Your guide to our coverage of the new DVD/Blu-ray releases
Here's what's new and notable on DVD and Blu-ray this week as featured on Videodrone
"The Adjustment Bureau" – Fighting Fate
Liam Neeson is "Unknown"
TV on DVD:
"Louie: The Complete First Season" – Louis C.K. Recreates the Sitcom
The Cool and the Collectible:
"Kiss Me Deadly" – Film Noir Apocalypse, Then and Now
"Poison" – Todd Haynes' Debut Feature at 20
MOD Movies and TV:
News and Commentary:
"Sucker Punch" (Warner)
"The Warrior's Way" (Fox)
"Season of the Witch" (Fox)
"Barney's Version" (Sony)
"People On Sunday" (Criterion)
"Black Moon" (Criterion)
"Zazie Dans Le Métro" (Criterion)
"Wild and Weird – The Alloy Orchestra Plays…" (Flicker Alley)
"Tetsuo: The Bullet Man" (IFC)
"Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete First Season" (Warner)
"Warehouse 13: Season Two" (Universal)
"The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy: Extended Edition" (Blu-ray) (Warner)
"Cowboy Bebop: The Movie" (Blu-ray) (Image)
|Tags:||Week in review|
Plus more animation from the Hannah Barbera Classic Collection
It's not just for movies: the MOD (manufacture on demand) model is a way for shows without big sales to still find their way to home video. Here are few shows that recently came out.
"The FBI: The First Season, Part One" (Warner Archive) – This Quinn Martin Production (the brand that gave us "The Fugitive" and "The Streets of San Fransico," among other shows) took the sober, procedural-intensive approach of "Dragnet" to the federal level, supposedly basing the stories on real-life cases and drawing from real investigative techniques from the Bureau. The real FBI gave its full approval and, in exchange, got a flattering primetime portrayal.
The show hasn't really aged all that well, kind of plodding along, and with all the forensic-heavy shows on TV today, the tedious explanations of what we take for granted today is tiring. Still, it was a hit, running a sturdy nine seasons with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in the lead as Agent Lewis Erskine. Stephen Brooks is Special Agent Jim Rhodes, his first partner, in this collection of the first half of the debut season. Jeffrey Hunter plays the guest villain in the series debut, a handsome killer who targets women, and other guest stars in these early episodes include Robert Blake, Beau Bridges, Dabney Coleman, Robert Duvall, Jack Klugman, Leslie Nielsen and Burt Reynolds. 16 episodes on four discs in a standard case with hinged trays.
"Southland: The Complete Second Season Uncensored" (Warner Archive) - The network cop drama that relocated to commercial cable, "Southland" focuses on the people behind the badges of a Los Angeles precinct, from uniformed officers (including rookie Ben McKenzie and his dedicated veteran mentor Michael Cudlitz) to various grades of detectives, with Regina King as a cast standout as a passionately driven detective. The first season was a brief seven episodes, the second even shorter, more like the British model of limited run seasons, though the drama within is decidedly American life on the street. Six episodes on two discs in a standard case with a hinged tray.
The third season has already finished its 2011 run and TNT has renewed it for a fourth. It’s worth catching up with.
And here are three animated releases from the "Hannah Barbera Classic Collection":
"The Herculoids: The Complete Series" (Warner Archive), a weird, spacey 1967 series about beings that look like cavemen and prehistoric creatures in an interstellar empire. 18 episodes on two discs;
The eighties-era "Challenge of the Gobots: The Original Miniseries" (Warner Archive) presents the initial five episodes (just under two hours) of the show on a single disc;
"The Jetsons Meet The Flintstones" (Warner Archive) – The meeting we'd all been waiting for came via a 1987 animated TV movie, when Elroy's time machine swaps out the space-age nuclear family with the modern stone-age family.
All are available exclusively from the Warner Archive website:
MOD stands for "Manufacture on Demand" and represents a recent development in the DVD market, where slipping sales have slowed the release of classic, special interest and catalogue releases. These are DVD-R releases, no-frills discs from studio masters, ordered online and "burned" individually with every order. You can read a general introduction to the format and the model on my profile of the Warner Archive Collection on Parallax View here.
