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Four friends (Marcello Mastroianni, Philippe Noiret, Michel Piccoli, Ugo Tognazzi), all successful in life, descend upon their small town country retreat with a singularly excessive goal in mind. They’re going to feast on all manner of delicacies from elaborate meals to energetic whores, and they’re going to do it until their bodies can’t take any more.
Director Marco Ferreri’s biting (and chewing and excreting and fornicating…) commentary on the bourgeoisie caused something of a stir in the ’70s, but it remains an incredibly sharp criticism on the upper class’ engorged desires. Food is the focus, but a culture that refuses to control and restrict its appetites is doomed for extinction. And farting, lots and lots of farting. The film is definitely funny, sometimes laugh out loud but usually in a darkly humorous way, but the sadness that pervades it is reminiscent of the more recent and far less appreciated I Melt With You. I’ma big fan of both. Arrow Video’s new Blu offers up a beautiful 2K restoration that captures all of the culinary and physical excesses in exquisite detail. The extras are a healthy mix of archival and new as well resulting in an attractively supplemented descent into an edible, scatological attack on the elite.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Archival interviews with writer/director and stars, behind the scenes, video essay, select scene commentary, 1973 press conference excerpt, booklet essay by Johnny Mains, reversible sleeve]
Norman (Peter Wyngarde) is a college professor who discovers his wife Tansy (Janet Blair) is playing Bewitched in her spare time and casting protection spells, charms, curses and more. He forces her to throw it all away and forgo such foolishness as part of his crusade against the make believe world of magic, but he soon comes to regret his decision when he realizes others are using magic against him and he just may need her supernatural assistance.
This rock-solid dramatic thriller about a man forced to confront a truth he refuses to accept is well-written (unsurprising as the screenwriters are Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont), stays true to its characters without feeling compelled to give in to cheap scares or plot twists, and features some impressive set pieces for the time. One involving a giant, flesh piercing hawk is particularly tense, exciting, and well-crafted. I love that it ends with a question asked directly to the audience… literally, in onscreen text. It’s a nice companion to the opening voice-over warning the audience about the spells they’re about to witness before casting one to protect viewers.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, interview, trailer]
Boy Scouts, amirite? Always hating on atheists, gays and random sticks they find in the woods. But in Belgium at least they’re far from the worst thing hanging out in the forest. A gaggle of scouts on a camping trip meant to engender team-building and survival skills hits a snag when the truth behind a local legend threatens to impede the former by killing off members of the team while creating a sink or swim scenario with the latter. A feral boy said to live in the woods is rumored to be behind a series of disappearances, but even if he’s real he may not be the biggest threat wandering the wild.
Director/co-writer Jonas Govaerts delivers a debut feature ‐ after a career spent making music videos ‐ that manages a refreshing mix of terror, action and depth. We’ve seen “killer in the woods” movies before, but while Cub uses the basic framework of the subgenre it layers the story with characters and details that feel fresh and creative in their execution. Those scripted strengths come packaged in one hell of a gorgeous film accompanied by an eclectic and propulsive score that drives the action as it raises the pulse. There are some missteps in the final fifteen minutes or so, and while they don’t stall the film they do tap the brakes a bit on the audiences’ enthusiasm for all that came before. And as a fair bit of warning, there is a lengthy scene of violence against a dog too. It’s implied, accomplished via editing and serves a valid and legitimate narrative purpose, but it’s rough. Ignore the horrendously unfortunate cover art and check this one out.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Short film, music video, deleted scenes, fx reel, trailer]
It seems that every lauded ’60s arthouse filmmaker made their requisite film about filmmaking at some point in their careers, such as Fellini’s 8 ½ and Godard’s Contempt. But where these films used filmmaking to stage crises of personal psyche or relationships, Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night is frank and forthright in its often farcical depiction of filmmaking as an unceasing crisis in of itself.
Alongside a cast portraying a cast and a crew portraying a crew, Truffaut plays a filmmaker guiding a production about a tragic love affair that endures every potential setback that could possibly come to pass, and Day for Night captures a potent energy in feature filmmaking that suggests this film to be the most intricately honest portrayal of the trials, travails, and triumphs of the form ever to reach the screen. While the French New Wave was largely obliquely and directly invested in using cinema as a platform to explore cinema, Truffaut’s film about filmmaking switches this focus to the incomparable joy of such an involved process. ‐ Landon Palmer
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Video essay, interviews with crew, interview/documentaries with film scholars, archival interviews with and footage of cast and crew, trailer, illustrated booklet with essay by critic David Cairns]
Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) has lived for centuries on the blood of those around her, and through the years she’s held mortal lovers for as long as time will allow. Her latest, John (David Bowie), has begun aging at an unrelenting rate, and desperate for a way to hold back the ravages of time they seek out a researcher in the field of geriatrics (Susan Sarandon) for help.
