|DVD Reviews For 5/20: "A Minute Of Silence Can Last A Long Time... A Whole Eternity."
|by Peter Sobczynski
Some Japanese smut, a French classic, a movie from Sam Raimi and the Coen Brothers that you probably have never heard of and Lindsay Lohan as Liz Taylor--these are just a few of the treasures on display in this list titles new to DVD and Blu-Ray.
NEW AND NOTABLE
BAND OF OUTSIDERS (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): Made during the incredible early string of ground-breaking films that made him an instant legend in the annals of world cinema, Jean-Luc Godard directed this wonderful 1964 gangster pastiche involving two friends (Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur), the beautiful girl they both fancy (Anna Karina) and the large amount of money supposedly hoarded away by the latter's aunt that the three impulsively decide to steal as a way of impressing each other. Far less oblique than Godard's usual stabs at formal and narrative experimentation, this is arguably the most accessible of his films, definitely one of the most entertaining and contains two of the most memorable moments of his entire filmography--the legendary scene where the trio break out into an impromptu dance number and the equally famous bit in which the three try to break the record for the fastest trip from one end the Louvre to the other. Essential viewing.
BEAUTIFUL CREATURES (Warner Home Video. $28.95): In this especially blatant attempt to jump on the "Twilight"/"The Hunger Games" bandwagon by bringing a popular YA novel to the big screen, a hunky small-town boy (Alden Ehrenreich) meets and falls for the school's new dowdy outcast (although "dowdy" is a relative term as Alice Englert has the looks to put most fashion models to shame) only to discover that she is a witch (sorry, a "caster") whose upcoming 16th birthday will determine whether she will be a good witch or a bad witch. While wait for that to happen, Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson chew up the scenery as her relatives, Emmy Rossum turns up as a bit of fun and Viola Davis gets her usual six minutes of screen time. The whole thing is pretty dumb and its non-performance at the box-office suggests that the other books in the series won't be coming to a theater near you anytime soon. That said, it is still better than any of the "Twilight" films and the fact that it is now on Blu-Ray means that I will never have to see its trailer--which seemed to play before every damn film I paid to see for nearly six months straight--again as long as I live.
CLOUD ATLAS (Warner Home Video. $28.95): Based on the 2004 novel by David Mitchell, this astonishingly ambitious effort from Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis offers viewers no less than six intertwining stories following a group of characters and their descendants (played by the likes of Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon and others, all in multiple roles and often under heavy makeup) over the span of roughly a thousand years or so as the actions of one generation affect the future in unexpected ways. On the one hand, it is a sprawling and wildly ambitious epic that swings for the fences in virtually every scene and, in terms of size, scope and narrative, is utterly unlike anything that has been attempted in the name of commercial filmmaking in quite some time. On the other hand, even for a film clocking in at nearly three hours, this is the rare movie that contains too many ideas instead of too few and for every one that pays off, there are two or three that simply do not work at all. The end result is a film that is sometimes brilliant, oftentimes embarrassing and either a masterpiece of modern cinema, a folly of mind-numbing proportions or some bizarre combination of the two.
CRIMEWAVE (Shout! Factory. $26.99): After making their respective debuts with the cult favorites "The Evil Dead" and "Blood Simple," Sam Raimi and the Coen Brothers joined forces for this screwball black comedy about an ordinary schnook who finds himself being blamed for a series of murders committed by a pair of psychotic exterminators. After a troubled production, the film was barely released in a couple of cities in 1985 before slipping into an obscurity that might have been total were it not for the eventual fame of its creators. To be honest, the film is a mess and bears the mark of a lot of post-production tampering but if you can get beyond the awful opening and closing scenes, the middle 45 minutes or so is a cheerfully goofy live-action cartoon that has its fair share of laughs and inventive camera movements. Fans of Raimi and the Coens should definitely check this out--if only as a curiosity--while others should be a little more wary.
