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Blu-ray Reviews for February 13, 2018

Selections from this week’s Blu-ray releases can be found below in this ongoing weekly summary of reviews. Click on any of the following titles to navigate directly to that review. This week’s releases include: the ass-kicking Scott Adkins action flick Accident Man; Vestron Video’s re-release of the silly and wild Class of 1999; the lame comedy sequel Daddy’s Home 2; a deluxe reissue of Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell; the cult horror sequel Gate 2; Rob Reiner’s pres bio-pic LBJ; the cartoonish Russian import Red Mob; the Denzel Washington-starring Roman J. Israel, Esq.; the underrated Stephen King werewolf flick Silver Bullet; and Viggo Mortensen’s early effort Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. A list of other titles also available this week can be found at the end.


Distributor: Sony Pictures

Mike Fallon (Scott Adkins), the Accident Man, is a stone cold killer whose methodical hits baffle the police and delight his clients. He is the best at what he does. But when a loved one is dragged into the London underworld and murdered by his own crew, Fallon is forced to rip apart the life he knew in order to hold those accountable and avenge the one person who actually meant something to him. Based on the popular UK comic book, Toxic!, the film also stars Ashley Greene, Michael Jai White, Ray Park, Ray Stevenson, David Paymer, Nick Moran, Perry Benson, Ross O’Hennessy and Amy Johnston.


In this new era of the action hero, where CGI and fast cars make the “hero” heroic, one man stands alone, relying on the brawn and ego of his counterparts from yesteryear to strike an intimidating pose and charismatic presence. He is Scott Adkins and he will happily destroy you.

I’ve been following Adkins’ career since his first big mainstream break, The Expendables 2, in which he played a miscellaneously Eastern European henchman to Jean-Claude Van Damme’s lead vilain….Jean Vilain (haha).Adkins was a huge Van Damme fan as a pre-stardom kid and considered the actor/martial artist an idol. Years later, he would appear with Van Damme in no less than four films, as a good guy or bad — either way, he played the strong and silent time, dialing down his personality in favor of solitudinal badassness.

With Accident Man, we’re getting a whole Adkins of a different color, and it’s an absolute delight.

Long a passion project for Adkins, Accident Man is based on a comic series about a group of unscrupulous assassins, each with their own unique methods on dispatching their targets. Adkins is Mike Fallon, one of these assassins, whose specialty is taking out his victims while making it look like…you guessed it…an accident.

Made with a Guy Ritchie swagger that even Ritchie hasn’t been capable of since 2001’s Snatch, Accident Man is directed by frequent Adkins collaborator Jesse V. Johnson, a former stuntman and stunt coordinator who has made quite the name for himself in the direct-to-video action market. Like Snatch, Accident Man is wrly narrated by Adkins, who is finally allowed to use his native Britsh accent, offering the film a London noir atmosphere within the appropriately heightened comic book style. The ensemble cast includes another beloved bad-ass — Black Dynamite himself, Michael Jai White — along with former Punisher Ray Stevenson and Ray Park (the G.I. Joe film series). As you might expect, and hope, things get pretty violent.

Bravely, and appropriately, Adkins’ Mike Fallon is kind of a dick. He is an assassin-for-hire, after all — and “self-absorbed” as one character played by Ashley Greene calls him — so he’s not the easiest person to root for, which is all by design. Accident Man doesn’t take the easy Dexter way out and explain that the victims of Fallon and his fellow assassins are bad people who deserve it — one assassin literally picks victims out of a phone book at random — so as you’re seeing Fallon stage a hanging or a car accident, you’ve no idea how you’re supposed to feel about it. And on top of that, Fallon likes to shed his PMT (post-murder tension) by going to bars and beating the shit out of even more random strangers. Seriously, he’s a fucking asshole, but in a kind of lovable way.

Accident Man stumbles from time to time in that typical low-budget filmmaking kind of way, sometimes losing its grasp on an otherwise confident pacing or concocting a couple of awkward scenes, but otherwise it’s a blast to watch. Adkins’ impressive fighting skills are smartly made the focus of a somewhat loosey-goosey script involving duplicitousness, double- and triple-crosses, government conspiracies, and…lesbianism. (Hooray!) But it allows Adkins to play his most charismatic, lively, and “fun” character so far, enabling the actor to break free of his usually dour and bleak characters and enjoy himself. It’s clear that this is a passion project for Adkins, and with it offering up one of those endings that could either be a proper conclusion or a bridge to further adventures, here’s hoping it’s the latter.

I could watch Adkins’ Mike Fallon shed his PMT all day.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Audio Commentary with star/producer/co-writer Scott Adkins and co-writer Stu Small
  • Two Featurettes:
    • Assassin’s Roll Call
    • Violent Ballet: Filming the Fights


Distributor: Lionsgate via Vestron Video

The time is the future, and youth gang violence is so high that the areas around some schools have become “free fire zones” into which not even the police will venture. When Miles Langford (Malcolm McDowell), the principal of Kennedy High School, decides to take his school back from the gangs, robotics specialist Dr. Robert Forrest (Stacy Keach) provides “tactical education units.” These human-like androids have been programmed to teach and are supplied with weapons to handle discipline problems. These kids will get a lesson in staying alive!

Looking back on films that were supposed to represent the future, long after that “future” has come and gone, can be hilarious. For example, according to Demolition Man, L.A. was to be reduced to one gigantic warzone, constantly on fire where busloads of people were being kidnapped.

In 1996.

