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.
Blood, Violence and Babes
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New Releases for Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Posted Aug 14, 2012 by John Allman
Updated Aug 14, 2012 at 08:37 AM
What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:
Directed by: Joseph Kahn
Run time: 93 minutes
The Lowdown: Shot and shelved for nearly two years, the long-awaited meta-horror “Detention” arrives finally, and it’s honestly unlike anything fans might have expected.
Joseph Kahn’s horror-comedy takes a slew of genre staples and throws them into a blender, and the end result is something very difficult to categorize.
Is it a satirical thesis on slasher films? A sci-fi time travel fantasy disguised as a slasher flick? A modern-day reinvention of “The Breakfast Club” with a substantially higher body count?
Yes, yes and yes.
“Detention” imagines high school life through the lens of a Camp Crystal Lake documentarian who happens to drive a DeLorean with a Flux Capacitor tucked under the hood.
It covers so many worthy subtopics with subversive wit and style to burn that, at times, it’s arguably too much movie to keep up with. Some of the best bits would be throwaway gags in other films, but under Kahn’s meticulous eye, they become strange and wonderful new species, rare flowers allowed to bloom slowly without fear of being trampled over by clichés.
The basic plot involves a group of students remanded to, yes, you know it, detention by an over-zealous principal (played perfectly by Dane Cook, in his one good role to date), who are trying to avoid becoming the latest victims of a seemingly ripped-from-the-multiplex serial killer named Cinderhella. The movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie explanation of Cinderhella’s origin is a riot. Imagine if “Scream” and “The Ring” had a baby. ‘Nuff said.
From there, everything from the space-time continuum, outdated fashions and fads and the apocalypse come into play.
That said, “Detention” does require patience. The first 30 minutes move so quickly and with such free form that it’s impossible to find a single narrative thread to cling to. From the opening salvo, a hysterical reality TV send-up that ends with an amazing bloodbath, to the universally familiar gauntlets of high school that viewers of any age will recall with equal parts glee and terror, Kahn doesn’t allow his characters, or his film, to be pigeon-holed.
Some subplots and characters don’t work, but that’s OK.
The world, as imagined by Kahn and co-writer Mark Palermo, allows for all manner of freak phenomenon from asteroids that impart strange powers to unsuspecting children to time-traveling bears. Yes, you read that right.
“Detention” is an auspicious debut, a defiant and confident horror hybrid that isn’t afraid to let its freak flag fly high and proud.
Don’t pass this one by.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – Yes.
Gore – Considerable.
Drug use – Yes.
Bad Guys/Killers – Cinderhella, a pretty hysterical send-up of 1980s slasher tropes.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Blu-Ray Bonus Features – “Detention Mode” featurette; Screen Tests; Fight Rehearsal; “Riffing with Dane” featurette.
Hijacked (Anchor Bay, 90 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Randy Couture, the former mixed-martial-arts UFC champion, toplines this retro-actioner about a rule-breaking FBI agent trying to take down the elusive, never-before-seen leader of a terrorist ring.
“Hijacked” is about in line with other direct-to-DVD genre films starring former fighters and professional wrestlers. It gets a prestige bump from the always good Dominic Purcell, but the film is surprisingly light on hand-to-hand combat, which one would think would play to Couture’s strengths.
It’s a serviceable, if middling, thriller that you won’t want to turn off, but you might doze off, depending on how far back into the couch you recline.
ATM (MPI, 90 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): There’s a great found footage/slasher flick lurking inside “ATM,” but the final product delivered here fails on almost every level.
The “ATM” that is presented is slow, repetitive, illogical and, often, boring. Characters act out of character almost immediately. They turn on one another. They make awful decisions. And they are trapped by a dodgy script that seems to believe it can, through sheer willpower alone, create tension out of a confining space.
That last part is understandable. The screenwriter behind “ATM” crafted another, exceedingly better thriller with an even more confined locale. Chris Sparling wrote “Buried,” the taunt, insanely suspenseful thriller that featured Ryan Reynolds trapped in a coffin for its entire run time.
With “ATM,” he tries to squeeze the same tension out of a free-standing, walk-in ATM in a desolate parking lot. A trio of co-workers happen upon the ATM while driving back from a party, and they find themselves trapped inside by a menacing, malevolent figure in a winter parka who kills indiscriminately.
The film that “ATM” should have been is a hybrid of found footage from the surveillance cameras inside the bank facility, which never show further than a few feet in front of the cash dispenser, and some craftily edited moments of sheer terror.
Imagine a “Rashomon”-style thriller where one guy is being grilled by police about what is shown through the lens of the surveillance camera, even though it directly contradicts the seemingly far-fetched tale he is sharing about how his friends and other people got killed by an unseen madman.
I honestly don’t know if that narrative arc would sustain for 90 minutes, but it sure as hell would be more entertaining than this film.
