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DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews For 5/4: "If You Don't Betray Me, You'll Find A Way To Join Me."
by Peter Sobczynski

Back from a brief absence, your humble columnist is delighted to discover that while things may be somewhat weak in terms of top-name titles, there are a few wonderful obscurities, a couple making their disc debuts, that are absolute must-sees.

NEW AND NOTABLE


DEVIL'S DUE (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): "Rosemary's Baby" gets the "Paranormal Activity" treatment with this found-footage foolishness that chronicles a couple of young newlyweds (Zach Gilford and Allison Miller) who have a strange experience while on their honeymoon abroad and discover upon their return that they are unexpectedly going to have a child--you can pretty much guess the rest. Frankly, the only memorable thing about this film was the ingenious promotional campaign that found a remote-control devil baby scaring the crap out of unsuspecting people on the streets of Manhattan--if only the amount of energy and ingenuity that went into that prank had been channeled into the movie proper, this could have actually been something more than the terminal mediocrity presented here.


ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW (Gaiam. $19.97): When this film premiered at last year's Sundance Film Festival, this surreal comedy thriller about an ordinary man undergoing what might be a mental breakdown during a grim family vacation to Disney World was heavily hyped because of the circumstances surrounding the production--knowing that they would never get official permission to shoot their, the filmmakers shot the entire thing in the Disney parks on the fly amidst unsuspecting crowds and park officials using commercial-grade cameras. Unfortunately, the backstory surrounding its production turns out to be far more interesting than the film itself because after about 30 minutes or so, the novelty wears off and the whole thing quickly becomes a tedious and increasingly irritating mess that probably would have been much better as a short than as a feature.


THE INSPECTOR LAVARDIN COLLECTION (Cohen Media Group. $39.98): Continuing its program of introducing intriguing French titles into the American market, many for the first time, Cohen Media Group offers up a pair of of murder mysteries--"Chicken With Vinegar" (1985) and "Inspector Lavardin" (1986)--that were directed by, of all people, suspense master Claude Chabrol. Although somewhat of a change of pace from his usual efforts, Chabrol brings a lot of style to the otherwise familiar proceedings and makes them far more interesting than they might have been in other hands. Apparently the character of Inspector Lavardin (played by Jean Poiret) must have struck some kind of chord with Chabrol because he also directed two television specials featuring the character that are also included here.


LABOR DAY (Paramount Home Entertainment. $29.95): After making four strong movies in a row ("Thank You for Smoking," "Juno," "Up in the Air" and the great "Young Adult"), director Jason Reitman was probably due for a stumble at some point and this outrageously smarmy melodrama about the romance that develops between a lonely divorcee (Kate Winslet) and a hunky escaped convict (Josh Brolin) over the course of a long weekend in which the former, along with her son, is sort of taken hostage by the latter. Winslet and Brolin are wonderful actors but even they cannot save this sub-Sirkian silliness and if you can get through the hilariously symbolic pie-making sequence without bursting into rude laughter, you are a stronger person than I.


LEGEND OF HERCULES (Summit/Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.95): For reasons that currently escape me, 2014 will see the release of no less than two live-action epics about history's most legendary strongman. This is the one starring "Twilight" supporting player Kellan Lutz as Hercules under the direction of the once-promising Renny Harlin, so adjust your expectations accordingly.


MOVIES 4 YOU: FILM NOIR/THRILLER (Shout! Factory. $6.95): Although released with virtually no fanfare, this unassuming collection of four films provides more bang for the buck than most other releases of late. After skipping over "The Visitors," an unpleasant Vietnam-themed drama notable only for being one of the final features for director Elia Kazan and containing one of the first significant roles for the then-unknown James Woods, go right to "The Hot Spot," Dennis Hopper's deliriously sleazy neo-noir about a hunky drifter (Don Johnson) who arrives in a small town and get caught up in a web of lust, murder and deceit that also involves the local good girl (Jennifer Connelly, whose work here landed her in the Mr. Skin Hall of Fame) and the local bad girl (Virginia Madsen in one of her best performances). Next up is "Tough Guys Don't Dance," Norman Mailer's bizarre 1987 adaptation of his own noir novel about a washed-up loser (Ryan O'Neal) who wakes up after an epic bender to find a severed head in the place where he hides his pot stash--this is lurid trash for the ages that I cannot quite justify on any level except for the fact that it is ridiculously entertaining when it isn't just being ridiculous. Last, but certainly not least, is the DVD debut of "Exposed," James Toback's electrifying 1983 thriller about a Midwestern girl (Nastassja Kinski at her most magnetic) who goes to New York, becomes a famous model and finds herself caught in a triange between a cellist with a secret (Rudolph Nureyev) and a suave international terrorist (Harvey Keitel). Although convoluted in some parts, this is still an engrossing thriller from start to finish and the scene in which Nureyev tantalizes Kinski by playing her with his bow remains one of the sexiest things ever put on film.

RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): No doubt inspired by his own brief incarceration after shooting agent Jennings Lang in the groin for allegedly having an affair with his wife, producer Walter Wanger devised this tough 1954 B-movie chronicling a violent prison riot loosely based on one that occurred in Jackson, Michigan a couple of years earlier. In one of his first notable directorial outings, Don Siegel brought a gripping immediacy to the proceedings thanks to his lean and efficient storytelling methods and the decision to shoot on location at Folsom Prison with real guards and inmates as extras. This is a dark and fascinating example of social-problem cinema and one of the most shocking things about is how relevant many of its concerns remain after more than 60 years.


SORCERER (Warner Home Entertainment. $29.95): In the wake of the massive success of "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist," William Friedkin found himself in a position where he could make virtually any film that he wanted and used that clout to mount an expensive reimagining of "The Wages of Fear," Henri-Georges Clouzot's spellbinding 1953 thriller following four desperate men driving two truck filled with highly unstable nitroglycerin over dangerous terrain in order to extinguish an oil-well fire. Due to incredible production difficulties, the film went wildly over-schedule and over-budget and when it was finally released in the summer of 1977, the lack of known major stars, a relentlessly bleak tone, a misleading title (which caused most moviegoers to expect another tale of the supernatural rather than an existential action flick) and the misfortune of opening a week after the debut of "Star Wars" doomed it to failure. After spending most of the next 35 years in obscurity, it has made its long-awaited Blu-Ray debut and can now be readily revealed as one of the landmark achievements of American cinema of the Seventies--a stunning observation of man battling both the elements and his own dark nature that contains some of the most spellbinding setpieces of all time. (The sequence of the truckers struggling to get their vehicles over a rotted bridge will make you hair stand on end no matter how many times you see it.) Sadly, there are no supplementary materials to be had here other than an abridgment of the section of Friendkin's autobiography chronicling its production but this is still certain to go down as one of the major home-video releases of the year. (Alas, while the Blu-Ray is a thing of beauty, it seems as if the DVD version was botched and a corrected version is currently being prepared.)


TROUBLE EVERY DAY (Kimstim. $29.99): French filmmaker Claire Denis went wild with this decidedly strange 2001 item in which Beatrice Dalle--Betty Blue herself--plays a woman suffering from a malady that causes her intense sexual desires to occasionally manifest themselves into cannibalism. To protect the public, her medical researcher husband keeps her locked up, not always successfully, while searching for a cure but things go especially higgledy-piggledy when a colleague (Vincent Gallo) on his honeymoon turns up with what appears to be the early signs of the same condition. With its bold juxtaposition of graphic sexuality and even-more-graphic bloodletting, it is perhaps not surprising that this film, despite Denis' reputation and the unique presences of Gallo and Dalle, was barely released in America but while it is certainly not for most tastes, it is certainly a unique work that followers of more extreme forms of cinema should probably check out, though perhaps not immediately before or after any heavy meals.


ALSO ON




GET CARTER (Warner Home Video. $14.97)

GRUDGE MATCH (Warner Home Video. $29.95)

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (Warner Home Video. $29.95)



THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (Scorpion Entertainment. $29.95)

MASTER OF THE HOUSE (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

THE WIND AND THE LION (Warner Home Video. $21.99)


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3675
originally posted: 05/05/14 09:26:24
last updated: 05/07/14 03:22:24
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