This week we recommend the fourth and final Futurama movie (Into the Wild Green Yonder), but only for diehard Planet Express devotees; otherwise, your new release options are rotten (Sex Drive, The Haunting of Molly Hartley). Horror fans, however, have something new to cheer about (Wes Craven’s original Last House on the Left Collector’s Edition, Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet), as do those with more esoteric tastes (Noah Wyle as The Librarian in Curse of the Judas Chalice and Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge). Blu-ray viewers have the best choices of the week, with new remasterings to devour (Akira, The French Connection, Vanishing Point, and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage).
When fans first heard that the well-loved animated series Futurama would be reborn on DVD (via four direct-to-video films), cheers of joy echoed throughout New New York. Unfortunately, that joy gave way to mild discontent as the first three Futurama DVDs debuted with mixed results. This week, the fourth and final Futurama film hits shelves; will you be delighted or shake a fist in frustration at Beezlebot?
Into the Wild Green Yonder follows Fry and Co. as Amy’s dad attempts to expand his mini-golf empire into the galaxy, destroying entire planets in the process; can Leela’s eco-terrorism efforts or Fry’s newfound mind-reading powers save the universe? More importantly, will the two ever consummate their series-spanning romance? Die hard fans will want to give this Futurama flick a whirl to see their favorite characters in one last hurrah — especially supporting ones like the head of Richard Nixon — and check out the wealth of cool extras that accompany the DVD. (Extras include a feature length commentary, behind-the-scenes peeks, How To Draw Futurama, Bender’s Movie Theater Etiquette, and more.) Below, watch a deleted scene!
Next: Sex Drive
Forty-six percent on the Tomatometer ain’t too shabby for a road trip-sex comedy involving a high school virgin, a stolen GTO, a giant donut suit with a sombrero and Amish teens gone wild. Does that mean you should give Sex Drive a go? If your brand of comedy trends towards the Porky’s and American Pies of the movie world, maybe so. The 2-Disc “Unrated and Cream-Filled” DVD (yes, that’s really what Summit Entertainment is calling it) comes with a raunchy filmmaker commentary and a handful of making-of featurettes.
Next: The Haunting of Molly Hartley
Gunning for next year’s Moldy Tomato award, The Haunting of Molly Hartley came in at a robust three percent on the Tomatometer after being not screened for critics (and rightly so, apparently). The tale of a teenager (Haley Bennett) whose soul belongs to the Devil (and to Gossip Girl’s Chace Crawford, who plays Bennett’s devilishly handsome love interest) scored so low with critics and audiences alike, we can’t in good conscience recommend it. The DVD boasts cast and director interviews, though not even a box set’s worth of bonus features could have made this release watchable.
Next: Last House on the Left Collector’s Edition
Revisit Wes Craven’s 1972 horror exploitation classic (if you have the stomach for it) with a new Collector’s Edition, released just in time to coincide with next month’s remake. The disturbing tale of a band of rapists and murderers hunted by the parents of one of their own victims — itself an update of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring — earned its controversial reputation for portraying particularly grotesque sadism onscreen, though contrary to his assessment of the similarly-themed revenge thriller I Spit on Your Grave, critic Roger Ebert praised Last House as a guilty pleasure “on par with Night of the Living Dead.” Owners of previously-issued editions will find much of the same bonus menu materials, though new Craven interviews and select scenes have been added.
Next: The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice
Remember when Noah Wyle seemed poised for success in Hollywood? If his tenure as the world’s most resourceful librarian-turned-action hero is any indication, he’s totally made it to the big time. TNT’s made-for-TV film The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice hits DVD this week and is a must-have for you Librarian fans who already own the first two films (The Librarian: Quest for the Spear and The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines); you know who you are. This time around, Wyle heads to New Orleans in pursuit of a mystical chalice that will resurrect Dracula, falling for a smoking hot vamp (Stana Katic) along the way. Incidentally, The Librarian 3 is directed by actor-director Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek‘s Riker!), so if you’re any sort of self-respecting nerd, this is a must-own title.
Next: Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge
Those of you familiar with the first Pirates movie — and we’re not talking about Pirates of the Caribbean — will want to take a gander at its sequel, Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge; after all, who can resist owning not one, but two pornographic pirate adventure comedies re-cut to an R-rating? Director Joone picks up where he last left Jesse Jane and Evan Stone (who is surprisingly well endowed…with comic timing), while Sasha Gray and Belladonna join the cast. Porn stars acting! Who’d have thought that would ever be so entertaining…
Next: Akira Blu-ray
This week is not lacking in great new Blu-ray offerings, beginning with the high definition reissue of Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 anime classic about psychics in post-apocalyptic Tokyo. While its presentation isn’t perfect — the movie’s 30 years old — it sure beats standard definition, and boasts a newly-remastered 192khz/24-bit audio track. Expect, however, to be disappointed with the disc’s lack of bonus materials. Although a 32-page booklet and over 4000 high resolution storyboards are included, additional featurettes (including those previously released) are missing — because, amazingly, they simply couldn’t fit on the disc.
