Laserblast – January 20th DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Saw, City of Ember, Max Payne & More

What’s new on DVD and Blura this week? A few theatrical releases, a couple DTV titles, and a cancelled television series…

click to purchase

click to purchase

Saw V
Back in 2004, Saw was something of a novelty, introducing a relatively unique twist on the stale serial killer genre with a genuinely uncomfortable conceit – the placing of characters in the center of macabre traps where a moral, ethical, or sometimes merely brutal choice is required to survive. We could have done with less melodramatic serial killer shtick (the dummy on the tricycle does little but recall other, better movies), but at least Jigsaw refrains from cracking wise – droll and imperious, maybe, but thankfully not a jokester. Though the Saw series are certainly the standard-bearers in the trend towards cruelty in modern horror, there is certainly something to be said for making viewers truly uncomfortable – no easy feat, that. We also have to commend the timeliness of the Saw film series release dates. One poster last year had the tagline “If it’s Halloween, it must be Saw”, and at a time when horror releases are so often spread indiscriminately around the calendar it’s nice to see a studio remember when October is. We missed the latest installment last year, but are looking forward to catching up shortly. Saw V hits home video like buckshot from a shotgun, in no less than 4 separate editions. Single disc widescreen and fullscreen editions (really, why?) feature a pretty full plate of extras, including 2 commentary tracks featuring director David Hackl and, possibly for the first time, the first assistant director on one and a handful of producers on the other, and assorted featurettes, each concentrating on specific traps within the film. The “collector’s edition” features the same disc as the standard widescreen edition, but with elaborate packaging that plays a threatening message from Jigsaw himself while a circular saw whirrs in the inner package, reminding us of a 21st century take on the old “Wanna date?!?” chip in the old Frankenhooker VHS box. The second disc of the 2-disc Bluray set contains a digital copy of the feature.

click to purchase

click to purchase

City of Ember
Walden Media continues its string of family friendly titles with a fantasy tale that evaporated upon contact with the box office last year. The story of an underground city, initially built to house a human population in the event of disaster for 200 years. When the story opens, however, the city’s power source has been steadily fading, and the safety and security that its inhabitants have been enjoying is in jeopardy. The show has an unusually eclectic cast for a “family” film, including Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, Toby Jones, and Martin Landau. Fox appears to have washed their hands of the title, forgoing a Bluray release (at least for the time being) and issuing only a feature-free SD DVD. Read a review of the film here.

click to purchase

click to purchase

Max Payne
An attractive cast gets put through the CGI boot camp to no apparent avail in Max Payne, an adaptation of a video game of the same name, produced back in 2001 (a slightly inferior sequel appeared 2 years later). The game was a polished, atmospheric 2nd-person perspective shooter about an NYPD detective who arrives home to find his family murdered by junkies high on a virulent new drug called Valkyr. Max spends the next few years undercover inside the crime family responsible (or so he thinks) for the drug’s distribution. What follows is mostly shooting. Lots and lots of shooting. But shooting surrounded by beautifully designed, excitingly rendered gameplay. Director John Moore’s film adaptation, like nearly all cinematic versions of video games, places the audience in the curious position of watching someone else playing a video game. If that appeals, then the half-bored performance of Mark Wahlberg isn’t likely to bother either. Fox is releasing the film on single and double disc SD DVD sets; the single disc features both the theatrical and “unrated” cuts of the film and commentary with director John Moore with other production personnel. The two-disc set also includes something called an “animated graphic novel” in addition to a digital copy of the film. The Bluray features all of the above, plus several picture-in-picture documentary features.

click to purchase

click to purchase

King Kong
Peter Jackson’s follow up to the effects heavy Lord of the Rings trilogy, was an almost equally huge remake of one of the definitive classics of genre cinema, King Kong. Running very nearly twice the length of the 1933 original, the 2005 version is the very definition of a film’s whole being less than the sum of its parts. Individual sequences, such as depression-era recreation of Manhattan at the front and rear-end of the film, Kong’s battle with multiple T-Rexes, the ultra-creepy spider pit sequence (a famous “lost” scene cut from the ’33 original prior to release, but recreated by Jackson for this version) just to name a few. But at 200min, we got the familiar feeling of “too many notes” – Jackson’s love for the material is obvious and infectious, but he wound up creating a confection too rich to eat in a single setting. If that sounds harsh, let it be said that we wish more films had that problem. The cast is game, with Jack Black in particular being a pleasant surprise as Carl Denham, offering a very different take on the character than former caretaker Robert Armstrong. Kong had been issued by Universal previously on an impressive HD-DVD (the disc that shipped with Microsoft’s HD DVD add-on player for the Xbox 360) that only made the theatrical version available. The Bluray offers both theatrical and extended versions, in lovely 1080p transfers, in addition to commentary with Peter Jackson and longtime writing/producing partner Philippa Boyens and various cast and crew interviews interspersed throughout via picture-in-picture.

click to purchase

click to purchase

Vacancy 2: The First Cut
A direct-to-video sequel to 2007’s effective chiller, which featured Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson as a young couple experiencing a higher than usual degree of marital distress who stop at a very Batesian motel after some suspicious car trouble. The quality cast, which also featured a nicely creepy performance from the underused Frank Whaley as the motel proprietor, is absent here (along with about 9/10th of the original’s production budget) but the concept, about a motel that sidelines in using its guests as the unwilling stars of snuff films, is solidly icky. Sony’s DVD features a cast and crew commentary track, deleted scenes and several featurettes.

Boogeyman 3
Ghost House releases the second sequel to their presumably successful Boogeyman series. Shot in Bulgaria, where film production, if not life, is cheap, Sony’s DVD includes deleted scenes and several featurettes.

Moonlight – The Complete Series
We missed Moonlight’s aborted run last year, in spite of its People’s Choice Award for “Favorite New TV Drama”, but we’re glad to see to see shows that failed to catch on get a second chance on DVD. Featuring all 16 episodes on 4 discs. Read a review of the pilot episode here.

Repo: The Genetic Opera
Darren Lynn Bousman’s filmization of the cult movie musical received only a contractual obligation theatrical release last year, in spite of positive word of mouth. For those of you who missed it on the big screen (meaning nearly everyone), here is your chance to view it on disc. It is available on both DVD and Bluray.

Also out this week: a Special Collector’s Edition of the 1990 fantasy film hit GHOST.

This week’s DVD and Bluray releases are available below, or look for more in the Cinefantastique Online Store.

About the Author

Drew Fitzpatrick

By day, Drew Fitzpatrick toils at publishing in the black heart of Manhattan. But by night, he dons a pair of fetishistic black leather gloves and grinds out the "Internet’s only horror-themed Blog": The Blood-Spattered Scribe.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.