Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Movies are like an expensive form of therapy for me." - Tim Burton

The Mike's Favorite DVD/Blu-Ray Releases of 2014
(So Far)
 Part 1
For genre lovers like myself it's a pretty great time to still be a collector of movies on disc, even if we're long past the DVD heyday of the early 2000s. Digital copies are being pushed down our throats and physical media is hidden in corners of many stores but, as you're about to see, there are still a lot of great little companies putting out interesting independent stuff and well-restored editions of cult classics. It's been a relatively slow year of film collection for me - relative to my own high standards, that is - but I've still been pretty stoked to add some really fun new discs to my collection this year.

What follows is a list in two parts, and it's best that I probably start with a comment on the discs I'm excluding from this post. You can no doubt guess that modern release like Gravity or Captain America: The Winter Soldier have been given fine treatment by the studios behind them. However, I will not be covering them here. You don't need me to remind you that you liked that movie you already saw.

What I will be covering are firstly releases of lesser-known independent and low budget films you might not be acquainted with; and secondly releases of older films that are everything that (and sometimes more than) fans of the film could hope for. The first will occur right here, the second will be coming up in the near future.

Note 1 - Yeah, these are mostly horror flicks. It's what I like and it's what's being released. If someone had restored The Limey or The Spanish Prisoner or Big Daddy (say what you want, but Sandler had a winning streak in the last 90s) maybe I'd be talking about them. But horror has the niche and the niche is where things sell these days

Note 2 - I'm not a big special features guy, so don't expect an in depth analysis of each disc. However, there are some good things I'll point out to you.

Now, let's get talkin' about Part 1 of this list. (And yes, those are Amazon links with each title. I'm enabling you, I admit it.)

The Mike's Favorite Lesser Known New Movies on DVD/Blu-Ray of 2014 (So Far)
Haunter - DVD & Blu-ray - Feb 11, 2014 - IFC Midnight
A haunted house riff on Groundhog Day, led by Abigail Breslin and the always cool Stephen McHattie. Cube and Splice director Vincenzo Natali keeps the flick moving with a catchy plot and some well done suspense. It's a relatively cheap disc too (both the blu and DVD run under $10 right now) and it should be perfect for those October nights when non-horror fans want to watch horror movies.

Here Comes The Devil - DVD & Blu-Ray - March 18, 2014 - Magnet Releasing
A few years ago Magnet was probably the king of genre home video. They were nailing the horror/cult market, picking up great films like Monsters, The Innkeepers, Hobo With a Shotgun, and more. Their pickings have been a little slimmer over the last few years, but they still hit an occasional home run. This year their best offering might be this Mexican horror film full of evil children, evil sex, and strange twists. It's been a divisive film with critics, but I'm a big fan. There's a dream sequence that's the modern horror equivalent of Rosemary's Baby.

Low - DVD - March 25, 2014 - Brink
I saw Low a few years ago while reviewing independent screeners and it's stuck with me since. I was shocked to find it on DVD earlier this year, but not surprised at the success of this little thriller. A game of cat-and-mouse between a woman and man in the English countryside, Low provides gripping twists while showing off beautiful scenery. I saw a screener on blu-ray when I first met this film, but the released DVD from Brink doesn't suffer in quality.

Nurse 3D - Blu-Ray/Blu-ray 3D - April 8, 2014 - Lionsgate
Yes, I feel guilty about this one. A violent twist on Single White Female with a bizarre lead performance by Paz de la Huerta, who might spend more time unclothed than clothed in the film. And yet it feels like something of a genuine relic, a throwback to the kind of bizarre drive-in film one might see in the late 1970s mixed with the ridiculous modern 3D gore craze. I find this movie's existence rather comforting.

Escape From Tomorrow - DVD & Blu-Ray - April 29, 2014 - Random Media
This movie doesn't exactly work, but man is it fascinating to watch. Why is it so fascinating? Because you would never expect this film to have been made. Director Randy Moore and his cast and crew made this tale - about a man who goes crazy dealing with a middle age crisis and sexual frustration while visiting a theme park - was filmed guerrilla style at Disney World in black & white. There are several special features that recount the amazing story of how this movie even happened and avoided the wrath of Disney, and cynical movie lovers will probably get a big kick out of it.

Raze - DVD - May 20, 2014 - IFC Midnight
Raze is a movie that is entirely about women beating the hell out of each other, and I admit that I felt kind of dirty watching it. I also kind of loved it. Stuntwoman extraordinaire Zoe Bell (of Death Proof fame) stars as the alpha woman of this underground Fight Club/Hunger Games while genre notables Doug Jones and Sherilyn Fenn eat up some screen time as well. It's an incredibly involving film, and I found myself physically rooting for characters as if it were a real sporting event. The disc is packed with extras too, and the behind the scenes information provided is pretty interesting. I wonder why there's no blu-ray though.

Cheap Thrills - DVD & Blu-ray - May 27, 2014 - Drafthouse Films
A fantastic cast - led by Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton and a perfectly cast David Koechner - makes this story of two men pitted against each other (and themselves) to earn some money become a memorable dark comedy. One of the most brutal films you'll see this year, and the perfectly odd Drafthouse Films label does the film justice with a lot of special features and a fine transfer of the film. Drafthouse's discs can be a little pricey out of the gate, but this one's definitely worth it. It's a really fantastic flick, the kind of movie that makes me grin from ear to ear and wish there were more like it.
All Cheerleaders Die - DVD & Blu-Ray - July 22, 2014 - Image Entertainment
One of the most exciting horror comedies I've seen in a while, which plays like the movie Jennifer's Body would have been if it weren't so interested in making stars of its cast and writer. It's got a weird mix of horror - offering evil macho male football players alongside re-animated cheerleaders and some rune stone witchcraft - but co-directors Chris Sivertson and Lucky McKee keep it moving at a brisk pace and seem pretty sure of themselves here. The end title card lists the film as All Cheerleaders Die: Part One, and I sure hope there's a Part II somewhere in the future.

That's all for today, but feel free to hit up the comment box. If you aren't a movie hoarder like me, you'll be pleased to know that several of these films are currently on that popular Netflix thing and other streaming services. I can't promise you'll like them, that's on you.

Come back soon for Part 2, in which I'll cover my favorite older films released on Blu-Ray in 2014 so far!

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