Posts Tagged ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’

Halloween Festivities

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

New York City is kind of a nightmare on Halloween.  It’s impossible to get a cab, the subways are filled to the brim and the sidewalks seem like they are overflowing.  Everybody comes to Manhattan on Halloween to get completely wasted, vomit in the street, and maybe hook up.  It’s amateur hour and it’s one of my five least favorite days to go out in NYC (St. Patrick’s Day and New Year’s being high up there).  Alas, I’m always compelled to go out and get involved in the festivities, drink too much and then stumble home to see what classic horror films are on TCM.

But book-ending that night of terror, I like to have a few other nights of terror by watching horror movies exclusively, having a marathon in my apartment.  Sometimes friends will stop by and catch a movie or two, but I like to get into the Halloween spirit regardless, and I usually pick out a few old standbys and a few new ones.  I’m still putting together my list for this year, but I usually always watch Brad Anderson’s Session 9, Kubrick’s The Shining, and often Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  This year, I think I’m going to throw in Frank Darabont’s The Mist, Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face, Troll 2 (I always like a funny one to throw in there) and then I’m still debating which horror films I haven’t seen to add to the program.  At this point, it’s getting harder to weave in new horror films that I actually like.  It’s becoming increasingly harder for me to get truly scared by horror films, so I’m happy just to find something that gives me the chills or at least tells an entertaining story.  So I’ve been looking through Netflix and trying to find horror films I haven’t seen available to watch instantly.  I’m thinking about the recent Carriers, Romero’s Survival of the Dead, and maybe the older Girly.  I also will make time to watch the premiere episode of Darabont’s adaptation of the Walking Dead on AMC.  What else should I add to this list?

But, in the spirit of giving, I wanted to help my NYC peeps find some cool horror festivities during the week and weekend, where they could congregate with fellow horror lovers.  And with that in mind, I think the best idea is to check out the Film Society at Lincoln Center’s horror slate called “Scary Movies” that runs from today (Oct. 27th) through the weekend.  The program they have sounds pretty excellent, including The Creeping Flesh (a Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee flick), the original Hellraiser, Carrie, and the new Australian horror picture The Loved Ones, which is getting excellent buzz.  The Film Society at Lincoln Center has been killing it lately with excellent programs (they recently had a Rohmer retrospective, which was heavenly) and this one is sure to be a lot of fun.  Check out the website for more info:

Elsewhere: The IFC Center is showing midnight screenings of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street through the weekend, Film Forum has Psycho playing all day throughout the weekend as well.  But if you’re looking for something a little bit more underground, my good buddy and filmmaker Shal Ngo has put together a horror movie montage called Brain Bludgeon at the reRun theater in DUMBO.  Shal is a pretty talented up and coming filmmaker and he spent an inordinate amount of time watching and then sewing together clips from literally hundreds of forgotten horror movies.  Check out the trailer.

If you know about anything else going on in NYC for Halloween, let me know and I’ll try to update this post with anything that sounds too good to miss.

Wilmington on DVDs: The Thin Red Line, Mid-August Lunch, Grindhouse, The Twilight Zone, A Nightmare on Elm Street … and more

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010


The Thin Red Line (Two Discs) (Four Stars)

U.S.; Terrence Malick, 1998 (Criterion Collection).

Let‘s talk about a really great American movie that has been somewhat underrated and neglected, and shouldn’t be any more, not after this superb new Criterion two-disc release. The movie is Terrence Malick‘s 1998 film of James JonesThe Thin Red Line. Bravo. Bravo again. As many goddamned “Bravos” as the page will hold.

The Thin Red Line was Jones’ (also underrated) 1962 novel about the soldiers of C-for-Charlie Army Rifle Company in the U. S. attack on the Japanese fortifications on Guadalcanal in 1943, most of it dealing with the capture, at the cost of many lives, of a fictitious hill. It’s a great American war novel: terse, blunt, profane, violent, compassionate, tremendously well-informed and battle-savvy, historically knowing, full of believable characters melding into a convincing whole. Overall, it’s a book that paints an unforgettable picture of a crucial military event and of guys that fought it, men who, as we read, live and breathe and die on the page.

Jones fought and was wounded on Guadalcanal; he knew what went on there. As the novelist who firmly and irretrievably put the word “fuck” into American literature — and who fills the pages of The Thin Red Line with it — Jones obviously isn’t a writer to mince words, gild lilies, wave flags or hand us the phony-baloney public relations garbage Guadalcanal diary-show-shit we might expect. Jones gives us the war and he gives us the soldiers, straight up, scared, guns blazing and trying to stay alive for another day, another hour, another minute. Some of them do.

The Thin Red Line was made into an okay 1962 movie by director Andrew Marton (he’s the peerless second-unit director who made the Ben-Hur chariot race) with Keir Dullea and Jack Warden as Witt and Welsh, the roles played for Malick by Jim Caviezel and Sean Penn.

Unfortunately nobody introduced Jones to Anthony Mann, whose Men in War Jones praises (with reservations) in a 1963 Saturday Evening post critique on several then-recent American war movies, an article published in “Line’s” special booklet.

Yet maybe it’s a good thing that Mann didn’t make The Thin Red Line back then instead of Marton, because he couldn’t possibly have done a better job than Malick does here — and neither could Sammy Fuller, Howard Hawks, Arthur Penn, David Lean, Sergei Bondarchuk, Raoul Walsh (who had a crack at Mailer‘s The Naked and the Dead and fucked it up), John Ford, or (probably) Akira Kurosawa. (The only time I flinched in that list was when I wrote Kurosawa, but likely the “sensei” would have done it from the other side anyway.)

Malick does an incredible job here, makes an incredible movie. In the Thin Red Line DVD booklet, David Sterritt calls The Thin Red Line “the greatest war movie ever made,” and if that seems hyperbole now, I guarantee it’ll ring a lot truer, and cut a lot deeper, after you watch this Criterion disc. Malick is a different kind of storyteller that Jones. He‘s a great poet where Jones is a great prose reporter and storyteller, and he gives us the poems and the songs that Jones couldn’t have sung, just as Jones gives us the narrative stuff that Malick couldn’t have experienced or imagined.

Every frame that Malick stages, that the actors play, that Jack Fisk designs and that cinematographer John Toll shoots, is beautiful, turbulent, and/or hellishly exciting, from the moment we see Witt (Caviezel) relaxing A. W. O. L. in a native village, to the scene where Welsh (Penn), his friendly nemesis, finds and arrests him, saves his ass, and gets him on the boat that‘s taking them all to Guadalcanal.

