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“Let” Them Entertain You and More New DVDs

“Let” Them Entertain You and More New DVDs (photo)

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A look at what’s new on DVD today:

“Let Me In” (2010)
Directed by Matt Reeves
Released by Anchor Bay Entertainment

“Never Let Me Go” (2010)
Directed by Mark Romanek
Released by Fox Home Entertainment

Two of 2010’s most underrated films that approach their respective genres from radically different perspectives than most, “Cloverfield” director Matt Reeves’ “Let Me In” and Mark Romanek’s “Never Let Me Go” will finally have the opportunity to stand out on home video. In “Let Me In,” Reeves applies some of his own biographical touchstones for this remake of Tomas Alfredson’s horror film about the unlikely friendship between a vampire (Chloe Moretz) and a lonely young boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Romanek’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s much-beloved sci-fi novel about a group of children raised apart from the rest of society for purposes that are unknown to them. (Alison Willmore’s reviews for “Let Me In” and “Never Let Me Go” and her interview with Romanek and Matt Singer’s interview with “Let Me In” composer Michael Giacchino can be found here.)

“Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2” (2011)
Directed by Alex Zamm
Released by Disney Home Entertainment

Yes, there’s a direct-to-video sequel featuring the George Lopez-voiced tough-talking pooch who must save his owner’s home from foreclosure by entering into a dog show.

“Chain Letter” (2010)
Directed by Deon Taylor
Released by Image Entertainment

“Thirteen” star Nikki Reed and the gruff-voiced Keith David and Brad Dourif star in this horror flick about a high school circle of friends who are killed off one-by-one if they decide against passing along a threatening letter to each other.

“Conviction” (2010)
Directed by Tony Goldwyn
Released by Fox Home Entertainment

Hilary Swank stars as Betty Anne Waters, the real-life attorney who went to law school solely to free her brother (a scene-stealing Sam Rockwell) who she believes has been wrongly accused in this drama directed by Tony Goldwyn. (Matt Singer’s interview with Rockwell and my interview with Goldwyn can be found here.)

“Death Tube 2” (2010)
Directed by Yohei Fukuda
Released by Cinema Epoch

Yohei Fukuda directed this second installment in the J-horror series about a group of killers who prey on each other online.

01282011_ElenaUndone.jpg“Elena Undone” (2010)
Directed by Nicole Conn
Released by Wolfe Video

Already noted for breaking the record for the longest onscreen kiss, Nicole Conn’s romantic drama concerns a lesbian author who finds love with the wife of a pastor.

“11 Harrowhouse” (1974)
Directed by Aram Avakian
Released by Shout! Factory

Charles Grodin and Candice Bergen star in this comedy where Grodin plays a diamond cutter whose job divided a top-grade rock turns into his inadvertent involvement in a jewelry heist.

“Farm Girl in New York” (2010)
Directed by J. Robert Spencer
Released by Maverick Entertainment Group

Not surprisingly a favorite of the upstate New York festival circuit in 2008, J. Robert Spencer’s romantic comedy centers on two smalltown guys who take off for the big city and soon find themselves writing a play about their experience as a way to meet women who audition for it.

“Forgotten Pills” (2009)
Directed by David Hefner
Released by Synkronized USA

A winner at last year’s Dances With Films festival, “Hell Ride”‘s Larry Bishop stars in David Hefner’s thriller about a group of friends who decide to raise hell when they have a vial of pills that erases their memory from the night before, though unfortunately it won’t erase the memories of who they harm in the process.

“Giulia Doesn’t Date at Night” (2009)
Directed by Giuseppe Piccioni
Released by Entertainment One

This Valeria Golino romantic drama from Italy about a man whose interest is piqued by his daughter’s mysterious swim teacher (Golino) was originally intended to get a U.S. theatrical release that never came, so this will be the first opportunity for Americans to see the multiple David Di Donatello nominee.

01282011_Hatchet2.jpg“Hatchet II” (2010)
Directed by Adam Green
Released by Dark Sky Films

Since Adam Green’s unrated slasher thriller controversially played less than a week in theaters, it’s fair to say this will also be the first chance for horror fans to see Danielle Harris’ Marybeth take revenge on the swampbound serial killer Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), with additional creepiness thrown in by Tony Todd’s Reverend Zombie.

“Lucky Lady” (1975)
Directed by Stanley Donen
Released by Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory unearths this 1975 prohibition-set comedy that pits moonshine-runners Burt Reynolds and Gene Hackman against each other for the love of Liza Minnelli. Stanley Donen directs from a script by George Lucas collaborators William Huyck and Gloria Katz.

