Dead Snow; Alexander the Last; Ran (Blu-ray)

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Dead Snow

IFC

MOVIE B-

SPECIAL FEATURES B

DVD GEEK FACTOR 6

(OUT OF 10)

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I think I liked this Nazi-zombie extravaganza a little more than fellow critic James DiGiovanna. He didn't hate it, but he lamented that it was "by the numbers." I'll just say that I was in the mood for a good, old-fashioned zombie flick, and this one delivers the goods. And ... THE ZOMBIES ARE NAZIS!

Things get off to a slow start as a bunch of young folks head into the Norwegian mountains for some snowy recreation. Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola pays homage to American fare like Friday the 13th and The Evil Dead by actually mentioning the flicks prominently in his screenplay. The problem with mentioning classic genre flicks is that you are bringing up the very films to which yours will be compared.

The movie isn't quite up to snuff for its first half hour, but then it slowly starts to get nutty. By the time one of the leads is cutting off his arm and cauterizing it, you've got a nice, hard-core zombie fest on your hands.

The gore looks quite lame in the early killings, but becomes respectably disgusting as the bodies pile up. Zombies crack a dude's head like an egg, and the brains spill out accordingly. Another victim gets pulled apart, Romero-style, and in one particularly horrifying moment, we see a POV of somebody becoming a zombie buffet. Bravo!

This is not high art, but Wirkola and crew make it fun and even a little scary at times. Were I to have a zombie-film night at my house, I would play this one proudly alongside Romero's and Raimi's best. It's not as good as those films, but it's a cut above the majority of zombie flicks.

Heck, if the rest of the film were as good as its last half-hour, you might've been able to call this a classic. As it stands, it's pretty good as far as Nazi-zombie films go.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The two-disc set comes with a lot of behind-the-scenes docs, a lot more than I was expecting for something like this.


Alexander the Last

IFC

MOVIE B-

SPECIAL FEATURES B-

DVD GEEK FACTOR 5.75

(OUT OF 10)

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This is one of those, "Let's turn the camera on and see how things go!" films, from director Joe Swanberg. Co-produced by Noah Baumbach and basically written by the actors as they made their lines up, the project comes together in a surprisingly decent fashion. It actually feels like a movie in the end, which is no small feat.

The film comes together largely because it is anchored by a wonderful actress, Jess Weixler, who you might remember from a decent horror film called Teeth. Weixler plays Alex, a married actress who gets a gig in a steamy play with Jamie (Barlow Jacobs). While her husband, Elliot (Justin Rice), is on the road, she invites Jamie to crash at her place, where he gets involved with her sister, Hellen (Amy Seimetz).

The movie winds up being a nice depiction of sibling rivalry as Alex gets jealous; it also shows the pain of being faithful in times of major temptation. Having spent some time around community theater and alternative-weekly offices, I can tell you that the stuff depicted in this film goes down on a daily basis among arty types. This is an honest film.

Credit Swanberg for making something comprehensible. The story, although a little routine and clichéd at times, comes together in a coherent way. The movie looks good considering its low budget, and having experienced actors like Jane Adams and Josh Hamilton around (as a director and a playwright) gives the film decent indie cred.

Let it be said that Weixler is a true talent. A look at her future projects reveals a lot of work on the horizon, but no "big" projects. Do yourself a favor, and seek out some of her works, both past and future. If you haven't seen Teeth yet, that's a good place to start.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Swanberg delivers an entertaining commentary, and you also get some deleted scenes that should've been deleted.


Ran (Blu-ray)

STUDIO CANAL

MOVIE A

SPECIAL FEATURES B+

BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 9

(OUT OF 10)

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There are certain titles that make a movie geek drool when the Blu-ray release is announced, and this is one of them. Director Akira Kurosawa's take on Shakespeare's King Lear is an astonishing work, and getting a hi-def treatment of it is sheer bliss.

When the Criterion release came out about five years ago, I discussed how bloody this movie is. Well, that blood has gotten a whole lot more vivid; Kurosawa's film has never looked better on home video. And if you haven't seen any Kurosawa films yet, get cracking, because the guy is amazing.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Like the Criterion Collection DVD, the Blu-ray gives you AK, a feature-length documentary on Kurosawa. You also get a collection of other docs on the director and the art of the samurai.

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