This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: End of Watch, The Paperboy, Death Race 3 ...
This week: Cops with cameras in End of Watch, more sequels for Death Race and Universal Soldier, and the blissful (and maybe Oscar-winning) documentary about a long-forgotten folk singer:
► END OF WATCH is an odd little ‘found footage’ flick in that it jumps from the handheld footage to a standard format with little explanation. But the effect is still potent, as director David Ayer (screenwriter for ‘Training Day’) made one of last year’s most gutwrenching police dramas. The plot is standard ‘cops vs. gangbangers’ stuff, but Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are outstanding as young partners facing the gangs head-on knowing full well they may not return home some night.
► Like 2012 wasn’t great enough for Matthew McConaughey, THE PAPERBOY is just piling it on. Based on the Pete Dexter novel, he plays a reporter who re-examines the case of an inmate on death row for killing a corrupt sheriff. Yes, this is the movie in which Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron. No, she didn’t get an Oscar nomination either.
► The documentary SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN is the pretty friggin’ amazing story of forgotten ‘70s folk singer Sixto Rodriguez, who went back to work as a demolition worker after his career fizzled. Decades later he becomes freakishly popular in South Africa, leading two Cape Town fans on a search for him. This might be the frontrunner for this year’s Best Documentary Oscar.
► ‘The Expendables 2’ wasn’t enough for the trio of Jean Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren and Scott Adkins last year. They also cranked out UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING, which relied less on its original stars to put more emphasis on newcomer Adkins. He plays a grieving family out to kill the UniSol (Van Damme) who murdered his family. Van Damme, meanwhile, has gathered the troops to create a new world order. The violence gets excessive, and fans weren’t happy how much this deviated from the rest of the series.
► The early ‘80s were a lousy time for horror movies because of all the slasher rip-offs, but every so often a weird nugget like DEADLY BLESSING emerged. Wes Craven (about to enter his prime) directs this forgotten 1981 thriller about the strange things tormenting a woman (‘Battlestar Galactica’s Maren Jensen, who never made another movie after this) who lives near a cult called the Hittites. One of Sharon Stone’s first movies, memorable only for the spider that crawls into her mouth.
► Todd Rohal’s NATURE CALLS clearly wants to be a crude cult movie, but just look at that Blu-ray cover. Is that not something you’d pop in for the kids? Look, it has a cute raccoon! Patton Oswalt plays a scout leader who borrows (er, kidnaps) the kids at a sleepover party for the newly-adopted son of his brother (Johnny Knoxville). This was the last film appearance by Patrice O’Neal.
► The original ‘Death Race’ took years to become a cult classic. The remake is now onto its second sequel. For DEATH RACE 3, Frankenstein (Luke Goss) needs to survive one more race in the Talahari desert to win his freedom. People die. Shit explodes. It’s a direct-to-DVD sequel to an already lousy movie, adjust expectations accordingly. Of course Danny Trejo is in this.
► The documentary BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING gets inside the head of Wayne White, the oddball puppeteer on ‘Pee Wee’s Playhouse’ who went on to make iconic videos for Peter Gabriel and Smashing Pumpkins. A feel-good flick about the joyful process of creating something – anything – and setting it free in the world. Says White: “Do what you love … it’s gonna lead to where you want to go.”
Also out this week:
SO WHAT DVD/BLU-RAYS ARE YOU GUYS STOKED ABOUT THIS WEEK?!