Pretty solid mix of releases for us this week. First is Train to Busan Presents Peninsula. Train to Busan was a nice surprise in the zombie genre a few years back. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was eagerly awaiting this somewhat sequel. It’s a sequel in terms of timeline, but not necessarily in terms of characters. It takes place a few years later and finds most of Korea overrun with zombies. Those who survived escaped to other parts of the world. We meet our protagonists in Hong Kong after seeing them flee Korea in the very beginning. The lead is an ex-cop and along with his brother-in-law take a job going back to the Peninsula to find a truck full of cash. When they get back to Korea all hell breaks loose as they do battle with zombies and humans who have survived in the area. It’s good and is a solid zombie flick, but it relies heavily on CGI. Sure most movies will us CG zombie herds, but this used a ton of background and other CG. There’s a couple of car chases that look so fake. You definitely won’t confuse them for a Fast & Furious movie. Plus this doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table. Train to Busan felt like a breath of fresh air when it was released. This feels like The Walking Dead and most other zombie productions you’ve seen over the years. But that being said it’s still something I’d watch again and although it’s nowhere as good as the first film, if you liked that movie and like zombie flicks, definitely pick it up.
Speaking of car racing, the 1981 film King of the Mountain gets a new Blu-ray this week. I had never seen this Harry Hamlin & Dennis Hopper movie. Hamlin plays a mechanic who loves to race Mulholland Drive at night. A friend is a songwriter while another a producer. There’s a love interest who is a singer. Hopper plays the old mechanic who used to race. It’s pretty good and actually reminded me of earlier Fast & Furious movies when it was about illegal street racing still. Hopper is always good and Hamlin was very much the leading man. It might not wow too many people nowadays, but if you were a fan, this new 2K restoration looks pretty nice and the soundtrack sounds very good.
Sticking with cars and action, Mad Max gets a new Blu-ray and 4K this week. I got the Blu-ray disc to review. I actually hadn’t seen the film in years. For whatever reason it’s one of those franchises I just hadn’t rewatched in a while. Rewatching it you forget how it’s not exactly the movie you remember. At this point when we think of Mad Max movies, we think more The Road Warrior or Beyond Thunderdome. This first film (like the Rambo franchise) starts out a bit more realistic in a post-apocalypse world with Mel Gibson seeking revenge on a motorcycle gang. It’s still a good movie and helped introduce the world to Gibson. I’m sure you’ve seen it by now so if you are a fan, this new Blu-ray looks and sounds great. It also comes with audio commentary, interviews including Gibson, and more.
Buck Rogers gets two new Blu-ray releases this week. First is Buck Rogers in the 25th Century – Theatrical Feature. This was a theatrically released film in 1979 that was used as a backdoor pilot for the TV show. It stars Gil Gerard as the astronaut Buck Rogers who is launched into space and frozen in time. He is found 500 years later and brought aboard a ship where he is awoken. Of course he’s confused and they think he’s an Earth spy. He’s sent back to Earth and they use his ship as a way to hopefully gain entry and rule the Earth. It’s very campy and there’s Twiki and the other characters if you remember the movie/show. The second release, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century – The Complete Collection also includes Season 1 and 2 of the series. The movie is edited a bit for the pilot episode of Season 1. Twiki, Colonel Wilma Deering, Dr. Theopolis and others return for the series. Season 1 continues the campiness of the movie, but there was a tonal shift in Season 1 because Gerard wanted a more serious show. I hadn’t seen the film or show in years, probably since reruns when I was a kid. It’s a ton of fun and these new releases are highly recommended. If you’ve never seen it, but enjoyed the original Battlestar Galactica, you’ll dig this. A really great holiday gift for fans of the series.
The Killing Floor went through a 4K restoration for this new Blu-ray release. I’m familiar with the movie, but hadn’t seen it. It’s about a Black migrant in early 20th century Chicago trying to work in the slaughterhouses. It’s also about unions and race and everything else that happened in that time period. I actually worked in the meat industry at one point although never in a slaughterhouse. The film does get graphic at times so vegans probably won’t like it. Back in the time period of this film unions were very necessary. Workers had very little rights and companies would just hire whoever they wanted, work them to the bone and get rid of them. This shows how working class people of all color stood together to finally bring in unions and provide better paying jobs and benefits to the workers. It tackles race and how returning soldiers were also looked at. A young Alfre Woodard plays the wife of the lead. I don’t know if it’s something I’d watch again, but it’s definitely fine for one viewing. It also comes with some bonus features and the restoration is good as well.
He Came From The Swamp: The William Grefé Collection features films by William Grefé. I can’t say I was familiar with his work and this collection features a varied bunch of films. Sting of Death is a kitschy creature feature with scientists and college kids partying while someone or something starts killing people. Lots of close-ups on co-eds and very 1960s-ish. Death Curse of Tartu is about a cursed Native American who uses animals to kill people who get close to his area. Both are definitely B-movie fun. Then there’s a huge tonal shift. The Hooked Generation is about drug smuggling and three guys trying to smuggle drugs and have a good time. I thought I had put in the wrong disc at first because it’s nothing like the first two films in the collection. The Psychedelic Priest is about a priest who loses his way and ends up in the counter culture. The Naked Zoo is about an older woman who seduces a young author and her husband finds out. Rita Hayworth stars. Mako: The Jaws of Death is about a guy who uses telepathy with sharks to get revenge on humans for hunting them and being terrible people. It reminded me of the first two films. Whiskey Mountain is about 4 motorcyclists on a treasure hunt who get caught up with hillbillies! It also comes with the documentary They Came From the Swamp about the films of William Grefé. If you know his films then this collection is a must own.
Last we have Mellow Mud. It’s a Latvian film about a teen girl and her younger brother trying to live on their own in secret after their grandmother passes. Their mother has nothing to do with them and they collect money that’s supposed to go to their grandmother who no one knows is gone. She gets involved with a teacher and wins a trip to London through a school competition. She’s forced to be a mother to her brother and also try to live her own life and figure out what her future is. The lead actress is pretty great. She’s stunning even in despair. It’s shot pretty minimally and it works because of it. You want to feel downtrodden and you do. Sure we’ve seen films like this before, but I liked this one quite a bit. It’s not overly complicated and you know they will get caught at some point, but it held my attention and it’s not overly long which helps.