As I’ve said before, every movie you have ever seen that’s set in the future doesn’t offer a sunny and optimistic look at what’s to come. Color everywhere has been replaced by sterile white; warmth is non-existent. And technology has run rampant, making humans nearly useless on their own (uh oh!); meanwhile, right in front of our stupid faces, that technology is threatening to undo the very rules of civilization (uh oh!).

Mark L. Lester’s Class of 1999 (made in 1990), a very loose sequel to his Class of 1984 (made in 1982), is a pretty good example of that, only instead of something like 2001: A Space Odyssey, and all the colorless, cold, and mechanical environments that come with it, there’s the usual amount of ‘80s-era bright colors and Mad Max-ish carnage. Not only is technology a future danger to society, but so are high school students. Run!

To bactrack, Class of 1984 was about a high school teacher pushed too far by his unruly gang member students, and this is a concept that’s been seen time and again. James Belushi’s silly but underrated flick The Principal, and later on, Tom Berenger’s The Substitute (which would spawn a direct-to-video franchise with Treat Williams). Class of 1999 takes that same basic concept and then throws robots into the mix, and in case you weren’t aware, adding robots to any movie makes it instantly better 99.999% of the time. This can be scientifically proven using the following equation:

 Movie x └[ ∵ ]┘ = 🙂 

Class of 1999 is an amalgam of the previously mentioned Mad Max, along with The Terminator, The Warriors, and your choice of any typical ’80s action flick. It’s utterly beyond stupid and addictingly watchable. The action, the robots, and the robotic-action go a long way toward achieving this, but also helping? The inclusion of Stacy Keach, who as science has also proven, also makes any movie better 99.999% of the time. So now that we’re operating at 199.998% worth of superiority, it’s easy to see why Class of 1999 is so much fun. And this is before I mention the inclusion of John P. Ryan (Cannon’s go-to villain during the ‘80s and ‘90s) and blaxsploitation icon Pam Grier as grinning killer robots, and lead groog himself, Malcolm McDowell, as a sometimes caring sometimes shrugging principal.

Lester had previously directed one of the greatest films of all time, Commando, and though Class of 1999 doesn’t come anywhere close to that fim’s amount of carnage and violence, you can still sense Lester’s affection for it, so his sequel goes as far as it can on the budget he was given. There are still lots of explosions and fatalities during the finale and it’s an absolute blast.

If you haven’t guessed by now, not much of Class of 1999 is to be taken seriously. In case you missed the plotline, it’s about robot teachers murdering their gang member students, who eventually take their revenge. If for some reason that kind of plot doesn’t interest you, then frankly, I don’t want to know you.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Mark L. Lester
  • Interviews with Director/Producer Mark L. Lester and Co-Producer Eugene Mazzola
  • Interview with Screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner
  • Interviews with Special Effects Creators Eric Allard and Rick Stratton
  • Interview with Director of Photography Mark Irwin
  • Trailer
  • TV Spot
  • Still Gallery
  • Video Promo


Distributor: Paramount Pictures (out February 20)

When it comes to raising their kids, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and Brad (Will Ferrell) finally have this co-parenting thing down. That is, until Dusty’s macho dad (Mel Gibson) and Brad’s sweet-natured father (John Lithgow) come to town, throwing the whole family into complete chaos. As old rivalries create new problems, Dusty and Brad’s partnership is put to the ultimate test in this hilarious and heartwarming comedy that gives new meaning to the term ‘blended family.’

It feels like just a couple weeks ago when I was lambasting A Bad Mom’s Christmas for taking the same page out of this Daddy’s Home sequel. After all, being that the original Bad Moms was obviously about mothers, lazy sequel syndrome called for the mothers of those mothers to join the ongoing fiascos of their daughters’ lives. Meanwhile, Daddy’s Home was basically the same thing as Bad Moms, only involving fathers and not nearly as good. And now, Daddy’s Home 2 has come along and done the same thing: taken a movie about fathers and added their fathers to the mix…and also at Christmas! I hope these fathers are polar opposites! : )  : )  : )

Here’s the good news: Daddy’s Home 2 is as every bit as good, well written, amusing, and touching as the the first Daddy’s Home. The bad news: the first Daddy’s Home wasn’t any of those things. In that regard, this sequel shouldn’t disappoint anyone who found the prior film entertaining, as it reaches for the same low heights and achieves them handily.

I will say this: Lithgow and Gibson were perfectly cast to mirror their sons’ personas. Lithgow very easily (too easily) plays lame and square while Gibson, one of the coolest actors to ever grace the screen, is clearly having fun playing a devious, irresponsible, and mischievous patriarch. Gibson not only gets to ham it up as the prick (and pricks always have more fun), his character is actually the catalyst for Dusty and Brad’s successful co-dad relationship crumbling to pieces, which sends shockwaves throughout the entire family. One might wonder why Gibson, an Academy Award-winning director and revered actor, would ever stoop to appearing in such a broad and stupid comedy (putting aside the fact that he’s probably eager to get any kind of mainstream work following his years of personal problems and estrangement from Hollywood). It’s pretty well known, however, that Gibson is a lifelong fan of The Three Stooges, having made several references to them throughout his Lethal Weapon series as well as having produced 2000’s severely underrated TV movie of the same name, so, when Brad accidentally hurts himself and destroys everything with a snow blower, or when several characters engage in a violent snowball fight (which could just as easily be pies), one gets the impression Gibson is having a grand old time.

