Weekly Release Rundown (7-31-12)
Kevin Costner makes an unexpected but nevertheless triumphant return to television by revisiting familiar territory in the History Channel’s ‘Hatfields & McCoys’. Airing on the History Channel, this biographical western based upon the famous family feud set record numbers upon its debut. This well-acted drama will undoubtedly garner a slew of nominations this Emmy season and will provide the long overdue resuscitation of Costner’s acting career.
If you missed the initial airing (and subsequent repeats, where the network continued to trim footage to add commercials) ‘Hatfields & McCoys’ is a period piece surrounding the ultimate clash of clans, which managed to evoke passion, vengeance, courage, sacrifice amongst a litany of crimes and accusations. Starring Costner, Bill Paxton and Tom Berenger, this biographical saga begins with ‘Devil’ Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy. Close friends and comrades until near the end of the Civil War, the two return to their neighboring homes in Hatfield in West Virginia, McCoy just across the Tug River border in Kentucky. It isn’t long before increasing tensions, misunderstandings and resentments that soon explode into all-out warfare between the families. As hostilities grow, friends, neighbors and outside forces join the fight, bringing the two states to the brink of another Civil War.
Extras include ‘The Making of Hatfields & McCoys’ featurette “I Know These Hills” music video featuring Kevin Costner and Modern West.
In anticipation of the studio’s long-awaited reboot, Lionsgate isn’t wasting any time by releasing the original ‘Total Recall’ repackaged as the ‘Mind-Bending Edition’. This popular sci-fi action-thriller from 1990 stars Arnold Schwarzenegger at the height of his popularity. Co-starring a then unknown Sharon Stone, this top-notch effort from sci-fi guru Paul Verhoeven continues to deliver over two decades since its theatrical release. Chock full of extras including a director-approved 1080P HD transfer, sci-fi geeks and the curious would be wise to check this edition out prior to 2.0 version coming out later this year.
Schwarzenegger stars as a man named Quaid, a 2084 construction worker who finds himself persistently haunted by dreams of Mars. Against the wishes of his sexy blonde wife (Stone), Quaid goes to Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories, so he can “remember” visiting the red planet that is now being settled by human inhabitants. With twists and unexpected turns, the audience is taken on a ride along with Quaid to discover if the man isn’t a construction worker at all–but a secret agent from Mars who has had is mind of memories implanted. Although it was never intended to win the hearts of critics, this crowd pleaser knows exactly what it is and delivers a roller coaster ride over its two-hour length.
Extras include Commentary with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Paul Verhoeven, an Interview with Paul Verhoeven, featurette titled ‘Models and Skeletons: The Special Effects of Total Recall’, ‘Imagining Total Recall’, a photo gallery, as well as the film’s original theatrical trailer.
Miley Cyrus, Demi Moore, Ashley Greene, Douglas Booth, Thomas Jane star in the unexpected comedy-drama-romance, ‘LOL’. Directed by Lisa Azuelos, this 2012 remake of a 2008 French film by the same name, ‘LOL’ (acronym: Laughing Out Loud) has moments of decent filmmaking but sadly doesn’t hold together as a memorable film experience, especially considering the talent behind it. Ignored by critics and audiences, Lionsgate is obviously hoping the cover art and name value will attract at least a curious look before ending its run on cable.
Azuelos, who also wrote and directed the original film, from a screenplay she also co-wrote, LOL begins as Lola (Cyrus) begins a whole new year of high school. Searching to find the right balance between family, school, friends and romance, Lol does the best she can, despite a worrywart of a mother (Moore) who’s always looking over her shoulder. Still broken-hearted by her old boyfriend, Lol’s about to find some unexpected romance with her best friend, Kyle (Booth), a musician in an up and coming rock band. This coming-of-age tale does what it can to stay current (as in Facebook “status”), ‘Lol’ still seems to lack in originality to elevate it anything higher than a Nickelodeon movie-of-the-week.
Extras include Commentary with director Lisa Azuelos and cast members Ashley Hinshaw & Lina Esco, featurettes ‘The Cast of LOL’, ‘Like Mother, Like Daughter’, as well as ‘Lots of Love For Lisa Azuelos’.
Gentleman Prefer Blondes 20th Century Fox / 1953 / 91 Minutes / Unrated
Although she’s been dead since 1963, screen siren Marilyn Monroe has never vanished far from audiences despite her relatively short film career. 20th Century Fox, the studio that produced most of her feature efforts is digging into the treasure troves and re-releasing two of her best this week, starting with 1953′s ‘Gentleman Prefer Blondes’. Directed by Howard Hawks and co-starring Jane Russell, this bouncy musical-comedy will quickly have you harkening back to a simpler time while being mesmerized by Monroe’s engaging onscreen persona. Almost six decades since its release, this timeless classic continues to hold up quite well considering the somewhat arcane concept of three women looking to marry for money.
