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Monday, May 02, 2016

Blood, Violence and Babes

A B-Movie Holy Grail by John Allman

If you’ve surfed the DVR pay-per-view options and seen a bunch of movies that you’ve never heard of, chances are John has watched them. Why? He loves movies. All kinds of movies. Good, bad, so-bad-they’re good, even the truly unwatchable ones. He mostly loves horror and science-fiction and drive-in exploitation movies that most upstanding model citizens wouldn’t dare watch. Then he writes up his thoughts so you can decide - watch, don’t watch or avoid at all costs. Sometimes he even gets to talk to the cool folks who make some of your favorite films.

Moviegoers can let out a sigh of relief: No texting at AMC

The CEO of AMC Theatres wanted to make some theatres cell-phone friendly to attract the younger generation.

Moviegoers were outraged.

The company reversed the policy almost immediately.

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New Releases for Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:

Cherry Tree

Genre: Horror

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‘Point Break’ remake just feels broken

What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:

Point Break

Genre: Remake/Action

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‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ will hold your attention

What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:

All Hell Breaks Loose

Genre: Exploitation

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New Releases for Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What's new in stores and on video shelves this week:

"Rage of Honor"

Genre: Action

Directed by: Gordon Hessler

Run time: 98 minutes

Rating: R

Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: Man, oh man, when I was a teenager growing up in the 1980s, I absolutely loved Shô Kosugi and his amazing ninja skills.

You couldn’t go see a ninja movie in the theater without knowing who Kosugi was. From “Enter the Ninja” to “Revenge of the Ninja” to “Ninja III: The Domination” (my personal favorite) and “Nine Deaths of the Ninja,” Kosugi kicked ass in a string of quickly made action flicks from 1981 to 1985.

By that point, Kosugi was ready to test his box office appeal on a broader stage, and so “Rage of Honor” was born as a vehicle to allow Kosugi to non-ninja his way into America’s collective movie-going heart.

“Rage of Honor” is a straight-up police action thriller not unlike similar films of that era starring Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and more. Kosugi plays Shiro, a Japanese cop tracking a vicious drug syndicate to Singapore and South America, determined to extract revenge for the murder of his partner.

It’s not a particularly great action movie – not like, say, “Ninja III: The Domination,” which features demonic possession, ninja bad-assery and aerobics – but it features enough truly memorable, “What the hell was that?” moments that one quickly understands why Arrow Video decided to make a high-definition transfer release.

Despite stating his intention to stay away from his more-recognizable antics, Kosugi still comes off like a skilled martial arts assassin, only he’s wearing a dress shirt and slacks instead of the traditional shinobi shozoko worn by ninjas. He kicks, he chops, he makes multiple free-standing back flips and he uses throwing stars that contain explosives! (Fun fact – Kosugi personally designed many of the weapons employed during the fight scenes.)

“Rage of Honor” also benefits from the capable lens of director Gordon Hessler, who gave us such genre greats as “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad,” “The Oblong Box” and “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park.”

Hessler’s playful eye allows certain scenes, such as the opening police raid on board a yacht populated by drug dealers and partygoers, to explode in a flurry of frenetic violence.

My personal favorite scene comes near the midway mark when Kosugi is casing a suspected drug facility in Singapore. Hessler’s camera trains on the security fence, showing a distracted guard through the chain links. Suddenly, Kosugi’s face pops up from below the frame, staring directly into the camera, before he executes a wicked back flip over the fence and knocking the guard unconscious with his nunchucks mid-flip before landing safely on his feet.

It’s awesome and hysterical, all at the same time, much like the bulk of Kosugi’s storied filmography.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Not really.

Nudity – Brief. Gore – Minimal

Drug use – Yes.

Bad Guys/Killers – South American drug cartels.

Buy/Rent – Fans of ‘80s exploitation action will want to own this one for the special features alone, including a good interview with Shô Kosugi reflecting on the film, plus trailers for all his famous ninja flicks and more.

