James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
All of these releases hit shelves on December 7th
James Clay// Film Critic
BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD: DO AMERICA
Rated PG-13, 82 minutes.
Director: Mike Judge
Cast: Mike Judge, Robert Stack, Demi Moore, Bruce Willis
In the 90s, a weird trend (especially at Paramount) was to turn beloved television properties into feature films. This prospect was always exhilarating and novel, and to be quite honest, most (lower case m) of these adaptations worked.
THE BRADY BUNCH movie took a weird and subversive turn, Saturday Night Live started adapting sketches into films, and MTV started to branch out into their film division. A minor stroke of genius had lasting power and propelled younger viewers to stay engaged with the content. This is what happened with Mike Judge’s ultra funny and beautifully animated film BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA. A film so intentionally meandering and silly, it works on nearly every level, which has to be due to Judge’s ultra-relaxed way of handling Hollywood.
The plot is simple Beavis, and Butthead get their television stolen and somehow get involved in a plot where they have a computer chip the FBI and secret service want to obtain. As these burnouts naively cruise the country in search of a cracked CRT television, we get to see America through their eyes filtered through Judge’s vision of the 90s. The film isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s short, funny, and has excellent use of voice-over work and color. Aside from Judge taking on the voices of the titular bozos, you have Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Robert Stack, Greg Kinnear, filmmaker Richard Linklater, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and even David Letterman in the cast.
This release is BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD DO AMERICA’S first time on blu ray, and the disclaimer does not disappoint with a quality transfer and special features. The one lacking element was that collectors want slipcover with this release, and that is honestly a reasonably big knock in my eyes.
RENT/BUY: I believe DO AMERICA is on Paramount +, but it’s also worth buying for the artwork and special features on the disc. All the parts are rehashes from an earlier release in 2006 and capture a particular time in physical media when budgets were high for nearly every studio release. In addition, the disc has an engaging commentary where Mike Judge and animation director Yvette Kaplan wax on about Bruce Willis’ weird home in Idaho and studio notes. The whole commentary is refreshingly honest.
Aside from the commentary, there’s a fascinating feature about the score and how composers making music for comedies are compelling and a 25-minute making-of documentary. DO AMERICA was a big-time release for preteen boys in the mid-1990s, and Paramount essentially has given this film its due.
Rated R, 111 minutes.
Director: James Wan
Cast: Annabelle Wallis
Director James Wan did what any filmmaker should do after making a bananas tentpole that grosses a billion dollars, creating an even more insane mid-budget movie on the studio’s dime. His latest MALIGNANT is satisfying on many levels and may be the most daring studio film of the year. Wan came up with the story with his partner Ingrid Bisu (who appears in the movie as a starry-eyed forensics analyst). They arrived on an amalgamation of body horror, mid-2000s torture porn with a mix of CBS serialized detective work and many ridiculous bloodsheds. Wam seemingly made an underground horror movie with house money and the result is odd and incredibly heartwarming that this film even exists.
The film follows a woman (Annabelle Wallis in perfect genre form) who has gnarly visions of murders and sleepwalking dreams that turn into real-life nightmares. As she uncovers what is happening to her, the body count is piling up, and Wan is in the director’s chair, champing at the bit for the subsequent set-piece. The film is exciting, and the reveal is an incredible payoff that gives the bad taste a good name. MALIGNANT exploded on Twitter opening weekend, and it’s sure to keep finding an audience.
RENT/BUY: MALIGNANT lacks special features and only has a 15 minute long documentary on James Wan’s directing style, but it’s okay. The less explained about MALIGNANT by the filmmakers, the better. Buy this immediately and bring all your vaccinated friends over for a bloody good chill session.
Rated PG-13, 104 minutes.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Dwight Yoakum, Eduardo Minett
There’s not a credible film critic working today that wouldn’t give Clint Eastwood at least some credit for continuing to work at a high level as he emerges into his 90s. Who’s to say if he should hang it up, but personally, if given a chance to work and be productive, you should take that challenge nine times out of ten.
The actor/director has tackled many stories about masculinity in his day, subverting the expectations men place upon themselves and the way society rewards that machismo. He has ranged from sweet to cynical to downright mean in many films. Even though his on-screen appearances have become less frequent, he continues to make an impact each time he pops up. His latest film, CRY MACHO, is a weird film where the director absolutely should have either recast himself in the lead or provided himself and his younger costar Eduardo Minett a couple more takes.
Nevertheless, CRY MACHO is an Eastwood film through and through toying with the emotional baggage of a former rodeo star who’s coming to terms with his capabilities. He’s commissioned to retrieve his boss’ (Dwight Yoakum) son (played by Minett) from Mexico to save him from his mother, who appears to be a narco queen. The two men( along with a rooster named Macho) form a May-December friendship that’s adversarial and at times and heartwarming at others. While the film falters, fans of Eastwood’s work often will excuse the shaggier elements of the film’s narrative and acting choices. However weird this effort maybe, I will continue to watch Eastwood pictures as long as Warner Brothers pony up the cash.
RENT/BUY: Unless you’re building up your Eastwood collection, just give this a rent and call it a day.