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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Blu-ray Today: Mad Max, Ford Fairlane, Ladyhawke and That Stupid Twilight Fanfic

Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 6:30 am

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Mad Max - The relatively low-key franchise starter that launched both star Mel Gibson and director George Miller's careers gets less attention than the sequels, which created larger post-apocalyptic worlds from the ground up. Using limited resources, Miller initially made a more traditional '70s revenge movie with an amped-up level of action - inspired by the results of violence he'd seen as a medical student - that would become the norm in the next few years, including a specific tribute in Watchmen (the comic) that would also beget Saw.

If you're a fan, you already have a decent Blu-ray with most of the extras already. The major new addition is a featurette that includes new interviews with D.P. David Eggby, lead actress Joanne Samuel, and Mad Mel himself. There's not a lot of new information to be had, but Gibson is of course delighted to recount tales of violence, action, and what he imagines to be cavemen seated around a fire eating charred meat while telling primitive tales of revenge. It makes you both miss him as a screen presence and understand why people might be a little wary to work with the guy.

And before you see Hugh Keays-Byrne as the new villain of Fury Road, you'd be doing him a disservice if you didn't take one more look at his original villain, Toecutter. The Shakespearean actor rode across Australia with the actual biker-gang extras to make it to set, and by the time he arrived had become so method that nobody could tell he hadn't always been one of them.

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Blu-ray Today: Dark Helmet, Vincent Price and Movie Racism

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 6:30 am

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Hollywood Shuffle - Robert Townsend's 1987 comedy about the pitfalls of black stereotyping in the movie industry is still as relevant now as it was then - switch out the Eddie Murphy references for Kevin Hart or Tyler Perry, and it's disappointing to note how little has changed - though today, the notion that "black actors don't play well overseas" would be a key plot point too.

It surprised me to learn that Townsend has been working steadily ever since, despite Hollywood's usual vengeance at those who would attack it. Granted, his attempts to make more positive black films like Meteor Man haven't always been good, but in today's marketplace in which fans are crying out for more diverse superheroes, he might just have been 20 years ahead of its time (but seriously - Meteor Man is not a good movie. I wish it were).

In a move that somewhat proves Townsend's original point, Hollywood Shuffle is being released on a bare-bones Blu-ray retailing for $30, presumably because the distributor didn't want to pony up the cash for extras. It might have been nice to hear Keenan Ivory Wayans reflect back on his role in it, or even modern black filmmakers and actors discussing the impact it had on them - instead, it is literally the equivalent of Chris Rock's Nat X joke about being the only 15-minute show on TV, because 30 would give "The Man" a heart attack.

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Weekend Open Thread: Belated Winner Edition

Friday, April 24, 2015 at 5:10 pm

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Yes, yes, I'm super-late picking a Voices winner. Ask my writers how behind I am on invoicing sometimes.

At any rate, the winner of The Voices Blu-ray is BenCohen, whose mashup of comic strip and comic book produced this gem:

Alan Moore reboots "Beetle Bailey". It is now a violent, graphic deconstruction not only of military culture, but of the way it is sensationalized and glorified by the media as a recruitment push. Beetle's laziness is now primarily a result of drug use, PTSD from his first time in heavy combat, and a general desire to avoid the consequences of his enlistment in the Army, which he did out of high school assuming it would make him a hero. Sarge is so fixated on Beetle not because he is just a strict authority figure, but because he is a psychopath sexually obsessed with the perceived youth and defenselessness of his subordinate. That dog of his can't really walk on two legs, and only wears military clothing because the last person who told Sarge to stop was mysteriously killed in a landmine-spotting exercise. The General is so inept because he is impotent. The blonde secretary is secretly manipulating the entire base to her anarchic whim, which will eventually culminate in the units stationed at Camp Swampy being called into battle. There, they will be defeated quickly by the never-specified enemy they have always been preparing to fight: The United States.
Ben, please email me your address. Everyone else talk amongst yourselves.

Blu-ray Today: WWE's Marine Life, Iranian Vampires and Electric Boogaloo

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 8:00 am

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The Marine 4: Moving Target - It's easy to forget now, but the first The Marine was a thoroughly tongue-in-cheek attempt to make John Cena into a wise-cracking movie star in the Dwayne Johnson mode. When it didn't do as well as was hoped, WWE revived it on DVD in the (futile) hopes that switching out Cena for Ted DiBiase would get the legacy kid over with fans. By the third was being made, it had become such a dutifully respectful franchise that Randy Orton was cast and then booted when real-life Marines complained that Orton had deserted and been court-martialed while actually serving. The Miz was given the role instead, despite it being the polar opposite of his more humorous persona. It was okay DTV stuff, but nothing special.

