It’s an exciting week for new DVDs, as there might actually be a couple that people want to see. There’s teenagers abusing their superpowers, Liam Neeson fighting some wolves, some Oscar bait that worked in snaring nominations, some Oscar bait that didn’t, Katherine Heigl’s stupid face, a couple child-actors all grown up, a trio of friendly Satanists, and as always, zombies.
One For The Money
The Devil Inside
Golf In The Kingdom
Man On A Mission: Richard Garriott’s Road To The Stars
Chained: Code 207
Wages Of Sin
Fever Night a.k.a. Band Of Satanic Outsiders
There’s always something worth knowing about the movies on DVD, but if you couldn’t care less about physical media, click here to skip ahead for some streaming suggestions that will really give you a Woody.
Liam Neeson fistfights wolves in the Alaskan wild. That’s one of those sentences that tells you all you need to know. If you still aren’t sure where you stand, the movie has a respectable 78% on Rotten Tomatoes, and from my perspective at least, solid word-of-mouth. What I want to know is how much time was spent on deciding the spelling of the title? Is ‘grey’ correct or is ‘gray’ correct? Does it matter from a commercial standpoint? Were test-audiences turned off by The Gray, necessitating the ‘e’ version of the word? Beyond the film, is there a correct spelling, or is it simply left to preference? In search of answers to these most pertinent questions, I found this 2004 blog entry on the subject. I won’t spoil the answer the author gives, but I will say that I’m absolutely fascinated that it has received so many comments, including some as recent as last week. I guess I’m not the only one plagued by the gray-area status of the spelling of the word ‘grey’.
I, like so many others, had low expectations for this found-footage kids-get-superpowers film. Not only is the found-footage gimmick way overplayed lately, it gets increasingly more difficult to justify. Even if you -or someone you know- is constantly filming everything, who then edits it? How do they always seem to get the right shot – despite constantly having the shaky-cam aesthetic of Michael Bay’s longtime DP, Muhammad J. Fox? It was therefore a refreshing surprise to see Vince’s ‘B+’ review. He liked how relatable the film felt, both in terms of how it presented high school socializing, and in how it would play out if a teenager got some superpowers. At least PG-13 superpowers. Vince, pointing out what we all already knew, says that if he had those powers when he was 18, there would be many suddenly naked girls. I like how he qualifies it with ‘if he were a teenager’ with those powers. The only difference if Vince had superpowers today is that those suddenly naked girls would also be suddenly shitting themselves. Vince has some dark urges, man. Keep in mind that this is the version of this paragraph that he edited for public consumption.
For months before this film’s theatrical release, the only thing I heard about it was that Woody Harrelson was guaranteed an Oscar nomination for his performance here as a corrupt cop. As you probably recall, the nominations came and went without any recognition for the actor. As may well be the case for you as well, the only other news I’ve ever heard regarding this movie was the Woody Harrelson Reddit AMA debacle. So kudos to the advertising team that took good-but-not-great buzz for their film and ended up with the film’s title becoming a short-hand punchline for the internet. This movie has an Oscar-nominated star (nominated for work with the same director, no less), a supporting cast of several recognizable character actors, and a script co-written by James Ellroy; it shouldn’t have been difficult to sell some tickets. As it turns out, it didn’t even make $1 million at the box-office. Again, stellar work, advertising team. Here’s hoping you get to work on the campaign for The Starving Games.
Am I the only one who gets Glenn Close and Meryl Streep confused? I have to assume I’m not; they look kind of alike and they’ve had pretty similar careers. If you compare just their Oscar nominations alone, things get confusing. Glenn Close has been nominated for six Oscars, but never won. Of those six, two were for Best Supporting Actress in years that Streep was also nominated, but as Best Actress (Streep won the Oscar for Sophie’s Choice in one of those years). Of Close’s remaining four nominations, three of those years she was in direct competition with Streep for Best Actress. Close’s performance in this film, as a 19th Century woman living as a man in Ireland, lost the Oscar to Streep’s performance as Margaret Thatcher. Think about that: Streep won despite both American actresses performing foreign accents, but with Close also having to pose as a male, and in an earlier period in history. Adding insult to injury, Albert Nobbs also lost the makeup Oscar to The Iron Lady, despite the former addressing gender concerns and the latter simply applying a wig and some false teeth. Furthermore, Albert Nobbs is generally (if marginally) considered the better of the two films, neither of which could be called good. It must get frustrating to always lose out to Streep. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, while I’m sure I will never watch either of these movies, I’d sure like to meet Glenn Close someday so that at least once in her lifetime someone would look her in the eye and say, “Oscars be damned! I really loved you in Julie & Julia and you were totally robbed that year!”