Featuring Monroe’s legendary rendition of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” this light-hearted musical comedy features Monroe and Russell as two showgirls who set sail on a luxury liner bound for France. It isn’t long of course before things start getting sticky out on the high seas ensue as the girls discover a private detective hired by the father of Lorelei’s landlocked boyfriend is tailing them. By the time the ship reaches Paris, a missing diamond tiara lands the girls in hot water, but by following their hearts, they’ll get out of trouble and on to the altar. Monroe is ideal for the role, with Russell delivering one of her finer performances.
Extras are sadly lacking except for a plethora of trailers of other 20th Century Fox properties. However, the digital transfer of this classic is spotless.
Coming off the monster success of ‘Gentleman Prefer Blondes’, Monroe followed up with yet another ditzy performance in 20th Century Fox’s ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’. Starring both Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable, this 1953 release was an instant hit with the critics and audiences, cementing Monroe’s status as Hollywood’s ultimate screen sirens. Directed by Jean Negulsco, this harmless romantic comedy was one of the first to be filmed in glorious Cinemascope.
Monroe, Bacall and Grable star as three gorgeous models who concoct an “I Love Lucy-esque’ scheme to marry rich men. To lure wealthy bachelors, the girls rent a lavish Manhattan penthouse when things go uproariously awry when they each make the tragic mistake of actually falling in love. As they soon discover, what they wish for and what they truly want may not mesh in this hysterical romance comedy. Although a bit arcane for the time, this sixty-year-old lavish comedy is nonetheless as charming as the day it came out. For her part, Monroe was never better.
Once again, extras are sadly lacking except for a slew of trailers of other 20th Century Fox properties, though the HD transfer of the film’s original print is top-notch.
Lionsgate had to dig deep into the film vaults to find the classic war drama ‘La Grande Illusion’ from 1937. Seventy-five years since its release, this classic wartime tale stars Jean Gabin and Pierre Fresnay. Directed by Jean Renoir, this forgotten classic is one of the few to use the first to use World War I as the film’s backdrop. Moving and incredibly well acted, ‘La Grande Illusion’ deserves to be rediscovered by film lovers and historians alike.
Set during the thick of World War I, this French classic (with English subtitles) finds our protagonists trapped in a German POW camp. Among its captives are a group of French prisoners, including the aristocratic Boieldieu (Fresnay), Maréchal the foreman (Gabin) and the Jewish banker Rosenthal. Despite their diverse backgrounds, this unlikely trip must learn to band together in order to make their escape from this seemingly impenetrable fortress. Don’t let the near eight decades dissuade you from checking out this riveting drama, which was ahead of its time. Ripe for a remake, ‘La Grande Illusion’ delivers a powerful message about war as well as man’s humanity.
Fortunately, this new release comes with a slew of extras including two all-new critical retrospectives (La Grande Illusion: Success and Controversy by cinema expert and Jean Renoir specialist Olivier Curchod & The original negative of La Grande Illusion by la Cinémathèque de Toulouse’s Natacha Laurent). There’s also Restoring La Grande Illusion featurette, La Grande Illusion appreciation by cinema professor and film critic Ginette Vincendeau John Truby film presentation, as well as trailers from 1937 and 1958 and the Presentation of the movie by Jean Renoir.
From classics to direct-to-video thrillers, this week packs a mild punch with the catchy titled thriller ‘ATM’. Featuring a mostly unknown cast (except for Josh Peck from Nickelodeon’s ‘Drake & Josh’), this David Brooks directed thriller at least keeps things moving at a fast pace and to not take itself too seriously. If you’re a fan of the genre and remember to grade on the curve, ‘ATM’ probably won’t disappoint in its brief ninety-minute length. Suffice it to say, don’t expect an ‘ATM 2′ any time soon.
After leaving their company Christmas Party together, David (Brian Geragthy) and Emily’s (Alice Eve) first date takes an unexpected turn when their coworker, Corey (Peck), asks them to make a late-night stop at an ATM. What should be a routine transaction turns into a bloody battle for survival when an unknown man appears and traps them inside the vestibule. With the wintry temperatures dipping below freezing and the morning sunrise still hours away, they have no choice but to play the man’s deadly game of cat-and-mouse if they want to live through the night. ‘ATM’ reminded me of another above-average thriller titled ‘P-2′. Set almost entirely in a parking garage on Christmas eve, this similar themed thriller hits many of the same moments. ‘ATM’ works over time on delivering its thrills and chills–with most of them hitting their target square on. An enjoyable diversion from the mainstream, ‘ATM’ is what it is and makes no excuses. If only the rest of Hollywood could say the same.
Extras include few extras save for a slew of upcoming theatrical trailers.
Duncan Gibbins directs another mildly entertaining midland video entry titled ‘Fire with Fire’ starring Virginia Madsen, Craig Sheffer, Jon Polito, Jean Smart, and D.B. Sweeney. Sort of a guilty pleasure plucked right from the 1980′s, ‘Fire with Fire’ features a memorable soundtrack, which will have you longing for a simpler time of big hair and bad outfits.
The film begins as we discover a tough, street-smart kid (Sheffer) serving out his sentence in a state youth reformatory when he meets a beautiful Catholic girl (Madsen) studying in a near by convent. The two star-crossed lovers are immediately drawn to each other and against all odds, a forbidden love blossoms. Eventually their relationship is discovered and with trouble all around them, the young lovers decide to flee. Sort of the 1980′s answer to ‘Romeo & Juliet’, this tear jerker love affair may not exactly light of the screen but will definitely make you feel nostalgic about the decade.
