|by Peter Sobczynski
In this roundup of titles new to DVD and Blu-Ray, Halle Berry rassles sharks, Cloris Leachman and Tara Reid share the screen at long last, Gina Carano kicks some ass, Madonna returns to the director's chair and Alicia Silverstone says a mouthful. Throw in Piper Perabo kicking additional ass, an extended tribute to one of the legends of rock music and several hours of unabashed smut and the end result is a column with pretty much something or other for everyone.
NEW AND NOTABLE
11-11-11 (Arc Entertainment. $14.99): If you have been sitting around for a while with an inexplicable yearning for a modern-day version of "The Number 23," you will no doubt be thrilled with this barely-seen horror item from the mind of Darren Lynn Bousman (the auteur of such classics as a couple of the "Saw" sequels, the immortal "Repo: The Genetic Opera" and a remake of "Mother's Day" that is going almost directly to DVD in a few days) in which an American author, still reeling from the deaths of his wife and child, journeys to Barcelona to visit his estranged brother and dying father and begins seeing the number 11 everywhere, a possible sign of the apocalypse or whatever that may be occurring on the titular date. If not, I promise you that there is nothing about this cheapo craptacular that will hold even the slightest interest with you--it looks ugly, contains no scares or tension and is so incredibly boring that even those deliberately looking for a bad horror movie will find it virtually impossible to sit through from beginning to end.
BADGE 373 (Olive Films. $24.95): After having his adventures as a New York cop inspire the Oscar-winning smash "The French Connection" in 1971, the further exploits of cop Eddie Egan provided the basis for this 1973 thriller with Robert Duvall as the Egan-like cop on the edge. This time around, our hero is forced to turn in his badge after a suspect in his custody winds up falling to his death after his partner is murdered. Of course, that doesn't stop him for a second and he soon finds himself heading down to Puerto Rico to do battle with a drug kingpin and gunrunners alike. While no classic, this is still a solid programmer with a good early lead performance from Duvall and it is nice to see it emerge from the obscurity in which it has laid for many years by the good folks at Olive Films. Other lesser-known titles now being released by the increasingly valuable Olive Films label, all retailing for $24.95, include "The Buccaneer," "Hit!," "The Jayhawkers" and "Pony Express."
CLUELESS (Paramount Home Video. $22.99): You know, there was a time when most young men would have crawled through broken glass for the opportunity to have Alicia Silverstone drop her chewed-up food into their mouths and that moment is perfectly encapsulated in the hit 1995 comedy, a cheerful updating of Jane Austen's "Emma" featuring Sliverstone as a sweet-natured, boy crazy teenager who spends so much time trying to make the romantic dreams of others come true that she has no idea of what to do about her own. Watching it again on the occasion of its Blu-Ray debut, I was once again startled by how much of it still works--some of the then-topical references may fall a bit flat but Amy Heckerling's screenplay and direction are top-notch and the performances from Silverstone, Paul Rudd and Brittany Murphy, to name just a few from the strong cast, are just as amusing and entertaining as they were back in the day.
CONTRABAND (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): In what continues to stand as a leading contender for the title of Stupidest Movie of 2012, Mark Whalberg plays a former smuggler--the best in the business, no less--who is forced to strap his smuggling boots back on when his younger brother screws up a delivery for a local crime boss (Giovanni Ribisi) and he has to assume the job so as to protect his wife (Kate Beckinsale) and child from harm. Outside of one brief stretch in the middle where the film inexplicably turns into a big-screen version of "Grand Theft Auto," this is an absolute bore from start to finish (both Whalberg and Beckinsale act as though they can barely keep their eyes open) and the only thing about it that most viewers will remember is the spectacularly idiotic performance by Ribisi as one of the least convincing crime bosses in screen history, complete with an outrageously squeaky voice that makes the various irritating dialects of Adam Sandler seem sound and rational by comparison.
COVERT AFFAIRS: SEASON 2 (Universal Home Entertainment. $39.98): Piper Perabo returns for another season's worth of cable-ready espionage with this set of second-season episodes from the USA network show in which she plays a fetching CIA newbie thrust into duty all around the world. Although the show is no masterpiece, what initially began as a blatant clone of "Alias" gets better in this season as it begins to branch off on its own and if nothing else, it is always fun to see perennial column crush object Perabo fighting for this country's honor and whatnot. Other TV-related titles now available include "Car 54, Where Are You?: The Complete 2nd Season" (Shanachie Entertainment. $39.98), "Cinema Verite" (HBO Home Video. $19.97), "Emily's Reasons Why Not: The Complete Series" (Sony on Demand. $17.95), "Kojak: Season 4" (Shout! Factory. $44.99), "Suits: Season One" (Universal Home Entertainment. $44.98) and "Titanic" (E1 Entertainment. $29.98).