Next: The French Connection Blu-ray
There’s a lot to admire in director William Friedkin’s 1971 film, based on the true story of how a network of smugglers shipped heroin from France to New York City, the simplest admiration being that Friedkin pulled it off at all. In this week’s Blu-ray release of the multiple Academy Award-winning film, Friedkin, walking along the Brooklyn street where he filmed an integral car vs. train sequence, tells of how he shot the high speed chase with a stunt driver and no traffic control at all, weaving quite dangerously through the crowded streets to achieve what has since become celebrated as one of the best chase scenes ever shot. Although The French Connection suffers the negative side effect of older, grainy films given the high def treatment — dancing shadows, distracting at times — it’s still a wonder to behold, and one of the best to come out of the American New Wave. The title includes a commentary with Friedkin and stars Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider, plus new behind-the-scenes features.
Next: Vanishing Point Blu-ray
The 1971 cult classic Vanishing Point has long been a flick for movie geeks in the know, but it wasn’t until the biggest geek in Hollywood — Quentin Tarantino — name dropped it in Death Proof that a new generation of hipster movie buffs heard the name. If you’re one of said hipster movie buffs, then the Vanishing Point Blu-ray is simply a must-have; after all, if QT owns it, so should you! Vanishing Point stars Barry Newman as Kowalski, a former cop and current adrenaline junkie on an interstate road trip in a 1970 Dodge Challenger; a filmmaker commentary, new featurettes, in-movie trivia, the UK cut with ten minutes of additional footage and more are included.
Next: Four Flies on Grey Velvet DVD/Bird with the Crystal Plumage Blu-ray
Horror buffs and fans of stylized 1970s cinema should take note of our two favorite releases of the week: Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1972), and his earlier film The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970, on Blu-ray), two of the best thrillers of the Italian Grindhouse genre known as “giallo.” The tale of a rock ‘n roll drummer being driven mad by an unknown killer captures a 1970s European vibe with panache, thanks to Argento’s tense atmospherics, a score by Ennio Morricone, and one of the most memorable visual twists in movie history. Hard to find on home video for years, Four Flies is being released on DVD for the first time (we first watched it on a bootlegged copy).
Meanwhile, the folks at Blue Underground are bringing another celebrated Argento giallo to home video: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Argento’s first film as a director follows an American in Rome who witnesses an attempted murder but can’t quite piece together the details of what he saw; remastered from its original camera negative, Bird with the Crystal Plumage on Blu-ray also includes the U.S. and Italian trailers, interviews with Argento, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, composer Ennio Morricone, and actress Eva Renzi as well as a commentary with RT’s own Kim Newman!
Until next week, happy renting!
Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have long reigned as the Dark Princes of Schlock-Appreciation. They make movies for those who like it rough, sleazy and thrill-packed. Every dirty flicker in Death Proof and Planet Terror pays tribute to a thousand cheaply-produced fun-rides of perversion known as exploitation films. These often violent, and always sensational, flicks were pumped out for high-profits and thrills.
And this is not necessarily a bad thing.
Trash appreciation is a fine tradition amongst film lovers, as witnessed by the large number of grindhouse gems that are repeatedly dug from their filthy graves. These resurrected zombies of the film-world still walk amongst us today and RT pays tribute.
1) Reefer Madness
This little gem had an unlikely start in life. It was a Church-made morality tale about the evils
of cannabis. That is until exploitation director Dwain Esper got his grubby mitts
on it and with a bit of creative editing turned it into a camp, cult classic.
Now walks the earth as…
Not only is Reefer Madness still compulsive viewing in college dorms and share-houses the world over, it spawned its very own off-Broadway musical satire. Still not content to let it lie, Showtime turned that musical into a film, also called Reefer Madness, starring Kristen Bell and Alan Cumming.
Ladies and Gentlemen — welcome to violence. This Russ Meyer flick is what happens when angry young go-go dances go wild and it has everything a good little exploitation film could want: speed, sex and violent women.
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You can hardly walk past an art house retrospective without tripping over this one. It has made some reverberations in the rock world having been sampled and referenced by The Cramps, The Killers, White Zombie, and of course, metal band, Faster Pussycat. There have also been some rumours that Tarantino may have a crack at remaking it but this has not been confirmed.