Lithgow, too, knows he’s making something broad and stupid, but ever the professional, he absolutely gives it his all. He embraces his cheesy and lame character, but also fully devotes himself to the more emotional aspect we all know is coming, which will, theoretically, make Daddy’s Home 2 more than just vapid entertainment (even if that’s all this ends up being anyway).

Daddy’s Home 2 manages a single laugh roughly every half hour or so, and only one of the jokes in the entire thing actually comes across as clever — the fight over the thermostat, because that’s the most Dad thing in the world. Other than that, there’s no drama on hand to invest in, and no characters to fully grasp onto because there are way too many. Daddy’s Home 2 is a wholly forgettable sequel, in spite of an atypically troublemaking Mel Gibson and a very willing John Lithgow.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Making a Sequel
  • Look Who’s Back
  • Co-Dads: Will & Mark
  • The New Dads in Town: Mel & John
  • Captain Sully
  • Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes
  • Gag Reel


Distributor: Shout! Factory

Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is on her way to having it all: a devoted boyfriend (Justin Long), a hard-earned job promotion, and a bright future. But when she has to make a tough decision that evicts an elderly woman from her house, Christine becomes the victim of an evil curse. Now she has only three days to dissuade a dark spirit from stealing her soul before she is dragged to hell for an eternity of unthinkable torment.

I can absolutely understand why the people who love Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise also love Drag Me to Hell. Following that first 1981 trip within the woods, which was gunning for a solely scary experience, the audience’s unexpected laughter-ridden response lead the rest of the Evil Dead franchise down a path more focused on “spook o blast” slapstick horror-humor. Even Raimi’s cult favorite Darkman, which was equal parts horror, action, and superhero movie, displayed the same kind of manic execution, very icky set-pieces, and a frenetic and unhinged sense of humor. If it weren’t for his extremely undervalued 2001 ghost story The Gift, which was a straight, dark, and humorless horror/thriller, I would say that Raimi was neither interested in nor had the confidence to make a genre pic where he couldn’t rely on silliness and buckets of slime. That The Gift didn’t make any money might have been the last reason Raimi needed to leave serious horror behind as a director.

If Drag Me to Hell has somehow eluded you all these years, yet you adore the Evil Dead series, then this movie is for you. It contains all the stalwarts of that franchise, but this time in a gussied-up mainstream flick starring the pretty Alison Lohman and the prettier Justin Long. Everything else remains the same: goo, slime, goo-slime, slimy goo, and screaming. The spectre of the dead gypsy (Lorna Raver) constantly shows up either in ghostly form or corpse form and manages to projectile vomit all manner of foul things directly into Lohman’s mouth: maggots, corpse slime, embalming fluid (I think), entrails, and more. Drag Me to Hell is 90 minutes of nasty shit being gooed into an unwilling mouth, and right around the time Lohman drops an anvil on the head of the gypsy, which causes both the spectre’s eyes AND more black goo to fire into her mouth, you start to wonder, “What the fuck is this and why the fuck am I watching it?” (The operatic musical score by go-to horror composer Christopher Young, however, is the tops.)

I’m going to be pretty blunt: I hate Drag Me to Hell. I hated it in theaters ten years ago, and this opportunity to revisit the film hasn’t yielded any less hate. Years before The Evil Dead returned in the form of the new-ish Starz series, fans moaned that Raimi was dragging his feet on making Evil Dead IV, and Drag Me to Hell seemed like a direct response to that. “Give the people goo!” he probably bellowed. Because the similarities are profound: people are possessed, causing them to float and make scary faces and speak in terrible demon voices; more goo, more blood; even a terrible CGI goat comes to angry life at some point, mimicking the laughing and squealing animal heads from Evil Dead 2. There’d be absolutely no mistaking Drag Me to Hell as anything other than a Sam Raimi movie (although, while his Oldsmobile appears, Bruce Campbell doesn’t). It’s absolutely cut from the same cloth as Evil Dead 2 and especially Army of Darkness. If you’re someone like me who doesn’t particularly care for either of those, then you must run, screaming, from Drag Me to Hell. And if you do, then open wide your mouths and get ready for the goo-slime, for it has returned in an impressive two-disc Blu-ray edition from Shout! Factory, now available for the first time in both cuts. That’s twice the goo!

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

Disc One:

  • NEW HD Master Of The Theatrical Cut Taken From The 2K Digital Intermediate
  • Production Diaries – With Behind-the-scenes Footage And Interviews With Co-writer/director Sam Raimi, Actors Alison Lohman, Justin Long, David Paymer, Dileep Rao, Lorna Raver, Special Effects Guru Greg Nicotero, Director Of Photography Peter Deming, And More (35 Minutes)
  • Vintage Interviews With Director Sam Raimi And Actors Alison Lohman And Justin Long (33 Minutes)
  • TV Spots
  • Theatrical Trailer

Disc Two:

  • NEW HD Master Of The Unrated Cut Taken From The 2K Digital Intermediate
  • NEW To Hell And Back – An Interview With Actress Alison Lohman (12 Minutes)
  • NEW Curses! – An Interview With Actress Lorna Raver (16 Minutes)
  • NEW Hitting All The Right Notes – An Interview With Composer Christopher Young (17 Minutes)
  • Still Gallery


Distributor: Shout! Factory (out February 20)

Not all minions are cute and cuddly … This supercharged sequel to the horror classic The Gate comes alive with unearthly creatures, heart-stopping action and incredible special effects. Gate II picks up again with Terry, the teenage sorcerer who summons beings from the other side whose powers can be used to grant any wish. Unfortunately, before the Gate closes again, a “minion” – a tiny disciple of Satan himself – manages to slip through to our dimension. When the creature is kidnapped – all hell breaks loose.

