|by Peter Sobczynski
Three sure signs that fall has arrived. The ground is covered with falling leaves, Wrigley Field is empty and this column is jam-packed with reissues of horror favorites and sets of popular TV shows timed to coincide with their season premieres.
3 FILMS BY ROBERTO ROSSELLINI STARRING INGRID BERGMAN (The Criterion Collection. $99.95): One of Hollywood's greatest scandals was instigated in the late 1940's when Ingrid Bergman, then at the height of her career, wrote a letter to Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini professing her love for his neorealist works that were taking the film world by storm and offering her services in any of his future endeavors. He took her up on her offer and, they embarked on a passionate affair, and the rest, as they say, is history. Although entire forests went to the blade in order to make their private lives public, the films that the two made together tended to get overlooked in all the hubbub. This set brings together the three films--"Stromboli" (1950), "Europa '51" (1952) and "Journey to Italy" (1954)--in a lavish box set that also includes commentaries, documentaries, interviews, the English-language dubs of "Stromboli" and "Europa '51" and introductions to the three films by Rossellini himself. As for the films themselves, they are admittedly on the melodramatic side but Rossellini always manages to keep them firmly planted in reality and the powerful performances that Bergman delivers in them are among the best of he career and show a side to her talents that never quite came out in her Hollywood endeavors. Criterion has also issued "Autumn Sonata" (The Criterion Collection. $39.95), a 1978 film that found Bergman collaborating with another legendary director--Ingmar Bergman--to present in unflinching and undeniably powerful detail the story of a reunion between a famous concert pianist and her long-estranged daughter (Liv Ullmann) over the course of one long and emotionally draining day and night.
BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (HBO Home Entertainment. $19.97): If this biopic on the relationship that developed and eventually crumbled between famed entertainer Liberace (Michael Douglas) and Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) does turn out to be Steven Soderbergh's swan song as a director (and I suspect that his "retirement" will last as long as those of Frank Sinatra and Luc Besson), then at least he is going out on top as this is one of his stronger works of late. Although very funny in parts, it never goes for cheap laughs and it is surprisingly moving in parts as well. Although Douglas has received much of the praise for his performance (entirely deserved as it is one of the high points of his career), Damon is just as good in what is arguably the more difficult role and Rob Lowe steals his every scene as the cheerfully sleazy plastic surgeon to the stars.
THE BIG PARADE (Warner Home Video. $27.98): One of the landmarks in the history of silent film--King Vidor's powerful 1925 epic about a rich kid (John Gilbert) who is shipped off to fight in World War I and whose attitude shifts from eagerness to a desire to simply survive and once again see the small-town girl (Renee Adoree) that he has fallen for--is given new life via a stunning 4K digital transfer result in what is arguably the best Blu-Ray transfer of a film of its era ever produced. The transfer alone makes it a must-own but the set also includes an informative commentary by historian Jeffrey Vance featuring archival recordings of interviews with the late Vidor himself, an old promotional short that gives a priceless glimpse of what was happening on the MGM backlot in 1925 and extensive liner notes by silent film expert Kevin Brownlow.
THE BLING RING (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.98): For her latest masterpiece, writer-director Sofia Coppola recounts the true-life story of a group of spoiled and self-absorbed L.A. teenagers (including a never-better Emma Watson, Taissa Farmiga and striking newcomer Katie Chang) who broke into the homes of celebrities like Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson and Orlando Bloom in order to steal clothes, money and other gaudy trinkets as a way of getting closer to the glamorous lives that they want for themselves. What makes the film so brilliant and compelling despite its theoretically repellent cast of characters is that instead of simple going for cheap shots or silly attempts at psychological insight, Coppola simply observes them in ways that help inspire a certain understanding into their mindsets and how they have been shaped and influenced by the celebrity-obsessed culture that overwhelms them on a daily basis. One of the best films of 2013.
THE DEAN MARTIN CELEBRITY ROASTS (StarVista Entertainment. $59.95): To quote from the packaging of this 6-disc set that collects 12 of the NBC TV specials in which Martin and a group of celebrity pals (including John Wayne, Bob Newhart, Muhammad Ali, Charlie Callas, Rich Little, Orson Welles, Milton Berle and, of course, Don Rickles) would toss humorous barbs at some famous good sport (including Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis Jr., Joan Collins and both Martin and Rickles themselves): "Some of the jokes and ethnic references heard in these roasts would most likely not be allowed on network TV today. Keep in mind the tenor of the times, the bawdy party atmosphere, and the fact that many of these celebrities were friends who loved to give and take a good shot. The cigarettes are real, the drinks are free and the camaraderie is heartfelt." Really, what else needs to be said except to note that if you have a taste for old school showbiz at its weirdest, this set (which also includes two additional Martin TV specials, bonus sketches and behind-the-scene featurettes and interviews with some roast survivors) is a must. Other TV-related titles now available include "2 Broke Girls: The Complete Second Season" (Warner Home Video. $59.98), "Arrow: The Complete First Season" (Warner Home Video. $59.98), "Bates Motel: Season One" (Universal Home Entertainment. $44.98), "Beauty And The Beast: The First Season" (Paramount Home Video. $49.99), "China Beach: Season One" (StarVista Entertainment. $22.95), "CSI--Crime Scene Investigation: The 13th Season" (Paramount Home Video. $69.99), "Family Guy: Volume 11" (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.98), "Glee: The Complete Fourth Season" (Fox Home Entertainment. $59.98), "Grimm: Season Two" (Universal Home Entertainment. $59.98), "Hannibal: Season One" (Universal Home Entertainment. $39.98), "Happy Endings: Season 3" (Sony Home Entertainment, $45.99), "Hawaii Five-O: The Third Season" (Paramount Home Video. $64.99), "How I Met Your Mother: Season Eight" (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.98), "Leverage: The 5th Season" (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.98), "The Mentalist: The Complete Fifth Season" (Warner Home Video. $59.98), "New Girl: The Complete Second Season" (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.98) and "South Park: The Complete 16th Season" (Warner Home Video. $42.95).