... and yet it still hasn't stopped the arguements
This week, he came up with the final word on the subject: Stanley Kubrick's 1975 letter to the projectionists on how "Barry Lyndon" is to be shown. And he states quite clearly that it was "photographed in the 1-1.66 aspect ratio. Please be sure you project it at this ratio..." There's more, of course, and even Leon Vitali has affirmed the authenticity of the letter (which came to Kenny via Jay Cocks), while he doggedly defends his contention that Kubrick actually intended it to be shown at 1-1.77.
No matter. Kenny, as a professional critic, historian and all-around thinking person, weighs the new evidence and changes his position accordingly: Warner made a mistake and the Blu-ray, while absolutely beautiful, is not presented in accordance with Kubrick's intentions. Case closed, you'd think, but it's still odd to find the debate continuing on the home video sites and Blu-ray boards. As if staking a position has become a matter of honor to be met, regardless of the evidence. When did film history turn into American politics?
Plus Joseph Losey's "The Romantic Englishwoman," "Priest of Love," "Woman Obsessed" and more
Criterion gives the special edition treatment to "Kiss Me Deadly" (Criterion), Robert Aldrich's atomic age reworking of Mickey Spillane. Some have called it the greatest film noir of all time; it is certainly the most apocalyptic and one of the most brutal, and it delivers a pulp punch while it savagely satirizes the entire hardboiled mythos. Reviewed on Videodrone here. The feature debut of Todd Haynes gets a new DVD edition in "Poison: 20th Anniversary Edition" (Zeitgeist). Reviewed on Videodrone here.
The rediscovery this week comes via "Raffaello Matarazzo's Runaway Melodramas: Eclipse Series 27" (Criterion/Eclipse). While the world was awed by the wave of neo-realism breaking out of Italian borders after the devastation of World War II, local audiences were flocking to the overheated melodramas directed by Raffaello Matarazzo and starring Amedeo Nazzari and Yvonne Sanson as eternally star-crossed lovers, forever separated by scheming villains, moral hypocrites, lies, misunderstandings, emotional hurricanes and wicked plot twists designed to pour on the suffering.
While these are not unearthed masterpieces, they do indeed offer surprises to audiences steeped in the conventions of romantic melodrama. They build from the more conventional soap opera of jealousy, revenge and sacrifice of "Chains" (1949), the first collaboration between the director and stars, to the increasingly amplified complications, outsized suffering and elevated gestures of martyrdom in the subsequent films. The torment of "Tormento" (1950), which takes a page from "Stella Dallas" and twists it into an act of vicious vengeance, is largely engineered by a severe stepmother whose cruelty makes the wicked stepmothers of Disney look like misguided caregivers. And "Nobody's Children" (1952) and its sequel "The White Angel" (1955) drives the twists with less malevolence and more devastating consequences, the lies and manipulations of controlling family members snowballing into blackmail, crushing loss and terrible tragedy that borders on murder. Matarazzo withholds the reward of a happy ending until the last seconds (and in one case withholds it completely, at least until the sequel) while he loads the film with Catholic imagery and the trials of a modern day Job. They make Hollywood's grand melodramas look timid by comparison.
The films in the four disc set are mastered from prints that suffer various states of damage: worn and damaged footage and unsteady footage, probably due to shrinking and splices. No supplements beyond some brief essays by Michael Koresky.
Michael Caine and Glenda Jackson star in the 1975 "The Romantic Englishwoman" (Kino), directed by Joseph Losey from a screenplay co-written by Tom Stoppard. "As a director Joseph Losey wasn’t known for his scintillating sense of humor and light touch," begins Dave Kehr in his rich review of the film's DVD/Blu-ray debut in the New York Times, which spotlights "the rather more witty and playful" quality of the film. "Uncharacteristic as it may be, “The Romantic Englishwoman” remains one of Losey’s most accomplished and engaging films." Also new from Kino is "Priest of Love" (Kino), a 1981 biographical drama starring Ian McKellan as D.H. Lawrence and co-starring Janet Suzman and Ava Gardner. The latter features a documentary on the film, interviews and deleted scenes.
