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DVD Reviews For 6/4: "Rockin' The Boat's A Drag. You Gotta Sink The Boat!"
by Peter Sobczynski

Admittedly, this collection of newly available titles is not exactly packed with standout titles but those with a fondness for old-fashioned smut will be thrilled with the releases of an Ingmar Bergman classic that became an unexpected hit on the drive-in circuit, a trio of favorites from one of the most notable names from the good old days of Eurosleaze and a porno parody from the past so bizarre that the mind boggles that such a thing exists. (How about that for a lead-in? Enticing, no?)


ANDREW LLOYD' WEBBER'S LOVE NEVER DIES (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98): The Donald Trump of contemporary musical theater returns with this eagerly-awaited-by-someone sequel to his long-running hit "Phantom of the Opera" in which all the action has been relocated to New York and where the Phantom, now living amidst the denizens of Coney Island, lures his beloved Christine and her family from their Manhattan home for a terrifying and music-filled reunion. Like most sequels, this is a patently unnecessary continuation of a story that had already concluded quite satisfactorily that exists only to fatten the bank account of its creator via the least amount of effort. That said, fanatics of the original show--despite recent medical breakthroughs, such people still exist among us--may still get a kick out of it on some fundamental level and who knows, maybe if this does well enough, we can get sequels to "Evita" or "Jesus Christ Superstar" as well. Other music-related titles now available include "Sade: Bring Me Home--Live 2011" (Epic Records. $19.98) and "Worried About the Boy" (E1 Entertainment. $14.95).

CAROL CHANNING: LARGER THAN LIFE (E1 Entertainment. $ 24.98): The extraordinarily resilient star of stage and screen--90 years old and still going--is the subject of this entertaining, if not especially profound or revelatory, documentary by Dori Bernstein that looks at her life and work through interviews with the legend, archival clips from throughout her career and testimonials from many of her famous friends. Although those with a low tolerance for Channing's somewhat singular persona--the kind that would rather eat glass than sit through the likes of "Thoroughly Modern Millie"--are advised to give it the widest possible berth, those with an interest both Channing and the glory days of American live theater in the 20th century will surely want to give it a look.

CERTIFIED COPY (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): In the latest work from the brilliant Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, Juliette Binoche and opera singer William Shimell play a couple of strangers who meet while in Tuscany and get to know each other over the course of a long and involved afternoon. At least that is how it looks like at first but as this fascinating film goes on, this seemingly simple story grows deeper and more complex as it grapples with the notion of authenticity and what it means in regards to matters of commerce and matters of the heart. Ironically, Kiarostami wrestled with these very notions in his first feature film, 1977's "The Report," and that film is included as one of the bonus features on this disc along with an Italian-made documentary on the making of "Certified Copy" and an interview with Kiarostami.

CORIOLANUS (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $26.98): In this contemporary take on the Shakespeare play, Ralph Fiennes (who also directed) stars as a once-popular military man who is expelled by his own kingdom and who joins forces with his former rival in order to get revenge. Although most modern-day versions of the Bard tend to be a bit dodgy, this one should have been a solid work thanks to a cast consisting of people who can do Shakespeare in their sleep (like Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave, who gets one big speech that is one of the finest moments of her entire screen career) and other generally fine actors (such as Jessica Chastain and Brian Cox). Unfortunately, all of their efforts are undone by the epically awful miscasting of Gerard Butler in the role of the rival--he has so little feeling for the music of Shakespeare that every time he delivers a line, you can practically hear an iron bar clanking to the ground in the background.

ECLIPSE 33: UP ALL NIGHT WITH ROBERT DOWNEY (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): In the latest of the Criterion series dedicated to the better-known works of lesser-known filmmakers of note and the lesser-known works of well-known filmmakers, the early efforts of underground filmmaker/satirist/father of you-know-who are collected in this set featuring four hour-long short films (1964's "Babo 73," 1966's "Chafed Elbows," 1968's "No More Excuses" and 1975's "Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight") and his 1969 breakthrough feature "Putney Swope," a wild satire in which the token African-American on the board of an otherwise lily-white Madison Avenue ad agency winds up being elected chairman of the board and responds by firing all the white people, replacing them with Black Power fanatics and creating a new line of eyebrow-raising ads under the name of Truth & Soul Inc. Yes, many of the jokes and attitudes are pretty dated and some of the filmmaking is a bit rough to sit through today but at his best (as with "Putney Swope" and "Chafed Elbows"), the results are still pretty hilarious. One question--does this mean that we will one day see a Criterion version of "Up the Academy," Downey's ill-advised 1980 stab at commercial filmmaking that was so bad that both Mad Magazine (which produced the thing as an attempt to cash in on the "Animal House" bandwagon) and co-star Ron Leibman demanded that their names be removed from the credits before it was released.

