If it's crap ... We'll tell you
It's New Release day again, and my doorstep has been flooded with more home versions of movies and TV shows than I can reasonably keep up with (or even watch). And not just because of Skyrim either (but not entirely NOT because of it, to be fair). At the very least, I'm here to point out to you the best bets for each week. At least, from my (not so) humble point of view. I mean, sure, you can argue. But what's the point? I actually have ear pods I keep in now that just go "LALALALALALALALALA" all day long just so my hands are free to work.
In all seriousness though, this is the stuff I've actually got on hand to review. There may indeed be better stuff...I don't have it here to check out (at least, it hasn't shown up yet). But enough preamble...
You're goddamn right, "Evil Dead 2". And why not? How do you expect distributor Anchor Bay to stay in business if not for their annual re-release of at least one of the Evil Dead movies? Wait, this is being put out by Lionsgate? Well, how do you like dem apples? And sure enough, the love for this title feels fresher, as this new transfer, while still not perfect, is easily the best available version to buy. Why wouldn't you want to watch Sam Raimi's best movie (yes, dammit, his best) with all it's ridiculous, even absurd, amounts of colorful gore, and listen to Bruce Campbell's witty bon mots in full HD video and audio? Who else could say simply the word, "Chainsaw" and make it a catch phrase for decades? Two and a half decades. And I saw this in the theater? Jebus Chrifsmas, I'm old. Make no mistake, if you have yet to see this absolute classic of high-camp comedy horror, you're sadly in error, my friend. And what's this? Actual new and HD bonus features?!? In addition to the better part of the SD extras from previous releases of the film, this new version comes with several brand spankin' new docs, like a look with effects artist Greg Nicotero (now widely regarded as one of the best practical effects men in the biz) at his home movies of making the F/X for the film, over an hour and a half of featurettes...I mean damn. NOT buying this is the equivalent of reading aloud the Book of the Dead. If you get killed by a bunch of amped-out Deadites because of your lousy spending habits, don't come crying to Cyrus.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Evil Dead 2 [Blu-ray]
Muppets. For grown ups. And it rules. That's right. I'm one of those guys. The only question I have is why aren't you? Yes, yes, this was post-Jim Henson stuff from the Henson Company, produced lovingly by Jim's son Brian, and sci-fi tv mainstay, Rockne S. O'Bannon. Henson never intended for all the puppeteering magic he developed to be used just for cutesy muppets (as he proved unquestioningly those intentions in "The Dark Crystal") and this 1999-2003 show was an extremely inventive way of integrating the art form into a very dark and very adult science-fiction show. I mean, come on "Star Trek"! Not all aliens are just humans with some latex wrinkles on their foreheads. Some should look decidedly NOT like bipedal hominids, and let me tell you, at least as far as TV effects go, muppets look MUCH more convincing than CG. The story follows Earth astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder) who got sucked into a wormhole and ended up on the far side of the universe, stuck on a living ship named Moya along with a bunch of disreputable types. The somewhat rotating crew began with: Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), a grumpy Peacekeeper (think Stormtroopers, except they CAN hit the broad side of a barn and this one is sexy) eventually who becomes John's love interest; Ka D'ago (Anthony Simcoe), a Klingon-ish warrior (but with more elaborate makeup) on the run from the Peacekeepers for a crime he didn't commit, the killing of his own wife; Zhaan (Virginia Hey), a hot, bald, blue, empath chick who isn't afraid to kick-ass for her anarchist beliefs, especially where the Peacekeepers are concerned; Rygel (voiced by Jonathan Hardy), a smallish, arrogant, frog-like alien who is deposed royalty from his home planet and who farts helium when he gets nervous; and Pilot (voiced by Lani Tupu), a many limbed alien who is literally plugged into their living ship in a symbiotic relationship and who acts as the crew's interface with her. Many characters come and go over the space of the four seasons, heroes become villains, villains become allies...this is a complex map of a story and you can't jump in just anywhere. Thus: the boxset. Now finally upgraded to blu-ray, it isn't as perfect visually as I'd have hoped for (in fact, largely it looks just like the DVD set), but its 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix almost makes up for any whining I might have about the picture. There's also a metric-shit ton of bonus features, including a brand new retrospective doc, but where the hell is the wrap-up mini-series "The Peacekeeper Wars"? I mean, what the frelling dren is up with that? Regardless, this is one of the most original looking and conceived sci-fi tv series ever made and it's well worth owning.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Farscape: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
There are two thoughts that spring to mind when Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski comes up. One, his astonishing triptych of films, each named after and representing loosely the color and theme of the Red, White, and Blue in the French flag (liberty, equality, fraternity). Two, the desperate hope that I never am called upon to pronounce his name out loud. I don't have a clue. Which is why it's all the better that this review is in the written format, for this long-overdue Criterion Blu-Ray set of the three 1994 films. The first film, "Blue", features Juliette Binoche as a woman dealing with the loss of her husband and child in a horrific car accident, and who forms an odd bond with her recently discovered former husband's mistress afterwards. "White" is the story of a Polish immigrant in Paris (Zbigniew Zamachowski...once again, won't be discussing this film out loud) who is suffering through a marriage to an unhappy Julie Delpy; so unhappy is she that she frames the poor guy for arson. He escapes the police and manages to recreate himself, more successful than before, determined to get revenge on his ex. "Red" is the most complex of the series, telling multiple character stories, but most prominently that of Valentine (Irene Jacob), a woman who injures the dog of a retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) with her car, and is disturbed by his lack of concern, both with his dog, who she adopts for her own, and for the sordid secrets of a neighbor who the judge has been spying on with wiretaps. It's a situation that calls for some tightrope-walking moral choices on Valentine's part. All three films (especially "Blue") are essential viewing for anyone who likes to claim that they like foreign films. This set is right up there with Kurosawa's Samurai films, as far as backing up that statement, so it's officially time to put your money where your mouth is, poseurs. You certainly won't be upset about doing so either, because, well, it's Criterion, and as is their wont, they KICK THIS THING'S ASS, with beautiful HD upgrades, a whole ton of new bonus features, and a 80-page illustrated booklet. It's the Xmas present this year du jour for the serious cinephile in your life that you care about enough to lay down a stack of greenbacks for.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Three Colors: Blue, White, Red (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]