The 9 Things That Make Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 an Underrated Classic

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 at 5:00 am

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A couple of days ago, after the news of the passing of influential horror director Wes Craven at 76, the esteemed editor of this website published his list of Craven's eight greatest movies. He assured us that his choices would be "slightly different than most others," but it was a sensible, defensible list, including the delightful Swamp Thing, the atmospheric Serpent and the Rainbow, the Pirandello-esque Wes Craven's New Nightmare, and the snappy Hitchcock-style thriller Red Eye. It omitted the overrated Scream, and rightly placed the first Nightmare on Elm Street at the top.

But when I finished it, my first urge was to leave a comment in the familiar form: No love for The Hills Have Eyes Part 2? I could see at once, however, that the likely answer, both from the Editor and most fans, would be no. No love for 1985's THHEP2. But that movie is, I confess with hung head and lowered eyes, probably the Wes Craven movie of which I'm fondest. Here are some reasons why ("spoilers" throughout, by the way):

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Blu-ray Today: Fury Road, Army of Frankensteins and Star Wars Rebels

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 at 6:30 am

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Mad Max: Fury Road - I watched this movie for the second time on Blu-ray, hoping that its brilliance would hit me and I could feel the love so many people seem to have for the universally acclaimed post-apocalypse action flick. I regret to say I'm still not quite there.

I don't dislike the movie - it's a fine bunch of action sequences - but it's still my least-favorite Mad Max. A lot of this, I think, boils down to Tom Hardy, who is a wonderfully versatile actor, but also a chameleon who vanishes into parts. Mel Gibson was the opposite - he was cast as Max in part because he'd been in a bar fight not long before.

In the end, though, it may be just a matter of taste - the things I want to see from this story are not the things director George Miller wants to show. What are Gas Town and Bullet Farm like? How did Furiosa secretly broker a deal under Immortan Joe's nose? Who is the black rasta man that haunts Max's flashbacks? Why can't we see more than just a car chase?

This initial Blu-ray does not contain the promised black-and-white cut of the movie, despite what we were told, indicating that a more loaded version may be coming later; instead, it has six behind-the-scenes featurettes - some of which make the stunts look better than they do in the final film - and three deleted scenes, all of which are brief and add minor character bits that would have enhanced the final cut.

For most of you, this will be a must-buy. For me, it is still a bit of an enigma.

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That Sci-Fi Porn We Visited the Set of Two Years Ago Has a Trailer, and It's NUTS

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 10:00 am

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For reasons that are possibly quite obvious, one of the most popular stories I've ever written was 2013's "On the Set of a Sci-Fi Porno." The movie in question, Saving Humanity, was already setting itself up to be more ambitious than most of its kind, with a script long enough that it could tell a story even with the hardcore sex bits trimmed, and a ton of digital effects planned.

It took a lot longer to finish that footage than I imagined, but it certainly is wild even aside from all the blurred nudity. CG sabretooth cats, sci-fi laser battles, martial-arts fights and a green-screen musical number are involved somehow, along with a glowing space pyramid that the characters all refer to as a "monolith" (which by definition would have to be considerably bigger).

It's probably not interesting to anybody else, but I do find it notable that producer Kim Nielsen is now listed as director, when Harry Sparks was the one with that role on-set. Intrigue! Maybe that's why it's as crazy-looking as it is.

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Blu-ray Today: Samurai Shakespeare, Walking Dead, Last Dragon, Lego Justice League

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 12:00 pm

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Lego DC Superheroes: Justice League - Attack of the Legion of Doom! - Right upfront, I'll say that I hope the Lego Batman movie is wittier than this amusing but slight cartoon that introduces the Lego Justice League to Martian Manhunter for the first time, breaks in Cyborg, and sees the origin of the Legion of Doom. It's basically Super Friends, but slightly less dumb, and with a lot more things breaking and exploding, because that's really fun to do in Lego.

With scant extras - there's exactly one, a short about sound design - this probably isn't worth full price to any but the most hardcore and/or extravagant parents. But if it's being planned as a backdoor pilot for a regular TV cartoon, it's not bad.

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The Top 10 Triumphs of Tracey Walter (Bob the Goon is #6!)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015 at 5:00 am

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With the smashing success of our recent list of cool Clint Howard credits came a suggestion from one of our regular readers, John Hanna: that we ought to give a similar treatment to character actor Tracey Walter. Honestly, we're a little bit embarrassed that we didn't think of this ourselves.

