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.

Halloween Scene: The Raven (2012)

the raven poster I don’t remember hearing many good things about The Raven. I also don’t remember hearing any particularly negative things, but that’s not really a great sign either, is it? But, being a big fan of Edgar Allen Poe’s in high school and loving John Cusack from movies like High Fidelity and Grosse Pointe Blank so when I saw The Raven pop up on Netflix Instant, I figured I’d give it a watch anyway. And, you know what? I liked it!

Now, it’s important to frame this movie in a particular way to really enjoy it. First, this is not a biopic. The less you know about Poe the better. I knew very little, so that worked out for me. I also liked thinking of Cuasack as doing a bit of a Nic Cage impression while doing his scenes because he’s got an over-the-top quality that might encapsulate Poe pretty well, I’m not really sure.

So, here’s the plot. Edgar Allen Poe is asked by the Baltimore police to help them solve a rash of murders that take some of their cues from Poe’s stories. He’s towards the end of his career and having some real writers block, so he’s kind of a washed up has-been at this point, but after convincing the cops he’s not the killer himself, he gets involved in trying to not only find the killer but also his girlfriend played by Alice Eve who the killer kidnapped.

I’ve got to say, I was a little surprised at how gruesome some of the kills were, especially the one based around The Pit And The Pendulum. I guess I don’t expect that much from big-ish budget Hollywood movies like that, but it was kind of cool to see. The movie isn’t exactly soaked in blood, but it’s there. More so, it depends on the psychological thrills and craziness, especially in the films final moments which were pretty intense.

At it’s heart, The Raven is a fairly simple whodunit mixed with cat-and-mouse but framed in a fairly interesting locale and wrapped in the familiar tropes of Poe. I think if you’re a fan of those kinds of films and you go into this movie with a fairly open mind — or at least few preconceptions — you’ll have a good time with this one.

Quick Movie Review: War, Inc. (2008)

War, Inc. is a strange duck of a film. It’s set kind of in the future with self-flying personal jets and futuristic cars, but still references to current pop culture elements. It feels like it’s trying really hard to be a satire on US capitalism and it’s intended spread to the Muslim world, but an unbalanced tone makes the whole thing just feel goofy and silly. There’s some cool ideas about technology and society, but the ending is filled with so many old hat tropes that I half expected the whole thing to end with “it’s all a dream.”

I decided to check this movie out because I’m a big John Cusack fan (starting with High Fidelity and Grosse Pointe Blank and then moving back to his older movies like One Crazy Summer and Better Off Dead. And it definitely has that typical Cusack charm and unassuming swagger, but it suffers from an all-over-the-place script and way too many comparisons to his other hitman movie, Grosse Pointe Blank.

The story finds Cusack, a hitman, heading to the small Mid Eastern country of Turaqistan that’s basically run by a US corporation. I don’t remember who he’s supposed to kill and honestly it doesn’t really matter because, much like in GPB, he gets wrapped up with a girl (Marissa Tomei) and a younger girl (Hilary Duff playing a pop star). Lots of nonsense goes on, some cool character bits, a few fun reveals of what this new world is like and some great performances by Joan Cusack (playing pretty much her character from GPB) and Duff (who really surprised me with some depth).

As I said, though, the movie winds up being really unbalanced. There’s a good deal of commentary in the film in that heavy handed the way that movies written or made during the Bush Administration tended to be, but the cartoony goofiness at the very end winds up making the whole thing feel kind of like a light weight/half-copy mess. I think the actors elevated the material, but they can only do so much without an actually solid script to make sense, make you think and make you laugh.

Six Movies I’ve Seen Recently

Even with all the Halloween Scene posts I’ve been doing this month, I still watch non blood and guys flicks, I just don’t necessarily have the time or energy to do lengthy posts about all of them. So let’s just jump right into it. Let’s just assume there are SPOILERS in all these reviews.

SPECIAL (2006)
I remember hearing about this Michael Rapaport movie about a guy who gains superhero-like powers a while back and thinking it sounded interesting. I dig superhero movies, even when they’re not about known characters and I like Rapaport. Movies like this can be an interesting take on elements of comics and superheros that norms might not have experienced before, but geeks like us have. Special does something like though. See, in Special, Rapaport is a comic book fan who takes part in a pharmaceutical study. He thinks it’s giving him super powers, when really it’s just messing with his mind. To be honest, I turned it off with about 20 minutes left because it was crazy-depressing. Rapaport is such a sad sack lunatic, that he’s hard to watch. For a while you’re not sure whether he really does have powers or not, but by the time I turned it off, after you’re convinced he’s just nuts, I’m not sure how things are supposed to make sense. For instance, when we see him in a chase scene, are we seeing the whole thing through his mind or not? Or the invisible fight? How did these work in real life? I don’t often go in for the “comic book readers as a community” thing, but I do feel like this movie doesn’t help paint comic book fans in any kind of positive light. Eh, moving on.

