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


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.

Spaceballs: “Your Helmet Is so Big” Edition – It’s not clear what, if anything besides a new slipcase, is different about this new release of Mel Brooks’ Star Wars spoof; it seems as though it simply got Malibu Stacy’d with a metaphorical new helmet. Nonetheless, if you don’t own it, you should – in fandom circles, it’s almost as quotable as Star Wars itself, and all the modern spoofs like Robot Chicken and Family Guy owe it a significant debt. It’s too bad that parody movies have deteriorated to the crap level churned out by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer – a good Spaceballs prequel could probably make us enjoy the gunshot wounds of fish in barrels like never before.

Paddington – Surprisingly not-terrible adaptation of the very English children’s books about a Peruvian bear with a taste for marmalade. Though not immune to the temptation to add loudness and dumbness to kid-flicks, an admirable element of restraint and good manners keeps things from getting too crass. Extras are scant, but various gift sets include bonus toys and things.

The Admiral: Roaring CurrentsOldboy star Choi Min-sik portrays South Korean hero Yi Sun-sin, whose fleet of 12 ships defeated a Japanese armada of over 330 vessels at the Battle of Myeongnyang in 1597. If it’s anything like Master and Commander, I’m in.

From a Whisper to a Scream – Any movie that has Vincent Price holding his own severed head on the poster has to be semi-decent, right? Clu Gulager and Susan Tyrrell also star in this 1987 horror anthology that the director pitched directly to Price after finding his home address and bringing him a bottle of wine. The Blu-ray comes loaded with extras, featuring two commentaries and a full-length documentary.

Inherent Vice – Not entirely sure if nerdy, but Paul Thomas Anderson’s Thomas Pynchon adaptation set in ’70s L.A. is full of enough weird characters and odd vignettes to make it worth a look. Just forget trying to follow the plot – it’s a red herring that kinda isn’t really important. And in any year not featuring a movie called Whiplash, Josh Brolin’s hilariously hardass cop would have made him a serious Best Supporting Actor contender (he was nominated, but nobody thought he’d actually win). The movie also features the least-irritating Martin Short performance in decades.

Those are my picks for today. What are you checking out?