GUMS (MVD/Sinful Mermaid. $24.95): What could possibly be weirder and wackier than a porno parody of "Jaws" featuring a man-eating(among other things) mermaid at its center? How about one that features both a finale involving puppets and the presence of the late performance artist/frequent "Late Night with David Letterman" guest Brother Theodore in the Quint role? That is exactly what is in store in this infamous 1976 epic that is now making its DVD debut at long last. To tell the truth, I have never actually seen this one before but I have known about it for years and I cannot wait to finally get my grubby little mitts on it at last. At the very least, it is probably better than "Jaws 3-D," "Jaws 4" and "Piranha 3-DD" combined.

MAN ON A LEDGE (Summit Entertainment. $26.99): If a plank of wood falls from the side of a building in a film that no one bothered to see during its brief theatrical run, will it make a sound? That is the question that you may find yourself asking during this inept thriller featuring Sam Worthington as a dope charged with stealing an enormously valuable diamond belonging to an evil real estate developer (Ed Harris in arguably the worst performance of his career) who tries to prove his innocence via a complicated-yet-idiotic plot in which he stands out on a ledge in the middle of New York City while hard-bitten cops Elizabeth Banks and Ed Burns try to talk him down and his brother (Jamie Bell) and his girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez, the sole bright spot on display) attempt to steal back the diamond. It is all spectacularly stupid, of course, and long before it comes to its thoroughly implausible conclusion, you may find yourself yelling "JUMP!" at the screen more than once.

PERFECT SENSE (MPI Home Video. $24.98): Eva Green and Ewan McGregor star as a pair of lonely individuals who have been so wrapped up in their work--she is a research scientist and he is a baker--that they have never known love until they meet and immediately fall for one another. Alas, it comes just at the time when mankind is threatened with destruction from an epidemic that causes its victims to gradually lose all of their senses. In essence, this is a slightly less depressing version of "Blindness" and while the film as a whole is not very good, Green and McGregor make for an engaging couple and help rescue it from absolute mediocrity.

RED TAILS (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): George Lucas had been talking about doing this drama based on the true-life adventures of the first all-African-American air squadron and their incredible success rate in the skies over Italy during World War II for over a quarter-century but after watching this turkey, most people will wonder why he bothered at all. In the skies, the effects have been so thoroughly CGI'd that the battles merely look like video games and on the ground, the various stories are so tired and cliched that they will put you in the mind of the kind of Z-grade war movies that don't turn up in the rotation on Turner Classic Films and the performances are so perfunctory that the work turned in by the pipe that Cuba Gooding Jr. wields throughout the proceedings is actually the most memorable by a wide margin.

REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE (Kino Lorber. $19.95): Cult filmmaker Jean Rollin made a lot of bizarre films throughout his career but this 1973 effort may have been the strangest of the bunch. After triumphing in a car chase and gun battle with unexplained pursuers, a couple of babes (made up to look like clowns, no less) travel on foot through a mysterious graveyard and eventually arrive at a remote home containing "the last of the vampires"--needless to say, things start to get really weird. Rollin proclaimed this to be his personal favorite of his films--he allegedly dreamed up the scenario and wrote the entire script in only two days--and it is certainly trippy enough to satisfy any dedicated Eurosleaze fanatic, although those unfamiliar with his work or this particular style of filmmaking may find it to be a little too deranged for their sensibilities. Other films by Rollin now available from Kino Lorber ($19.95 each) include "The Demoniacs" and "The Rape of the Vampire."

THE RIVER: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (ABC Studios. $29.99): Oren Peli attempts to do for television what he did for film via the "Paranormal Activity" franchise with this suspense series about a group of people who travel up the Amazon in search of a wildlife TV show host who has gone missing and discover all sorts of nasty business ranging from strange noises to creepy dolls hanging in the trees. Unfortunately, the scares started off weak, quickly grew repetitive and what might have made for a passable movie is instead dragged out long beyond the point of anyone possibly caring and the only real mystery to be had was wondering how Peli and executive producer Steven Spielberg planned to stretch it out for another season. Luckily for them, the ratings were low enough that they no longer have to worry about that possibility. Other TV-related releases include "Drop Dead Diva: Season 3" (Sony Home Entertainment. $45.99), "Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp: 3 Disc Complete Special Collector's Edition" (Film Chest. $24.98), "Maverick: The Complete First Season" (Warner Home Video. $39.98), "My Babysitter's A Vampire: Season One" (Warner Home Video. $24.99), "Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete Second Season" (Warner Home Video. $39.98), "Rookie Blue: The Complete Second Season" (E1 Entertainment. $44.98), "Route 66: The Complete Series" (Shout! Factory. $129.99), "Royal Pains: Season Three, Volume Two" (Universal Home Entertainment. $26.98), "Sherlock: Season Two" (BBC. $29.98), "Teen Wolf: Season One" (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.98" and "True Blood: The Complete 4th Season" (HBO Home Video. $59.99).

