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.

Best Of The Best: High Fidelity (The Movie)

For a few years now I’ve been on this absorption kick, trying to watch as many new movies and TV shows, read as many new books, comics and trades and listen to as much new music as possible. And by “new” I mean new to me, not necessarily brand new. This has probably been going on since right after college. In college I didn’t have a lot of money, but I’d still check out new movies at the theater and on the rare occasion when I could rent something, so that left me to peruse my personal DVD collection and those of my friends’. Well, one movie that I saw in high school, which spurred me on to read the book and then eventually watch the movie over and over again was High Fidelity (2000).

When I first saw High Fidelity in high school I was pretty enamored with the idea of working in a record store (still am really). I also really liked the idea of Top 5 lists, discovering new music and hanging out with music nerds and musicians. It wasn’t until I read the novel that I realized how weird of a guy Rob (the main character, played by John Cusack) is. Saying the dude has relationship problems and issues with women is like saying Michael Myers is irked by promiscuous teenagers. Anyway, Em and I watched High Fidelity on the car ride back to Ohio about a month ago (well, I recited every line in my head while she watched it for the first time on our portable DVD player). It was probably the first time in three years that I watched it. I used to watch it about once a month my Junior year of college when my roommate would be away from the room at night, it was his copy, so I had to buy my own once he graduated later that year.

It’s funny how different I look at things now that I’m older. I still love all of Jack Black’s lines and still want to a own a magical record store that doesn’t go bankrupt, but I look at Rob a lot differently now. I see how damaged he is and wonder what happened to him. I’m also glad that things worked out for him by the end of the movie, but also wonder if they stuck. Maybe when he turned 40 or 50 he flipped out and went through another crazy decade or something. Basically, I’ve been thinking about how these characters that were so important to me when I was maturing, dealt with further maturation, cause this growing up stuff can really suck.

Philosophy aside, I actually got into an argument with someone in the middle of a movie for my film class in college over High Fidelity. The movie was called Mifune (1999) and is from Denmark. The main woman in the movie is taking care of her mentally handicapped brother who’s obsessed with Toshiro Mifune, an actor in many an Akira Kurosawa film. I think there was something about aliens too, but who can remember all those subtitles? Anyway, I got into an argument saying that the main female character was Laura from High Fidelity and whoever I was with was completely convinced I was wrong. Well, I went right home and IMDbed her and was right Iben Hjejle was in both, so suck it whoever that was. Knowing that, it explains a few of Laura’s vocal ticks that always made me curious.

So, I guess I haven’t really explained why I like High Fidelity so much, but I’m not really sure if I could. I don’t know how into the movie I would be if I hadn’t fallen in love with it when I was younger. It’s like, I didn’t like Reality Bites when I first saw it because I thought Ben Stiller shouldn’t have been such a pussy, but maybe if I was really into the idea of making films that would have been enough to keep me hooked. I should check Reality Bites out again actually, it’s been a while. Anyway, I used to wonder when I was in high school if I would still really like movies like Empire Records and Dazed & Confused when I got older, because I watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High with my dad one time and I don’t think he enjoyed it as much, probably because you remember things like Phoebe Cates’ boobs and not that abortion stuff. Well, luckily for me (at least so far) I still like a lot of those movies. It’s a weird combination of quality and fondness, I’m guessing, with a sliding scale depending on the flick. High Fidelity still strikes a chord with me, but I wonder if 50-year-old TJ will be reclining in his hoverchair and still enjoying watching John Cusack go through his Top 5 Break-Ups Of All Time on my holo-glasses with the same enjoyment as I do now. If not, I at least hope I’ll still remember all of Jack Black’s lines. Let’s just hope I’m not wearing a Cosby sweater while watching.

Oh, and anyone wonder how close the movie is to the book, it’s super freaking close. Like, so close they turned the book into the script word for word. Well, it’s not British, but everything else is in there, just peep the deleted scenes for scenes from the book that didn’t make it into the movie (I love the stuff with the jilted wife trying to sell her cheating husband’s record collection). There was also a musical on Broadway that I missed out on, but Ben saw, hopefully he (or anyone else who’s seen it) will comment. Hopefully next there will be a video game to continue the slow media evolution of this property. Just think of how much fun it’s be to kick the shit out of this f#cking Ian guy in a myriad of different scenarios? Get working on that Flash dudes.

Also, check out this video I just discovered on YouTube, I’ve never seen it before!

Uncaged: Con Air (1997) and The Rock (1996)

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I recently switched from Blockbuster to Netflix as it was taking way too freaking long for me to get my DVDs (five days at times, even when I turned them in at the store, ugh). As a result I sat here switching my queue over and moving things around. I gotta say, I like the Netflix site a lot more. It’s way more user friendly and I actually like a lot of their movie suggestions. All of which I’m telling you to let you in on how I inadvertently ended up with two crazy, Nic Cage action movies from the mid 90s. I had never seen Con Air before and it’s been about a decade since I saw The Rock, so it was practically like watching it again for the first time.