Here’s just part of the roster we kibitz on during the story‘s warfare: Privates Witt, Bell (Ben Chaplin), Doll (Dash Mihok), Tills (Tim Blake Nelson), Dale (Arie Verveen), Tella (Kirk Acevedo), Sico (Robert Roy Hofmo), Beade (Nick Stahl), Ash (Tom Jane) and Train (John Dee Smith); Corporal Fife (Adrien Brody); First Sergeant Welsh (Penn), and Sergeants Keck (Woody Harrelson), Storm (John C. Reilly), and McCron (John Savage); Captains Staros (Elias Koteas), Bosche (George Clooney), Gaff (John Cusack); First Lieutenant Band (Paul Gleeson); Lieutenant Colonel Tall (Nick Nolte); and Brigadier General Quintard (John Travolta).

Now, that’s a hard group to keep track of in any theater, especially since the movie has a lot of poetic narration and mystical, rapt voice-over, some by characters like Train, who don’t seem that important — which is why this DVD is such a Godsend. Almost all the characters of Thin Red Line are identified in the subtitles when they first speak, and some later as well, and the booklet has a huge full cast list that should keep you always on top of the story and the roster, of who lives and who dies. Remember, this is an extremely complex movie that can be watched several, or even numerous times, so it’s damned good to have that kind of watcher’s aid.

The story is basic. C-for-Charlie, according to the brass, has to take the hill; the Japanese are dug in and firing away. Brig. Gen. Quintard (Travolta) is a peacock-proud cynic and politician who orders the assault. Lt. Col. Tall (Nolte) is a callous bastard who keeps hurling his men into battle sometimes without enough water and supplies or adequate backup, roaring “inspirational” encouragement and patting his “boys” on the back, boyishly desperate himself to win his spurs after a lifetime of being passed over. (This part by the way, deserved an Oscar, or at least a nomination. Nolte will never be better, and few others will either.)

Capt. Staros (Koteas — and the character was “Stein” in the novel) is a good decent, competent, together officer who refuses to sacrifice his men needlessly and bravely stands up to the half-nuts Tall; of course, he gets screwed.

Bosche (Clooney) is a smoothie, totally in charge when he gets there. Gaff is a good guy who watches and listens and helps take the hill. Bell (Chaplin) dreams fondly of his wife (Miranda Otto), while death and chaos rage around him; he‘s in for a shock. Keck (Harrelson) has a death scene that will haunt your fucking dreams for years. Storm is a classic pop-off; his best scene was cut, is in the DVD annex, and should be put back in. (So should Bosche’s edited advice to Bell.) Band is a slimy jerk who deserves to be court-martialed by boa constrictors. Fife is scared shitless. Aren’t we all?

That’s the stuff of the story; men fight and die, shoot and climb, lie and survive. But what makes Malick’s Thin Red Line special, what makes it great (I think I may end up agreeing with Dave Sterritt if I watch it again and think it over), what puts it on the level of Seven Samurai and War and Peace and They Were Expendable, and maybe past them, is the astonishing lyrical sensibility which Malick brings to the story: the way he sees the world.

As in Days of Heaven and Badlands, we’re entranced, ravished. Like the water Tall cheats his men out of, it restoreth our soul. Those tableaux of Malick’s are piercing, heart-stopping. The deep greens of the forest, the blue of the faraway skies, the ocean lapping the beach as men disembark, the waving grasses on that bloody hill, the way a defeated Japanese soldier clutches his comrade‘s head, the way men see past the sky as they lie dying, Witt‘s hurt soft eyes as he watches the native villagers turn from him, the way night bleeds into day and back again.

The key to James Jones and the brilliance of his war novels, is something he often mentioned, and that his novelist daughter Kaylie recalls during an interview she gives on the bonus disc. He loved soldiers. He hated war. That’s why he and Malick are in a locked-step, lock-heart synch we couldn’t have imagined before this movie, and that we may have missed back in 1998, the first time through.

Jones tended to repeat his character types. He has said that Line’s Witt and Welsh, the rebel and the cynic, are different versions of the two From Here to Eternity characters Prewitt (played in the movie by Montgomery Clift) and Warden (Burt Lancaster), and that the story is kind of eternal. That fits Malick’s poetic conception and it completes the story. The Thin Red Line, like almost any great movie, is a world you enter, some lives that you share, a skin you slip into for a while. But, like the Iliad or Blowin’ in the Wind, it’s also a song you can sing.

Amen. Bravo again. Fuckin’ great.

(This Criterion two-pack boasts an excellent batch of extras.)



Mid-August Lunch (Pranzo di Ferragosto) (Three and a Half Stars)
Italy; Gianni Di Gregorio, 2008 (Zeitgeist)

Gianni Di Gregorio, co-writer of the great Italian crime film, Gomorra, here executes a bewitching lovely, warm and funny change of pace.

With Matteo Garrone, the director of Gomorra and The Embalmer (another Di Gregorio script), as his producer, Di Gregorio has written, directed and stars in Mid-August Lunch. It’s a delicate, wry, brilliantly observed comic tale about a unemployed 50ish bachelor in Rome named Gianni (played by Di Gregorio). Gianni has just one friend, drinking buddy Viking (Luigi Marchetti). He spends most of his day caring for his 93-year-old mother Valeria (played by Gianni’s mother, Valeria De Fransiscis) — cooking for her, helping her daily doings, reading Dumas‘ The Three Musketeers to her at night.

Behind in his rent, sweltering in the dog days of summer, Gianni is solicited by condominium-owner and manager, Alfonso (Alfonso Santagata), and asked to wipe out part of his condo debt by temporarily caring for Alfonso‘s mother Marina (Marina Cacciotto) and his aunt Maria (Maria Calli).

Improbably enough, Gianni’s doctor (Marcello Ottolenghi) also drops by that same day, examines him, and then requests that the now crowded caretaker, for that night, also take in the doctor‘s mother Grazia (Grazia Cesarini Sforza). This leaves the gentle, considerate Gianni without a bed, but with plenty of opportunity, aided by Viking, for his culinary talents to flourish — as long as he doesn’t violate Grazia‘s stringent dietary restrictions. (The lure of a macaroni casserole demolishes those anyway.) The four women are at first a little contentious, especially about the custody of the TV. But finally family, friendship and pasta conquer all.

That’s it. No car-chases. No shootouts. No hanky-panky. No vampires. No glamour-pusses. But lots of food and laughs. I’ve seen several films recently about older people, and this is by far the best: wittily and wisely written, subtly and beautifully made. By showing us what happens when these marvelous old ladies are treated well, and lovingly, it emphasizes how badly old people are often treated elsewhere. But this is not a sad movie. It’s joyous. The acting, some by non-professionals, is superb. It made me laugh, fondly. (In Italian, with English subtitles.)



