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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, June 19, 2012

Posted Jun 29, 2012 by John Allman

Updated Jun 29, 2012 at 07:58 PM

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

Exit Humanity
Genre: Horror/Western
Directed by: John Geddes
Run time: 114 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Format: DVD

The Lowdown: Surprises for horror fans come in all shapes and titles.

Sometimes, it’s a performance in an otherwise forgettable B-movie that really stands out. Or incredibly resourceful special effects on a seemingly low budget. Or a script that’s so smart, it deserves better than the young actors trying desperately to do it justice.

Sometimes, it’s an entire film, like “Exit Humanity,” which is – in a nutshell – the “Dances With Wolves” of zombie films.

The latest title in the ‘Bloody Disgusting Selects’ series gets right back on track with the best the franchise has offered so far, and exceeds the prior titles in every way.

Set just after the Civil War, “Exit Humanity” is a sweeping epic, deftly mixing history and animation and live-action in a heady, intoxicating brew that, more than any other B-movie in recent memory, save “The Grey,” seems as much, if not more, concerned with character development as action.

Is it a perfect film? No, but the flaws that do appear over its nearly two-hour run time are slight, and forgivable, and they don’t detract from the genuine emotion and surprisingly top-notch acting that elevate a really good screenplay to near greatness in moments when it really counts.

“Exit Humanity” tells the story of Edward Young, a military soldier who sees his first taste of the undead on the battlefield. Upon returning home, the horror of war is replaced with simply horror, as the undead scourge claims both his wife, and young son.

Young finds himself at a crossroads, left with nothing but loss, his own humanity ripped from his chest. He makes a pact to live long enough to carry his son’s ashes to a special place far from home, a pristine waterfall that he had promised to one day take his boy.

On his journey, Young becomes an undead killing machine, consumed with rage. When he finally meets another survivor, he confesses to the emptiness in his soul, even as the man, another former soldier, asks for help rescuing his sister from a rogue military outfit who are hellbent on finding a cure for the zombie affliction by forcing uninfected settlers to be bitten to see if they are immune.

Bill Moseley plays the general leading those troops, and here, in “Exit Humanity,” he finds a role meaty enough to flex his true abilities, the ones he displayed so memorably in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2” and “The Devil’s Rejects.” Moseley is always a hoot to watch, but he rarely gets offered the chance to do more than be Crazy Bill.

I fell madly, deeply under the spell of this film, its story, the complex human process at its core. Like I said, it’s not without its flaws. But rare is the zombie movie, or any direct-to-DVD horror movie, with this much heart, with so much to say.

One of the most surprising things about “Exit Humanity” are the people behind the scenes. Writer-director John Geddes is also a producer and actor, who most recently appeared in and produced the God-awful “Monster Brawl,” a low-budget miscue that confounded and frustrated instead of offering up gory, deathmatch monster awesomeness.

I savaged “Monster Brawl” a week ago, and yet here I am now, telling you that Geddes had greatness in store. He’s one to watch in the future. But until then, his fine Civil War zombie epic is one to watch right now.

The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – No.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Yes.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Another horror film that positions its creatures in the grey area, neither absolute monster nor misunderstood mistake.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
On the Web – http://www.bloody-disgusting.com/selects/

Wanderlust (Universal, 98 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Some comedies, the really smart ones, sneak up on you with unsuspecting glee. Everything about “Wanderlust,” from its television marketing to its low-fi advertising materials, left me feeling lukewarm.

Not even director David Wain, who also shot the hysterical “Role Models” and the cult classic masterpiece “Wet Hot American Summer,” seemed capable of rescuing what looked like on the surface to be a generic, mid-level comedy starring actors (Paul Rudd, Jennifer Anniston) who probably signed on for an altogether different experience.

How wonderful is to report that “Wanderlust” stands up there with some of the best subversive comedies of the past several decades, movies like “Funny Farm” and “Groundhog Day” and “Step Brothers” that take ordinary situations, infuse them with absurd twists and wholly formed supporting characters, and then allow their leads to truly shine.

“Wanderlust” is both topical and irreverent in telling the story of George and Linda, the prototypical, uptight New York couple hit hard by the economic recession who are thrust into a foreign environment and suddenly find themselves switching roles, only to discover their true selves.