THE TV SET (2006)
After being disappointed with Special, I wanted to watch something I had heard good things about recently. When I was still at ToyFare, Justin, just told me he watched The TV Set and dug it. See, it’s written and directed by Jake Kasdan who was a director and producer on Freaks & Geeks and is about a producer trying to get his show off the ground only to find his vision being trampled on at every turn thanks to TV executives. David Duchovny is the producer while Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) are the execs giving him trouble. There’s even a brief appearance from Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg (Howard). As a creative person who likes the idea of creating art and just letting it speak for itself, it was hard watching a man’s vision get picked apart and seeing him try to fight for his ideas, but ultimately losing. But unlike with Special, the downer tone didn’t bother me because it reads like a cautionary tale. Not necessarily one that says “don’t get into TV because THIS can happen,” but more along the lines of “hey, heads up, this friggin happens.” The TV Set should be required viewing for anyone looking to get into the TV business and also is kind of a perfect meta bookend for Freaks & Geeks fans.

breakout posterBREAKOUT (1975)
Sometimes I go through the Netflix Instant Watch movies and just look for a certain actor. One of those actors is Charles Bronson, because he’s a badass. One of those movies is Breakout, which gives us the story of a woman trying to get her husband (Robert Duvall) out of a Mexican jail with the help of Bronson and his right hand man Randy Quaid. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t paying a ton of attention so I missed a lot of the intricacies of the plot. See, Bronson cons a bunch of people in order to pull off this prison break, with all kinds of twists and turns that I didn’t get all of. I will say that Bronson is the man, no doubt about that and it was a lot of fun seeing such a young Quaid and I didn’t even recognize Duvall as I’ve probably never seen a movie where he was this young. Anyway, you can do a lot worse when going through movies from the the 70s starring badass mothers.

FAME (1980)
As I’ve talked about before, I’m a big Kevin Smith fan and love listening to his Smodcast podcast. And, Smith is a big fan of Fame, having talking about it on several occasions. That combined with the new movie coming out and the fact that I’ve been hogging the Netflix DVDs with horror junk, I thought it’d be nice to put Fame at the top of the list so we could watching something on Tuesdays when you don’t watch anything else. And man, what a weird movie this is. You’ve got the message of how hard the life of a performer can be (graduates as waiters instead of actors, photographers looking to take advantage of girls, alcohol) mixed with these over-the-top dance sequences that flow out into the streets of New York or completely take over a lunchroom. Now, I know that performing arts kids can be dramatic, I did musicals in high school and knew plenty of them in college too, but this is just nuts. Though, I do appreciate the fact that it’s a practical musical, one in which the singing and dancing can practically take place in real life. In the end I liked the movie and was glad I had heard Smith talk about it so I wasn’t so surprised by all the intense craziness so I was ready for it, but I did find it a little unfocused. I didn’t have a grasp of who our main characters were until the fourth year and I feel like some of the characters were dropped as it did zoom in on our few main characters. Ah well, good stuff. I’m guessing the remake isn’t as hardcore and the new version of the theme song sucks all the energy and life out of the original. Fail. Oh, also, Alan Parker, who directed Fame also directed Pink Floyd’s The Wall, weird right?

AMERICA’S SWEETHEARTS (2001)
Remember how I said I hog the Netflix? I do, it’s a fact. But anytime Em and I try going through NetBox to find something to watch, it takes FOREVER. It’s not that our taste in movies is so wildly different, it’s just that the movies on Instant Watch tend more towards my weird tastes than hers. So, when we came across America’s Sweethearts starring John Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julia Roberts and Billy Crystal. The idea is that John and Catherina are big time movie stars who break up and break down, essentially, but they still have a movie premiering that they need to do press for. Like The TV Set, Billy Crystal co-wrote the story based on his experiences in Hollywood, so it’s another kind of insider look and seems to gel with things I’ve read. Crystal plays John’s agent while Julia is Catherine’s sister/assistant. It boils down to a romantic comedy, but it was a good enough one to pass some time. Plus, as you know, I love me some John Cusack.

side out posterSIDE OUT (1990)
Are there any other sports movies about volleyball? It seems like the people behind Bring It On and Stick It should be working on one right now, though stay away from Ultimate Frisbee, I’ve got something in the works (ie, I want to eventually make something). Anyway, I had heard about Side Out before somewhere, saw it was available on the NetBox and just decided the hell with it, I’m doing this thing! And, it was just okay. I’d still rather watch Bring It On or Stick It. The story follows C. Thomas Howell as a guy working for a bank or something (I can’t even remember what the actual job is). He’s serving papers to a rad beach dude and ends up playing volleyball with another guy. They get their asses kicked, then train and get pretty good, but the other guy gets hurt and the rad beach dude takes his spot. You’ve absolutely seen this kind of movie before, but this time you get Howell and Courtney Thorne-Smith and even Kathy Ireland for a few seconds. Good enough for a few beers and a watch, but I’m not counting the days till I watch it again.