Hope every had a good holiday. Unlike the past couple of editions, this one is absolutely loaded with releases. Here are the highlights. As always, click on any links to read more. So if you can’t make it out to the movies this week, be sure to give one of these titles a try!
Big New Releases!
Close Range – An ex-soldier takes on a drug cartel who is threatening his sister and niece in this low-budget action picture. Those who saw it warned that the script and acting was downright wooden and silly. However, they also admitted that the fight choreography was impressive and that the action sequences were surprisingly well-handled. As direct-to-DVD B-movie schlock-fests go, they felt that the fight scenes make it slightly above average. It features Chad Adkins, Nick Chinlund and Caitlin Keats.
Condemned – A privileged young woman rebels and squats with her boyfriend in a seedy apartment building. When drugs and noxious chemicals combine into a virus and turn the residents into bloodthirsty maniacs, she struggles to get out alive. This low-budget horror effort got toxic reviews, with many stating that the characters weren’t engaging and that the gross-outs eventually lost their impact. The movie stars Ronen Rubenstein, Lydia Hearst and Michel Gill.
Deathgasm – This horror/comedy festival favorite from New Zealand follows a couple of teenage head-bangers in a heavy metal band. Trouble arises when their music accidentally raises a nasty demon. Critics were mostly positive about the attempt, writing that while the movie was derivative of genre classics like Shaun of the Dead and Dead/Alive, the film was elevated by its likable kids, high-energy approach and several funny gags. Milo Cawthorne, James Blake and Kimberly Crossman take on the lead roles.
Experimenter – Based upon the work of Stanley Milgram, this biopic tells the story of how the professor created and employed a series of unique obedience experiments back in 1961, and follows them through to their shocking and controversial results. A few members of the press didn’t think the material warranted a feature, but in general they enjoyed the film and the work of its stars. Personally, I found it quite interesting and only falters by not knowing exactly how to wrap the story up. It’s got a great cast that includes Peter Sarsgaard, Winona Ryder, Taryn Manning, Anton Yelchin, John Leguizamo, Anthony Edwards, Dennis Haysbert, Lori Singer and Jim Gaffigan.
The Games Maker – A young boy with an interest in board games enters a fantastical landscape and must use his wits to defeat a sinister game inventor. This Argentina/Canada/Italy co-production attempts split reviewers. All admired the attempt to tell an epic story with limited means and appreciated the art design, but about half found the story too convoluted to really recommend. Now viewers can roll the dice and decide for themselves. It features Joseph Fiennes, Tom Cavanagh, Megan Carpenter, Valentina Lodovini, Edward Asner and David Mazouz.
The Green Inferno – Director Eli Roth’s cannibal terror flick had quite a difficult time reaching the big screen (not because of the content, but rather a legal tussle among producers and distributor). It follows a college student who joins an activist movement in the Amazonian rainforest. After a plane crash, the kids find themselves captured by hungry natives. Naturally, it received a wide variety of extreme reactions, although most found its attempts to shock unappealing. Personally, the weak and unconvincing performances of its young cast is the biggest issue. Curious horror fans will likely want to give it a try, regardless. Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns and Sky Ferreira are on the menu.
Infinitely Polar Bear – A man suffering from bi-polar disorder attempts to win back the affections of his wife and children after a stay at a hospital. He decides to help care for the kids while mom attends business school, leading to varied stresses and comic episodes. Critics generally liked the film overall, calling it very sweet. They praised the performances as well, although a few felt that the movie dealt too lightly with the lead’s mental state. The movie features Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Kier Dullea and Imogene Wolodarsky.
Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser – Some 14 years after the original, comic David Spade returns for this sequel about a white-trash-hero. This time out the character finds himself caught in a tornado and transported to the past, where he attempts to correct some of his worst decisions. As expected the press weren’t fond of the follow-up, calling it an unnecessary flick full of repetitive scatological gags. Brittany Daniel, Patrick Warburton, Mark McGrath, Dennis Miller and Christopher Walken also make appearances.
Love – This foreign-language co-production between France and Belgium involves an American who begins a relationship with a highly volatile woman. When they invite a third person into the mix, major problems arise. Reviews weren’t particularly strong for this experimental, non-narrative effort (that was originally shot in 3D) – while some found the film daring, most felt that the acting was weak and the characters and story weren’t developed enough to engage. It stars Aomi Muyock and Karl Glusam.
Memories of the Sword – Three warriors get involved in a failed revolt against a corrupt King in South Korea. Many years later, a survivor raises one of his friend’s daughters to take revenge on her father’s killer. Notices were decent for this foreign effort. It has been described as a bit bloated and slow, but write-ups also liked the cast and found the visuals to be absolutely gorgeous. The cast includes Byung-hun Lee, Do-yeon Jeon and Go-eun Kim.
