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It’s hard to picture two releases that are more opposite than the big two this week. Evil Dead is a movie that revels in gruesome violence set in a cabin in the woods while 42 is a movie about a baseball team, and more importantly, about avoiding violence in order to help break down racial barriers in the sport. One story is horrifying and one is heartwarming, and if neither of those two releases suit your fancy, there's plenty more that's out this week. Beyond the two big movies, this week offers fans plenty of TV sets, including sci fi, animation, and a Blu-ray and DVD set prefacing the return of AMC’s Hell on Wheels. Read on to learn about some of July 16th’s best releases, and maybe even a few that may have slipped under your radar.
Evil Dead Blu-ray
Fede Alvarez’s loose reboot and continuation of the Evil Dead series made famous by Sam Raimi is a gory and harrowing story of a group of friends who head to a cabin in the woods with the goal of helping a young woman named Mia (Jane Levy) get over a severe drug addiction. Dealing with an addicted young woman in the woods is already a little freaky and problematic, but add demons and even possessed trees and you end up with a recipe for death and disaster filled with nods at Raimi’s original Evil Dead film.
Since Raimi’s film at the time was banned in some areas due to its gory nature, it’s hard to believe Alvarez’s film might strive to be even more blood-littered than its predecessor, but the nature of this film is inherently more creepily violent and less campy than the movies that came before. This may be tough for fans of Raimi’s films to invest in, as well as tough for audiences who prefer suspense and an exciting pace in horror films to blatant, cringe-inducing gore.
Despite this, Levy brings a lot to the table in Evil Dead, willing to put a lot of physicality into her performance as a possessed individual. She’s joined by a slew of up-and-coming names who all get into the destructive nature of the film, including Red Riding Hood’s Shiloh Fernandez, The Story of Luke’s Lou Taylor Pucci, Cult’s Jessica Lucas, and Legend of the Seeker actress Elizabeth Blackmore. The youthful cast is one of the things that ties the film back to the original, and each of the members brings a familiar horror character to the table, while still adding to the compelling nature of the film. Evil Dead may not be the best horror film the year has to offer, but it may be the most dedicated to violence. If you are alright with films that take violence to an extreme, it’s worth a watch.
You can order Evil Dead on Amazon.
Best Special Feature: The bonus features are all short, behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the film, filled with interviews from the actors and the other creative forces who worked behind the scenes. Most of the extras really could have been put together in a lengthy “Making of” documentary, but instead, they are separated, which means audiences must spend a lot of time perusing through the menu to watch a few short segments.
The best of these short segments is the initial “Directing the Dead” segment, which goes through the script, the set-up, Alvarez’s process, and even covers some of the old school camera tricks the crew ended up using, despite getting a decent $17 million production budget to bring the story to the big screen. If you did enjoy the movie, Blu-ray copies come with a few extra bonus features, the rest of which can be seen, below.
Other Special Features:
“Making Life Difficult”
Cast and Filmmaker commentary (Blu-ray only)
“Unleashing the Evil Force” (Blu-ray only)
“Evil Dead the Reboot”
42 is a film that prides itself on presenting a realistic look into an era of American history, from its opening credits which feature real news and TV reels to its actors, who bring to life characters straight out of the pages of sports footage, newspaper articles and a slew of other historical documents. Before audiences are introduced to the story of Jackie Robinson, they are introduced to the political climate of baseball at the beginning of the narrative, thanks to a short newspaper article shared with us by journalist Wendell Smith (Andre Holland).
We soon meet Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), a great athlete who is unhappy with the status quo. His partner, Rachel (Nicole Beharie), is equally feisty, and when Robinson is given the opportunity to play big league ball thanks to legendary baseball mind Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), the two jump at the chance to support the African American community on the baseball field.
Legendary’s movie spends a lot of time building up the history present in the film by introducing us to famous places like Ebbets Field, famous players like Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black) and Eddie Stanky (Jesse Luken), and even famous racists like Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk). The most amusing performance is a small one put in by John C. McGinley as the famous radio personality, Red Barber. While the performances are enchanting and make for a fun game of Who’s Who, the baseball is actually a lot of fun, too.
If you get into the special features on the disc, they’ll go into the lengthy baseball training camp all of the actors had to participate in. Through sheer practice, plenty of takes, and some camera tricks, the baseball in the movie is lifelike and lively—especially when Robinson is doing his thing and stealing bases. I’m not sure any of the plays beat Gina Davis’ incredible splits catch in A League of Their Own, but the plays in 42 feel somewhat less gimmicky.
The tone and pace of 42 make it seems as if it was a movie that could have been and maybe should have been made fifteen years ago, but thanks to its fun view into a window of history as well as its performances, it’s still an enjoyable watch.
You can order 42 over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: The best special feature is the set of “Stepping into History” extras, which gives some historical context to the people and places that appear in the film. Extensive interview footage is available from cast members including Ford and Boseman, who talk about the process of getting into the character and making the movie feel as realistic as possible.
Other Special Features:
“The Legacy of the Number 42”
Other June 16 Releases
The release of the Hell on Wheels: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray and DVD set means that fans are very near to seeing the show’s long-awaited Season 3 premiere on AMC. The series centers on a settlement that developed around the construction of the first transcontinental railroad and follows a railroad foreman named Cullen who is looking into a murder mystery. The series was delayed after losing its original showrunner, but will return to AMC’s schedule on August 3. If you aren’t caught up on the series, the Season 1 and Season 2 sets are a good place to start.
This week's other big release is Bullet to the Head, the new Sylvestor Stallone film that follows the actor as a New Orleans resident and hit man who teams up with a cop (Sung Kang) to wreak havoc and revenge on a set of killers that took the lives of their respective partners. That flicks i s available on Blu-ray and DVD today, as well as via digital outlets like iTunes, Xbox, PlayStation, Amazon and more. While many of the movies in this column offer better picture quality and better bonus features when purchasing Blu-ray copies, the Stallone flick only comes with one special feature looking at the action and choreography and quite frankly, if you want to give this one a shot the picture quality isn't particularly preferable on the Blu-ray copy. Check out some of the rest of this week's releases, below.
Unless otherwise noted, releases are available on both DVD and Blu-ray.
Bullet to the Head
The Mob DVD
Hell on Wheels: The Complete Second Season
Orphan Black: Season 1
Regular Show: Season 1 & Season 2
Alphas: Season 2 DVD
Shark Week: Fins of Fury
Letters from Jackie: The Private Thoughts of Jackie Robinson DVD