The Shelf: “Evil Dead,” “Orphan Black,” “Regular Show,” “42″
by Kyle Anderson on July 16, 2013
Some excellent Blu-rays and DVDs this month, covering everything from cloning to baseball to possession to slacking to super powers to murder to city life to time travel. Really, when you think about it, what other things are there in the entire world worth watching?
How exactly do you go about remaking one of the most iconic and important horror films of the last 30 years? Well, having the original filmmakers’ blessing certainly helps. There have been many such remakes of classic ’70s and ’80s fright flicks, and for every one that succeeds (I quite liked Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes), there are many that just fail miserably (Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street were both garbage with a capital “Guh”). So, I, being a worshipper at the altar of Sam Raimi’s original The Evil Dead, was understandably skeptical of Fede Alvarez’s reboot/remake/rehash/reimagining/re-whatever it is people like to call it these days to not sound bad. I’m pleased to say, it really delivers as both a horror film and as a follow-up (or redo, it’s hard to say for sure) of the original franchise.
In this go-round, the action centers on Mia (Jane Levy), a drug-addicted girl whose friends and brother take her up to a cabin in the woods to try to get her off the junk. Naturally, she’s the first one to get possessed when the smart-though-awfully-idiotic friend finds and reads from a book bound in human flesh. Word to the wise: if you find a book bound in human flesh, maybe don’t go looking for recipes. The movie then becomes a pretty spot-on allegory to the stages of kicking addiction but it’s still got gore to spare as at one point it literally begins to rain blood. People might complain about the lack of deliberate or incidental humor in the film, something which Raimi couldn’t help but have due to his love of slapstick comedy, but some parts toward the end are pretty chuckle-and-cringe worthy. Besides, Cabin in the Woods already exists, so going the other way into real horror is a good idea.
The Blu-ray/Digital Copy pack has a bunch of featurettes and a commentary by Alvarez and the cast. If you’re a fan of the originals, this one will not fail to make your chainsaw-loving heart race.
I’m going to admit something to you guys: I didn’t watch Orphan Black while it was airing. I know, it’s right after Doctor Who on BBC America; how hard would it have been to just keep watching until The Nerdist came on? I don’t know why I didn’t watch it, but it just never seemed that interesting to me. Well, I’m here to tell you, I’m a big huge dummy head. Orphan Black is one of the freshest and best science fiction series I’ve seen in who knows how long. Every episode has all the intrigue and mystery-building that you could possibly want as you uncover things along with the main character. I binge-watched the Blu-ray in about 5 days.
For those who don’t know, Orphan Black follows Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany), a young lady from England living in Toronto who has had a lot of trouble with the law, thanks in no small part to her drug dealer ex-boyfriend. While waiting for a train one night, she sees a woman looking distressed and upon further investigation sees that the woman looks exactly like her. This shock only lasts a moment before Sarah sees her jump in front of the oncoming train, killing herself instantly. Sarah assumes the woman (named Beth Childs)’s identity and finds and even weirder web as more people who look like her start crossing paths with her. The show’s about cloning, if you hadn’t guessed.
The show would not work as well as it does if not for two factors: 1) the fantastic writing and 2) the beyond-superb performances by Maslany. She is… Words fail me in trying to describe how astonishing her portrayals of all the clones are. Each one is so different and has nuances and quirks of their own to the point where they really do feel like different people and not just the same girl in different costumes. She won a Critic’s Choice Award already, and I can only hope she gets more accolades, because, truthfully, she’s exactly what television needs.
Not a whole lot of extras on the Blu-ray, but a few featurettes and interviews and even the segment about the show from The Nerdist. If you haven’t seen this show, it needs to be bumped up to the top of whatever list of television programs you have. It’s great, is what I’m saying.
One of the weirdest and most enjoyable 12-minute cartoons on TV, J.G. Quintel’s Regular Show has a six-foot-tall blue jay named Mordecai and a tiny raccoon named Rigby trying to do whatever they can not to work at their job in a park run by Benson, a living gumball machine. Also, a crazy lollipop named Pops, a Yeti named Skips, and a creepy guy named Muscle Man are there, too. Their misadventures involve things like trying to get extra money to go to a concert, foiling a giant video game devil head, and saving Skips from losing his immortality. The word “surreal” comes to mind. It’s a delight.
This Blu-ray and DVD set contains all 40 episodes from the show’s first two seasons plus a whole heap of extras, including storyboards, animatics, pencil tests, music videos, and commentaries on every single episode. It’s a hell of a good time sitting on your butt.
Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford star in writer-director Brian Helgeland’s baseball biopic 42 about Jackie Robinson, the very first African American player to join the Major League, on the Brooklyn Dodgers. Naturally, it being 1947, a whole lot of people had a problem with it. The film explores the stories behind the story of the giant step forward in sports equality. Special Features include three featurettes about the history behind the movie and the legacy Jackie Robinson had on baseball and sports in general.
For more on 42, read our interview with actor John C. McGinley, whose performance as radio announcer Red Barber is a major highlight of the film. And if you’d like a chance to win a copy of 42 for yourself, enter our giveaway right here.
Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited 1-4 – This is great for anyone who wants to get into the classic series of Doctor Who but doesn’t know where to start. This set contains the first four BBC America specials looking at the various Doctors, and includes a 25-minute retrospective of their era with interviews from the likes of Steven Moffat and David Tennant. Each also includes a complete classic story in both its feature-length omnibus version and its individual episode version. The First Doctor has “The Aztecs,” the Second Doctor has “The Tomb of the Cybermen,” the Third Doctor has “Spearhead From Space,” and the Fourth Doctor has “Pyramids of Mars.” All four are excellent places to start with their respective Doctors. A treat for new series fans who want to delve deeper.
Misfits Season 3 – The complete third season of Britain’s comedy-drama about young people in community service who get super powers thanks to a freak lightning storm. This season introduces Joseph Gilgun’s Rudy, who might well be the funniest character in sci-fi at the moment.
Heavy Traffic – Animator Ralph Bakshi’s 1973 film about a young cartoonist in New York named Michael Corleone who has to contend with some very bizarre and dark things as he attempts to make it. As per Bakshi’s usual style, there’s a mixture of live-action, traditional animation, and rotoscoping, and there’s also a lot of swearing and nudity. You’d like it.
Black Sabbath - The film from which Ozzy Osbourne’s band got its name, this portmanteau horror flick from Maestro of the Macabre Mario Bava pushed buttons in 1963 for its depiction of lesbianism. The stories include a creepy vampire yarn starring Boris Karloff, a thriller about a woman’s ex returning to kill her, and a nurse who’s haunted by the ghost of the medium from whom she stole a ring.
Kidnapped – Another from Mario Bava. This one’s a crime thriller about three bank robbers who take a young woman, a middle-aged man, and a child hostage following a botched job.