This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: Divergent, Community, Need for Speed
This week: Dig into some Divergent, the almost-last season of Community, and the better-than-usual spook flick Oculus.
► As Dennis Miller once told me, “everything just begets something else.” ‘Twilight’ beget ‘The Hunger Games,’ which now begets DIVERGENT. Based on the Veronica Roth trilogy of books, it offers up another shitty future where we’re all confined to districts based on our personality traits. But when one teen (Shailene Woodley) shows attributes in several factions, she’s deemed a threat by the government because she can think independently. Made some decent coin, so expect the full trilogy to be made.
► One of the few horror flicks to earn some critical respect this year, OCULUS may have a clichéd premise - a haunted mirror – but its creepy sense of dread and solid cast, led by Katee Sackhoff, made a tidy profit on just a $5 million budget. The story follows two timelines 11 years apart, as a couple are driven to madness shortly after an antique mirror is brought home. Later, their grown kids aim to prove the mirror is responsible for their deaths by setting up video cameras to catch it doing scary shit. Turns out, that wasn’t a great plan.
► Just when we were finished mourning COMMUNITY, it gets zombiefied by the on-demand streaming service Yahoo! Screen. Everything from here on is pure bonus, because the show bounced back nicely in Season 5 for what we presumed was its proper send-off. Showrunner Dan Harmon is back, Chevy Chase is out, and the Greendale gang got back to basics. Instant classics include ‘Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’ – sequel to the show’s all-time best episode, IMO – and ‘Cooperative Polygraphy,’ in which the gang takes a polygraph test as part of Pierce’s will. Not so great? Troy (Danny Glover) leaving after five episodes. Season 6 does not bode well without him.
► That’s a wrap on CALIFORNICATION, which stuck around maybe three seasons too long (something David Duchovny has been through before). For his seventh and final trip through the sin bin, chronic fuck-up Hank Moody goes all-in to win back his ex Karen (Natasha McElhone) while taking stock of what a man-child he has been. All with plenty of the usual raunch, mind you. Whatever it’s failings in recent years, the final scene - set to ‘Rocket Man’ - was a superb send-off. Heather Graham, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Michael Imperioli join the party before it ends.
► For you younglings, let me tell you something about the ‘70s: After ‘Jaws,’ Hollywood went animal crazy. Movies about killer dogs, killer piranhas, killer alligators, killer…uh, killer whales. But none were as blatant or awesome as GRIZZLY, virtually a complete remake substituting the shark for a bear. Right down to the forest ranger (Christopher George) trying to shut down a national park before tourist season after some hikers are killed. The sheer gall of its unoriginality is something to behold, but in the post ’Jaws’ world of 1976 it was still a hit. Weird fact: There was a 1985 sequel starring Charlie Sheen, George Clooney and Laura Dern which was never finished because funds ran out.
► Always overlooked in the Brian DePalma vault is his gonzo 1974 cult classic musical PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, a rock opera/horror flick that’s all ‘70s, all the time. Paul Williams (who also did the Oscar-nominated score) plays a record producer tormented by the disfigured singer (William Finley) he screwed over. Spiffy new Shout! Factory edition includes new interviews with DePalma and Williams, a tonne of alternate takes and a documentary on the making of the film. For some bizarre reason, the only city this movie was a success in was Winnipeg, where it played off and on in theatres until 1976.
► If recent releases ‘Heaven is for Real’ and ‘Noah’ got you feelin’ the spirit, GOD’S NOT DEAD is this week’s sermon. Shane Harper is a Christian college student who refuses to admit ‘God is Dead’ in order to pass a philosophy class taught by an atheist (Kevin Sorbo). He’s then required to debate the matter, with classmates deciding the winner. Oh, the heavy handed crap that follows. There’s a reason the teacher hates God, and it’s not because he created tarantulas (seriously, Big Guy, what were you thinking with that?). Dean Cain plays an atheist asshole, which is hard to do because Dean Cain is one of the nicest guys ever. This was made for $2 million and has collected $62 million worldwide.
► Based on the video game we’ve all played until dawn at least once, NEED FOR SPEED has Aaron Paul as a street racer who zooms across the country to avenge his buddy’s death at the hands of a rival racer. Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots and Dakota Johnson are along for the ride. Went nowhere stateside, but for some reason was a huge hit in China.
Also out this week:
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SO WHAT DVD/BLU-RAYS ARE YOU GUYS STOKED ABOUT THIS WEEK?!