True Blood: The Complete Third Season
Coolest extra: “True Blood Post Mortems,” short vignettes that fill in the episodes’ narrative blanks (DVD/Blu-ray)
Complex says: True Blood has never been known for its subtlety, yet one moment in the midst of the hit HBO show’s dynamite third season pushed it to heights of depravity that even the most jaded of shlock lovers couldn’t have anticipated. Bill, the lead vampire played with slightly annoying good-old-boy charm by Stephen Moyer, is having animalistic sex with his sexy “maker” (the older bloodsucker who turned him into a fellow creature of the night), and then things get really kinky. Bill repeatedly turns her head until the moaning gal’s neck looks like twisty straw; naturally, she gets off on it. For sickos like us, that’s when True Blood’s third go-round solidified itself as the show’s best run yet.
The storyline moves beyond the town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, to introduce power struggles within the vampire society and a biker gang of redneck werewolves. Most importantly, though, there’s more sex and hot naked chicks (including, yes, Anna Paquin) than ever before—we all know that’s the main reason why dudes watch True Blood, despite whatever “I love the characters” bullshit they might spew.
Save for a rather tepid and anticlimactic season finale, last summer’s 12-episode stretch was a rousing success, and definitely worth revisiting through this generous five-disc set. As with the show’s two previous home video packages, True Blood: The Complete Third Season boasts a healthy amount of supplements, such as seven commentary tracks featuring various cast and crew members and Snoop Dogg’s hilariously bad “Oh Sookie” music video, in which he professes his love for Paquin’s character (while unabashedly cashing yet another endorsement check).
With True Blood set to return with new episodes on June 26th, this set comes at the right time. Pick it up, keep the kiddies away, revel in the blood-drenched T&A, and prepare for what’ll hopefully be an even trashier season. Head-spinning sex between two girls, perhaps?
Buy it now: True Blood: The Complete Third Season
Coolest extra: “How To: Drive Angry” featurette (DVD/Blu-ray)
Complex says: For a second, it seemed like Nicolas Cage’s ongoing streak of embarrassing genre flicks was about to a take a turn for the positive with Drive Angry. From pre-release footage of the actor banging a naked hottie while pumping lead into a gang of baddies, to the always appreciated casting of Amber Heard in a role that requires her to flaunt tons of skin, this exploitation throwback was poised to become the ultimate guilty pleasure. Having seen Drive Angry, though, the only guilt that’s applicable is the self-hatred for thinking Cage hadn’t made another disappoint career move.
Aside from the aforementioned sex scene, Drive Angry is curiously tame, at least by its own grindhouse standards. Rather than push the violence and sex to the necessary levels of extremity, director and co-writer Patrick Lussier (along with writing partner Todd Farmer) wastes time shooting slow-motion shots of Cage walking away from explosions and robs the actor of his showiness. Cage plays a badass, named Milton, who drives out of Hell to avenge his daughter’s murder and save his granddaughter from cult sacrifice; on his quest for vengeance, Milton is entirely humorless.
A movie of this kind is tailor-made for Cage’s loony side (last seen in the hilariously manic Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans), but the filmmakers unwisely wrote his character as a brooding, stone-faced Clint Eastwood type. As a result, Drive Angry’s best asset not known as “Amber Heard’s sexy body”—i.e., a shameless, fallen-off actor willing to go overboard for the sake of camp—is rendered obsolete.
Buy it now: Drive Angry
Coolest extra: “The Making Of Biutiful” featurette (DVD/Blu-ray)
Complex says: When Javier Bardem turned heads and grabbed awards for his chilling work in No Country For Old Men, the dynamic Spanish actor set the bar cloud-high for his own career moving forward. Who knew it’d only take the guy three years to deliver a performance that makes his No Country turn feel undeniably inferior? Released quietly last December, Biutiful, from acclaimed director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams), kicks the gut with Bardem’s phenomenal acting. It’s not just his personal best—it’s arguably the heaviest male performance of 2010.
Though, as a whole, Biutiful floats a bit too unevenly between meditative drama and grim mortality, Bardem constantly rectifies Iñárritu’s creative mishaps. His character, Uxbal, is a serious dude who drifts through seedy Barcelona communicating with the dead, thinking about his children, and trafficking illegal immigrants. How those three things connect, and ultimately lead Uxbal to his impending death, is drawn out over two-and-a-half hours of misery, bleakness, and emotional devastation. In other words, Biutiful is one hell of a downer; thanks to Bardem’s contributions, however, it’s also a must-see.
Buy it now: Biutiful
A Clockwork Orange (40th Anniversary Edition, Blu-ray)
Coolest extra: “Turning Like Clockwork,” a 25-minute featurette covering the film’s cultural impact (Blu-ray)
Complex says: Forty years and countless pop culture references have done little to squander the disturbing brilliance of A Clockwork Orange. Back in 1971, when Stanley Kubrick’s amazing adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ novel debuted in theaters, audiences must’ve felt gob-smacked; with its unique slang (“A bit of the old in-out, in-out”), dystopian setting, off-kilter soundtrack, and shocking bursts of ultra-violence, A Clockwork Orange was unlike anything ticket-buyers had ever seen prior to ’71. Today, as we endure a plethora of cookie-cutter science fiction, it’s still way ahead of its time.
Kubrick’s film, about a despicable hoodlum (played by Malcolm McDowell) who undergoes an experimental punishment technique that leaves him sick at the thought of law-breaking, also hasn’t lost any of its visual impact, which bodes well for this 40th anniversary Blu-ray’s digital restoration. The real treats here, though, are the special features, the most fascinating supplement being a 25-minute documentary, “Turning Like Clockwork,” that examines how the film’s violence has impacted society over the last four decades. There’s also a new video interview with McDowell, during which he reminisces about working with the late Kubrick, one of cinema’s most reclusive and enigmatic geniuses.
Once Upon A Time In The West (Blu-ray)
Coolest extra: Commentary featuring acclaimed filmmakers, and outspoken fans, John Carpenter and John Milius (Blu-ray)
Complex says: As much as we like both the Coen Brothers and Jeff Bridges, last year’s glossy western remake True Grit left us feeling indifferent, despite all of the critical accolades and box office dollars earned. The usually singular directors played it too straight, shooting a conventional cowboy pic instead of slathering a worn-down genre with their trademark quirks. But all wasn’t lost, though—after years of obscurity, the saddles, six-shooters, and horseback gangster style of filmmaking had returned to the public eye. Hopefully, that reinvigorated awareness will cause folks to revisit what’s perhaps the greatest Spaghetti Western of all time, Once Upon A Time In The West.
Directed and co-written by the genre’s master, Sergio Leone, this sprawling cowboy epic has it all: shootouts, superior acting from Charles Bronson and Jason Robards, a kick-ass score from beloved Western composer Ennio Morricone, and the busty Claudia Cardinale. Like many films that go on to be recognized as masterpieces, Once Upon A Time In The West was bashed by critics when it premiered back in 1968, though we can’t understand why. After opening with a tense bullet-happy showdown, Leone’s energetic pic unfolds as a masterwork of stylistic excess, from the decision to give each character his or her own musical theme to close-up shots that reveal character depth through details as small as one dude’s refusal to let a fly chill on his nose.
Though this Blu-ray edition doesn’t offer any special features different from the existing DVD version, it’s still worth revisiting simply for the new, crisp transfer and hearing directors like John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape From New York) and John Milius (screenwriter of Apocalypse Now and Conan The Barbarian) geek out about their love for Leone’s masterpiece.