Grindhouse (Blu-Ray) (Three Stars)

U.S.; Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez, 2007 (Vivendi)

Includes: Terror Planet (U.S.; Robert Rodriguez, 2007) (Two and a Half Stars). Rodriquez’ amusingly sleazy spoof of an old-fashioned, unintentionally funny, unintentionally sleazy, science fiction horror movie. The first half of the modern Grindhouse double feature Rodriquez and Quentin Tarantino open up here.

Also: Death Proof (U.S.; Quentin Tarantino, 2007). Three Stars. The longer version of Tarantino’s half of his Grindhouse pastiche double feature stunt with Robert Rodriguez, Death Proof is a feminist car-chase sadistic romp with a Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!-style ensemble of tough girl drivers (Rose McGowan, Rosario Dawson and others) battling it out with the evil Stunt Man Jack (Kurt Russell.) Nasty fun. Extras: Extended and unrated footage, featurettes, trailer.



The Twilight Zone: Season One (Blu-ray) (Five Discs) (Four Stars)

U.S.; Various Directors, 1959-60 (CBS/Image)

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity…

Portrait of a man, smoking a cigarette at a cocktail party, on the edge of an abyss. His name is Rod Serling, he is 36 years old, and he makes his living writing serious, hard-hitting contemporary television plays for picky network executives and hard-to-please sponsors, working in the toughest, cruelest entertainment arena of them all, American network TV.

Serling’s teleplays, with titles like “Patterns” and “Requiem for a Heavyweight” and “A Town has Turned to Dust,” win prizes and big audiences and critical hurrahs. But Mr. Serling is not satisfied. He is not really enjoying himself at this loud party in a swanky penthouse on the 36th floor overlooking glamorous, exciting New York City — despite the drinks and the food and the important people and the beautiful women all around him.

Instead, he is remembering the smaller city where he grew up — Syracuse, New York — and all the small towns on all the train stops along the way, in the quieter days and more peaceful times before World War 2. Mr. Serling is envisioning his boyhood, in the land of the past.

But he is also thinking, as he stands smoking reflectively in the party din, with jazz on records played by Dave Brubeck or Miles Davis, of the nightmares that may await in the land of the future: of astronauts lost on strange planets and distant asteroids, of robots who fall in love, of a monster on the wing of a plane, of the folly of making bets with the devil, of a man whose life turns into a movie set, and of another man whose lovers are the figments of fancy in his scripts. He is thinking of a woman bedeviled by her exact double in a lonely bus station, of beautiful trumpet solos and lost souls in Manhattan traveling between life and death, and of an empty world after a nuclear attack with full libraries and only one broken pair of glasses.

Rod Serling doesn’t know it, but that world is closer then he realizes. It is nearer than he imagines. Only a typewriter away. The very next stop on an imaginary train. (A stop named Willoughby.) Behind the shadows in a room he doesn’t yet see, it lies, waiting for him. As that fresh cigaret burns in his hand and the people and ladies carouse around him, something odd, something frightening, is about to happen. The stars blaze and the children are calling and the monsters await and another world is opening up on the patio overlooking the night below, a world that will soon entice and dazzle him — and then take over his life forever.

It is the world Mr. Rod Serling will soon recognize … as The Twilight Zone.

Rod Serling’s original show The Twilight Zone is one of my four or five all-time favorite TV series, and also, I think, one of TV’s greatest creations. (My other personal favorites, by the way, include I Love Lucy, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Andy Griffith, Maverick, Playhouse 90, and the various Sid Caesar shows. Like Serling, you see, I treasure my boyhood.)

Obviously I also think that this Blu-ray box set, beautifully packaged by people who clearly love the show too — and a set that covers what may have been the series’ best season of shows — is an essential, a treasure. Like Serling and his cigarettes, you’ve just got to have it.

Twilight Zone, of course, is the classic anthology program of half-hour fantasy and science fiction dramas, mostly original, that Serling mostly wrote and always introduced — with his eloquent, crystal-clear words and unmistakable sonorous, punchy delivery — on CBS from 1959 though 196-. The inspiration for the series probably was that superb editor Anthony Boucher’s classy genre story-periodical The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (maybe a bit of H. L. Gold’s Galaxy and John W. Campbell’s earlier Astounding too); F. & S. F. published exactly the kind of stories Serling now chose to write, and also supplied him with one of his two most frequent fellow Twilight Zone scripters, Richard Matheson. (Serling’s other prime collaborator, Charles Beaumont, mostly wrote for Playboy.)

The Serling Zone teleplays were Ray Bradbury-Theodore Sturgeon sort of tales, little gems of suspense and horror and lyrical fantasy, which seemed to be originating in bad dreams that suddenly took over real life, or, we soon discovered, had been “real” life all along. Wish fulfillment gone awry and recurring nightmares were two of Serling’s recurring dream-themes. His tales were fables, fairytales, prediction and horror, in slices or sections.

The show was absolutely brilliantly produced (Serling was the exec), wonderfully written and cast, loaded with top actors like Jack Warden, Jack Klugman, Ida Lupino, Ed and Keenan Wynn, Gig Young, and Burgess Meredith, and stunningly shot in crisp black and white noir-style photography and eerie images that have never aged, mostly by George Clemens (like Serling, a “Zone” Emmy winner). The early signature theme and many of the early shows were scored by the best composer you could possibly get for suspense music: Bernard Herrmann.

The roster of directors in Season One — including strong new “50s talents (Ted Post, Stuart Rosenberg, Douglas Heyes, Jack Smight, Ralph Nelson) and a solid core of movie and film noir veterans (John Brahm, Mitchell Leisen, Robert Parrish, Robert Florey) — was stellar, and it continued to be one of the show‘s strengths.

Serling knew his helmsmen (his most collegial ‘50s collaborator had been John Frankenheimer, who‘d gone to the movies by Zone time ) and he knew the kind of scripts and stories that would draw them in. Brahm was the best Zone director of all in the ‘59-’60 season. He’s the guy who guided the best Zone show of all, the masterly “Time Enough At Last,” the irony-laden librarian/broken glasses fable that starred Meredith. But, surprisingly, Parrish was a great Zone director too, and so was Florey (no surprise), while Post, Rosenberg, Stevens, Don Medford, Nelson, Smight and a few others were all top-of-the-line.

Serling‘s most famous and awarded ’50s teleplays were often liberal message dramas about subjects like corporate cruelty (“Patterns“), brain-washing (“The Rack“), exploitation (“Requiem for a Heavyweight”), and lynching (“A Town has Turned to Dust”). He was notable for a special blend of street-smart toughness (Serling was a World War 2 paratrooper and a big sports and jazz fan) mixed with heartfelt compassion.