Over Your Dead Body – Japanese cult director Takashi Miike (13 Warriors, One Missed Call, Audition) helms this horror story set behind-the-scenes of a Kabuki theater ghost tale – fantasy and reality begin to intersect when personal conflicts arise between cast members. The press weren’t overly fond of this violent thriller. They stated that it started off too slowly and tests viewer’s patience before reaching a bizarre conclusion. Ko Shibasaki and Hitomi Katayama share the stage.
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse – Wow, it really is a big week for horror releases. This gory, R-rated comedy deals with a Boy Scout troop who end up in the middle of a zombie rampage. Critics were really split on the movie when it came out at theaters a couple of months back. About half called it uneven but felt that it offered a few interesting new gags on the undead flick formula, while others called it crude and tasteless. Guess it’ll all depend on your sense of humor. It stars Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, David Koechner and Cloris Leachman.
Sleeping With Other People – A womanizer and a serial cheater befriend one another and slowly form a friendly that eventually turns romantics in this indie comedy starring Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie. It received a few more positive writ-ups than negative. While several found it to be a fresh and amusing comedy, others didn’t find it quite funny enough to recommend. Adam Scott, Billy Eichner, Jason Mantzoukas, Amanda Peet and Natasha Lyonne also make appearances.
The Visit – The latest from M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, The Last Airbender) marked something of a turnaround for the director, receiving better than average notices and grossing large sums at the box office. It’s a found-footage effort about two kids who are sent to meet their estranged grandparents and stay with them for a week. Unfortunately, the odd behavior displayed by the host soon turns downright creepy. While some critics wished that it had been more original, the majority found it to be both scary and amusing in turns. The cast features Olivia De Jonge, Ed Oxenbould and Kathryn Hahn. To read a full review of the movie, click here.
The Walk – Philippe Petit’s harrowing 1974 tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in Manhattan is fictionalized in this drama from director Robert Zemeckis (The Polar Express, Back to the Future). Perhaps most interesting is that much of it was shot in front of a green-screen. Reviews were decent overall. Although many found the approach to the humans a bit broad and lacking in subtlety, all were impressed by the gorgeous cinematography and finale (although the sequence might work better in IMAX 3D than on the small screen). It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon and Ben Kingsley. To read more about it, just click here.
Blasts From the Past!
Shout! Factory was another double feature Blu-ray containing a couple of cheeseball titles, The House Where Evil Dwells (1982) and Ghost Warrior (1984). In the first, a samurai murders his family. When an American clan moves in, he thinks he’s found a great deal. However, the ghosts start to manipulate them in the hopes of repeating the events of 100 years ago. The second feature is an action flick about a samurai who is unfrozen and attempts to attempt to life in the modern world.
Criterion have an impressive Blu-ray set called The Complete Lady Snowblood. It features Lady Snowblood (1973) and Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance (1974), two Japanese cult flicks about a female assassin out to kill the men who murdered her family when she was a child. Extras include a 2K digital image restoration, new English subtitles, interviews with the artist of the manga that inspired the movie and the screenwriter as well as an essay on the film’s importance in cinema.
Kino have a bunch of great flicks arriving on Blu-ray. The Captive City (1952) from director Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Sound of Music, West Side Story and, of course, Rooftops) features John Forsythe in a thriller about organized crime. Fantomas (1913) is a silent film from France famous for its visuals – the story follows a criminal mastermind.
The Hotel New Hampshire (1984) tells the tale of an oddball family vacation and includes early performances from Rob Lowe and Jodie Foster. They’ve also got The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues (1955) a sci-fi monster flick about a creature that rises from the depth. Spellbinder (1988), starring Tim Daily and Kelly Preston, sounds like an enjoyably goofy thriller. It’s about a lawyer who falls for a woman escaping a witch’s coven.
Two for the Seesaw (1962) is another flick from Robert Wise. It’s a romance title starring Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine. They’ve also got Valentino (1977), filmmaker Ken Russell adaptation of the famous ladies’ man. Finally, you can pick up a Blu-ray of the South Korea/Japan giant creature feature, Yongary, Monster From the Deep (1967) in which the title reptile attacks the city of Seoul.
You Know, For Kids!
Here are some new releases the kids might enjoy.
Elmo’s World: Elmo’s Wonders
The Games Maker
Grimm’s Fairy Tales – 6 Classic Stories
Wild Kratt’s Australian Adventures
On the Tube!
And below you’ll see what’s arriving on TV. And in honor of the New Year, here are some ads that aired during the season way back in 1985.
Agetha Christie’s Partners in Crime
Ancient Aliens: Season 8 (History Network)
Broad City: Season 2
Comedy Bang! Bang!: Season 3
Father Brown: Season 3, Part 1
Flesh and Bone: Season 1
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 10
The Last Kingdom (BBC)
Legend: The Complete Series
Nova: Cyberwar Threat (PBS)
Nova: Inside Einstein’s Mind (PBS)
Oz: The Complete 4th Season
Party of Five: The Complete Series
Snake City: Season 2
True Detective: Season 2
Vampire Legend: Secrets of the Dead (PBS)