Blu-ray Today: Terry Gilliam Fishin' for Compliments, Miyazaki for Completists

Tuesday, June 23, 2015 at 6:30 am

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The Fisher King (The Criterion Collection) - Terry Gilliam gained popular acclaim with his dark hybrids of fantasy and satire, but he had to do a movie explicitly clarifying the fantasy elements as schizophrenic hallucination in a realistic universe before he would be taken ultra-seriously - and win an Oscar for one of his cast members, Mercedes Ruehl. Jeff Bridges plays a Howard Stern-ish shock jock who quits after inadvertently inspiring a crazed listener to kill; Robin Williams is a seemingly crazy man in search of the Holy Grail who somehow persuades Bridges' character to come along for the ride. You could call it a brilliant deconstruction of both Williams' and Gilliam's usual shtick as childish delusions that are actually dangerous, or you could see it as making both a lot less fun. It's fascinating regardless.

The Criterion edition includes new interviews with Gilliam; producer Lynda Obst; screenwriter Richard La Gravenese; and actors Jeff Bridges, Amanda Plummer, and Mercedes Ruehl, as well as a newly shown interview with Williams and Criterion-exclusive commentary by Gilliam. Deleted scenes with optional commentary are also included, as are new featurettes on Bridges, all the trailers, and much more.

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Blu-ray Today: Spirited Away Is All That Matters

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at 6:30 am

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Spirited Away - Simply put, one of the greatest movies of all time, and if you don't own some form of it, your life thus far has been lacking. There's just nothing quite like this animated tale of a young girl who is put to work at a bath house for elemental spirits in order to undo the curse that has turned her parents into pigs from eating too much magic food. Spider-limbed engineers, giant-headed witches, river dragons, overfed faceless blobs and tiny soot sprites are among the many creatures that play key roles in what I consider to be Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece. If you ever loved books like the original Alice in Wonderland and Pinocchio growing up, this is a story that will immerse you just as they did.

I actually persuaded my mother to see this and she liked it. And fantasy is not her thing AT ALL. The Blu-ray includes many of the DVD special features, and most notably an option to replace the film's visuals entirely with the original Japanese storyboards.

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10 Things in Batman V Superman XXX That Probably Won't Be in the WB Version (Besides the Obvious)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at 5:00 am

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We're still a year away from Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but that doesn't mean Batman and Superman can't still find ways to get into dick-measuring contests elsewhere. And I mean literally - in Axel Braun's porn parody, Batman v Superman XXX, the codpieces flip up - and not just so they can take a leak at will.

That's not the only thing that makes the set-up just a little different - Braun evidently started production before the reveal of Jason Momoa's Aquaman, whose tattoos and bare-chested appearance would seem a natural fit for male porn-star impersonation these days. And don't expect riffs on trailer soundbites like "Do you bleed?" - that one's on the DVD box, but came out too late to be in the movie. Braun is clearly a comics fan, though, as can be seen in his use of characters like Maxima and the President Luthor storyline. But pornographic scenes aside, his story looks set to be very different from what we'll see next year.

WARNING: I'm about to spoil the entire plot, such as it is. If you're renting the movie for the plot, get help.

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Blu-ray Today: Sleepaway Sequels, The Last Unicorn and All the Kingsman

Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at 6:30 am

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Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers and Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland - The first Sleepaway Camp is most remembered for its shocking transgender twist that would likely render a faithful reboot unreleasable, implying as it does that the killer's psychosis comes from being a chick with a dick. The two immediate sequels replaced Felissa Rose with Pamela Springsteen, had the main character of Angela be fully post-op, and took a campier approach, with references aplenty to other popular slasher franchises (part 4 tried to return to the original tone, and is considered by some to be a continuity that ignores all but the first film). Long hard to find and shot back to back, both sequels now hit Blu-ray with commentary tracks by director Michael A. Sampson and writer Fritz Gordon, along with new documentaries, deleted scenes, and a transfer from the VHS workprint of a longer, more graphic cut of part III.

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Blu-ray Today: Best Movie Week of the Year - Again

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 at 6:30 am

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We're getting to the halfway point of the year, and as unbelievable as it may seem, my two favorite movies so far came out on the same weekend in February, and now both come out on Blu-ray today. Yes, Jupiter Ascending and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water are the two most imaginative, joyful, cosmos-spanning, eye-stimulating and mind-bulldozing cinematic entertainments of 2015 so far, and if you've allowed any naysayers to dissuade you from seeing either, don't. SpongeBob is a lot weirder and trippier than you'd expect, and the CG/live-action stuff they promote in clips is only a small part of the tale. Jupiter Ascending, meanwhile, is like a more crowd-pleasing take on Dune, with three aristocratic, space-vampire siblings jockeying for supremacy while secret princess Mila Kunis strives to save earth from becoming their food, with the help of air-skating wolf-man Channing Tatum.