“Mean Girls 2” (2011)
Directed by Melanie Mayron
Released by Paramount Home Video

Although Lindsay Lohan might’ve been up for reprising her role as Cady Heron, only Tim Meadows will be returning for this DTV sequel to the 2004 comedy, which presumably will keep the meanness of high school cliques without neccessarily the wit of Tina Fey. (trailer)

“Monsters” (2010)
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Released by Magnolia Home Entertainment

Now that he’s been tapped to direct a new version of “Godzilla,” it’s high time audiences get familiar with this low-budget sci-fi wonder about a journalist (Scoot McNairy) and his boss’ daughter (Whitney Able) as they travel across Mexico after an alien invasion to a supposedly safe zone just across the U.S. border. (My interview with Edwards and Matt Singer’s consideration of the film is here.)

“Night Catches Us” (2010)
Directed by Tanya Hamilton
Released by Magnolia Home Entertainment

Tanya Hamilton’s labor of love about stars Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington as Marcus and Pat, two ex-Black Panthers whose romantic reunion in Philadelphia after being apart for the better part of a decade is short-lived, thanks to a current Panther (“The Wire”‘s Jamie Hector) who wants Marcus’ head, a detective (Wendell Pierce) who wants to blackmail him and an unpredictable client (Amari Cheatom) of Pat’s pro bono law practice.

Pre-Code: “Hell Harbor”/”Jungle Bride” (1930/1933)
Directed by Henry King/Harry O. Hoyt
Released by VCI Entertainment

A double bill of uncensored tales of murder and mayhem with a foreign flavor, this set includes “Hell Harbor,” the story of a woman who flees an arranged marriage with an eye toward Havana with an American she falls for, though he’s targeted for murder. “Jungle Bride” also takes place in a tropical locale as a woman convinced of her imprisoned brother’s innocence in a murder takes her fiancé on a hunt to find the real killer and winds up deserted on an island off of South America.

“The Prowler” (1951)
Directed by Joseph Losey
Released by VCI Entertainment

Then-blacklisted Dalton Trumbo helped write the script without credit for this favorite noir of Manny Farber and James Ellroy about a policeman called to the residence of a deejay and his wife and becomes infatuated with the missus while plotting to murder the husband. Matt Zoller Seitz’s video essay gives a taste.

“Quantum Apocalypse” (2010)
Directed by Justin Jones
Released by First Look Pictures

A comet is on a collision course towards Earth and it’s up to four scientists to stop it in this low-budget sci-fi flick.

“Red River” (2010)
Directed by Jacob Ennis
Released by Bloody Earth Films

Not to be confused with the John Wayne classic, Jacob Ennis’ horror film tells the story of Roland Thatcher, a private man in Kentucky who really doesn’t like it when a group of kids begin to encroach on his property.

“Rhineland” (2007)
Directed by Chris Grega
Released by VCI Entertainment

Chris Grega’s 2007 World War II drama focuses on a soldier who is thrust into the heat of conflict and comes to rely on a lieutenant and sergeant who have long since lost the desire to be on the battlefield.

01282011_Skin.jpg“Skin” (2008)
Directed by Anthony Fabian
Released by Entertainment One

A festival favorite, “Hotel Rwanda”‘s Sophie Okonedo stars as Sandra Laing, a black South African born to white parents (Alice Krige and Sam Neill), causing upheaval in her community and her family during apartheid in this true-life drama.

“The Tillman Story” (2010)
Directed by Amir Bar-Lev
Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

“My Kid Could Paint That” documentarian Bar-Lev demystifies the 2004 death of the NFL star-turned-soldier in Afghanistan. Through interviews with Pat Tillman’s mother Dannie and his widow Marie, as well as friends and fellow soldiers, the film goes into the U.S. military’s cover-up of his death caused by friendly fire and the true heroism of the former Arizona Cardinal that far exceeded the image cultivated by the government in his wake. (Aaron Hillis’ interview with Bar-Lev and my review are here.)

“Welcome to the Rileys” (2010)
Directed by Jake Scott
Released by Samuel Goldwyn Films

This drama stars James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo as Doug and Lois Riley, an Indiana married couple that’s still struggling with the death of their daughter eight years earlier when Doug is shaken out of his stupor by his nonsexual encounter with Kristen Stewart’s lady of the night during a business trip to New Orleans. (Coverage of the film’s premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival.)

“A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop” (2010)
Directed by Zhang Yimou
Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

“Hero” director Yimou helmed this rare Chinese remake of an American film with his own spin on the Coen brothers’ “Blood Simple” where the humble owner of a the titular noodle shop in Imperial China plots to murder his unfaithful (and neglected) wife and her lover.

