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Blu-ray Reviews for January 23, 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 absurd Geostorm; the newest entry in the never ending Saw franchise Jigsaw; and James Glickenhaus’ Shakedown. A list of other titles also available this week can be found at the end.


Distributor: Warner Bros.

After an unprecedented series of natural disasters threatened the planet, the world’s leaders came together to create an intricate network of satellites to control the global climate and keep everyone safe.  But now, something has gone wrong—the system built to protect the Earth is attacking it, and it’s a race against the clock to uncover the real threat before a worldwide geostorm wipes out everything…and everyone along with it.

Please, someone call Dean Devlin on his gigantic Zack Morris cell phone and tell him the ‘90s are over — have been for nearly 20 years. That he and his former partner, Roland Emmerich, keep insisting on destroying the planet over and over and over is a concept that worked exactly once — with 1996’s Independence Day, which, frankly, was saved by the actors in the cast, not by the concept of there being aliens whose far advanced technology was bested by the kind of computer virus your mother accidentally downloads when she clicks on the funny looking email from your Aunt Doris that says:

Best deal on pharmaceutical drugs other deals: http://GoodDrugsDeals.ru/AJf984jh5jfG95

But that hasn’t stopped them both from repeatedly trying, with Devlin going solo for Geostorm, the latest, the worst, and hopefully the last in this unending trend of planet-flooding/ burning/ freezing/ miscellaneous destroying. 

Devlin gets credit for trying to convince the movie-going public that climate change is real, a very bad thing, and we should maybe do something about it, but his credibility is instantly lost if he actually thinks Geostorm is going to be the thing that turns that ride. When 99% of scientists say that it is real and the spate of ridiculously dangerous storms the world has seen over the last 20 years isn’t enough, seeing a town in Africa filled with frozen-solid citizens or having Ed Harris scream at you over a video monitor will doubtfully do much to help. Geostorm, you might argue (if you’re feeling charitable), means well, but all it does is turn a very real problem into mindless and harmless popcorn escapism and something that can be solved by the guy from Machine Gun Preacher because he’s good with car engines.

Geostorm is terrible. Even when someone is dangerously outrunning fiery explosions shooting through city streets, causing entire buildings to tumble, it’s boring. And offensively brainless. Do me a personal favor: instead of seeing it, go to your nearest nursery, buy a modestly priced tree, and plant it. Send me a picture of the receipt and I’ll Paypal you the cost. That would be a much more productive use of both your time and your contribution to solving the problem.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Wreaking Havoc: Cutting edge visual effects, research and technology create the world of Geostorm.
  • Search for Answers: Inspired by his daughter’s question of why can’t global warming be stopped, Director Dean Devlin retraces the creative journey that led to Geostorm.
  • An International Event: A global cast opens up about the secrets behind Geostorm.


Distributor: Lionsgate

In the latest terrifying installment of the legendary SAW series, law enforcement find itself chasing the ghost of a man dead for over a decade, embroiled in a diabolical new game that’s only just begun.  Has John Kramer, the infamous Jigsaw Killer, returned from the dead to commit a series of murders and remind the world to be grateful for the gift of life?  Or is this a trap set by a different killer with designs of their own?

Remember the old days when your friend would call you up when all those Saw sequels were hitting theaters and there was absolutely no way he/she could ascertain your interest in seeing it other than asking you flat out, “Wanna go see-Saw this weekend?”

Pretty funny, huh?

Well, there’s nothing funny about how bad the newest Saw is.

How’s that for a lead-in?

Though one could argue this about most horror franchises, Saw did not need to spawn any sequels, let alone seven — especially after having KILLED its main villain back during the fourth entry (and for real-killed, not Freddy Krueger-killed). The series managed to continue heavily involving Jigsaw himself, John Kramer (Tobin Bell), through the use of flashbacks, disembodied voices, and his “disciples.” If you’re lucky enough to have never seen most of this series, yes, it’s as stupid and tedious and very very unrealistic as it sounds.

As a loyal horror fan, the first Saw’s legend preceded it, as it had raised quite the stink at various film festivals, and I was in attendance opening weekend for its wide release. And it was…alright. It was over-directed by a clearly energetic James Wan, whose style would thankfully mellow as he found his footing in later films, and the well-executed twist ending was slick enough that it helped you to forgive how very silly it was.

