June 1, 2010

Class of Nuke ’Em High

Class of Nuke ’Em High (Troma) Ah, Lloyd Kaufman, the man who gave us such illustrious icons as ToxieSgt. Kabukiman and Tromeo & Juliet; in Troma’s glory days, Kaufman could have almost been likened to a raunchier Roger Corman. Here is one of his finest relics in highfalutin high-def. Set in the tattered academic halls of Tromaville, a gang called the Cretins peddle radioactive doobies to their classmates, one of whom orally expels her unwanted mutant baby down the school’s toilet, where it grows into a giant, revenge-seeking man-bug thing. If you like your comedy crass and your sleaze extra sleazy, you will find much to love with the widescreen director’s cut of this ’80s retro oddity that blends sci-fi, comedy and horror with grungy glee. Featuring to-this-day nifty effects and an infectious theme song, the film looks and sounds shockingly solid on Blu (or as Kaufman so aptly brands it, Brown-ray). Extras are the same as before: we get Kaufman commentary, lost scenes and a few more goodies. 

Also Available 

Stagecoach (Criterion, E1) After a long string of B westerns, John Wayne made his acting mark in John Ford’s legendary Stagecoach. As the tough but noble Ringo Kid, Wayne became one of Hollywood’s biggest players and never looked back. For its time, this was the most groundbreaking western ever produced. You don’t have to dig westerns to get wrapped up in the film’s spectacular horseback action pieces, colourful ensemble cast and watertight narrative. No surprise here, Criterion’s Blu-ray looks gobsmackingly purdy in addition to being stacked with choice extras like Ford’s little-seen 1917 silent, Bucking Broadway, a dense 1968 interview with Ford, an appreciation by Peter Bogdanovich and lots more. Yee-haw!

Hoarders: Season One (A&E, E1) A&E’s series about the repulsively unkempt living conditions people endure is a gruelling thing to sit through. Like a violent train wreck, you cannot pull away from witnessing a grown woman cry over tossing away two-year old yogurt. As you marathon all seven 45-minute episodes, the show’s unpredictable outcomes satisfy, but those overindulgent editing motifs and gaudy music cues start to irritate by the end of hour one. Still, this comes highly recommended for those who enjoy reality television at its most pitiful. At the very least, you will be very pleased with your comparatively less rotting habitat. Extras: additional footage.

Escape from L.A. (Paramount) Welcome to 1997! After escaping New York — not to mention rescuing the US president — one-eyed hero Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell, who else?) is on his way to serve some hard time… again. That is, unless he can retrieve a world-threatening black box from a maniacal inmate. What we have here is an entirely tolerable follow-up to John Carpenter’s (helming once again) far superior 1981 cult gem, where post-apocalyptic grittiness has been substituted with post-apocalyptic goofiness. Snake and Pipeline (a character Peter Fonda was born to play) actually surf the streets and there’s even an awkward high-five. Paramount’s high-def release does a swell job on the AV front, but in terms of extras, they only give us the trailer, which is actually fairly rad.

War of the Worlds (Paramount) With the high-def release of this film, and last month’s Minority Report, two thirds of Spielberg’s unofficial sci-fi trilogy from the aughts are seeing the crystal-clear light of day. Very loosely based on H.G. Wells’ legendary novel, we get some terrifically creepy visuals that were made to be seen in Blu, but the story doesn’t feel any less sloppy than it did five summers ago. I’m OK with Tom Cruise singing “Little Deuce Coupe,” but they really dropped the ball with that embarrassingly hokey coda. Fortunately, Spielberg rebounded that same year with his edgiest yet, Munich. Now there is a title worth upgrading. Extras: same as the two-disc standard edition.

Checking Out (Alliance) “Why don’t Italians like barbeques?” is the last thing Jeff Daniels’ character hears his best bud say before dying from a heart attack mid–crappy joke. Thus, he becomes insanely paranoid about his own mortality. Over the past 30 years, George Harrison’s British distribution company, HandMade Films, put out dozens of gems like Withnail and I and How to Get Ahead in Advertising. This is not one of those gems, but it’s a serviceable, if hopelessly broad, satire directed by the guy who wrote Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa. Also, “the spaghetti drops right through the grill.” Yeeesh. Extras: checked out.