Plus "The Island" and "The Medallion"
Criterion gives the special edition treatment to "Kiss Me Deadly" (Criterion), Robert Aldrich's atomic age reworking of Mickey Spillane. Some have called it the greatest film noir of all time; it is certainly the most apocalyptic and one of the most brutal, and it delivers a pulp punch while it savagely satirizes the entire hardboiled mythos. And the Blu-ray is gorgeous, which is weird to use in the context of this tawdry film shot on large part in the bowels of the old Bunker Hill neighborhood, but there you go. Reviewed on Videodrone here.
"Ghost in the Shell – Stand Alone Complex: Laughing Man" (Anchor Bay)
"Ghost in the Shell – Stand Alone Complex: Individual Eleven" (Anchor Bay)
The serialized spin-off of the landmark anime feature "Ghost in the Shell – Stand Alone Complex" is actually a prequel, following the adventures of the covert cyber-S.W.A.T. team known as Section 9 that specializes in tech-crime and robotics gone wrong in a near future society where technology is not only a deadly tool for human criminals, but is evolving in its own right. Though not quite as dark as its inspiration, the series offers solid cyberpunk stories animated with style and designed and executed with a detail rarely seen outside of theatrical features.
The show ran for two series and both were released on DVD in multiple volumes of individual episodes. The Blu-ray editions edit multi-episode stories into complete features. It works quite well, in fact, removing some of the narrative hiccups and streamlining the stories, but I do wish that the discs would identity the episodes that make up each feature-length story. Because we really do want to see these things in order. Each disc also features a substantial collection of in-depth behind-the-scenes featurettes, all in Japanese with English subtitles.
Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson are clones in search of self in "The Island" (Paramount), Michael Bay’s science fiction thriller turned property damage spectacle. Raised in an isolated, antiseptic compound in the wake of a nuclear holocaust (or so they are told), an entire society is raised on strict diets and indoctrination, trained to be simple and compliant and unquestioning. McGregor is the lone voice questions his existence and yearn for something more than the regimented life and he escapes into the crazy urban world with fellow naïf Johansson, with a small army of mercenaries (led by Djimon Hounsou) on their trail. The similarities to Robert Fiveson’s "Clonus," an almost forgotten film from the late seventies, are startling, and not to Bay’s credit. If anything, the ideas here are dumbed down in direct proportion to the increase in budget and the scale. The final act, however, is pure Michael Bay: a half-baked plan that stretches credulity and maximizes onscreen destruction. Features commentary by director Michael Bay and a couple of featurettes.
Jackie Chan's 2003 "The Medallion" (Image), directed by Gordon Chan, is a Hong Kong produced action comedy that attempts to fuse elements of his classic, slapstick-laced Hong Kong films with the big budget slickness of his Hollywood hits. New York Times critic Dave Kehr called it a “moderately successful attempt to bring Mr. Chan's two careers together” but critics generally agree that it is minor Jackie nonsense. Features commentary by co-executive producer Bill Borden and editor Don Brochu
Also debuting on Blu-ray: Joseph Losey's "The Romantic Englishwoman" (Kino) and "Priest of Love" (Kino) with Ian McKellan as D.H. Lawrence. The New Release Rack includes all the new films hitting Blu-ray as well.
The director arrived with a parade of controversy
"Poison: 20th Anniversary Edition" (Zeitgeist) celebrate the directorial debut of Todd Haynes. An audacious, disturbing film that explores taboo subjects in alternately poetic and grotesque imagery, it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and Haynes went on to direct "Far From Heaven," "I'm Not There" and the acclaimed "Mildred Pierce" mini-series. But when the film, which presents an explicit gay love affair in one section, first came out, its fame was as a cause célèbre. The conservative American Family Association launched a media attack on the film when it was revealed that it was in part funded by a grant from the NEA and conservative politicians joined the fray. The ensuing controversy gave the low budget, highly uncommercial 16mm production a far wider audience than it otherwise would have drawn. Hayne’s own provocative and fiercely independent vision justified the attention.
Haynes directs the triumvirate of tales in three disparate but vivid styles. "Horror" utilizes distorted lenses and stark B&W stock to create an alienated take on 1950s monster movies in the story of a sex researcher who becomes a deformed, disease ridden monster after he distills and, accidentally, ingests the essence of the human sex drive. In "Hero" Haynes takes to the flat TV news documentary style to tell, through a series of mock interviews, the story of a seven year old boy who escaped his abusive father with a Grimm Fairy Tale twist. The final and most substantial sequence, “Homo” (adapted from the works of Jean Genet, most notably “Thief's Journal”) alternates between a deceptively idyllic Eden-like vision of childhood and a dark, claustrophobic prison to explore the sado-masochistic romance between two thieves in terms both beautiful and brutal.
