Six-year-old Hushpuppy (fearless newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis) lives in the “Bathtub,” a southern Louisiana bayou community far removed from the civilized world. Her father Wink (Dwight Henry), a poor fisherman, keeps her at arm’s length but ensures her well-being within the cultural confines of their rough-and-tumble society. Seen through the eyes of the feisty Hushpuppy, the lines between myth and reality are blurred. An impending storm coincides with the melting of the arctic ice caps (and the thawing of some mythical creatures), which changes the world of the Bathtub forever. This heartbreaking little fable came out of nowhere last summer after building some positive buzz on the festival circuit. Shot on 16mm film for under $2 million, Beasts is a true independent film: a fiercely original and moving story that makes no apologies for its singular point of view.
Brazil (1985) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Now Available
Terry Gilliam’s gorgeous dystopian satire was appropriately honored with a three-disc set released by Criterion in ‘99. This is a truncated version of that amazing package, but it contains most of the supplemental material and, more important, a fully restored, high-definition version of Gilliam’s 142-minute director’s cut. His fascinating audio commentary has also been carried over from that three-disc set.
Special features include:
* Restored high-definition digital transfer of Terry Gilliam’s 142-minute director’s cut, supervised by Gilliam, with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 surround soundtrack
*Audio commentary by Terry Gilliam
* What Is “Brazil”?, a 30-minute on-set documentary by Rob Hedden
* The Battle of “Brazil”: A Video History, a 60-minute documentary by author and film writer Jack Mathews about the controversy surrounding the film’s release
* The Love Conquers All version of Brazil, a 94-minute cut of the film with commentary by Brazil expert David Morgan
* The Production Notebook, a collection of supplements from Gilliam’s personal collection: a short documentary on the screenplay, featuring interviews with screenwriters Gilliam, Charles McKeown and Tom Stoppard; Gilliam’s storyboards for unfilmed dream sequences, animated and narrated by Morgan; visual essays on the film’s production design and special effects; a visual essay on Brazil ’s costumes, narrated by costume designer James Acheson; and interviews with Gilliam and composer Michael Kamen on the score
* A booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt
Death Valley (1982) Shout Factory Blu-ray/DVD combo Available Now
Fondly remembered from its cable showings in the mid-1980s, this eccentric slasher film features a memorable performance from Paul Le Mat (who was just coming off of a celebrated turn in Melvin and Howard). While on vacation with his mom (Catherine Hicks) and her new boyfriend (Le Mat), young Billy (the wonderful Peter Billingsley) becomes the unlikely target of a serial killer. Written by Richard Rothstein (Human Experiments), Death Valley is a fun, if somewhat plodding, Hitchcock-light affair with a strong ensemble cast, including Wilford Brimley and Edward Herrmann. This Blu-ray/DVD combo release from Scream Factory is barebones, but it’s the first time the film has been given a respectable widescreen presentation.
Not to be confused with Fast Zombies with Guns, Gangsters is the latest in the seemingly endless cycle of apocalyptic zombie mayhem. This one is a UK import that merges organized crime clichés with even more shopworn comic zombie shenanigans. For horror fans who have never seen a zombie film before — surprises surely await!
This was the 17th(!!!) entry in the Godzilla franchise and a few years into a modern reboot by Toho Studios. Biollante is a hybrid monster created from rose (yes, the flower) and Godzilla DNA. So this particular entry is essentially about the awesome man-in-rubber-suit lizard fighting a monster flower(!!!). It’s one of the more entertaining entries from the past 20 years, exhibiting a goofy energy that recalls Godzilla’s exploits with the Smog Monster(!!!). Director Kazuki Omori would go on to helm Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah a couple of years later.
The Island (1980) Shout Factory Blu-ray/DVD combo Available Now
Another Scream Factory release that grew a steady cult following on cable, The Island was a huge box office disappointment for Universal Pictures in the summer of 1980. Based on Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel about modern-day pirates who rape and pillage wealthy yachters vacationing on the Caribbean, Benchley adapted the screenplay himself but wasn’t able to repeat the success of The Deep, a film he also adapted from his own work. Directed by the late, great Michael Ritchie of all people, The Island is a violent, bombastic piece that never delivers on its intriguing premise.
Lurid, campy and poorly constructed, the original Silent Night, Deadly Night is hardly the blood-fest that the controversy surrounding it would have you believe. Pulled from its original release after complaints that TV and print ads depicting an ax-wielding Santa were inappropriate, the film is mostly famous for its hasty exit from theaters. The most shocking aspect of Silent Night is that it was directed by family-friendly documentarian Charles Sellier Jr. (His In Search of Noah's Ark and In Search of the Historic Jesus were "four-wall" non-classics that made big money in the '70s.) Black Christmas it’s not, but it’s compelling trash that’s become a Yuletide favorite with horror fans. The “sequel” is a quick cash-in that mainly consists of footage from the original, told as a flashback by the brother of the first film's killer. Nonsensical and unnecessary, Part 2 has gained a small cult following thanks to the scenery chewing of lead Eric Freeman in the new footage.
V/H/S (2012) Magnolia Home Entertainment Blu-ray and DVD Available Now
In V/H/S, group of thugs are hired to break into an isolated house in the woods to retrieve a VHS tape. Searching through footage, they witness five separate vignettes of murder and mayhem. Ti West (House of the Devil), Adam Wingard (Autoerotic) and David Bruckner (The Signal) are just three of the genre names who contribute to the shaky proceedings. This “found footage” anthology film received some decent reviews during its limited theatrical release. As of yet there has been no mention of an actual VHS big box version of the film, which would seem to be an obvious tie-in.
Death Ship (1980) Scorpion Releasing Blu-ray and DVD Available Dec. 18th
The survivors of a sunken luxury cruise ship find refuge inside the large vessel that caused the crash. The cavernous, empty ship turns out to be a haunted Nazi torture vehicle, traveling the high seas in search of fresh victims. There’s not a lot of suspense in Alvin Rakoff’s ghost thriller, but it’s got a few creepy setpieces, a great location and a solid cast. Richard Crenna, George Kennedy, Nick Mancuso and Sally Ann Howes (Truly Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!) add some weight to the ghostly proceedings. Cinematographer Rene Verzier shot several popular genre titles, including The Little Girl that Lives Down the Lane and Rabid.
This kid hit from 1986 plays off the same wish fulfillment fantasy as The Last Starfighter, with “every boy” David (Joey Cramer) finding himself piloting an alien spacecraft. Paul Reubens supplies the voice of the ship, while Veronica Cartwright and Cliff De Young deliver some unexpectedly touching performances as David’s parents. The follow-up film of director Randal Kleiser (Grease) was navigating the wrong-headed mess that was Big Top Pee Wee (also with Reubens).