You're Next - Lionsgate - Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD
Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: Sharni Vinson, Wendy Glenn, A.J. Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Margaret Laney. Full cast + crew
Around this time last year Lionsgate released Dredd on home video and people everywhere slowly started to realize they'd made a huge mistake by not seeing it and supporting it when it was theaters. Hopefully the same thing happens to You're Next, a highly entertaining horror film about a family reunion in the woods that goes horribly wrong when masked killers show up and try to pick them off one by one.
That plot description probably gives you an idea of what kind of movie You're Next is, but it's not an entirely accurate one. This isn't just another home-invasion slasher flick where the people wearing the creepy masks have no motivation other than to torture. There's a real story being told here, and it involves believable characters reacting reasonably to the insane scenario they're thrust into. It's strange that that last part sounds like a revolutionary idea, but that's more of a commentary on how generic movies like this have become, and how refreshing You're Next is in comparison.
Special Features: Commentary with Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett; commentary with Wingard, Barrett, Sharni Vinson and Barbara Crampton; a making-of featurette.
Rewind This! - FilmBuff - DVD and VHS
Director: Josh Johnson
Cast: A whole lot of film nerds
I should disclose upfront that I'm friends with the writer, director and producer of this documentary, and I also happen to know quite a few of the interview subjects, and my name may even appear in the credits since I backed this project on Indiegogo when it was raising funds. All of that is only true because I also happen to be a huge movie nerd who grew up prowling video store shelves and renting every ridiculous VHS cover I could find. It only makes sense that I'd have friends with similar interests, in this case they decided to make a movie about it.
Were none of that true, I'd still think Rewind This! was a smart, fun, accessible documentary about the history of VHS, its impact on the global film industry, its death in the wake of DVD, and the cult of VHS that's reemerged in recent years. If VHS tapes ever had a significant impact on your life, odds are you're going to love this tribute to them. Plus, that cover art!
And, yes, you can even buy it on VHS.
Special Features: A commentary track with the filmmakers, over an hour of extra interview footage, a music video and more.
Riddick - Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD
Director: David Twohy
Cast: Vin Diesel, Jordi Mollà, Katee Sackhoff, Bokeem Woodbine, Raoul Trujillo. Full cast + crew
There's something strange about Vin Diesel's career that doesn't really apply to similar actors: He (and his movies) get better with more sequels. It obviously happened to the Fast & Furious franchise, and the same fortune has hit Riddick, which is a monumental improvement over the wacky The Chronicles of Riddick. Oh, this is still a wacky film for sure, but a touch of self-awareness goes a long way. The supporting cast is pretty great, too, and if you do what Jacob Hall did and see the second half of the movie as a reverse Friday the 13th where Riddick is a heroic Jason picking off the camp counselors who come to his cabin, you'll probably love it even more.
Special Features: An unrated cut of the film, which adds on a new ending that's a ridiculously nerdy setup for a sequel that will probably never happen; a handful of small featurettes focusing on why they wanted to make a sequel, and how the characters and world were designed.
Other Notable New Releases
I don't understand days like today. Indie films have a hard enough time competing at the theatrical level with the countless horde of Hollywood movies taking up the spotlight. Why then must they compete against one another at the home video level? Today sees the release of some of the absolute best indie dramas 2013 had to offer, you'd think they may want to give a little bit of space between each other, right? Is it just that they all want to come out the same week as Sundance, perhaps in the hope that the indie-loving buzz will spread to the marketplace?
Whatever the case, you really should seek out all five of the films above. My favorite of the bunch is Short Term 12, a lovely film about nature, nurture and the men and women who dedicate their lives to trying to make everyone else's just a tiny bit better. Brie Larson is terrific in it, as is the rest of the cast (particularly John Gallagher Jr. and Keith Stanfield), and writer-director Destin Cretton lands the whole thing into a sweet spot between somber indie drama and comedy. Then there's The Spectacular Now, a disarmingly charming film about teenage love that's a bit too mature for its own good. Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller are both tremendous in it, giving the kind of performances that make you just marvel at such talent at such a young age.
In case you didn't sense a theme yet, there's Fruitvale Station, which features a rather moving performance from The Wire's Michael B. Jordan as a young, black man who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. I've got some problems with the film that is based on a real event, only to cherry pick some details that come off as a bit manipulative (the real story is already powerful enough that it doesn't need these inventions), but it's worth seeing for Jordan.
The next two films on the indie-drama roulette wheel are Blue Caprice, based on the lives of the Beltway snipers, and A Single Shot, starring Sam Rockwell as a lonely hunter who gets caught up in the search for a dead girl. Neither film is particularly cheerful, so be ready for some grim and gloom from both.
Lee Daniels' The Butler is not a great movie, not by a long shot. In fact, there's a lot to it that's borderline laughable (like the seemingly endless role of cameo casting), but it gets a bit of a soft pass because it's a reminder that America's depressing history of civil injustice really isn't that far behind us. It's a blunt, heavy-handed reminder, sure, but not an unwelcome one.
Perhaps a tad less welcome is Carrie, which is the kind of remake that seems to really stick in the craw of hard-core horror fans. Its greatest sin is that it really doesn't bring anything new to the table. It's the movie equivalent of a cover song. It's slickly produced, and all the lyrics are there in the right order, but it doesn't greatly improve on anything in the original version. A new generation will mostly dig it (particularly since the cast is so strong), but there's just not enough here for vintage Carrie fans to rally behind.
Enough Said will likely be remembered as one of James Gandolfini's last roles, which is fitting because it's both typical (intimidating guy is actually a teddy bear) and unique (it's actually a rom-com). This is the kind of romantic comedy that Hollywood doesn't make often (people in their 40s still have romance?!), and should definitely put a smile on the face of anyone who likes Gandolfini or Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Sticking with the comedy route, this week also gives us A.C.O.D., aka Adult Children of Divorce, an ensemble comedy starring Adam Scott, Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Catherine O'Hara and Richard Jenkins. That batch of actors may make you think this is a bit of a boisterous comedy, but it's rather subdued.
Lastly in this row we have Gasland Part II, Josh Fox's follow-up film to his controversial documentary about the effects the natural gas industry is having on small towns across America.
Sci-fi fans may want to check out Plus One, the newest film from the director of the surprisingly satisfying remake of The Last House on the Left. It's not quite as good as that film, but it can be safely described as Can't Hardly Wait meets Timecrimes, which is an amusing premise even if some of the execution is lacking. And horror fans might get a kick out of the New Zealand comedy Fresh Meat, which is about a couple of gangsters who hold a family hostage only to discover that they're actually cannibals. It's silly, bloody and pretty fun.
Heading back to classic territory, there are quite a few worthwhile films getting Blu-ray upgrades this week. As you'll see below, Vincent Gallo's Buffalo '66 and Michael Mann's Thief both get new releases. Twentieth Century Fox is also putting out a trio of films under its increasingly great 20th Century Fox Studio Classics Blu-ray label. The most recent title in the bunch is Richard Attenborough's Oscar-winning adaptation of the long-running Broadway play A Chorus Line, about the high drama of singers trying to land roles in a big musical. Next up is Norman Jewison's stellar film In The Heat of the Night, starring Rod Steiger as a detective investigating a murder in a racist Southern town ready to pin the whole thing on a black traveller (Sidney Poitier). It took home more than a few Oscars in 1968 (including Best Picture and Actor), and for very good reason. Reaching way, way back is the Blu-ray release of Sunrise, which won three Oscars in 1929, and is also of historical record because it was one of the first studio films to use both music and sound effects in its soundtrack.
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