For Your Home Viewing Pleasure: October 1st, 2013

This week has a lot in the way of older movies presented in new and different ways, but not a lot of brand new action films. Still, there’s some pretty interesting offerings, so let’s jump in.this is the end blu-ray

The biggest new release in our arena is the disaster comedy This Is The End which finds hyper-real versions of Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, James Franco and Jonah Hill surviving the apocalypse.

John Cusack has been kind of slowly turning into Nicholas Cage over the past few years (see: The Raven), so it only makes sense that they’d appear in a movie together. In the thriller The Frozen Ground, Cusack’s a serial killer and Cage is trying to stop him. What more do you need to know?jcvd double feature the order nowhere to run

Jean-Claude Van Damme fans will be happy to discover that two of his films are making their way to Blu-ray on the same set. Thanks to the Jean-Claude Van Damme Double Feature: The Order / Nowhere to Run you can watch both movies back to back without getting up from the couch.

We here at Explosions Are Rad hadn’t heard of the Chinese crime thriller Cold War before seeing it on Amazon this morning. But after seeing the trailer above, it’s certainly one we’re going to check out.

A pair of very different director’s cuts made their debut this week. Troy Duffy’s cut of The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day and Luc Besson’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec [Director’s Cut] now offer their more complete visions for their films.

1997 was a big year for fire-coming-out-of-the-ground movies. You had your Dante’s Peak and your Volcano. Whose side were you on? Well, either way, the Tommy Lee Jones starring Volcano is now available on Blu-ray.TMNT_Ultimate_Showdown

We’ve only seen a handful of episodes of the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show on Nickelodoen, but it’s pretty darn cool. We’re thinking of catching up more with the latest DVD release Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ultimate Showdown.MagnumPI_Complete

If you’re looking to relive Tom Selleck’s 80s hey day all in one convenient box set then Magnum P.I.: The Complete Series might be right up your alley. The series lasted from 1980-1988 and consists of 42 discs.phineas and ferb mission marvel

Finally, Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel was pretty hilarious and you should watch it.

Indie Trade Post: BOP! More Box Office Poison, Comic Diorama, Good-Bye Chunky Rice & Mephisto & The Empty Box

bop! more box office poison BOP! [More Box Office Poison] (Top Shelf)
Written & drawn by Alex Robinson

One of the first larger indie works I ever read was Alex Robinson’s Box Office Poison. I remember reading about it in Wizard way back, so when I got to the company and saw a big huge book collecting most of the material, I jumped at the chance to give it a read.  It’s been a long time and I owe it to the work and myself to get my hands on a copy of that collection. Anyway, the series follows a group of NYC-dwelling 20 somethings as they navigate life, oftentimes balancing a desire to create art and pay their bills. It’s the kind of subject matter that wound up being the focus of most of the indie books I read around that time like Bob Fingerman’s Minimum Wage.

Anyway, somewhere along the way I happened across a copy of BOP! which collects all the Box Office Poison material not collected in that big ol’ book. I’ll admit, my memory’s kind of dumpy and I probably should have held off on reading this book until after I got my hands on the main collection, but it was actually kind of fun going back to these characters, being thrown right in and enjoying these smaller vignettes.

This collection includes a few shorter stories from some of the more peripherally characters as well as some of the one-page strips where several characters would answer questions. I wouldn’t recommend this book to BOP newbies, though it might give you a taste of Robinson’s style. After digging BOP I would go on to check out Too Cool To Be Forgotten which I really dug as well as Tricked which is also sitting in my to-read pile.

comic diorama Comic Diorama (Top Shelf)
Written & drawn by Grant Reynolds

I’ve said this before, but I’m not super plugged into the world of indie comics. I like them, but they’re not the kind of comics I read growing up which is kind of funny considering how much I got into weird movies in high school. Anyway, I keep an eye on companies like Top Shelf and Fantagraphics, specifically for their store sales. I picked up Grant Reynolds’ Comic Diorama during one of those Top Shelf sales, not because I had heard anything about it, but because I was already buying some stuff, it was only a buck or so and it had a creepy-cool cover.

The book itself is a pretty crazy collection of graphic storytelling. In just 48 pages, Reynolds goes from drawn journal entries and a one-armed, no-headed humanoid creature to a pair of water based stories that really show off the artists ability to use that element to tell a story.

I’m not going to posture and act like I completely understood the contents of this mini-comic. It’s super weird, but I didn’t get the vibe that it was doing it just for the sake of weirdness. I get the impression that there’s a heart and a purpose behind these stories that maybe I don’t fully understand at this point, but am happy to keep in my collection to return to later on down the road. I’ll also admit that I’m not familiar with Reynolds’ other work, what else of his should I check out?

good-bye chunky rice Good-Bye, Chunky Rice (Pantheon)
Written & drawn by Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson’s one of those guys who I’ve heard a lot of good things about but haven’t gotten around to actually reading until recently. I have a copy of Blankets in the to-read pile that I got for about a dollar at a closing Borders a few years back, but haven’t felt prepared to jump in just yet. I recently got a copy of Chunky Rice, though, via Sequential Swap and decided to sit down and read it while I was going through all these other smaller indie books.

Chunky Rice is a turtle who leaves his mouse girlfriend to go on a boat to an undisclosed location to start a new life. Most of the story takes place on the boat with the sneaky captain, his loud wife and Siamese twin women. The captain’s brother happens to be an incredibly sad man who was also Chunky Rice’s roommate back home.

That’s what the book is about, but it’s not what it’s ABOUT, you know? Honestly, though, I don’t really know what it’s ABOUT. Chunky wants the mouse to go with him, but she won’t because she says she belongs in the town. Why? No idea. Is the book about forcing change on yourself to experience the larger world? If so, it’s mostly countermanded by the fact that everyone Chunky meets is kind of a jerk and this journey sucks. Is that supposed to be a metaphor for life? If so, it’s not one I’m super interested. Then again, had I read this at 20 instead of 30, it might have been the kind of thing I really associated with.

