For Your Home Viewing Pleasure: September 3, 2013

Combing Amazon’s latest releases for all the best new action-oriented releases in DVD and Blu-ray.now you see me blu-ray

The biggest release of the week by far is Louis Letterier’s Now You See Me, the magic-themed heist flick starring Morgan Freeman, Common, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Michael Caine, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco.

How is it possible that a movie featuring Dwayne Johnson, Liam Hemsworth and Emma Roberts didn’t get a wide theatrical release as was the case with Empire State? Maybe it’s because, cool as the movie looks, Johnson just doesn’t fit in with the 70s period piece aesthetic of the film.Revolution_S1_BLU_f

TV-wise, Person of Interest: Season Two, Revolution: The Complete First Season, Spartacus: War of the Damned – The Complete Third Season, Da Vinci’s Demons: The Complete First Season and Sinbad: Season One are all available now.

WB has a 20th Anniversary The Fugitive Blu-ray to check out, but there aren’t any special features listed.

We haven’t seen Mulan: Rise of a Warrior, but seeing this movie for sale on Amazon lead us to the above trailer and now it’s definitely on our to-watch list.hard target blu

Hey, Jean-Claude Van Damme fans both Hard Target and Sudden Death now have fancy new Blu-ray versions. Note that both of these are all regions import discs that come with zero special features, so they might not actually be very fancy.

You guys like multi-packs? We here at Explosions Are Rad LOVE them. As you might expect we’re all over 4 Film Favorites: The Matrix Collection (BD) [Blu-ray] (basically the same thing as the DVD version that’s been out for a while) and the Dusk Till Dawn Blu-Ray/DVD Combo pack which features the three movies as well as Full Tilt Boogie, a documentary shot during filming of Robert Rodriguez’s initial film.

We’re also interested in multipacks with less well known films like Echo Bridge’s 8-Film Fast Action [Blu-ray] which includes People I Know, Ordinary Decent Criminal, Malevolent, Albino Alligator, David Cronenberg’s Existenz, B. Monkey, Dolph Lundgren’s Men Of War and Sean Bean’s Bravo Two Zero.sharknado poster

Finally, if you just can’t get enough Sharknado on Syfy, you can now buy your own copy for repeated watching.

Friday Fisticuffs: Equilibrium (2002)

equilibrium I first discovered Equilibrium while perusing my beloved Family Video. Since it came out in 2002, I must have checked it out while home for the summer from college and was drawn in by Taye Diggs and whoever that Christian Bale guy was wearing Matrix-like gear holding guns. It’s not like I had heard anything about it and dug around for it, it just appeared one day, looked interesting enough and I remember enjoying it, but never really got back to it.

When I saw it on Netflix Instant I was pretty excited, remembering that there was a fairly interesting sci-fi future as well as some interesting marital arts action that cleverly used firearms (called “gun katta” apparently). Said future was an incredibly structured one that keeps humanity emotionally muzzled by forcing them to take a suppressant drug. The governing body has a group of warriors called Clerics who make sure that no one’s feeling. Part of that job involves tracking down works of art and destroying them along with vagrants who live on the outskirts of society, struggling to survive, but feeling every minute of it.

Bale plays a Cleric who winds up skipping a dose and becoming that which he’s sworn to persecute: a sense offender. As he regains emotion and feelings, Bale’s character uses his position in the organization to try and make up for some of the things he’s done.

Much as I remember liking this movie and did enjoy it this time around, I’ve got to say, there are some pretty silly elements. If you’re a government organization whose sole focus is to keep the populace under a metaphorical emotional blindfold, why would you put that in their hands? Why wouldn’t the drugs be administered by way of water supply or provided food? That seemed like the kind of plot point that only exists to move the story along. The movie also gets a little slow at times, but I think that’s only because I went into this movie with an action flick mindset and it’s a lot more of an emotional journey than you might expect. If you’re looking for more and more fights and gun katta, then a slower talking scene can feel like it’s going on way too long.

