An eerie American thriller from the Korean director of 'Oldboy'
"Stoker" (Fox) - Hollywood is always drafting new talent from abroad, especially from thriving cinema cultures. From Mexico, we received an injection of new blood thanks to Guillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cauron, and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Back in the nineties, it was the Hong Kong action stars on both sides of the camera, from Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-fat to John Woo and Corey Yuen.
For the past few years, South Korea has been leading the Asian wave of hit action movies, horror films, and thrillers and Hollywood has once again taken notice. 2013 marks the respective American debuts of three top South Korean directors: Kim Jee-woon ("The Good, the Bad, the Weird," "I Saw the Devil"), who made the Arnold Schwarzenegger come-back film "The Last Stand" (released earlier this year on disc and reviewed here); Bong Joon-ho ("The Host"), whose end-of-the-world thriller "Snowpiercer" is due for release later this year; and Park Chan-wook ("Oldboy," "Thirst"), director of "Stoker," a film that doesn't fit within the usual genre parameters.
I like to think of "Stoker" as a vampire movie without a vampire. At least not in the mythic sense of the term. Mia Wasikowska is dreamy and uneasy as India Stoker, a teenage girl who is preternaturally attuned to the world and disconnected from the kids around her. Matthew Goode is creepily calm and seductive as the uncle she never even knew existed until he arrives for a funeral and stays on in the family manor (he is her Uncle Charlie, in fact, an offhanded reference to Hitchcock's take on another dark uncle-niece relationship). Nicole Kidman is dizzy and disconnected as her weak and ineffectual mother. She seems to want to be there for her daughter, but she hardly seems present in the world at all.
Park sculpts the film, directed from an original script by Wentworth Miller, beautifully. We see the world through the heightened senses of India as she works through the loss of her father while attempting to measure this smiling, hypnotic uncle who has drifted into her life. He presents himself as her dark guardian angel, attempting to seduce India with his confidence, his power, and his violence (he seduction of the mother is more literal), but she has a more savvy understanding of the depths of his darkness.
There is blood and brutality and the icy threats under silent intimidation, but done with such elegance and eerie suggestion it feels like a dream. Park layers the film in atmosphere and texture, shuffling flashbacks and dreams into the present, all part of India's journey to the heart of the family legacy her father always knew she would inherit. As you can guess, I was captivated by this world and by Park's mesmerizing mix of the visceral and ethereal.
"Mia Wasikowska does remarkably disciplined work as India, and Park shoots her in a way that makes the bones of her statuesque body give as much of a performance as the actress herself does," agrees MSN film critic Glenn Kenny, but he's less enthralled by the eerie tale and atmosphere: "the material itself, while aspiring to some level of misterioso, is about as blunt and obvious as the hammer that figures so prominently in Park's prior "Old Boy."… There's also the slight matter of the movie's central fallacy, which is a belief that all a work of art needs in order to commune with The Irrational is merely to make no damn sense."
Blu-ray and DVD, the supplements on the Blu-ray release only: the featurette "An Exclusive Look: A Filmmakers Journey," three short theatrical behind-the-scenes featurettes, a musical performance from the "Red Carpet Premiere," and deleted scenes. The Blu-ray also includes a Digital HD UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming.
Also VOD, digital download, and On Demand
Available on Tuesday, June 18
Veteran movie producer Lynda Obst explains it all in an excerpt from her book 'Sleepless in Hollywood'
We all know that DVD sales have dropped drastically since the heyday of the mid-2000s, and Blu-ray hasn't come close to making up the difference. Streaming media and VOD has cut into disc rentals and thousands of rental stores have shuttered in the last eight years, resulting in huge drop in disc sales for rental libraries. Digital copies are challenging individual sales. It's changed the way we collect and watch movies at home.
It also changed the way Hollywood makes movies, and the kinds of movies that get made, says Lynda Obst, a veteran Hollywood producer with such credits as "The Fisher King," "Sleepless in Seattle," and "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" (okay, so they weren't all classics).
