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John Allman

If you’ve ever wandered the aisles at the video store or surfed the DVR pay-per-view options and seen a bunch of movies that you’ve never heard of, chances are John has watched them. Why? He loves movies. All kinds of movies. Good, bad, so-bad-they’re good, even the truly unwatchable ones. He mostly loves horror and science-fiction and drive-in exploitation movies that most upstanding model citizens wouldn’t dare watch. Then he writes up his thoughts so you can decide - watch, don’t watch or avoid at all costs. Sometimes he even gets to talk to the cool folks who make some of your favorite films.

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New Releases for Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Posted Apr 26, 2012 by John Allman

Updated Apr 26, 2012 at 08:51 PM

What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:

The Divide
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Thriller
Directed by: Xavier Gens
Run time: 122 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: There’s no disputing that “The Divide” more than lives up to its title.

Xavier Gens’ deconstruction of your standard post-apocalyptic thriller has little interest in the remnants of the outside world. In fact, fans of scorched Earth nuclear devastation should look elsewhere if all you want to see is a tired retread of survivors scrambling and scrabbling to pickup the pieces.

“The Divide” only shows the aftermath of the first bombs falling twice, and both scenes are chilling.

The rest of the film focuses squarely on the bigger problem –how humanity, or what’s left of it, might respond to an atomic disaster. The results are not pretty, friends.

It’s fair to say that Gens holds little regard for the good in man. The collection of stragglers who manage to make it inside a fallout shelter in the basement of an apartment building in some unnamed major city couldn’t be more different. As each personality begins to wear and tear on the collective group, Gens makes perfectly clear that being trapped inside is a lot less desirable than being stranded outside amid the falling ash.

The group is a motley lifeboat of standard clichés – the grizzled emergency technician with direct ties to 9/11; the young couple; the mother and daughter; the punk brothers and their volatile friend; the lone black guy.

Gens takes each stereotype and twists it, providing some interesting observations on basic human nature. No one is exactly like you would expect. And as the days drag and food supplies run low, people you expect to act a certain way behave in a manner that’s surprising. Not every twist works, but Gens makes the most of his cramped confines, relying on creative camera angles to provide the proper isolation or menace.

Anyone who has seen “Frontier(s)” knows that Gens is not afraid to get dirty. He can revel in the gore with the best of them. In “The Divide,” the French director doesn’t shy away from blood, but the human depravity he highlights is actually more unsettling. Several character arcs take unexpectedly disturbing turns.

Then again, with a cast that includes genre favorites Michael Biehn and Rosanna Arquette, it shouldn’t be surprising at just how dark the performances go. Arquette, in particular, digs deep into a pitch black pool of grief until she emerges, transformed into some feral animal, apathetic and free from shame.

I really liked “The Divide,” but I can’t say that I enjoyed it. This is more a movie you endure and outlast. It’s uncompromisingly bleak, and the ending whips through you like a howling wind, leaving you feeling scared, scarred, cold and alone.

The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes
Nudity – Yes
Gore – Yes
Drug use – Yes
Bad Guys/Killers – The ones who dropped the bombs? Or the ones who tried to take over humanity?
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Blu-Ray Bonus Features – Skimpy. A director/cast commentary, and the theatrical trailer.
On the Web – http://www.thedividethemovie.com/

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Paramount, 133 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): Much like the Harry Potter franchise, and apparently now too The Hunger Games, the “Mission: Impossible” movies have benefited from the familiar – Tom Cruise as IMF agent Ethan Hunt – and the unexpected, a different director for each of the four adventures put on film.

From Brian De Palma to John Woo to J.J. Abrams, each new director injected a renewed sense of vitality to the spy genre, particularly when the main story at the heart of each flick might seem secondary to the action.

For the fourth installment, “Ghost Protocol,” Cruise recruited Brad Bird, the visionary Pixar director responsible for “The Incredibles,” still one of the best superhero movies ever made, even if animated, and Bird’s exuberance for huge set pieces makes a seamless transition from the storyboard to the screen.

