DVD Reviews For 11/20: Hopefully Someone Will Give A Damn.
By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 11/20/09 06:47:44
Yes, I am fully aware of the fact that I promised that things would be back to normal with the column this week. However, a series of personal and professional disasters so grim that they would make even the guy from “A Serious Man” say “Oy” have ensured that this would not be the case. In the meantime, take a look at what this week has to offer and hopefully things will be back to normal--the old normal, that is.
NEW AND NOTABLEBETTY BLUE—THE DIRECTOR’S CUT (Cinema Libre. $24.96): Amour fou doesn’t get much fou-ier than it does in this 1986 cult favorite from French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Beineix about the passionate-but-doomed romance that erupts between between struggling writer Jean-Hughes Anglade and struggling-with-sanity mega-babe Beatrice Dalle. Yes, it is sometimes silly, sometimes pretentious and often wildly overblown but in the case of a film like this, those aren’t necessarily bad qualities. Fans of the film, and they are legion and passionate (I was once decked in a theater lobby by one who didn’t take kindly to some silly joke I made about it), will be pleased to know that this DVD contains Beineix’s director’s cut, which runs nearly an hour longer than the original theatrical version.
BLUE SEDUCTION (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $26.97): Direct-to-video stalwart Billy Zane stars as a newly sober former rock star whose return to the business is put into jeopardy when he hires a sexy demo singer who reintroduces him to the debauchery he thought he left behind. Of course, since the singer is portrayed by the drool-worthy Estella Warren, you can’t really blame him, can you?
BRUNO (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Sacha Baron Cohen attempted to replicate the surprise international success with another mockumentary feature in which he sends one of his characters--an outrageously fey and fame-seeking fashionista from Austria this time around--to America in order to engage in a bunch of hidden-camera stunts. Unfortunately, the end result is about as au courant as last year’s fashions and while the pranks are meant to expose just how stupid, racist and homophobic we apparently all are deep down, those very same words could be used to describe the film as well. The DVD also contains a number of deleted, extended and alternate scenes, many of which are actually somewhat more interesting than what wound up in the final cut and yes, the bit with LaToya Jackson that was cut on the eve of the film’s release after the death of her brother is among them.
THE EXILES (Oscillioscope. $29.99): Made in 1961 but never released theatrically until now, when it was presented under the aegis of author Sherman Alexie and filmmaker Charles Burnett, this pioneering early work of what would eventually become the American independent film movement from director Kent Mackenzie chronicles the lives of a group of Native American men and women who have transplanted themselves from the reservations of the Southwest in order to make new lives for themselves in Los Angeles’ Bunker Hill district. This deluxe package also includes several short films from Mackenzie, clips from Thom Andersen’s landmark documentary “Los Angeles Plays Itself” dealing with the film, a commentary with Alexie and critic Sean Axmaker and a radio interview with Alexie and Burnett.
FARSCAPE: THE COMPLETE SERIES (A&E Home Video. $149.95): You say that you always meant to get around to checking out the cult sci-fi-TV series from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, in which a lost astronaut who hooks up with a bizarre group of alien refugees while trying to find his way home, but just never got around to it? In that case, A&E has made things easy for you with this 26-disc set containing all 88 episodes from the show’s four seasons and 15 hours of bonus material including deleted scenes, commentaries, documentaries and a rarely-seen behind-the-scenes special. Other TV-related DVDs arriving this week include “7th Heaven: The Ninth Season” (CBS DVD. $49.99), “Andy Barker, P.I.: The Complete Series” (Shout! Factory. $24.99), “Elvis Costello: Spectacle: Season One” (Video Services Corp. $49.96), “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas” (Fox Home Entertainment. $26.98), “Moonshot” (A&E Home Video. $19.95) and “The Steve Coogan Collection” (BBC Warner. $129.98).
GONE WITH THE WIND (Warner Home Entertainment. $69.92): I am just going to assume that you are familiar with this 1939 classic and that since there is presumably nothing else to say about it, other than to note that it is making its Blu-ray debut and that it looks pretty awesome in the format, we can just move on to the next title.
HUMPDAY (Magnolia Home Entertainment. $26.98): Considering that I actually know someone in this mumblecore comedy about two old college buddies (Joshua Leonard and Mark Duplass) who sort of talk themselves into making their own porno movie (she is one of the hipsters in the big party scene), I should probably recuse myself from offering any critical comment about it in order to show my complete impartiality. Of course, the fact that it isn’t very funny, has no discernible point and feels endless probably has a lot to do with that decision as well. (My acquaintance, however, is spot-on.)
IS ANYBODY THERE? (Magnolia Home Entertainment. $26.98): Yeah, this is another one of those twee little films about the surprising friendship that develops between a little kid and a crusty old man. However, what saves it from completely collapsing into sentimental slop is the central performance from the always-reliable Michael Caine as one of those characters--I will leave it to you to discover which one he plays.