This is a blaxploitation film with some pretty good pedigree. Isaac Hayes won an Academy Award in 1971 for “Theme from Shaft” and the film was box office lightning on release. It is the story of the coolest black detective in history on the search for the missing daughter of a
Now walks the earth as…
It spawned two ’70s sequels and a series of made-for-television movies. In 2000, director John Singleton brought the character back to life with his sequel, also entitled Shaft, starring Samuel L. Jackson. The original film has a place in the United States National Film Registry, preserved as a shining example of its genre.
4) Vanishing Point
Vanishing Point paid tribute to the 1970 Dodge Challenger in one of the great road trip films of the era. Car chases, hitchhikers and blind DJs are all a film really needed to find its way into the drive-ins of the early ’70s. This one was a surprising box-office hit and captured an audience on the look-out for marginalised American anti-heroes cruising the highways at great
Now walks the earth as…
Its re-make appeared in 1997 and was a little less successful. It starred Viggo_Mortensen and Jason Priestly. The original is still a staple in the DVD collections of those who love a grizzled anti-hero and Tarantino has called it one of the major influences for Death Proof.
5) Dawn of the Dead
George A. Romero’s sequel to Night of the Living Dead is violent, gory and worshipped by horror fans the world over. Not only does it pack a punch on the terror front but also carries powerful metaphors for human emotional and commercial behaviour. It was
critically acclaimed and a blow-away commercial success.
Now walks the earth as…
There are many cuts of Dawn of the Dead in existence, the most famous being Italian director, Dario Argento’s 118 minute version called Zombi. A Japanese version exists that is so violence-free that it is reviled by the purists and the extremely long German version, can inspire riots of hatred. A slightly sanitised American version appeared in 1983 to be shown along with Creepshow but the extraordinary backlash resulted in it being pulled from public viewing. Hong-Kong comedy spoof, Bio Zombie, appeared in 1998. Dawn of the Dead was remade (or re-imagined as many prefer due to its reworking of the original story) in 2004 by director, Zack Snyder. It also underwent another re-imagining two weeks later when Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg set their much loved Shaun of the Dead loose on the
6) Cannibal Holocaust
Ruggero Deodato holds the dubious honour of making one of the most graphic and controversial films in the genre. When the film was released in Italy he was immediately arrested for obscenity and held on suspicion of having made a snuff film due to the extreme graphic nature of the footage. He was released only when he was able to produce each actor alive and well. While it appears that the actors survived, many animals were slaughtered for his art.
Now walks the earth as…
Deodato is helping himself to some flesh-snacking seconds with his remake scheduled for release in 2009. It will be interesting to see if the director will match his original splash of controversy. It is safe to assume that animal welfare groups will have kept a fairly watchful eye over this set.
If Shaft was cool, Coffy was ice. Billed as the baddest one-chick-hit-squad on the block, this role of nurse turned vigilante catapulted Pam Grier to the position of Queen of the Blaxploitation pics.
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Coffy was mirror-imaged three years after its release as The Sexy Killer (Du Hou Mi Shi) by Hong Kong director, Sun Chung. Chung loved it so much that he knocked it out again in 1977 as Lady Exterminator (A-Sir du hou lao hu qiang). 1981 saw the release of the whitest rendition of a blaxploitation film ever in Lovely But Deadly starring none other than our very own Mark Holden. Strong traces of Coffy can also be found in Kill Bill Volume 1 and Kill Bill Volume 2
8) Foxy Brown
This film started production as a sequel to Coffy but that idea was dropped and Pam Grier was reborn as brown sugar and spice, Foxy Brown. Foxy, like Coffy, is one sexy woman set on revenge and nothing will stand in her way. Despite following Coffy, Foxy Brown is often credited as the film that set the scene for strong, black women to rule the Blaxploitation screen.
Now walks the earth as…
Every time a strong woman appears on screen fighting for the power of good and her loved ones, there is a little bit of Foxy running through her motivation. Tarantino worships at her feet in the Grier vehicle, Jackie Brown, and like Coffy, Foxy’s influence can be seen throughout the Kill Bills.
9) Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS
One of the more disturbing strands in the exploitation tail is the naziploitation film and Ilsa is the undisputed queen. Here she plays the warden of a Nazi death camp who performs horrendous and sexual experiments on her captors. One of the more intriguing elements of this movie is that it was filmed on the set of Hogan’s Heroes. Go figure.