Also Available:

The Big Short

Brooklyn

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

Game of Thrones: The Complete Fifth Season

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

Sisters

The Hatching

Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove: The Final Season

Invasion U.S.A.

Braddock: Missing in Action III

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New Releases for Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What's new in stores and on video shelves this week:

"The Corpse of Anna Fritz"

Genre: Thriller

Directed by: Hèctor Hernández Vicens

Run time: 71 minutes

Rating: Unrated

Format: DVD

The Lowdown: As a movie released by Invincible Pictures, the company that unleashed “A Serbian Film” onto the world, it’s fair to say that high expectations might create the potential for disappointment.

After all, “A Serbian Film” – the unedited, NC-17 threat to the sanctity of all that most people hold holy and pure – was widely condemned for its graphic, taboo-shattering imagery and nihilistic worldview. Note: While this may guarantee me a direct ticket to purgatory, I must confess to actually having an appreciation and affinity for the boundary-breaking film.

That said, the studio’s latest release, “The Corpse of Anna Fritz,” has some big shoes to fill, so naturally the central thrust of its sleek, streamlined plot centers on necrophilia.

Not your every day, garden-variety, grave-robbing necrophilia, but the kind of star-struck, vanity-fueled, if you could do it and not get caught-kind of necrophilia that would signify the mic-drop moment of even the most brazen and debaucherous game of “Never Have I Ever.”

See, the titular corpse at the heart of this film belongs to Anna Fritz, who is described as the most desired female celebrity in all of Spain. Poor Anna has died suddenly, as many celebrities do, and her body has freshly arrived at a local hospital morgue where a young male attendant is working, about to be visited by a pair of brash, drug-filled friends, who quickly demand to see the starlet’s naked body on display.

What happens next is best left to be discovered, but suffice to say, strange things are afoot down in the bowels of the hospital, and all is not as it appears once Anna’s gurney is wheeled out to be viewed.

If “The Corpse of Anna Fritz” simply existed to shock, even its ridiculously brief run time wouldn’t justify it as casual entertainment. The calculated and well-crafted hook, the film’s meat, so to speak, is its rueful examination of youthful folly, its escalating exploration of morality and its nimble execution in playing with the audience’s perception of good and bad, right and wrong.

Films like this must have an antagonist just as they must feature a victim. “The Corpse of Anna Fritz” gleefuly plays with such conventional expectations. It deftly toys with the notion of whether one terrible wrong should demand the ultimate consequence, or if redemption is possible despite willful participation in a singularly atrocious act.

As a genre, the taboo subject of necrophilia is host to a (very) few deserving titles. It’s a genre filled with more misses (“Nekromantik”) than hits (“Deadgirl”).

“The Corpse of Anna Fritz” is very much worthy of being considered a hit.

The Stuff You Care About:

Hot chicks – Yes.

Nudity – Yes. Gore – Minimal.

Drug use – Yes.

Bad Guys/Killers – Self-entitled millennials.

Buy/Rent – Buy it.

 

"In the Heart of the Sea" (Warner Bros., 122 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray 3D): As a filmmaker, Ron Howard’s signature movies have never captivated me the same way they enthralled his hardcore fans. I always gravitated more to his early works, the edgy social satires like “Night Shift” and “Gung Ho.” It has been a long time since I actually sat down and enjoyed a Ron Howard film and I did not expect that to change with “In the Heart of the Sea,” his sea-faring ode to the legend of the origin of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” As much an action film as a historical period piece, “In the Heart…” showcased some amazing visuals that allowed me to forgive its conventional story structure, and I found myself immersed in the mechanics of what it must have been like to be aboard a whaling vessel at a time when sailors had no true knowledge of how far or how deep the sea literally extended. While it failed to generate much box office, this is not the bomb that I expected. It’s actually an enjoyable and at times gripping man-versus-nature thriller.

