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Not Quite Hollywood (R)

Magnolia Home Entertainment

We've enjoyed exploitation movies from America, Europe, Latin America and various Asian countries. Tomes have been written and films made about their trashy influence, but I'll be damned if any such releases were as fun and raucous as the heretofore-barely-known "OZploitation" movies that emerged in Australian cinema in the early '70s and continued into the '80s. Hilariously crass sex-comedies, blood-drenched slashers and pedal-to-the-metal road-ragers such as Alvin Purple, Dead-End Drive-In, Razorback, Mad Max and Stone dominated the scene, and Mark Hartley has directed an insanely watchable and immensely fun documentary detailing the whole cinematic experiment. Not Quite Hollywood is definitely the year's best documentary. Apologies to all the docs about food processing and orphans in Darfur! — Louis Fowler


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American Violet (PG-13)

Image Entertainment

This true story pulled straight from the war on civil rights is an angry, old-fashioned and welcome polemic for a return to basic constitutionality and against that other American tradition: racism. When a young black woman (beautifully passionate Nicole Beharie) is swept up in a shockingly aggressive raid by a drug task force, it takes an apparently mild-mannered but not-so-secretly zealous ACLU attorney (Tim Blake Nelson, who, with Beharie, comprises the flick's heart) to even attempt to set things right. Though classic in its telling of a David-and-Goliath tale, Bill Haney's script is not so simple as to offer a totally comfortable resolution, and director Tim Disney avoids easy sentimentality in favor of a hard truth: that similar offenses against American citizens are still occurring today, all over the country. — MaryAnn Johanson


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Hardware (NR)

Severin Films

When released in 1990, Hardware was supposed to be the next Terminator, but between distribution problems and massive cuts made by that protector of decency, the MPAA, the movie faded into pop culture ether. It seemed to be remembered only by director Richard Stanley and a cadre of cult film fans like myself. Now Severin has released Hardware, uncut, on both DVD and Blu-Ray, and it has to be one of the best sci-fi films of the '90s. Top five, at least. Way ahead of its time, the story tells of a post-apocalyptic future where a scavenger, under a radiation-red sky, finds pieces of a disassembled droid, used for population-control purposes, that reassembles itself and wreaks havoc in a condemned apartment building. Hardware is a dark, cunning, tense view of the future, and should have been the next big thing. — Louis Fowler


Happy Birthday to Me! (R)

Anchor Bay Home Entertainment

I must color myself an idiot for confusing the Hitchcockian Happy Birthday to Me! with the infinitely sillier (and, thusly, more entertaining) Bloody Birthday. (Look that one up.) Happy is a very typical slasher of its time: slow-moving with lots of inane plot-holes, infinite red herrings and an insanely hilarious twist-ending, making it a fun Halloween-season time-waster. Little House on the Prairie's Melissa Sue Anderson is dealing with her mom's death, a new school and experimental brain surgery when she finds her friends dying in the most gruesome ways, including one getting a shish-kebab right through the mouth. This will definitely appeal to old-school horror fans more than today's kids, but if I know my history, this'll be remade within a year. Bet me. — Louis Fowler

  • Not Quite Hollywood, American Violet, Hardware, Happy Birthday to Me!

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