RT on DVD: Final Futurama Flick, Pirates II, and Akira on Blu-ray

Plus two Dario Argento classics and the original Last House on the Left.

by | February 23, 2009 | Comments

This week we recommend the fourth and final Futurama movie (Into the Wild Green Yonder), but only for diehard Planet Express devotees; otherwise, your new release options are rotten (Sex Drive, The Haunting of Molly Hartley). Horror fans, however, have something new to cheer about (Wes Craven’s original Last House on the Left Collector’s Edition, Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet), as do those with more esoteric tastes (Noah Wyle as The Librarian in Curse of the Judas Chalice and Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge). Blu-ray viewers have the best choices of the week, with new remasterings to devour (Akira, The French Connection, Vanishing Point, and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage).

When fans first heard that the well-loved animated series Futurama would be reborn on DVD (via four direct-to-video films), cheers of joy echoed throughout New New York. Unfortunately, that joy gave way to mild discontent as the first three Futurama DVDs debuted with mixed results. This week, the fourth and final Futurama film hits shelves; will you be delighted or shake a fist in frustration at Beezlebot?

Into the Wild Green Yonder follows Fry and Co. as Amy’s dad attempts to expand his mini-golf empire into the galaxy, destroying entire planets in the process; can Leela’s eco-terrorism efforts or Fry’s newfound mind-reading powers save the universe? More importantly, will the two ever consummate their series-spanning romance? Die hard fans will want to give this Futurama flick a whirl to see their favorite characters in one last hurrah — especially supporting ones like the head of Richard Nixon — and check out the wealth of cool extras that accompany the DVD. (Extras include a feature length commentary, behind-the-scenes peeks, How To Draw Futurama, Bender’s Movie Theater Etiquette, and more.) Below, watch a deleted scene!

Next: Sex Drive

2. Sex Drive — 46%

Forty-six percent on the Tomatometer ain’t too shabby for a road trip-sex comedy involving a high school virgin, a stolen GTO, a giant donut suit with a sombrero and Amish teens gone wild. Does that mean you should give Sex Drive a go? If your brand of comedy trends towards the Porky’s and American Pies of the movie world, maybe so. The 2-Disc “Unrated and Cream-Filled” DVD (yes, that’s really what Summit Entertainment is calling it) comes with a raunchy filmmaker commentary and a handful of making-of featurettes.

Next: The Haunting of Molly Hartley

Gunning for next year’s Moldy Tomato award, The Haunting of Molly Hartley came in at a robust three percent on the Tomatometer after being not screened for critics (and rightly so, apparently). The tale of a teenager (Haley Bennett) whose soul belongs to the Devil (and to Gossip Girl’s Chace Crawford, who plays Bennett’s devilishly handsome love interest) scored so low with critics and audiences alike, we can’t in good conscience recommend it. The DVD boasts cast and director interviews, though not even a box set’s worth of bonus features could have made this release watchable.

Next: Last House on the Left Collector’s Edition

4. Last House on the Left Collector’s Edition — 68%

Revisit Wes Craven’s 1972 horror exploitation classic (if you have the stomach for it) with a new Collector’s Edition, released just in time to coincide with next month’s remake. The disturbing tale of a band of rapists and murderers hunted by the parents of one of their own victims — itself an update of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring — earned its controversial reputation for portraying particularly grotesque sadism onscreen, though contrary to his assessment of the similarly-themed revenge thriller I Spit on Your Grave, critic Roger Ebert praised Last House as a guilty pleasure “on par with Night of the Living Dead.” Owners of previously-issued editions will find much of the same bonus menu materials, though new Craven interviews and select scenes have been added.

Next: The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice

5. The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice — N/A

Remember when Noah Wyle seemed poised for success in Hollywood? If his tenure as the world’s most resourceful librarian-turned-action hero is any indication, he’s totally made it to the big time. TNT’s made-for-TV film The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice hits DVD this week and is a must-have for you Librarian fans who already own the first two films (The Librarian: Quest for the Spear and The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines); you know who you are. This time around, Wyle heads to New Orleans in pursuit of a mystical chalice that will resurrect Dracula, falling for a smoking hot vamp (Stana Katic) along the way. Incidentally, The Librarian 3 is directed by actor-director Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek‘s Riker!), so if you’re any sort of self-respecting nerd, this is a must-own title.

