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The Divide





(OUT OF 10)

Manhattan takes a major nuclear hit, and a bunch of jerks take refuge in an apartment-building basement in this dreary, marginally effective apocalypse movie.

Now, I know—an apocalypse movie should be dark and dirty, and this one most certainly is. But as an ensemble piece, The Divide goes off the rails quickly, becoming a movie where we watch a bunch of mediocre actors shave their heads while getting skinny, dirty, hysterical and insane.

The cast includes Lauren German, Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia, Rosanna Arquette and Courtney B. Vance. There was a time when Seann William Scott was attached to the project. I totally would've liked to see how Stifler reacted to the apocalypse.

Biehn, the member of the ensemble who fares the best, plays Mickey, the building's landlord—who just happens to have a doomsday shelter in the basement, which includes a septic toilet, a Turkish bath and lots of beans. After an impressive first scene in which Manhattan is annihilated (as seen through an apartment window), a hodgepodge of American society winds up in the basement, with Mickey temporarily in charge.

Of course, things start off bad and get a lot worse. Arquette's character loses her daughter to an invading force in radiation suits. (In one of the film's more-ridiculous scenes, a survivor leaves the shelter to discover that outside, after only a few days, is a medical-treatment area for the unknown enemy—replete with labyrinthine plastic tunnels. They sure do act fast!) When the beans start to run out, raping and dismemberment ensue. The bad guys focus on Arquette—and basically rape her to death. Her acting here is something that she, and everybody in her profession, should be ashamed of.

Biehn gets to chew the scenery—and chomp a cigar—in the film's most complicated role. He's the most interesting character in the film, so, of course, director Xavier Gens and his writers tie him to a chair and sequester him for a good chunk of the movie. Instead, we spend most of the film dealing with Ventimiglia's psycho and German's mostly quiet girl.

The movie repulsed and annoyed me—but it also kept my attention. A better cast and the elimination of the whole sci-fi medical-facility thing would've done the film some good. I admire the film's willingness to be dark; I don't admire the majority of the performances.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A director's commentary with some of the cast and crew, including Biehn.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXIII





(OUT OF 10)

I don't own all of the Mystery Science Theater collections, but I have cherished and enjoyed multiple times the ones I do have. This volume contains two Joel episodes (King Dinosaur and The Castle of Fu Manchu) and two Mike episodes (Code Name: Diamond Head and Last of the Wild Horses). I remain a diehard Joel fan, but have absolutely no problem with the brilliant Mike.

My favorite of this bunch would be King Dinosaur. One of my favorite MST3K running gags is when they provide the voices for lizards and snakes that are standing in for giant monsters in cheap-ass movies. They say stuff like, "Hey folks, remember me? I'll be right back!" as if the creatures are 1960s variety-show hosts. It's weird, random and funny as all hell.

Joel Hodgson carries on movie criticism with Cinematic Titanic, while Michael J. Nelson does RiffTrax. They are great, but it's just not the same without Crow and Tom Servo. We still have their voices, but we need their silhouettes. Bring back the Bots!

SPECIAL FEATURES: There are intros by Frank Conniff (TV's Frank!), a Life After MST3K doc with Kevin Murphy (the voice of Tom Servo), some cool mini-posters and more.

War Horse (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

If you are searching for a beautiful-looking movie to give your home-entertainment system a workout, have at it with Steven Spielberg's gorgeous adaptation of the novel that became a stage play.

While War Horse is nowhere near Spielberg's best, and it didn't deserve the Best Picture Oscar nomination it received, it's still a good movie. The horses they got for the title character—a farm horse sold to the military that fights its way back to its master—are beautiful. A sequence mixing real horses and CGI in which the horse gets tangled in barbed wire is among last year's best.

Some of the emotional stuff gets way too schmaltzy—but the film is always technically dazzling. There was a time last year when it seemed like every other film at the theaters came from Spielberg; this and his The Adventures of Tintin were released at virtually the same time.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Plenty of featurettes on the making of the film and its technical aspects.

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