New Releases for Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Directed by: Tim Story
Run time: 111 minutes
The Lowdown: Shaft, the sequel no one asked for to the remake that no one wanted, is possibly the most homophobic movie ever made despite arriving during a period in history when gay rights and respectful representation are at a high-water mark in America.
Shaft is also one of the worst Samuel L. Jackson movies ever made, in large part because Jackson seems to be playing a campy approximation of himself, complete with a roll-call of his most overused and annoying schtick.
The sequel, which pairs Jackson with the original Shaft (Richard Roundtree) and a junior Shaft (Jessie T. Usher), de-ages and re-ages Jackson as necessary to fit into a plot that jumps back and forth in time from the late 1980’s to late ‘90s to mid-2000’s and finally present day.
The entire first eight minutes of the film is all set-up and flashbacks.
The main gag of Shaft is that the youngest member of the family (Usher) is not Shaft enough to carry the family name. Despite working for the FBI, he has a Lord of the Rings poster on his bedroom wall, which somehow makes him less masculine.
In their first scene together, Jackson tears Usher down with a blistering monologue that manages to insult, denigrate and racially impugn multiple minority groups, including white males, intelligent black males, gays, bisexuals and light-skinned “Don Lemon” black males.
It is a speech of staggering ignorance, and it happens to come one frame after Jackson, 71, makes cringe-worthy innuendos to a girl who is at least 40 years younger than him, if not more.
I get it, I mean Shaft was the original Blaxploitation superhero, which was fine way back in 1971 when the original film was released.
But today, in 2019, it isn’t a good look when Jackson carelessly drops the N-word over and over or gets excited when his son says he may have gotten a girl pregnant (because that means his son isn’t gay).
Seriously, Jackson is one-thousand-times better in most Capital One commercials than he is here.
Shaft is so offensive and so derivative that I turned it off with an hour left to play, and I never even made it see Roundtree’s entrance.
The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – No.
Nudity – No. Gore – No.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – I didn’t get that far.
Buy/Rent – Neither.
Fear No Evil (Shout! Factory, 99 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Color me embarrassed, but it’s true – I’d somehow never seen this wicked little 1981 satanic thriller. Thankfully, Shout! Factory’s excellent high-definition upgrade allows me, and I’m guessing plenty of other horror fans, the opportunity to soak in a gory delight that was years ahead of its time.
Fear No Evil opens with an incredibly ambitious period sequence that finds a rogue priest hunting down Lucifer, who looks like the mutant lovechild of Sha Na Na’s Bowzer and Evil Ed from Fright Night, and killing him with a sacred staff. Good prevails, but not for long. Jump forward to 1963 in Upstate New York and the Williams’ family is attending the baptism of son Andrew, which literally turns into a hellish nightmare. Jump forward again, and it’s Andrew’s 18th birthday, but there’s no joy left in the Williams’ home. Andrew (Stefan Arngrim) has both his parents terrified to upset him, and appropriately, his birthday celebration goes to hell too.
Fear No Evil doesn’t just check one box, it checks them all. There’s a portal to hell. A gay shower assault. A killer dodgeball. An ancient summoning. Zombies.
If you dig lesser-known horror gems from the early 1980’s, you have to check out Fear No Evil. The film has held up very well and the new Blu-Ray transfer looks great.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (Fox, 431 minutes, Unrated, DVD): The eighth season of the long-running American Horror Story anthology ranks as one of the top three best seasons (not counting 1984, which we’re waiting to binge once it’s complete) along with Hotel and Cult.
Apocalypse does a lot of things right, first and foremost it brings back the witches from Season 3’s Coven, and gives them a worthwhile adversary, but it also delivers some satisfying closure for Season 1’s Murder House.
Apocalypse also delights with a revolving door of fan-favorite actors and characters from past outings, and gives everyone multiple memorable moments to shine.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Stephen King’s The Stand: The Original Mini-Series
In the Aftermath
John Carpenter’s Vampires: Collector’s Edition
The Major and the Minor
Now on Video-on-Demand:
Groupers (Global Digital Releasing, 109 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Groupers opens with a definition: A person who changes gender or sexual orientation later in life…it’s also a bottom dwelling fish.
I’m not here to debate how accurate that is, but I did do a quick search and “grouper” is a slang term bestowed on someone who switches teams, so I guess it’s not entirely off base.
Regardless, witer-director Anderson Cowan’s debut feature is a wicked, pitch-black social satire about a young woman, Meg (Nicole Dambro), who kidnaps two obnoxious jocks, Brad (Peter Mayer-Klepchick) and Dylan (Cameron Duckett), who made high school a living hell for her brother, Orin (Jesse Pudles), because he is gay.
Meg restrains Brad and Dylan in the bottom of an empty swimming pool at a remote property and asks them a simple question: Do they believe homosexuality is a choice?
The two say yes, because of free will, they believe people choose to be gay.
Meg, satisfied, says that they then too have a choice. They can prove that what they say is true, and they’re going to do it on camera for her college thesis. If they choose to engage sexually to the point of becoming aroused, then she will let them go.
But, there’s a catch. She has positioned them in a Rube Goldberg-esque contraption whereby their penises are constrained. The device will automatically release if they both get an erection.
From that incredible set-up, the film takes off and never lets its foot from the gas.
Groupers is an outstanding debut. It’s smart, it offers deep characterizations of all the major players and it frequently switches perspective to allow viewers to experience the film from a different vantage point.
Of course, things do not go as planned, which is part of what makes Groupers so enjoyable.
This is one that you should definitely seek out.