Rudd really goes for broke with George, masterfully using all of his best attributes to create a whole person. He plays dumb and sweet and naïve, jealous and resentful and brooding and manically unhinged to perfection, culminating with two standout scenes that manage to be both uproariously raunchy and real without ever pandering to the Adam Sandler school of gross and juvenile.

Cat Run (Universal, 106 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): As an actor, John Stockwell was a rising young star who seemed to be on track to become a household name. But his star appeal inexplicably went dim after a great turn in “Christine,” the John Carpenter adaptation of the classic Stephen King novel, that few fans remember when name checking Carpenter’s best films.

Stockwell turned to directing, but since he began working steadily behind the camera in 2001, he has failed to find a voice or a project to show if he actually has any talent.

With “Cat Run,” a mess of an action-comedy-coming of age thriller, he seems to left all of his common sense buried deep in the water-logged sets of “Into the Blue.”

Not even Janet McTeer, fresh off of an Oscar nomination for “Albert Nobbes,” playing a frumpy British assassin, in the kind of role that only exists in Hollywood, can help save “Cat Run” from becoming a loud, unfunny, boring slog.

In one of the strangest decisions I’ve seen by a director in some time, Stockwell seems more interested in announcing every single character with a freeze-frame cue card, complete with silly factoids, the type of amateur effect over-utilized in cheap, throwaway movies produced solely for the tax write-off.

It’s repetitive and dumb and totally annoying.

Project X (Warner Bros., 88 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Produced by Todd Phillips, the director behind some of the best R-rated comedies in the past 12 years, “Project X” turns the found-footage genre into a sizzle reel for “Girls Gone Wild,” presenting an over-the-top high school party that gets so out of control an entire neighborhood is nearly burned to the ground.

There is gratuitous nudity, gratuitous drug use, inhumane treatment of animals and inhumane treatment of dwarfs, but none of it is really that funny.

That’s a big problem.

What’s worse is that not a single cliché – from the trite boy releases his best girl friend is actually the love of his life love story to the epic quest by quick-witted nerds to score with hot chicks to the stern parental warning – is overlooked or ruled out. They’re all major plot points in a movie that just grows increasingly louder and more ridiculous to the point that 88 minutes becomes an insufferable life sentence in a third-world hellhole of a jail for a crime that you didn’t commit. The crime is being perpetrated on you, the viewer.

And there’s no early release from watching for good behavior.

The FP (Image Entertainment, 83 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Anyone who knows the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX, knows those guys have a serious soft spot. They worship great films. They champion awesomely bad movies. They commission amazing original posters to present their favorite flicks in museum-quality art.

And now they’re making their own features.

One of the first is “The FP,” a hilariously earnest homage to the long-lost genre staple of the 1980s – the redemption epic.

You know the kind of movie I’m describing. It’s everything from “The Last Starfighter” to “The Karate Kid” to “Tuff Turf” and “Vison Quest.” It’s the quintessential story of an outsider who has to overcome all the odds to right a wrong, avenge a death, get the girl. It’s training montages and epic battles and silly back and forth dialogue about the capacity of the human spirit to endure and excel and become the best one can be.

Only here, in the warped universe dreamed up by a bunch of movie geeks so smart they get gold stars just for sharing their vision with us, it’s about being the best videogame “Beat-Beat-Revolution” dancer that you can be to finally vanquish the local punks and escape the one-horse, one stoplight, end of the world small town that only exists in the movies.

Did I mention there’s not one, but two training montages? And all the actors speak in a what-the-hell mishmash of urban speak so ridiculous and politically incorrect that they somehow manage to keep straight faces while calling each other by their “Beat-Beat-Revolution” gamer names, JTRO and BTRO and KCDC?

“The FP” really must be seen to be appreciated. A guaranteed cult classic.

Seeking Justice (Anchor Bay, 105 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Another week, another Nicolas Cage direct-to-DVD release.

The good news is that “Chasing Justice” is better than “Trespass” and “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.” The bad news, it’s still not a great flick.

In fact, I liked “Chasing Justice” much better three years ago when it came packaged as the wickedly underappreciated Kevin Bacon vigilante thriller, “Death Sentence.”

Cage plays a school teacher whose wife, played by the immeasurably hot January Jones, is raped by a sex offender. Before the cops have even had time to try to figure out who perpetrated the crime, Cage is approached by Guy Pearce in the hospital offering to ‘take care of’ the man who committed the brutal rape and beating.