But, the point of this post is to talk about fight scenes in movies. Sometimes I’ll watch an action movie, thinking it’d make for a great FF entry only to discover that most of the violence in the film involves gun play. That’s the case with Equilibrium, but it just so happens that the film combines those two elements in a lot of fun ways. The idea behind gun katta is that the guys can not only shoot really well, but also knows all the best physical positions to get their bodies in to do the most damage as quickly as possible. He can also use his guns as blunt weapons and do all kinds of cool flips, picking up weapons and using them in several different ways.

The problem with some of these fight scenes is that, sometimes, they look a little too set-design-y. There’s a good deal of Power Ranger-like posing and whatnot as well as sets that seem only developed to look as cool as possible. I’m not sure whether my definition of cool has changed over the years or director Kurt Wimmer and I just don’t jive on that subject, but it seemed a little too overwrought at times.

But, I still thought it was an enjoyable movie. If you saw the poster or cover and avoided it because it looked like a Matrix rip, it actually has nothing to do with that film aside from the fact that they share the same taste in jackets. Plus the cast includes a lot of great actors like Bale, Sean Bean, Taye Diggs (he’s great in this, you guys), Sean Pertwee, Emily Watson and Prison Break vets Dominic Purcell and William Fichtner. So, if you’ve got some time, give it a shot and see how it makes you feel. PUNS!

Digging Double Oh Seven: GoldenEye (1995)

The six year gap between License To Kill and GoldenEye must have been unbearable for longtime Bond fans. Up until that point, there had been a new installment every two or three years since the series debuted with 1962’s Dr. No. A combination of legal problems, unfortunate passings and illness, this expanse of time lead Timothy Dalton to opt out of playing Bond again, so the role went to Pierce Brosnon who was actually favored to replace Roger Moore a few times and was even offered the part but couldn’t do it because of Remington Steele contracts. Other changes this time around are the wonderful Judy Dench as M, Famke Jansson as henchwoman Xenia Onatopp, Joe Don Baker in his first good guy role Jack Wade and Alan Cummings as a computer geek who falls in with the bad guys.

Continuing where Dalton left off as Bond, Brosnon’s version keeps things a little more dark and realistic. Well, for the most part. Some folks might have a problem with the opening sequence’s getaway on a physics level, but if you can’t enjoy all that I feel bad for you. Not only does Bond bungee jump to a secret facility, team up with fellow Double Oh agent Sean Bean (forgot to mention him above), shoot and fight a bunch of guys and then ride a motorcycle off a cliff to soar down, get into a plane and fly it to safety. It was AWESOME. The over the top action sequences (there’s also the tank chase which is pretty epic), Famke’s wonderfully crazy Xenia and another wonderfully light appearance by Desmond Llewelyn as Q bring things up a bit but overall the movie has a pretty serious tone.

Even with the somewhat darker tone, I still had a lot of fun with this movie. In addition to all the elements I’ve already mentioned, the idea of a Double Oh going rogue and returning to face off against Bond is super interesting and I’m kind of surprised hadn’t been used before. It’s also interesting that this is the first of the Bond flicks to be completely original and not have any references to Ian Fleming’s books or short stories. It comes across in the story which has a lot to do with computers and EMPs and giant satellites and the like. Like every movie involving computers from the mid 90s, though, anything having to do with them seems cute and quaint now. When the beautiful on-the-run code monkey and soon-to-be Bond Girl Natalya Simonova (played by Izabella Scorupco) tells some guy the kind of computer she needs, I chuckled to myself. Phones can do what that computer could do.

It was interesting going back and watching this movie for probably only the second time. I was 12 when this movie came out. I don’t have specific memories of going to see it in theaters, but I think I did. Even though I’ve talked about my love of the Bond series, it always tended towards the older movies because those are the ones I watched with my dad on tape or TV. I remember liking Brosnon’s Bond movies for the most part, but there wasn’t any nostalgia there because they were modern. Looking back now, there’s definitely some nostalgia now because these are the Bonds of my teenage years and I saw most of them in theaters with friends throughout high school and possibly college (I’ll have to check out some dates and get back to you with the specifics).

Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci Are Awesome!

Damn, these guys are awesome. For those of you who might not know, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are the screenwriters behind Transformers, it’s upcoming sequel (which I’m very excited about), The Legend of Zorro, Mission Impossible III, Fringe, Star Trek and The Island, the last two I watched recently.

Right off the bat, I’ve got to admit that I don’t really remember Legend of Zorro or MI3, so I can’t speak to their ability writing those or for shows like Xena, Hercules, Jack Of All Trades and Alias, but everything else I’ve seen that they’re written has been rad. As you might have noticed, Kurtzman and Orci have a history of working with producer, writer and director extraordinaire J.J. Abrams (Alias, Fringe and Trek). Not shabby company to keep if you ask me.

What I love about these guys is how thoroughly they think through genre stories that, a few years ago, would have probably been tossed to guys who were just looking to get a paycheck. Transformers didn’t have to be a good movie (and many of you might disagree with me on this), but it was. It was also full of crazy fun action scenes. Aside from the incredible stories you see on the screen, I’ve heard a number of interviews with the writing duo thanks to the Creative Screenwriting Podcast. Most recently I listened to the Star Trek one and it blew me away at how well they were able to address and answer logically many of the geek and logic-based questions. A few holes in the movie were filled in the original writing stage, but were later cut and there’s all kinds of other information they have to offer in these interviews. I highly recommend them.

Like I said, I watched The Island (2005) and Star Trek (2009) last week. I’m thinking of going back and listening to the Island podcast interview actually because I’m curious to hear what they have to say about their first original movie, which ended up getting directed by Michael Bay (who I’ve gone on record as loving). The Island is a very cool movie though it seems at first to have a ton of plot holes (how do they go from naive teenage-level beings to pulling off this crazy scheme?). But, the more I think about the various apparent holes, the more I can explain them. Ewan McGregor’s character is growing memories right? So maybe he’s growing a few character traits here and there. It’s these kinds of questions I think would be addressed in the podcast, which I will, now that I think about it, definitely be downloading from iTunes tomorrow.

What I do know just from watching the movie without any background is that it was clearly influenced by some of the classic 70s sci-fi flicks I watched back in January. It was fun watching the movie, kind of knowing what the twist was, but not really knowing how completely it would flip. SPOILER: I knew they were clones, but I didn’t know the details, like that they were living in a complex created by someone who saw Logan’s Run a time or two too many. Even knowing what I knew, I still couldn’t figure how it would be revealed, so that’s a testament to the writing.

I definitely recommend The Island to anyone. It’s got the assumed Michael Bay chases and explosions. Even a car chase with a truck dropping big scary things while being chased by a smaller vehicle (cars in Bad Boys II, train wheels here). Plus you get McGregor, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean and Steve Buscemi who are always good, and Scarlett Johansson who’s at least nice to look at. Plus if you like their later movies, I think it’s always cool to go back and see how they broke into the movie business.

So, from their first to their latest, I have to throw my hat in with just about everyone else in the world and say I really dug Star Trek. I didn’t come out of it feeling like I did when I left Iron Man (PUMPED!), but I still really enjoyed it. It might be because I’m not a Star Trek fan. Before trying to tackle the Original Series this past year, I had seen only a handful of episodes from any of the series’ (that one episode of DS9 where they Tag and Bink their way through the Tribble episode) and the movies starring the original cast. I knew the basics, it’s hard not to when you’ve worked for some of the geekiest magazines in the world (don’t forget, I was in the research department while InQuest was still around). But, even not knowing much, I had no problem watching this flick, which was great, but I still got some of the nods to past stories.

