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DVD Reviews For 7/6: "There You Go--Hiding Behind A Smokescreen Of Bourgeois Cliches!"
by Peter Sobczynski

Although drugs are in short supply in this round-up of new arrivals on DVD/Blu-Ray, let it be said that sex, violence and rock and/or roll more than take up the slack.


300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (Warner Home Video. $28.98): Sure, pretty much the entire cast of the extraordinarily stupid 2007 historical epic perished by the time the end credits rolled but with the grosses that highly stylized silliness pulled in, it was inevitable that a continuation would eventually arrive. In this loose follow-up, Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton, displaying less charisma than Gerard Butler, if such a thing is possible) tries to unite the various warring factions of his country in order to stave off an invasion from the sea by the bloodthirsty Persians. Like the original film, this is hyper-violent and hyper-violent foolishness whose cartoonish nature is only partially excused by the fact that it is pretty much a live-action cartoon for all intents and purposes. However, amidst all the gore and stupidity, there is one magnificent performance by Eva Green as the savage and sexy leader of the Persian navy with a particular axe to grind against the Greeks--her every appearance is a knockout and if I were voting for year-end awards right now, there is an excellent chance that I would back her for a Supporting Actress nod. The film is pretty much unwatchable but I almost want to recommend it just for Green's scenes alone.

THE BRIDGE: SEASON 1 (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.98): Just in time for its second season, you can now brush up on the highly acclaimed and fairly compelling FX series featuring a pair of detectives from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border (Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir) whose investigation of a murder in which the body was found on the bridge linking El Paso and Juarez leads to the discovery of a possible serial killer working both sides of the border. Other TV-related titles now available include "The Boondocks: Season Four" (Sony Home Entertainment. $40.99), "Helix: Season 1" (Sony Home Entertainment. $55.99), "House of Cards: Season 2" (Sony Home Entertainment. $55.99), "Red Shoe Diaries: Season 1" (Kino Lorber. $29.95) and "Witches of East End: Season 1" (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.98).

ENEMY (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.98): Those of you with long memories (especially cranky filmmakers of Canadian origin whose credits continue to elude me on IMDb) will recall that I deemed the pretentious and sadistic torture drama "Prisoners" to be one of last year's worst and most morally and intellectually insulting films. However, before making that one, director Denis Villeneuve and star Jake Gyllenhall collaborated on this infinitely better mind-bender in which Gyllenhall plays a mopey college professor who watches a DVD one night and discovers his exact double as one of the background players. What happens next is best left for you to discover--suffice it to say that fans of the twisty, twisted works of the likes of Lynch and Cronenberg will find much to like here and the final shot will no doubt provoke arguments and discussions that will last long into the night.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): In the latest effort from indie icon Wes Anderson--arguably his best work since "The Royal Tenenbaums"--Ralph Fiennes (in one of his best performances) plays the concierge of a famed European hotel in the years between the two world wars who, with the aid of loyal lobby boy Zero (newcomer Tony Revolori), becomes embroiled in a drama involving a dead heiress (Tilda Swinton), a fight over her fortune and a priceless missing painting that has fallen into his clutches. The film has all the usual accoutrements of a Wes Anderson film--oddball humor, decidedly quirky visuals and a cast list so overstuffed that it almost feels like a highbrow "Cannonball Run" (Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Lea Seydoux, Owen Wilson and the inevitable Bill Murray are only a few of the familiar faces that turn up)--but it has a real heart to it that beats throughout and which prevents it from being just another twee example of terminal whimsy. Right now, I would call it once of the very best films of 2014 and I suspect that I will be saying the same thing come December.

A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): A half-century after its initial release, the 1964 screen debut of the Beatles remains not only one of the greatest rock movies every made but one of the most purely joyful of all cinematic experiences. Shot on the fly in a couple of weeks for producers who didn't much care what it contained as long as there was Beatles music in it, director Richard Lester and screenwriter Alun Owen dreamed up a sweetly surreal day-in-the-life scenario that included everything from sharp satire (my favorite being George Harrison's encounter with the slick ad man) to cheerfully silly slapstick and the group proved to be just as funny, original and compelling on the screen as they were on the turntable. Oh yeah, the music is pretty much okay as well. The film has been in and out of print on DVD for years and with this Blu-Ray debut, Criterion brings together pretty much all the previously seen extras (including documentaries about the making of the film and its cultural impact and Lester's Oscar-nominated 1960 short "The Running, Jumping & Standing Still Film," which would be a key influence on his approach to this film) along with new interviews and a fabulous-looking 4k digital restoration and audio options ranging from the original mono to newly created stereo and 5.1 mixes. All this is academic of course--this is one of the great films of all time and should be in the collection of any serious moviegoer or Beatles fan.

