Below are some films in the past five years that I love. Spoilers ahead, in some cases!
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)
I love the Mad Max trilogy. Well, more Road Warrior than I am with Thunderdome, but still, they were three really great movies.
I've been following the Mad Max: Fury Road since it was mentioned in 2009 as possibly about Mad Max's son. Then it was announced that Tom Hardy would play the villain and that Charlize Theron would be the new Mad Max(ine). Of course, now that Fury Road is out, we realized that a lot of changes were made to the story.
Of course, I would love to see an alternate Mad Max story, but what we got with Fury Road was just as satisfying.
I saw the film in theaters with the D-Box seating and it was really a great experience.
As for the story, there's really not a great story here. They drive around a lot and the film is one giant car chase movie... which is what I love about it!
The original The Raid failed, because of lack of story, so The Raid 2 is one of the rare time that the sequel is superior to the original film. The story of The Raid 2 is pretty complicated with a ton of characters to keep track of... and is not always easy to understand.
The best part about The Raid 2 is the introduction to the brother/sister assassins: Bat Man and Hammer Girl. We hope to see more weird characters like this in the third Raid film.
Also: the fights are unbelievable and unlike anything you've ever seen. If you're a fan of martial arts, you have to check this series out.
The French film Blue Is the Warmest Colour has one of the raunchiest (and realistic) sex scene I've ever seen in a mainstream film. This film is definitely deserving of that NC-17 rating.
Ultimately the story is a teenager Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) falling in love with the girl with the blue hair Emma (Léa Seydoux). Emma rejects Adele, but Adele still longs for her first love. The film is ultimate about Adele (which the original title "The Life of Adèle – Chapters 1 & 2") and her coming of age story.
There's fallout for the film after it was released. Both of the actress said that they were extremely uncomfortable with the love scene (which, let's face it, is the main centerpiece of the film) and felt like they were prostitutes. It's troubling because there probably won't be a Chapters 3 and 4.... not that the film needed a sequel.
Look, we're all still trying to forget the Sylvester Stallone film!
What I absolutely love about Dredd is that it is just an unapologetic ultraviolent and over-the-top take on the Judge Dredd character. They got it right, especially if you look at the dark and gritty 2000 AD weeklies. Judge Dredd is a bit of a bastard sometime, especially how he treats the criminals. His rule is harsh, but fair.
The story is actually very, very similar to The Raid: Redemption, which came out around the same time. In both stories, the hero is trapped inside a building and he has to make his way to the top floor... encountering dangers at every level.
In the early 2000, I had an unlimited rental card at my local video rental store. What that meant was I could suddenly check out any of their library one at a time. It was like real-life Netflix! I went to the video rental store almost every day to check out random films.
One of the films I distinctively remember checking out was Pusher (1996) by a young Danish director called Nicolas Winding Refn. I didn't know it then, but it would be one of my favorite films. Nearly a decade later, he followed that original film with two sequels, Pusher II and Pusher 3 in 2004 and 2005, respectively.
His breakout films for the English language market (since all his pre-Pusher films were in Danish) seemed to be Fear X, followed by Bronson and Valhalla Rising. I did not see Fear X, but I did love Valhalla Rising a lot.
Anyway, let's just say that his masterpiece may be the underrated Drive film. It's actually a pretty easy to follow story, and I know a lot of people didn't "get" the film or just hated it. I think it's great, I love the 80s synth soundtrack, and the violence was just unreal.
Few people realized that this Edgar Wright's film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is actually based on a comic book. I've been following Wright's work since I first met him for the launch of Shaun of the Dead in Minneapolis in 2004. So I'm already a fan, but what Wright did with this film was just incredible. Really fun and quirky, and a great soundtrack.
While I couldn't care less for Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), I must confess, I did fall a little for Ramona Flowers (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
There you have it - my favorite movie for each year.
It was hard to just pick one favorite film, so here are my runner ups:
- The Book of Eli (2010)* Surprisingly a decent film, but it suffered from bad marketing - aka Live. Die. Repeat. ... why didn't they just called it All You Need is Kill, which is the original Japanese title.
- Attack the Block (2011)
- Prometheus (2012)
- Gravity (2013)
- Edge of Tomorrow* (2014)
- Ex Machina (2015)
I'm a big David Cronenberg fan, owning many of his releases on DVDs (including Rabid, Fast Company, The Brood, Videodrome, The Dead Zone, The Fly, Crash, Naked Lunch, Eastern Promises) so I'm really in no hurry to make the expensive jump Blu-Rays.
