|DVD Reviews For 2/19: “Whenever I Hear The Word ‘Culture,’ I Bring Out My Checkbook.”
|by Peter Sobczynski
An odd mixture of classics and crapola can be found in this week’s collection of new releases--everything from offerings from Scorsese, Godard, Kurosawa and Ophuls to, God help us all, the long-awaited home video debut of one of the stupidest TV shows ever produced.
NEW AND NOTABLE
13TEEN (North American Motion Pictures. $26.98): In this 2005 horror film (originally titled “For Sale By Owner”), a small town finds itself under siege from both a storm and a serial killer who enjoys carving the number 13 in the bodies of his victims. Alas, despite all the warnings, one dim bulb lady, in the process of selling her house, allows both a real estate agent and a security system installer into her home and it gradually becomes clear that one of them is the killer. The results are as dull and predictable as can be, though in all honesty, I enjoyed it far more than that horrible movie of the same name (if not the same spelling) about the skanky teen girls going bad.
BLACK DYNAMITE (Sony Home Entertainment. $24.96): Although this parody/homage of the blaxsploitation epics of the 1970’s made a splash with viewers when it premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival and quickly sealed a distribution deal, it wound up falling through the cracks and received only a token release (so token that the publicist in my area inexplicably neglected to invite most local critics to the press screening) before hitting DVD. The trailer is pretty funny, however, and while I am perfectly aware that these things can run out of gas really quick, many of the reviews I have seen for it suggest that it manages to sustain the concept long enough to make it worth checking out.
CABIN FEVER 2 : SPRING FEVER (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $26.98): Shot in 2007, this direct-to-video sequel to the super-gory Eli Roth horror film centers on a high-school prom that turns into a bloodbath when it turns out that the bottled water on hand is contaminated with the same flesh-eating virus that caused all the trouble the first time around. Although the participation of director Ti West, who would go on to make the acclaimed indie horror film “House of the Devil,” may pique the interest of some viewers, it should be known that he had a major falling-out with the producers over the final cut and unsuccessfully attempted to have his name removed from the credits.
CLINT EASTWOOD: 35 YEARS, 35 FILMS (Warner Home Video. $179.98): To commemorate his 35 years of nearly consecutive service to the studio (and to presumably tie into an Oscar nomination sweep for “Invictus” that didn’t quite come off as planned), Warner Brothers has put together this massive box set containing the 35 films that Clint Eastwood has made for them as an actor and/or director along with a book and documentary covering them from Eastwood biographer/friend Richard Schickel. If I were to pick a couple of the titles collected here for you to check out (assuming that you are already familiar with such landmark works as the “Dirty Harry” films, “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby”), I would highly recommend “Bronco Billy” (a delightful exercise in Capra-like comedy that may well be his most completely entertaining film to date), “Honkytonk Man” (a rarely-seen Depression-era drama in which he plays a dying country singer on a cross-country trip to record some of his songs) and “The Rookie” (because you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the late Raul Julia and Sonia Braga playing Germans). Note: the DVDs included in this set are the same ones that have been previously available over the years and have no new features outside of the aforementioned book and documentary.
COCO BEORE CHANEL (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.96):Seeing as how there have been numerous biopics over the years (including one that will be opening in a few months) about the life and work of Coco Chanel, I suppose it makes sense that the makers of this film have chosen to set themselves apart from the pack by telling the story of what happened to her before she became the internationally renowned fashion icon. The only trouble with this approach is the inescapable fact that, based on what is shown here, that her pre-fame days simply weren’t very interesting. As Chanel, Audrey Tautou is really quite good as she gets to show the kind of steely determination that hasn’t really cropped up in most of her better-known performances. Sadly, the same can’t be said of Anne Fontaine’s direction--while technically fine, it lacks any juice as it goes about its slow and respectable way as if afraid to ruffle any feathers, which is hardly the best approach to take when making a film about a person who became famous for doing just that.
GOODFELLAS: 20th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Warner Home Video. $34.99): From the moment it was released in 1990, Martin Scorsese’s exhilarating look at the crazy and violent world of the mob through the eyes of mid-level member Henry Hill (Ray Liotta in what remains his best performance to date) was hailed as an instant masterpiece and its luster hasn’t dimmed a bit in the ensuing years--everything here, from the performances (including brilliant work from Robert De Niro, Lorraine Bracco and Joe Pesci, who won an Oscar for his alternately hilarious and horrifying turn as an exceptionally psychotic hothead) to the riveting cinematography to the exquisitely chosen soundtrack cues, are still marvels to behold and Scorsese’s direction remains the pinnacle of an extraordinary career. Timed to tie in with the release of the brilliant “Shutter Island,” this reissue offers up all the features from the previous DVD/Blu-ray edition (commentaries featuring the participation of Scorsese, most of the cast and major crew members and the real Henry Hill himself, storyboards and a trio of featurette about the film and its legacy) along with a booklet featuring a short history of the film and its participants and a second disc featuring the previously released documentary “Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film” and a quartet of vintage Warner Brothers gangster-related cartoons. If you already own all of these materials, the upgrade may not be that necessary but if you have yet to acquire a copy of this film, it is most definitely a must-own for any serious movie buff.