Dead Season (Image, 88 minutes, Unrated, DVD): A solid, low-budget zombie effort that starts slow but eventually finds its footing before morphing into an amazing homage to the Italian zombie classics by director Lucio Fulci.
“Dead Season” borrows liberally from a bevy of past horror films, not all of them zombie-centric.
There’s a nod to George Romero with the military base established on a small, tropical resort island where everyone is forced to live under the watchful eye of a hard-nosed commander.
There’s a winking glance to Richard Fleischer’s “Soylent Green” as far as the unspoken code surrounding the bountiful supply of beef jerky that keeps the small band of survivors and soldiers alive and nourished.
And then there’s a big wet kiss to iconic Fulci films like “Zombie” and “The City of the Dead.”
By its third act, “Dead Season” is clicking along at a wicked pace, upping the gore at every turn, en route to a bloody, flesh-ripping climax that plays off a succession of twists to explain the undead plague and presents an unstoppable new threat to everyone’s survival.
Scalene (Breaking Glass, 97 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Kudos to Zack Parker, whose third feature, the masterful “Scalene,” takes root in your head and refuses to get out, even days after an initial viewing.
Fans of “Justified,” the awesome FX Network show about an Elmore Leonard deputy U.S. Marshal, will immediately recognize Margo Martindale, who won an Emmy playing the conniving matriarch Mags Bennett. And Martindale once again shines here, delivering a nuanced performance that slowly builds in equal parts seething rage and overwhelming frustration.
But Martindale is just one third of what makes “Scalene” so memorable. She is joined by Adam Scarimbolo and Hanna Hall, who play her disabled son and his home-health caregiver.
“Scalene” is a tricky film, and not because of its story of a mother, her son who suffered a horrible accident and his caregiver, who levels some serious allegations that threaten to tear the family apart.
The trick is in its construct. “Scalene” is told in parts through the different perspectives of each of the three main characters, but you’re never quite sure whose perspective you’re watching.
That delicate foundation should and could crumble easily. In a lesser filmmaker’s hands, it very well might. Here, it never does.
“Scalene” holds a series of grand revelations that truly stick in your mind. There are several moments where you literally sit back and go, wow, because what you thought you knew or what you assumed you were seeing is actually something entirely different. It really is all just a matter of perspective.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the film, first hours and then days after watching it for the first time. I hope it gets the audience it deserves. Parker and his cast have given us something special. Reward their hard work and go rent or buy this wonderfully dark little gem.
Misfits: Season One – Why are BBC shows better than most American serialized television? For one thing, British broadcasting allows for risks and encourages edgy content that is made for discerning adults. “Misfits” is a wonderful mash-up of some of your most beloved Sci-Fi shows. The characters are fueled by snarky wit, super powers, raging hormones and the dented moral compass of the best anti-heroes. The show’s finest trick, though, is allowing them to be ruled not by a desire to save the world but an overwhelming urge to party and score with the opposite sex.
Total Recall – I recently let a good friend borrow “Total Recall: Mind Bending Edition,” the awesome high-definition upgrade of the classic 1990 Paul Verhoeven sci-fi actioner. He’d never seen the film, which is arguably one of Arnold Swarzenegger’s finest roles. And he hated it. I know, I know – for purists who regard this Phillip K. Dick adaptation as pulpy, giddy, out-of-this-world goodness, that kind of talk is blasphemy. But it proves a point, at least to me. Those of us who love “Total Recall,” the original, and all the other genre films that preceded it, even the ones filled with moments of pure cheese, we need to protect these films in our hearts because they are special, and if the mainstream world at large doesn’t agree, that’s just fine.
4:44 Last Days Here
Marvel Animated: Blade and Marvel Animated: Wolverine – Two classic Marvel characters get the anime treatment, and also some crazy reimagining of their shared backgrounds. Being a huge Blade fan from way back in the old “Tomb of Dracula” days, and still having my “Wolverine” mini-series in plastic, years after it became one of the most iconic books of its time, I never thought I would see the two characters together on screen in any fashion.
188.8.131.52 – This British thriller about a group of young women, some stolen diamonds and a gang of ruthless thieves never catches fire the way other, similar caper films did for me. It’s interesting, and very well made and likely worth a look if you’re a fan of films that feature multiple intersecting storylines.
Hatfields & McCoys – Costner. Paxton. ‘Nuff said.
Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand
Cole Younger and the Black Train
Surviving High School
The Jodi Picoult Collection
Mystery Science Theater 3000 XXIV – The boys are back, and this time they’ve brought such forgotten gems as “Fugitive Alien,” “Star Force: Fugitive Alien II” and “Samson Vs. the Vampire Women” for your enjoyment and ridicule.
LOL – Miley Cyrus and Demi Moore. Maybe WTF would have been more appropriate.
Le Grande Illusion – It’s been hailed as one of the greatest foreign films ever made.