August 11, 2010

Piranha/Humanoids From the Deep

Also this week: Louie Bluie, Crumb, Kill Bill, Scream Trilogy

Highlights of the Week

Piranha/Humanoids From the Deep (Shout! Factory) Summer may be in full swing, but think twice before taking a dip. After all, you might find yourself devoured by genetically enhanced piranhas or raped by mutant fish-men. He’s ripped-off Alien and The Road Warrior, but with these two clever creature-features swimming onto DVD and Blu-ray, schlockmeister Roger Corman takes on what was arguably the seminal summer blockbuster: Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Released three years after, 1978’s Piranha is a cheeky yet respectful nod to Spielberg’s gem (it’s telling that Spielberg stopped Universal from suing the pants off Corman) and the film’s awesomeness owes a lot to the talented hand of writer John Sayles and director Joe Dante. Next up is the uncut release of 1980’s Humanoids From the Deep, which takes a little more time to impress, but soon hits the perfect stroke. More Creature from the Black Lagoon than Jaws, I’m fairly certain the latter was the culprit behind Humanoids’ seaside-town setting. Both films are being released individually, but seeing them together makes for the ultimate warm-up for next week’s gore-tastic Piranha 3D. Extras: commentaries, interviews, buckets of featurettes, more goodies. 

Also Available

Louie Bluie/Crumb (Criterion, eOne) I can’t stress enough how much of a luxury it is for a film to get an initial DVD release on Criterion. The first film of Terry Zwigoff (the guy who directed Ghost World, for the uninformed), Louie Bluie, is finally available to see and love. If that’s not good enough, his breakthrough follow-up Crumb is being released in unison. Both are incredibly original biographical documents of eccentric artists. Louie Bluie tells the story of Howard Armstrong, a little-known country-blues musician/illustrator. Incidentally, drawing is what ties these two films together. Zwigoff’s spellbinding portrait of underground American cartoonist Robert Crumb is one of the best and most bizarre docs out there. Both films tackle race, sexuality and the idiosyncratic lifestyles of their respective subjects with an intimate eye that remains unrivalled. While they often enter dark and loopy territory, each is a mesmerizing representation of an immensely fascinating man. Fans of Zwigoff’s narrative output will be pleased to find his personal brand of deadpan fully intact. Extras: commentaries, loads of unused footage, stills gallery, art and essays.   

Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 (Alliance) The world is still holding out for a definitive director’s cut that combines both volumes into one arterial-sprayed epic, but this wallet-friendly, high-def release should placate that craving a little longer. Being that volumes one and two are located on a single disc, viewers are challenged to shuffle chapters to uncover a linear chronology in Tarantino’s blood-splattered mix-up. Extras: none, so I strongly recommend checking out some of the film’s outlandish influences, starting with Lady Snowblood, Shogun Assassin andThriller: A Cruel Picture.

Scream Blu-ray Collection (Alliance) Has it’s been nearly 15 years since Drew Barrymore got sliced and diced Janet Leigh–style in Wes Craven’s meta-slasher? Things were so much simpler then: movies in 2-D, Skeet Ulrich poised to be the next Johnny Depp, no Saw films. Scream actually holds up considerably well, and I now feel less inclined to trash its mediocre sequel. But Scream 3 remains a tonally ham-fisted parody that frequently borders on unwatchable. Nevertheless, it’s time we revisited this tepid trilogy, at least just to get pumped for the forthcoming reboot. It may be hit-and-miss, but the series as a whole is so endearingly retro that it’s actually earned a new-found sense of post-post-cool. The first instalment was never released in proper widescreen, so this high-def reissue (in 1080i, therefore not full HD) is somewhat of a revelation. Considering this week’s triple dose of double bills, a series marathon makes for a nice denouement. Extras: so ’90s.