THE EAST (Fox Home Entertainment. $22.98): Indie-film darling Brit Marling co-wrote and stars in this film in which she plays a recruit at a private security firm who goes undercover to infiltrate a radical collective that has been wreaking havoc on the heads of corporations by using their methods of raping the environment against them, only to find herself increasingly confused as to where her true allegiances belong. Although a step down from Marling's previous vehicles, "Another Earth" and "The Sound Of My Voice," this is still a fairly gripping and effective thriller that reaffirms her as one of the more intriguing new presences on the movie scene and which also provides strong supporting turns from the likes of Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgard to boot.
FRIGHT NIGHT 2: NEW BLOOD (Fox Home Entertainment. $22.98): Bearing little evident relation to the remake of the 1985 vampire romp of a couple years ago (and none of the original cast), this one finds our heroes Charley and Evil Ed as part of a school trip to Romania to study under a sexy professor who. . .oh, you know. Put it this way, you have seen worse vampire movies than this one but you have also seen better ones as well. If nothing else, this one is so forgettable that it will disappear from your mind almost as quickly as the original "Fright Night 2" did back in the day.
HOUSE OF WAX (Warner Home Video. $35.99): Just in time for Halloween, the 1953 Vincent Price horror classic--the first 3D film produced by a major studio and still one of the very best--makes its Blu-Ray debut in a package that contains both the 2D and 3D versions. After once again enjoying the tale of a madman who kills his victims and then covers them in wax to serve as lifelike exhibits for his new wax museum, the disc also offers viewers a commentary track by David Del Valle and Constantine Nasr the explores the film's odd history (including the fact that director Andre de Toth himself only had one eye), a making of documentary, a newsreel depicting its star-studded premiere and, best of all, a second feature film in 1932's "Mystery of the Wax Museum," an earlier version of the story directed by Michael Curtiz and featuring Lionel Atwill as the villain, Fay Wray as the threatened ingenue and Glenda Farrell as a wisecracking reporter hoping to get to the bottom of the story.
IRON MAN 3 (Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $29.99): I will be completely honest--I have pretty much forgotten everything about this blockbuster continuation of the superhero screen franchise other that the fact that crush object Rebecca Hall had a supporting role in it. Therefore, I am just going to assume that it was, at the very least, better than "Iron Man 2" and move on.
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2 (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $19.98): Shouldn't it be "Also" instead of "2"?
THE MEDUSA TOUCH (Hen's Tooth. $29.95): In one of the weirdest off-shoots of the disaster movie cycle of the 1970's, this 1978 epic stars Richard Burton as a man who is convinced that he can cause cataclysmic disasters to occur just by thinking about them and is going insane with the guilt that he feels. The trouble is, it appears that he really does have such powers and not even a lapse into a coma after a failed murder attempt is enough to prevent him from wreaking additional havoc. The film is a mess for the most part--the budget clearly didn't allow the filmmakers to properly depict the carnage they hoped to show, Burton was in his period when he was clearly working for Scotch and the film stops in its tracks too many times to allow him to deliver speeches that add nothing to the proceedings but the sound of his once-powerful voice--but it is certainly audacious and Burton's presence does lend a certain grandeur to the proceedings. That said, here is a movie that is all but screaming to be remade at some point down the line.
