I know I'm late on this one, but I didn't want to let this week slip by since it's packed with so many wonderful films to consume. You've got another so-so Die Hard as well as another zom rom com (who would have ever thought of another one of those sub, sub-genres coming around after Shaun of the Dead?), but the real treats of the week extend from that glorious decade of the 1970s. And they're not the typical classics most film freaks have seen. Let's start with the...
MUST BUY DVD OF THE WEEK!
Electra Glide in Blue: One of the best beat cop movies out there. Robert Blake (let's ignore his murderous personal life) is a teeny tiny highway patrolman navigating the mundane crimes of the Arizona interstate. His dreams of Homicide Detection are teased when he discovers the corpse of an anonymous hermit. It's a mean little film with just as much disillusionment as Dirty Harry, but not as widely regarded as that Hollywood endeavor. Electra Glide in Blue is a slower film; it takes its time to rip your heart out, but when it gets there you'll feel a chunk of your soul missing. Sound like a good time out at the movies? Maybe not, but it's a fantastic experience.
A Good Day To Die Hard: Not the return to Hard R glory I wanted, but what do you expect for the fifth film in a franchise? Um, how 'bout Fast Five! Bruce Willis travels to Mother Russia to retrieve his son from a whole heap of Cold War trouble. Jai Courtney is actually pretty fantastic as the McClane offspring, and his relationship with Willis is far more entertaining than expected. My real problem with the film are the lackluster action set pieces. Other than an impossibly long car chase, there is very little to remember about this example of diminishing return. And is John McClane really John McClane when he's sporting a chrome dome? Not to me he isn't.
Warm Bodies: Much better than it has any right to be, the film pretty much looses me as it crawls towards its climax. But where can this sub-genre go once you've explored every horrific aspect? It was bound to get the Twilight treatment and it succeeds thanks to the presence of "real" actors (you know, people than can emote) and a recognizable sense of loneliness. Rob Corddry steals the show as Holt's zombie buddy and the film certainly could have benefitted with more of his zombie banter.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome: The whole trilogy hit blu ray this week, but since I already have the first two the only one I'm really interested in acquiring is this flawed, but ambitious conclusion. It's been at least a decade since I've seen this movie, and the plot details have pretty much faded. I certainly remember Tina Turner and the revolting Master Blaster. I remember that tribe of children from the poster. And I remember the disappointment that Mad Max is just not as hardcore as he was in The Road Warrior. But it's time for a revisit.
The Shadow: Speaking of disappointments...The Shadow came out amongst a flurry of pulp hero adaptations (Dick Tracy, The Phantom, The Rocketeer) and it was easily the weakest of the bunch. Alec Baldwin cuts a pretty fine Lamont Cranston, but his masked avenger could use a little work and definitely a better nose job. PG doesn't work for the film either. I'm not looking for an R Rated bloodbath, but The Shadow is a killer and he should act as such. Think Batman filtered through gangster morality. However, the real exciting thing about this blu ray release is the widescreen. Every few years a new DVD would come out, but it would always be truncated into Full Screen. Now we can see every inch of this mediocre adventure, and I'm genuinely excited. Even a poor adaptation is worthy of some enthusiasm.
Earthquake: My absolute favorite Disaster Film. Growing up in San Diego, California I was always terrified the Earth would open up and swallow my home. I only lived through a few minor quakes but they were enough to permanently scar my child brain. Charlton Heston leads a cast of time-gone-by actors as well as a few bright, up & comers. George Kennedy is the bee's knees as the tough guy cop brought to an emotional breakdown by mother nature. Richard Roundtree is a meastro of the dirt bike, coming to the rescue of helpless kiddies everywhere. But the real stars are the matte paintings and the crumbling Universal sets. Brutal, heartbreaking devastation and only in a way that 70s Hollywood could do. Roland Emmerich only wishes he could match this horror.
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry/Race With The Devil: Shout Factory put out this brilliant double in standard def a few years back, but now we can take in all the 70s sleazy grime in beautiful 1080p. Mary & Larry is fun enough, however, the real draw is the satanic road rage of Race With The Devil. Starring Peter Fonda & Warren Oates as a couple of dirt bike champions (such a popular profession in the 70s), the two cool cats & their wives stumble upon a human sacrifice while dragging their winnebago across America. RG Armstrong guest stars as a sheriff with a touch of the goat. Directed by Jack Starrett after he ruled the exploitation world with Jim Brown's Slaughter, but before he co-starred in First Blood as the asshole cop Rambo rocked out of the helicopter. Race With The Devil will mark an excellent addition to your Rosemary's Baby, Devil's Rain, Ninth Gate dvd shelf.
Scum: Starring an impossibly young Ray Winstone, Scum is a flick I've always wanted to see but have just never gotten around to. Time to change that. Director Alan Clarke originally crafted this story as a BBC play but it was banned before it ever aired. When the regime changed they reshot the story with Ray Winstone in the lead and brutalized British society. Apparently. I can't tell you if it's great or not. But I love Winstone. And I love angry films.