Extras are once again sadly lacking.
Miramax dug up another thriller from the 90′s, this one titled ‘The Faculty’ directed by Quentin Tarantino acolyte, Robert Rodriguez. From 1998, this chilling sci-fi adventure stars then unknown Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Josh Hartnett and Elijah Wood. Although not entirely successful, Rodriguez does what he can with the somewhat tired script by keeping tongue firmly implanted in cheek. Intended to be a hip and edgy alternative to the mainstream, ‘The Faculty’ has continued to develop a bit of a cult status over the years since its release.
Set against the backdrop of the fictional Herrington High, the students begin to take notice when some very creepy things start happening around school. They soon discover the unbelievable reality that their teachers really are from another planet. By drawing from every high school archetype, including the popular babe (Brewster), picked-on geek (Wood), Goth girl (DuVall), sensitive jock (Shawn Hatosy), new kid in town (Harris), and bad-boy rebel (Hartnett), ‘The Faculty’ plays out as sort of an out-of-this world ‘Breakfast Club’. Rodriguez seems to be the one having the most fun here by utilizing some terrific cameos from the faculty including Jon Stewart, Piper Laurie, Salma Hayek, Bebe Neuwirth, and most notably, Robert Patrick (who played the bad guy in ‘Terminator 2′).
Extras include direct commentary as well as a slew of upcoming trailers.
Rodleen Gastic and Jeff Renfro star in director Adam Rehmeier’s oddly controversial character drama, ‘The Bunny Game’. Featuring some gruesome scenes involving torture and porn, this hard-to-watch thriller pushes the envelope on almost every count. That said it can’t be discounted given the fact there are far worse (Hostel, Human Centipede) exploitation films out there with absolutely no social relevance whatsoever. Rehmeier attempts to produce a far more artistic effort, as evidenced by the fact this film bounced around from independent film festivals before finding a distributor with Autonomy Pictures.
Banned in the UK and partially inspired by a real-life experience of star Rodleen Getsic, ‘The Bunny Game’ is an unforgiving adventure into the underbelly of the world of sadism and torture. Junkie hooker Sylvia Grey (Getsic) turns the wrong trick in demented trucker JR (Jeff Renfro). After knocking her out cold and taking her to a desolate place where no one can hear her cries, JR subjects Sylvia to a series of increasingly twisted, sadistic “games”. But will Sylvia find a way to survive the ultimate test of human fortitude when she wakes up with her head sealed in a white leather bunny mask?
Extras include commentary by the film’s director.
An unknown cast including Bug Hall, Donnie Jeffcoat and Sean McGowan star in the low-budget World War II drama, ‘Fortress’. Part ‘Top Gun’, part ‘Saving Private Ryan’, this well acted but minuscule budgeted air drama by-passed theaters in lieu of a video release. Fans of the genre may be mildly entertained while the rest may find this fact-based drama a bit low on the visuals despite director Mike Phillips ambitious attempt.
Based on actual events, ‘Fortress’ surrounds the plight of a World War Two B-17 Flying Fortress. When the commander of the crew of band of rapscallion’s is killed in action in a raid over Sicily in 1943, his replacement, a young, naive pilot, struggles to be accepted by the plane’s already tight-knit Irish American crew to help lead them to victory. Sort of ‘Rudy’ set in the Air Force, ‘Fortress’ has moments of terrific filmmaking despite its tragically slim budget. Adding to the film’s authenticity is a cast of virtual unknowns. McGowan does a fine job anchoring as ‘Fortress’s’ unlikeable hero.
Extras include director’s commentary as well as a time lapse of part of the plane being built as well as a short documentary.
Firstborn Olive Films / 1984 / Rated PG-13
Another trip down 1980′s memory lane comes in the form of ‘The Firstborn’ starring the late Corey Haim. This above-average coming -of-age tale costars a stellar cast including Teri Garr, Peter Weller, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Robert Downey Jr. Directed by the acclaimed Michael Apted (Gorky Park, Nell, Gorillas in the Mist), this heartfelt character drama was ignored by critics and audiences upon its release in 1984. A forgotten gem, Olive Films was wise to pluck this one from the film vaults (possibly due to the ‘Iron Man’ success of co-star Downey Jr.) in the hopes of finding a wider audience.
The film surrounds the plight of brothers (Christopher Collet and Haim, in his film debut) who spar with their mother’s shady new boyfriend (Weller). Teri Garr plays the single mother, who is desperate to try to juggle raising her children while maintaining a relationship with her drifter boyfriend. But it’s her boys who see the man for what he is and need to somehow save their mother from his clutches. Well acted with a few decent twists and turns, ‘The Firstborn’ represents a forgotten gem from the 80′s. Perhaps it was the film’s downer narrative that turned off audiences, however, this top-notch effort deserves another look.
Extras include director commentary as well as other trailers of upcoming films on video.