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Ilsa had her share of sequels: Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks and Ilsa, the Tigress of Siberia. Ilsa, The Wicked Warden was also released under the titles Greta, The Mad Butcher and Wanda, the Wicked Warden. She has settled comfortably into the role of sadistic cult figure referenced in films, comics and videogames. Notably, she was an inspiration for video game, BloodRayne, and Rob Zombie’s Grindhouse trailer, Werewolf Women of the SS.
This Ross Meyer / Roger Ebert collaboration is B-grade gold. It tells the story of all-girl rock band, The Kelly Affair, and their descent into the decadence of Hollywood. Not to be confused in any way with the Valley of the Dolls, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is hedonistic satire a-go-go.
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Like many exploitation turned cult films, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls has grossed the lion share of its profits through DVD sales and the retro release circuit. This is one film that isn’t going anywhere fast. It is heavily referenced in the Austin Powers films and by rock acts with glam leanings the world over. The Village Voice included it in its 100 Greatest Films of the Century in 2001.
An honorable mention goes to the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes which is about to be remade by Kent Nichols and Douglas Sarine.
If you want more schlock, check out Rotten Tomatoes’ definitive Grindhouse A to Z special. In this era of filmmaking when the remake is king, you can be guaranteed that many more of these little treats will come crawling back from the dead, so do your homework and be prepared.
Video Ezy is offering a two for the price of one special. Rent Death Proof today and rent Planet Terror free.
The champagne flowed, the night was long, and a dragon flew about the Royal Courts of Justice. It could only have been the World Premiere of "Eragon," in London’s Leicester Square, and Rotten Tomatoes UK was there from the off; on the red carpet, at the pre-show cocktail party in the cinema and at the after-party at the aforementioned bastion of silly wigs.
Joining us on the guest list were a plethora of stars from the film and assorted Z-list Brittery affording us an opportunity to bump shoulders with the likes of Jeremy Irons, Robert Carlyle, Sienna Guillory, John Malkovich and, erm, Jono Coleman. But you can’t win ’em all.
But last night belonged to just one young man: Edward Speleers who plays the titular dragon-rider in the film. With friends, family and girlfriend in tow, he ran into us several times over the course of the evening, and each time we caught him with a slightly bigger grin on his face than the last. And yet as full of wide-eyed wonder as he might have been, when we finally harangued him into an interview there was no doubting how quickly he’d been picking up the craft. Though with Jeremy Irons at his side, that’s hardly surprising.
"It’s a one-off opportunity, basically, to work with someone like Jeremy," he told RT-UK, "and in many ways I guess I went to acting school. When you have Jeremy Irons playing your mentor you’re bound to learn a lot from him and he was a real father figure for me."
And for a good portion of filming he was alone on-screen with Irons; the addition of their third co-star, a twenty-foot dragon, to happen after shooting wrapped. Bringing Saphira to life might be one of the film’s proudest achievements, but getting to grips with the work-in-progress was a challenge, Speleers told us.
"It’s bizarre; it’s such an unnatural thing to be talking and acting with something that doesn’t exist" he said. "When you’re talking to a tennis ball it’s quite off-putting but then you realize, ‘Hang on, I’m working with this so-called tennis ball for months and months, I need to learn to enjoy it and to appreciate it.’ You go to the world of a nine year-old, basically, and just let your imagination go crazy and do the work for you."
Acting opposite an imaginary dragon didn’t present Speleers with his biggest challenge, though. That was reserved, he said, for working up the courage to watch the movie and brave the crowds at the premiere. "It’s overwhelming," he laughed. "I don’t think you can prepare yourself for this with the fans! But at the end of the day, I want to be an actor and it’s as simple as that. Everything else, if it comes with it, it’s a great bonus."
His co-star, the immensely beautiful Sienna Guillory, told RT-UK how impressed she was with Speleers’ natural gift for acting. "I did a film called "The Principles of Lust" before "Eragon" which is still one of my favourite acting experiences and most of the people were not actors and there was a genuine thing going on, you know, you can’t pretend," she told us, "And that’s what’s so brilliant about Ed’s talent; it’s raw and you don’t know what to expect."
And Ed wasn’t the only teenager to impress her in the "Eragon"-verse; the book’s young author, Christopher Paolini, is a prodigious talent, she says. "I was completely blown away by the book," she said, "I didn’t move for six hours; I just couldn’t put it down."
The party raged on until the early hours of this morning, the Royal Courts of Justice overtaken by giant projection screens throwing up clips from the film, a spotlight of a "Castlevania"-esque dragon-rider circling the hall and, naturally, a grand amount of media types. And we’re proud to report that we outlasted the best of them. Then woke up with very sore heads.