Lately, I’ve been falling further and further behind on reviews. This is mostly due to the sheer volume of discs that make their way to my doorstep. Couple that with having a hellspawn of a toddler, and getting behind is quite easy. I will still be doing full reviews of discs, but I thought I’d start a weekly column, summing up that week’s Blu-ray releases(At least what I am sent for review). Very rarely do I ask for a DVD, unless it’s something imperative that won’t be making it to Blu, so every now and then a DVD will make its way onto the list, but for the most part, we’ll be tackling the Blu-ray releases, because that’s superior format. This week has quite a few solid releases, worthy of your dollars. I will include links to each disc, so that if you like what you hear about the film, you can purchase your own copy. In case you haven’t noticed the pattern yet, Tuesday is the day when new discs are released, so I will aim to have this post up on Tuesday of each week, to let you know when something worthwhile is about to become available.
Almost Human (IFC Midnight)
First up, we have a great little alien-oriented gore flick from IFC called Almost Human. No, I’m not talking about either show. I’m talking about a movie that I would refer to as a cross between Fire in the Sky, The Terminator, and Friday the 13th, filled to the brim with gross-out practical gore effects. If any of the releases on this list would be considered my pick-of-the-week, this would be it. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, so when it turned out to be a wonderfully paced, action-packed, practical effects-drive gory rollercoaster of a film, naturally I was grinning for most of the film. From the opening scene on, you get the sense that Almost Human is going to be something special. I would go out on a limb and say that most of what is released under the IFC Midnight banner could be considered worthy of your time, but this was one of the funnest titles to come from the label for quite some time. If you like face-paced, action oriented horror films, that manage to take key plot elements from various popular franchise films of the past, and spin it into something that manages to feel fresh and original, Almost Human is the one disc you should go out of your way to pick up this week.
Aside from the fact that Almost Human was just a spectacularly fun ride, the disc itself is also one of the best releases to come out of IFC for a while. If you haven’t noticed, a lot of their stuff, even higher-profiled stuff has been met with the doom of a DVD only release. Thankfully that trend didn’t continue here, as the movie looks and sounds phenomenal on the Blu-ray format. This is one stacked release, too, with a plethora of special features for your viewing pleasure, including a 45 minute making-of documentary, and trust me, you’re going to want to watch that bad boy after the credits roll. This particular disc is on the expensive side, but if you wait a week or two after the release date, it will likely be down to a more reasonable price. If you are interested in purchasing your own copy of Almost Human, you may do so by clicking here.
13 Sins (Starz/Anchor Bay)
Next up is 13 Sins, which I have already reviewed in full. If you wish to check out my full review, you may do so by clicking here. This movie, if you were to go by just the synopsis, sounds a little too similar to films like Would You Rather? And Cheap Thrills(AWESOME), but thankfully, it managed to carve out its own niche. Much like Almost Human, I thoroughly recommend this Blu-ray disc, and it was just barely edged out by the former as my pick of the week. 13 Sins starts out crazy, and remains that way throughout the duration. The concept has been done to death lately, but the execution is different enough that it never feels derivative. Though I don’t consider 13 Sins to be quite as good as another similar film, Cheap Thrills, it is certainly worthy of a viewing, and it is absolutely a better attempt at the style than Would You Rather? was.
13 Sins looks and sound great on the Blu-ray format, featuring a 1080p AVC encoded video presentation in 2.39:1, its original aspect ratio, and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track for the audio presentation. There is actually a few extras included with disc, more than you usually get with a new release Anchor Bay Blu-ray, that is. There is a commentary with Daniel Stamm, Mark Webber, Ron Perlman and Devon Gray, as well as a making of featurette, an alternate ending, a deleted sequence, and a feature titles “Anatomy of a Meltdown”. Fans of Stamm’s previous horror film, The Last Exorcism should take note, as I feel he has a bright future within the genre. If you would like to purchase your own copy of 13 Sins, you may do so by clicking here.
