by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
The long-forgotten punk-rock mockumentary Hard Core Logo, from Canadian director Bruce McDonald, has finally made its way back into the public eye, thanks to a special edition Blu-ray release, as well as a sequel that I had no idea even existed. Best described as a cross between This is Spinal Tap and The Decline of Western Civilization, it could have been a laugh-out-loud comedy — but when I first watched it, I was left thoroughly depressed by the extreme downer-ness of it all (topped by one of the most nihilistic endings ever). Older and wiser, I can now appreciate it for the unheralded classic it is, and can almost see it as a prophetic parable of the death of punk rock as it became a corporate monster sponsored by Monster Energy Drink and Hot Topic. The sequel, Hard Core Logo 2, is a worthy follow-up, but also mostly unnecessary, following the exploits of a band who believes they are channeling the lead singer from the original.
What High Fidelity did for music geeks, Sleepwalk With Me does for comedy nerds. Based on a true story from comedian Mike Birbiglia's off-Broadway show and bestselling book, it’s intrinsically the story of how he not only discovered his comedic voice, but also the realization as to how he was plodding through life, all thanks for a rather traumatic bout with extreme sleepwalking — the kind that makes you jump out of a second-story hotel window. As he works through these issues on stage, he gains notoriety with the public, but loses closeness with his girlfriend (Lauren Ambrose, who is impossible not to fall in love with here), forcing him to re-evaluate his whole direction. With a few more works under his belt, Birbiglia could very well end up being this generation’s (less creepy) Woody Allen: an exceedingly average everyman with a brilliantly self-deprecating, comically appealing storytelling style that is easy to relate to, somnambulistic tendencies or not.
I already know what you’re thinking and I can understand your concerns, but I promise, Big #!#$ Zombie is not porn. Not at all. Oh sure, there’s scads of large bosoms that are frequently unclad, but there is absolutely no sex. Instead, I like to refer to its original Japanese title: Kyonyū Doragon: Onsen Zonbi vs Sutorippaa 5, which sounds way classier. A group of low-rent burlesque dancers somehow stumbles into an abandoned basement under a strip-club that happens to contain various necromancing elements, including a well of souls and a copy of the Necronomicon, which the ladies use to summon forth the evil hordes of the damned. They each find their own individual skills and abilities and wander around fighting the zombies, with their tops popping off only occasionally. So, armed with this information, if you do decide to check this out, just make sure you watch it in its original Japanese and avoid the incredibly annoying, mercilessly unfunny English-language dub.
Genre label Synapse has been on quite the roll lately. While it's always done its best to unearth and release some of the most bizarre, most revered and most forgotten films of all time, the recent release of the British horror anthology series Hammer House of Horror was astounding. I thought it couldn’t be topped, but was proven wrong with the release of Chiller, a much-lauded U.K. horror anthology series that was a better updating of the Twilight Zone-style than the American series The New Twilight Zone was. Featuring shocking tales of malevolent ghosts, horrific serial killers and even phantom pregnancies, Chiller lives up to its name by delivering one shocking scare after another — something very rare for most television horror series — and stars a wide net of popular actors such as Nigel Havers, Martin Clunes and Sophie Ward. A perfect companion piece to Hammer House of Horror, Chiller deserves a spot on every self-respecting horror fan’s shelf.
Welcome to the highly fictional (but highly entertaining!) world of underground mixed martial arts fighting, where two men enter the ring, but only one man leaves! Starring Gary (The Expendables) Daniels and Peter (Robocop) Weller, Forced to Fight features every single fighting style possible as Daniels, a former legend in said underground MMA rings who’s gone straight, is pushed to punch — or forced to fight, if you will — his way back into the ring to score his brother’s freedom from Weller’s brutal mob-boss. With a wife and kid at home, Daniels has a lot on the line, and each fight gets more savage and more no-holds-barred with every kick, punch and jab. Forced to Fight is definitely bottom-of-the-spit-bucket, straight-to-DVD action fare, but it’s also consistently fun, with outstanding fight choreography and a hero you root for all the way to the end. You won’t be forced to like Forced to Fight — it’s one ring any action fan would love to step into.