Odd mix of releases this week and a few of the bigger ones haven’t come my way yet. I’ll review what I’ve gotten so far and I’ll start with the best, Maniac. This isn’t about the show by the same name on Netflix. This isn’t about the remake. This is about the original 1980 horror cult classic. This is a 3-disc limited edition 4K restoration (from the original camera negative) set that has only 10,000 copies available! If you are a horror fan you’ve seen the film or at least you should have. I hadn’t seen it in years so it was cool catching up with it especially looking so good. The restoration is solid but the film still has some grit to it which you want. If you aren’t familiar with the film it’s pretty nuts. Frank is a maniac (pun intended) who goes around killing people and scalping women. He suffered trauma as a child and talks to himself and thinks it’s his mother. He lives alone and hunts at night sticking women’s hair on mannequins. It’s a messed up movie with a good score, great kills and an even better performance by Joe Spinell as Frank. It’s a cult classic for sure and a go to slasher flick for anyone bringing up top slasher movies. Tom Savini did the special effects and even appears in the film. This release is THE version to own with disc one containing the film plus bonus features including commentary and more. Disc two is even more bonus features including outtakes, interviews and other features. Disc 3 is the film’s soundtrack on CD. Plus this set comes with a lenticular slipcover. If you are a fan of the film, put away any versions you have of it and get this new restored limited edition package, it’s quite impressive.
Sticking with older films with new releases, next is De Niro & De Palma: The Early Films. This 2 disc set features 3 films from Director Brian De Palma and Oscar winner Robert De Niro. The three films – The Wedding Party, Greetings and Hi, Mom! – have been newly restored for this release. I hadn’t seen any of the films but knew of them from the Brian De Palma documentary from a few years ago. The Wedding Party is a black & white film with De Niro in a supporting role. Greetings is a New York City movie with 3 friends trying to get out of going to Vietnam and is also the first to receive an X certificate in the United States. Hi, Mom! sees De Niro’s voyeur from Greetings as a filmmaker working with a porno producer. Hi, Mom! is the best of the 3 and has more of a narrative than the rest of the bunch. De Niro’s character is filming the building from across the street and becomes obsessed with one of the women there. The Wedding Party wants to be more slapstick-y and opens with people riding and falling off a car. Greetings is a full movie, but seems more like a student film to me at least. All 3 films have been restored from a 2K scan and they come with tons of bonus features. You could see De Niro had something to him and if you are a fan of De Palma, you do see some of his trademark filmmaking as well.
Third we have Un Traductor, a film based on a true story in Cuba. I had no idea the Soviets sent patients to Cuba after Chernobyl. It’s about a Cuban professor who teaches Russian literature but is forced to be an interpreter for Russians in Cuba going through medical procedures caused by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. As an American it’s weird having to root for Cubans and Soviets in a movie but it is children the man has to help. Their parents need to be able to talk to Cuban doctors so it makes sense they would need a translator. The lead actor is good and the direction is good as well. It’s not as heavy as a drama as it sounds despite having dying kids. I mean it’s a heavy subject but the film isn’t slow or overly depressing. It sucks the guy lost his job and was forced to do something he didn’t want to do (hooray socialism!) but he was helping sick kids. Solid movie overall.
Next is this week’s Asian fantasy flick (we do seem to get them at least weekly). This one is Along With The Gods: The Last 49 Days. I watched Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds back in April and didn’t really understand it but liked the visuals. I can pretty much say the same exact thing for this one. The series is about going through trials to be reincarnated and this one gives some backstory about those who aid in the trials going back a 1000 years. Dong-seok Ma from Train to Busan is great in it as are the visuals, costuming and set design. Again, I may not have a clue what’s actually happening, but I love the visuals and effects. This one seemed to have more action beyond the trials than the first one or at least from what I remember.
Instinct Season One is next and it finds Alan Cumming as a former CIA operative pulled back into the life by the NYPD to help stop a serial killer. Cumming’s character had gotten out of that line of work and was a professor and writer before getting dragged back in. I had never even heard of it before watching it but I guess my mom had watched it. It kinda feels like a lot of other shows out there dealing with crime and “gifted” people used to solve crime. Whether it’s Elementary, Lie to Me or Criminal Minds, there’s been a slew of these types of shows. Cumming is good and people like Whoopi Goldberg and Naveen Andrews (from LOST) make appearances, but you know he’ll clash with the co-lead (Bojana Novakovic) and eventually form a friendship. It’s from James Patterson so it’s interesting enough but just don’t expect too much originality. But I binged it over a couple of days so it’s easy enough binge.
Next is Cannibals and Carpet Fitters which is actually hitting VOD on the 11th, but I thought it would make a good addition to this list. I really, really wanted to love this movie but it doesn’t quite get there. Plus the ending pissed me off, but I’ll get to that. Brief synopsis: A group of carpet fitters are sent on a job to an old country house in the middle of nowhere. They soon discover it is a trap set up by a savage, cannibalistic family. The carpet fitters are forced to fight for their lives or risk ending up being the evenings’ dinner. The film should be Shaun of the Dead for cannibals and not zombies, but it’s nowhere near as good as the Edgar Wright flick. It’s good and I did laugh, but it could have been so much better. Once they have to fight off the cannibal family there are some good kills and laughs, but again, could have been great. Plus the ending is so open-ended it aggravated me. It leaves it open for a sequel, but I don’t see that happening. But if you are in mood for something different out of the UK, it is pretty fun.
Second to last we have Support the Girls. This came out last week but I didn’t get my copy until end of the week. I must have had this confused with another movie because I expected some uplifting, coming of age thing and instead got a dark comedy about a Hooters type restaurant. Regina Hall became the first Black woman to win Best Actress in the New York Film Critics Circle’s 83-year history which I really don’t understand after watching the movie. She’s fine, but Best Actress? That’s a no from me. She plays the manager of Double Whammies, a Hooters clone and has to deal with all the chaos. She does a car wash to raise money for a co-worker. A thief gets caught in the vent trying to rob the place. The TV is knocked out before a big fight night and all kinds of other nonsense. Haley Lu Richardson and Rapper Shayna McHayle, also known as Junglepussy co-star. It’s a nice little film with relatable situations and characters and Hall is good in it but so isn’t Richardson. I laughed at times and the film doesn’t try to be anything it’s not which is smart. It also doesn’t try to beat you over the head with a message which I appreciate as well. If you’ve heard the buzz around I do recommend giving it a try.
Last we have Slay Belles which also came out December 4th. I really wanted to love this Christmas horror-comedy, but it didn’t quite get to where it should be. It does have some positives. There is some good gore and the kills are solid. The Krampus creature also looks fantastic. The budget was definitely spent on the effects/make-up. And Barry Bostwick. The legendary Bostwick is a personal favorite of mine and it was cool seeing him as ol’ St. Nick. I’ll pretty much watch anything he’s in. Unfortunately the acting beyond Bostwick isn’t good. The three lead actresses aren’t great. One is better than the others, but they definitely aren’t winning awards anytime soon. I know their characters are supposed to be kind of goofy internet type celebs, but the acting did bother me a bit. Going back to the positives, I did like the story between Santa and Krampus. Someone at least tried to come up with an original story so points for that. It’s short which helps too. I guess I wanted a bit more from it something with the three leads, but not sure what. But if you need a break from uplifting holiday movies, this will fill the void.