Another solid Blu-ray release hitting the streets this week, is Lionsgate Films’ Joe, starring Nicolas Cage. This film was directed by David Gordon Green, who seems to be trying to break free from his stoner-comedy shackles, with an intelligent little slow burning thriller, that ventures into the arthouse department at times. Green is responsible for such films as Pineapple Express, Your Highness, The Sitter, and even directed a ton of episodes of Eastbound and Down. You’ll hardly recognize his style in Joe, though, and I think that’s good for a director to do once in a while, venture outside of their comfort zone. It is a sign of growth, and creates a filmmaker that can do just about any kind of film. Joe is a somewhat slow-burning affair, but there is enough going on at any given time to make it interesting, and often times fascinating. This is one of Cage’s finest performances of late, and any fan of his work should seek it out.
It’s a new release movie by Lionsgate, so as expected, the picture and sound quality are impeccable. Joe features a 1080p, AVC encoded transfer in 2.40:1, and DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track. There are several extras on the disc as well, including a making-of featurette, an origins featurette, and an audio commentary. I didn’t really know what to expect from this film, but it was a pleasant surprise. Cage does a fine job at both being subdued, but being his classic over-the-top self all at the same time. The story is compelling, the film is extremely well shot, has a great soundtrack, and competent performances from the entire supporting cast. I know a lot of people talk shit about Nic Cage, but he’s one of the last true working movie stars, in my mind, and Joe is one of his best films for a while. If you would like to purchase a copy of your own, you may do so here.
The Monkey’s Paw (Scream Factory)
We’ve got a new Scream Factory release this week as well. This time, they’re giving us another one of the films that is the result of what has to be some kind of deal between Scream Factory and Chiller TV. In The Monkey’s Paw, a cursed… well, monkey’s paw is passed down from generation to generation, wreaking havoc on the lives of those that dare to use its power to grant wishes. The one thing I will say is, these Chiller TV films seem to be, at the very least, increasing in quality with each one. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of that channel, or its original output, but things do seem to be getting better. With The Monkey’s Paw, it is a competently shot, and mostly competently acted little thriller, but it is plagued, despite several fairly gory scenes, with that made-for-TV feel. Would this have been shortened a little bit, or handled in a different way, I can see enjoying it quite a bit. However, there are so many scenes of needless expository dialog, and dramatic moments that did nothing to drive the plot forward. I had to take several smoke breaks to finish this one, because every time the talking went on and on, I found myself dozing off. In fairness, it was 1 AM when I was watching it, but I stay up later than that almost every night of the week. It’s not a terrible film, and it is certainly better than some of the output that comes from that channel, but it’s not something I wish to revisit anytime in the near future.
On the technical side of things, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of the film is great as always. The picture quality, a 1080p AVC encoded transfer in 1.78:1, is above average, even considering the relatively low budget of the film. I have seen rumblings from other sites that review Blu-rays, claiming that the picture was murky or soft, and I have to disagree. I have a fairly nice Samsung 3D TV, and the level of detail was impressive, as well as the color pop and the black levels. I think Scream Factory discs are just held to an unfair standard, when compared to other companies, due to their quickly-gained popularity. You know how much I love Scream Factory, and it is rare that I will not recommend that you buy one of their releases. This one here, is for the Scream Factory completists out there(such as myself) or those of you that have a predilection for made-for-TV horror. It’s not a bad movie, like I stated above, but it’s not for the casual Scream Factory consumer. If you’re on a limited budget, the label has far too many amazing releases right around the corner to make this one a priority. However, if you have unlimited resources and need your Scream stack to be complete, there are worse ways you could spend your money. Extras include an audio commentary, and a behind-the-scenes featurette, if you decide you didn’t fill when the credits roll. If you wish to purchase a copy for your collection, you can click here to do just that.