As a Christmas gift to myself, I decided to get one of my favorite Scanners on Criterion Blu-Ray. This three-disc edition is a nice upgrade to my MGM DVD.
I haven't had a chance to look over the special features (which unfortunately is only available on as Standard Definition on DVD), but includes a new Scanners documentary, interview with Michael Ironside, interview with Stephen Lack, and interview with Cronenberg (excerpt only from 1981).
As for the actual film, it is a new 2k digital film transfer with monaural soundtrack. There are no commentaries or additional audio soundtracks. I was pretty disappointed in the lack of extras for the film (even MGM had at least a French dub for the Canadian fans). Cronenberg probably was too busy to do a commentary on this film, but previous Criterion DVDs I own had experts and critics... so there are ways of adding bonus content without the director's involvement (especially if the filmmakers have passed away).
As with all Criterion Blu-Rays and DVDs, they do not come with a digital code or offered their films on UltraViolet. I'm assuming this has to rights holder and legal reasons.
Making up for the lack of film features, Criterion included a new 2k version of Cronenberg's first film Stereo (1969). I previously got this film as a bonus from another DVD set, but it's not one of my favorite films.
With all three or four discs releases, Criterion has been putting them on Digipak. I feel the cardboard packaging is unique versus the normal Criterion plastic cases (however, the majority of collectors seems to prefer the boring plastics because it fits better on their shelves). Personally speaking, I love the Digipaks because they look cool.
The only downside to Criterion releases is that are really expensive (with the exception of some popular titles). Scanners (Dual-Format Edition) retails for $39.99... and from my experience, it's hard to find good discounts on their movies. I ordered my copy from Amazon for $25, and I still felt like I was paying too much, considering that brand new films just making their way to Blu-Ray are sold for only $20 (which you can always find at a discount or wait for the prices to drop to $10).
In the past, when I was still buying Criterion DVDs, I would wait for Barnes & Noble to have their "Buy 2 Get 1 Free" sale and would stock up, or wait for Criterion's "Flash Sale", which is 50% off their retail price. I think the last time I participated in their Flash Sale, their website went down due to demand... but I eventually got in to pick up the Three Colors boxset (for $40, plus shipping & taxes... pushing it to $50).
If you were wondering about all these films we're reviewing, especially because they are not sold in stores, it is because sometime we believe in a film so much we decide to put money behind it and help bring the filmmaker's vision to screen.
The latest film we help Kickstart is Harbinger Down, a sci-fi monster film by Alec Gillis. What set this film apart from all modern movie is that the filmmakers and producers were determined to do the entire film using practical effects. Everything in the film were created by StudioADI using animatronics, prosthetic makeup, miniature effects and even stop motion.
Unfortunately, that's the only really cool thing about the movie; Harbinger Down, as a standard horror film, just wasn't very good... despite starring lead actor Lance Henriksen (from Alien and Millennium television series), as boat captain Graff. Camille Balsamo, who co-starred as Graff's daughter in the film, was just too perfect-looking in the film, and her acting was just too melodramatic. I guess she was just too pretty for me to believe her to be a scientist.
The other big problem with the film is that it took forever to get the film going. It felt like maybe it took the film nearly 20 minutes to find the monster in the ice. It's not for another 25 minutes do we see the first death. Look, if you are going to make a monster film, just maybe cut all the backstory and introduce the threat and death right away.
The film also felt eerie similar to John Carpenter's The Thing, both in story and the monster. There's a reason for this, the team (ADI) behind the monster was originally hired by Universal Studio to create the effects for the 2011 The Thing prequel. Since the studio made the wrong decision to go the computer generated imagery route, ADI was able save and later re-use their monster in Harbinger Down.
Harbinger Down is not a great film, but we are glad to be part of bringing the film to Bluray. Our copy did not contain subtitles or audio commentaries, so the release is pretty bare-bones. If you don't mind a DVD-only copy, the DVD can be purchased on Amazon. If you prefer to stream, Harbinger Down is available on Netflix.
There's no denying that zombies are the hot, especially in television right now: The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, iZombie, Z Nation, and to a lesser extent Ash vs Evil Dead.... but with four "Zom-Com" releases this year, expect Zom-Com as a whole new genre.
