If it's crap ... We'll tell you
As much fun as I've had over the past few weeks (first, a family reunion for my father's birthday and then, of course, Spill Dot Con), I was relieved for it all to be over. With an audible sigh of relief, I retreated into my darkened bedroom and came out only for the inescapable realities of my job (Transformers 3, for instance...there is no God). But now I've had time to rest, recoup, and relax only to look around and realize (with one of those pulling the camera back while zooming in shots we see in horror films), "HOLY SHIT, THERE'S ABOUT TEN MILLION BLU-RAYS AND DVDS PILED UP TO REVIEW!". No rest for the wicked, so let's dive back into the game with a considerable amount of catch-up:
THE LONG RIDERS (Blu-Ray)
Walter Hill is a director who likes to make films about anti-heroes, to be sure. With titles like "The Warriors", "Last Man Standing", and "48 Hours" to his credit, it's become clear how he's more interested in his protagonist's flaws than their virtues. No exception is his first western film (odd it took so long, from the guy who said every movie he makes is one), 1980's "The Long Riders" based on the exploits of the 19th century James/Younger gang. Hill had the neat idea to actually cast four sets of brothers as the equally related characters in the film: Stacy and James Keach as the Jameses, David, Keith, and Robert Carradine as the Youngers, Dennis and Randy Quaid as the Millers, and Christopher and Nicholas Guest as the Fords. The biggest downside here is James Keach, who plays the pivotal role of Jesse James, sadly way too flat (and just downright dull) to really care about his story elements. Fortunately, there's lots of other good character acting in here, especially from the Carradines, and, of course, there's Hill's brand of stylish violence from the Peckinpah school of splashy blood and slow-mo that manages to spice things up always right when it's really needed. "The Long Riders" isn't quite the classic it probably should have been, as it meanders through the tale of these brothers in a way that never really lets you get to know any one character very well, but it certainly entertains nonetheless.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Long Riders [Blu-ray]
RUBBER (Blu-Ray and DVD)
A tire that kills people. With the barrage of intentionally z-grade movies coming out lately from such sources as Asylum and the Syfy Channel, you would be instantly forgiven for assuming that this 2010 French horror/comedy was yet another entry in the seemingly endlessly surging tide of these cheapies. And yet, there's something else going on here entirely. I mean, sure, it's still about a tire that is self-aware and uses psychokinetic abilities to kill the local residents of a desert town while the hapless police search for a decidedly non-synthetic killer. But it's got a reason. No reason. “All great films, without exception, contain an important element of No Reason. And you know why? Because life itself is filled with No Reason… Ladies, gentlemen, the film you’re about to see today is an homage to the No Reason, that most powerful element of style", declares the beginning of the film, and it surely does stick to its guns. I can't say I entirely agree with it's (no) reasoning, but it's an entertaining idea (at least) to present a completely absurdist exercise in poking fun conceptually at story telling in general. And in some cases, at least through my perceptions, in the specific. I mean, if we're talking about movies where stuff happens for no reason and without explanation, why isn't this guy directing the next Transformers film? Even odder, the film has its own audience, a group of spectators a few desert dunes away who sit in lawn chairs and comment on the tire's journey while watching it through binoculars, until they too end up getting involved in the story. I can't say I even half-way understand what director Quentin Dupieux was trying to say about cinema and our relationship with it, but the point of absurdist cinema like this is kind of not to have one. No point. No reason. But a healthy dose of WTF laughs for those who dig such things. The bonus features clear things up somewhat, but when in one feature a blow-up doll interviews the director and his replies are all backward masked and subtitled, well, clarity isn't exactly what you're after.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Rubber [Blu-ray]
IRON MAN/SPIDER-WOMAN (Blu-Ray)
Both of these motion comic adaptations of popular Marvel runs for their respective characters are available separately on DVD, but let's face it: not only does animation always look MUCH better on Blu, but why not double these up when the price is right? My review for the previously released "Iron Man: Extremis" establishes that it's the best yet of the, at that point, steadily increasing quality trend of the motion comics coming out. Unfortunately, "Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D." doesn't continue on favorably in that direction. Whether it's the difficulty of translating artist Alex Maleev's stunning and unique style into an animated format, or just that writer Brian Michael Bendis's original story really wasn't all that great to begin with, it not only seems like a step-backwards, but blatantly just the first chapter of an unfinished story. Jessica Drew is pretty down and out since no one wants anything to do with her; a shape-shifting alien skrull had been impersonating her and led an invasion against Earth while she lay sedated up in their ship. Now, an offer by a mysterious benefactor to join a group called S.W.O.R.D. leads her to the scummiest city on the (Marvel) planet: Madripoor. There she's given a wrist-watch alien detector and a directive to take out any remaining skrulls in hiding: with prejudice. It's a great premise that never completely delivers, and if I had to guess, it's because somebody in the executive suite at Marvel pulled a, "Hey, end your series, we need that character for <fill in the blank>." Still, two for one is a good deal, to be sure, and there's some nice bonus features as well. Us super-hero fans have to take our animated entertainment where we can get it.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Marvel Knights: Spider-Woman Agent Of S.W.O.R.D DVD
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Iron Man: Extremis/Spider-Woman Agent of S.W.O.R.D. Blu-Ray