In an excerpt from her new book "Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business" featured at Salon, she lays out the economics of Hollywood and the business model shaken by the loss of disc sale revenues, in a conversation with producer Peter Chermin:
This was, literally, a Great Contraction. Something drastic had happened to our industry, and this was it. Surely there were other factors: Young males were disappearing into video games; there were hundreds of home entertainment choices available for nesting families; the Net. But slicing a huge chunk of reliable profits right out of the bottom line forever?
This was mind-boggling to me, and I’ve been in the business for thirty years. Peter continued as I absorbed the depths and roots of what I was starting to think of as the Great Contraction. “Which means if nothing else changed, they would all be losing money. That’s how serious the DVD downturn is. At best, it could cut their profit in half for new movies.”
Which brings up a question: what was the business model before disc? Or even before glory days of VHS home video rentals?
I guess you'll have to buy the book for that. In the meantime, I can now justify my disc purchases as my contribution to saving Hollywood.
"Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business" by Lynda Obst is published by Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Plus 'The Loving Story,' 'Mumia,' American poets, and more
These are all DVD and VOD only, unless otherwise noted.
"Brooklyn Castle" (Millennium), which won the Audience Award at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival, profiles the championship-caliber inner-city chess program in New York as it was on the verge of even greater glory when the program budget was suddenly slashed. "There is no cinematic way to show a chess game," confesses Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert. "But you can photograph eyes and smiles, and the pride on parents’ faces. And Rochelle’s glow as she’s presented with the title of master, and the four-year college scholarship awarded by the same tournament." More reviews here. Also available on Netflix.
"The Loving Story" (Docurama) recounts the landmark civil rights case surrounding the marriage of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial union that was ruled illegal by a Virginia judge in 1958, a case that they spent nine years fighting all the way to the Supreme Court. "But there are other reasons to watch this film besides feel-good expediency," writes New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley. "The improbably named Lovings, Mildred and Richard, make a compelling couple, and not just because she is half-black, half-Native American and he is good ol’ boy white. In a rich collection of 16-millimeter film, old news clips and still photographs, the Lovings don’t look like two people caught up in a cause, they seem like two people caught up in each other." The film debuted on HBO in 2012. More reviews here.
"Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary" (First Run), a portrait of the Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamam jailed for the shooting of a Philadelphia police officer, is "More a deification than a documentary," writes Philadelphia Inquirer film critic Steven Rea. "[Director} Vittoria offers lots of context - about the Black Panthers (Abu-Jamal was a member), MOVE (Abu-Jamal, a Philadelphia radio reporter, covered the group and its combative history with police and city officials), George Wallace, and Frank Rizzo - the events of Dec. 9, 1981, are barely examined." Includes the short film "Manufacturing Guilt."
"As Goes Janesville" (Facets) looks at the economic state of the heartland from the ground zero of Janesville, Wisconsin, after the closing of GM factory threw much of the town out of work. The disc includes both the theatrical version of the film and the shorter cut that played on the PBS documentary showcase "Independent Lens." Mike Hale reviews the latter for The New York Times.
Two portraits of American poets: "Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder" (First Run), beat poet and founder of City Lights Bookstore, and "The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg" (Docurama), getting a re-release in a two-disc special edition with six hours of bonus material.
"Aroused" (Ketchup) profiles 16 female stars of the adult film industry and "Charge" (Docurama) is a motorcycle doc with an environmental slant: it looks at the world's first zero-emissions grand prix.
"Journey of the Universe" (Shelter Island), a documentary on the relationship to humans to the cosmic origins of the universe and the Earth, won a regional Emmy award in California. The hour-long production was produced out of San Francisco but shot on the Greek island of Samos. It arrives on disc with a companion collection "Conversations of the Universe" (Shelter Island), a four-disc of interviews with scientists, historians, and environmentalists.
"The Ultimate Guide to the Presidents" (History), originally made for The History Channel, is the eight-part look at how the Oval Office has evolved over more than 200 years through 43 Presidents. The three-disc set includes 30 minutes of bonus footage.