"Victor Frankenstein" (Fox, 110 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): The umpteenth adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic “Frankenstein” gets a much-needed goose in the form of an origin story for the doctor’s unlikely assistant, Igor. It’s not great, but it has its moments, and the playful rapport between Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy helps carry it past its many, major plot contrivances.

Also Available:

Macbeth

The Spoils of Babylon

Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Season 3

Manhattan: Season 2

Out of the Inferno

Beyond Beyond

Community: The Complete Final Season?

Species II

Scream Factory Double Feature: Species III and Species: The Awakening

Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

When Calls the Heart: It Begins with Heart

The Bible Stories: In the Beginning

The Bible Stories: Abraham

The Bible Stories: Moses

The Peanuts Movie

Children of the Stars

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New Releases for Tuesday, March 1, 2016

John W. Allman
What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:

“Creed”
Genre: Action/Drama
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Run time: 132 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: For those people who wondered after 2006’s “Rocky Balboa” whether the world needed another Rocky Balboa film, “Creed” proves why there should be an exclamation point behind the answer, “Yes!”
For a character who has been hanging around for the past 39 years, Balboa, as played once again by Sylvester Stallone, has never seemed more human, and that’s one of the many fine points that writer-director Ryan Coogler nails in his thoughtful, relevant and thrilling continuation of the franchise.
Stallone seems wholly comfortable as Balboa, which is no surprise. But Michael B. Jordan, playing the illegitimate son of Balboa’s former foe/friend Apollo Creed, gives the film the heart it needs to justify this seventh return to the ring.
In a year dominated by nostalgia, when dinosaurs ran amok and terminators traveled in time, who would have guessed that the one film to deftly reward longtime fans would be a quiet character study about the pressures of living up to one’s legacy wrapped in an adrenaline-infused action movie.
Coogler gets what touched people’s hearts about the “Rocky” franchise. He understands the need for the training montage, and why it was such a popular moment in the best movies of the franchise. But he doesn’t pander. He doesn’t resort to having Balboa and Creed enlist a legion of cheesesteak-loving residents in a Vangelis-inspired foot race to the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Instead, he turns the heart-tugging moment into a sentimental statement about the art of aging gracefully.
“Creed” is a fantastic culmination of an enduring franchise, anchored by a still-lovable lug whose onscreen life mirrors the trajectory of many of his stalwart fans. Through success and heartbreak, Balboa survived, and movies as we know them are better for it.

The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Boxing violence.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – There’s no Ivan Drago in this one.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.

“Intruders” (Entertainment One, 90 minutes, Unrated, DVD): There must be a curse for films simply named “Intruders.” The last movie with that title starring Clive Owen was a convoluted mess. The latest film bearing the same title, “Intruders,” is an interesting-in-concept home invasion thriller about a young woman suffering from Agoraphobia who must fend off a group of thieves looking to steal from her family after her brother dies. The hook here is that, much like in the far superior “You’re Next,” the victim is not your everyday damsel in distress. Both her family and her estate harbor dark secrets that the would-be bandits are ill-equipped to deal with. It’s not a terrible thriller, but it lacks the propulsive narrative necessary to keep you fully engaged, despite a brief run time.

“The Night Before” (Sony, 101 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Santa be like, “No, no, no” instead of “Ho, ho, ho.” The problem with this high-concept holiday comedy is pretty simple: It’s not funny. Not in the least. I barely chuckled through the first 30 minutes, and that’s a really bad sign when Seth Rogen is on full display.

