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The Shelf: Django Comes A-Callin’

My favorite movie of last year comes to Blu-ray and DVD, as do a former Doctor turned spy, a bunch of punks, and some space fighters. You could also win a copy of an animated film with our Monster-ous giveaway.

Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino is a huge fan of Spaghetti Westerns, the Italian take on the traditional American western film which gained fame with Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy and spawned countless others from the mid-’60s to the late-’70s. He had always put references to these films in his movies and made what I consider the most perfect non-Italian Western version of an Italian Western of all time in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, but with last year’s Django Unchained, he finally went ahead and just made one himself. Of course, being Tarantino, he turns the genre on its ear by setting it in the pre-Civil War South and having a slave be the main character.

Django Unchained (a titular reference to Sergio Corbucci’s Django) uses the visual techniques of the Italians, the iconography of the American West, and the sensibility of blaxploitation to deliver a truly epic adventure film. It does what QT does best, which is ratchet up the tension with long, drawn-out dialogue scenes before setting off a cacophony of gunshots, including one of the best close-quarter shootouts ever committed to film.

The film was criticized for the use of violence with regard to slaves; However, there’s a very distinct difference between the relative realism of the atrocities carried out against the slaves and the over-the-top gore when it’s back to being a mythical story. It’s tough to watch at times, but I think it’s handled with just the right amount of care.

The film comes in a two-disc Blu-ray and DVD combo which also contains a digital copy and Ultraviolet, and comes with some behind-the-scenes extras, including looks at the stunts, the production design, and the costumes. As is common, Tarantino doesn’t give us a commentary track for this, but it would have been nice to have a few more extras. Still, it’s a wonderful, engaging film and is highly, highly recommended.

Repo Man

Ah, yes, Repo Man, the super weird comedy/sci-fi punk movie from 1984 by cult filmmaker Alex Cox and executive produced by Michael Nesmith from The Monkees. Just such a bizarre flick, wherein Emilio Estevez’ Otto, bereft of job and prospects, joins a repossession agency headed up by Harry Dean Stanton and begins to live the mercenary and paranoid world of the Repo Men. It shows the scuzziest side of Los Angeles in the mid-’80s, and treats everything with the irreverence of disaffected youth. Cox followed up this film with the Sex Pistols biopic Sid and Nancy with Gary Oldman.

As it did with the now out-of-print Sid and Nancy and Cox’s hallucinatory Western, Walker, the Criterion Collection has picked up Repo Man and given it a cleaned-up and pristine Blu-ray transfer supervised by Cox himself. The disc contains a commentary, interviews with cast and crew, deleted scenes, a complete “clean” version for TV, and Criterion’s customary essay booklet. This is a movie worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. It’s very weird.

A Monster in Paris

In Paris in 1910, things were a lot simpler. It was about singing, love, airships, and a giant flea who wears clothes. Pretty standard. This is a French digitally-animated film from 2011 which is finally getting a release in the U.S. It’s being released in a 3D Blu-ray/2D Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo, and we’re giving away five copies to five lucky winners. Simply enter this contest, then head to our Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ pages for more chances to win.

Also Available

Spies of Warsaw – The two-part BBC miniseries concerning French and Polish spies in the years leading up to World War II. David Tennant stars and puts on a very convincing English accent for his role as a French intelligence man.

Message from Space – Japan’s answer to Star Wars features space pilot kids being recruited to help an enslaved people battle evil aliens with massive ships and shiny green battle armor. Sonny Chiba and Vic Morrow also appear as good guys joining in the fight. The model shots are amazing because they look like they came right out of Power Rangers or Godzilla movies. It’s nuts, but a lot of fun.

Sexy Evil Genius – Katee Sackhoff gathers ex-lovers Seth Green, Harold Perrineau, William Baldwin, and Michelle Trachtenberg in a bar for something fiendish. She’s out of her mind and wants a bit of revenge.

Bay of Blood – A proto-slasher movie from Maestro of the Macabre Mario Bava. When a wealthy countess commits suicide (or does she?), her relatives and locals try to lay claim to her palatial estate overlooking the water. None of them want the others to have it and will do whatever it takes to make sure they get it. Tons of early-70s gore.

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