The Gate, directed by Tibor Takacs and released in 1987, was a very competent kid-friendly horror flick known more for its practical effect ingenuity than anything else. Brought to life using primarily clay- and stop-motion animation, and in an era where that kind of thing wasn’t really done anymore, it managed a handful of effective scenes and played out like a less chaotic version of The Evil Dead. It didn’t really lend itself to a sequel, but then again, what does?

The awkwardly titled Gate II, dropping the The, leaves behind the young lead from the first film (played by Steven Dorff) and promotes his trouble-making pal, Terry, to the new lead. This happens a lot in the horror genre (Mimic 2, Sinister 2) where the second banana becomes the lead and proves they were second banana for a reason. However, in Gate II, Terry (Louis Tripp) actually makes for a decent lead. His backstory from the first film, in which he lost his mother recently and which made him “weird” and a bit of an outcast, carries over here and directly affects the relationship he has with his well-meaning but alcoholic father. And Tripp does an admirable job with his role, reigning in his more “I’m the trouble-making comic relief!” characteristics that he’d essayed previously. Like Dorff, Tripp dials it down; he’s quiet and resilient but makes the same kind of dumb mistakes other characters in this genre often do. And of course he’s got a crush on the cute girl from the neighborhood (Pamela Segall, now known as Pamela Adlon, of Californication), which invites the wrath of her sometimes boyfriend, John, and his dumb-ass friend, Moe. As to be expected, Terry and these chuckleheads reopen the gates of hell and kidnap a minion, which they soon find has the power to grant them wishes.

Since we’re dealing with a bunch of teenagers, you can assume how this ends.

Gate II is an odd one — aesthetically, it feels like a sequel to The Gate, and the filmmakers, including a returning Takacs, should be lauded for crafting something that feels familiar but tells a different kind of story. And the practical effects — again, both clay- and stop-motion — are very much The Gate, but something about it never gels from the beginning. It feels a bit lighter, and later, once a couple characters become possessed by hell demons, it feels much goofier. And the aspect of the teens’ wishes eventually turning into literal shit never serves a purpose beyond silly punchlines, like one character looking out the window to the car she’s wished for and seeing a giant mound of shit with a cockeyed license plate sticking out of it. Sure, it’s amusing, but why do this?

Gate II (still so awkward to say) plays a little better now than it did when I first saw it years ago; it’s a quirky sequel that’s similar enough to feel like it belongs, even if its increased level of dumbness neutralizes the kind of actual terror its predecessor managed to execute. The Gate was previously brought to Blu-ray by Vestron Video; now’s your chance to own the sequel and take that next step in making your collection look like a West Coast Video shelf from 1992.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
  • NEW Return To The Nightmare – A Look Back At Gate II – Featuring Interviews With Director Tibor Takacs, Screenwriter Michael Nankin And Special Visual Effects Creator Randall William Cook
  • NEW From The Depths – An Interview With Make-up Effects Artist Craig Reardon
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Video Promo And Video Store Contest Promo
  • Still Gallery


Distributor: Sony Pictures

After powerful Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson (Woody Harrelson) loses the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination to Senator John F. Kennedy (Jeffrey Donovan), he agrees to be his young rival’s running mate. But once they win the election, despite his extensive legislative experience and shrewd political instincts, Johnson finds himself sidelined in the role of Vice President. That all changes on Nov. 22, 1963, when Kennedy is assassinated and Johnson, with his devoted wife Lady Bird (Jennifer Jason Leigh) by his side, is suddenly thrust into the presidency. As the nation mourns, Johnson must contend with longtime adversary Attorney General Bobby Kennedy (Michael Stahl-David) and one-time mentor Georgia Sen. Richard Russell (Richard Jenkins) as he seeks to honor JFK’s legacy by championing the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It’s been mentioned time and again how oddly often it happens when two films that explore an atypical subject are released the same year — and the biopic is no exception. Wyatt Earp and his Tombstone brothers were twice brought to life in 1994 in the forms of…Wyatt Earp and Tombstone. Truman Capote was played by both the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toby Jones in 2006’s Capote and Infamous, respectively.

And 2017 was the year of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

HBO took the first crack with their original production All the Way, which saw Bryan Cranston step into the big-ballsacked Lyndon Johnson in a well regarded but not really talked about drama in which Johnson contended with the Dixie Democrats and none other than Martin Luther King Jr. to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Cranston’s performance was terrific, and the film delved into LBJ beyond just a VP-cum-President, but as someone very complicated and deeply desiring to be liked.

Rob Reiner’s LBJ follows close behind, swapping out Cranston for Woody Harrelson, but largely keeping the same story in place: Johnson’s intention on passing Kennedy’s passion bill, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. With comparisons being inevitable, and though LBJ is Reiner’s best film as a director since the mid-’1990s (I’ll let you choose between either The American President or Ghosts of Mississippi), it still pales when held up against HBO’s more thorough examination of our 36th President. Harrelson turns in an admirable performance as the titular southern politician, which in fact might even be one of the actor’s best and most serious-minded, but at times it’s easy to look through the makeup and rubber earlobes and see the actor beneath, whereas Cranston more easily disappeared into the role. And clocking in at a mere 97 minutes, LBJ feels like the express version of the story, one that feels fairly paced until the last act, during which the focus on passing the Civil Rights Act really ramps up and comes to fruition in record time. I’d be curious to know if there’s a wealth of footage sitting on a hard drive somewhere that Reiner shot, and which will likely never see the light of day. (The Blu-ray release contains no deleted scenes, nor any supplements of any kind.)

