Fanny and Alexander
I came extremely close to leading this week’s column with this latest release from the Criterion Collection, Ingrid Bergman’s 1982 classic by far the superior film. Reproducing their stunning DVD box set for Blu-ray, Criterion delivers up both the theatrical and television cuts of the esteemed Swedish filmmaker’s devastatingly emotional masterpiece, and for fans of the director this is as close to a must-own as anything ever released to the format.
What is there to say about David Lynch’s mesmerizingly macabre Blue Velvet that hasn’t already been stated by greater cinematic minds than eye? I’m not altogether sure, but what I do know is that this film’s legions of die hard fans will want to pick up this sensational Blu-ray release the moment it goes on sale. Supervised by Lynch himself, this high-definition presentation is beyond stunning, while the disc itself is filled with supplemental material Blue Velvet cultists will undoubtedly swoon over. I’ll have a full review up for everyone to read soon.
Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
My representative at Warner Bros. promises this disc is on its way, so hopefully I’ll be able to get a look at this weird, sometimes awesome, oftentimes perplexing 1962 version of the classic tale starring Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard and Richard Harris very soon. Until then, while the 1935 version is still the best yet made in regards to this story (although the 1982 Mel Gibson/Anthony Hopkins version is awfully, awfully good), this one certainly has plenty going for that make it highly worthwhile, not the least of which are the stunning visuals, the stupendous score and the eye-popping recreation of the H.M.S. Bounty itself. Sure Brando’s performance can sometimes have a person scratching their head, and yes Howard doesn’t quite reach the levels of titanic insanity that Charles Laughton managed to register in the ’35 version, but neither comes close to derailing this fascinating epic.
From my theatrical review (read it here): “I get the feeling had this undergone another rewrite, had everyone involved put more effort into tightening it all up and giving the female characters a bit more depth, we’d have something special to talk about. As it is, The Change-Up certainly has its merits, just not enough of them for me to think the price of a ticket is worthy of the effort it takes to enjoy them.”
Géla Babluani’s American remake of his own international sensation 13 Tzaameti starring Sam Riley, Ray Winstone, Mickey Rourke and Jason Statham is an interesting, if not altogether successful, reinterpretation that starts well, plods along aimlessly during the midsection but than somehow rights itself during its climactic home stretch. It features performances ranging from the amateurish (Riley’s, sadly), the magnificent (Winstone), the respectful (Statham) to the downright laughable (Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson). It also sadly doesn’t pack the same visceral innervating punch Babluani’s own original did, and while the last bits are still pretty great they can’t hold a candle to anything the director delivered in regards to this same story of Russian Roulette gone wild previously.
Before winning an Academy Award for Girl, Interrupted, Angelina Jolie made a name for herself for her searing, some would say career-defining performance as fashion model Gia Marie Carangi. Her rise to fame, starting as a 17-year-old waitress working in her father’s diner to her death from AIDS in 1986 at the age of 26, isn’t a new story, but it is an effective one, Jolie searing through the screen inhabiting this tragic woman’s shell in a way some would say she’s never been able to do similarly since. A great movie featuring an even better performance, this is one HBO production I’m tempted to pick the Blu-ray up of sight unseen.
I’ve always had a humongous soft spot for Stuart Baird’s 1996 terrorism thriller Executive Decision. Even with the presence of Steven Segal, this has always been a film that highlighted suspense over action, character over manipulative theatrics, and as such it plays like more of an airborne Hunt for Red October than it does your typical Die Hard clone. It helps that Kurt Russell is just terrific as the counter-terrorism analyst called in to assist in stopping a madman from unleashing a biological weapon high above Washington, DC, and it helps even more that the crackerjack supporting cast (including Halle Berry, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt and Joe Morton) work like a lean, mean clockwork team, and even if the film has one too many false endings it’s still so much fun most of its flaws don’t matter in the slightest.
It should be noted, however, that Warner Bros. has tinkered a bit with this film for its Blu-ray release, changing certain scenes featuring its Muslim terrorists in order not to hopefully offend. While I do take issue with this, as they have been described to me the changes are so relatively minor it is likely most people won’t even notice, That said, why Warner went through the trouble and decided to set such an uncomforting precedent is a discussion for another day.