Be on the lookout for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in 2016. Zombie Jane Austen is turning in her grave right now.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEB (2015)
Night of the Living Deb is a delightful "Zom-Rom-Com" (Zombie Romantic Comedy) film starring Maria Thayer as local camerawoman Deborah and Michael Cassidy as Ryan.
The film is often compared to Shaun of the Dead (you may recall that we saw the original screening in 2004), and deservingly so, as Night of the Living Deb is just as smart and funny. However, there are some stupid/unbelievable moments, like Deb thinks dead people need to have their eyes opened. Come on, Deb can quote Back to the Future and Henry Longfellow, but is clueless on what to do with dead bodies? I understand it was to set up the electrifying Zombie scene, but still, I would have come up with a better solution than the closing eyelids thing.
Anyway, with only a modest $100k budget, thanks to kickstarter.com, they were still able to make a thoroughly enjoyable film. The film premiered at the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles and DVDs/Blurays were made available to fans (or "Debbers") in 2015, but no word yet on making the film available to the public.
Also, Twin Peaks fans will be pleased to know that Laura Palmer's dad, Ray Wise, is in the film.
Deb Clarington is a hardworking 30-year-old gal, not a stickler for hygiene and holding a terrible track record with men. That all changes when she wakes up on the Fourth of July in the apartment of the most attractive man she’s ever seen. Unfortunately neither she nor Ryan can explain exactly why they spent the night together, and there is some debate over how much even happened.
An awkward walk of shame turns even uglier when they discover that most of the town has contracted a helluva zombie virus overnight. In their fight for survival, they are forced back into each other’s arms – literally! Now they must find Ryan’s ex-girlfriend, paranoid father and apocalypse-survivalist brother and escape town… without killing each other in the process!
SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (2015)scoutsandzombiesmovie.com
I keep thinking "Scout" or "Scott" as a person, not as an organization. Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is a Zom-Com about how three scouts friends trying to survive the zombie outbreak in their area.
The film is also a coming-of-age story about friendship and love. Personally, I would have wanted the lead character Ben to go for Denise, the
I also had big problem with the film's introduction: a three or four minutes of the janitor lip-syncing to Iggy Azalea's "Black Widow". It was just unnecessary and doesn't really setup the tone of the movie at all. What it was, it felt like a bad music video, promoting Azalea. I would have cut that out and just went straight into the gruesome CPR scene.
What could possibly go wrong when three buddies (Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan) decide to join the Boy Scouts? When bloodthirsty, undead ghouls invade their once-peaceful town, it's up to kindhearted Ben, quick-witted Carter and class clown Augie to save the day. With help from Denise (Sarah Dumont), a beautiful but tough cocktail waitress, the boys must put their scouting skills to the ultimate test to save mankind and earn their zombie-killing badges.
The 2014 horror/comedy film Cooties just recently got released on VOD and DVD/Bluray release (December 1, 2015) via Lionsgate.
The biggest star in the film is Elijah Wood (if you don't count Hurley from Lost) who was a substitute teacher at Fort Chicken elementary school when a zombie outbreak hit the children of the school because of some infected chicken nuggets.
I think my biggest problem with the film is that killing children (no matter if they're already dead/zombies) isn't funny, no matter how gruesome or hilarious they make it out to be. Clearly the film is trying to be funny, but I never really laughed (not even once) during the film.
From the twisted minds of Leigh Whannell (co-creator of Saw and Insidious) and Ian Brennan (co-creator of "Glee"), COOTIES is a horror comedy with unexpected laughs and unapologetic thrills. When a cafeteria food virus turns elementary school children into killer zombies, a group of misfit teachers must band together to escape the playground carnage.
This Japanese zombie comedy Z Island (Zアイランド) by director Hiroshi Shinagawa came out in Japan earlier this year. I'm not sure why they decided that the English title will be re-named as Deadman Inferno, but I believe that is now the official English title. Usually these title changes are due to conflicting or similar titles (for example, the awful Ewan McGregor film The Island).
I've already previously mentioned several time that my all-time favorite director is Takashi Miike, and this film seemed very similar in tone and looks of Miike's Dead or Alive series (with the final film, Dead or Alive: Final, being the craziest in the trilogy). The scenes with the Japanese school girls reminded me of another Japanese Zombie film Stacy (a story about Japanese teenage girls becoming mindless zombies... dubbed "Stacy" by the military). Also, it's the only Yakuza Zombie film I can think of right now.
