Prior to firing up the 2-D incarnation of ‘Drive Angry’ on Blu-ray, I perhaps made the fatal miscalculation of not throwing down an alcoholic beverage or three. So it’s best to take my criticism with a grain of salt, and that knowledge. That said, ‘Drive Angry’ is… well, a disappointment. Oh, sure, Nicolas Cage works his whole zonked-out/crazy thing, this time with stringy, dyed-blonde hair. And Amber Heard is, let’s be honest, hot as all get out — hot with two “t”s, really. And there’s even an action scene where Cage’s character has a shootout while actually having sex with Charlotte Ross. Oh, and he drinks blood out of a human skull. All of which sounds like it should tip the awesome-meter in spasmodic fashion, I realize. So what gives, you ask?
Well, the story reads like some sort of nutty leftover from the go-go, high-concept 1980s. Bad dude Milton (Cage) busts out of hell (yes, literally hell… not metaphorically), intent on tracking down the cult leader (Billy Burke, awkwardly trying on a Loo-easy-annuh accent) who murdered his daughter, and stole her baby for a forthcoming Satanic sacrifice. Pursued by an enigmatic man known only as The Accountant (William Fichtner), Milton hooks up with Piper (Heard), a tough-as-nails waitress who ankles her abusive boyfriend and shruggingly accepts a little supernaturally-tinged road-movie adventure. Director Patrick Lussier, working from a script co-written with Todd Farmer, his partner in the same capacity on the recent remake of ‘My Bloody Valentine’, has editing chops, a robust sound mix and some of the sort of ridiculously over-the-top staging instincts that one imagines make the movie’s more lurid elements connect in 3-D. The chief problem, though, relates to tone and scale. The filmmakers lack the sort of upper-eight-figure budget necessary to pull off some of the big set pieces as conceived, but they plow ahead anyway, resulting in these cheesy, disjointed, effects-disabled scenes that look slapped together by an enthusiastic but under-qualified Ray Harryhausen acolyte. The title is true (there is plenty of angry driving herein), but the movie never morphs into the completely insane, rip-snorting romp that it feels like it could be in the hands of, say, someone like ‘Crank’ co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.
‘Drive Angry’ comes to Blu-ray in a complementary cardboard slipcover, presented in a 1080p high definition transfer and 1.78:1 widescreen, with an English language DTS-HD master audio 5.1 track and a Spanish language Dolby digital 5.1 track, plus English SDH subtitles. Bonus features consist of an audio commentary track with Lussier and Framer, full of production details and other anecdotes, plus two brief extended scenes with commentary from Lussier. There’s also a complement of scene-specific features, which allows viewers to track the body count Milton racks up. Alas, there is no option which disrobes Heard, though her jean shorts leave little to the imagination anyway.
It’s true, I know… ‘Lemonade Mouth’ sounds like one of those old AOL internet test disc sign-up passwords, in which randomly generated words get thrown together. But no, this is actually another poppy Disney Channel original movie, which seems chiefly designed to move soundtrack units amongst impressionable tweens. Since, presumably, there are sets, instruments, cardigans and other costumes that aren’t in use anymore from the withering ‘High School Musical’ series, it’s just good economic sense, I guess, to donate them to this yawning, ragtag tale, a ‘Breakfast Club’ rip-off, vacuumed free of any nuance or intelligence, in which five stereotypical misfits discover their shared dream of making it as a garage band.
Based on the book of the same name by Mark Peter Hughes, and directed by Patricia Riggen, ‘Lemonade Mouth’ waaaay overpresses the keys and peddles of be-true-to-yourself-moralizing, and additionally wrings precious little mileage out of its expectedly risible villains (a principal that supports only the school’s athletic programs, and an established, popular rival rock group named Mudslide Crush). The performers, though, are attractive and energetic, and their elocution is chirpy enough to beguile the target demographic of late primary schoolers. The resultant music is poppy and tepid all at once, but no matter — it pulled two weeks in the top 5 of the Billboard 200, and charted number one on the iTunes Soundtrack rankings. If you have a tween sibling, you might already know all this. Presented in a regular Amaray case with an accompanying cardboard slipcover, the DVD comes with a digital copy of the movie (a nice bonus value), but its bonus features are otherwise fairly thin — a “rock-along” feature that gives song lyrics on the screen during viewing, and an extended performance of the tune “Livin’ on a High Wire.”
As previously noted, Father’s Day looms just around the bend, and while gift cards are all fine and dandy, there’s still something to be said for a personal selection, and there are thankfully no shortage of home video releases out there to sling Pop’s way, if that handmade non-smoker’s ashtray you made in sixth grade pottery class can’t be recycled yet again. If he’s an environmentalist at heart, or a fisherman perhaps concerned with protecting natural habitats, PBS’ ‘Salmon: Running the Gauntlet’ is actually an engaging hour-long documentary that sounds a wake-up call without being dour or defeatist. The annual run of millions of salmon was once a defining event for all manner of life in the Pacific Northwest. Narrated by Jay Sanders, this film throws a spotlight on the dwindling salmon populations in the Columbia River Basin. Like the recent ‘Vanishing of the Bees’, this is an under-trumpeted nature story that could have profound effects on millions of square miles of diverse ecosystems. Available on both DVD and Blu-ray — the latter in 1080i high-definition and 1.85:1 widescreen, to better appreciate its beautifully captured visuals — this title is available via PBS’ web site, www.shopPBS.org. Unfortunately, there are no supplemental extras on the discs.
If your dad’s more of a guy’s guy, and finds reward in all those History Channel specials on World War II aircraft and the like, ‘Legends of Flight’ — which originally premiered on IMAX screens in 3-D — makes a 2-D bow on DVD and Blu-ray, which engagingly spotlights the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A380, the latter a double-decker aircraft that is the world’s largest commercial airplane, with the capacity to hold 525 passengers in a three-class configuration. Spinning back in time, this unique cinematic experience shows how previous aircraft influenced the designs of these craft, and how in turn they might impact the next century of aeronautical design. The loss of the extra dimension and IMAX presentation no doubt dents the impression of some of the amazing cockpit footage, but there’s still material here that one won’t see anywhere else. A 20-minute-plus making-of featurette, textual spec information about the showcased planes, and a collection of other Image Entertainment trailers are also included.
Finally, if you’re just looking to help your father perhaps exercise an old crush (or do the same yourself), there’s the new DVD release of ‘The Happy Thieves’, a 1961 caper flick from director George Marshall that’s part of MGM and 20th Century Fox’s new limited-edition, made-on-demand series. Starring Rex Harrison, Rita Hayworth, Gregoire Aslan and Joseph Wiseman, this adaptation of Richard Condon’s ‘The Oldest Confession’ has chiefly going for it some jaunty music and lovely scenery (it was shot on location in Madrid), as well as the lovely Hayworth. That almost all of its dapper-art-thief/heist contest antecedents and descendents deliver more whipsmart dialogue or clever thrills is almost beside the point, if one is a completist fan of Hayworth, or Marshall. Sadly, there are no supplemental features here.
By Brent Simon