“Ghost Protocol” introduces new characters, none better than Jeremy Renner, who gamely matches Cruise’s go-for-broke, fearless embrace of doing many of his own stunts, which is remarkable give that Cruise is rapidly nearing his 50th birthday.

And the biggest set piece of all, expertly teased in the trailers, with Cruise dangling off the world’s tallest building in Dubai, retains its nail-biting intensity on the small screen.

What’s most surprising about “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” is its nostalgic air. It plays at times like a throwback to the golden years of cinema, despite the incessant gun battles, wicked twists and ticking nuclear bombs.

Cruise proves he still has an expert command over his own celebrity. He looks and acts like the world’s biggest movie star while hanging perilously by one magnetic glove, yet you still believe he’s Ethan Hunt, the world’s greatest super spy. That’s a trick that no amount of studio tinkering or CGI can enhance.

That’s all him, and it’s a blast to sit back and watch.

Roger Corman’s Cult Classics: The Nurses Collection – Candy Stripe Nurses, Private Duty Nurses, Night Call Nurses, Young Nurses (Shout! Factory, 600 minutes, R, DVD): Good old Roger Corman. If he wasn’t recycling music, props and sets from other films to cobble together a wonderfully bad horror film or discovering visionary directors and A-list actors before they broke big to make low-budget car chase flicks, he was gleefully exploiting one of America’s once-prized positions for some silly, soft core gratuity.

In the 1970s, Corman produced a handful of decidedly blue drive-in features revolving around the adventures of young nurses.

The films gave nurses an almost mythical air of importance, making the job seem like the equivalent of military service for women, yet depicted the young ladies who answered the call as wanton sexual sociopaths, willing to strip and please any man who came within five feet of them.

Somehow, films like “Candy Stripe Nurses” from 1974, managed to portray the women as being completely in charge of their sexual freedom, an almost-ode to liberating feminism, even as the nubile, buxom blondes and brunettes removed their tops with amazing quickness and dexterity.

The plots were wholly secondary to the closed-door antics. Even the opening credits had nudity. But where later, similar features from future skin flick directors like Zalman King seemed to objectify their female stars, Corman’s films reveled in a playful innocence that was in stark contrast to the disenchantment that gripped America post-Vietnam and post-Nixon.

The sex didn’t feel icky. It was just sex. In “Candy Stripe Nurses,” one of the four films included in this glorious collection, even a convenience store robbery turned near-rape became a showcase for female empowerment, as the barely-20-something candy striper in the wrong place, wrong time was able to steal the gun away from her attacker and turn the barrel on his libido, demanding sexual satisfaction under threat of violent retribution if the sweaty, overweight Neanderthal man was unable to perform.

Therein lies the genius of Corman. Even working within the confines of low-budget exploitation, he found a way to infuse titillation with am unexpected and well-disguised current of social commentary.

Also Available:

Frozen Planet – It should come as no surprise that the creative team behind “Planet Earth” and “The Blue Planet” have turned their attention to one of the world’s last vestiges of stark beauty, the slowly eroding frozen tundra of the Artic and Antarctic. This incredibly moving three-disc set, presented in dazzling high definition, puts you square in the middle of a wild landscape teeming with unexpected life, and struggling to survive amid rapid climate change. Essential watching? You bet it is.

Planet Egypt

Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy, Volume 2 – If you resisted this show at first, it’s worth giving another chance. Love him or loathe him, and I often fall squarely in the latter, Larry the Cable Guy makes for an engaging host and many of the jokes leave you hurting from doubling over.

Ernie Kovacs: The ABC Specials

The Super Hero Squad Show: The Infinity Gauntlet Volume 3

Conan the Adventurer, Season 2, Part 2

Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Fifth Season

Meet the Browns: Season Five

Imax: Born to be Wild

Top Shot: The Gauntlet

Treme: The Complete Second Season – If you love New Orleans, and after having finally gone back last year for the first time in nearly a decade, I discovered I still love New Orleans with a fierce passion, then this wonderful HBO show will make you want to plan a trip, and soon. Filled with genuine characters, and the music that the city is renowned for, “Treme” is a quiet marvel.

Bob’s Burgers: Season One

American Dad: Volume 7

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