Few of the great ’50s TV tele-playwrights, not even Paddy (“Marty”) Chayefsky, had a softer heart for their characters than Serling. He continued that warm vein of compassion and that unabashed, unafraid liberalism though the years of Zone, a show never afraid to attack racism, bigotry, or exploitation, to decry the nuclear arms race, to empathize strongly with the little guy, the old, the dying, or to stand behind the worthier progressive causes of his day. (How ironic then, that Serling’s special private paradise was usually in the faraway past.)

I have a lot of respect for Stephen King’s taste in horror, but I just don’t understand how King can say that The Outer Limits was the best show of its kind (a very clear nudge at Twilight Zone). Outer Limits was a top-notch, scary show, and it was certainly a haven for noir writer Joseph Stefano (Psycho) and for director Gerd Oswald (A Kiss Before Dying) and I‘m sure King would love to have written for it. Its hour length, which Serling had wanted for Zone, is more flexible. But Twilight Zone is in a class by itself. Even, eventually sad to say, for Serling himself.

Serling was 36 when he started The Twilight Zone, exactly the same age as a lot of the talented, oddball or tormented male characters he would quickly and indelibly sketch for us in those unforgettable, inimitable introductions. That, and the several years of Zone that followed, were the writer/host’s inarguable peak, his great seasons of imagination. Rod Serling died at 50 in 1975 of heart disease, after decades of chain-smoking the nicotine sticks that must have killed him, that killed Bogie too. We’d like to think, of course, that his death was as kind as the ones he liked to give his most special characters — even if it probably wasn‘t. We’d like to think he finally made it there, wherever he wanted to be, that the last thing Rod Serling heard may have been the “All Out” for the stop at Willoughby.

And also, of course, for the last stop in The Twilight Zone.

( All shows are U.S. TV productions. They’re all good. The sign * indicates a show of special interest, ** indicates a classic. All Rod Serling scripts are indicated; some are adaptations.)

Includes (on Disc One): *“Where is Everybody” (Robert Stevens, 1959) with Earl Holliman (Writer: Serling). **”One for the Angels” (Robert Parrish, 1959) with Ed Wynn and Murray Hamilton (Serling). A great one. “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” (Allen Reisner, 1959) with Dan Duryea (Serling); **“The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine” (Mitchell Leisen, 1959) with Ida Lupino and Martin Balsam (Serling); *“Walking Distance” (Robert Stevens, 1959) with Gig Young (Serling); *“Escape Clause” (Leisen, 1959) with David Wayne and Thomas Gomez (Serling); *”The Lonely” (Jack Smight, 1959) with Jack Warden and Jean Smart (Serling).

Disc Two: **“Time Enough at Last” (John Brahm, 1959) with Burgess Meredith (Serling). My nominee for the best of all Twilight Zones. **“Perchance to Dream” (Robert Florey, 1959) with Richard Conte (Charles Beaumont). **“Judgment Night” (Brahm, 1959) with Nehemia Persoff (Serling). *“And When the Sky was Opened (Douglas Heyes, 1959) with Rod Taylor (Serling). **“What You Need” (Alvin Ganzer, 1959) with Steve Cochran and Ernest Truex (Serling). **”The Four of Us are Dying” (Brahm, 1960) with Don Gordon and Beverly Garland (Serling). *“Third from the Sun” (Richard L. Bare, 1960) with Fritz Weaver (Serling, based on Richard Matheson). *I Shot an Arrow Into the Air” (Stuart Rosenberg, 1960) with Dewey Martin (Serling).

Disc Three: “The Hitch-Hiker” (Alvin Ganzer, 1960) with Inger Stevens (Serling). **”The Fever” (Robert Florey, 1960) with Everett Sloane (Serling). “The Last Flight” (William Claxton, 1960) with Kenneth Haigh (Matheson). “The Purple Testament” (Bare, 1960) with William Reynolds (Serling). “Elegy” (Heyes, 1960) with Cecil Kellaway (Beaumont). **”Mirror Image” (Brahm, 1960) with Vera Miles and Martin Milner (Serling). *”The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” (Ron Winston, 1960) with Claude Akins (Serling).

Disc Four: **“A World of Difference” (Ted Post, 1960) with Howard Duff (Matheson). *“Long Live Walter Jameson” (Anton Leader, 1960) with Kevin McCarthy (Beaumont). **”People are Alike All Over”
(Leisen, 1960) with Roddy McDowall (Serling). “Execution” (David Orrick McDearmon, 1960) with Albert Salmi (Serling). *“The Big Tall Wish” (Ron Winston, 1960) with Ivan Dixon (Serling). **”A Nice Place to Visit” (Brahm, 1960) with Larry Blyden and Sebastian Cabot (Beaumont). * “Nightmare as a Child” (Ganzer, 1960) with Janice Rule (Serling). **“A Stop at Willoughby” (Parrish, 1960) with James Daly (Serling). Another great one.

Disc Five: “The Chaser” (Heyes, 1960) with George Grizzard. ** “A Passage for Trumpet” (Don Medford, 1960) with Jack Klugman and John Anderson (Serling). “Mr. Bevis” (William Asher, 1960) with Orson Bean (Serling). *“The After Hours” (Heyes, 1960) with Anne Francis (Serling). **“The Mighty Casey” (Parrish & Ganzer, 1960) with Jack Warden (Serling). **”A World of His Own” (Ralph Nelson, 1960) with Keenan Wynn, Phyllis Kirk and Serling (Matheson).

Special: *“The Time Element” (Allen Reisner, 1958), with William Bendix and Martin Balsam (Serling). This is the hour-long Twilight Zone pilot show, about frantic psychiatrist patient Pete (Bendix), in 1958, who keeps dreaming himself back to December 7, 1941, on Pearl Harbor, and is afraid he won’t wake up before the Japanese attack — as shown on “Desilu Playhouse” and introduced by Desi Arnaz.

Extras: Interviews with Serling, Matheson, Clemens and others; Commentaries by Taylor, Holliman, Post, and others; Radio versions of the shows; Isolated music scores; Serling network pitch and promos.



A Nightmare on Elm Street (One and a Half Stars)

U.S.; Samuel Bayer, 2010

Twenty-six years ago, I walked into the only theater that ever stood on the very same block where I lived — the Vogue in Los Angeles on Hollywood Boulevard between La Brea and Cherokee — and got the living Hell scared out of me, by a new movie called A Nightmare on Elm Street. This 1984 Wes Craven horror super-shocker, was about a grinning school janitor with a hideously burned face named Freddy Krueger, who wore a tacky striped sweater, a dirty fedora and had steel-claw fingernails — a wise-cracking homicidal maniac who ran amok in the dreams of the local high-schoolers, taunting and killing them in both fantasy and reality. The movie was so murderously effective, I was almost afraid to walk home. And home was only a block away.