New to Blu-ray: Blake Edwards’ “10”, “An Affair to Remember”, Disney’s 1960 animated classic “Alice in Wonderland”, “All About Eve”, Sean Penn’s “Bad Boys”, “Boys Don’t Cry”, “The Double Life of Veronique” (Criterion), the Forest Whitaker basketball drama “Hurricane Season”, “Pleasantville”, “Ray”, Paul W.S. Anderson’s “Shopping”, “You’ve Got Mail”

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The Nutty Professor Eddie Murphy 1996

Weird Science

10 Weird Movie Substances That Had Hilarious Consequences

Catch The Nutty Professor this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures/Everett Collection

If you’ve ever opened your refrigerator to find some seriously gnarly days-old potato salad, then you know that sometimes the most harmless-seeming things can turn freaky. Movies have conjured up some truly bizarre stuff, often the work of crazed scientists. Before you catch The Nutty Professor on IFC, check out some of the icky-est, gooey-ist and just plain weird substances on the big screen.

10. Flubber

Flubber
Walt Disney Studios

Professor Brainard’s “flying rubber” increases its speed every time it bounces, and increases the chaos, destruction and unlikely basketball-dunkage of anyone who uses it. Thankfully the movie ends before its thermodynamic impossibility cause the incineration of the entire universe.


9. Quantonium, Monsters Vs. Aliens

Monsters Vs Aliens
DreamWorks

In Monsters vs. Aliens, both action-packed parties are battling over Quantonium, an exotic material which massively empowers anyone who holds it. Literally in the case of Susan Murphy, whose exposure turns her into Ginormica and enables her to fight against Gallaxhar’s invasion force.


8. Sustengo, Little Fockers

Sustengo
Universal Pictures

After finally finding favor with his hard-bitten father-in-law, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) finds himself strapped for cash and starts promoting Sustengo, an erectile dysfunction drug. Which means leaving boxes of ED drugs lying around a family who can’t even use a toilet without triggering a series of hilarious misunderstandings.


7. Iocane, Princess Bride

Iocane
20th Century Fox

Iocane is a deadly poison with no odor or taste that dissolves instantly in any liquid. The perfect tool for murder isn’t usually hilarious, but The Princess Bride makes everything funny. Hero Westley (Cary Elwes) tricks cunning Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) into drinking the poison in a game of wits. Vizzini lost, not knowing that the answer is “Don’t drink anything offered by someone who just talked about how awesome their poison is.”


6. PX-41, Despicable Me 2

PX41
Universal Pictures

The mutation compound engineered by PX-Labs turns anything into a purple, fluffy, indestructible killing machine. And when Despicable Me‘s famous Minions are dosed with it, look out. Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) crafts an antidote, PX-41 Antidote, proving he’s much better with chemicals than he is with names.


5. Mood Slime, Ghostbusters II

Mood Slime
Columbia Pictures

When the Ghostbusters came back for their 1989 sequel, the slime they encountered was sillier and scarier. The “Mood Slime” was a special form of ectoplasm utterly saturated in the emotions of everyone and everything around it. And while our heroes energize some positive vibes with Aretha Franklin tunes, the entire city of New York’s psychic outpourings are filling the sewers with something distinctly less positive.


4. The Stuff

The Stuff
New World Pictures

A science fiction soft-serve satire, The Stuff is about an oddly organic treat which is utterly delicious and zero calories. In fact it’s negative calories, because if you eat enough it’ll take over your brain and hollow you out from the inside.


3. Miracle Weight Loss Serum, The Nutty Professor

Buddy Love
Universal Pictures

The core component of The Nutty Professor‘s plot is a miraculous weight loss serum, a simple fluid which re-engineers human DNA all by itself. This allows sweet but sizable Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy) to transform into the tight, toned and turbocharged Buddy Love (Murphy again). The serum is revealed to be fatally dangerous, but anything which allows Eddie Murphy to play himself cranked up to the max is pure comedy gold.


2. Cobalt Thorium G, Dr. Strangelove

Dr Strangelove
Columbia Pictures

Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb is about a bomb built with Cobalt Thorium G. It’s a doomsday device designed to annihilate all human civilization and is, slightly worryingly, based on the least fictional materials on this list. Cobalt and thorium both have applications in nuclear weapon design. Luckily we haven’t got them up to G yet.


1. Ectoplasm, Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters
Columbia Pictures

The Ghostbusters live in a world where ghosts are real but physics is still in charge. So while the ghouls are flung around with proton packs, they get the boys in grey back with their appalling ectoplasm, or slime, trail. As Venkman says, getting covered in the stuff will make you feel all funky.

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Fast Times Jennifer Jason Leigh

Retro Grades

The 11 Best Movie Comedies of the ’80s

Catch Fast Times at Ridgemont High during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

The ’80s gave us so many great things (Tab, anyone?), but when it comes to movie comedies, the Reagan years were a golden age of funny. In honor of IFC’s ’80s Weekend, we’ve selected the best big screen comedies from the decade that gave us Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy and other comedy greats. And like one of the movies featured below, this list goes to 11.