We sure like to shit on Katherine Heigl, don’t we? The thing is, she brings it upon herself; she’s an awful actress (in usually awful movies) who by all accounts is an awful person. I could go on, but just click this link for the Katherine Heigl tag and you can see for yourself. We collectively hated this flick long before it was released, and that may not have been fair. Just because Katherine Heigl is the star and her face is on the poster doesn’t automatically make the movie a massive stinking pile of chunky, dairy-heavy vomit. Just as films need to earn their prestige, they need to earn their place as failures. I’m sure none of us will willingly see this movie, let alone with an open mind. Let the verdict be given by those who have seen it, such as the critics indexed by Rotten Tomatoes, where nearly four months after it’s theatrical release, One For The Money still rates at only 2%. Delicious. It may not be fair for me to enjoy hating Katherine Heigl so much, odds are we’ll never meet, and I’ll never know the real woman. Just so, it may not be fair to relish the failure of this film, which definitely wasn’t made for my tastes anyhow, and which surely had many good people work very hard to produce it. These feelings I have may not be fair, but you know what else isn’t fair? The dozens of babies that Heigl has ritualistically sacrificed and eaten, only to poop out and then re-eat in her effort to maintain her pact with Satan. Those poor babies never had a chance, and that’s not fair to them.
Remember this one? This is the movie that outraged the sorry bastards who went to see it by not delivering an ending, but instead urging the viewers to visit a web address to learn more. I have no idea if the DVD ends the same way as the theatrical version. If you really want to find out, you’re an idiot. Besides the offensive non-ending, this movie is awful regardless. It is yet another ‘true story’ horror film. Guess what? If any of this actually happened, it wouldn’t be released to theaters in January by f*cking Paramount; you’re mother would be calling you saying she had on the evening news and holy shit some lady was caught on tape channeling the devil. You would meet your mom at church and we’d all be right there with you. Look, if you really want to see an exorcism flick, watch The Exorcist. It is the obvious and best choice. If you want a found-footage exorcism flick, watch an old VHS tape of The Exorcist while you shake your TV set. I tried it and it was super scary, plus I got a pretty good workout because my TV is one of those old sits-on-the-floor wooden cabinet models.
Nick Stahl stars in this Canadian flick about some dude who writes a news story about Canadian snipers in Afghanistan mutilating corpses. When the story gets buried, he travels back to Afghanistan to uncover the truth. Now I have several questions right off the bat: 1.) Canadians have snipers? Am I to take this to mean that they have some sort of military, as well? 2.) Assuming the corpses were killed by sniper fire, do these Canuck sharp-shooters then scurry down the mountain side and start mutilating the bodies? Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of sniping? These are the thoughts that ran through my head after I read the official synopsis, but all that got eclipsed when I started watching the trailer. What begins to look like a self-serious meditation on war and the toll it takes on everyone involved suddenly turns into a M*A*S*H-like dramedy. For real, half-way through the trailer it credits the film as ‘from the acclaimed director of Trailer Park Boys‘. What the f*ck? And even before you can process that, Lewis Black shows up. I have to admit, it has me intrigued. Plus, they filmed Canada-for-Afghanistan, and that’s kind of impressive in its own right.
Some of you may remember that before he was Afghan Luke, Nick Stahl was that Yellow Bastard in Sin City. Some of you may remember that before that, he was John Connor 2.0 in Terminator 3. Before that, as I’m sure we all remember, he showed his dick in Bully. Some of you might even remember that he started out as a child-actor in Mel Gibson’s The Man Without A Face. None of that has anything to do with this movie, except that this movie also stars a former child-actor you might recognize, Mason Gamble. If you didn’t know, Gamble played Dirk Calloway, Max Fischer’s chapel partner in Rushmore. He also played Dennis the Menace in the film version with Walter Matthau. I, for one, would’ve never guessed that this is the same guy. As for the movie itself, it’s a golf movie that isn’t called Caddyshack or Happy Gilmore, so I can’t imagine it is worth watching.
This film has many of the hallmarks of the crappy straight-to-DVD amateur suspense thriller. It is based on a ‘true story’ about a serial killer/rapist/cannibal and the lone female FBI agent out to bring him to justice. The killer’s voice-over in the trailer even has him quoting Ecclesiastes. I can’t be the only one who really hoped this was about the professional wrestler from the ‘80s, can I? Vivica A. Fox stars as the FBI agent. As much as I love her for her time on Curb Your Enthusiasm, I kind of think she’s got the Quentin Tarantino-takes-has-beens-and-revives-their-career thing in reverse. She’s made 24 films since Kill Bill, and not a one of them seems watchable. Her co-star (at least according to the box cover, if not the trailer) is Brad Dourif. He’d prefer I bill him as Oscar nominee Brad Dourif, but he’s just fortunate I don’t simply call him ‘the voice of Chucky’ like everybody else.
The trailer for this Austrian film does its job very well. It’s not too long, and it uses the simple combination of music and imagery to tease us into watching the film. The music’s creepy and the man in the trailer is obviously up to some sinister business. His basement’s sound-proofed for Christ’s sake. At the end of the trailer, he invites whomever – or whatever – in the basement up for dinner. What could be in the basement? Is it a creature? A harem of big-breasted naked sex-slaves? His elderly mother? A 10-year-old boy that the creepy dude has enslaved and been raping for the last five months? If you’ll recall, I said this film was Austrian, so you should’ve already assumed that the last one was the correct answer.
