Pop Culture #704

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Pop Culture #704

With Christmas right around the corner, there’s been a sudden flood of new DVD and blu-ray titles hitting store shelves. Sure, you could ask for a Netflix subscription for Christmas instead, but where’s the fun in trying to unwrap that under the tree on December 25th?
So if you’re looking for gifts for your near and dear, or for suggestions to pass on to anyone who might want to add you to their shopping list, here’s a few recent release suggestions that I for one would be happy to find in my stocking on Christmas morning… except that I’ve probably already bought them by now because my family seems to feel useful presents are the best (it’s a whole thing, let’s not go into it here).
First off, Mandy (Madman distributors): Nicolas Cage has been the king of direct-to-DVD schlock for a long time now, but this particular feature received a limited run in cinemas here earlier this year and for good reason. While the plot is your basic revenge tale – Cage is a somewhat intense dude whose peaceful forest life with his partner is disrupted by a nutty cult and it’s chainsaw time – it’s directed with a gonzo over-the-top intensity that constantly verges on parody while still delivering crazy thrills. Even now Cage almost never gives a truly bad performance (or even a disinterested one) and here he manages to give depth and texture to a role that’s largely just an excuse to give the most “Nicolas Cage” performance in years.
Batman: The Complete Animated Series (Roadshow Entertainment): in the early 90s the Batman cartoon show broke new ground in animation by going back to the 40s stylings of the Fleisher cartoons and bringing that moody, stylised approach to the small screen. Surprisingly violent and dark for the time, it laid the groundwork for the endless parade of Warner Brothers cartoon superheroes we have today and set a standard for animated storytelling that’s yet to be surpassed. Now fully remastered, this set collects all four seasons and the two movies, and while the extras are decent enough, this show is good enough on its own to deserve a second look even if you already own the previous edition.
Westworld: season two (Roadshow Entertainment): this season doubled down on the puzzle box approach that was so compelling (and frustrating) the first time around, but with a stronger idea of who the characters are – and the occasional visit to other worlds in the robot-filled theme park – this manages to build on the first season in a way that makes the characters’ various quests more engaging even when they seem to be spinning their wheels. Plus samurai!
The Quiet Earth (Umbrella): New Zealand director Geoff Murphy passed away at the start of December, and while he worked on bigger films – he did second unit on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and directed Under Siege 2 amongst others – 1985’s The Quiet Earth remains his masterpiece. Bruno Lawrence plays a man who wakes up to find he seems to be the only person left on Earth; eerie and haunting, it takes an idea that wasn’t exactly original even than and turns it into a memorably effective and compelling film.
Written by Anthony Morris