Joy Ride 3: Road Kill
Right? They made a third Joy Ride film, after the complete disaster the second film in the series turned out to be. This time, they’ve hired the sequel guy, Declan O’Brien, to bring Rusty Nail back to the streets. O’Brien is responsible for most of the later Wrong Turn sequels, one of which I actually enjoyed(Bloody Beginnings), and several SyFy channel monstrosities, including Sharktopus. There is a demand for Declan’s style of film, for certain, and every now and then he gets it right. With Joy Ride 3, he’s kind of in the position to do whatever he wants, seeing as the last film was crap. The end result of this threequel is a mixed bag. Yes, I was entertained, but at the same time, it has that same craptastic lower-budgeted feel just like the last sequel. However, that’s where the similarities end. There is a lot to enjoy here, including some spectacular kills and great looking practical gore effects. I can’t say that the story is all that interesting, but in a film like this, does it really need to be? A story in a horror sequel is just a vehicle in which to deliver the victims to their demise, and that is certainly what is accomplished here.
The Blu-ray looks and sounds great, with a 1080p, AVC encoded transfer in 1.78:1, and a DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track. Joy Ride 3 looks exactly how you would expect a low budget new release movie from FOX to look. It doesn’t look quite as well as one of their A projects, but for what it is, it looks and sounds great. There are also some extras on the disc for you to peruse, including an audio commentary, several behind-the-scenes featurettes, a special effects featurette, and more. If you are a fan of competently crafted, yet unnecessary sequels, you may want to give Joy Ride 3 its day in court. It doesn’t even touch the first film, but do we really expect it to? All that matters is that it is better than Joy Ride 2, and it managed to entertain me long enough for me to not fall asleep on the couch. The kills are gruesome and gory, so for any of you gorehounds out there looking for a fix, there’s some stuff to be had within this film. You may purchase your copy of Joy Ride 3: Road Kill by clicking here.
The Machine (Xlrator)
The Machine is a film that I have heard quite a bit about, especially from those that were able to see it at Toronto After Dark. This is the one title that I haven’t had time to watch yet, so a full review will be coming within 24 hours or so, as I plan to watch it tonight. I did pop the disc in for long enough to get a feel of the video and audio presentation, and both seem to be well above average for a lower budget title such as this. I will reserve full judgment for when I type up my full review. Jeff, that saw the film at Toronto After Dark, reviewed the film as part of his festival coverage, so I will quote him below. If you wish to purchase a copy of The Machine, you may do so by clicking here.
From Jeff’s Review:
This was a film that I knew almost nothing about before the festival, but since arriving had heard only great things about from some of my friends who had seen it at previous festival screenings. Though I still kept my expectations low, I have to admit that I was blown away by the film. The story is about a man, Vincent (played by Severance‘s Toby Stephens), who is working with the Ministry Of Defense to develop artificial intelligence for use in android soldiers. The comparisons that I kept hearing were to Blade Runner, which usually only ends in disappointment. However, in the case of The Machine, I can kind of see where they are coming from; though this is still very much its own movie. The visuals are wonderful, and the special effects are great. It’s hard to believe that this film was made for under $1 Million. The score is amazing too. Apparently, it was made using only synth plugins that were available in the 1980s. so it has a very John Carpenter-ish vibe at times. There’s also quite a bit of emotion at the heart of the story as well. I would say that, so far, this may be my biggest surprise of the festival this year, and I absolutely loved it. I really hope it finds a distributor soon so that you can all see it, as this one is a no-brainer recommendation.