The film has been digitally remastered from the original elements for the new release. Along with the archival commentary with Todd Haynes, producer Christine Vachon and editor James Lyons (recorded for the 1999 DVD release), the new DVD features an audience Q&A with Haynes, Vachon and executive producer James Schamus from the anniversary screening of the film at Sundance 2011, the short film "Last Address" by Ira Sachs and galleries of poster concepts by Haynes and Polaroids taken on the set by Kelly Reichardt (who was on the crew). An accompanying booklet reprints production notes and J. Hoberman's original Village Voice review along with brief original essays. Comes in a paperboard digipak.
Plus more BritTV, eighties TV movies and "Rocko's Modern Life"
Catch up with "Louie: The Complete First Season" (Fox), Louis C.K.'s quasi-autobiographical sitcom about a recently divorced comedian with two young daughters and an awkward reintroduction to the dating scene, on DVD and Blu-ray before the new season begins. In an age where cable keeps trying to push the envelope of acceptable material, "Louie" tosses it out there and then confronts it head on: racism, homophobia, politics, sex, all of it, done smartly and with a sense of humor. Reviewed on Videodrone here.
"Medium: The Seventh and Final Season" (Paramount) wraps one of the most underrated shows on TV, a family drama wrapped in a supernatural mystery. Allison Dubois (Patricia Arquette) and her family have been through a lot in the six seasons leading up to this—some of it a result of a sometimes unwelcome gift for second sight, most of it just the travails of a middle class family dealing with work, marriage, growing children and the anxieties keeping it all together in a rough economy—and the show's strength has always been its balance of crime drama and family drama. That her daughters have received her gift—which can be an assault on the senses and the emotions—only complicates growing up. The final season is an abbreviated 13-episode run but it brings the show back to the family and friends and the spiritual shadows hanging over them, much of it around her husband (Jake Weber). The four-disc set (in a standard case with hinged trays) also has featurettes, character profiles and a retrospective of the show.
There are a lot of cop shows on TV and just as many colorful squadroom casts, but "The Closer: The Complete Sixth Season" (Warner) brings back the most well-oiled detective squad on TV, something that fans of the show have watched come together under the tenacious and talented Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) over the seasons. Which makes their brand of professionalism and camaraderie all the more impressive because it feels earned, forged under the pressure of job. Meanwhile, this season observes the equilibrium of the department go off-balance when Johnson is encouraged (by Mary McDonnell's Internal Affairs officer) to apply for Police Chief, putting her in direct competition with her boss (and former lover) J.K. Simmons. 15 episodes on three discs in a standard case with hinged trays, plus a "Script to Screen" featurette following the making of the third episode of the season, an interview with Sedgwick, deleted scenes and a gag reel. Season seven begins in July in TNT.
"Rocko's Modern Life: Season One" (Shout! Factory), being the oddball animated adventures of an Australian wallaby and his friends, debuted on Nickelodeon in 1993. It was one of the channel's first original animation programming hits and became a favorite of kids and adults over its first four seasons. The 13 episodes of the first season debuts this week on DVD from Shout! Factory, a company dedicated to all manner of small screen nostalgia. Two discs, no supplements.
"Wired" (Acorn) is a new three-part thriller set in the modern world of international banking and organized crime, starring Jodie Whittaker as newly-promoted bank officer targeted by criminals to engineer a banking scam and Toby Stephens as an undercover cop with ambiguous loyalties. There's an interview with the stars at the Telegraph here.
A little more vintage is "Under the Hammer" (Acorn), a 1994 mystery series created by John Mortimer ("Rumpole of the Bailey") and set in the world of auction houses and antiquities. Richard Wilson stars. Seven episodes on two discs. And "Miss Marple: The Pale Horse" (Acorn), the latest entry in the British mystery series with Julia McKenzie, hits DVD a few weeks before its stateside debut on "Masterpiece Mystery!" and the disc features an earlier TV adaptation of the book from 1997.
