September 16, 2009

Classroom Films! Volume 1

Also this week: An American Werewolf in London, The Wolf Man, Stella: Live in Boston, Phantasm II, Wolverine

Highlight of the Week

Classroom Films! Volume 1 (Trash Palace) From the vault of Toronto’s classiest cinema proprietor Stacey Case comes two hours of surreal schooling by way of bizarro shorts such as “Teacher, Lester Bit Me,” “Truckers for Christ,” “The Boo Boo Monster” and my personal fave, “Red Light Green Light.” Those who frequent Case’s venue, Trash Palace, should recognize a few of these titles, whose off-kilter charms are best experienced in-house alongside a fairly buzzed Friday night crowd. Yet it’s also great fun spending a somewhat less trashy evening on your couch with Case and co-host The Mouth in two-dimensional attendance. You have to go the Palace to purchase this DVD, so flip to our Special Screenings section (page 25) for more info on how to do that. Extras: intros and outros to put you in (and out?) of the mood. 

Also Available

An American Werewolf in London (Universal) Many came before it and even more followed in its wake, but no werewolf flick struck the chord that John Landis’ did nearly 30 years ago with its distinct blend of humour and horror — mostly thanks to his playful script, witty soundtrack (every song contains the word “moon”) and still-astonishing makeup effects by Rick Baker. This Full Moon Edition may feel like a cash-grab, but fresh supplements have bite. Extras: new feature-length doc, featurettes, actors’ commentary, interviews and more. 

The Wolf Man (Universal) Need more wolf to satisfy those hunger pangs in advance of the dull-looking reboot due in theatres Feb. 2010? Check out the granddaddy of ’em all, a key entry in Universal’s monster horror heyday from the ’30s and ’40s. Here’s the math: Lon Chaney Jr. > any other wolf man before or since. As with our above-mentioned full-moon frightener, this is the umpteenth version to hit shelves and, likewise, the A/V’s been upgraded and new goodies deliver. Extras: film historian commentary, six featurettes (one narrated by Kenneth Branagh).    

Stella: Live in Boston (Shout! Factory) As a huge fan of everything David, Michael and Michael (the troupe’s The State was recently featured as the Highlight of the Week), I regret to report that this live act doesn’t hold a candle to Stella’s psychedelic sketch comedy. Don’t let that dissuade you altogether: this release comes equipped with extensive extras, including six episodes from Stella’s respective web series and additional onstage antics.  

Phantasm II (Universal) Someone’s finally taken the time to release this in North America, seeing that the other instalments have been available for years. While not as groundbreaking as its predecessor, this sequel ranks second in the four-part saga, featuring a four-barrelled shotgun and a climax that’s just as mind-fuckingly bonkers as the original’s. Extras: meh — trailer. 

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Fox) We end our lupine theme with the worst wolf of the pack: not even the action is entertaining in this needless prequel to the once excellent comic-turned-movie franchise. When director Bryan Singer jumped ship, the  franchise followed suit. For a better treatment of wolverines and a reminder what the late Patrick Swayze could bring to a paranoid bit of Cold War propaganda, locate a copy of Red Dawn instead. Extras: two commentaries, worthwhile interview with Stan Lee and Len Wein, making-of, deleted scenes.