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New Releases for Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

Genre: Comic Book/Sequel

Directed by: Joe and Anthony Russo

Run time: 148 minutes

Rating: PG-13

Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: It’s funny now to think that way back in 2011, “Captain America: The First Avenger” was my least favorite Marvel movie, and it remained as such for several years until 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” showed me how wrong I had been to dismiss Steve Rogers.

In many ways, the “Captain America” franchise has done what the MCU likely wanted to happen with its “The Avengers” franchise – it expertly combined a growing roster of superheroes into multiple films without any one character feeling shoehorned in and every single character getting one (usually two) standout moments to shine.

“The Winter Soldier” introduced fan-favorite The Falcon, and made room for sizable roles for both Black Widow and Nick Fury, in addition to numerous Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. good guys and bad guys, as well as, duh, Bucky Barnes, aka The Winter Soldier.

The third film in the Cap’ franchise, “Civil War,” is by far the best adaptation of a Marvel comics to screen installment the MCU has delivered yet, and it’s also the largest cast yet assembled for an MCU film (which is good that they nailed it right out of the gate with “Infinity War” coming up soon, which promises an even larger cast.)

This time, Captain America, Falcon and Winter Solider are joined by pretty much the entire Avengers roster (minus Hulk and Thor), plus Ant-Man plus The Black Panther plus Spider-Man plus Crossbones plus Baron Zemo plus a whole host of Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. good guys and bad guys.

To put it in perspective, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” didn’t know what to do with three main superheroes plus three brief cameo appearances. “Civil War” has more than a dozen main characters and every one of them gets a Holy Crap moment to shine with Ant-Man and Spider-Man, in particular, simply wowing with their brief but stellar moments.

Captain America: Civil War is an important film in the MCU because it marks a turning point in Marvel’s eight-year ascendency to box office domination.

Several franchise icons, such as Iron Man and Captain America, may likely change in the coming films as both stars Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. look to conclude their contractual obligations and/or step aside to allow younger actors a chance to get called up. For the comic novices, this isn’t a bad thing – both comic titles have ushered in other people to assume the mantle of Iron Man and Captain America without losing any of either character’s signature relevance.

It's also the launching pad for the upcoming “Infinity War” two-part “Avengers” saga, which it nicely dovetails into by expertly detailing the fallout from The Sokovia Accords, a fictional government document that calls for reigning in superheroes and holding them accountable for the damage and collateral loss of life that has and can occur when a Big Bad decides to attack.

More so, “Civil War” tells a very personal story of belief versus political ideology and friendship versus family without resorting to the abject brutality of “Batman v Superman” for the simple sake of having two super-humans fight.

And it’s just a damn good popcorn movie chock full of wide-eyed moments of wonder at the prowess of technology in bringing comic panels to life on the big screen.

For my money, “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1” is still my favorite MCU movie to date, but Captain America: Civil War is a very close second if not outright tie for the top spot.

Highly recommended, even if you’ve never raced around your house in Underoos calling out catchphrases.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Oh Black Widow, how I love thee so.

Nudity – No. Gore – No.

Drug use – No.

Bad Guys/Killers – Baron Zemo, a classic comic nemesis for Cap.

Buy/Rent – Buy it. Now.

The Neon Dead (Wild Eye Releasing, 80 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Writer-director Torey Haas has his heart in the right place. His low-budget (estimated at $17,000) horror debut, The Neon Dead, about an unemployed young woman who discovers demons in her new house and hires a pair of video store clerk/wannabe paranormal investigators, has a shaggy, fun vibe and plays like a mashup of “Ghostbusters” and “The Evil Dead,” if it were imagined by Kevin Smith. It’s not that Haas lacks the chops to make a solid horror film given his background in visual effects. His most notable mention is as an effects artist on one segment of “V/H/S Viral.” But he needs to work on tightening up his writing and focus less on comedy and more on the straight-up scary stuff to be more effective.

The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist (Warner Bros., 134 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Director James Wan has mastered the art of the paranormal possessed chiller. He’s a virtuoso at creating palpable tension and slowly ratcheting audience anxiety before unleashing a torrent of demonic shocks. But his follow-up to the superior, original “The Conjuring,” suffers from a ‘been there, scared that’ feeling of diminishing returns. It’s not for lack of trying, but in his second feature focusing on real-life ghostbusters Lorraine and Ed Warren, Wan spends too much time setting up the UK-set haunting. By focusing heavily on Lorraine’s crisis of faith, and Ed’s steely determination to help people, Wan inadvertently exposes how little meat these two characters have outside of their occupation. This isn’t a comic book film where many of the characters are just as interesting out of costume as they are fighting crime. When fans go to see a film like “The Conjuring 2,” they want to be relentlessly tormented by spectacular frights, not burdened with unnecessary exposition about the nature of evil and so forth. The first “Conjuring” capitalized on this by consistently inundating viewers with a fevered rush of scary set pieces culminating in a truly memorable exorcism. The Conjuring 2 has its moments, but none that match the original’s intensity. Should there be a third film, and it’s likely there will, I would advise Wan & Co. to look deeper into the Warren’s extensive case files to find something different, something unique, something darker and more unexpected to bring this franchise back to where it began.

Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D (Shout! Factory, 84 minutes, Unrated, 3D Blu-Ray): Boy, oh boy, does this one take me back. I vividly remember the full-page color advertisements for Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn tucked within my favorite comic books when I was growing up back in 1983.

I never actually saw the movie, however. And I don’t know that I would have appreciated it as much back in my teenaged years.

Back in the early 1980s, Charles Band, son of legendary director/producer Albert Band, formed Empire Pictures and later Full Moon Pictures, the home of the “Puppet Master,” “Gingerdead Man” and “Evil Bong” franchises.

As a director, however, his early work focused heavily on pulpy science fiction and space horror with films like “Parasite” and “Trancers.”

Metalstorm was his fourth feature, an ambitious 3D space epic that plays like serious attempt to blend the best elements of “Star Wars” and “Max Max” into one post-apocalyptic cult classic.

It’s a truly great bad movie, the kind of genre film that would never be in stock at the local VHS store.

Band, working with the late cinematographer Mac Ahlberg (who lensed “Hell Night,” “Chained Heat,” Re-Animator,” “House” and so many other great genre classics), creates some truly impressive visual sequences.

The film deftly moves from action scenes with futuristic vehicles roaring across barren landscapes to lush Douglas Sirk-informed high drama to hellish, hallucinatory nightmare moments when victims are trapped by Jared-Syn’s soul-sucking magic crystal.

Every moment is played straight without the campy flourishes that undermined some sci-fi space films like “The Ice Pirates” and elevated others like “Flash Gordon.”

Kudos to Shout! Factory for wisely unearthing this overlooked gem.

If you’ve never seen Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, this is your chance. In today’s retro-appreciative climate, I could honestly see this movie making the rounds as a touring cinema event complete with a roundtable discussion by Band and his (now well-known) stars like Richard Moll, Tim Thomerson and Kelly “Mrs. Travolta” Preston.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Universal, 87 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): The Lonely Island, the sublime, sardonic and often just silly musical troupe featuring Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, finally get their big motion picture debut, and there’s enough home run laughs to justify you renting it.

Even at a short 87 minutes, the film does feel long at times, but it more than makes up for those draggy moments with an array of hysterical, original songs and irreverent concert performances.

If you’ve ever laughed at the absurdity of VH1’s “Behind the Music” docu-series, then you will fully appreciate what Samberg, Schaffer and Taccone have accomplished here.

Tenebrae (Synapse Films, 101 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Dario Argento’s 1982 classic about a U.S. novelist named Peter Neal who writes a book that inspires a series of brutal killings is both wickedly brutal and a standout example of why so many people cherish the giallo genre. It’s stuffed with boobs, blood, red herrings and the genre’s trademark misogynistic tendencies to serve as a perfect primer for the uninitiated. Plus the score is fantastic.

Aliens: 30th Anniversary Edition (Fox, 137 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Here’s the deal, a lot of fans already own “Alien: Quadrilogy,” the impressive nine-disc set devoted to the first four films in the “Alien” franchise. It also includes James Cameron’s 1986 “Aliens,” one of the best sequels ever made to any film, period.

So why would DVD completionists fork over another $25 for a single-disc anniversary edition of just “Aliens”?

It appears that Fox is willing to wager that fans don’t care that this single disc is the exact same as the two discs that accompanied the “Quadrilogy” boxed set minus the addition of a few collectible art cards, a collector’s book from Dark Horse Comics and a digital code to watch a new documentary called “The Inspiration and Design of Aliens.”

I’m all for double-and-triple-dipping, as long as more new special features are introduced, but this 30th anniversary set feels a little light to truly justify inclusion in your collection.

New on Video-On-Demand:

Happy Birthday (Momentum Pictures, 89 minutes, R, VOD): Yes, it's another south-of-the-border dark comedy.

Yes, it's another tale of a young man who finds out -- one his birthday, no less -- that his best girl has been doing him wrong behind his back.

Yes, it's another scenario where a well-meaning but dumb best friend decides the best cure-all for this painful lovesick situation is to whisk his bawling buddy down to lawless Mexico for a weekend full of drink, drugs and debauchery.

What could go wrong, right? If you've seen "Search Party," the long-shelved comedy with striking similarities, you know that everything and anything possible will go wrong.

But how does Steven Tyler fit into all this as a possible drug cartel boss? Now that you will have to watch and find out on your own for yourself.

Also Available:

Chicago P.D.: Season Three

Standing Tall

Raising Cain: Collector’s Edition

The Transformers – The Movie: 30th Anniversary Edition

All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

The Last Reef: Cities Beneath the Sea

Wonders of the Arctic


Batman Unlimited: Mechs Vs. Mutants

Presenting Princess Shaw

Quantico: The Complete First Season

Back in Time

Empire: The Complete Second Season

Hawaii Five-O: The Sixth Season

Scorpion: Season Two

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