Next: Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge

6. Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge — N/A

Those of you familiar with the first Pirates movie — and we’re not talking about Pirates of the Caribbean — will want to take a gander at its sequel, Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge; after all, who can resist owning not one, but two pornographic pirate adventure comedies re-cut to an R-rating? Director Joone picks up where he last left Jesse Jane and Evan Stone (who is surprisingly well endowed…with comic timing), while Sasha Gray and Belladonna join the cast. Porn stars acting! Who’d have thought that would ever be so entertaining…

Next: Akira Blu-ray

7. Akira Blu-ray — 88%

This week is not lacking in great new Blu-ray offerings, beginning with the high definition reissue of Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 anime classic about psychics in post-apocalyptic Tokyo. While its presentation isn’t perfect — the movie’s 30 years old — it sure beats standard definition, and boasts a newly-remastered 192khz/24-bit audio track. Expect, however, to be disappointed with the disc’s lack of bonus materials. Although a 32-page booklet and over 4000 high resolution storyboards are included, additional featurettes (including those previously released) are missing — because, amazingly, they simply couldn’t fit on the disc.

Next: The French Connection Blu-ray

8. The French Connection Blu-ray — 98%

There’s a lot to admire in director William Friedkin’s 1971 film, based on the true story of how a network of smugglers shipped heroin from France to New York City, the simplest admiration being that Friedkin pulled it off at all. In this week’s Blu-ray release of the multiple Academy Award-winning film, Friedkin, walking along the Brooklyn street where he filmed an integral car vs. train sequence, tells of how he shot the high speed chase with a stunt driver and no traffic control at all, weaving quite dangerously through the crowded streets to achieve what has since become celebrated as one of the best chase scenes ever shot. Although The French Connection suffers the negative side effect of older, grainy films given the high def treatment — dancing shadows, distracting at times — it’s still a wonder to behold, and one of the best to come out of the American New Wave. The title includes a commentary with Friedkin and stars Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider, plus new behind-the-scenes features.

Next: Vanishing Point Blu-ray

9. Vanishing Point — 71%

The 1971 cult classic Vanishing Point has long been a flick for movie geeks in the know, but it wasn’t until the biggest geek in Hollywood — Quentin Tarantino — name dropped it in Death Proof that a new generation of hipster movie buffs heard the name. If you’re one of said hipster movie buffs, then the Vanishing Point Blu-ray is simply a must-have; after all, if QT owns it, so should you! Vanishing Point stars Barry Newman as Kowalski, a former cop and current adrenaline junkie on an interstate road trip in a 1970 Dodge Challenger; a filmmaker commentary, new featurettes, in-movie trivia, the UK cut with ten minutes of additional footage and more are included.

Next: Four Flies on Grey Velvet DVD/Bird with the Crystal Plumage Blu-ray

Horror buffs and fans of stylized 1970s cinema should take note of our two favorite releases of the week: Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1972), and his earlier film The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970, on Blu-ray), two of the best thrillers of the Italian Grindhouse genre known as “giallo.” The tale of a rock ‘n roll drummer being driven mad by an unknown killer captures a 1970s European vibe with panache, thanks to Argento’s tense atmospherics, a score by Ennio Morricone, and one of the most memorable visual twists in movie history. Hard to find on home video for years, Four Flies is being released on DVD for the first time (we first watched it on a bootlegged copy).

Meanwhile, the folks at Blue Underground are bringing another celebrated Argento giallo to home video: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Argento’s first film as a director follows an American in Rome who witnesses an attempted murder but can’t quite piece together the details of what he saw; remastered from its original camera negative, Bird with the Crystal Plumage on Blu-ray also includes the U.S. and Italian trailers, interviews with Argento, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, composer Ennio Morricone, and actress Eva Renzi as well as a commentary with RT’s own Kim Newman!

Until next week, happy renting!