Noteworthy DVD Releases:
Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story Of The VHS Collector
I have been waiting to see this documentary for what seems like a long-ass time. I couldn’t locate a screener before it was released, and I wasn’t about to spend that much money on the VHS release that came to be. Don’t get me wrong, I do what I can to support projects I find interesting, but I have no use for a VHS. I don’t even know if I actually have a VCR anymore, let alone whether or not it works. I got excited when the press release for the special edition DVD hit my inbox, and immediately requested a copy for review. This is a great little documentary, both for people that grew up during the VHS boom, and those that pretend that they did. Look, I lived on VHS. I was at the video store every day to rent five more videotapes. I also understand the strong sense of nostalgia that some people feel for the format. It took a while after it was established that DVD would be the preferred format(Until Blu-ray dethroned it), for me to rid myself of the bulk of my VHS collection. I had thousands of tapes, but I just couldn’t justify keeping the ones that had since been released to DVD & Blu-ray. Mostly due to space, in all honesty, but also, what was I going to do with thousands of VHS movies? I gave a lot of them away, and sold some of them off at yard sales, eBay, and even dropped off a tub full of the more popular tapes to Goodwill. Having said all of that, this is still a fascinating documentary, and a look into the minds of some of the more obsessed individuals within this subculture.
The DVD release of Adjust Your Tracking comes packed to capacity with over 7 hours of special features. Audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, extended interviews, three short films, and more, round out this must-own DVD documentary about the rise, fall, and resurrection of the VHS format. Some of the interviewees come off as a little silly, perhaps trying a bit too hard to impress, but overall this is a fascinating look at the new-found obsession with VHS, and the normal every day people, the hipsters, and the psychopaths that feed it. For the record, unless a video tape had a captured recording of a threeway between Christina Ricci, Summer Glau and and Alexandra Daddario, I wouldn’t pay 600 bucks for it. And even then, I’d weigh my options. Some of the things people do to feed their collections is insane, but that’s right at the tip of the iceberg. I can’t even bring myself to pay 50 bucks for that German Thursday Blu-ray, even though that is one of my most sought-after films. In any event, this is one documentary that deserves a few centimeters of your shelf space. You may purchase your copy here.
Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide
Okay, so I’m late in posting my coverage of this one, as it was released on June 3rd but in fairness it arrived only a couple of days before the official release date, and it’s a whopping 540 minutes worth of footage to digest. I had seen the documentary on the disc a couple of years ago, when it was released to the UK, but I hadn’t seen the rest of the content on the disc, so I was happy to both revisit the great documentary, Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape, as well as dive into the countless hundreds and hundreds of minutes worth of interviews, commentaries, trailers and more. This is one beefy release, and even though it didn’t make its Blu debut, every fan of the genre needs to have a copy of this title on their shelf. The documentary is absolutely fascinating if you have any kind of interest in the history of film. And, even if you don’t, all throughout various titles from the infamous list of banned titles are shown, so if you’d like to become an expert on “extreme” films, as some would have you believe, you could put this disc in your player and make a massive list of genre titles to seek out for the purpose of your education. When they say “definitive” they certainly mean it.
This bad boy clocks in at 3 DVDs, and 540 minutes worth of material. On the first disc is the documentary mentioned above. Spread across the other discs are further commentaries on such titles, trailers for all 39 titles that were successfully prosecuted in UK courts and deemed liable to deprave and corrupt, and trailers for all 33 titles that were banned before, but removed from the list later. The second and third discs can be viewed either as a non-stop trailer show, or with introductions from academics, journalists and people otherwise connected to the horror genre. You know what they say about mistakes, and how we have to learn from them or be doomed to repeat bad history in the future. This is one of those instances. Those of us that hold this genre so close to our hearts need to study this event, and recognize the signs so that we can unite and defeat the possible future censorship outlets, if in case something like this were to happen again in the future. It helps that this whole package oozes with awesome. Even if you can’t stand documentaries, this is one that you must see. You may purchase your copy here.
That brings this inaugural edition of I’ve Got The Blus to a close. If I missed something, it means that either I wasn’t sent a copy for review, or I’ve gotten busy and haven’t had the chance to watch and review it yet. If you can think of any titles that deserve to be on the list, either the current list, or the one coming up, please drop me a line at Shawn@liberaldead.com and let me know, so that I can make sure and draw attention to it.