A practice I’ve since grown out of, I would later hate-watch parts 2-4 before absolutely giving up for good, realizing I was only harming my brain and could better spend my time watching Dead Silence again. I’m only noting all this so it’s clear that I have absolutely no understanding of what goes on in Saws 5-7, though I imagine it involves Person A getting their toe cut off while Person B looks on and throws up on Person C, who is a jerk.

Jigsaw was proclaimed by its producers as being a radical reinvention of the series, but even based on my limited exposure to and utter impatience with the sequels, anyone can see that this seems to be more of the same old thing: heavy-handed posturing about morality while inflicting ghastly torture things on people who deserve it. Nu metal soundtrack, a foot falls off, twist, fin.

Though he’s not a gigantic name by any stretch, it’s still a shame to see Callum Keith Rennie appearing in this kind of garbage, considering he’s done solid work in the past, somewhat recently on David Duchvovy’s Californiciation and Netflix’s Longmire. Frankly, he’s the only person in this thing who offers a performance worth mentioning. Of course Tobin Bell appears, somehow (have fun figuring out how, ha ha!), though most of his presence comes through the use of audio recordings that he’s very very very strategically hidden around his barn of horrors.

Frankly, if you were on board with the entire Saw series to date, you’ll probably be on board with this one as well, as there doesn’t seem to be too much innovation going on. It even concludes with the same kind of twist that chronologically backtracks and shows you what really happened — executed in such a rapid manner that you get the indication the filmmakers want to get the whole thing over with before you have time to realize you could absolutely drive a tanker truck of liquid nitrogen through its many severe gaps in logic and plot holes.

Sadly, Jigsaw was huge at the box office and the producers are already talking sequel (god damn it), which is absurd because this series has already taken up far too much valuable Halloween real estate. I yearn for the days when John Kramer stays dead for real, allowing new ideas to flourish over October weekends.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Audio Commentary with Producers Mark Burg, Oren Koules, and Peter Block
  • “I Speak for the Dead: The Legacy of Jigsaw” 7-Part Documentary
    • “A New Game”
    • “You Know His Name”
    • “Survival of the Fittest”
    • “Death by Design”
    • “Blood Sacrifice”
    • “The Source of Fear”
    • “The Truth Will Set You Free”
  • “The Choice is Yours: Exploring the Props” Featurette


Distributor: Shout! Factory

A burned-out legal aid attorney (Peter Weller, RoboCop) reluctantly teams up with a renegade police detective (Sam Elliott, Tombstone) to find the truth behind the fatal shooting of an undercover cop by a notorious drug dealer. Targeted by a syndicate of corrupt cops and drug lords, the duo blast their way through the underbelly of New York in their unrelenting search for the shocking truth behind the crime. Filmed on the streets of Manhattan, Shakedown features some of the most incredible stunt work and chase sequences ever shot, including a death-defying fight scene atop Coney Island’s Cyclone roller coaster. Delivering non-stop thrills from start to finish, Shakedown is one the most entertaining high-speed cop films ever made and among the best from action genre vet James Glickenhaus (The Soldier, The Exterminator).

 

Writer/director James Glickenhaus has very much embodied that filmmaker who marched to the beat of his own McBain. His earliest efforts, The Exterminator and The Soldier, seemed ripped from the 42nd Street theater and the pulpy, grindhouse offerings for which that street became famous. He hasn’t directed a film in over 20 years, with his last being 1995’s Timemaster, and that’s probably because Glickenhaus’ DNA didn’t allow him to achieve mainstream status, or even dip his toes into that pool. Either Shakedown or McBain would vie for the closest to “normal” in his career, but both of them are still wild rides, with “serious” plots anchoring an otherwise very silly depiction of cartoony and unrealistic violence. (There is literally a scene in McBain where Christopher Walken, while in a jet, fires a handgun at another jet and brings it down.)

“Oh, you’re exaggerating!”

If using only a standard evaluation for a film, rather than hoping for the kind of visceral or out-there experience it offers, Shakedown is the director’s best. It has an actual plot, actual drama, and actual social commentary on the hideousness of drugs and the dangers of police corruption. That it’s hilariously tonally confused, dropping in moments of extreme action silliness throughout what’s otherwise a courtroom thriller, makes it so easy to watch. If I didn’t know better, I would deduce that Glickenhaus had delivered this straight-faced courtroom thriller to the studio, who then said, “Aren’t you the guy who made The Exterminator? Where’s all the action? Cram some action into this thing.” And then Shakedown happened, a film that both asks hard questions about race and preconceived blind trust in institutions, as well as features a scene where Sam Elliott tears the guts out of a roller-coaster car, so the bad guy he was just fighting on it flies off the track and crashlands upside down on a popcorn stand.