Jennifer Jason Leigh, whose praises I will always sing when given the opportunity, as the First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, shines in her small and somewhat thankless part; despite playing a real person, she still feels saddled with the “wife” role — one who doesn’t seem to figure much into the conflict unless President Johnson needs a dose of tough love and/or tender inspiration. She’s excellent with what she’s given, but it’s a shame she wasn’t given more.

All the Way and LBJ traversed the same path, which is totally understandable given that Johnson’s difficulty in feeling like a legitimate president following the shooting death of President Kennedy is obviously huge and a significant part of both the story and of understanding what President Johnson experienced when making his transition. However, far less important but very noticeable details are intertwined between the two productions — both even feature scenes of their President Johnsons admonishing their tailors for needing more room in the crotches of their slacks for their low-hanging nuts. (If you’ve seen only All the Way and wondered if this moment was a bit of fictionalized playfulness, it’s not — it really happened.)

LBJ is not a bad film by any stretch, and it’s beautifully shot by Barry Markowitz (Crazy Heart), but even when judging it on its own merits and not comparing it to HBO’s take, it still comes across as underwhelming and in too much of a hurry to conclude. It’s worthy enough, however, to give it a watch and make up your own mind. If nothing else, it’s worth it for Harrelson’s performance alone.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

None.


Distributor: Vinegar Syndrome

Russia. 1992. The Soviet Union has fallen but there remains an unholy alliance between the mob and the KGB. Oleg, an Afghan war veteran, is running a survivalist summer camp when his son is taken hostage as retribution for his friend’s refusal to lead a drug and gun smuggling caravan. With no other options to save his son, Oleg agrees to lead the caravan himself and is soon pitted against a siege of violence as he attempts to carry out his orders and live to see his son again. Despite its early 90’s production, Vsevolod Plotkin’s RED MOB (Chtoby vyzhit) is staunchly situated in the stylistic tropes of late 80s action blockbusters. Helicopter dogfights, incredibly staged explosions, and death-defying action sequences abound, played against a tense and suspenseful story of survival.

If you’re the kind of action fan who eventually exhausted all domestic action titles starring all the familiar faces of the 1980s action hero movement before moving onto…less familiar faces…and you’re yearning for something similar but new, this road will inevitably lead to Russia’s Red Mob. Made in the same vein as Commando, Rambo: First Blood Part II, and the Delta Force series, Red Mob is as silly and chaotic as the action film can be, aided somewhat (okay, a lot) by this being a Russian production, and hence, dubbed into English for English-speaking territories, which offers it a sillier final product.

If you can scrape away all the baggage from this sort of sub-genre — the silliness of the plot, the cartoonishness of the villain, and okay, again, the terrible dubbing (I’m pretty sure they got a 30-year-old voice actor to dub a 12-year-old kid), Red Mob is actually impressive in spots. This feels very strange to say considering I’m barely a few hours out from having watched it and the very silly aspects of it are still thriving in my mind, but no, seriously: the action in Red Mob is pretty great. Obviously made in a pre-CGI era, the practical effects, the stunt work, and the pyrotechnics (so much stuff explodes, and some for no reason — it’s pretty great) offers the illusion of a production that was both carefully and haphazardly choreographed. The stunts involving helicopters alone (and there are numerous) look legit dangerous and even in the midst of what’s basically a live action episode of G.I Joe, you can’t help but be impressed by how ballsy the filmmakers were willing to be.

As mentioned, you’d have to dig pretty deep to know of Red Mob’s existence — not even a trailer for it can be found on Youtube. But for bored action fans who need a break from their Arnolds and their Norrises and their entire Cannon Films collection, Red Mob is an easy recommendation. It’s loud, violent, kind of stupid, but also somehow well made and will easily scratch your persistent action itch.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Scanned and restored in 2k from 35mm Interpositive
  • Includes both the Russian language version and the American version
  • “Producing RED MOB” – video interview with Producer Arthur Schweitzer
  • “Shooting from the Hip” – career featurette with Arthur Schweitzer, founder of Cinevest
  • Original English trailer
  • Promotional still gallery
  • Original cover artwork by Derek Gabryszak
  • Reversible cover artwork
  • English & Russian SDH Subtitles


Distributor: Sony Pictures

Roman J. Israel, Esq. is set in the underbelly of the overburdened Los Angeles criminal court system. Denzel Washington stars as a driven, idealistic defense attorney whose life is upended when his mentor, a civil rights icon, dies. When he is recruited to join a firm led by one of the legendary man’ s former students – the ambitious lawyer George Pierce (Colin Farrell) – and begins a friendship with a young champion of equal rights (Carmen Ejogo), a turbulent series of events ensue that will put the activism that has defined Roman’s career to the test.

When Roman J. Israel, Esq. made its bow at the Toronto International Film Festival, its reception wasn’t…great, which led writer/director Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler) and star/producer Denzel Washington to take the film back into the editing room and re-cut it from beginning to end, changing up the pacing as well as the way the film presented its titular character (played by Washington). I’d be curious to know just how much different that initial cut was — especially if this final cut is the improved version, which seems to be suffering from an identity crisis, just like its titular character. This is not to say that Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a bad film. Likewise, though it gets lost along the way, it’s never uninteresting, and always compelling.