THE SECRET WORLD OF ARIETTY (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.99): Written and produced by the great Hayao Miyazaki, who adapted it from the equally beloved children's classic "The Borrowers," this enchanting animated fantasy tells the story of a sickly young boy who discovers a family of "borrowers"--tiny people who live within the walls and who grab small things that will go unnoticed to help them survive--and tries to protect them when his caretaker gets wind of them and tries to have them captured. While this understandably lacks the size and scope of such full-blown Miyazaki masterpieces as "Princess Mononoke" or "Spirited Away," this is still a lovely and beautifully produced tale that will enchant viewers both young and old in equal measure. Other Miyazaki productions making their Blu-Ray debuts from Walt Disney Home Entertainment at $29.99 each are "Castle in the Sky" and "Whisper of the Heart."

SUMMER WITH MONIKA (The Criterion Collection. $29.95): The late, great Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman had an early international success with this sexy 1953 drama about a couple of lower-class teens in love (Lars Ekborg and the mega-giggity Harriet Andersson) who run away from their families in Stockholm to spend a romantic summer at the beach, only to have their relationship shift again when they are inevitably forced to return to their normal lives. Strangely enough, this film found a big audience in America when enterprising exploitation producer Kroger Babb bought the American distribution rights (sort of), edited out the boring parts, created an ad campaign that highlighted all the sexy stuff (including Andersson's then-eye-opening nudity) and unleashed it to great success on the drive-in/grindhouse circuit under the title "Monika, the Story of a Bad Girl!" Although that version isn't available on this Blu-Ray, there is an interview with exploitation film expert Eric Schaefer who recounts the whole seedy story that is the centerpiece of a supplement section that also includes an intro that Bergman ddid for Swedish television, a half-hour documentary on its making, an archival audio interview with Bergman and a new video chat with Andersson. Criterion is also issuing Bergman's 1951 drama "Summer Interlude" (The Criterion Collection. $39.95), which tells the tale of a ballet dancer ruminating on her doomed affair with a student years earlier.

THIS MEANS WAR (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): In this unnaturally awful action-comedy that will most likely go down as one of the very worst of 2012, Reese Witherspoon plays a sweet young lass who is perennially unlucky in love (and I suspect many of you have checked out just on that) who finds herself dating two hunks (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) at the same time--the gag is that they are best pals and CIA operatives who put their skill sets to use in order to defeat the other and win her heart. Just in case that you are under the delusion that this chunk of pre-fab crap, the latest work from the mind of the auteur known as McG, is actually a well-designed narrative that is the end result of a single highly focused vision, bear in mind that the cover proudly boasts that DVD/Blu-Ray contains two different cuts of the film and three alternate endings to boot. Sadly, none of them involve the eternally obnoxious Chelsea Handler (who inexplicably turns up as Witherspoon's best pal and drags down every single scene with her uninspired comedic riffing) meeting the business end of a chainsaw, so you know that none of them are truly happy in the end.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (Oscilloscope. $29.99): Based on the novel by Lionel Shriver, this film from Lynn Ramsey chronicles the increasingly tragic story of an admittedly aloof mother (Tilda Swinton) locked into a long-running battle of wills with her increasingly malevolent son that eventually explodes into a horrifying act of violence that leaves her a social pariah as a result. As usual, Swinton is excellent--there are few actresses who would have even taken a chance at playing a character as unlikable/pathetic as this one, let alone do it as well as she does--but the rest of the film is a load of pretentious crap, an over-stylized take on the whole question of the nature/nurture debate that suffers under the weight of a narrative that defies belief, a visual scheme so absurdly symbolic as to laugh (no, your rods and cones do not need adjusting--everything really is supposed to be that red throughout) and some epic miscasting (unless you can wrap your head around the idea of any marriage embodied by Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly). There are some people out there who are liable to tell you that this is a searing indictment of the human condition told with a bold feminist spin that makes it worth watching. These people are idiots.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (Universal Home Entertainment. $30.99): In the first major screen role of his post-Potter career, Daniel Radcliffe stars as a haunted young widower sent to a remote village by his law firm to go through the papers of a recently deceased client and uncovers a vengeful ghost hell-bent on destroying anyone who comes into contact with it. Eschewing graphic gore for old-fashioned Gothic atmosphere, this film was produced by the latest incarnation of England's famed Hammer Films and does a reasonably good job of recreating the work churned out in their heyday and even contains a couple of pretty good scares to boot.


BULLET FOR THE GENERAL (Blue Underground. $29.98)

THE LETHAL WEAPON COLLECTION (Warner Home Video. $79.98)


TOO LATE BLUES (Olive FIlms. $24.95):


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originally posted: 06/05/12 08:03:26
last updated: 06/05/12 08:29:14
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