FOODFIGHT (Phase 4 Films. $14.95): Of course, the production problems of "Crimewave" are nothing compared to those faced by this cheapo attempt to ride the coattails of "Toy Story" by devising a story set in a supermarket where the various product icons--including real ones like Mrs. Butterworth, Mr. Clean and Chester Cheetah and made-up characters with names like Harmony Sunshine and Dex Dogtective--come to life when the place is closed and band together to stop the mysterious Brand X from taking over the entire place. After a production that was complicated when hard drives containing important film files were stolen, the movie was originally scheduled to be released at Christmastime 2003, then delayed to 2005 and then disappeared until it was literally auctioned off to help pay off the production company's debts after they defaulted on bank loans. Having bypassed theaters entirely in the U.S. (it did briefly play theatrically in the U.K. last year), it has gone direct-to-video and perhaps not surprisingly, this ugly and lame-brained mess is nowhere near as compelling as the story of its making and unmaking.
A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.98): Presumably hellbent on squandering all the goodwill generated by his collaborations with Wes Anderson, writer-director Roman Coppola came up with this dreadful stab at Charlie Kaufman-style surrealism with this look at the hallucinatory personal and professional woes of a randy 70's-era graphic designer played, to use the term loosely, by Charlie Sheen. Sadly, the film lacks the structure and wit of Sheen's live act and not even the usually reliable Bill Murray can save things during his occasional brief appearances, one of which finds him dressed like John Wayne in "Rio Bravo." However, I would not go so far as to call it the single most scandalous waste of talent in a film so far this year, though that is only--only--because it was preceded by the infamous "Movie 43."
JACK REACHER (Paramount Home Video. $29.98): Tom Cruise attempted to jump-start another film franchise with this adaptation of the Lee Child novel in which he plays a tough-as-nails former military investigator who is called in after a Marine is accused of a mass shooting--despite all evidence pointing to the suspect, our hero thinks something is off and his investigation uncovers a web of mystery, corruption and deceit, not to mention a lot of guys lining up to be smacked around by him one by one. Most of the film is pretty dumb and forgettable and its attempts to underline just how tough and badass Cruise's character get pretty silly after a while. That said, whomever had the brilliant idea to cast the legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog in the role of the chief bad guy deserves some kind of medal--this is definitely one of those movies where you will find yourself rooting for the bad guys.
LIZ & DICK (E1 Entertainment. $19.98): You know, I could make any number of snippy comments about this critically derided made-for-TV movie about the tempestuous romance between the two international icons in which Lindsay Lohan and awkwardly, to put it kindly, attempted to emulate Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (though it might have been more interesting if they had switched parts). I could make some obscure joke about missing all the behind-the-scenes stuff about "Boom!" I could even say that the old SNL sketch with a dragged-out John Belushi playing Liz as she choked on her chicken was a more convincing depiction than anything on display here. Instead, I am just going to quote my mother's reaction after watching maybe the first ten minutes of the film when it was first broadcast--"I ain't buying it." Other TV-related titles now available include "30 Rock: Season Seven" (Universal Home Entertainment. $44.98), "Bob's Burgers: Season 2" (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.99), "Dance Academy: Season 1, Volume 1 and 2" (New Video Group. $19.95), "Flashpoint: The Fifth Season" (Paramount Home Video. $39.98), "Fraggle Rock: 30th Anniversary Collection" (Vivendi. $129.99), "Fringe: The Complete Fifth Season" (Warner Home Video. $39.98), "Rookie Blue: The Complete Third Season" (E1 Entertainment. $39.99) and "Royal Pains: Season Four" (Universal Home Entertainment. $39.98)
MAMA (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Under normal circumstances, a horror movie released in theaters in the middle of January is usually the most easily dispensable of all films but this one, produced by Guillermo del Toro, is actually pretty impressive. The great Jessica Chastain stars as a woman who finds herself charged with taking care of her boyfriend's young nieces--who had been missing for years until they were found in a remote cabin in the woods living in near-feral conditions--and slowly beginning to realize that something else is looking after the girls as well and will do anything to possess them. Although it doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel, the story is surprisingly dark and creepy, the central performance from Chastain is as strong and sure as anything else that she has done and the finale--well, I have to admit that I didn't see that coming.
SAFE HAVEN (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): Yet another tale based on the works of Nicholas Sparks in which the budding romance between two impossibly pretty people (Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough) is threatened because of the machinations of outside forces as well as dark secrets from their pasts. To be honest, I have not yet seen this one--though I will be watching it before long due to professional obligations--but I do know its twist ending and that bit sounds so absolutely batshit crazy that I am almost perversely looking forward to seeing it for myself.