TV Movies and Mini-Series (Vintage models):
Joan Collins was TV's favorite high-society schemer and seductress in the eighties, as these two mini-series/multi-part movies attest. In the 1986 "Monte Carlo" (Olive), adapted from the World War II espionage romance by Stephen Sheppard, she's a cabaret celebrity by day and a double agent for British Intelligence by night (or maybe it's the other way around, and in 1988's "Sins" (Olive), from the Judith Gould novel, she a fashion mogul surrounded by backstabbing rivals. Chris Nashawaty has fun with the trash-with-class TV shows at Entertainment Weekly here.
Also new this week is "Queenie" (Olive), starring Kirk Douglas, Sarah Miles, Joel Grey and Mia Sara as a fictionalized version of real-life star Merle Oberon, and the notorious 1974 "Movie of the Week" "Born Innocent" (Hen's Tooth) with Linda Blair, which gets its due in this week's "Cult Watch" here.
Plus Linda Blair's Notorious TV Movie "Born Innocent"
SyFy has its Saturday night creature feature original movies down to a science. Bad science, mind you, but that is its charm, and the latest SyFy Original Movie to hit home video is an exemplar of its camp approach to monster mash moviemaking.
"Mega Python vs. Gatoroid" (Image) unites eighties pop stars (and co-producers) Tiffany and Debbie Gibson (veterans of the SyFy "Mega" monster movie brand) as a park ranger and an eco-activist (respectively) who put aside their differences to take on the digitally animated supersized mutants of the Everglades. Can you believe that Mary Lambert, former music video whiz and big screen horror director ("Pet Semetary"), actually tossed this thing off? Mickey Dolenz (of The Monkees) makes a tongue-in-cheek cameo as himself.
TV Guide's Watercooler columnist Damian Holbrook celebrates the "glorious buffet of cheesy brilliance" in his lovefest review: "how can you not love anything that embraces its full-scaly badness with such bite?" The disc includes a generic making-of featurette and a trailer. See the trailer at the end of the post.
Pam Grier made her first bid for B-movie stardom in the exploitation films for Roger Corman. "The Women in Cages Collection: The Big Bird Cage / The Big Doll House / Women in Cages" (Shout! Factory) is a trio of women in prison films, all of them featuring Grier, all of them knocked out in the Philippines. Grier takes her first lead in the Jack Hill-directed "The Big Doll House" (1971), a minor classic in the genre that established the new rules of the game: abusive guards, lots of showers, late night groping, and the payback prison break. It’s pure exploitation and bit mean spirited, but it was a smash hit and started Corman’s New World Pictures in the WIP exploitation biz. Hill’s superior semi-sequel "The Big Bird Cage" (1972) elevates Grier to top billing as a mercenary/revolutionary in an unnamed South American country who (with partner Sig Haid) engineers a women’s prison break from the outside. Why? Because their rag tag soldiers are looking for revolutionary sisters to join their cause… and their beds. This is pure B exploitation powered with oddball humor—Grier and Haig’s first heist is a corker—and energetic action. The 1971 "Women in Cages," made between the two Hill pictures by veteran Filipino director Gerry (Gerardo) de Leon and featuring Grier as the sadistic head matron in a women’s penitentiary, fills out the triple feature.
The two-disc set features entertaining commentary by director Jack Hill (originally recorded for an earlier DVD release) on his two films. (My favorite tidbit: the location for the prison in "Bird Cage" was later used by Francis Coppola for Kurtz’s compound in "Apocalypse Now," where it looked much darker and more menacing.) New to the set is the 48-minute documentary "From Manila With Love," a detailed look at the making of "The Big Doll House" and "The Big Bird Cage," the films that reworked the WIP film as tawdry drive-in exploitation genre and launched Corman's New World Pictures.
HD Alert: Shout! Factory has announced a Blu-ray edition of this triple feature for August 23.
Made a year after "The Exorcist," the 1974 TV movie "Born Innocent" (Hen's Tooth)gave Linda Blair almost as much notoriety as the legendary horror film did. Playing a teenage runaway abandoned by her father to the juvenile justice system, she is not just chewed up by the system, she is systematically abused and degraded and the TV movie became infamous for a scene where she's raped with a broomstick. The scene, though not explicit, was so brutal and controversial that it was edited from subsequent showings. It's been restored to this edition.
See the "Mega Python vs. Gatoroid" trailer after the jump