The audience always roots for the underdog, even if he’s kind of an awkward jerk, so we’re invested in Roman’s plight from the very beginning. He’s underpaid, disrespected, and horribly alone, which are easily identifiable traits to which the audience can relate, and because of this, we want to see Roman succeed, even after he makes one very bad choice.

As should be expected, Washington is marvelous, playing an anti-social law savant who’d spent so much of his life at odds with the justice system and the people who both manipulate it and fall victim to it that he eventually turned that around on himself. Washington is most known for playing very strong and dominating characters, from the heavy (Fences) to the light (Unstoppable). As criminal defense attorney Roman J. Israel, Washington easily plays against type as meek and awkward but absolutely defiant — not in big sweeping dramatic moments, but in smaller, quieter instances of rebellion. If anything, Washington keeps viewers’ eyes on screen at all times, even when the plot meanders into unexpected Los Angeles back alleys or brilliantly lit beaches.

Most damingly, Roman J. Israel, Esq., even if it’s well made and well acted, never feels like it has a point — especially when the shock ending comes along and doesn’t seem to jive with the overall tone the film had established up to that point. Admittedly, it’s not an ending you see coming — not because the film successfully obscufated the path toward it, but because it just doesn’t feel like it belongs in this kind of movie.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. is definitely worth seeing, if nothing more than for Washington’s excellent performance that sees him playing vulnerable and meek for the first time in a long time, if not ever.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Eight Deleted Scenes
  • Three Featurettes
    • “Denzel Washington: Becoming Roman”
    • “The Making of Roman J. Israel, ESQ.
    • “Colin Farrell: Discovering George”


Distributor: Umbrella Entertainment

When a series of unexplained murders occurs in the normally quiet town of Tarker’s Mill, the residents decide to hunt down the killer. Many of these vigilantes end up dead, and those who don’t are no closer to finding the assailant. But, when a young wheelchair-using boy named Marty (Corey Haim) encounters a werewolf one night, the pieces begin to come together. Along with his sister and Uncle Red (Gary Busey), Marty begins a mission to capture the werewolf once and for all. (Purchase this region free release directly from Umbrella Entertainment.)

In the pantheon of Stephen King adaptations, Silver Bullet never garnered much respect, which is something I both understand and refute. Based on his novella “Cycle of the Werewolf,” Silver Bullet was released in 1985, which was the seventh feature film baring King’s name to hit theaters in the decade since his first novel, “Carrie,” was published; it followed 1983’s trifecta of Cujo, The Dead Zone, and Christine, and some later forgettable titles like 1984’s Firestarter and Children of the Corn. Stand by Me would follow two years later, and despite it being a coming-of-age drama, Silver Bullet feels like a spiritual precursor to it. Both are made with that hazy, somewhat overblown light, offering them the feeling of the entire film being a memory recollected much later on in life. That the film is being narrated by an adult version of Marty’s sister, Jane (Megan Follows), lends this the additional sense of nostalgia that gives Silver Bullet most of its power (which also echoes Richard Dreyfuss’ narration to come).

Silver Bullet is the sole feature film credit for director Daniel Attias, who has otherwise worked in prominent television over the last 20 years (and who will be directing an episode of Hulu’s forthcoming shared Stephen King series Castle Rock, which is pretty cool). He approaches Silver Bullet as if it were a childhood drama that just so happens to feature horrific and fantastical elements; there’s a heavy emphasis on Marty’s feeling of being an outlier not just because he’s wheelchair bound, but because, as typical in conflicts where a kid knows of danger, no one believes him. (Silver Bullet was nearly directed by Phantasm director Don Coscarelli, and it’s interesting to speculate what his version would have looked like, especially when noting that the original Phantasm shares many of its themes, chief among them a quasi-outcast youth fighting against a supernatural force in his town.) There’s a subtle and purposeful somber tone throughout, which is heightened by its musical score from composer Jay Chattaway; he, also, approaches many scenes where creeping sustained strings would be more appropriate, but where he instead relies on melancholy tones. Attias stages some excellent sequences: of suspense, when Reverend Lowe (Everett McGill) approaches young Marty trapped in a covered bridge, or corners Jane in his garage; and drama, like the emotional outburst of Herb Kincaid (Kent Broadhurst), whose son was killed by the werewolf, that brings an entire rowdy bar to silence.

Sure, the werewolf effects are a little hokey, but within the framework of the way this story is being told — through a memory — then, at least to me, it’s forgivable. Haim would go on to appear in the much more celebrated vampire romp The Lost Boys, which I’d easily call the lesser of the two by comparison, but his role in Silver Bullet feels more grounded, more emotional, and hence, much more realistic. And hey — Gary Busey spends the entire finale being thrown into furniture. What’s not to love about that?

Silver Bullet makes its world debut in an English-friendly (and region free) release, so now is the perfect opportunity to add this unheralded gem to your high-def collection.

(Purchase this region free release directly from Umbrella Entertainment.)

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Daniel Attias
  • The Wolf Within – An Interview with Actor Everett McGill
  • Full Moon Fever – Interviews with Special Effects Artists Michael McCracken, Jr. and Matthew Mungle
  • Dino’s Angel Takes on Lycanthropy: Martha De Laurentiis Remembers SILVER BULLET (25 minutes)
  • Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer Jay Chattaway
  • Theatrical trailer (HD)
  • TV Spot
  • Radio Spot
  • Still Gallery


Distributor: Warner Bros. via Warner Archives

Two college students driving coast to coast are lured off the main highway and onto a deserted Texas road. Here they are stalked by the menacing Leatherface and his demented family…a bizarre cannibalistic clan with blood on their hands and a feast on their minds. The students’ only chance for escape is a survivalist with enough firepower to blast Leatherface and the rest of the grisly predators to hell. A depraved shocker of intense terror from the gruesome beginning to the bloody finish.