Tony Scott’s feature debut (based on Whitley Streiber’s novel) is in many ways the ultimate display of style over substance, but while the curtains, birds and artistic lighting infuse every shot there’s a sadness running throughout it as well. The loneliness of the present is just as powerful than the loneliness of eternity, and the exploration of humanity ‐ even a slight one ‐ adds weight to he tale. There’s also plenty of bloodletting and girl on girl action, in case those kinds of things appeal to you. Warner Archive’s new Blu-ray looks damn good.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
Raymond Reddington (James Spader) continues to work with the FBI as a source of helpful information and immense frustration. He insists on working primarily through Agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), and as the truth behind his infatuation comes clearer she finds herself pushed to the edge. There are plenty of silly plot turns here in the individual stories, but they and the underlying relationships are continually engaging and fun. It’s sharply done action and intrigue on a weekly basis made that much better by the presence of Spader at the middle of it all.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentaries, deleted scenes]
Adam is a man without a home. He left his behind over a decade ago when his family farm succumbed to a devastating epidemic, but after years spent wandering the countryside a call from his younger brother leaves him with a decision to make. Go home now, or never go home again. Directors Luke Seomore and Joseph Bull have crafted a beautifully-shot and highly atmospheric road trip through a gloss-free England, and Barry Ward grounds the journey as a man torn between giving up and giving it another chance. Less successful is the script and pacing which make for a bit of a dramatic slog at times ‐ an attractive slog, but a slog all the same.
[DVD extras: None]
William (Julian Richings) has had a hard life punctuated with terrifying alien encounters that have left him afraid and alone. When a researcher into extraterrestrial phenomena comes to interview him William’s memories of the past seep into both men’s present situation. Richings gives a tremendous performance here, but the story itself is something of a drag. It never reaches the level of exciting or interesting and instead plays out laboriously towards an obvious end.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Two men struggling to afford life as divorced men ‐ alimony, child support, mortgages, car payments ‐ meet in a bar and bond over their similar burdens, and they come to a mutual conclusion. They should kill each other’s ex-wives. This is a low-rent take on the Strangers On a Train formula, but it has its own charms ‐ questionable acting, hilarious dialogue and jumpy editing included. The story opens with one of the guys committing a brazen bank robbery and goes on to include narration from multiple characters so as we don’t miss what they’re thinking at any given moment. Throw in some T&A, creepy leads, a random earthquake, a memorable final line and cameos by Cesar Romero, Yvonne De Carlo and Robert Z’Dar and you have a cheap and cheesy piece of entertainment.
[DVD extras: Trailer, alternate cut]
Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp set out in the ’60s to make their mark as filmmakers, and step one was finding an unknown pop/rock band on which to hinge their feature debut. That unknown group turned out to be The Who, and the rest, as they say, is music history.This doc explores this relatively unfamiliar story at the heart of it all, and its combination of first-hand accounts and archival footage offers a real immediacy to a history nearly half a century old.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, Q&A, promo film, archival footage]
Mike is a cop, Molly’s (Melissa McCarthy) a teacher and together they’re fighting crime in the Chicago school system! Okay, that’s not all true, but they are in love which has to count for something right? This is an odd sitcom success story in a world that made garbage like Two and Half Men and 2 Broke Girls into big hits because it’s unrelentingly sweet. McCarthy is great even as she plays against her usual foul-mouthed type, and this season moves Molly into new territory that helps keep things fresh on the story front.
[DVD extras: Gag reel]
Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Scott Harmon) heads up an elite agency handling crimes involving the U.S. Navy and Marines, and the latest season sees them crossing paths with a Russian military madman whose antics will leave the team changed forever. Oh CBS. The network may skew older, but there’s no doubt that they’ve mastered the art of series longevity and franchise manipulation. This show doesn’t quite pop on a regular basis, but there are solid action beats and fun character work across the season. This marks the first time the series has gotten a Blu-ray release, and it’s currently a Best Buy exclusive but will release everywhere in September.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes]
Agents Callen (Chris O’Donnell) and Hanna (LL Cool J) handle military-related cases along the Pacific coast, and in between fights with all manner of villains they also trade barbs with Linda Hunt. The diminutive Hunt aside, the cast here isn’t quite as eclectic or compelling as its parent show, and that underwhelming surface pairs with plenty of generic action and plot lines.