I appreciate the amount of thought that Kurtzman and Orci along with director J.J. Abrams and producer Damon Lindelof put into this epic story, especially the way they made everything you know still make sense while starting this new continuity. Honestly, I really wish this cast would get together and just do a TV series. How cool would that be? Just forget about Heroes (I dislike that show so much that I actually wanted to hate Zachary Quinto as Spock, but he was so damn good I just couldn’t) and fly Simon Pegg and John Cho in between movie roles and get that DONE!

Also, how cool was that drill scene? I started laughing as soon as the guy in the red suit showed up while Sulu and Kirk were wearing different colors. Em asked me what I was laughing at and I whispered “That guy’s gonna die.” She asked me how I knew and I told her just to watch and, man, they did NOT disappoint with that moment. Even better, though, was how Sulu and Kirk handled themselves given a crappy situation. I love how Chris Pine perfectly embodies that “never say die no matter how bad things look” mentality. Obviously, I’d like to see everyone return for a sequel, but I really hope Pine does a superhero movie. He could do justice to a bunch of heroes.

So, next up from Kurtzman and Orci will be Transformers: Rise of the Fallen and the last two episodes of Fringe that I missed and I’m pretty psyched about both.

Halloween Scene: Silent Hill (2006)

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Silent Hill is one of those movies that make me wonder about who the intended audience for this movie is. Now, obviously, they’re trying to market this thing to the millions of people who have bought the Silent Hill games over the years. That goes without saying. And I think it can be safely assumed that a large number of the people that like getting the crap scared out of them while playing a video game also probably like scary movies. But what about those of us who don’t play the games, but do see the movie? Do the filmmakers think there’s enough in the movie for Silent Hill virgins to understand?

For the most part, Silent Hill does a good job of explaining the world the movie takes place in. I actually like the explanation for why Silent Hill (it’s the name of a town that’s been closed off due to a coal fire burning under the city) is so full of terrified religious folks and warped monsters. The one thing that leaves me puzzled though is the pyramid head guy. He’s got such a crazy design element to him that I love, but I don’t think he ever gets explained. Now, I have no idea if he’s given a back story in the games and he doesn’t really have much to do in the movie, but it just got me thinking.

For the most part, I dug Silent Hill. There’s definitely flaws, but overall the effects were pretty great, the few deaths we get to see very graphic and the story interesting enough (I haven’t seen something like it in a while).

But there are problems. One of them is the inciting incident. There’s this girl (the creepy one on the box above) who draws these crazy pictures and has terrible dreams about a place called Silent Hill. So what does her adoptive mother do? She freaking takes her daughter to said town, even though everyone (including a lady cop) tries to stop her. I’m guessing this is the plot device used in the game, but it just flies in the face of logic. I understand wanting to help your child, but is taking her to the place that terrifies her really the best idea? Methinks not.

Oh well, once she gets into the town, there’s a slow build to the craziness and monsters that eventually fill the screen. But it doesn’t just go all out crazy with the monsters as they introduce the quasi-religious element I mentioned before. It’s got a pretty good sense of pacing, though it does clock in around two hours and can drag a little.

My biggest pet peeve with the movie is that when it’s dark, it’s very, very dark. And I’m not talking about the mood, I’m talking about the visuals. The first time the mom encounters something supernatural you pretty much have no idea what they are until the little bastards start glowing like embers and even then they’re hard to get a read on.

Again, these are just little problems, Silent Hill is worth checking out I think. It’s not an A+ movie, but it’s on the better side as far as the video game-based movies I’ve seen (Super Mario Bros., House of the Dead, DOOM). I’m not one of those people who think that video game movies are a lost cause. I think a good writer can look at any kind of source material and find something really compelling about it and create a wonderful screenplay around it, maybe we just haven’t seen that yet because the movies are trying to just recreate the games. Really, I’m just waiting for someone to pick up my Roadblaster and Burger Time scripts. So if you’re interested, drop me a line.