ROOM 237 (MPI Home Video. $27.98): Although it was roundly disdained upon its original release in 1980 as an inferior adaptation of a superior novel, Stanley Kubrick screen version of Stephen King's "The Shining" has seen its reputation grow over the years to the point where it is now not just regularly regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made but a permanent part of the cultural firmament. Perhaps not surprisingly, considering both its popularity and the enigmatic nature of the project itself, people have been thoroughly scouring every frame of the film in the hopes of unlocking the clues that they are convinced that Kubrick hid in plain sight and discovering what it was really about. The much-discussed and absolutely fascinating documentary by Rodney Ascher gives voice to five such obsessives as they take viewers through every conceivable aspect of the film, ranging from the contents of the hotel pantry to the make of the typewriter used by Jack Nicholson to an apparent continuity error involving a chair, and claim that such elements prove that the film is really about things ranging from America's genocidal treatment of the Indians to the Holocaust to Kubrick's coded admission that he helped fake the moon landing. Some of these deconstructions are intriguing (such as the fascinating synchronicities to be discovered when one runs two prints--one from start to finish and the other in reverse--at the same time on the same screen) and some of them are pretty insane (such as all the NASA stuff, though I will concede that if any filmmaker could have pulled off such a thing, it would be Kubrick) but they are presented here in such a compelling manner that it will send most viewers scurrying to their Blu-Ray players to check them out for themselves. For fans of Kubrick and "The Shining," this is absolutely essential viewing and for everyone else, it is an eye-opening look at just how deeply a person can be affected by what others might consider to be just a mere movie.
SOMETHING IN THE AIR (MPI Home Entertainment. $24.98): Acclaimed French filmmaker Olivier Assayas tends to divide his work between vast and sprawling epics such as"Irma Vep," "Demonlover," "Carlos") with smaller, character-driven dramas like his previous project, "Summer Hours." This time around, he straddles the two to present the story of Gillies, a teenaged wannabe artist who finds himself swept up in the radical student movement of Paris in the early 1970's and romantic complications involving a couple of young women who, because this is a French movie, are only able to truly express their inner ennui by taking off their clothes a lot. Although there are points where the material threatens to get mawkish, Assayas keeps things moving along with such grace and sheer cinematic skill that it is surprisingly easy to get caught up in the drama he presents even if you don't have any working knowledge of the subject at hand.
THIS IS THE END (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): Hollywood hipsters Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel and Danny McBride skewer themselves in this bizarre and very raunchy comedy in which they, playing themselves (more or less), get together for a party and are stuck together when the outside world is destroyed by a series of apocalyptic events that may indeed herald the end of times. Although it sounds like little more than the world's most elaborate home movie, this actually turned out to be one of the few genuinely entertaining studio films of the past summer thanks to the cheerful willingness of its cast to mock their screen images (with Michael Cera and Emma Watson scoring some of the biggest laughs in this regard). It does begin to run out of gas a bit towards the end but it still contains more than its share of big laughs and unless you are the easily offended type, it is definitely worth a look.
TWO MEN IN MANHATTAN (Cohen Media Group. $24.98): The great Jean-Pierre Melville traveled to America to make this 1959 film in which a reporter (Melville himself) and a photographer (Pierre Grasset) hit the streets of New York City to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a French U.N. delegate. Rarely seen since its original release, this is a striking work that plays both as an example of and a tribute to the entire film noir genre and is definitely one that is ripe for rediscovery.
V/H/S 2 (Magnolia Home Entertainment. $26.98): As with the original cult hit from a couple of years ago, this anthology movie consists of a collection of short films, each one helmed by a different up-and-coming genre director, that are purportedly found footage of actual horrific events--a guy with a camera implanted in his eye begins to see strange apparitions, a bicyclist recording his morning run is bit by a zombie and transforms into one himself, a camera crew infiltrates a secretive cult at the worst possible time and a slumber party is invaded by aliens. Although the wraparound material designed to link the tales is as lame as before, this is a marked improvement over the previous installment--the stories are stronger (with the zombie biker being the best of the lot) and by only telling four this time around instead of five, the movie doesn't quite wear out its welcome as quickly as it did previously.
WORLD WAR Z (Paramount Home Video. $29.99): Bearing little connection to the best-selling book that it was theoretically based upon other than the title, this $200 million dollar globe-trotting epic stars Brad Pitt as a former U.N. investigator brought back into the fold when the world is suddenly faced with an outbreak of zombies and he must trot the globe in an effort to find a cure before mankind is destroyed. Although nowhere near the disaster that many expected due to its history of missed release dates, budget overruns and massive reshoots (all recounted in a particularly devastating "Vanity Fair" article published on the eve of its release), the film as a whole is still pretty much a mess that wastes a pretty good Pitt performance and a couple of effective action scenes on a storyline that offers nothing original to speak of, goes nowhere for a while and then ends on such a lame note that it boggles the mind that this conclusion was deemed to be an improvement over the original finale.
THE CROODS (Dreamworks Home Entertainment. $39.99)
DAY OF THE DEAD (Shout! Factory. $29.93)
FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (Sony Home Entertainment. $19.95)
HALLOWEEN: 35TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $34.99)
IN THE HOUSE (Cohen Media Group. $24.98
THE LITTLE MERMAID (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $44.95)
PRINCE OF DARKNESS (Shout! Factory. $29.93)
PSYCHO II (Shout! Factory. $29.93)
PSYCHO III (Shout! Factory. $29.93)
SLACKER (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)
THE WIZARD OF OZ: 75TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Warner Home Video. $35.99)
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3586
originally posted: 10/07/13 02:58:05
last updated: 10/07/13 13:16:36