“The Midnight Man” (Cinedigm, 105 minutes, Unrated, DVD): D.C. Hamilton’s genre mash-up of horror and assassins-for-hire, “The Midnight Man,” suffers from an identity crisis. It wants to be slick and subversive, a rat-a-tat-tat roller coaster of bombastic style and Tarantino-esque dialogue, spotlighting a hired killer who can’t feel pain due to a genetic disorder that renders him impervious to torture. But too often, the high concept falls flat. Part of the problem lies with the script, which can’t decide on a consistent tone. The Midnight Man, whose real name is Grady, is played by Will Kemp as a likeable yet deadly rapscallion. His girl Friday, if she was thrust in the role of hostage, is Zan, a single-mom emergency paramedic played by Brinna Kelly, who co-wrote the script with Hamilton. Kelly can’t act on the same level as Kemp and Doug Jones and William Forsythe and the other genre greats who populate the cast, and that’s another big problem. The only person who really seems to embrace the look and feel that Hamilton hoped to achieve is Jones, who plays Vick, a diabolical and witty torturer who revels in the amount of pain he can inflict. “The Midnight Man” is a fun genre film that leaves you wanting more, but you won’t be angry for the time lost watching it.

“The Boy” (Shout! Factory, 110 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Writer-director Craig William Macneill does an admirable job showing the influences that might form the foundation of a dangerous sociopath in a 9-year-old boy. But his film, “The Boy,” while filled with visual imagery befitting the remote, desert locale of a roadside motel where the boy, Ted Henley, lives with his father, doesn’t provide enough necessary jolts to truly galvanize the viewer. Instead, I found myself thinking back to a film that tonally and thematically mirrors “The Boy” to greater effect – “Goodnight Mommy.”

Also Available:

The Danish Girl
Weaponized
Kill or Be Killed
God’s Club
The Sheik
The Bold Ones: The New Doctors: The Complete Series
Dudes & Dragons
Digimon Fusion Season 2
Life
Don Verdean
The Unauthorized Collection 4-Film Set
Drunk History: Season 3
Strike Back: Cinemax Season 4
Youth
Miss You Already
Key Largo
The Big Sleep
The Decline of Western Civilization Parts I and II
Sunshine Superman
Legend
Room
The Americans: The Complete Third Season

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New Releases for Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What's new in stores and on video shelves this week:

"Spotlight"

Genre: Drama

Directed by: Tom McCarthy

Run time: 129 minutes

Rating: R

Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: The Academy Award-winning Best Picture “Spotlight” is a movie that you need to see.

It’s not just the best movie of the year, hands down, it’sthe most impressive testament to the enduring power and importance of newspaper reporting since “All the President’s Men.”

Going into “Spotlight,” I was unaware of the details of exactly how The Boston Globe began and executed its exhaustive investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by more than 80 priests in the metropolitan area.

The meticulous and gripping adaptation of how those reporters did their job and persevered against a monolithic establishment that historically prevailed in discounting and diminishing any and all criticism was both mind-blowing and inspirational.

As a former professional journalist, even as the credits rolled at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning, I wanted to leap out of reporter retirement and go immediately to work.

“Spotlight” is just that – a shining beacon illuminating the danger posed by an all-knowing, omnipresent online Internet that has consistently downgraded the perceived need for unbiased, informed newsgathering about timely, serious issues impacting a local community. No other media format could have done this story the justice it deserved.  

Kudos to the filmmakers for recognizing the need to showcase the work of the Globe staff and for presenting such a thoughtful and accurate portrayal of how reporters actually work and the significance of what their findings can accomplish.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Yes, but that’s not what this is about.

Nudity – No.

Gore – No.

Drug use – No.

Bad Guys/Killers – Complicit silence.  

Buy/Rent – Buy it. 

 

Also Available: 

Entertainment

I Smile Back

The Serpent and the Rainbow: Collector’s Edition

Extraction

My All American

Shaun the Sheep: Season 2

Shaun the Sheep: Sheep on the Loose

Fargo: Year Two

The Girl in the Book

Secret in Their Eyes

Racing Extinction

Scream Factory Double Feature: Millennium/R.O.T.O.R.

Transformers Rescue Bots: Adventures in Time and Space

Scream Factory Double Feature: The Curse/Curse II: The Bite

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New Releases for Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:

 

“Black Mass”

Genre: Drama

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New Releases for Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:

Freaks of Nature

Genre: Horror

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