DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: MOTEL HELL (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory)
Love it or hate it, few will forget director Kevin Connor’s cheeky, grisly 1980 horror send-up, which became a cult classic thanks to incessant airing on cable-TV the remainder of the decade.Rory Calhoun and Nancy Parsons play Farmer Vincent and his sister Ida, proprietors of the Motel Hello (the second “o” keeps flickering), who supplement their income by holding unwary guests and passing motorists captive and “harvesting” them to make their famous meats, which have become a popular delicacy.The cannibalism theme is seasoned with hints of necrophilia and incest – all played for laughs, even as the chainsaws start revving and the guts start grinding. Wolfman Jack even shows up as the local televangelist.Motel Hell is certainly better-made than most of its slasher ilk, with Parsons and particularly Calhoun taking honors for their zesty, zealous performances. The comedic aspects are overly broad and sometimes abrasive, but at least it’s a different approach to a well-worn theme – for those who can stomach it.The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.93 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and plenty more for Motel Hell mavens. Rated R.(For an exclusive interview with Motel Hell’s assistant editor Julian Semilian, see Page 39)
3 DAYS TO KILL (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Ailing, aging ex-CIA operative Kevin Costner embarks on one last assignment … which, naturally, does not go according to plan. Amber Heard plays Costner’s leggy contact, while Hailee Steinfeld and Connie Nielsen portray his estranged wife and daughter predictably thrown in harm’s way. Nothing really new, but Costner’s fun and the Paris locations are picturesque. Rated PG-13 (also available in an unrated version).
BEYOND THE TROPHY (Arc Entertainment): Michael Madsen and Robert Miano’s gang war ensnares undercover cops Michael Masini and Stephen Cloud in this cheap, predictable, pointless shoot- ’em-up – an inauspicious feature debut for writer/producer/director Daniel J. Gillin, who also supervised music and casting. A wasted cast includes Eric Roberts, Tommy “Tiny” Lister and co-producer Ali Costello. Haven’t Madsen and Roberts done enough of these? Rated R. ½
DEAD SHADOWS (Scream Factory/ Shout! Factory): Producer/director David Cholewa goes the zombie route with his feature debut, with newcomer Fabian Wolfrom debut trying to lead survivors to safety after Halley’s Comet brings out the beast in others. In French with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $14.97, the Blu-ray for $22.97.
“A HAUNTING”: SEASON SIX (New Dominion Pictures/Timeless Media Group): A DVD compilation ($14.93 retail) of all four episodes from the 2013 season of the documentary series (broadcast on Investigation Discovery) that delves into reported occurrences of contemporary supernatural phenomena, narrated by Anthony Call.
HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN (Redemption/Kino Lorber): The Blu-ray bow ($24.95 retail) of producer/director Pete Walker’s controversial, R-rated 1976 exploitation shocker (also known as The Confessional) starring Anthony Sharp as a corrupt, murderous priest on the prowl, with Susan Penhaligan, Stephanie Beacham, Norman Eshley, Walker perennial Sheila Keith, and Mervyn Johns (in his last film) in support.
IRONCLAD: BATTLE FOR BLOOD (XLRator Media): This follow-up to the 2011 film lives up to its subtitle, with swords clanking, blades stabbing, warriors scowling and snarling, occasional bouts of sex, and (too much) shaky camerawork and slow-motion. The story involves the 13 th- century siege of a Scottish castle, the cast includes Tom Austen, Tom Rhys Harries, Roxanne McKee, Michelle Farley and David Rintoul (anybody remember Legend of the Werewolf from ‘75?), director/producer/co-writer Jonathan English is the only major player encoring from the first film, and it’s rather repetitious – but diehard Medieval mavens won’t mind
IT FELT LIKE LOVE (Kino Lorber): Writer/producer/director Eliza Hittman’s award-winning drama stars talented newcomer Gina Piersanti as a teenager coming to terms with her sexuality. Observant and compassionate, but hampered by its reliance on some of the tightest movie close-ups in recent memory – a stylistic touch that becomes excessive. Nevertheless, an encouraging showcase for Hittman and Piersanti both.
OMAR (Adopt Films): Hany Abu- Assad’s acclaimed, topical thriller stars Adam Bakri in the title role, a Palestinian activist forced to work as an informant for the Israeli secret police when implicated in the murder of an Israeli soldier. Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $34.95.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN VIETNAM (LionsGate): Dustin Nguyen wrote and makes his directorial debut with this R-rated martial-arts fantasy about a fearless soldier trying to protect a peaceful village from a sadistic tyrant. In Vietnamese with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $26.98.
“THE ONG-BAK TRILOGY” (Magnet Label/Magnolia Home Entertainment): Tony Jaa became an instant action icon in three award-winning, R-rated martialarts extravaganzas: Ong-bak: The Thai Warrior (2003), Ong-bak 2: The Beginning (2008) and Ong-bak 3 (2010). The DVD collection retails for $26.98, the Blu-ray collection for $29.98.
PANDORA’S PROMISE (Alive Mind Cinema/Kino Lorber): Robert Stone’s controversial, award-winning documentary ($29.95 retail) explores the potentially positive effects of nuclear energy, featuring interviews with scientists, experts and activists who were once anti-nuclear but have since changed their minds.
THE PROTECTOR 2 (Magnet Label/ Magnolia Home Entertainment): Tony Jaa’s back in action in director Prachya Pinkaew’s award-winning R-rated sequel (originally titled Tom yum goong 2) to the 2005 hit, this time accused of killing the owner of an elephant camp and pursued by both police and the underworld – including RZA as a natty crime lord. In Thai with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $26.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98, the 3-D Blu-ray for $39.98.
SX_ TAPE (Well Go USA Entertainment): Director Bernard Rose goes the “found-footage” route with this chiller starring Ian Duncan and Caitlyn Folley as a couple whose randy escapades go wrong when they break into an abandoned hospital. Not to be confused with the recent Cameron Diaz/Jason Segel comedy. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.
“LA TEMPESTAD” (Cinedigm): A four-DVD collection ($19.97 retail) of episodes from the inaugural 2013 season of the popular “telenovela,” broadcast on the Univision Network, which follows the plight of a woman (Ximena Navarrete) as she tries to rebuild her life in a small fishing village. William Levy, Ivan Sanchez and Cesar Evora co-star. In Spanish with English subtitles.
THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI (Kino Lorber): Bill Siegel’s awardwinning documentary focuses less on the famous boxer’s career than on his controversial conversion to the Nation of Islam (changing his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali in the process) and his subsequent refusal to be drafted during the Vietnam War, providing a more thorough focus on that particular aspect of his life. This was screened at the RiverRun International Film Festival in April, where production company Kartemquin Films received a Master of Cinema award.
“TURTLE POWER: THE DEFINI- TIVE HISTORY OF THE TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES” (Paramount): The title tells all in writer/director Randall Lobb’s feature documentary ($22.98 retail), billed as “a look under the shell,” which traces the 30-year history of the pop-culture phenomenon created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2014, Mark Burger.