Saturday, January 09, 2010

January a good month for DVD releases

Everyone knows I like movies, right?

After the year 2009 rounded out in such disappointing fashion, January seems to be bringing the goods in the form of horror, comedy, blaxploitation reissues, and one of the unsung classics in kung-fu films.

Jan 12
Big Fan (2009)
Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt), a 35-year-old parking attendant who lives at home with his mother, is the self-described world s biggest New York Giants fan. He spends his off hours calling local sports-radio stations where he rants in support of his beloved team. One night, Paul and his best friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan) spot Giants star linebacker Quantrell Bishop and follows his limo to a strip club. Paul decides to approach his hero but things don t go as planned. The chance encounter brings Paul s world crashing down around him as his family, the team, the media and the authorities engage in a tug of war over Paul, testing his allegiances and calling into question everything he believes in. 86m

- This movie, judging from trailers I've seen, looks to be a great acting turn from Oswalt. Basically a more down-to-earth version of "The Fan" (1996), minus every improbable twist from that film, "Big Fan" looks like it shares a lot in common in spirit (if not just in personnel) with "The Wrestler" (indeed, the director of "Big Fan" was the screenwriter for "The Wrestler").

Urban Action Collection (4 films)
Black Belt Jones (1974)
Robert Clouse, director of Enter the Dragon, returned with this blaxploitation actioner starring Jim Kelly as an instructor at a martial-arts school in the Watts section of Los Angeles. Teaming with former Bond girl Gloria Hendry, Kelly saves the school and Hendry's dad (Scatman Crothers) from the Mob. Eric Laneuville, Malik Carter, and Love Boat bartender Ted Lange are also onhand. Kelly was one of the subgenre's most popular heroes at the time, starring in films like Black Terminator and Black Eliminator by the score.

Black Samson (1974)
William Smith and a gang of white drug-dealers try to muscle in on black nightclub owner Rockne Tarkington in this silly blaxploitation film. What they don't know is that Tarkington -- who has a pet lion -- is skilled at martial arts and will not give in without a fight. Abby's Carol Speed co-stars with skinflick vet John Alderman. Director Chuck Bail returned with Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold.

Hot Potato (1976)
Karate expert Jones (Jim Kelly) is sent to Thailand to free a politico's daughter (Judith Brown) from enslavement to an evil war monger (Samuel Hiona).

Three The Hard Way (1974)
The "three" alluded to in the title are played by Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly. Letting their fists do all the talking, the hard-nosed trio takes on a neofascist organization. It is the avowed purpose of this all-white hate group to "cleanse" Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington DC of all blacks. To do this, they plan to poison the drinking water with a secret formula that affects only African Americans.

- Otherwise known to me as "A Fistful of Jim Kelly," I'm looking forward to any improvement this release may have over my "legitimate" copy of "Black Belt Jones" I already have ("legitimate" in this case meaning that it came from an online company who assures its patrons that their films are "new, factory pressed, and shrink-wrapped"). Also, even though I've heard it's actually only a so-so film, I have wanted to see "Three the Hard Way" for a long time.

Jan 19
Nothing comes out this day that I'm extremely eager to purchase, but there are a few honorable mentions to speak of:

Kingdom of the Spiders - Dunno if I'll upgrade my copy of this film to the newer release, but it's tempting. William Shatner as a vet named "Rack," coupled with a downbeat ending, makes this hard to pass up.

Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics, Vol 1 - I have a soft spot in my heart for this series; in my youth, I used to root for the Really Rottens, against the Scooby Doobies and the Yogi Yahooies. However, since this is one of those stupid four episode, volumized series releases, I think I'll pass.

Jan 26
Bad Biology (2008)
Acclaimed director Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Brain Damage, Frankenhooker) is back with a twisted tale of love and weirdness. Driven by biological excess, a young man and woman search for sexual fulfillment, unaware of each other's existence. Unfortunately, they eventually meet, and the bonding of these two very unusual human beings ends in an explosive and ultimately over-the-top sexual experience, resulting in a truly god-awful love story.... With bizarre special effects by Gabe Bartalos, a hip-hop soundtrack from Prince Paul, and shot in glorious 35mm, Bad Biology is guaranteed to shock even the most desensitized of audiences, and sure to become a modern cult classic. 85m

- Written and produced by RA the fucking Rugged Man - only the greatest rapper of all time - Henenlotter brings the crazy shit that only the likes of him, Cronenberg and Jesus Franco could concoct. Already have this one on pre-order. Here's a bit of a spoiler, just to give you an idea of what to expect ... the "very unusual beings" of the story are a woman with seven clitorises (clitori?) and a guy who's been injecting his wedding tackle with steroids to inadvertently produce a monster with an unfortunate streak of independence. The trailer ... shit, man, track that thing down, but for god's sake NOT AT WORK.