Who, after all, is more deserving of nerdy adulation than Walter, who has lent his keenly squinting, weathered face and weird lovability to movies from Rumble Fish and City Slickers to Erin Brockovich and Death to Smoochy, and TV from Amazing Stories to Reno 911! to Airwolf to Alf? Here are a few, a very few, of his nerdiest, most memorable roles:

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Blu-ray Today: Disney, Dinosaur Batman and Dwarfs

Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 6:30 am

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Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem - So, yeah, I actually watched this animated feature, which seems to have been primarily conceived in order to sell toys of Batman riding a robot dinosaur - which he only does during a brief virtual reality sequence. His Batcycle does transform into a robot wolf, though.

Here's the thing - for what it is, I can't hate it. It's pretty clear that somebody came to the creative team and said "Sell some toys," and with that mandate and the implied secondary mission to be kid-friendly, they did the best they could. Echoes of the Paul Dini/Bruce Timm series remain, as Troy Baker's Joker is clearly a version of Mark Hamill's, and this Gotham could almost be from Batman Beyond with its flying cop cars.

Yes, Batman does needless detective work to follow clues to the Joker's hideout, when he probably should have guessed all along that it was at the abandoned amusement park on the pier. And yes, Clayface violates the laws of conservation of matter constantly, turning into everything from a teenage girl to a huge T-rex. But for a kid-safe Dark Knight who's still friends with the likes of Green Arrow, this Batman isn't a bad one to introduce to kids.

If you're a grown-ass adult, though, it isn't necessary to own or even watch.

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Blu-ray Today: Wes Craven, Batmans and Anticlimactic Fantasy Books

Tuesday, August 11, 2015 at 6:35 am

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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Big week for Blu ray this week, but I think the biggest release has got to be the Beeb's adaptation of Susana Clarke's almost-universally loved fantasy story about the return of magicks to England. I say almost universally because I HAAAAAAAAAAAATED the book.

Jim's Nerd Heresy #428: If the climax happens off-screen, you can be sure that I will complain about the book. Don't even get me started on The Magicians, Lev Grossman's "what if Harry Potter were actually a smarmy douchenozzle and also Ron in the context of the story" piece of crap where not-Harry actually swoons like Dante at the end of the first book. Anyway, from what I remember, the same thing pretty much happened in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which explains my trepidation at checking out the TV show. The book was really good right up until it just out of nowhere finished. But a lot of folks really enjoyed it, and it's about half the commitment of the book, and even though it's impossible to find out what the special features are on the Blu ray, it's 2 discs and only $20, so you're not going out on too thin a limb picking this up.

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Blu-ray Today: InnerSpace, Insurgent and Zombie Mad Max

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 at 8:00 am

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InnerSpace - Seeing this movie for the first time was one of the purest filmgoing experiences of my life. Beyond the title and a logline that ran in the local paper - something like "A man prepares to be miniaturized to go inside the body of a laboratory rabbit" - I knew nothing about it. Needless to say if you've seen the movie, you know a lot more happens than that.

It was also my first conscious exposure to Martin Short, Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Robert Picardo and so many other greats; I'm not even sure it registered that this was the director of Gremlins, too. For those who haven't seen it (and what's wrong with you?), the shrinking experiment goes wrong, and Dennis Quaid in his micro-submarine ends up getting injected into the ass of hypochondriac grocery-store clerk Martin Short. From there, madcap antics ensue as the various forces who want control of the shrinking technology pursue our totally hapless protagonist - his only chance is to do exactly what the miniaturized Quaid-voice inside his head tells him he must. Director Joe Dante compares it to a Road Runner cartoon, and he's not wrong.

All the extras are ported over from the old DVD, but the feature gets a new transfer at least.

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Michael Gross Is Still Making Tremors Movies: Here's the Trailer for Part 5

Friday, July 31, 2015 at 8:00 am

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It's been eleven years since the last Tremors movie that I barely paid attention to, but damn, it's impressive that Michael Gross keeps coming back to be Burt Gummer, that rare positive Hollywood portrayal of a right-wing, survivalist gun aficionado. In this one, they go to Africa for the tax breaks to stop an outbreak of Graboids on the other side of the world.

I can't decide whether or not Jamie Kennedy's Bruce Willis impersonation is just the right kind of tribute, or really self-referentially awful, mainly because I'm irrationally glad that this series is still going strong.

Okay, maybe strong's not the word. Direct to video in October. Check it out.

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Our Readers' Best Breakup Stories: Which One Wins the Joe Dante Blu-ray and Poster?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 1:30 pm

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To earn a copy of Joe Dante's Burying the Ex, I asked you all to tell me about your craziest exes and how you broke up with them. It didn't occur to me that our Facebook commenting system may have made some of you clam up so as not to be identifiable. However, we got a number of good stories nonetheless.


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