New: Kevin Smith’s game-changer, a cool indie you probably missed, and some holiday sap
“An Unlikely Film from That Kevin Smith” boasts the DVD cover of Red State (Lionsgate; available October 18), and this violent look at a Westboro Baptist–like cult is definitely a switch for the auteur — it’s part horror flick, part gun-crazy showdown, and part political satire, with nary a Star Wars reference or anal sex joke to be found. But while the film has promising ideas, I wish I liked it more; the version being released on DVD or Blu-Ray has been re-edited since its Sundance debut in January, and while the cuts are an improvement, the meandering Red State still ultimately doesn’t live up to its ambitions.
Nonetheless, as with all of Smith’s forays into home video, the DVD comes bursting with extras, including a making-of doc, commentary track, Smith’s infamous Sundance speech (wherein he bought the rights to his own film at what was supposed to be a public auction to distributors), deleted scenes, a poster gallery, and the film’s original ending.
Sean Baker’s low-budget Prince of Broadway (Flatiron Film Company; available October 18) was knocking around the festival circuit as far back as 2008, but thanks to a Spirit Award nomination and the patronage of Precious director Lee Daniels, this acclaimed indie made it into theaters in 2010 and now, finally, DVD. It’s a story of two immigrants chasing the American dream by selling bootleg “designer” merchandise on the streets of New York, and it has the kind of naturalist honesty that portends interesting work to come from Baker — so get onboard his fame train now.
New Video debuts a new imprint, China Lion, to release some of that country’s biggest hits on DVD, and its first release is Aftershock (available October 18), a family drama that focuses on an earthquake in 1976 and the repercussions it still has on a mother and her children after a 2008 quake. China’s highest grossing domestic film, and the country’s entry to the 2010 Oscars, Aftershock is the first of four China Lion releases between now and the end of the year.
I’m kind of a fan of ridiculous Christmas movies, so after the smarm-a-thon that was Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage (in which Peter O’Toole tells Jared Padalecki, playing the titular kitschmeister, “Paint the light, Tom!”), I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Christmas Lodge (Vivendi Entertainment; now available), another in what one can only hope will an ongoing series of “Thomas Kinkade Presents” movies. If you like watching blandly attractive white people find love at the holidays in rural settings, this one’s for you.
Classics: Monsters, murders, and power to the people
If they ever have “movie night” at Occupy Wall Street or any of its affiliated protests nationwide, I’d recommend they check out You Got to Move: Stories of Change in the South (Milliarium Zero/Milestone Video; available October 18). Director Lucy Massie Phenix takes us to Tennessee’s Highlander Research and Education Center, a facility dedicated to teaching ordinary people how to stand up for civil rights and to fight against corporations who try to bring strip mining and toxic waste dumps to their rural communities. It’s a stirring, essential documentary, and the DVD features plenty of cool extras, including a Bill Moyers interview and a talk with E.D. Nixon, one of the main architects of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Whether you find it campy, or chilling, or a little of both, there’s no denying that 1956’s The Bad Seed (Warner Home Video; now available) is a milestone of killer- kid movies. Now available in Blu-Ray for the first time, Bad Seed follows little blonde, pig-tailed Rhoda Penmark (Patty McCormack) as she does awful, awful things to get her way. Beloved by horror fans and drag queens alike — the Blu-Ray features a commentary track with McCormack and cross-dressing theater legend Charles Busch — this one’s definitely a must-see.
Another monster making its way to Blu-Ray is everyone’s favorite fire-breathing flying turtle, in the new Gamera Trilogy box (Mill Creek Entertainment; now available). If you thought the old-school Gamera movies were hokey, these three 1990s reboots feature top-flight special effects — but even without the zipper-backed monsters, the updated Gamera flicks still provide tons of kaiju fun.
TV: Frights and laughter and spray-tan
Just in time for Halloween, here comes Casper the Friendly Ghost: The Complete Collection 1945-1963 (Shout Factory; now available). Harvey Comics’ sweet-natured poltergeist was the star of film shorts and later a TV series, and this set includes the whole run, with over seven hours of material. (Among the expansive extras are commentaries by Alison Arngrim — who knew that the infamous Nellie Oleson from Little House on the Prairie was the daughter of the actress who voiced Casper?)
If you’ve never seen the British cult comedy series Snuff Box (Severin Films; now available), this new DVD gives you the chance to get caught up on the show that’s made fans of Simon Pegg, Paul Rudd, Rob Corddry, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Noel Fielding and many more. (Those guys all turn up on the DVD extras, so it feels safe to say they’re supporters.) Brit Matt Berry (The IT Crowd) and Yank Rich Fulcher (The Sarah Silverman Program) mix sitcom, sketch comedy, and general lunacy into a TV experience you’ll never forget.
A TV experience you’ll probably try to forget, however, is Gigolos: The First Season (Showtime/CBS/Paramount; available October 18). If you were hoping to find a reality show that’s not as classy or intellectually demanding as Jersey Shore or Bad Girls Club or Hillbilly Handfishin’, this is the one for you. A quintet of Las Vegas bro-stitutes takes us on their (staged) dates-for-pay and gives us a glimpse at their (contrived) life problems. (Highlight: One of them cries when recounting how the other four had a group date with a rich lady to raise money to send the fifth gigolo’s kid to summer camp.) You may watch with fascination, but you’ll want a Silkwood shower afterward.
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