Twenty years ago, director Michael Paul Stephenson was a kid actor in a no-budget horror film that went straight to video. He went on with his life, as did everyone involved. Then a funny thing happened: Aggregator sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB came along and started semi-officially user-ranking every film; what emerged at the bottom of the pile – the worst of the worst – was Stephenson’s random childhood memory. Troll 2 (it’s neither a sequel nor involves trolls) captured a perfect zero-percent rating on RT and thumped to the bottom of the pile on IMDB. The result would change not only the cast’s everyday lives but give Stephenson a reason to pick up a camera. What he captured for the brief time Troll 2 enjoyed über-cult status was an American portrait of small victories and quiet heartache. (available now)
Special Features: Deleted scenes, interviews
At turns absorbing and ludicrous, director Patrick Meaney’s hyper-affectionate visual essay on the life of Grant Morrison, comic-book writer of such seminal titles as Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth and The Invisibles is at its best in the first half, which traces Morrison’s rise from a talented but quiet kid enmeshed in his own superhero world to a talented prick with immense self-regard and the skills to mostly back it up. The film is less entrancing once Morrison gains fame and fortune from Arkham and sets out on a deliberate path of exploration and destruction fueled by ego and creativity. It’s a credit to Morrison’s vast influence in the comic world that even his peers hold him in a pseudo-mystical regard: Legend Warren Ellis hints at Morrison’s psychic abilities while comic writer Jason Aaron likens Morrison’s early DC work to the Beatles. There must be some fantastic drugs on the convention circuit. Note: director Meaney appears at A Comic Shop’s Geek Easy lounge in Winter Park Friday, Nov. 19. (available now)
Special Features: none
Back in 1972, Roger Ebert wrote about Charlie Chaplin’s decision, at 81 years old, to throw some of his classic films into the marketplace again just to see what would happen. “Here in Chicago they’ve been booked in the Carnegie Theater,” writes Ebert of the elated crowds, “where the staff hardly knows what hit it.” It’s no surprise, then, that 38 years after that experiment (and nearly 75 years after its original release), Chaplin’s Modern Times comes to Criterion and elicits the same response. The filmmaker’s last performance as the Little Tramp – this time as a factory worker – still works not just as a throwback but as a freestanding major film. (You might have absorbed Chaplin’s famous gears-and-levers gag through cultural osmosis.) Even better is the new “2K-resolution” digital transfer, which makes the contrast pop like firecrackers. (available now)
Special Features: Audio commentary, interviews, deleted scenes, home movies
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