Darkman - Shout Factory - Blu-ray and DVD
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Colin Friels, Larry Drake, Nelson Mashita. Full cast + crew
When it comes to movie nostalgia, there's liking movies because they were so highly specific to a time when you were younger and couldn't always see a film's obvious flaws, and then there's liking a movie because it's so highly specific to the time in which it was made that it just could not get made these days. Darkman may have some flaws, but it's far more of the latter. There is simply no way this movie would get made in today's studio system.
Sam Raimi's earliest Hollywood gig, Darkman is about a scientist (played by Liam Neeson) who is burned alive in his own lab because he was unlucky enough to see a memo he was never meant to see. He then uses his new found inability to feel pain (and bulked up strength, of course) to seek revenge on the mobsters that tried to kill him, and the real estate developer who sent them after him (who happens to be the boss of Darkman's wife). Now that's a pretty out-there plot, but even that may still get made today, however no one is ever going to match this tone again. It's a violent, ugly movie that's totally entrenched in the "crime is getting out of control!" wave of media hype from the late '80s/early '90s. The stunts are big and practical and have that dangerous quality to them that's just missing today.
If Darkman somehow did get green-lit, oddly enough Liam Neeson could still play him, but there's no way the studio would make its hero hearthrob a horribly deformed man (he'd look like a hunky I, Frankenstein, for example), and every single piece of action wouldn't take place in an empty wearhouse with people falling from rafters; it'd be in front of a big, boring green screen. For that reason alone, Darkman is definitely worth checking out. These kind of movies just don't get made anymore.
Special Features: This is a fancy new collector's edition of the film, which includes new interviews with Liam Neeson, Larry Drake and Frances McDormand (who has some fun things to say about how the Coen brothers and Sam Raimi's careers overlapped), plus featurettes on the bad guys and the production design. All told, the new content created just for this disc is about 80 minutes in total, so not too shabby at all. And then there are some older interviews, and a commentary with famous director of photography Bill Pope.
Other Notable New Releases
Hellbenders is the kind of movie I want to like just a tiny bit more than I actually do. It's directed by J.T. Petty (of the great The Burrowers), has a terrific cast (Clancy Brown, Andre Royo, Macon Blair, Dan Fogler) and a unique plot about ministers who live a life of blasphemy so that their souls are corrupted enough to let them fight demons. There's a lot of good stuff in it that does work, but as a whole it feels like there's almost just a bit too much going on. It's tough to sync up with the tone of the film, which makes following its winding story a bit hard. Still, horror fans should definitely seek it out. It's a funny, twisted genre comedy.
The rest of the week is very light on new releases. Criterion has new editions of Fantastic Mr. Fox and Foreign Correspondent (learn about how this last release was made right here), two mighty fine pieces of cinema. Then there's Afternoon Delight, a comedy starring the brilliant Kathryn Hahn as a stay-at-home mom who hires a stripper (Juno Temple) to be her new live-in nanny.
And then we come to season three of Game of Thrones, which continues to cement itself as one of the most dense, rewarding and horrifying television shows ever made. It's easy to talk about this season in terms of some of its shock-and-awe twists, but it's less "Ugh, they did that just to get people talking" and more "Well, those characters really would do that." There's such a monumental defiance of typical TV (and book) standards at play here that it's hard to imagine any show following in Game of Thrones' footsteps. And that's not even to mention any of the amped-up fantasy elements, this is just a story that simply does not care whether you like the decisions it makes and the fates it gives characters, and that's exciting in ways TV hasn't been in a long time, if ever.
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