Cage agrees – otherwise there would be no movie – and suddenly he’s being asked to return the favor by killing another sex offender, this one allegedly a child pederast.

Very little makes sense in “Chasing Justice,” and the big twist, the identity of the person who provided Pearce with Cage’s circumstance, is done pretty poorly.

There’s a lot of back and forth angst, a few good scenes of Cage agonizing over his decision and a neat and tidy denouement that completely removes any responsibility or police involvement.

“Chasing Justice” is entertaining, but it’s yet another sign that Cage is basically taking any role he is offered in order to continue paying off his massive IRS debt.

The Sarah Silverman Program: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory, 850 minutes, Unrated, DVD): For three seasons, starting in 2010, Comedy Central took a chance on an edgy, absurd, completely incorrect sitcom starring Silverman, the queen of uncomfortable, overtly racist, WASP-y humor.

The show was ahead of its time and uproariously funny. And no major network would ever have given the greenlight to this kind of humor.

Silverman plays an over-the-top version of herself, basically the most self-centered, selfish, unlikable lead character ever to take center stage. And she nails it.

The show deftly mixed situation comedy, fantasy sequences and random bursts of original song, and in doing so, basically dared people to complain.

Don’t believe me? Check out the synopsis for Episode 3 of the first season, which found Sarah waking up with a case of the Blahs. To cheer herself up, she decides to go get an HIV test, but discovers upon sitting down to have blood drawn that she has basically hit every risk factor associated with the terrible disease.

Then she goes to meet her sister and friends, completely upstaging her sister’s plans to throw a birthday party for her boyfriend, by announcing that she has AIDS and is near death. In a matter of a few hours, while waiting for her results, Sarah empties out her sister’s bank account to pay to set up an AIDS Awareness charity that basically promotes Sarah as the poster child for HIV.

AIDS is a tricky topic to mine for laughs, but the humor here is genuine and real because it’s so outrageous and so perfectly played.

“The Sarah Silverman Program” never achieved the kind of mass market acceptance that would have guaranteed long-term success, but it still stands as one of the brightest and most subversive half-hour comedies to ever air.

Also Available:

A Bag of Hammers – Low-key comedy about a pair of brothers who steal cars through a fake valet parking service. It’s quirky and entertaining despite an awful title that might keep many people from checking it out.

Newsies – Christian Bale, singing. Huh?

Evita – Don’t cry for Madonna. She’s still rich.

Reel Love

Web Therapy: The Complete First Season – Lisa Kudrow, we love you.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home – Jason Segel, doing his funny slacker thing.

Power Rangers Samurai: The Team Unites and Power Rangers Samurai: A New Enemy – Go on, watch, we won’t tell.

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace With the Sea – Kris Kristofferson in an edgy, dark slice of 1970s cinema that would never be released today.

Down for the Count – More MMA mayhem.

Big Miracle – It’s the movie about whales with Drew Barrymore. Yeah, me either.

The Legend of Hell’s Gate

John Mellencamp: It’s About You – Portrait of the artist as an angry middle-aged poet for his generation.

The Hidden Blade

Franklin and Bash: The Complete First Season

Radio Rebel

Louie: The Complete Second Season – The best comedy on TV that you aren’t currently watching.

Wilfred: The Complete First Season

House of Payne: Volume 9 – It’s amazing how much I loathe Tyler Perry.

Not to be Overlooked:

Red Scorpion (Synapse Films, 106 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): This cult classic 1989 testosterone-fest is way better than you might think.

Featuring a post-“Rocky IV,” pre-“Masters of the Universe” Dolph Lundgren, and directed by Joseph Zito, the genre director responsible for everything from “Missing in Action,” “The Prowler,” and “Friday the 13th The Final Chapter,” there’s so much to enjoy here that it’s crazy to me that “Red Scorpion” is just now getting a proper Blu-Ray release.

Lundgren plays a Russian soldier who parachutes into war-torn Africa to extract a militia leader. Mayhem ensues, including some pretty spectacular stuntwork that Lundgren did mostly on his own.

The amazing thing about “Red Scorpion,” besides how good it has held up over the years (seriously, this thing rivals “Rambo: First Blood Part II” for carnage), is what a great job Lundgren did in the title role and how his potential action superstar status was sadly undermined by a string of poor choices (“The Punisher,” anyone?) that weren’t entirely his fault.

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