The fourth film seems to exist for two reasons: one, to prop up the Miz's gimmick that he is in fact a movie star, and two, to make a star of female wrestler Summer Rae, whose strangely angular face reminds me of some obscure supporting character in the Moomintroll books. I don't see it working, but I'd be all for Damian Mizdow starring in part 5.

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Blu-ray Today: Batman and Babadook Battle Brooding Boys

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 6:30 am

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The Babadook - If it's on Blu-ray, written up by Luke, you shouldn't get rid of The Babadook. Jennifer Kent's slow-build, increasingly taut monster movie about a creepy children's book that draws power from repressed traumas was a horror hit with fans and critics alike, with an excellent lead performance by Essie Davis as the mother of an annoying asshole kid who might be driven to murder him before the movie's out. If the sometimes-invisible, sometimes ink-blot-like monster of the title doesn't get them both first.

The Blu-ray includes the original short film that helped Kickstarter the feature, as well as deleted scenes and interviews. Unlike the book in the movie, it is probably not flame-proof, so don't go there.

When a movie gives me the chills thinking back on it, I know that its scares worked well. I just wish Kent hadn't felt the need to leave room for an unnecessary sequel possibility.

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Want to Win a Blu-ray Copy of the Deadpool/Garfield Inspired Movie The Voices?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 2:40 pm

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Want to see Ryan Reynolds as a Scottish cat, a redneck dog, and a homicidal Ryan Reynolds? Gemma Arterton as a sentient severed head? The writer-director of the comic-book/movie Persepolis, working with the producer of Dredd?

Trust me, you do. And I've got the means for you to get one.

Adi Shankar calls The Voices a mashup of Deadpool and Garfield. I want you, in comments below, to pitch me something similar that also involves at least one comic-book character and one comic-strip character interacting; I'll pick one I like to win. You must have a commenter account to enter, you can enter up to five times, and entries close next Monday, April 13th, 2015. (Sorry, but once again, the Blu-ray can only be sent to U.S. addresses.)

Blu-ray Today: Ryan Reynolds Hears Voices, Mars Invades and Bruce Dern Goes Quackers

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 6:30 am

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The Voices - I'd rarely say this about anybody as stunningly blessed by genetics, but I almost feel sorry for Ryan Reynolds.

No, I don't feel sorry that he married first Scarlett Johansson and then Blake Lively. Though for all I know, they could have been very picky and made him do a lot of housework. Instead, I feel a tad empathetic that the guy wants to be a serious actor, but because he was gifted from birth with a face like a huge douche, people treat him that way. And it's unfair. In Buried, he kept my attention the entire time even when the whole plot of the movie was just him locked in a box, and nothing else. In his two comedies with Anna Faris, Waiting... and Just Friends, he's unabashedly hilarious. And even though he's not how I pictured Hal Jordan, I like his Green Lantern.

In The Voices, he stretches again as a factory worker with schizophrenia issues and talking pets (whom he also performs) that drive him to murder. It's a rare film that makes us feel for both killer and victim, but as with Norman Bates, and Terry O'Quinn's Stepfather, we want him to succeed and be redeemed by true love, even as it becomes more and more inevitable that such a thing cannot and will not happen.

Director Marjane Satrapi previously balanced sensitivity and politics in her animated Iranian autobiography Persepolis; here she rides the fine line between comedy and stomach-churning, with an ending that's pitch-perfect. You may not buy producer/costar Adi Shankar's claim that it's Deadpool meets Garfield, but if you like both you ought to enjoy just the same. And if this has interested you, stay tuned...we'll be giving a copy away later today.

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Disney and Fox, Working Together, Bring You Star Wars Movie Digital Downloads

Monday, April 6, 2015 at 7:31 pm

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We've seen figure sets, signs at Walmart, and hastily removed blog posts that suggested this was on the way. Now, in a co-branded press release, there is confirmation - Lucasfilm, Disney and Star Wars are making all six Star Wars cinematic episodes available digitally starting April 10th. Yes, they are, as best we can tell, the Blu-ray cuts, so no non-firing Greedo or unblinking Ewoks. Each one will come with at least two new extras, however, as well as some previously released featurettes and deleted scenes. New "Discoveries From Inside" will focus on design elements like weapons, costumes and matte paintings, while "Conversations" focus on collaborators like Doug Chiang and Ben Burtt.

But the best news may be what isn't said - the fact that Disney and Fox (who still own Empire and Jedi home entertainment rights, and own A New Hope forever) made this happen indicates they're willing to work together on Star Wars stuff, and if the will were ever to exist, those non-Special Editions that first-gen fans like me keep hoping for no longer seem entirely impossible. Unlikely, as long as George Lucas lives and nobody wants to hurt his feelings...but not impossible.