SHE CAT/FEMALE TEACHER HUNTING (Impulse Pictures. $19.95 each): Another helping of vintage Japanese erotica courtesy of the good perverts at Impulse. "She Cat" (1983) throws some gangster-style action in with the smut as it follows a beautiful woman with a dangerously sexy past who finds herself the target of killers who think she possesses the secret than can bring down an entire company--luckily, she still gets enough of a breather from time to time for extended lesbian shower scenes. "Female Teacher Hunting" (1982) follows a student who attacks the girl that he is skinny-dipping with and then smacks around a teacher before storming off to spend the summer hiding out at a remote beachfront town--the same place, of course, where the teacher has gone to rendezvous with her married lover. Both films are filled with nudity, violence and lurid plot twists and fans of ultra-sleazy exploitation fare will probably get a kick out of both.
TEXAS CHAINSAW (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.95): This latest attempt to wring a few more bucks out of a once-proud franchise cannot decide whether it wants to be a direct sequel, a remake or a reboot of Tobe Hooper's 1974 horror masterpiece but it certainly sucks at each different approach. In fact, there is an excellent chance that this may be the single stupidest movie ever made to feature the words "Texas," "Chain" and/or "Saw" in its title. The only good thing about it, when all is said and done, is that it is so terrible and so useless that it could finally kill off the entire franchise for good.
UPSTREAM COLOR (ERBP Films. $24.95): I have seen the new film from Shane Carruth--his first since his trippy 2004 debut "Primer"--a couple of times now but I am still not entirely sure that I could quite sum it up for you. Suffice it to say, it starts off as a woman (Amy Seimetz), through means that I will not get into here, is compelled to do certain things that eventually cause her entire life to quickly fall apart. Having hit rock-bottom, she begins to run into a man (played by Carruth himself) and eventually develops a romantic relationship with him that is thrown into a certain state of confusion when it seems as if he has undergone circumstances frighteningly similar to hers. Of course, there is a lot more to it than just that--mind control, weird experiments involving pigs, a guy who hangs out in fields to sample their sounds and, most terrifying of all, significant quotes from "Walden" being just a few of the additional details--and Carruth spins them together in such an oblique manner that he makes Terrence Malick seem direct and to the point by comparison. As one who was enthralled by the head games of his previous effort, I was primed--no pun intended--for his latest but even I confess to being baffled by the weirdness that he has sprung this time around. And yet, while I could not pass a quiz on each and every detail that the film has to offer, I was nevertheless enthralled by Carruth's wild ambitions, his hypnotic storytelling approach and the deeply affecting and convincing relationship that he and Seimetz are able to develop that cuts straight to the heart while everything else is busy blowing your mind. "Upstream Color" is not one of these exhausting slogs that you have seen a hundred times before and it does ask viewers to do a lot of heavy lifting but for those up to the challenge, it is definitely worth the effort.
BLACK SABBATH (Arrow Video. $24.95)
BRUBAKER (Fox Home Entertainment. $19.95)
FULL FRONTAL (Mill Creek. $14.99)
GAMER 3D (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)
THE GREAT ESCAPE (MGM Home Entertainment. $19.99)
JUBAL (The Criterion Collection. $29.95)
LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (Twilight Time. $29.95)
THE MIRACLE OF THE BELLS (Olive Films. $29.95)
MR. SARDONICUS/BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN (Mill Creek. $9.98)
AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN (Paramount Home Video. $19.98)
ONE HOUR PHOTO (Fox Home Entertainment. $19.99)
THE ORANGES (Fox Home Entertainment. $22.98)
ROPE (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98)
SABOTEUR (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98)
SHADOW OF A DOUBT (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98)
STARLET (Music Box Films. $29.95)
3:10 TO YUMA (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)
THE UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH (Olive Films. $29.95)
THE VERDICT (Fox Home Entertainment. $19.99)
VIVA ZAPATA (Fox Home Entertainment. $19.95)
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originally posted: 05/21/13 02:23:34
last updated: 05/22/13 10:25:43