No word yet on a North American DVD/Bluray release for Deadman Inferno, but fans of wacky Japanese films should keep this on your radar.
Hiroya Munakata (Sho Aikawa) is the leader of the yakuza group Munakata-gumi. After 10 years since the big fight, Hiroya Munakata's non blood-related younger brother Takashi (Shingo Tsurumi) is released from prison, but Takashi’s daughter, Hyuga (Maika Yamamoto) says she does not want to meet her father and runs away from home.
Hiroya, Takashi and Hiroya’s subordinate Shinya (Red Rice) go to Zeni Island where Hyuga is headed to. Something they never expected is waiting for them.
WARM BODIES (2013)
I wanted to include this 2013 film Warm Bodies because it fits in this Zom-Com-Rom genre. I only recently saw it when I purchased it for a sale price of $5 on Bluray earlier this year. Not one of my favorite films, but considering I also got the Slipcase Cardboard and Ultra-Violet copy, I was pretty happy with the purchase.
The film tells the story of the Zombie's perspective. The "Romeo & Juliet" influence is fairly obvious: the two rivaling "families" of the humans and zombies and their names are "R" and "Julie". I guess if they are going to steal, they might as well steal from the best.
A terrible plague has left the planet's population divided between zombies and humans. An unusual zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult) sees his walking-dead brethren attacking a living woman named Julie (Teresa Palmer) and rescues her. Julie sees that R is different from the other zombies, and the pair embark on an unusual relationship. As their bond grows and R becomes more and more human, a chain of events unfolds that could transform the entire lifeless world.
I don't normally buy DVDs anymore (just concentrating on Blurays at the moment), but when I saw this new DRAGON DYNASTY 5 MOVIE COLLECTION, I had to pick it up. You can find it at a Best Buy for $10. It's a really good deal, four classic Jet Li and one Stephen Chow feature.
All the films comes with the original Chinese audio track as well as an English dub. They all have subtitles and closed captions.
The odd thing is that this release is by Anchor Bay Entertainment, using the Dragon Dynasty logo and artwork direction.
I'm pretty excited about Anchor Bay resurrecting brand... even if it is strictly a DVD release. I guess for older mid-90s Hong Kong films, it's almost not worth it to go back for a 4k remaster, etc. The films still holds up and looks great on DVD. These are probably going to be the best version anywhere, considering you get all the audio tracks, various subtitles, and image quality from the vault.
PS: Anchor Bay is bringing back the spine numbering: they are listed as #59 to #63
Zoo Weekly Issue 460 (19 January 2015)
ZOO Weekly is quite literally Australia’s biggest selling men’s mag. Every single week it gives you everything you’ll need to get through the week. And then some. Top sports stories, latest cars and gadgets, babes and weirdness. And a pub’s eye view of the stuff worth talking about. Add in our unique men’s TV and entertainment guide and frankly it feels like we’re giving you too much. Every week, we serve you up a fast, funny mix of the sexiest babes, best sports coverage, coolest cars and a pub’s eye view of the week’s news. We bring you the big entertainment stories first and be your bible for the week ahead. We review all the week’s music, movies, gadgets and games, while our TV guide highlights the best stuff on the box for blokes. Plus, ZOO is your one stop shop for jokes, jpegs, lists quizzes and weird stuff to make you laugh out loud.
The world's hottest inked babe, Vanessa Lake, fronts our special tattoo issue, featuring the best body art, funniest tatts and hottest tattooists going around. You'll also see some Kiwis almost die inside a volcano, find out how NASA's making planes that'll go from Sydney to Melbourne in two minutes, and be amazed by Afghanistan's reincarnated Bruce Lee.
This is one of my favorite Spaghetti Western film. If you didn't already own it, it's being re-issued on DVD as an "English Version" this 28 April 2015. I'm glad to see that it is back in print, as the out of print DVD is selling for over $26... so buying it new for $11 is a deal on Amazon.
The version I own, via Anchor Bay has the English dub, so I'm not actually sure what they meant by "English Version", as I'm assuming all previous versions were "English" version?
Blue Underground is releasing two Italian masters collections. Each release retails for $39.99, so you're spending about $13 a Bluray, might be worth it if you already own the DVD (which I already own via Anchor Bay or previous Blue Underground DVDs). Amazon is selling these for $24.99 ($9 a disc), so you can shop around. I typically don't really pre-order and prefer to actually see it in person before I buy anything. I hope Best Buy or Walmart will carry these.
