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SUPER (Blu-Ray and DVD)...Special Guest Review by LEON
After a happy, sunshiny (and damn funny) opening credit sequence that looks like the animated superhero drawings of a kindergarten class, "Super" progresses on to be one of the darkest comedies you'll ever see. When schlubby short order cook Frank D'Arbo (Rainn Wilson) has his way-too-hot-for-him wife (Liv Tyler) stolen away by a local drug dealer (Kevin Bacon) he falls into a deep depression that leads to a psychotic episode. This vision/hallucination/voice of God inspires him to assume the identity of a superhero: The Crimson Bolt! Armed with a pipe wrench, he metes out deadly justice to local criminals (car thieves and people who cut in line are treated with equal vengeance) and searches for his wife. Along the way he connects with Libby (Ellen Page), a hipster-chick comic book enthusiast, who insists upon becoming his super-sidekick. But Libby may very well be much more psychotic than Frank; so much so that it makes Frank question his own sanity After so long of wishing for a realistic superhero movie, I mean ABSOLUTELY realistic, warts and all, finally a film delivered. I really believed that 'Kick-Ass' was gonna be the one. Especially since the Kick-Ass comic book was exactly that, to the point that the violence and darkness was wince-inducing. Alas, the movie started off that way but by the third act it'd devolved into not much more than parody. However, "Super" is every bit the gritty, blacker-than-black comedy movie I was hoping for, all the way to the bloody end. I have nothing but admiration for a movie that's willing to take such a wild concept and commit to it 100% without giving in to the temptation to wink at the audience. At a crucial point of the movie where it would've been easy to write it all off as just silly, Rainn Wilson gives one of the best and most moving performances I've seen all year. Ellen Page was an even bigger surprise, especially in light of how far she was willing to go with her character. Even more of a surprise: this was the first movie in which I found her to be sexy. As it currently stands, "Super" is my #2 favorite movie of 2011! (editor's note: his #1 is "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" so I wouldn't read too much into that).
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DOUBLE FEATURE - AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE AND NIGHTMARES IN RED, WHITE, AND BLUE (DVD)
Horror. Exploitation. Violence. Boobs. These might be the hallmarks of the darkened recesses of American cinema, but as these two fun documentaries point out, the films expressing such darker (and sexier) content have long propped up and influenced mainstream film just as much as the other way around. "American Grindhouse" takes a loving look, with narration by Robert Forster, at the history of the film genre named after the bump and grind burlesque houses they originated from. The history runs the gamut from a Thomas Edison film (yep), the uber-gore of H.G. Lewis, blacksploitation, biker flicks, nazi exploitation, Russ Meyers' 'nudie cuties', all the way up to modern day weirdness. Interviewees include Joe Dante, John Landis, Fred Williamson, Larry Cohen, Fred Olen May, and many more. Focusing exclusively on the history of American horror films (with some amount of cross-over), the awkwardly titled "Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue" lets narrator Lance Henriksen explore the national affection for the genre, at least as much as is possible in 96 minutes. While not exactly something that'll be new to the more scholarly connoisseurs of horror, "Nightmares" nonetheless enjoyably, if not too briefly, examines the themes explored in the films over the years in a historical psychological context, examining the mindset of America at different times and the on-screen frights they engendered. From the first American horror film exposing the populace's industrialized age fears (1910 version of "Frankenstein") to modern day films being in reaction to events like 9/11, "Nightmares" is the cliff notes of a much more interesting subject (this could have easily been a mini-series) but a great introduction to understanding the seemingly contrarian psychology that explains why we like exposing ourselves to the darkness. The two films make a great companion set and should be required educational viewing for any self-styled film buffs, whether they normally indulge in such questionable cinematic treats or not. But hey - they're great party background flicks as well, absolutely bursting with NC-17 footage from some of the most brutal and some of the most boobalicious films ever shown outside of a porn theater.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY American Grindhouse / Nightmares in Red, White & Blue: Double F...