May 11, 2010

Rock 'n' Roll High School

Also this week: Daria, M, Edge of Darkness, Saturday Morning Cartoons

Highlight of the Week

Rock ’n’ Roll High School (Shout! Factory) Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Marky were not the only musicians considered to headline producer Roger Corman’s B-movie marvel. Cheap Trick, Todd Rundgren and Van Halen all came close to becoming catalysts in the destruction of Vince Lombardi High. While any of these rockers would have been preferable to the story’s original blueprint, Disco High, the awkward presence of the Ramones, relatively fringe artists at the time, cements this Animal House/Hard Day’s Night amalgam as a scrappy punk odyssey. Conceived by then-unknown filmmakers Joe Dante and Allan Arkush, fresh from co-directing the equally great Corman production Hollywood Boulevard, the undisciplined musical comedy not only featured the Ramones but also the charms of ’70s babe P.J. Soles. Part of a new line of remastered Corman classics, this pristine presentation marks the illustrious producer’s high-def debut. Stacked extras include four commentaries, interviews, retrospectives, a sweet booklet and more. 
Also Available
Daria: The Complete Animated Series (Paramount) “La la la laaa laaaaa.” (If you can make out that melody in print, colour us impressed.) All five seasons, plus two feature-lengthers, of one of MTV’s best series are included in this swell set. One caveat: the lack of originally broadcast tunes. The cost of reusing these tracks would have made this release unfeasible, so we have to suck it up and conform to the generic. Now that MTV is everything Daria Mogendorffer (voiced by someone who was not Janeane Garofalo, though everyone thought it was) stood against, pay sarcastic-student tribute by revisiting life in Lawndale circa 1997-2002. Extras: music vid, intros, Top 10 video countdown (sans videos) hosted by Daria ’n’ Jane, interviews, more.
M (Criterion, E1) Fritz Lang’s late expressionism/early noir masterpiece about a hunted child predator (played to harrowing effect by Peter Lorre) is considered among the best pieces of cinema ever made. Do not let this daunting pedigree distract from the exhilarating chase sequence. Frame for frame, M is the epitome of perfection, and it is now made somewhat more essential in blau. Extras: same as 2004’s superb standard-def reissue + newly discovered English-language version with an alternate finale.
Edge of Darkness (Warner) After seven years offscreen being an offensive filmmaker/newsmaker (Apocalypto was pretty dope, mind you), Mel Gibson the actor returns to play a cop avenging the grizzly death of his activist daughter in a corporate cover-up. Riggs — I mean, Gibson, is quite the vigilante, but the dude has played this type over and over. Adapting from his own TV series, director Martin Campbell is capable of keeping the pace, but the film hits a couple dry patches along the way. A serviceable eco-thriller with a few jarring acts of brutality, this is recommended as a one-time rental. Blu-ray extras: featurettes bonanza. 
Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s (Warner) Jinkies! Mr. T and Chuck Norris make live and animated appearances in this collection of 11 cartoon relics. With content ranging from memorable (Martin Short, you so crazy) to largely forgotten (nice to meet you, Monchhichis), there are nostalgic thrills and more than a few surreal surprises. Bust out the sugar-laced cereal and re-experience what it was like to be a child of the totally tubular ’80s. Extras: righteous retrospective on Thundarr the Barbarian.

The Karate Kid I & II (Sony) No joke, The Karate Kid holds up well thanks to Ralph Macchio’s credible performance as a bullied new kid who learns to paint fences and perform iconic, tournament-winning footwork. Not quite the winner its predecessor was, the sequel lacks the panache that made the first one a runaway success, but director John G. Avildsen (best known for the similarly structured Rockys I and V) returned for one more round with Karate Kid III, which is not included in this high-def twofer. Blu-ray extras: pop-up video factoids, worthy featurettes.

Lesbian Vampire Killers
 (Alliance) Shaun of the Dead meets Evil Dead meets, uh, Vampiros Lesbos in this Brit horror-com that pits horny boozers against a clan of killer lesbian vampires. Perhaps the pic would have fared better if it involved lesbians who kill vampires. Also: not to sound pervy, but where’s the flesh? Seriously. Why aren’t there boobs in this movie? Extras: commentary, making-of, webisodes, more.