JOE (Lions Gate Home Entertainment. $19.98): Although Nicolas Cage has been in an astonishing array of highly dubious film projects over the last few years (and that is putting it mildly), he is still an enormously talented actor when given material to work with that doesn't appear to have been slapped together at random as the result of some ill-advised wager gone sour. That is certainly the case with this powerful backwoods drama from director David Gordon Green (an acclaimed filmmaker who endured his own rough patch a few years ago with the one-two punch of "Your Highness" and "The Sitter") in which he plays an ex-con with a violent past who comes to the aid of a boy (Tye Sheridan) struggling to break free from his monstrous and abusive father (non-professional actor Gary Poulter, a homeless man that Green cast and who died before his performance received across-the-board raves). Based on the novel by Larry Brown , this is grim material and may be a little too dark for some moviegoers but those who can handle it will be rewarded with Green's most solid direction since the underrated "Snow Angels" and one of the very best performances of Cage's long and decidedly eclectic career.

THE LEGO MOVIE (Warner Home Video. $28.98): Like many of you, I went into this animated film inspired by the popular building toy with deep suspicions that plastic bricks could somehow inspire a compelling and entertaining storyline. Like many of you, I was thrilled to discover that the film was indeed a delight that was fully deserving of its enormous box-office success--it was visually impressive, oftentimes hilarious and it also managed to impart a message about the importance of creativity in ways that resonated with kids and adults alike. Already the clear front-runner for this year's Oscar for Best Animated Feature, this is also one of the most sheerly enjoyable films of any stripe to emerge so far this year.

MASTERS OF SEX: SEASON ONE (Sony Home Entertainment. $55.99): Sure, the work of human sexuality researchers Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson was ground-breaking and continues to be highly influential today but who would have thought that a television series chronicling their story would be particularly interesting? And yet, this Showtime series proved to be one of the more fascinating new shows of the last year thanks to the surprisingly emotional drama that it was able to mine from their stories and the stirring performances by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as Masters and Johnson. Whether you want to experience it for the first time or brush up on the season before the new one begins on July 13, this set contains all ten episode, audio commentaries, deleted scenes and a slew of other bonus features taking viewers behind the scenes of the show.

WALK OF SHAME (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98): In this ghastly comedic vehicle for the usually wonderful Elizabeth Banks, she plays a would-be L.A. news anchor who, through circumstances too contrived to get into here, is forced to travel across the city with a car, phone, money or identification and in a party dress in order to get to an all-important job interview. I could go on and on about this utter waste of time, energy and Banks but I can sum it all up in four simple words--Stick With "After Hours." You're welcome.

WINTER'S TALE (Warner Home Video. $28.98): Yes, this oddball century-spanning fantasy featuring Colin Farrell as a burglar whose power to perform a very special miracle, Jessica Brown Findlay as the dying woman he falls madly in love with in a romance that transcends both time and death and Russell Crowe as a vaguely satanic figure charged with preventing said miracle from occurring is one of the oddest films that you will ever see--imagine what might result if Terry Gilliam was suddenly fired from a project of his devising and was replaced by the people responsible for "The Notebook." However, while I realize why it received many of the worst reviews of the year to date, I must admit to liking it for its unabashed romanticism and sheer craziness--it may be total cheese, but as these things go, it is pretty tasty cheese indeed. Of course, you may feel differently so don't say that I didn't warn you.


BRING IT ON (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)

CRY-BABY (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)

THE FINAL TERROR (Shout! Factory. $26.99)

HEARTS & MINDS (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

JUDEX (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

KINDERGARTEN COP (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)

PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

SCREAMERS (ADA Corp. DVD. $29.95)

THE UNKNOWN KNOWN (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $24.98)

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originally posted: 07/07/14 05:28:28
last updated: 07/07/14 06:34:48
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