DARK TIDE (Liongate Home Entertainment. $27.98): Have you been wondering what Halle Berry has been up to these days? Yeah, me neither but apparently, she went off and made herself a barely-released thriller in which she plays a traumatized shark expert who is conned by a rich jerk into leading an expedition that is simply teeming with the beasts and I think we can all surmise just how well that turns out. Alas, it would appear that none of the sharks are of the 2-headed or Mega varieties so really, what is the point?
THE FIELDS (Breaking Glass Pictures. $21.95): This is a direct-to-video horror film co-starring Cloris Leachman and Tara Reid and now that I have said that, I really don't need to say anything else, do i?
42nd STREET FOREVER: BLU-RAY EDITION (Synapse Films. $24.95) In what is sure to go down as one of the great Blu-Ray releases of the years, this disc collects over 3 1/2 hours of exploitation movie trailers in all their lurid and uncensored glory, ranging from such well-regarded works as "Rolling Thunder" and "Ms. 45" to the lurid likes of "They Call Her One-Eye," "Chained Heat," "The Tale of the Dean's Wife" and many, many more. For additional educational value, the disc also features informed commentary from sleaze experts Edwin Samuelson, Michael Gingold and Chris Poggiali that offers up brief but detailed histories for practically every single title. After watching this all in one great gulp, I have come to two conclusions. First, I must see "The Delinquent Schoolgirls," a programmer about a trio of escaped lunatic who hide out at an all-female (and how) reform school where modeling lingerie appears to be part of the curriculum. (Fans of "Airplane!" will be amused to note that Stephen "And Leon's Getting Larger" Stucker appears as one of the lunatics. Second, I can now announce that my Mother's Day shopping is officially done.
GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD (HBO Home Entertainment. $24.98): Having already made acclaimed documentaries on such iconic musical performers as the Rolling Stones, the Band and Bob Dylan, Martin Scorsese turns his cameras on the shy Beatle for a masterful look at his life and work that is at once epic in scope (running nearly four hours in length) and surprisingly intimate. Filled with candid contemporary interviews with friends, loved ones and admirers, judiciously chosen archival footage of Beatlemania and beyond (including interviews with Harrison himself) and, of course, more wonderful music than you could shake a stick at (especially his often-underrated post-Beatles solo material). Sure, one could quibble about this and that (as with most things in life, the film could have used more Traveling Wilburys) but for the most part, this is a fairly extraordinary work that is both accessible enough for those with only the dimmest awareness of the Beatles and detailed enough to satisfy the most dedicated Beatlemaniacs.
HAYWIRE (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.95): Proving once again that what a film is about is nowhere near as important as how it is done, what might have ordinarily come across as the lowest form of direct-to-video nonsense--a thriller featuring a MMA star making their acting debut as a black-ops agent gunning for whomever was responsible for betraying and leaving them for dead after a top secret mission--is transformed into one of the more exciting action films of recent times thanks to a clever screenplay by Len Dobbs, nimble direction by Steven Soderbergh (who previously collaborated with Dobbs on "The Limey"), a stellar supporting cast i(ncluding the likes of Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton and Michael Douglas) and, most importantly, a compelling and charismatic debut performance by Gina Carano in the lead role. I don't know what it was that inspired Soderbergh to consider her for the part but those instincts were correct--the camera loves her, she more than holds her own against her more experienced costars and she brings an extra edge to the fight sequences that is often lacking in other movies these days. Sadly, this one didn't do that well in theaters but now you have a chance to get a load of what you missed.
THE INNKEEPERS (MPI Home Entertainment. $27.98): Having impressed a lot of genre fans with his previous effort, the 80's-inspired shocker "House of the Devil," writer-director Ti West confirms that promise with this borderline brilliant spook story about the last weekend of business for a supposedly haunted hotel that is currently inhabited by a couple of paranormal-obsessed employees (Sara Paxton and ), a former TV star-turned-spiritualist (Kelly McGillis) and. . .well, that would be giving it away, wouldn't it? As with his previous film, West eschews the over-the-top aesthetic of most fright films of late in order to embrace a slower burning style that gradually builds up the tension in ways that will have most viewers on the edges of their collective seats before the release of the final scenes. If you are one of those dopes who keeps giving your hard-earned money to those half-assed "Paranormal Activity" movies, consider dropping some of it on this one instead and see what a good contemporary ghost story really looks like.
JOYFUL NOISE (Warner Home Video. $28.98): I am not going to argue it--this film, featuring longtime rivals Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah fighting for control of their failing church's choir and then coming together to sass things up in order to win regionals or whatever, is just as idiotic as its trailers made it look and I cannot in good conscience recommend it under any circumstances. However, I feel that I must note that no matter how awful it gets--and it gets pretty damn awful at times--it does somewhat struggle to life whenever the innately irrepressible Parton turns up to goose the material with her energy and good cheer. She can't quite save it from terminal mediocrity but give her points for giving it her all and then some.