I still think that first Nightmare has one of the great scare horror movie premises ever: a killer who looks like an evil clown, haunts everyone’s dreams at will, can’t be caught and takes obscene, hilarious relish in all his murders. A monster who lives in your dreams and is always there, ready to slash. You can keep away from the haunted mansion and the Bates Motel. You can lock the doors on Halloween, maybe avoid maniacs, fly away from the Living Dead and even elude the Terminator. Maybe. But how can you stop yourself from falling asleep? And meeting Freddy again? And again? (Unfortunately, the runaway success of Craven’s Nightmare prompted more than a few too many sequels.

Now, decades later, there have been eight more trips to Elm Street, and any teenager who goes anywhere near that tree-lined block, probably belongs in a padded cell — where they will almost certainly fall asleep and find Freddy waiting for them. The cheerfully murderous Mr. Krueger, played by genial Robert Englund, has ripped off so many nasty quips and killed so many promising young actors, including Johnny Depp in the first movie, that he probably qualifies as an honorary Hollywood producer or talent manager. But, of those eight other trips, only the 1987 Nightmare 3, and the other one directed by Craven — 1994‘s Wes Craven‘s New Nightmare — were worth a damn.

Now comes the lavishly budgeted modern remake that, as with other recent remake atrocities — the new Last House on the Left and the new Friday the Thirteenth — bids to re-start the whole nightmare cycle all over again: a super production with lots of splatter but without Craven, without Englund, without Depp, without Heather Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Chuck Fleischer and all the rest of the gallery of the nightmare-ridden and slashed — and most importantly, without shame. This movie isn’t even worth half a damn.

Co-written without inspiration by Wesley Strick (of the Scorsese Cape Fear), half-stylishly directed by Samuel Bayer (of numerous rock videos), and with Jackie Earle Haley bravely replacing the seemingly irreplaceable Englund, the new A Nightmare of Elm Street purports to tell us what really happened way back when, to fill in the complete backstory that sent Freddy off on those endless bloody rampages.


It seems that Freddy is a friendly pedophile with an unquenchable lech for comely young artist Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara), that he was burned alive by a mob of angry parents led by Clancy Brown as Alan Smith (ee?), that Smith‘s boy Quentin (Kyle Gallner) also has the hots for Nancy, that the two of them plan to foil Freddy by half-falling asleep in his old haunts. (Fat chance, suckers.) And that Freddy probably gained entry into everybody’s nightmares because of his passion for the Everly Brothers‘ ‘50s ballad “All I Have to Do is Dream,” which, played under the credits, provides this movie‘s unquestioned high point. (But why not also give us Bobby Darin’s great “Dream Lover?“ Or Mama Cass‘s “Dream a Little Dream of Me?”)


Now that you know the awful truth, you are spared the necessity of seeing this awful movie, and New Line has been spared the horrific duty of preparing eight more horrendous sequels. Poor Robert Englund has been spared the torment of watching Jackie Earle Haley scratching his steel claw fingernails against blackboards, furnaces, bedroom walls and nubile flesh — those fingernails, that flesh, that should be his, his! (Why couldn’t Englund be granted at least a cameo here? Playing, say, the high school psychiatrist?)

As for Haley, a fine actor who, in this movie, lacks Englund‘s gusto, he can now return to more plausible perversions in artier films like Little Children, and be forever spared the chore of showing up at shopping malls and fan conventions in his striped sweater, cackling “Hey! I’ll take a stab at this!” and dipping his fore-fingernail into inkwells for autographs.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is slick but empty, flashy but familiar, bloody but bowed. I wasn’t scared walking out of it this time. I should have been scared, walking in.

Secretary (Two and a Half Stars)
U.S.; Steven Shainberg, 2002 ( Lionsgate )

A shy-looking boss (James Spader) hires a quiet secretary (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who develops a taste for degradation. Daring, but overrated.

The DVD Wrap: The Karate Kid, Beauty and the Beast, The Human Centipede, The Rig, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Slumber Party Massacre Collection … and more

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

The Karate Kid

The concept is simplicity itself: The Karate Kid in China, with Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s way-cool son, Jaden Smith, in the Ralph Macchio role and Jackie Chan in the place once reserved for Pat Morita. Instead of shooting a silver-anniversary version of Karate Kid in Vancouver or a back lot in Culver City – and a quick straight-to-DVD release — the producers elected to roll the dice and stage it in China. The decision might have been influenced by the commercial success of Kung Fu Panda or, more likely, Chinese backers with reasons of their own to showcase their country’s bounty. Either way, it worked.

Smith plays a 12-year-old Detroit boy, Dre, uprooted by his recently widowed mother to Beijing for career purposes. At first, kids at his new school treat Dre as if he had personally convinced the International Olympic Committee that the Chinese gymnastics teams were force-fed anabolic steroids with their daily regimen of Wheaties and dim sum. He’s bullied by members of the local kung fu club and ignored by almost everyone else. While Dre’s knowledge of karate might have impressed classmates in Detroit, it isn’t nearly enough to keep him from being tossed around by the Chinese kids.

For help, he turns to his apartment complex’s maintenance man (Chan), a martial-arts master gone to seed. His methodology requires extreme patience and unquestioned discipline on the part of Dre, who’s deficient in both qualities. It isn’t until Mr. Han takes Dre to a dojo in the spectacularly beautiful mountains and forests a short distance from the capital that the boy begins to understand kung fu is as much a lifestyle as it is a sport.

Naturally, Karate Kid concludes with an exciting series of bouts in a citywide tournament. By that time, however, the movie’s inspirational message has already been delivered. The splendid Blu-ray package includes an interactive map of China, focusing on Beijing, the Great Wall and picturesque Wudang Mountains; “Chinese Lessons,” which offers a primer in the language; a nine-part production diary, hosted by Chan, and making-of featurette; an alternate ending; Justin Bieber music video; a pair of digital copies and a DVD; BDLive and MovieIQ functionality. Rated PG, Karate Kid easily qualifies as a film the whole family can enjoy.


Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition Blu-ray

Every new technology brings with it an expectation of immediate gratification by early adopters. Having spent the money, we want to enjoy our favorite movies and music as the digital gods intended and as quickly as possible. Typically, though, the titles released soonest will have been sent out absent the refinements and features that would take full advantage of the advanced playback units. It explains why “special” editions of movies sometimes are released within a few years or even months of a title’s initial debut.