Elliott and Peter Weller (the latter turns in an unexpectedly great performance) share remarkable chemistry, and even though it’s billed as a buddy comedy/thriller in the 48 Hours vein, the two never begin at-odds and eventuate a mutual appreciation. They’re former friends from the start, and minus some gentle ribbing, it remains that way. It’s a seldom seen dynamic and helps offer Shakedown its own identity.

Shakedown by itself might not be a good film, but on the Glickenhaus scale, I’d easily call it so, and it’s entertaining as fuck. The thriller aspect is in intriguing, the action aspect is just absolutely absurd, and the leads are likeable and strong, though immensely flawed. As far as catalog titles go, Shakedown makes for the most interesting release from Shout! Factory’s Select series so far — and most deserving of reintroduction to newer audiences in the mood for dumbness masquerading as sincerity.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • NEW Introduction By Writer And Director James Glickenhaus
  • NEW Audio Commentary With James Glickenhaus
  • NEW Shakedown Breakdown – An Interview With James Glickenhaus
  • NEW Miles Over The Limit – James Glickenhaus Discusses Miles Davis
  • Still Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer


Also Available This Week:

Distributor: WellGo USA

Donnie Yen stars as infamous real-life drug kingpin Crippled Ho, who came to Hong Kong an illegal immigrant in 1963 and ruthlessly carved an empire from the chaotic underworld of drug dealers and corrupt police that ruled the city under notorious detective Lee Rock (Andy Lau).

Special Features:

 

  • English Language Available
  • Trailer

Distributor: MVD Entertainment

They took his money. They took his family. And now, they’ve taken his hands. But they can never take his revenge! Exploding from the same hallucinogenic netherworld as TURKISH STAR WARS, THE SWORD AND THE CLAW stars Turkish genre legend Cuneyt Arkin in his most iconic role. It’s CONAN THE BARBARIAN meets The Three Stooges meets DOLEMITE with more lo-fi bloodshed, pop-art visuals, and bizarro dubbing than the boundaries of reality can handle.

Special Features:

  • New 4K transfer from the only 35mm theatrical print in existence!
  • Face-smashing action trailers from the AGFA vault!
  • Bonus Movie: BRAWL BUSTERS (1981), a new 2K scan from an original theatrical print!
  • Reversible cover art with illustration by Alexis Ziritt (SPACE RIDERS)!

Distributor: Shout! Factory

From acclaimed graphic novelist Dash Shaw (New School) comes an audacious debut that is equal parts disaster cinema, high school comedy and blockbuster satire, told through a dream-like mixed media animation style that incorporates drawings, paintings and collage. Dash (Jason Schwartzman) and his best friend Assaf (Reggie Watts) are preparing for another year at Tides High School muckraking on behalf of their widely-distributed but little-read school newspaper, edited by their friend Verti (Maya Rudolph). But just when a blossoming relationship between Assaf and Verti threatens to destroy the boys’ friendship, Dash learns of the administration’s cover-up that puts all the students in danger. As disaster erupts and the friends race to escape through the roof of the school, they are joined by a popular know-it- all (Lena Dunham) and a lunch lady (Susan Sarandon) who is much more than meets the eye. But even as the film piles on brilliant details like a post-apocalyptic cult formed by jocks, video game homages, and an infectious synth soundtrack, it never loses sight of the characters at the heart of the story.

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary by Filmmaker Dash Shaw
  • Short Films
  • A Spotlight On The Film’s Unique Artwork

Distributor: Shout! Factory (out January 30)

From the mind of visionary writer-director Jesse Haaja comes the very first full-length superhero film from Finland. A brutal, dark avenger is born when a worldwide corporation known as VALA launches an untested vaccine into the market by bribing, threatening, and killing every official in opposition. Rendel unleashes his own special kind of hell against VALA, threatening to put an end the distribution of the vaccine. But, as blood spills and the money burns, VALA recruits a group of mercenaries to do what others seemingly can’t: eliminate Rendel permanently.

Special Features: None


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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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