Another aspect of the book that got a little under my skin was a perceived intent by the author to subvert expectations by telling this story with cartoony animals and humans as a way to make the reader think they’re looking at a comic strip type story, but instead it’s this heavy thing where young kids have to drown puppies. It felt like my emotions were being purposefully toyed with which is not a feeling I like. I have done absolutely no research about this book so all of this is just what I was left with after reading and might be completely off base. People who love this book, tell me why I’m wrong in the comments.

mephisto and the empty box Pistolwhip Presents: Mephisto And The Empty Box (Top Shelf)
Written & drawn by Justin Hall & Matt Kindt

After reading and really enjoying Matt Kindt’s Super Spy, I put his name on my “check out more of this guy’s work” list which is why I was so excited to see him do Frankenstein: Agent Of S.H.A.D.E.. It’s also why I snatched up three Pistolwhip books when I saw them on the cheap during another Top Shelf sale. I’ve been holding off on reading them, but after going through the above three books, I figured it’d be a good time to dive into the pool.

This is a 24 page, magazine-sized issue featuring a magician named Mephisto who we learn became a performer after his wife was called up on stage to play another magician’s assistant and never returned from a magic box. He’s been trying his damndest to get her back all these years, but to no avail.

I really had no idea what this book was about when I bought it so everything was a surprise. I especially liked the completeness of the story which, now that I think about it a little more, reminds me a lot of a really good Twilight Zone episode. I was really taken with the Mephisto’s sadness and how much he clearly still loved his wife. Unlike Chunky which was focused on finding oneself as a younger person, Mephisto is more about trying to get back what you had, something I can relate to a lot more at this point in my life. Of all four books I read on my quick indie spree, this is the one I liked the best because it’s a clear story, it had the most emotional impact and worked so well as a showcase of the creators’ talent.

Halloween Scene: Dragon Wars (2007)

There’s a lot up in the air about this movie. I’m not sure if it’s actually a horror movie, but since it’s got monsters and killings and a King Kong reference, I’ll keep it in. The title of the movie also seems to be up in the air. IMDb and Wikipedia are both pretty stubborn and claim that the movie is called D-Wars even though all of the posters I saw say Dragon Wars, so I’m going with Dragon Wars.

The movie is Korean, though it stars American actors like Robert Forster, Jason Behr and Craig Robinson and it really is just a conglomeration of all kinds of craziness. I remember back when the trailers for this movie started hitting I was really excited because it looked like a big, dumb movie with tons of dragons and monsters fighting it out in some big city. Some of the dragons even had rocket launchers somehow! How could you go wrong? Well, by making an incredibly confusing back story involving a reincarnated woman whose soul will transform giant snakes into dragons, a reincarnated dude who’s supposed to protect that girl, Robert Forster as a shape shifter of some kind, a lot of monsters who aren’t dragons and an army of evil dudes. Wait what happened to just watching dragons fight? This turned out to be a pretty long one, so hit the jump!

Like I said, it’s a confusing movie. At one point you’ve got a giant snake attacking cities, eating zoo animals and assuredly killing people (either on purpose or accident) and then you have another giant snake brought out by the evil army. So which one is supposed to be the “evil” dragon?

Speaking of the dragons/snakes I’m not a big fan of the special effects in the movie. I read a lot of reviews where they were praised, but I’m wondering if they were watching it on a digital projector because it didn’t really look so great on my TV. I wish they would have done a few practical effects with dragon puppets or animatronics just to give them some actual weight. There’s also some pretty crummy compositing of the various layers of special effects, specifically one time late in the movie when the leader of the evil army is standing on some kind of altar in front of a storming city. The dude is definitely real, but I’m not sure about the rest. It looks like the stage might be, but the background just looks terrible. I’m no expert when it comes to this stuff, but I am starting to notice these kinds of things.

Also, the movie is way too freaking loud. I had the remote in my hand during the whole movie so it wouldn’t wake Em up.

But, even with all those complaints and the standard Godzilla-complaints (ie, there’s not enough monsters fighting and too many scenes of people talking) I would highly recommend watching this movie…with a group of friends and a giant case of beer from BJ’s. There’s a good amount of marital arts action, even though you’re probably not looking for it and it’s more Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon than Police Story (I rarely like or watch period martial arts movies anymore, they just bore me with their sameness). I also love watching Craig Robinson in a somewhat serious role/movie. He still brings some humor to the overly complicated story and there’s a scene where he steals the sword from one of the evil army guys and tries to take him out. It’s awesome.

Any, even though I’m not a huge fan of the effects, the scenes of the monsters fighting in the city are rad. I wish the movie was 74 minutes long with 52 of them in the city. Cloverfield proved you could do a monster movie focusing on people and keep it tight and not focusing on people talking about the monsters in a bunker somewhere. I know that’s not the kid of movie the director wanted to tell, but that’s what I was expecting thanks to the marketing, go figure. The funny thing about this movie called Dragon Wars is that there aren’t even any dragons fighting. There’s only one actual dragon (with antlers) in the whole movie, in fact. There’s some pterodactyl-like things flying around the city and what looks like those beasts that fought on Jar Jar’s planet in the Star Wars prequels. The cannons even looked pretty similar. But, whatever, it was cool.

So, yes, the movie is overcomplicated and maybe kinda sorta dumb, but I absolutely want to watch this movie with 10 people after drinking 5 Coors Lights and a Sparx. Watching it alone was a little dull because Milo doesn’t really react to my jokes anymore. Stupid cat.