Like a few other horror franchises, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series keeps on truckin’; a new entry was even released just a few months ago. (Spoiler: it wasn’t good.) Following the wonderful and visceral original, subsequent entries were all over the place in terms of quality. Parts 2 and 4 (of the original run) were completely insane. The remake returned things to respectability (insofar as a TCM movie could be), but the entries which followed that got worse and worse.

And meanwhile, sitting quietly in the corner, is 1990’s Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, the most middle-of-the-road film in the series. This newest video edition of TCM III sports the “unrated” cut, restoring some of the grue and gore that was originally shot by director Jeff Burr that was then removed following a battle with the MPAA, although awkward edits that cut away from the violence suggest an even more violent version that will never see the light of day. In a previous semi-related post where I poked fun at the horror beginnings of famous actors, I included Viggo Mortensen’s appearance in TCM III and its subsequent neutered theatrical release, about which he said:

“[Shooting that movie] was fun. I don’t know how many times they sent that to the censors … They kept getting X’s and so they cut so much out that I think the movie is only like 70 minutes long. Unfortunately most of the really funny jokes were associated with gruesome bloodletting of some kind or another.” (Source: Carpe Noctem Magazine). “The movie company got cold feet and cut away the most terrifying and gruesome scenes, and it ended up being a rather incoherent movie.” (Source: M/S Magazine).

Despite Mortensen’s misgivings, Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, in its unrated form, is a perfectly acceptable entry in the chainsaw-wielding series, though except for adding a pint-sized kid to the Sawyer clan and a survivalist into the mix, Leatherface doesn’t try anything new. Burr, however, definitely gets points for casting horror-friendly actors, including William Butler and Jennifer Banko from Friday the 13th: Part VII — The New Blood, Ken Foree from Dawn of the Dead, and Mortensen, who at that point had done Renny Harlin’s Prison and the thriller Tripwire. Adding to that, Burr’s level of mayhem and bloody violence is admirable and appreciated, as is the blackest of black humor lifted from the original (and skipped by its sequel in favor of broader stupidity). Where TCM III lacks is through its somewhat meandering pace (a LOT of time is spent with our characters wandering around the Texas woods) as well as its closeness to the original’s plot, which prevents it from establishing more of an identity. Burr follows the “if it ain’t broke” mentality, but by doing so, he’s only further welcoming comparison to Hooper’s seminal original, at which point TCM III doesn’t stand a chance. This isn’t necessarily his fault, as original distributor New Line Cinema had acquired the Chainsaw rights from Cannon Films in hopes of softly rebooting the series and creating a new direction where Leatherface would be its prominent boogeyman, similar to their very successful Nightmare on Elm Street series (hence him being called out in the title). That at least explains why TCM III feels like a loose remake, although the dismal box office return put New Line’s plans on the back burner for several years. It’s also a little odd to hear the film’s participants confirm in the disc’s (recycled) supplements New Line’s desire to make Leatherface more prominent a la Freddy Krueger, even though he has no more or less screen time here than he did in the original film. For example, Mortensen’s “Tex” gets more to do than the mongoloid with the titular name. (I’m also trying to figure out where all these additional family members keep coming from. Are they actually related to Leatherface, or just a bunch of random Texan psychopaths who somehow found each other in the age before Craigslist? If they’re actual relations, where the hell were they during Dennis Hopper’s duel-chainsaw smackdown at the end of the previous sequel? Were they on vacation, or at mass? How do they multiply? Are they the products of inbreeding? What the hell goes on in the backwoods of Texas, anyway?) (I have to sit down.)

For completists, Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III won’t sting to add to the collection, despite the obviously tacked on ending and that its “unrated” form still seems toothless at times. Still, after seeing how off the rails the series eventually goes, Leatherface might even now be considered a high point — depending on who’s looking.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Audio commentary with director Jeff Burr, writer David J. Schow, special effects supervisor Gregory Nicotero, and actors R.A. Mihailoff and William Butler
  • The Saw is Family: The Making of Leatherface
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Alternate Ending
  • Trailers


Also Available This Week:

Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

Manji, a highly skilled samurai, becomes cursed with immortality after a legendary battle. Haunted by the brutal murder of his sister, Manji knows that only fighting evil will regain his soul. He promises to help a young girl named Rin avenge her parents, who were killed by a group of master swordsmen led by ruthless warrior Anotsu. The mission will change Manji in ways he could never imagine… the 100th film by master director Takashi Miike.

Special Features:

  • Manji vs. 300
  • Poster Gallery
  • Cast Interviews
  • Trailers
  • Takuya Kimura Interview

Distributor: HBO

Boasting a fine ensemble cast and executive produced by David Simon, George Pelecanos, Nina K. Noble and James Franco, The Deuce chronicles the rise of the porn industry that began in New York City in 1971-72, driven by the gradual legalization of porn and a politically motivated effort to “clean up” Times Square. Seizing the chance to cash in on the nascent porn business are a vivid assortment of characters, including: Vincent Martino (James Franco), a bartender with vision and connections; Frankie Martino (Franco again), Vincent’s identical twin, a dangerously freewheeling counterpart to his entrepreneurial brother; Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a self-made, on-the-street sex worker eying a new career in porn filmmaking; pimps C.C. (Gary Carr) and Larry Brown (Gbenga Akinnagbe); young prostitutes Darlene (Dominique Fishback) and Lori (Emily Meade); midtown cop Chris Alston (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.); newspaper reporter Sandra Washington (Natalie Paul); mob capo Rudy Pipilo (Michael Rispoli); disillusioned college student Abby Parker (Margarita Levieva); and others.

