, stars as Farmer Vincent, a kindly sort who, with sister Ida (Nancy Parsons), runs an out-of-the-way motel along with an adjacent sausage shop where his wares are all the rage. However, it takes all sorts of critters to make Farmer Vincent's fritters, as they say, and many of them, it turns out, are motorists that Vincent and Ida waylay and fatten in their hidden garden before slaughtering and smoking them. Goofy and gross in equal measures, this may not be to everyone's tastes but it far more fun than most of the slasher films that it was ignorantly lumped in with back in the day and Calhoun's final line of dialogue is one of the greats in the annals of Hollywood history. A slew of bonus features--including interviews, featurettes and a commentary with director Kevin Connor--offer up pretty much everything you could conceivably want to know about the film and its history, including the startling revelation that the first actor to be offered the role of Farmer Vincent was none other than Harry Dean Stanton. If you prefer your early-1980's horrors to be of the cheesier and sleazier variety, Scream Factory also offers up the Blu-ray debut Greydon Clark's ultra-low-budget curiosity "Without Warning" (Scream Factor. $29.95).
MUPPETS MOST WANTED (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.99): After making the wonderful and unique "The Muppet Movie" back in 1979, Jim Henson inexplicably decided that the best approach for a follow-up was to stick the characters in a hackneyed overseas caper plot that was too dull for kids and too childish for grown-ups. Amazingly, in the wake of the surprise success of the wonderful and unique reboot "The Muppets," history repeats itself as the Muppets, searching in vain for a plot for a sequel, are lured to Europe for a tour that an evil Kermit lookalike and his oily henchman (Ricky Gervais) are using as a cover for a series of art heists. There are goofy gags, songs and celebrity cameos a-plenty (including the likes of Tina Fey, Christoph Waltz and Ty Burrell) but very little of the charm of the previous film. Still, even the worst Muppets endeavor is better than most things aimed at little kids these days but if you do let your charges watch it, make sure to take time afterwards to explain to them that Salma Hayek is actually Mexican and not Spanish.
NEED FOR SPEED (Touchstone Home Entertainment. $29.98): Inspired by a video-game franchise and stupid even by those standards, this drive-happy dud stars Aaron Paul, squandering a chunk of his post-"Breaking Bad" goodwill, as an ace driver framed for an automotive crime that he didn't commit and which even the dopiest law student could have gotten thrown out of court. Now out of prison, he decides to get revenge on the rich bastard (Dominic Purcell) who did him wrong in the only way imaginable--by tearing across the country in a souped-up car in order to beat him in a high-stakes auto race. A wan knockoff of the infinitely more interesting "Fast & the Furious" saga, the only bright spots here come from the appearances by Imogen Poots, who proves here that she can temporarily perk up most anything, and Michael Keaton, whose manic performance as the guy behind the race does inspire a few genuine laughs.
OCULUS (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): After being released from a mental institution, where he spent much of his childhood after allegedly killing his parents, a man and his sister return to their family home to confront the haunted mirror that they know is really responsible for those deaths. Spoiler Alert--it doesn't go well for either of them. This was based on a short film from the same filmmakers--which appears as a bonus feature--and I can see how it might work as a tight 30-minute piece but stretched out to 90, there are too many scenes of aimless wandering around couple with repetitive scare shots for its own good and the whole thing just becomes very silly very quickly.
ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): Just when you thought that the vampire genre had finally been played out for good, it gets a welcome jolt of life from none other than indie filmmaking icon Jim Jarmusch. In his decidedly quirky take, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play a pair of highly cultured bloodsuckers who have been at it so long that they no longer feel the need to attack people to get their sustenance. Alas, their carefully cultivated and controlled lives are thrown into turmoil when her younger sister (Mia Wasikowska), also a vampire, blows into town and messes things up for them. Reimagining the vampire mythos in the same way that he approached the western in his masterpiece "Dead Man," Jarmusch has come up with his most consistently intriguing and watchable work in years and the best film of its type since "Let the Right One In."
RAGE (Image Entertainment. $29.98): Whatever small amount of artistic credibility that Nicolas Cage was able to accrue on the strength of his stunning performance in the little-seen "Joe" was almost instantly squandered on this by-the-book--more like by-the-pamphlet--thriller in which he plays a now-respectable villain with a shady past who is forced to go back to his old ways when his beloved daughter is kidnapped and murdered, ostensibly in revenge for a long-ago affront against the Russian mob. Aside from one scene in which he tries to beat information out of a corpse and a goofy interrogation of one of the daughter's friends, Cage can't even work up enough enthusiasm at the pedestrian goings-on to give the film the weirdo edge that he can sometimes provide and the finale, should you make it that far, is so asinine that you may find yourself smacking your television out of pure frustration.
THE AVENGERS (Warner Home Video. $14.97)
BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.99)
HERCULES (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.99)
LOVE STREAMS (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)
THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE (Warner Home Video. $19.98)
OUT OF THE PAST (Warner Home Video. $21.99)
TARZAN (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.99)