Atlas Shrugged: Part I
Adaptation of the Ayn Rand 1957 novel that came and went in theatres so fast you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know it was even given a release. Let’s just say the chances of Part II ever being completed aren’t exactly high. Mitchell will have a full review of this Blu-ray posted for everyone to read shortly.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES
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· Absence of Malice
· The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl
· Alleged (Read Mitchell’s Blu-ray Review)
· Band of Brothers / The Pacific (Special Edition Gift Set)
· A Better Tomorrow (2010)
· The Collector
· Destroy All Monsters
· Doctor Who: The Sixth Series - Part 2
· The Fisher King
· In My Sleep
· Life in a Day
· Little Big Man
· Masterpiece Contemporary: Page Eight
· Mortal Kombat: Legacy
· One-Eyed Jacks
· The River Why
· To Die For
Based on the novels by Kate Atkinson, this outstanding British series starring the great Jason Isaacs is one mystery fanatics are going to want to lap up right away. The story of former Army Officer and esteemed police inspector turned private investigator Jackson Brodie (Isaacs), these diverse stories offer up a little bit of something for everyone. To put it bluntly, they’re terrific, and here’s hoping Isaacs and company return to offering up more of them soon.
Crime of Love (Delitto D’Amore)
Luigi Comencini’s searing and emotional 1974 classic comes to DVD for the first time, and as someone who only just experienced the film for the first time just the other day my enthusiasm couldn’t be higher. This provocative, darkly tragic tale of two lovers working in a factory in northern Italy hits the viewer across the face like a sledgehammer. It’s dynamic, honest and absolutely unflinching in the way it presents the world’s political corporate brutalities. Even at almost four decades old, this film feels like it could have been made yesterday facets of its speaking about the here and now and not the 1970’s, a fact that makes Comencini’s effort as timeless as it is universal.
From my August 2010 theatrical review (read it here): “My problem was that I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this work offered less while the more was just sitting there for the taking tantalizingly just outside reach. While I learned a lot I couldn’t escape the frustrating knowledge had things been presented a bit more coherently I could have learned one heck of a lot more. Even so, as a starter introduction to each director’s legendary career Great Directors is admittedly a solid place to start. But a start is all it is, the finish far more extensive than any single documentary could ever hope to encapsulate.”
The Human Resources Manager
Wonderful dramatic comedy from Israel about the human resource manager at Jerusalem’s largest bakery forced to go to Romania to make amends to the family of one of his workers, tragically killed in a suicide bombing attack. Full of life, unafraid to go to places of stark and uncomforting darkness yet still surprisingly warm-hearted and emotionally uplifting, this dynamic little import is one to see, offering up plenty in the way of nuanced and character-driven entertainment that kept me in an almost continual state of delight.
Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls
Awesome. Simply awesome. Just see this marvelously entertaining documentary about New Zealand entertainers Jools and Lynda Topp right away. You’ll love yourself for doing so.
Bedlam: Season 1
Welcome to Bedlam Heights, a hip newly converted apartment building in the heart of Leeds. The high quality rental apartments offer stylish 21st century living, but behind the facade lie unimaginable horrors, for this former pre-Victorian asylum is haunted by the ghosts of its dark and violent past. Kate, who lives and works at Bedlam Heights, thinks anyone who believes in ghosts is a fool. Overly self-confident but ultimately self-destructive, she is surprised by the unexpected arrival of Jed - her adopted cousin. Jed is unique. With a history of mental illness, and he´s a troubled man who sees visions of the dead, the past and ghosts. He's convinced Kate is in danger from the spooks of Bedlam, but unbeknownst to him, Kate and friends Molly and Ryan, the truth will be far more terrifying…(Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
There are three women in the Langley household: Vivien (Karen Young), the mother, is caught between a fierce independence and an almost agoraphobic attachment to home; seductive and confident Mel (Portia Reiners) is a 19 year-old mirror of her mother; Maura (Mamie Gummer), 22, is alienated, afraid and unable to pinpoint her place in the world. They live together in a seemingly close household, yet each is very much alone. The family's status quo explodes when Jeff (Jonathan Groff) walks into their comfortable yet dysfunctional world. Bright, handsome, ambitious and sure of his future at 22, he's also socially awkward and a sexual novice who's been infatuated with Mel since high school. When they begin working together at the same restaurant, he jumps at the opportunity to finally start a romance with the free-spirited girl - but Mel has other ideas about their time together. (Description reprinted from Amazon.com)
OTHER NOTABLE DVD RELEASES
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· Dinky Dog: The Complete Series
· Law & Order: The Complete Series
· Mr. Magoo: The Television Collection, 1960-1977