Weekend Watch: ‘God Bless America,’ After Dark Action, and grindhouse trailers on Blu-ray

You’ve got a lot of options for what to watch and how, and we want to help you plan your weekend with a new column where we’ll highlight three things you can see in theaters, three things you’ll find streaming, and three titles new to home video.  Appropriately enough, we call this The Weekend Watch.

“The Avengers” continues to suck all of the oxygen out of the room this weekend, even with “Dark Shadows” entering the marketplace.  I’m curious to see if they can get a $100 million second weekend out of the film, which would be a 50% drop, and I’m curious to see if the Depp/Burton pairing is enough to overcome decidedly negative reviews and an ad campaign that never really kicked into high gear.

With films that big and high profile, though, you know they’re out there.  I doubt anyone’s going to startled to hear that “Dark Shadows” is opening, and I’d be amazed if there’s anyone on the planet who isn’t aware of “The Avengers” by now.  So instead, let’s point out some alternatives that are out there this weekend that might not be getting the same level of attention, but that are absolutely worth your time as well.


“God Bless America”

I reviewed Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest film at the Toronto Film Festival, and he made a guest appearance on the podcast last year as well.  I’m pleased to see people are responding to this film, because I want Goldthwait to keep making movies as long as I keep watching movies.  He’s got such a great, singular voice, and his genuine anger about the state of our culture comes through loud and clear in this story of a man, a girl, a killing spree, and “American Idol.”  Considering how safe most of film comedy is, it feels vital that people get out and support a truly independent film that offers such an uncompromised perspective on where we are and how we got there.

“Where Do We Go Now?”

Foreign films offer us a chance to step into the lives of people in very different circumstances than our own, and that’s absolutely true of Nadine Labaki’s dramatic comedy about a group of Lebanese women who are determined to stop the men in their village from turning Christian/Muslim tensions into a full-blown civil war.  The film is a blockbuster in the Middle East, so if you want to see a film that speaks directly to the fears and the anxieties and the hopes of that region right now, this is a lovely possibility for you this weekend.

“I Wish”

Director Hirokazu Koreeda is a filmmaker of uncommon sensitivity, especially when it comes to telling stories about children.  His film “Nobody Knows” was crushingly sad, a look at what happens when adults abandon children, and featured some tremendous performances from the young leads.  He’s worked similar magic here with a tale about about a young boy, Koichi, who wants to reunite his divided family.  Using the building of a new bullet train station as the instigating incident, the film looks at the way Koichi’s ardent desires for his family reshape the world around him, although not always in the ways he expects.  This film has charm to spare and a clear-eyed sense of wonder about the world, and while it meanders a bit, it is never less than engaging.

ALSO NEW IN THEATERS THIS WEEK:  “Dark Shadows,” “Girl In Progress,” “Hick,” “Tonight You’re Mine,” “The Road,” and “A Bag Of Hammers”


“The Woman In Black” (Amazon)

I still haven’t seen this one, so it’s a perfect opportunity for me to catch up with it now that Amazon has it streaming before it comes out on home video.  The more I pay attention to streaming releases, the more it’s clear that this isn’t just a duplicate format, but rather a unique window that offers consumers a lot of interesting opportunities.  The Amazon service is a good way to watch full seasons of television shows if you don’t want to wrangle DVRs and cable bills, and they are frequently able to offer up movies before any other legal way to see them at home.  This is the movie that helped get the Hammer horror studio back up and running, and they’re already working to develop a follow-up based on a new idea by the same author.  It’s also nice to see Daniel Radcliffe taking his first steps away from the “Harry Potter” series and into whatever his adult career is going to be.