Eddie Redmayne gets a lot of grief for supposedly overacting in a role that's written as an immortal version of King Joffrey who never grew up, but it seems to me a note-perfect portrayal of a spoiled, crybaby legacy child who's never had to do any work for millennia because he became a decadent immortal cannibal. If anybody knows a real one who behaves differently, I shall retract that statement.

And if you have a 3D TV and a prescription for a certain recently decriminalized "medication," you should run out and buy both of these now - but since running isn't likely to be in your future any more than getting off the couch is, just use Amazon Prime.

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Batman v Superman: Porn of Justice Parody Trailer

Friday, May 29, 2015 at 2:50 pm

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So far, the acting is better in this movie than what we've seen from Zack Snyder's film. Though Axel Braun's cheating a bit by continuing to have a Heath Ledger-style Joker - he's playing on our nostalgia in the way a new tattooed Joker might not.

And it's thanks to Mr. J that this trailer has one of the most out-of-left field dark, twisted endings I've ever seen in any superhero movie of any kind. Hey, since the DVD also includes a "non-sex" version, maybe the actual story could be...not awful?

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Blu-ray Today: Cannibals, Ninjas, Vampires and Drunk Jeff Bridges

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 at 6:45 am

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Cannibal Ferox (Make Them Die Slowly) - If you're not quite down for the more serious nihilism of Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox is the best gateway drug into the Italian cannibal subgenre, with a slightly campier tone (and extremely campy dub), and a sense that an unrelated gangster movie was somehow separately purchased by the producers and badly spliced in at irrelevant points. Aside from the weird cops-and-drugs subplot, it hews pretty closely to theme - stupid westerners voyage down the Amazon, one winds up killing a native, and brutal jungle-style revenge ensues, along with absolutely amazing soundtrack music.

It's best not to listen to the director's commentary, though. Umberto Lenzi, in describing his movie, sounds like a complete moronic jerk who just wanted to shock (and kill real turtles), which may come as no surprise to people who hate these sorts of movies already. But if you dig what he's done, you'll come up with better justifications than he can.

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Blu-ray Today: Daredevil's Under the Boardwalk

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 at 6:30 am

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It's kind of a slow week for decent Blu-rays, so maybe now would be the time to check out Boardwalk Empire, today's biggest-deal box set? True, prohibition-era gangster takes aren't necessarily the stuff of geekdom, but now that we all love Charlie Cox as Daredevil, looking back at the show that includes him and General Zod (Shannon version) and Gollum, er, I mean Steve Buscemi, might be a fun journey.

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Blu-ray Today: Cylons, Satan, Vampire Lesbians, Penis Stabbings and Porn Parody

Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 6:30 am

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Battlestar Galactica - The Definitive Collection - Despite the modern graphics on the cover, Edward James Olmos is nowhere to be found in this set; we're talking old school! Remastered in high-definition widescreen for the first time, you get every episode of the original series, every episode of Galactica 1980 and the theatrical cut of the original pilot, which featured alternate scenes in movie form. Should you prefer, there's a slightly cheaper "Remastered Collection" that does not include the theatrical version, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice to skip it - purely as a movie, it holds up surprisingly well. (In Europe we got theatrical versions of every pilot, forming a trilogy of sorts with the sequels titled Galactica 2: The Cylon Attack and Mission to Earth. Not that I was allowed to see them - my parents saw them for the cash-grabs they were.)

Some episodes of the original show were a lot better than others, certainly, and some of the look has dated, but I think people forget what a good job the show did of building a rich and developed mythology while still having fun with things. Yes, the Starbuck-Apollo dynamic was pretty blatantly based on Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, but it worked, much more so than similar attempts to copy that chemistry (without them, the show suffered greatly in its 1980 iteration). I never made it very far into the remake series, but I suspect I'll be watching all these again. Yes, even the 1980 ones.

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The 19 Nerdiest Submarine Adventures

Thursday, May 7, 2015 at 6:00 am

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Among nerdy modes of transportation, submarines may be underrated. I suppose that the spaceship - or maybe the TARDIS - is the ultimate dream vehicle for nerds, but the submarine would still be high on the list, and it has, abetted by comic book advertising, a sense of plausible attainability the others do not.

So with Black Sea, Kevin Macdonald's heavy-handed but agreeably tense submarine thriller, out on Blu-ray this week, here are a few of the many submarine adventures with nerd appeal. I've focused only on vehicles, by the way, not undersea stations, even though it meant skipping such favorites as Destination Inner Space and DeepStar Six...

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