KEVIN SMITH BOX SET (Miramax Home Entertainment. $89.99): The slacker icon fully plunges into the Blu-ray format with this box set containing three of his most noteworthy films--his 1994 debut “Clerks,”[ the touching and hilarious 1997 comedy-drama “Chasing Amy” and the heedlessly goofy 2001 romp “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.” Perhaps realizing that his films are not exactly famous for the visual qualities that can be fully brought out via DVD, Smith has included some new bonus feature to induce his loyal fan base to repurchase them--“Clerks” includes a new introduction and, oddly enough, the documentary “Oh, What a Lovely Tea Party: The Making of Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back” and “Chasing Amy” includes a new commentary track (replacing the one recorded for the Criterion laserdisc back in the day), a documentary on the making of the film, an interview with Smith and star Joey Lauren Adams and a 10th anniversary Q&A with Smith and the cast. Strangely, nearly all of the bonus features found on the “Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back” disc have been dropped aside from the commentary track, so you might want to hold onto your copy until the inevitable double-dip.
THE LIMITS OF CONTROL (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Normally a critic’s darling, even a number of Jim Jarmusch’s most ardent supporters slammed him for this extremely arty anti-drama about a wildly enigmatic hitman traveling throughout Europe in order to pull off a job while gathering inscrutable bits of information from such ultra-hip day players as Tilda Swinton, Paz de la Huerta, John Hurt and Gael Garcia Bernal. I won’t lie to you—the film is pretentious bordering on ridiculous and it is hard to really understand what point Jarmusch had in mind when he decided to make it. However, if you can put all of that behind you, it is kind of fun in a weird sort of way for those with a taste for the bizarre.
MY SISTER’S KEEPER (Warner Home Video. $28.98): Based on the best-selling novel, this melodrama tells the story of a young girl (Abigail Breslin) who was conceived by her parents (Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric) in order to supply bone marrow for an older sister with cancer and who is now suing them to prevent further operations. This is a film that is so jam-packed with melodramatic conventions--dying children, fractured families, courtroom battles, young love, dead children, shocking revelations and tearful reconciliations for starters--that it feels as if there was an explosion at the soap opera warehouse and little bits and pieces from dozens of different stories were suddenly jammed together into one ungainly mutant example of the genre. The result is two straight hours of emotional torture porn that is so brutally assaultive in its determination to jerk tears from viewers that it practically leaps off the screen and into their laps in order to plunge its fingers into their eye sockets and get to them quicker.
RITUALS (Code Red. $24.98): In this relatively gripping 1977 variation on “Deliverance,” Hal Holbrook leads a quartet of pals into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip only to discover that someone is following them in order to wreak havoc on their fun as well as their lives. If you dig this one (and no less of an authority than Stephen King himself raved about it in “Danse Macabre”), you might also want to check out the direct-to-video thriller “The Canyon” (Magnolia Home Entertainment. $26.98), in which happy couple Eion Bailey and Yvonne Strahovski go into the Grand Canyon for their honeymoon and learn the hard way that they should have just gone to the beach instead.
STAR TREK (Paramount Home Video. $34.98): According to Rotten Tomatoes, I am one of only 15 reasonably esteemed film critics to give a negative review to J.J. Abrams’ hugely popular reboot of the eternally popular sci-fi franchise and since I have no particular desire to reignite the flame war that ensued as a result, I will offer no further critical comment here. I will note, however, that if you left the film wondering why Abrams’ bothered to hire Winona Ryder to play Spock’s mother when the character has about as much on-screen time as your typical red-shirt ensign, you will find her all over the deleted scenes that makes up only a small portion of this extras-choked special edition.
THIRST (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): If all of this week’s “Twilight”-related madness has left you in the mood for an actual vampire movie--the kind with blood and sex and not a single mope teen in sight--you should get your hands on this wild ride from Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook (the man who gave us “Oldboy”) about a priest who volunteers for a medical experiment, is transformed into a vampire as a result and watches his careful attempts to regulate his new lifestyle fall gruesomely apart when he begins a passionate affair with a neglected housewife who brutally blossoms as a bloodsucker. If it weren’t for the release of the masterful “Let the Right One In,” I would be calling this the best vampire-related film in years right about now. If you are thirsty for more after this one, this week also sees the release of “Taintlight” (Tempe Videp. $19.99), a low-budget spoof of you-know-what and “Vampire Party” (Dark Sky Film. $24.98), a French comedy about a trio of ravers who are invited to a wild party at a remote castle only to discover that their hosts are pains in the neck.
WILD CHILD (Universal Home Entertainment. $26.98): No, this is not a re-release of the Francois Truffaut classic about a feral child who is discovered by scientists who attempt to tame his animal spirit in order to make him more human. Instead, it is a long-shelved vehicle for would-be tween star Emma Roberts in which she plays a spoiled American brat who presumably learns to become a better person after being shipped off to boarding school in England. Just to give you some kind of idea as to how long it has been sitting on said shelf, the role of the stern-but-understanding headmistress is essayed by none other than the late Natasha Richardson.
FIGHT CLUB (Fox Home Entertainment. $34.99)
GALAXY QUEST (Paramount Home Video. $29.99)
LEON (Sony Home Entertainment. $24.96)
ROME: THE COMPLETE SERIES (HBO Home Entertainment. $89.99)
SCRUBS: THE COMPLETE EIGHTH SEASON (Touchstone Home Entertainment. $54.99)
SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE [i[(Sony Home Entertainment. $24.96)