This documentary styles itself as a portrait of the non-conformist skater-punk subculture. These people reject a society that has rejected them and they are all the better for it. Like Tyler-Durden on wheels, the trailer’s voiceover lists advice on how to f*ck with the system: Reject government. Don’t trust the police. Live independently from big businesses. You aren’t the vandals; they are for paving over the earth’s natural beauty. Don’t be a part of the corporate system. Reject commerce. Except for this one time. Just this once. Buy this movie. Spend $24.95. That’s not that much. Just buy it. At amazon. Which means you’ll need a credit card. And an address. Look, you could probably just use your Mom’s card and pick it up at her place after it arrives. But beyond that, f*ck this broken system.
This one’s kind of the opposite of Dragonslayer. While those kids reject the system to live a life bumming around empty in-ground swimming pools, Richard Garriott spends decades making money so he can buy his way into outer space. I wonder which experience is more thrilling? To be fair, I’ve got nothing against people who like to skate, and just so, I won’t say that the $30 million Garriott reportedly paid to make it into space couldn’t have served a more noble purpose here on earth. That being said, I personally have more respect for people who set a goal for themselves and work to achieve it than I have respect for people who just want to get high and not get a job. If I could, I’d put all those people in a rocket and shoot them into outer space.
I’ll admit it’s kind of refreshing to see a crappy amateur feature film that isn’t a horror flick or an attempt at comedy. That doesn’t mean this looks any good, but at least it is different. In this film, an Army Ranger fights to rescue his wife from a slavery ring. You know, the same old story. What gets me (and to be fair, many films have used this line) is that the Ranger says, “You touch one hair on her head and you’ll die!” I would love it if at the end of the movie his wife gets returned unharmed and the bad guys get away because, after all, she was returned unharmed. No harm, no foul. Anyhow, the movie looks earnest, if stupid. Also, I have no idea what the ‘Code 207’ part of the title is about. It’s not like somebody’s standing at the Redbox kiosk and isn’t interested when they see Chained as the title, but is somehow swayed by the ‘Code 207’.
I was all set to scold this Chilean zombie flick for attempting to cash in on the similarly titled George Clooney flick, but I can’t because this movie’s actually four years old. Instead I’ll have to actually discuss the film. First the good points: for a foreign film, it sure is nice that everyone’s speaking English. That shows class, good move Chilean movie people. Also, the premise is fairly original; instead of following survivors trying to avoid becoming zombies, this film is about the children who are immune to the zombie scourge. As for the bad, it is a straight-to-video foreign zombie film. Those are never all that good. I expect to look forward to the inevitable American remake, which also won’t be good, but at least it will have recognizable c-list stars.
Here’s another amateur thriller that gets points for trying to be different. Instead of bloodthirsty maniacs, the bad guys (or rather bad guy and bad girl) are simply desperate criminals who kidnap the daughter of a rich man, obviously hoping for a fat ransom. As you would imagine, things don’t go according to plan. Plus it’s set in 1964, and even though it was probably filmed entirely in a single kitchen and in a dark basement, that counts for points in the areas of costume and set design. It kind of says a lot about the massive and constant stream of shitty amateur feature films that when I see one with the plot ‘ransom kidnapping goes awry 48 years ago’ it gets my praise for its originality.
Far too many crappy horror films have trailers that suck. I don’t mean just that the movie sucks and therefore the trailer sucks, but that the trailer, itself, sucks. They are almost always way too long, and certainly always try to inter-cut shots of gore with shots of the awful actors acting awfully. If the trailer bores me, how could you ever think I’d see your movie? I give the people behind this movie credit for at least cutting a trailer that isn’t boring. It isn’t good, but at least it isn’t boring. It looks like the type of thing you’d see as an assignment for an undergrad non-linear editing course. Lots of sound, lots of color, little substance. It’s worth watching, though. There’s some dirty words and at least one perky, back-lit nipple, and you could do worse things with your two minutes. As for the flick itself, it’s about a trio of Satanists who perform a ritual and end up getting more than they bargained for. So, good work on that seemingly accurate title, fellas.
Well folks, there are a few DVDs streaming this week. You’ve got Junkyard Dog, Dragonslayer, and Man On A Mission. In the realm of previously featured DVDs, Netflix has now added Grimm’s Snow White, The Veteran, and London Boulevard. As for this week’s suggestions, I thought that in honor of Rampart’s stellar marketing I would showcase four Woody Harrelson flicks that you might’ve missed:
This was Harrelson’s first collaboration with Rampart director Oren Moverman. It nabbed Woody an Oscar nomination for his role in this movie about the relationship that forms between a fallen soldier’s widow and the man who informed her of the death. This is dramatic Harrelson.
This little-seen comedy stars Jennifer Aniston as a traveling saleswoman who is pursued by loveable stalker Steve Zahn. Woody Harrelson plays Aniston’s boyfriend, and as such, a problem for Zahn. This is indie Harrelson.
Woody headlines a cast packed full of ringers (including Warner Herzog!) in this mockumentary about a poker tournament. Werner Herzog’s character is billed as ‘The German’. For that reason alone, I can’t imagine not enjoying this movie. This is comedic Harrelson.
This is this movie. I have nothing to say about it, except that it exists and it is streaming. This is paycheck-whore Harrelson.