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The Wicker Tree





(OUT OF 10)

There's a legion of fans out there eager to see this, author-director Robin Hardy's return to Wicker Land. Like George Romero and his zombies before him, Mr. Hardy let a lot of time slip by before returning to the genre that made him a cult hero.

It's been almost 40 years since the original The Wicker Man starring Christopher Lee. There was that awful 2006 Nicolas Cage remake that is already legendary for the major stank it put in theaters. Sometimes, I still smell that stank when I enter a movie theater, and I reminisce about Nic Cage covered in bees.

So, what of Hardy's return to the semi-funny cult horror genre? It made me nostalgic for the Nicolas Cage movie. That sucker was The Exorcist compared to this garbage.

Brittania Nicol stars as Beth Boothby, a former pop/country star who has given her life over to the Lord and wants to spread the word. She and her boyfriend, Steve (Henry Garrett), head over to Scotland on a missionary trek to talk the Bible and sing hymns. The people in the Scottish village act all warm and receptive, but they're actually just looking to make them the sacrificial stars of their pagan festival.

Hardy, who wrote and directed the original '73 The Wicker Man, has based this film on his 2006 novel, Cowboys for Christ. Hardy is shooting for some sort of satirical humor here, but it all falls flat thanks to weak performances from the leads, and generally bland writing. The film looks and feels like it was produced for 50 bucks, so that doesn't help.

Christopher Lee, top-billed in some of the advertising, shows up for one very short flashback scene in which he drones on about some kid's painting. His appearance makes no sense, and serves only to draw fans of the original to this film looking for some of that old Lee magic.

Those folks should stop searching because there's no magic to be found in this thing. It's not funny, it's not scary, and it's not worth your while. I spent a beautiful Sunday afternoon watching this, and I'm not getting that one back. Dammit!

SPECIAL FEATURES: A short making-of featurette and some worthless deleted scenes.

Pariah (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Adepero Oduye is heart-breakingly good as Alike, a Brooklyn high school student afraid to tell her parents she is a lesbian. Kim Wayans is shockingly good in a dramatic turn as Alike's domineering mother, with Charles Parnell also excelling as her more easygoing father.

Writer-director Dee Rees does a nice job showing Alike's family dynamic. While there isn't anything dramatically new going on in the film, she keeps things feeling fresh with a nice stylistic eye. Oduye, who has been hanging around doing small roles in film and television for the last decade, is given a nice vehicle here in what amounts to her breakthrough performance.

Pernell Walker is memorable in a supporting role as Alike's best friend and confidant. In the end, this is really a great vehicle for Oduye and Wayans. They have some dynamite scenes together, and its especially shocking to see the normally comedic Wayans spreading her wings dramatically. She's the real deal.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A few short features on the director and the film's wardrobe.

Pillow Talk (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Rock Hudson plays a real asshole in this dopey yet somewhat classic screwball comedy bonbon made way back in 1959. Coming on the cusp of the sexual revolution, this one was considered quite randy for its time. Doris Day was such a cinematic whore in her day!

Hudson plays the womanizing Brad Allen, who shares a party-line phone with Jan Morrow (Day) back in the days when they didn't have enough individual phone lines for everybody in Manhattan. Brad is always on the phone wooing girls with his music, and Jan the interior decorator has had enough.

One of Jan's clients, Jonathan Forbes (Tony Randall!) just happens to be Brad's best friend. When he professes his love for Jan to Brad, and Brad realizes it's his phone partner, he sets out to meet and woo her, too. He does this with a fake, Texan persona named "Rex Stetson," complete with deceptive accent. So, in complete screwball fashion, he screws over his friend and tries to get some Doris Day action.

Hudson and Day are cute on screen, and that fact helps the film stay fun despite its supreme datedness. Randall was always my favorite part of the Day-Hudson films. I loved that he showed up in Down With Love, the Ewan McGregor/Renee Zellweger tribute to screwball comedies (mainly, those with Day and Hudson) that came out in 2003, shortly before Randall's death.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Some making-of docs and a commentary are carried over from previous editions. The disc comes in one of those nice collector's booklets, and also features some more those Universal Studios 100th-anniversary short documentaries.

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