MEN IN BLACK/MEN IN BLACK II (Sony Home Entertainment. $19.99 each): Just in time to hype the presumably long-awaited third installment in the sci-fi/comedy franchise, both the 1997 original (featuring government agents Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones defending Earth from destruction from alien forces) and the 2002 sequel (featuring Smith and Jones defending both the Earth and Rosario Dawson from destruction from alien forces) are now making their Blu-Ray debuts. Of the two, the former still holds up pretty well as one of the few combinations of comedy and elaborate special effects that have actually worked (not unlike the original "Ghostbusters") while the other is a fairly dreary programmer that exists only to serve as a money-making enterprise for everyone involved and nothing more (not unlike "Ghostbusters II").
NEW YEAR'S EVE (Warner Home Video. $28.98): Hot on the heels of the surprise success of the star-studded holiday hit "Valentine's Day," Garry Marshall decide not to mess with success and came up with another film featuring a beloved holiday that all but ensures annual television/home video residuals, an all-star cast consisting of celebrities willing to carve a few days out of their busy schedules to work with the auteur of "Exit to Eden" and "The Other Sister" and a multiple-story narrative that plays like a super-sized episode of the old TV hit "Love American Style." That said, even those who liked "Valentine's Day" (including yours truly) found themselves appalled with this idiotic concoction in which seemingly half of the Screen Actors Guild (including Robert DeNiro, Hilary Swank, MIchelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Halle Berry, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Sofia Vergara, Lea Michelle and, perhaps inevitably, Jon Bon Jovi) waste their varying degrees of talent on a gag-inducing combination of stupid humor and cloying sentiment that is even more unbearable than the actual holiday itself. If some cruelty of fate forces you to partake in this film at some point in your existence and escape is futile, try making a game out of it by taking a drink every time a character utters the phrase "ball drop"--it won't make the film any better but by doing so, you are likely to forget about it a lot quicker.
W.E. (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $29.98): When Madonna's second directorial effort, a strange period/contemporary melodrama intertwining the infamous romance of King Edward VII (James D'Arcy) and American socialite Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) that eventually led to the former abdicating the throne in order to be with her with a modern-day tale of an unhappily married New Yorker (Abbie Cornish) who is obsessed with Simpson and who finds herself straying from her own hateful and abusive husband into the arms of a poor but dashing immigrant security guard (Oscar Isaac, premiered at last year's Venice Film festival, it was plastered by critics who seemed to be going out of their way to be as catty as possible towards it. Granted, the film is not very good--all the contemporary stuff is pretty awful and the finale (in which the two timelines intertwine) is especially ridiculous--but it is nowhere near as bad as those initial reports suggested. As a director, Madonna has not yet learned how to tell a story in a dramatic manner but it is a marked improvement over her debut (the long-forgotten "Filth and Wisdom"), visually striking and contains an strong performance from Riseborough as Simpson. Put it this way--it isn't really worth watching but if forced to, I would certainly take it over "The Iron Lady" without a moment's hesitation.
WESTWARD THE WOMEN (Warner Archives. $19.95): Over the last few years, the Warner Archives program, in which obscure films from the WB vaults are sold directly from the studio via made-to-order discs, has unleashed hundreds of movies onto DVD that might not have otherwise been made available were they forced to compete for shelf space with better-known titles. The only drawback is that in most cases, all that consumers get for their money is a just the film itself with none of the bonus features that typically adorn even the cheesiest releases. For the debut of this unusual 1951 Western epic (directed by William Wellman and based on a story by Frank Capra), in which a trio of women of a wagon train heading west learn to fend for themselves with the help of lead scout Robert Taylor when their guides abandon them, this Archives offering also includes a commentary track by film scholar Scott Eyman, a 1951 promotional featurette designed to hype the film and its original theatrical trailer. As for the film, it is pretty good and those who admired "Meek's Cutoff," last year's wonderful minimalist/feminist take on the genre, may get a kick out of seeing some of the same themes depicted on a larger scale and in a more conventional manner.
ABOUT A BOY (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)
ALAMBRISTA! (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)
BIRD OF PARADISE (Kino Video. $29.95)
CAMELOT: 45th ANNIVERSARY EDITION. (Warner Home Video. $35.99)
DEFINITELY, MAYBE (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)
EXISTENZ/MALEVOLENT/B. MONKEY (Echo Bridge. $24.99)
GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE (Kino Video. $24.95)
A HOLLIS FRAMPTON ODYSSEY (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)
JEREMIAH JOHNSON (Warner Home Video. $19.98)
MEET JOE BLACK (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)
MIMIC 3-FILM SET (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.99)
THE ORGANIZER (The Criterion Collection. $29.95)
PEOPLE I KNOW/ALBINO ALLIGATOR/ORDINARY DECENT CRIMINAL (Echo Bridge. $24.99)
PHANTOMS/DARKNESS/VENOM ) Echo Bridge. $24.99)
THE RED HOUSE (Film Chest. $15.99)
ROAD TRIP (Paramount Home Video. $22.99) (Exclusive to Best Buy)
TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (Acorn Media. $59.95)
THE WIZARD OF GORE/THE GORE-GORE GIRLS (Image Entertainment. $17.97)
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originally posted: 05/07/12 07:45:32
last updated: 05/07/12 08:47:09