The addition of supplemental features is always a good excuse to send out new packages, even if they occasionally feel like afterthoughts. Too often, though, the practice smacks of planned obsolescence. Long before anyone could dream of owning a personal copy of a Disney movie, the studio began re-releasing its animated hits in six-year intervals. Brand new prints would be shipped to theaters and, if necessary, reformatted to conform to advances in projection and audio systems. The studio adopted the same practice with its VHS, Beta and DVD releases, each new edition offering more bang for the buck.

If Disney has been slow to release its most valuable properties on Blu-ray, it’s probably because the studio now intends to do things right the first time. The evidence arrives in Diamond editions of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, Beauty and the Beast and, soon, Fantasia/Fantasia 2000, as well as Platinum editions of Sleeping Beauty and Pinocchio. Disney promises that each title, which will be available for a limited time, will be re-mastered from the original negative (when available) for a 1080p picture and 7.1 soundtrack. (Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty will go out Diamond next time around, as well.)

It goes without saying that the discs will arrive, as well, with a pile of extras. The Diamond Beauty and Beast package includes the 92-minute extended version, the 85-minute original and an early “storyreel” PIP “experience.” Add to that an extensive audio commentary, with producer Don Hahn and co-directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale; a sing-along track; a fast-play option; deleted scenes; “Beyond Beauty,” a feature-length making-of documentary; standard-format features from previous DVDs; a music video; a look at the Broadway production and music; an interactive game for 2-8 players and “Enchanted Musical Challenge”; sneak peeks; a screen saver; Smart Menu; and BD Live access portal. Beauty and the Beast will make you happy you invested in a Blu-ray.


The Secret of Kells

Unless one was a member of the Motion Picture Academy’s feature-animation committee or had already seen The Secret of Kells at a film festival, news of its nomination probably was greeted with a, “Huh?” Like fellow finalists Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Princess and the Frog, the Irish import didn’t stand a ghost of a chance against, Up. Being noticed at all, however, truly could be considered a victory.

Unlike those larger-budgeted pictures and such also-rans as Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Astro Boy, Monsters vs Aliens, 9, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Ponyo, there was a very good chance Kells wouldn’t be accorded a decent DVD run, either. After all, there’s no disguising the fact that it’s as much a film to be enjoyed by adults as children and, as such, might not fly off the shelves of video stores.

Tomm Moore’s traditionally drawn Kells has finally arrived, though, and, while it may still be invisible among the big trees, it is well worth finding. That’s especially true for anyone with an interest in Irish history, medieval art and Celtic mysticism. The story is set in the 8th Century, a time when Vikings threatened to overwhelm the civilizations of Ireland and England.

Twelve-year-old Brendan, whose parents were killed in the invasion, is living in the walled monastery of Kells under the supervision of his uncle, the Abbot Cellach (voiced by Brendan Gleeson). Cellach has instilled in the boy both a fear and curiosity of the unknown territory outside the monastery. His opportunity for enlightenment comes with the arrival of an illustrator of illuminated manuscripts, Brother Aidan, who enlists him to find berries for ink. While in the woods outside the monastery, Brendan encounters demon wolves, a fairy, pagan gods and other potential threats to god-fearing souls.

Once his fears are vanquished, Brendan is able to study under Aiden and collaborate on the Book of Kells, which, today, can be viewed at the library of Trinity College. The elaborately drawn images found in The Secret of Kells appear to have been influenced as much by the Gospels as Celtic iconography, Byzantine paintings, the pottery of America’s Pueblo Indians and native art from Asian cultures. Practically every frame can stand as a work of visual poetry and the impression of light passing through page is palpable. The DVD arrives with several interesting making-of featurettes and backgrounders. Kells is a must-see for anyone interested in animation.


Outsourced: Deluxe Edition

In 2003, NBC fell flat on its face when it attempted to adapt the hit British sitcom, Coupling, for American audiences. It found much greater success in its adaptation of The Office. New this season to the network’s Thursday-night comedy block is Outsourced, which was adapted from a movie about India, shot primarily in and around Mumbai.

While it remains uncertain as to how long the sitcom will last on NBC’s prime-time schedule, I do know it will be given every opportunity to succeed. Even with The Office as its lead-in, the show is up against some very stiff competition. No matter, I can easily recommend seeking out the DVD of the movie, which has been re-released in a “deluxe” edition.

Even if the first two episodes of the sitcom were lifted almost verbatim from John Jeffcoat’s romantic fish-out-water comedy, a distinctly more serious tone that reminds viewers that Outsourced was inspired by the cold realities of life in the current global economy.

Josh Hamilton plays Todd, the manager of a Seattle firm that facilitates the purchase and delivery of novelty items to consumers. One day, he’s told that the company is moving its phone-servicing operation to India, where he’ll train the man taking his place as manager. Moreover, before handing over the responsibility, he’s being required to improve production to a nearly impossible level.

The manager really has no interest in the company or India, beyond the necessity to protect his retirement package. In fact, he’s downright hostile toward his boss back home. The NBC show tempers the manager’s resentment, as well as his company’s cutthroat attitude to its new employees.

Both versions labor to give the Indian employees real personalities and career ambitions, absent the usual Bollywood stereotypes and forever-meddling parents. On TV, though, the same characters also are required to deliver laughs on cue, every 20 seconds or so. The movie benefits, as well, from being shot in the teeming streets of India. As the love interest, a smart and beautiful Indian employee, Asha (Ayesha Darkher), is given far more depth than most women in similar roles.


The Misfortunates

The Misfortunates, Belgium’s entry in the 2010 Best Foreign Language sweepstakes, goes to great lengths to beg the question, “If it were possible to choose your family, would you ask for a trade?” For 13-year-old Gunther Strobbe that question is anything but rhetorical.

As cute and aware as any boy his age, Gunther was born into a family of unvarnished louts, boozers and miscreants. His mother, a “whore,” took a powder early in his life, leaving Gunther to be raised by his good-for-nothing dads and uncles. His grandmother tries her best to keep him from going with the flow of family tradition, but she’s overmatched by her overgrown and unabashedly lazy sons.

Gunther loves his family, even if he understands how much better off he’d off be living at a boarding school. He even respects their dubious achievements: setting a world record for beer consumption, winning naked bike races and singing obscure drinking songs. The Strobbes aren’t alone in their daily celebration of debauchery, though. Homegrown alcoholics appear to outnumber solid citizens, 2 to 1. Just as Gunther reaches the point of no return in his adolescence, a social worker places him in a facility where other kids won’t judge him by his relatives’ antics and he won’t be ridiculed for doing his homework.