1. Back to the Future

“A high school slacker goes back in time, takes his mother to a dance, and gets dangerously close to becoming his own father.” The elevator pitch for Back to the Future doesn’t sound so charming, but the 1985 flick starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover is declared by many as being the perfect movie. (Though we can’t officially say if the Eric Stoltz version would’ve been better.)


2. Ghostbusters

The sheer number of childhoods that were professed to be ruined by the recent reboot should tell you how beloved the original film is. A perfect blend of comedy, horror and fantasy, Ghostbusters has an indelible cast at the top of its game and a heap of one-liners worthy of countless casual references. They have the tools, and they have the talent.


3. Airplane!

Speaking of one-liners, it doesn’t get much more quotable than the 1980 Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker classic Airplane!. Almost a one-to-one parody of the 1957 disaster film Zero Hour!, Airplane! works so well because of how straight faced the zaniness is played — which is something its many imitators fail to notice.


4. This Is Spinal Tap

Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer created the de facto mockumentary film with the hilarious 1984 rock diary This Is Spinal Tap. Heralded as one of the most accurate depictions of backstage life by actual real-life bands, the movie showcases an aging glam metal band struggling for the spotlight while keeping the group intact (especially the spontaneously combustible drummers).


5. National Lampoon’s Vacation

While Caddyshack and Fletch are quintessential Chevy Chase films, nothing beats the bumbling patriarch of the Griswold clan losing his mind en route to Wally World, America’s favorite family fun park. Yes, the sequels saw diminishing returns (aside from Christmas Vacation), but the one that started them all is endlessly watchable. Amen, let’s go!


6. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Director Amy Heckerling and writer Cameron Crowe managed to capture exactly what high school life was like in the early-’80s. The awkwardness, the frustrations, the scares, the search for purpose and gratification, Fast Times presents its young characters as fully fleshed-out individuals (even the designated stoner shows nuance) and doesn’t talk down to its audience like many teen movies do. (Click here to see all airings of Fast Times at Ridgemont High on IFC.)


7. Beverly Hills Cop

A reminder of the days when Eddie Murphy was the edgiest comedian in showbiz, the one-two punch of Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs. set the template for modern action comedies. We wouldn’t have the Rush Hour franchise and every Kevin Hart film without Axel Foley.


8. Trading Places

A treatise on the Nature vs. Nurture argument at the height of Reagan-era excess, Trading Places depicts the lives that are held in the balance when the mega-rich make friendly $1 wagers and just how joyous the retribution can be. Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis are terrific as the leads, the Duke Brothers are delightfully evil, and in all seriousness, that is a nice purse.


9. Better Off Dead

This 1985 Savage Steve Holland movie is teen angst at its most surreal and affably goofy. John Cusack stars as Lane Meyer, a high schooler still reeling from the loss of his girlfriend to a cocky champion skier. (Is there any other kind in an ’80s movie?) With bloodthirsty paperboys, foreign-exchange street races and stop-motion hamburger interludes, Better Off Dead doesn’t let realism get in the way of accurately portraying pure teen heartbreak.


10. Midnight Run

Of all the critically acclaimed pairings that actor Robert De Niro has had through the years, few are as entertaining as his reluctant team-up with a persnickety Charles Grodin in 1988’s Midnight Run. Perfect foils, the bounty hunter and mob accountant race against time, the Feds and mafia hits until mutual Stockholm Syndrome kicks in and the partnership stops becoming merely professional. (The counterfeit bill scene alone is worth the watch.)


11. Heathers

Heathers is the kind of pitch-black comedy that would never get a major release in 2016. Unflinching in its satire of school shootings, teen suicide and the tragedies that come with the need to fit in, the movie remains relevant to the kids currently growing up in a cruel and judgmental world. And the fact that it’s laugh-out-loud funny while also making a sharp point about youth culture is a testament to how great the movie really is.

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Bill Hader in Conan Star Wars Audition Sketch

Acts of Wars

Watch Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy and More Audition to Play Young Han Solo

The Documentary Now! star shows off his best Han and Chewie.

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Photo Credit: TBS/YouTube

Thanks in large part to The Force Awakens not sucking, the Star Wars universe is about to get a lot more expansive. Sequels, spin-offs, TV shows, and more are underway — which means a helluva lotta casting calls. Fortunately, Conan O’Brien got his hands on a few audition tapes of celebrities trying out for a role as a young Han Solo.

Check out Documentary Now!’s Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy, Portlandia favorite Jeff Goldblum, Todd Margaret star Will Arnett and other funny folks offering their takes on what that younger, brasher space swashbuckler would be like.

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