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New Releases for Tuesday, April 1, 2014

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

Knights of Badassdom
Genre Fantasy/Horror
Directed by Joe Lynch
Run time 85 minutes
Rating R
Format Blu-Ray

The Lowdown As a director, Joe Lynch had one feature and a short segment, one-fourth of an anthology, to his resume when he helmed "Knights of Badassdom," a horror-fantasy mash-up that envisions what might happen if Ren Faire loving role-players (also called LARPers, for Live Action Role Players) suddenly came face to face with an actual demon.

Granted, the one full-length feature was a direct-to-DVD sequel to a nearly 10-year-old horror film about inbred hillbilly cannibals killing travelers in West Virginia, BUT it was a really cool sequel, on par with the original as far as execution and story, and well-above the original in terms of gore and creative, wicked cool kills.

And Lynch’s portion of the wannabe-cult classic "Chillerama," was the wrap-around drive-in zombie romp that tied the movie together, but unfortunately "Chillerama" was an idea that probably sounded a lot better on paper than it played on screen.

But there was definite anticipation for "Knights of Badassdom," so much so that it warranted its own panel in Geek Heaven, also known as San Diego Comic-Con. So his second feature suddenly became a Big Deal.

Lynch assembled a top-notch cast of beloved genre actors Ryan Kwanten from "True Blood," Peter Dinklage from "Game of Thrones," Steve Zahn from "Joy Ride" and Summer Glau from "Firefly" and "The Sarah Connor Chronicles."

But then, after its trailer
debut at Comic-Con in 2011, "Knights of Badassdom" disappeared.

A year later, trouble surfaced. The film was suddenly being discussed on RipOffReport.com, a consumer website for people to vent about, well, being ripped off. The RipOffReport post allegedly detailed how the film’s producer, Indie Vest, wanted to wrest control of the film from Lynch’s hands and release its own cut of the movie.

Lynch seemed to confirm the account when asked about the movie by VideoETA.com on Twitter, directing inquiries back to the producers who had control.

Suddenly, ever genre-loving Internet website was reporting on the film and how Lynch’s vision would not be the final version to arrive on screens. The reports suggested that the first two acts of "Knights" were essentially Lynch’s, but the climactic battle and most of the third-act had been retooled.

The version released this week is, in fact, the Producer’s Cut, confirmed by the Blu-Ray and DVD distributors.

And it is, as feared, a mess.

And it’s the third act that completely derails an otherwise inventive, bloody, very funny and snarky feature about dim-witted LARPers who rise to the occasion to do battle with a succubus from hell.

Would "Knights" have fulfilled the promise that it showed in San Diego if Lynch had been allowed to cut the movie his way? That’s something genre fans will never know.

As it is, "Knights" joins a long list of movies felled by behind-the-camera turmoil that resulted in a very different, and inferior, film being released.
It’s not Directed by Alan Smithee, the pseudonym commonly used by directors who want to abandon a project, but it might as well be.

The Stuff You Care About
Hot chicks – Summer Glau alert! Hurrah.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Minimal.
Drug use – Yes.
Bad Guys/Killers – A powerful demon (but really the cheesehead Producers who ripped control of the final cut away from director Joe Lynch)
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
Blu-Ray Bonus Features – Cast interviews, Behind the Scenes featurette, San Diego Comic-Con panel discussion and the very awesome "Summer Glau Hottie Montage."

47 Ronin 3D (Universal, 119 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray) The $175 million pricetag on "47 Ronin," the long-delayed Keanu Reeves samurai fantasy, pretty much spelled disaster in today’s movie market where big-budget, tentpole films must have an incredible opening weekend to guarantee a respectable return on the investment.

Watching the movie in 3D, it’s clear where most of that budget went – "47 Ronin" is a sizzle reel of computer-generated effects (dragons, mystical fortresses, a giant, pit-fighting ogre) desperately in search of a better story to compliment.

It’s not a bad film, per se. It just could have been much, much better.

Still, two things stand out The ballsy, bleak ending isn’t how most blockbusters today might choose to close. You shouldn’t spend nearly two hours building up your band of heroes only to see them go out in an overly dramatic Jonestown fashion.

And Reeves, whose boyish looks are growing long in the tooth, should not have played the central role. While "47 Ronin" nimbly trips along without an established timeline to indicate how much time actually passes between Reeves being adopted by a samurai master and falling in love with a youthful princess before defending her against an insurrection by supernaturally powerful foes, it’s clear that he’s considerably older than the young woman he’s fighting for, and there’s a distinct creep factor that you can’t help but notice.

Reeves was much better in his directorial debut, "Man from Tai Chi." Here, he tries too hard to remind us that he is Neo, The One, but nostalgia only gets him so far.

Anchorman 2 The Legend Continues – Super-Sized R-Rated Version (Paramount, 119 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): The iconic quotable lines are fewer than before, the laughs less consistent and the shtick does eventually wear thin, but "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" deserves to exist, if only to remind die-hard fans how truly special the first film was and is. It’s not a comedy classic, but it’s inspired enough to warrant multiple viewings, especially since the Super-Sized R-Rated Version basically supplants all new jokes into the theatrical version to create an entirely different movie.

The Bag Man (Universal, 109 minutes, R, Blu-Ray) John Cusack is the Teflon man. He can headline a terrible direct-to-DVD movie, like "The Bag Man," and nobody ever holds him accountable. "The Bag Man" is a wannabe pulp-noir thriller that liberally pulls from "Pulp Fiction" – the titular bag is not to be looked inside at any cost, much like Tarantino’s glowing briefcase that John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson recover – and blatantly rips off one of Cusack’s better B-movies, the creepy and surprising "Identity." It all adds up to not very much, which is disappointing.

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