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There’s something really special on The Shelf this week: an Oscar nominated movie, you guys! How do you like that? Also, there’s a very stupid action movie with some old geezers in it, a cult horror movie that’s way better than it has any right to be, and other various things as well. But first:

Dallas Buyers Club

Perhaps everybody’s favorite actor these days is Matthew McConaughey, and with good reason. He’s been going through something others have coined a “McConnaissance,” in which he’s casting aside his rom-com boringness for meaty characters and deep performances. If you’re watching True Detective right now, you’ll know just how messed up he can play, and he’ll get an Emmy nomination for that, I would imagine. He’s been nominated for an Academy Award, and looks to be the frontrunner, for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club, acting opposite Jennifer Garner and Best Supporting Actor nominee Jared Leto.

Since I didn’t get to see the film yet, let’s see what Nerdist’s Witney Siebold recently had to say about it:

In short: Go see Dallas Buyers Club for the acting. Matthew McConaughey has been gunning for an Academy Award for years, selecting “daring” or “edgy” films that seem to play to his strengths while also refreshingly outside of his wheelhouse (Magic Mike, Mud, and Killer Joe all spring to immediate mind). Can you blame the guy? He is a talented and perhaps underrated performer whose laidback cowboy persona perhaps obstructs how much range he actually has. With Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey seems to have finally found the golden mean. Ron Woodruff, the charismatic rodeo star, is right up his alley, but it also hits the topical hot buttons so beloved by the Academy: Woodruff is a real person (the Academy loves them some biographical performances), and it deals with a capital-I-important social issue (Woodruff fights for the rights of marginalized AIDS patients to get the medicines they need).

Escape Plan

It’s not that Escape Plan is necessarily un-entertaining; it’s just that it’s so bog standard and devoid of tension while trying at all times to be a smart thriller instead of a stupid action movie. We’ve seen all this before done better, we’ve seen these guys — Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger — do things like this better, and we don’t want to see two guys who clearly can’t move as well as they used to in roles that would be better suited to guys in their early 50s. Yes, that’s right, guys in their early 50s are the spry spring chickens I think should have been in this movie instead.

It’s not a good movie by any stretch, though. It thinks it’s being clever throughout when, really, a blind Pomeranian could see the various twists coming three miles away through a pile of bramble bushes. Things happen so fast that it’s not for another two scenes before you realize you’ve seen something that’s supposed to be intriguing. I’m sure this was meant to be a classy, heist-y escape movie, but it ends up just being guys in prison who figure things out without any way of verifying them.

To read my full review of the film, click here, please.

Night of the Demons

’80s horror movies are among my favorites, simply because they’re really gory and also really silly. In the 1970s, horror became rawer and grittier and a lot more “realistic,” but in the ’80s, they kept the gruesome, amped up the sex, and didn’t take themselves so seriously. No horror film exemplifies all of these aspects more than Kevin S. Tenney’s 1988 low-budget monster movie, Night of the Demons. The set-up is simple: 10 kids go to an abandoned funeral home for a Halloween party, do a seance, raise a demonic spirit, get possessed, and start slaughtering each other. You know Halloween parties.

The film’s visual style owes a lot to Evil Dead 2 and Sam Raimi’s work in general, but its sense of humor is slightly less slapstick and more teen sex comedy. For a movie that was touted at the time for being so gory, it’s fairly tame by today’s standards. A geyser of blood there isn’t, but there’s gouging of eyes and impaling and all the other good stuff. What’s most surprising about it is just how long it takes for the horror to really begin. It’s only about 90 minutes long, and for at least the first 45, we mostly just meet the characters, get to know them, get annoyed by some of them, see then hook up and pair off… INSIDE A FUNERAL HOME… and slowly begin getting possessed. However, when the scary stuff begins, it doesn’t let up, and the real house in which the movie was filmed is very creepy and suitably atmospheric even when nothing else is really going on.

Among the cast is legendary scream queen Linnea Quigley, who was known for being the girl who got naked in horror movies like Silent Night, Deadly Night and Return of the Living Dead, where she famously did a striptease atop grave markers before turning into one of the undead. Here, she gets a lot of grotty alone time, as she begins doing weird things with lipstick. I will leave it at that for those who haven’t seen it.

Overall, the film is a lot of fun, and will make a good B-horror night viewing for friends and riffers alike.

The Blu-ray from Scream Factory is brilliant, of course. There’s a feature-length making of with interviews from most of the cast and crew, two commentary tracks, and other behind-the-scenes trinkets. Really good value, and well worth picking up if you’re a horror maven.


Witchboard – Kevin Tenney’s first film, in which a Ouija board lets loose a vengeful spirit. Tawny Kitaen is in this one, you guys.

DCU Justice League WAR – Another in the long line of animated DC features, this one based on Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League run from the New 52.

About Time – A British romantic comedy about time travel? I’m in.

Napoleon Dynamite: 10th Anniversary Edition – This movie’s ten years old now. GOSH!

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