HomeVideodrome: 'Dead Alive,' 'Lion King,' 'The Undefeated' Highlight a Great Week of Releases

Before Peter Jackson reached Steven Spielberg levels of Hollywood mainstream acceptance, he was a chubby, hairy kid in New Zealand who loved making movies with tons of laughs provided by oceans of blood and gore. Jackson’s first feature, Bad Taste, lives up to its title. Featuring aliens who want to grind humans into meat for their intergalactic fast food chain, it was packed with blood, guts, and nonstop laughs. No video store experience beats picking up the cover for Bad Taste for the first time and beholding an ugly alien, wielding an AK-47, giving you the finger. The box proudly proclaims “From the director of Lord of the Rings!” Jackson followed up that little gem with Meet the Feebles, a puppet-populated look at the drug-addled behind-the-scenes of a troupe that puts on an act not unlike The Muppet Show. It was with his third film, Dead Alive (also known as Braindead internationally), that ol’ Peter pulled out all the stops and created a masterpiece of gonzo gore and dark humor.

Dead Alive comes to Blu-ray this week, and I can say without a doubt that it’s the most fun I’ve had watching a zombie movie, ever. Zombies flicks are huge right now, yet most of them owe everything to George A. Romero’s films. Dead Alive, on the other hand, has more in common with Dan O’Bannon’s hilarious post-modern zom-com Return of the Living Dead in terms of tone and overall content. For a low-budget horror flick, this film is incredibly ambitious, in terms of special effects, and pulls off its aims beautifully. I ask indie horror filmmakers everywhere: Why imitate Romero when you can build on Jackson and O’Bannon? This movie has vengeful entrails giving off stinky flatulence, mischievous zombie babies, butt-kicking priests, and the best use of a lawnmower ever in a film. What else do you want?

Dead Alive is a movie I love showing to people who have never seen it. Just this past weekend, I watched it with a living room full of friends who had never had the pleasure. It was a gory good time for all. The movie may be a bit much for the squeamish, but the film’s spirit is so lighthearted it’s hard to imagine anyone getting offended by the content. It’s October, so if you’re loading up on horror movies and have never seen this one, get on the stick.

Available on Blu-ray


For some reason, Quentin Tarantino’s older movies take forever to hop onto new formats when they’re released. This week, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown grace us on Blu-ray, and given my DVD copies of both have mysteriously disappeared, I’m thrilled this is finally happening.

People often accuse Tarantino of being a guy who simply steals from other movies. That is an assessment made by people who simply aren’t paying attention. Tarantino is like a DJ, sampling and mixing bits from other movies and turning those used bits into a slick new car. Tarantino’s recent films like Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds have felt like essays in film criticism put into narrative films, not unlike the early work of Jean-Luc Godard. Like Tarantino, Godard isn’t a filmmaker, so much as a film critic who expresses himself through cinema rather than written essays. This explains why Tarantino’s recent films haven’t been met with as much mainstream adoration as his earlier works. This isn’t a huge leap, given Tarantino’s production company’s name is a play on the title of the Godard film Bande à part.

However, before his movie mix-tapes actually critiqued the movies his films were about, Tarantino was more of a hipster filmmaker grease-monkey, creating killer movies out of pop-culture parts. Pulp Fiction represents the best this period had to offer. It was before he went way off the deep end with the overcooked Kill Bill films, his final exploitation freakout before he became a critic and professor of genre movies, as opposed to a student of them. However, his third movie, Jackie Brown, may be Tarantino’s most impressive film in terms of actual storytelling. Based on the Elmore Leonard novel Rum Punch, the film takes some mild cues from seventies blaxploitation films on the soundtrack, but Tarantino manages to reigns in his inner-geek in favor of focusing on the story at hand, which features Oscar-worthy performances from Pam Grier, Robert Forester, and Michael Keaton. And let’s not forget Samuel L. Jackson, who is even more menacing than usual.

If you already own these two on DVD, I don’t see any real reason to upgrade unless you’re such a super-fan that watching them in high-definition is an absolute must. But if not, now’s a perfect time to snag-‘em, as they’re both perfect, exciting flicks that are must-haves for any movie fan’s collection.

Pulp Fiction is available on Blu-ray

Jackie Brown is available on Blu-ray

Other Noteworthy Releases:

The Lion King: The re-release of this movie has been burning up the box office, so it’s perfect timing for Disney to roll this one out of the vault again, and strike while the iron is hot. It’s getting a release on Blu-ray, as well as on 3D in case you decide you want this great movie to suck when you watch it. The two worthless direct-to-video sequels are available if you buy the premium box set. Thank goodness John Lasseter killed the production of those things.

Available on Blu-ray/DVD combo, 3D Blu-ray and a special edition box set

Beauty and The Beast: In case you secretly hate this movie as much as Disney seems to, you can now make it worse by watching it in 3D at home. When I saw this movie for the first time, I thought, “boy…this would be so much better if the pictures were, like, popping out at me.” Please Disney, stop it.

Available on 3D Blu-ray

Fast Five: This entry in the ongoing franchise received high praise from critics. John Nolte has always been a big fan of these flicks, and this one is supposedly the best yet.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Scream 4: It’s better than the other two sequels, but that’s not saying a whole heckuva lot. It was fun to at least get the gang back together, but let’s not have a Scream 5 (or heaven forbid…5cream) okay?

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Prohibition: This is Ken Burns’s latest documentary chronicling a period of serious stupidity in this country. Gotta love the progressive nanny state that knows what’s best for us, right fellas? An America with no beer is not an America I wish to know.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure: “I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.”

Available on Blu-ray

Cinema Paradiso: This Italian classic captures a love of cinema so beautifully in a way that few filmmakers are able to do.

Available on Blu-ray

Life is Beautiful: Roberto Benigni’s film is a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it affair, but regardless, it struck a major chord when it was released.

Available on Blu-ray

The Undefeated: The Sarah Palin doc by Steve Bannon gets a DVD release.

Available on DVD

Friday the 13th Ultimate Collection: This collection includes the first eight movies. You know if you want these or not. The third was one of the first full-on movies I saw, and it scared my young self to death. Now I wonder why I was such a little wuss.

Available on DVD

Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom: This is Pier Paolo Pasolini’s heartwarming adaptation of the Marquis De Sade’s unfinished monument to depravity. The notorious reputation of this movie is firmly in place. Pasolini was a filmmaker known for his life-affirming narratives such as The Gospel According to Matthew. However, his final film before his mysterious death is a black, hellish void that lacks anything resembling goodness and humanity. Criterion is upgrading this one to Blu-ray, their rare original release of the DVD is a major collector’s item, though their subsequent re-release cause its value to drop significantly. It once went for $999.99 new from independent traders on Amazon.

Available on Blu-ray

Harakiri: Criterion is updating their edition of this Masaki Kobayashi film for a Blu-ray release.

Available on Blu-ray

Be sure to go check out the latest episode of the HomeVideodrome podcast! This week Jim and I talk about Queensrÿche vocalist Geoff Tate’s weird facial hair, Ken Burns documentaries, the poo-poo platter in Salo, and how people who claim to hate Sarah Palin can’t stop obsessing over her. So head over, tune in and leave some feedback!

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