Flash ahead to adulthood, when Gunther is confronted with a familiar dilemma. After impregnating his girlfriend, a genetic predisposition to cut and run is revealed. His decision not only will determine his future as a writer and un-conflicted human being, but also the lives of the young woman and their child, who would inherit the Strobbe curse. Felix Van Groeningen adapted The Misfortunates from a best-selling novel by Dimitri Verhulst, whose books are informed by a childhood spent in foster homes and institutions.

His characters make Judd Apatow’s creations look like the Rover Boys. The Misfortunates easily qualifies as a comedy, but there are times when you’ll be ashamed of yourself for laughing at the indignities of life among the Strobbes.


The Human Centipede
The Rig
30 Days of Night: Dark Days
A Nightmare on Elm Street
The Slumber Party Massacre Collection
The Evil/Twice Dead

Critics and fanboys, alike, had a field day with The Human Centipede (First Sequence), an example of torture porn so twisted and depraved that unsuspecting test audiences found it difficult to stay in their seats and only in a handful of American theaters would take a chance on it. Reviews were split almost down the middle as to its worthiness as an entertainment, with Roger Ebert going so far as to eschewing the star system as being inadequate to the task at hand.

Actually, Hostel and Saw are far more graphic, at least when it comes to depictions of amputations and surgery. The horror in Human Centipede is far more cerebral. The more one thinks about the concept of a human centipede, the uglier and more distressing it becomes.

Dutch director Tom Six‘s story begins familiarly enough, with a mad scientist (Dieter Laser, who resembles an insect) rounding up hostages to be used in a surgical experiment. We learn that he’s brilliant, especially in the area of separating conjoined twins, and guess that he’s a closet Nazi. His dream is to attach people front to rear, by removing the ligaments that would allow them to stand and run, while also suturing mouths to rectums.

The new humanoid creature, comprised of two American girls and a Japanese man, would be given a common digestive system and be required to skitter across surfaces on all fours. We hope police will arrive in time to prevent the vivisection, but are given no reason to think they will. (I found it impossible not to flash on the Milwaukee police officers who discovered the horrible contents of Jeffrey Dahmer’s refrigerator.)

In my opinion, movies that prompt great debate in the media are rarely as shocking or controversial as pundits make them out to be. The argument almost always boils down to First Amendment rights of expression and censorship issues. In Human Centipede, though, the image is so disturbing that repeating, “it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie,” does help soften the blow. And, of course, no one’s holding a gun to the head of any viewers, forcing them to witness such an atrocity … however fake. A planned sequel reportedly could include a human centipede segmented 12 ways. The DVD package adds a deleted scene, rehearsal footage, making-of material and an interview with the director.

Made months before the massive oil spill off Louisiana, but only released direct-to-DVD this week, The Rig offers a perfectly plausible diagram for disaster on an offshore drilling rig: piss off the Creature From the Black Lagoon’s salt-water cousin and see what happens. Like the crew members stranded on the “Charlie” platform in Peter Atensio’s goofball thriller, it’s possible the BP crew was too distracted by an undersea creature to notice their rig was about to explode.

The rest, of course, is history. Veteran character actor William Forsythe is the only actor I recognized in The Rig, suggesting just how little money was expended on the project. The other big clue is the scuba-suit costume worn by the actor playing the creature, who spends less time on the screen than the opening credits. Otherwise, the movie’s plot is textbook horror: strand a bunch of people in an enclosed space and prompt someone or something to begin picking them off one-by-one. By the time the assassin’s identity and motivations are revealed, only the fittest will have survived to battle the monster.

Unfortunately, The Rig offers precious little else in the way of explanation for the attacks. The monster just is. … If its makers had anticipated the oil spill, The Rig could have exploited BP’s lack of foresight and readiness, and sicced the creature against company executives. Only younger teens are likely to get a charge from The Rig, which is rated “R” primarily for an extended shower scene, which they won’t mind seeing, either.

A year after the population of Barrow, Alaska, was obliterated by vampires in 30 Days of Night, the lone survivor moves to California to exact revenge on the invaders for killing her husband. This time around, Kiele Sanchez has taken over the role of Stella from Melissa George and Mia Kirshner has replaced Danny Huston as the boss bloodsucker.

Dark Days takes place in a pre-True Blood universe, in which vampires are everywhere but most Americans refuse to accept their existence. So, along with a handful of believers, Stella takes it upon herself to save the world from another, even lower budget sequel to 30 Days of Night. The Blu-ray edition of Dark Days adds commentary, a backgrounder featurette and “Graphic Inspirations: Comic to Film,” which follows the creative process that originated in graphic-novel form.

When he isn’t producing and directing mega-budget popcorn flicks, Michael Bay keeps busy supervising the creation of contemporary re-makes of classic slasher/horror pictures, including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Besides the fact that these aren’t pictures that are crying out to be re-made – neither was Rob Zombie’s Hallloween – Bay’s choice of mostly untested feature directors suggests he’s conducting some kind of a boot camp for filmmakers. Nightmare director Sam Bayer, for example, cut his teeth on videos for such artists as Nirvana, Green Day and Metallica. Here, Oscar nominee Jackie Earle Haley plays Freddy Krueger, he of the knifed hands, and Rooney Mara (Lisbeth Salander, in the Hollywood remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) is Nancy Thompson.

The Blu-ray edition adds an alternate opening and ending; deleted scenes; the featurette “Freddy Krueger Reborn”; Maniacle Movie Mode; and a digital copy.

Shout! Factory’s series of upgraded Roger Corman Cult Classics continues apace with the Slumber Party Massacre trilogy and a double-feature of The Evil and Twice Dead. First released in 1983, the Slumber Party films illustrate what it took to be a drive-in classic in the waning days of the genre and outdoor venues. In addition to the many pretty girls who weren’t shy about taking off their tops when asked, there was an escaped mental patient with a power tool, clueless parents and a wolfpack of horny boys.

The slumber party needs no explanation. Ironically, the first installment – written by Rita Mae Brown and directed by Amy Holden Jones—was intended as a quasi-feminist parody of teen-slasher films. The producers decided, however, to leave parodies to Mel Brooks and accentuate the boobs, blood and lesbian undertones. In the first sequel, Crystal Bernard takes over for party-survivor Courtney Bates, who can’t shake nightmare premonitions of an Elvis wannabe “driller killer” returning to finish the job. SPM3 opens with a beach volleyball game, but the action moves to a slumber party. None of the movies could be confused with art, but, as campy entertainment goes, the trilogy is a great diversion.

