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The Shelf: “The Fog,” “The Devil’s Backbone,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation

by on July 30, 2013

Shelf July 30th

This week’s Blu-ray and DVDs have outings from some horror masters, a couple of trips into the final frontier, a return visit to the General Infantry, and the fastest man in the world in an alternate dimension. Are you intrigued? Continue to be so!

The Fog

John Carpenter is one of my favorite directors of all time and had an impressive string of genre favorites between 1978 and 1987 with things like Halloween, The Thing, and Escape From New York. Those, it could be said, are his A-list movies, but there’s a whole lot of excellent ones that people tend not to remember, at least not as fondly. The first of these is 1980′s The Fog, his follow-up to Halloween and a re-team with cinematographer Dean Cundey, a partnership that garnered the best results. In contrast to the stalk-and-slash Michael Myers flick, The Fog is a slow-build ghost story, wherein a bunch of angry pirate apparitions enclose on the quiet coastal community of Bodega Bay because of some past wronging. The terrific cast includes Adrienne Barbeau as the sultry-voiced local disc jockey, Tom Adkins as a heroic drifter, Jamie Lee Curtis as the hitchhiker he picks up, Hal Holbrook as the guilty priest, and Janet Leigh as the mayor. The fantastic makeup effects are done by Rob Bottin, who would go on to work on Joe Dante’s The Howling and Carpenter’s own The Thing.

Shout Factory’s Scream Factory imprint continues to impress with its handling of classic ’80s horror and sci-fi. In addition to the Cundey-supervised 1080p HD transfer, the Blu-ray features commentary by John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill, commentary by Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, and production designer Tommy Lee Wallace, an interview with Jamie Lee Curtis, some vintage making-of featurettes, a look at the film’s locations, outtakes, and theatrical trailers. This is another very worthy entry into the Carpenter canon that finally gets some home video respect.

The Devil’s Backbone

In 2001, Guillermo del Toro had only directed two films, the pseudo-vampire flick Cronos and the giant-bug failure Mimic, which the director himself admits was a disaster. His third feature, del Toro says, he counts as his first film, and it really is marvelous and touching.

At the tail end of the Spanish Civil War, with the last vestiges of the Republic attempting to hold off the oncoming Fascist regime, a young boy is dropped off at a boy’s school in the middle of the desert. The war is never far from anyone’s mind: In the center of the courtyard is an unexploded bomb sticking out of the ground, fallen from an overhead airplane. Almost immediately, he sees glimpses of a spectral figure of a boy, all translucent and with a plume of blood from a gash in his head. The new boy attempts to get to the bottom of things while the school’s grown-ups all have sad and resentful interactions. This movie is a companion piece with his later Pan’s Labyrinth, as both explore the brutal reality of Fascism on children while still being ostensibly fantastical stories. While the director has proven he’s a master of special effects with the Hellboy movies and the recent Pacific Rim, it’s movies like these that prove he doesn’t need much to tell an effective story.

This is a Criterion release, so you get top-notch picture and sound as well as a host of great extras. These include a commentary by del Toro from the 2004 DVD release, a 2010 video introduction, a brand new interview, a 2004 making-of documentary, deleted scenes, an interview with scholar Sebastian Faber about the film’s depiction of the Spanish Civil War, and a really wonderful essay in the package’s booklet by famed critic and horror aficionado Mark Kermode. This makes an excellent companion to Criterion’s Cronos release last year, and the number on the spine is 666. You can’t beat that.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

After a less than stellar first film, then several months of retrofitting a sequel into 3D, G.I. Joe: Retaliation was released and it was… a lot better than you might think. Scrapping most of the original cast except Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, and a small (though initially much smaller) appearance from Channing Tatum’s Duke, Retaliation boasts perennial sequel star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Roadblock, as well as the king of action movies, Bruce Willis, as G.I. Joe himself. If you’re a fan of the comics or the cartoon, this is much truer to what you remember than Rise of Cobra, which may as well have been called G.I. Not Anything.

If you’d like some more information about G.I. Joe: Retaliation, check out Nerdist’s interviews with director John Chu and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four – Paramount continues to deliver with an excellent HD-transfer of TNG, this time out with an exploration into the family and love lives of the Enterprise crew. Hours and hours of extras make this a real must-have for fans of the show.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Redemption – As was done with “The Best of Both Worlds,” this is a feature-film cut of the Season Four cliffhanger and Season Five premiere. Klingons, baby!

The Incredible Melting Man – A very dumb movie about an astronaut who returns after an accident turning evermore into Mr. Soppy GobFace, who kills people in a horrible fashion as he melts. While the film is not very good, the makeup and gore effects are by the legendary Rick Baker and are really fantastic. Have a bunch of friends over to riff on it and you’ll have a great time.