[DVD extras: Featurettes]
Dwayne Cassius Pride (Scott Bakula) heads up the Crescent City’s elite team of investigators who handle Navy and Marine-related crimes. The latest spin-off from CBS’ juggernaut NCIS automatically earns a watch thanks to Bakula’s presence ‐ I make no apologies for my love of Quantum Leap ‐ but the supporting cast is the most enjoyable of the franchise with both CCH Pounder and Lucas Black as regulars. The action, like pretty much all of these types of shows, is fairly generic, but there’s enough here for casual enjoyment.
[DVD extras: Backdoor pilot episodes from NCIS, featurettes]
A French archaeologist (Pierce Brosnan) arrives in the emergency room while rambling and ranting incoherently, but just before he dies he whispers something into the doctor’s (Lesley-Anne Down) ear and biting her neck. Soon after the doctor begins experiencing visions of the man’s final days. John McTiernan’s feature debut is a dream-like thriller about ancient evils, wandering spirits and the eternal quest for a place to call home. It’s not a wholly successful endeavor ‐ the story weaves into convoluted, unexplored places at times ‐ but it holds the attention through atmosphere, mystery and a handful of highly effective scenes. It’s worth it for the nun sequence alone.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, trailer]
Chicklet (Lauren Ambrose) just wants to fit in with the other teens, but her interest in the “man’s sport” of surfing marks her as something of a weirdo. Well, that and an aggressive, foul-mouthed split personality. When a killer starts slashing his or her way through the town’s population she finds herself both a target and a suspect. Robert Lee King’s spoof of both slasher films and ’50s beach flicks finds some fun thanks to both the script and the performances of some notable actors. Ambrose in particular delivers the goods ‐ although her split personality does occasionally dip too broadly into stereotype ‐ but Amy Adams, Nicholas Brendon and writer/co-star Charles Busch do good work too.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, music video]
The police men and women of 15 Division put their lives on the line on a regular basis, and as season five begins two of them are paying the price and clinging to life in the hospital. ABC’s summer series has a great cast portraying interesting characters, and it’s one of the rare shows I watch on a regular basis. That said, I’m no fan of money grabs like this ‐ TV shows should hit DVD as full seasons, not as partial ones ‐ so as enjoyable as it is I recommend catching up on Netflix or Hulu instead.
[DVD extras: Featurettes]
Stanley and Paul are criminals on the run from Baltimore police who hole up in a rented house in Miami until the heat dies down. Paul decides to avoid detection by dressing up as Stanley’s Aunt Martha, but his efforts don’t quite go according to plan and soon the bodies start piling up. The title of this early ’70s thriller is obviously incredible, but while the film itself can’t reach those same heights it’s an interesting little indie all the same. The two men may or may not be lovers ‐ something made unclear by Stanley’s habit of hanging out with naked ladies and panicking violently when they try to get in his pants ‐ but it all makes for an odd, non-pc pairing. Part thriller, part black comedy, part relationship drama, the movie occasionally feels like a warped sitcom with its sets and playful score, but it remains an entertaining and frequently dark affair despite the budgetary constraints.
[DVD extras: Commentary]
A troubled couple (Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes) arrive in a rural Australian town and quickly fall into a nightmare when their two teenage children disappear. Their relationship begins to crumble further under the weight of the intense heat, turbulent weather and blanket of suspicion they find themselves under. The cast is strong ‐ Hugo Weaving steals the show as a charismatic and very human cop ‐ but goddamn is this a slow, uninteresting slog of a film. Everyone is so dour and dull. Fans of Kidman and Weaving should give it a watch, but everyone else should keep on moving.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
A cop (Dean Cain) catches a notorious criminal (The Big Show), but after the bad guy wiggles his way into release he takes revenge on the cop by killing his pregnant wife. He even knows she pregnant, that’s just how evil he is. Determined and depressed, the detective commits a crime of his own to get sent into jail where he can deliver some justice of his own. The Soska Sisters direct this WWE production with an appreciation for blood and violence, but everything else falls flat. It’s more than a little ridiculous script and dialogue-wise too.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, featurettes]
Financial scandals aren’t a uniquely American creation because greed knows no geographic or language barriers, and when the people of Hong Kong fall victim an anti-corruption police unit is thrown into action. Louis Koo headlines, but the fun is in the villains (as is often the case). There’s an imbalance here between the convoluted financial specifics and the good versus bad storyline, but a handful of action scenes and a quick running time keep it entertaining enough.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, making of, trailer]
The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, Angst, Catching Faith, Hackers, Little Boy, Love Letter, The Royals: The Complete First Season, The Seventh Dwarf, Soaked In Bleach
Related Topics: Home Video