Five Element Ninjas (1982)
When a quintet of nasty ninjas -- hell-bent on world domination -- nearly massacres an entire clan, its lone survivor must take the path of revenge. He meets up with an old master well-versed in the ways of the ninja. Now armed with secret knowledge and newfound friends, he must battle the awesome power of the Five Element Ninjas (gold, wood, fire, water, earth).

- Previously known as "Chinese Super Ninja," this film was one of the earliest kung fu films I'd ever seen. I remember it getting heavy rotation on either Night Flight on USA or USA's Up All Night back in the day. The focus of the ninja teams on various styles of fight based on the elements is very well-handled, and their dissection of the heroic clan's strongest fighters makes for one of kung-fu cinemas most renowned entries. This one's often overlooked in favor of the classics like "Five Deadly Venoms," "36th Chamber of Shaolin," and "King Boxer."

Pontypool (2008)
Shock jock Grant Mazzy has, once again, been kicked off the Big City airwaves. Now, the only job he can get is the early morning show a CLSY Radio in the small town of Pontypool, which broadcasts from the basement of the town's only church.

What begins as another boring day of school bus cancellations, due to yet another massive snow storm, quickly turns deadly. Bizarre reports start piling in of people developing strange speech patterns and evoking horrendous acts of violence. But there's nothing coming in on the news wires. So ... is this really happening?

Before long, Grant and the small staff at CLSY find themselves trapped in the radio station as they discover that this insane behavior taking over the town is being caused by a deadly virus being spread through the English language itself.

Do they stay on the air in hopes of being rescued? Or, are they in fact providing the virus with its ultimate leap over the airwaves and into the world?

- This has been a much beloved horror film since its unveiling in 2008's Fantasia Film Festival. Sharing some of its plot devices with Stephen King's "Cell," it is a truly innovative take on the zombie film ... which is what it is, despite the director's pretentious assertions to the contrary.

Saw VI (2009)
Special Agent Strahm is dead, and Detective Hoffman has emerged as the unchallenged successor to Jigsaw’s legacy. However, when the FBI draws closer to Hoffman, he is forced to set a game into motion, and Jigsaw’s grand scheme is finally understood. 90m

- Okay, y'know, don't look at me like that. I can feel your look. Yes, the Saw series is about as abominable as it gets, movie-wise, horror movie-wise, horror franchise-wise ... I'll give you that. The first one and the second one were easily the highlights of the series. However, take all that stuff that these films are known for, then throw in the contemporary issue and indignant social commentary on the state of our current health care system. And I'm totally not even shitting you.

Honorable mention:
Parker Lewis Can't Lose, The Complete Second Season - The first season was released, and where was I?? I LOVED this show when I was younger, but there's a reason the '90s are over, and unfortunately I'm afraid that his show won't have aged well to meet the expecations of my fond memories for it.

Also in January
Pro Wrestling Guerrilla: PWG Sells Out Vol. 2
A three-disc set from the west coast's premier independent wrestling company! Featuring 23 hot matches, from established big timers (Samoa Joe, CM Punk), beloved indy superstars (Chris Hero, Necro Butcher), and soon-to-be major stars in the making (Bryan Danielson, the Young Bucks). Twenty-three matches is not too shabby, and if this matches the quality of PWG's Volume 1 release, then this is a set you definitely have to get. (Available for pre-order from Highspots.)

1 comment:

Rev. Joshua said...

I've heard good things about "Big Fan"; considering how good "The Wrestler" was, I'd imagine it's worth a watch.

I don't watch enough Blaxploitation movies, but the plot to "Three the Hard Way" sounds great. Jim Brown and Fred Williamson vs. Crackers? I'm in.

I wouldn't write off Parker Lewis Can't Lose easily. I was surprised by how well WKRP aged and shocked at how poorly ALF held up; it's hard to really predict these things. "Synchronize...Swatches!"