Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
Synapse Films’ amazing 42nd Street Forever series is one of the best things to ever hit digital video disc, at least for fans of cult cinema. Each disc is a tribute to the classic days of trash cinema, packed with classic trailers for long-lost and long-forgotten exploitation flicks. And, honestly, that is usually the best way to watch them; most of these movies are dreadfully boring in their two-hour incarnations, but at two minutes each, they are filled with enough explosions, catchphrases and nudity to focus even the most ADD film-fan. This latest outing, subtitled Blu-Ray Edition, is just that: over three hours of the best trailers from the past five 42nd Street Forever releases, all presented in glorious 1080p high-definition. From nudie-cuties to kung-fu capers, Blaxploitation rockers to Mondo documentaries, this new entry is perhaps the most seminal in the series, giving even the most novice cult film fan an in-depth history of true gutter cinema.
As an overweight man myself, I have had to learn to use comedy to deflect a lifetime of barbs. Nothing hones comedic sensibilities more than pain. Everytime an overweight comedian makes it big — no pun intended — it’s a personal victory for all of us. It’s a collective underdog story that gives even the portliest of us hope. The latest heavy comedian to rise to the top of the game is Ralphie May, who, while delivering moderate chuckles from me here and there, is a mostly mediocre comedian that, throughout this special, breaks into one too many serious moments of genuflection for my comedic tastes, often bringing the laughs to a total halt when he momentarily weeps for 9/11, the troops, Dr. Martin Luther King and the state of Arizona. I appreciate his sentiment, but it drags on an already long, nearly two-hour, stand-up special. Still, it’s good to see him so popular, and if it opens the door for other fat comedians, more power to him.
The 1941 novel My Friend Flicka is the classic story of a boy and his horse. Back then, young adult novels were simpler, with no need for post-apocalyptic vampires who fight wizards in thinly-veiled anti-Catholic allegories. It’s been adapted into numerous movies and TV shows throughout the years, most recently in 2006. That version was a moderate enough hit to spawn a series of direct-to-DVD sequels, including the latest, the incredibly affable Flicka: Country Pride, starring country singer Clint Black as a farm-hand who helps to save a struggling boarding farm though junior horse-jumping contests. As a Flicka movie probably should be, it’s a very simple, heartwarming story of a girl and her horse, directed with manageable aplomb by Marley and Me 2: The Puppy Years' (and former heartthrob rocker) Michael Damian, who seems to have a great grasp on animal movies. Besides dogs and horses, the only human-like animal with personality left for him to make a movie around is a dolphin — surely that Flipper property is just gathering dust?
AMC, you magnificent bastards! Between Mad Men and The Walking Dead, they have pretty much become the go-to place for hour-long genre-based dramas, outwriting and outperforming even the old standbys like HBO and Showtime. This year they’ve got a new notch on their gun-belt with the outstanding Western series Hell On Wheels. Set just after the Civil War, there is a historic race to complete the first continental railroad. Enter Bohannon (an intense Anson Mount), a Southern “greyback” with a dark past that finds himself as the foreman of the grizzled Union Pacific Railroad crew. He contemptuously befriends ex-slave Elam (a smoldering Common) who longs to better his station in life, by any means necessary. Murder, intrigue and straight-up graphic gunplay is the order of the day, making each episode a thrilling step above the normal network drama. Now if AMC could just get Justified and Sons of Anarchy, then I’d never have to watch another station.
What an amazing time we live in, where what should be long-forgotten, trashy, no-budget drive-in flicks are given the deluxe Blu-ray treatment and bought up and adored by a once-closeted fanbase who had to previously pay top-dollar for fifth generation VHS bootlegs out of the back of zines from shady mail-order companies. Image Entertainment goes above and beyond, releasing a deluxe double feature of two of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ most classic gore films: the surreal and madcap 1970 magic caper The Wizard of Gore and the swingin’ go-go madness of 1972’s The Gore Gore Girls (starring comedian Henny Youngman!). These are two highly seminal (and highly admired) Lewis flicks, cleaned up and presented in 1080p high-definition. Does it make the movie uglier? You bet! And, to someone who’s only seen these flicks on the aforementioned badly-dubbed VHS tapes, it’s a sonic de-provement that only makes the movies’ gross-out all the more far-out.
Nothing good has ever come out of inbred backwoods folk who wear pig-masks and nothing probably ever will, except maybe entertaining horror films. Well … let me backtrack: entertaining enough horror films. A group of first-year drama students load up in a SUV and head to the backwoods berg of Madison County to research notorious local legend Damien Ewell, a serial killer who stalks the forest in said grotesque pig mask, looking for nubile teens to slaughter. You know where this is going, don’t you? Madison County is a very by-the-book slasher movie, but it’s also an entertaining by-the-book slasher movie that presents a great idea: a town that is in on and protecting its resident psychotic madmen, but, maddeningly, the movie spends way too much time with the snotty kids when we all really want to be exploring the psyche of the town. Maybe in a return visit, director Eric England? But, still … that pig-mask …shudder!