CON AIR (1997)

What a great and crazy movie. Like with The Rock, I don’t really buy into one of the initial plot points. In this case its the idea that a military man just home from a tour of duty (or something, I’m not always clear on the jargon) kills a dude in a fight, a dude with a knife near Cage’s pregnant girlfriend no less. According to the brief court scene, soldiers are held to a higher standard because they’re killing machines. Sorry folks, I don’t buy it. Isn’t that plain old self defense? Anyway, aside from that (and Cage’s ridiculous accent throughout the film), I bought in. You see, Cage is done with his five year sentence and just wants to get home to his girl and their kid, so they put him on a plane (why was he so far away from home anyway?) with a bunch of other cons to fly them someplace else. Once in the air, the prisoners take over the plane in a pretty ingenious multi-part plan and we go on from there.

The first thing that struck me about Con Air is the cast. Aside from Cage, you’ve got John Cusak as a cop of some kind, John Malkovich as the mastermind behind the hijack, Dave Chapelle, Danny Trejo (the best interview I’ve ever had) and Ving Rhames as cons and Steve Buscemi as a sociopath serial killer. The characters aren’t all that well rounded, but the actors really sell their parts, offering up some of the creepiest cons in recent memory. Even Cusak, who I love in High Fidelity, Grosse Point Blanke and even 1401, is believable in the roll as an action-faring blockbuster cop, who would have thought?

There are all kind of groan worthy aspects to this flick, but I’ll take all of them in exchange for a crazy balls-out action flick that pays off in big names, big explosions and big plots. The final scene takes place in the middle of Las Vegas, first as a plane crash, then as a chase between a fire truck and two motorcycles. One aspect of the movie that was too much, though, was Colm Meaney’s “disbelieving tough guy cop.” In a movie filled with otherwise compelling (if not likeable) characters, Colm’s character just comes off as a boring, one note pain in the butt whose role should have either been rewritten or toned WAY down. It is cool to see his car come to its end, though.

One last thing, I just looked director Simon West up on IMDb and was horrifying to discover he’s the man responsible for subjecting me to the When A Stranger Calls remake. Well, to be fair, I’m responsible for subjecting Ben, Rickey and myself to a pretty awful movie, but who’s counting? It was by birthday after all!

THE ROCK (1996)

Like I said, I’d seen The Rock before, but had very little memory of it, which is great because this movie turned out to be a great surprise. I had a ton of fun watching The Rock, even though I was a little worried about it’s long running time (I have gotten pretty lazy, going so far as to sending Armageddon back without watching it because of its 2 and a half hour running time). Regardless, I am officially a huge Michael Bay fan, so of me what you will, even given what I think was a fairly weak plot point. My biggest problem with the story is that I don’t really buy that Ed Harris’ character would at any point believe his plan would work. If he’s not willing to actually kill a bunch of civilians, why would the government do anything by completely annihilate the island? Oh well.

The island in question is of course Alcatraz, the famous island prison which has fascinated me since I first saw it on some long forgotten show when I was a kid. There’s always been a great sense of history and mystery surrounding that place so I’m pretty much down with any movie or comic being set there (I’m also a big fan the Mythbusters where they test to see if prisoners could have really escaped from The Rock). I am also a big Sean Connery fan, though who isn’t? Seeing how great he is in this movie makes me wish he’d come back and do a role or two. In the flick he plays the only man to have ever escaped from Alcatraz. he gets teamed with chemical weapons expert Nic Cage to stop Harris and his hired soldiers (one of whom is Candyman) from firing off a series of missles with highly toxic bioweapons inside, which means they’ve got to break back into Alcatraz.

If there’s one thing Bay knows, it’s how to make an awesome movie. This one’s got everything from chase scenes to bad ass lines to bigger than life characters and cushion clenching suspense. It really makes me wonder what happened to Cage, though. If nothing else, these two movies reminded me of how much fun he used to be to watch on screen. Maybe it’s that I used to feel like we were both on the same page (these are goofy fun movies and he’s having a goofy fun time doing it), but somewhere along the line he turned into the guy who would star in Ghost Rider. Yeesh. I’ve also heard some pretty terrible things about Wicker Man and really want to watch it after seeing this Best Scenes from The Wicker Man YouTube video:

Crazy right? Well, I can always go back and watch Con Air and The Rock, both of which looked super awesome on the new TV (I really love this thing). But, hey, maybe John Carpetner’s upcoming Cage starrer Riot will bring him back to action movie prominence (I sure hope so).