Haunted-house thrillers The Evil and Twice Dead are paired in a separate “Cult Classics” release. In the former, a psychologist played by Richard Crenna purchases an antebellum home, which, of course, is already inhabited by, that’s right, Satan. Mayhem ensues when rehabbers inadvertently unlock the doors to his prison. In Twice Dead, a family inherits a mansion once owned by a famous actor. Before moving in, the new owners are required to deal with a street gang and the actor’s ghost. All of the titles in the Corman DVD series arrive with a full complement of bonus features, commentary and interviews.

Also from Shout! Factory come new double-feature editions in its series about the giant, flying, fire-breathing turtle, Gamera. At this point in long-running Japanese franchise, the producers have begun to cater to its loyal audience of kids, who can identify with the increased use of younger characters. The packages include Gamera Vs. Guiron/Gamera Vs. Jiger and Gamera Vs. Gyaos/Gamera Vs. Viras. The freshly polished movies arrive in English- and Japanese-language versions.


The Last of the Mohicans: Director’s Definitive Cut: Blu-ray

Michael Mann‘s gorgeous and exciting adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper‘s The Last of the Mohicans arrives on Blu-ray in a “Director’s Definitive Cut,” which is a new distinction to me. Among other nuances, most of which I wouldn’t recognize if a tomahawk flew past my ear, the new edition is several minutes longer than the original and several minutes shorter than the first director’s-cut DVD.

What remains is the beauty of the Smoky Mountains locations and Mann’s earnest attempt not only to be faithful to the novel, but also to the spirit of the Native Americans upon whom it was based. To this end, Mann also cast Native American actors, such as Wes Studi and Eric Schweig, and activists Dennis Banks and Russell Means, in key roles.

A totally buff and athletic Daniel Day-Lewis plays a Playgirl-approved version of Hawkeye, the American settler raised by the Mohicans, who would be enlisted by the colonists as a guide and protector of British womanhood in upstate New York. (Mann changed his given name from Natty Bumppo to Nathaniel Poe to avoid snickering by rubes in the audience.)

Russell Means plays his Mohican companion, Chingachgook. The movie also attempts to present hand-to-hand fighting as it might have looked and sounded in real combat. It’s an amazing re-creation. The Blu-ray edition, which also looks and sound terrific, adds Mann’s commentary and a making-of featurette with new interviews with Day-Lewis.


Hand in Hand

Of all the original cast members of L.A. Law, Corbin Bernsen probably has enjoyed the most productive afterlife on television and it the movies. His lascivious lawyer, Arnie Becker, may have been an archetypal character, but Bernsen has moved beyond it to play a wide variety of people in projects large and minute.

In the last five years, he’s also been active behind the camera as a director, writer and producer. He does a little bit of everything in Rust, as well. The protagonist is a minister who gave up on his small town life in Canada to wander the secular desert in search of God. He returns home 30 years later to comfort his best friend, who’s confessed to setting a fire that killed an entire family. Naturally, Bernsen’s lapsed minister finds clues that could lead to the man’s acquittal, if only someone in the small town would listen. Suffice it to say, Moore´s faith pulls both men through the ordeal.

Originally released in 1960, Hand in Hand tells the story of two 7-year-old friends — the Jewish Rachel (Loretta Parry) and Catholic Michael (Philip Needs) – who must learn at far too early an age how to cope with religious prejudice and outright bigotry. Unlike their elders, the kids open their minds to the other’s religious ceremonies and traditions. To escape their small-town confines, they embark on a dream journey to Africa in a dinghy, and, not surprisingly, it doesn’t last very long. Instead, it becomes another test of faith.


Human Target: The Complete First Season
Ugly Americans: Volume 1
Scrubs: The Complete Ninth and Final Season
Bill Burr: Let It Go Bill Burr: Let It Go

In the Fox action series Human Target, protagonist Christopher Chance represents the kind of endangered super-agent who can crack a joke, slip a knot and pinch a fanny with equal aplomb, while bullets whistle past his ears and his car barrels down a cliff. As played by the handsome blond hunk Mark Valley – the ex-marine lawyer on Boston Legal – the character appeals as much to women viewers as males … or should.

Chance is a private security contractor whose job it is to protect clients from assassination. In the original comic-book version of the story, Chance would morph into his clients, a trick that could look silly on TV. Fox moved the show to Friday nights this season, a move that’s generally regarded to be the kiss of death for a series. There’s no reason for late-comers not to sample the first 12 episodes, though. Adding to the enjoyment are eccentric supporting characters played by Chi McBride, Jackie Earle Haley and Emmaunelle Vaugier. The set includes a pair of making-of featurettes, pilot commentary and a gag reel.

Comedy Central’s animated horror-comedy series Ugly Americans,could hardly have been any stranger. The show follows a social worker at New York’s Department of Integration, as he helps new citizens – human, alien, horrific and angelic – get accustomed to their new home. On the small screen, the mélange of mutants and misfits can be difficult to absorb, but, truth to tell, this is how the Big Apple must look to people from North Dakota. Given the proclivities and appendages of some of the characters, Ugly Americans is definitely not for the kiddies.

It’s always difficult to say goodbye to an old friend, especially one that’s been put through the ringer for most of the last nine years. That’s how long it took to kill Scrubs, a series more beloved by audiences than the network executives who never quite knew when to schedule it. That’s how it is when nearly the entire cast of characters can be described as offbeat and storylines often blur the line between tragedy and surrealism. Scrubs, which began as an ABC project but debuted on NBC, ended its run back on ABC. In the final season, J.D. returned to teach at Sacred Heart’s medical school, where he was surrounded by new faces and very different story lines. The package includes deleted scenes, bloopers and a segment, “live from the golf cart.”

Road-warrior comic Bill Burr says realized a longtime dream when he was booked into the Fillmore Theater for his recent Comedy Central concert. Not only does the Massachusetts native spend 300 nights a year in the clubs, but he also is a regular on the Opie & Anthony Show, has a weekly podcast and can be found on every social network on the planet. Addition material includes “I’m Blind”/”Thank You,” outtakes and “The Monday Morning Podcast.”

Red Vs Blue: The Recollection Collection represents five hours worth of episodes from Seasons 6-8, a pair of mini-series, special videos and behind-the-scenes footage. Also included are audio commentary, special videos and PSA’s, deleted scenes, outtakes, interviews and visual effects breakdowns.

Wilmington on Movies: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Please Give and Harry Brown…

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street (One and a Half Stars)
U.S.; Samuel Bayer, 2010

Twenty-six years ago, I walked into the only theater that ever stood on the very same block where I lived — the Vogue in Los Angeles on Hollywood Boulevard between La Brea and Cherokee — and got the living, screaming (more…)

Trailer: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009