None of these disc have any special features that I like (audio commentaries), but generally you don't buy these collections for the features.
Details of the releases:
Three classic Dario Argento thrillers for one low price!
THE CAT O'NINE TAILS:
When a simple robbery at a research institute leads to a series of brutal murders, a blind puzzle maker and a tenacious reporter begin their own investigation of the crimes. With nine different clues to follow, they uncover a shocking web of twisted genetics and dark sexual secrets that will finally lead them to a shattering climax of violence and suspense.
An English jazz pianist living in Rome witnesses the brutal hatchet murder of a renowned psychic and is quickly drawn into the savage crime. With the help of a tenacious female reporter, the pair track a twisted trail of deranged clues and relentless violence towards a shocking climax that has ripped screams from the throats of audiences for more than 35 years!
A young woman stumbles upon a mysterious diary that reveals the secrets of "The Three Mothers" and unleashes a nightmare world of demonic evil. As the unstoppable horror spreads from Rome to New York City, this unholy trinity must be stopped before the world is submerged in the blood of the innocent.
Three classic Lucio Fulci gore fests for one low price!
CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD:
The Seven Gates Of Hell have been torn open, and in three days the dead shall rise and walk the earth. As a reporter and a psychic race to close the portals of the damned, they encounter a seething nightmare of unspeakable evil. The city is alive - with the horrors of the living dead!
THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY:
A young family moves from their cramped New York City apartment to a spacious new home in New England. But this is no ordinary house in the country: the previous owner was the deranged Dr. Freudstein, whose monstrous human experiments have left a legacy of bloody mayhem. Now, someone - or something - is alive in the basement, and home sweet home is about to become a horrific hell on earth.
THE NEW YORK RIPPER:
A blade-wielding psychopath is on the loose, turning The Big Apple bright red with the blood of beautiful young women. As NYPD detectives follow the trail of butchery from the decks of the Staten Island Ferry to the sex shows of Times Square, each brutal murder becomes a sadistic taunt. In the city that never sleeps, he's the killer that can't be stopped!
amazon.com which again may be too much for an older film. The main selling point for me is usually audio commentary, which I do not think the upcoming Grindhouse Releasing will have. However, the first 5,000 units will feature a glow in the dark cover.... which is very tempting, but I think the pricing is too expensive for now.
The seven dreaded gateways to hell are concealed in seven cursed places...
And on the day the gates of hell are opened, the dead will walk the earth!
From legendary Italian horror master Lucio Fulci comes the ultimate classic of supernatural terror. A cursed hotel, built over one of the seven gateways to hell, becomes a malevolent abyss that begins devouring both the bodies and the souls of all who enter in a graphic frenzy of gory crucifixions, brutal chain-whippings, eyeball impalements, sulphuric acid meltdowns, flesh-eating tarantulas, throat-shredding demon dogs and ravenous bloodthirsty zombies. THE BEYOND is a towering achievement in hair-raising, mind-bending cinematic terror!
December 6, 2014
Grindhouse Releasing is bringing Lucio Fulci’s THE BEYOND back to select theaters to celebrate the film’s upcoming U.S. Blu-ray debut. Don’t miss this chance to see Fulci’s masterpiece of supernatural horror on the big screen in glorious 35mm!
1/23/2015 – Landmark Sunshine, NYC
If you listened to my podcast with Cristina, you know that I'm a huge Game of Thrones fan. I actually own all the books (but have not read all of them) and always get the Bluray exclusive covers, if I can get them. Best Buy will be releasing five different covers for Season 4 - unfortunately, three of them were previously used for for Season 1 and 2, only the Martell and Tyrell are new covers. I don't know why they are recycling the images - they could have at least changed the colors or reverse the image or something?
Walmart's exclusive is a King Joffrey mini figure by Funko, while Target is offering a free "Beautiful Death Photo Book" with their exclusive. I hate to say it, but it would seem Best Buy has the best version with the bonus disc and exclusive slipcover. I've rant about the slipcover before, saying that the covers are too thin, but the bonus disc might make up for it. As for Walmart or Target, I suppose I have to see them in person to see if the book or toy is worth it. Also, I guess it depends on availability as well.