“After Dark Action” (Amazon)

The After Dark label was always a mixed bag with their horror films, and I would assume the same is true of their new action imprint as well.  That’s to be expected.  This is a label that aggressively hunts down titles that they can take out as part of a larger schedule that is part VOD, part theatrical, and these are, in most cases, finished movies that they simply agree to distribute.  Today, you can see “Dragon Eyes,” which is a Van Damme film with Cung Le and Peter Weller co-starring, or you can see Christian Slater and Scott Adkins in “El Gringo,” or you can check out Wes Chatham and Devon Sawa in “The Philly Kid.”   There’s also “Stash House,” a Dolph Lundgren film co-starring Brianna Evigan and “Transit,” with Jim Caviezel.  That’s a pretty wide range of styles and stars that are part of this first wave of After Dark Action titles.  They’re available via On Demand services on cable and satellite, as well as through Amazon and iTunes, and I’m going to try to catch a couple of them myself.

“Killer Elite” (Netflix)

Meanwhile, you can sometimes take chances on titles at home that you wouldn’t bother with in theaters.  While “Killer Elite” wasn’t a great movie, it was an interesting one that walked the middle ground between what we think of as Clive Owen’s movies and what we think of as Jason Statham’s movies.  Based (loosely) on a true story, it’s a film that may play better at home, and with movies that are neither “GREAT!” or “TERRIBLE!”, which seems to be the only way many critics can deal with films these days, waiting for a moment like this isn’t a bad idea.  You might end up liking it more than I did, and with less risk up front.

ALSO NEW ON STREAMING THIS WEEK: Netflix – “Giallo,” “Honey 2,” “How The Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer,” “The Man Nobody Knew,” “Sleep Dealer,” “Columbo Season 2,” “Columbo Season 3,” “Kimjongilia,” “Theater Of War,” “Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?),” “Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark,” “Kevin Smith: Burn In Hell,” “Shark Night.”  Amazon Instant – “One For The Money,” “The Devil Inside,” “Chronicle,” “Rampart,” “The Tortured,” “The Road,” “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie.”


“42nd Street Forever: The Blu-ray Edition”

The DVD releases that make up the “42nd Street Forever” series were incredible, packed with all sorts of obscure trailers for films that I’ve seen and many for films I haven’t seen and that I’ll most likely never see.  If you don’t understand why anyone would want a whole Blu-ray full of crazy exploitation trailers, I doubt I’ll be able to convince you, but I find this wildly entertaining.  And while the films themselves and the trailers are hardly the cutting edge of sound and picture quality, having them all on a Blu-ray like this seems like the best possible version of this series.  I haven’t seen the Blu-ray for myself, but I look forward to picking up a copy as soon as possible.

“Gremlins 2: The New Batch”

My boys haven’t seen either of the “Gremlins” movies yet, but I’m almost tempted to start with this sequel, which is a blatant nod from Joe Dante to the inspired lunacy of the best years of the Warner Bros. cartoons.  I understand why this confused audiences when it was released in 1990, but I adore the film’s bizarre sense of humor and its willingness to try anything.  I also think the Rick Baker make-up work in the film is outstanding, one of the great examples of practical effects puppeteering in modern film.  The film’s shots at Donald Trump and Ted Turner would be out of date if Donald Trump wasn’t still such a spectacular douchebag.  I’m just glad Warner has finally put both of the “Gremlins” films in HD, and I look forward to revisiting them both in the weeks ahead.

“Mother’s Day”

Darren Lynn Bousman’s film isn’t really a remake, and it seems to have run into some annoying distribution issues that kept it from ever having a wide release.  It deserves to be seen, though, and while I’m not sure I’d call it a horror film, it is certainly horrifying.  It’s more of a brutal real-world thriller, built around a home invasion, and it gets truly ugly at times.  Rebecca DeMornay’s work is great, though, and overall, the film packs a real punch.  Bousman is carving out a place for himself in the indie world, and while it may not always be easy for him, I like the way he’s doing things, and I want people to see the work he’s doing.

ALSO NEW TO VIDEO THIS WEEK:  “Bobcat Goldthwait: You Don’t Look The Same Either,” “Chuck: The Complete Fifth Season,” “Norman Mailer: The American,” “Shock Labyrinth,” “The Shrine,” “Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie,” “Underworld: Awakening,” “The Vow.” Blu-ray – “The Dirty Dancing Collection,” “Ganja & Hess,” “La Haine (Criterion)”

“The Weekend Watch” appears here every Friday.