HUNGER (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): This wrenching docudrama from debuting director Steve McQueen, a prize-winner at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, takes a look at the dying days of Bobby Sands (brilliantly played by Michael Fessendren, now better-known for his turn as the failed spy in “Inglourious Basterds”) , the IRA leader who starved himself to death while sitting in a prison in Northern Ireland in order to bring attention to his cause. Granted, the film isn’t very much fun and it may indeed simply be too much for many viewers to endure but those who can stomach two hours of pain, grime and misery will most likely find themselves deeply affected by this powerful work.
LAW-ABIDING CITIZEN (Starz/Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $29.98): After his wife and child are murdered before his eyes and the perpetrators are given relatively light sentences because of sleazy plea-bargain deals with a prosecutor (Jamie Foxx) more interested in his career stats than in justice, a seemingly ordinary many (Gerard Butler) goes on an elaborate and bloody revenge spree against all who wronged him and manages to continue the carnage even after being thrown in jail himself. The film clearly wants to be a modern-day version of “Death Wish” but with its combination of ridiculous plotting, grisly violence, charisma-free performances from Butler and Foxx and one of the silliest endings in recent memory, it doesn’t even manage to reach the less-than-august standards of “Death Wish V.”
LOLA MONTES (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): In what would turn out to be the final film of his career (and arguably his best), French director Max Ophuls recounted the scandalous life and times of a dancer and courtesan (Martine Carol) who has been reduced to having her experiences rehashed and exploited on a nightly basis in a circus run by sleazy ringmaster Peter Ustinov. Having languished in home video obscurity for the last few years, this masterpiece finally gets the special edition treatment it has long deserved in a set that includes an eye-popping hi-def digital transfer that makes the already-stunning visuals look better than ever (amazingly, this was the first and only time that Ophuls used color film), a commentary from Ophuls scholar Susan White, a 1965 French cultural affairs program focusing on Ophuls’ career, a documentary on the making of the film from Ophuls’ son, Marcel, and silent footage of Carol modeling several of the hairstyles she would spot throughout the film.
REVANCHE (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): In this acclaimed and decidedly dark drama from Austria (which was one of last year’s nominees for the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar), an ex-con working in a brothel falls deeply in love with a prostitute who is being held there virtually against the will and devises a plan for them to escape and score a quick 50,000 euros at the same time. Without going into too much detail, the plan doesn’t quite go off as planned and matters are further complicated by the presence of a local cop and his wife, both of whom have unexpected connections to our hero. The film does have somewhat of a slow start but that is because director Gotz Spielmann is quietly and deliberately setting things into motion for a number of powerful payoffs in the second half and while the resulting film may not be a barrel of laughs, it is definitely worth checking out.
THE SECRET POLICEMAN’S PRIVATE PARTY (Shout! Factory. $14.97): Taken from the famous Secret Policeman’s Ball concerts staged in England as fundraisers for Amnesty International, this compilation offers live comedy performances from the members of Monty Python, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and the proverbial many, many more.
SHE’S CRUSHED (Maverick Video. $24.98): Boy meets super-hot girl, boy and super-hot girl have one-night stand, boy decides to move on and only then discovers to his horror that super-hot girl is also super-crazy and not the type to take “no” for an answer. Between this description and the DVD cover, I am fairly certain that you can figure out where this one is going.
SMALL WONDER: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Shout! Factory. $34.97): Yes, Hell has officially frozen over and there is indeed no balm to be had in Gilead--the infamously terrible 80‘s sitcom about an obnoxious robot girl who becomes the ersatz daughter of a family of suburban idiots is now available on DVD. Other TV-related DVDs appearing this week include “Barnaby Jones: The Complete First Season” (CBS DVD. $39.98) and “Cannon: Season 2, Volume 2 (CBS DVD. $36.98).
CABIN FEVER (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)
CONTEMPT (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $39.99)
THE LADYKILLERS (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $39.99)
RAN (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $39.95)
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originally posted: 02/19/10 06:39:17
last updated: 02/19/10 07:03:00