Evil Dead II
Released by: Anchor Bay
Running Time: 84 minutes
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Available On: UMD, DVD
Here's one of those movies that will forever rank high on a cult movie maniac's "I can't believe you haven't seen this" list. Heck, even those that tend to swerve past the low budget corner should know about Bruce Campbell and the fan-adored Evil Dead flicks to some extent. For the uninitiated, this sequel is really a more comedic and fun re-imagining of the trilogy opener, batting away the original's decidedly more dark tone and making room for sillier fare.
And it works so well. This mood change certainly paved the way for the insanity of Army of Darkness, and Campbell's immense charm really begins to shine in this installment. In Evil Dead II, Ash finds himself back at the cabin and unleashing the forces of the dead once again. The one-liners and slapstick level are jacked way high as he goes up against evil one-man army style, all the while dealing with a possessed girlfriend and brutal attacks by parts of his own body.
Unfortunately for those new to the series, there are roughly one million different versions of the disc out there to choose from. The UMD is pretty bare aside from the movie, so if you're serious about picking up this gem for yourself or someone else, go for the semi-recently released Book of the Dead II edition. It's got fantastic packaging, it's not too much more expensive than an average new release, and the odds of them dishing out something better down the line are slim.
The Butterfly Effect
Released by: New Line Home Entertainment
Running Time: 120 minutes
Directed by: Eric Bress and J. Mackye
Available On: UMD, DVD
If the prospect of another Ashton Kutcher comedy sends chills down your spine, then you may have been surprised when the thriller The Butterfly Effect came out a couple of years back. However, despite the fact that it doesn't feature lead man Kutcher acting nervous in front of a new father-in-law or romanticizing someone for 90 minutes, it still manages to come off as silly and overblown.
In this flick, Kutcher finds himself struggling with haunting memories from his youth. Upon discovering that he can travel back in time and make a difference, he begins altering certain aspects of his past. Unfortunately, this more often than not leads to troubling and devastating consequences in the lives of himself and all of those close to him. It's really a lose/lose situation.
So the movie is overwhelmingly dark from start to finish, and not necessarily in an enjoyable way. The actors really ham it up, whether it's unintentional or not, and a lot of it seems too forced to warrant empathy from the audience's end. A former Boy Meets World cast member goes heartbreakingly goth, Kutcher's girl hits heroin chic– all of the twists and turns resulting from his meddling with the past are so expectedly tragic. Pass on this downer unless you're already smitten.
Released by: Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Running Time: 122 minutes
Directed by: Paul Haggis
Available On: UMD, DVD
Paul Haggis' feature directorial debut comes after a storied background of television work, a career that ended and blew up into something larger after penning the screenplay for Clint Eastwood's 2004 hit Million Dollar Baby. Two parts entertaining and somewhat eye-roll inducing, Crash has done well at both finding a strong and supportive audience while alienating select others. Throughout two hours, we follow a multi-ethnic group of people in Los Angeles whose lives are intersecting whether they've intended them to or not, and the ugly face of adversity shows up to tell us how we live our lives in a desperate, static reach for human contact.
Though entertaining and well-paced, Crash seems bound and determined to drive home a point that should be apparent to most. Of course, a criticism like this largely depends on the viewer, but the way Haggis and co. manipulate the audience through musical cues and silver-platter-served meaningful moments is much more transparent than in most films. Sure, every filmmaker is bending the audience to their will in some way, but there's a certain groan that's applicable to more than a handful of these pivotal scenes.
It's kind of a shame too, because the ensemble cast at work here does a great job at supplying some form of life-support to extremely two-dimensional characters. There are stark black and whites at work, with very few shades of grey explored in between (despite the film's urgent attempts to show just that). Each player on the overall chess board of American racism seems to either be one thing or the other from scene to scene, but never an interesting enough mash-up of what we might see in reality. From Ludacris' narrow-minded banger to Matt Dillon's jaded profiling cop, changes of heart announce themselves from high mountains and eschew subtlety in favor of predictability; "World's Smallest Violin" moments abound. The statements Crash tries to make may as well be brandished on everything from the amaray case to the various sub-menus of the disc.
If you're really into this flick you'll find a much better home for it on DVD than UMD. As a matter of fact, you'd probably be better off waiting for whatever inevitable Best Picture winner multi-disc edition of the movie is in the works. Crash has a lot of flaws, yet it's strangely watchable. Something keeps dragging me back to it, like a naïve but enjoyable drama club morality play writ large. Try to find a friend with a copy.