Special Features:

  • The Deuce in Focus – Delve inside The Deuce with Michelle MacLaren, James Franco and Roxann Dawson as they talk about bringing the show to life.
  • The Wild West: New York in the Early ’70s – Head back in time in this featurette that focuses on the frontier of the pornography business – New York City in the early 1970s – with the cast and crew of The Deuce. Creators David Simon and George Pelecanos plus James Franco and his co-stars open up about this unique period in NYC history, as porn moved from the street to the mainstream screen.
  • Audio Commentaries – Commentaries on Episode 1 and Episode 8 with cast and crew, including David Simon (Co-Creator/Executive Producer), George Pelecanos (Co-Creator/Executive Producer), Nina Kostroff Noble (Executive Producer), Michele MacLaren (Director), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Actor/Producer) and James Franco (Actor/Executive Producer).

Distributor: Shout! Factory (out February 20)

Sébastien Laudenbach’s utterly transporting, hand-painted masterpiece unfolds with the dream logic of a fairytale, taking you into the darker, primal origins of the Brothers Grimm’s tales. In hard times, a miller sells his daughter to the Devil. Protected by her purity, she escapes, but in revenge the Devil deprives her of her hands. Abandoning family and home, she sets off into the woods and begins her long journey towards the light.

With magic and cruelty, sublime beauty and tenderness, The Girl Without Hands is at once timeless and unlike anything you have seen before, a stunning example of animation as a powerful cinematic art form for adult moviegoers.

Special Features:

  • The Making Of The Girl Without Hands
  • Interview With Sébastien Laudenbach
  • Short Films By Sébastien Laudenbach
  • Theatrical Trailer

Distributor: Lionsgate via Vestron Video

1816. A sprawling villa in Switzerland is the setting for the night of the “Haunted Summer,” when five famous friends gather around an ancient skull to conjure up their darkest fears. Poets Lord Byron and Percy Shelley; Shelley’s fiancée, Mary Godwin; Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont; and Byron’s friend, Dr. John Polidori, spend a hallucinogenic evening confronting their fears in an orgiastic frenzy of shock lunacy that later inspired Mary Shelley to write the classic FRANKENSTEIN and Dr. Polidori to pen THE VAMPYRE, which became the basis for the creation of Dracula. One fateful evening, two legends were born, in Ken Russell’s GOTHIC.

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary with Lisi Russell, in conversation with Film Historian Matthew Melia
  • Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer Thomas Dolby
  • Interviews with Actor Julian Sands, Screenwriter Stephen Volk, and Director of Photography Mike Southon
  • Theatrical trailer
  • TV Spot
  • Still Gallery

Distributor: Arrow Video via Arrow Academy

Made in 1978 for Italian television, Orchestra Rehearsal is possibly Fellini’s most satirical and overtly political film.

An allegorical pseudo-documentary, the film depicts an Italian television crew’s visit to a dilapidated auditorium (a converted 13th-century church) to meet an orchestra assembling to rehearse under the instruction of a tyrannical conductor. The TV crew interviews the various musicians who each speak lovingly about their chosen instruments. However, as petty squabbles break out amid the different factions of the ensemble, and the conductor berates his musicians, the meeting descends into anarchy and vandalism. A destructive crescendo ensues before the musicians regroup and play together once more in perfect harmony.

Abounding with its director’s trademark rich imagery and expressive style, Orchestra Rehearsal marks the last collaboration between Fellini and the legendary composer Nino Rota (due to the latter’s death in 1979) who provides one of his most beautiful themes in the film’s conclusion.

Special Features:

  • Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
  • Richard Dyer on Nino Rota and Orchestra Rehearsal, the film scholar talks about the great composer and his last collaboration with Fellini
  • Orchestrating Discord, a visual essay on the film by Fellini biographer John Baxter
  • Gallery featuring rare poster and press material on the film from the Felliniana collection of Don Young
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two original artwork options
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Adrian Martin

Distributor: Paramount Pictures (release date February 20)

Based on The New York Times best-selling book, Same Kind Of Different As Me follows successful art dealer Ron Hall (Greg Kinnear, Heaven Is For Real) and his wife Debbie (Renée Zellweger, Bridget Jones’s Diary), who seemingly have the perfect life. But when their faith and family are tested, an unlikely bond with a homeless drifter (Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond) leads them on a remarkable journey that forges an everlasting friendship.

Special Features:

  • Commentary by director Michael Carney, writer Ron Hall and writer Alexander Foard
  • Love is Patient, Love is Kind—The Making of Same Kind of Different As Me
  • Filming in Mississippi
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes

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Written by

J. Tonzelli is a writer, film critiquer, and avid Arnold/Van Damme/Bronson enthusiast who resides in rural South Jersey. He is the author of "The End of Summer: Thirteen Tales of Halloween" and the "Fright Friends Adventure" series, co-authored with Chris Evangelista. He loves abandoned buildings, the supernatural, and films by John Carpenter. You can read some of his short fiction at his website, JTonzelli.com, or objectify him by staring at his tweets: @jtonzelli. He apologizes for all the profanity.

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