"The Ghost Army" (PBS) profiles the secret American military squad that bluffed the Nazis by creating false images of troop movements in World War II, and "The Economic Meltdown" (PBS) is a five-part series on how the America fiscal fallout triggered a global crisis. Both originally made for PBS.
"The Law in These Parts" (Cinema Guild), which looks at the military legal system put in place by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories over forty years ago, won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Hebrew with English subtitles. Reviews here.
The Mexican documentary "El Sicario (Room 164)" (Icarus) is built on an interview with an anonymous Ciudad Juarez hitman (Spanish with English subtitles) and "Vivan Las Antipodas" (Docurama) visits four antipodal pairs (locations on exact opposite sides of the Earth) to compare and contrast the cultures (English, Spanish, Shanghainese, and Tswana with English subtitles).
Previously reviewed is "The Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane" (Eagle Rock, Blu-ray and DVD), a nearly two-hour tour through a rich array of archival clips and counterpoint with new interviews by the band. More here.
Also note that HBO's summer documentary series is underway, with a new documentary feature debuting every Monday night through August 12 and accessible to HBO subscribers through HBO GO. "Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer," which won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Punk Spirit at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, opened the series on June 10. More here.
Roger Corman launches a subscription service on YouTube at a drive-in price
Roger Corman, the last man standing to claim the title of King of the Bs, is also one of the most business savvy producers to build a film library. For decades, Corman has leased his library of over 400 movies to various cable, VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, and streaming services.
Now he's launched his own streaming service. On Thursday, June 13, Corman's Drive-In debuted as a subscription channel on YouTube. The channel debuts with 30 initial offerings, with plans to add 30 more each month, at a bargain price of $3.99 a month. You can try it out with a 14-day free trial
Among the first wave of Corman productions are "Cry Baby Killer" (1958), which gave Jack Nicholson his first leading role; "Piranha" (1978), directed by Joe Dante from a John Sayles script; the goofy headtrip "Brain Dead" (1990) from Adam Simon; the low-budget "Star Wars" rip-off "Star Crash" (1978) and the "Alien" knock-off "Forbidden World" (1982).
And there a couple that Corman himself directed as well, including the super-cheap monster movie "Attack of the Crab Monsters" (1957) and his original cult black comedy "The Little Shop of Horrors" (1960).
In addition to the films, Corman offers some behind-the-scenes bits (the sort you can find on the disc editions of the films) and new video shorts with Corman talking sharing stories and trivia about the films.
Ever the promoter, Corman put together a nearly 8-minute trailer of highlights from films currently on the site and/or soon to be added. You can view the clip reel after the jump. Click on "More" below.
This prize package includes eight Blu-ray releases and 'The Henry Fonda Collection" DVD box set
To celebrate Father's Day, MSN and Fox Home Video are teaming up to offer you a cornucopia of goodies, classic and contemporary, from Bruce Willis in "A Good Day to Die Hard" (Blu-ray) and "Die Hard: 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Collection" to "The Henry Fonda Collection" (DVD), for movie-loving dads.
And we've got a poll going on Facebook too: who's the most badass dad in the movie?
The collection features eight recent Blu-ray releases and ten DVDs altogether. There's something here for every dad. Here's the rundown.
The Blu-rays are:
"A Good Day to Die Hard" with Bruce Willis, back for his fifth turn as John McLain, and this time he teams up with his son;
"Die Hard: 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Collection" featuring the first four "Die Hard" films and a bonus disc;"One Hour Photo," the dark drama with Robin Williams; "The Verdict" starring Paul Newman;
"Brubaker" starring Robert Redford;
"Viva Zapata!" starring Marlon Brando;
"12 Rounds 2: Reloaded" with WWE star Randy Orton;
"The Last Ride" with Henry Thomas as Hank Williams;
And on DVD:
"The Henry Fonda Collection" with ten features spanning 1939 to 1958 in a compact box set of ten discs.
Details after the jump. Click on "More" below.
Videodrone's take on the biggest, best, coolest and culty-ist releases of the week
James Franco plays "Oz the Great and Powerful" (Disney) in the Frank L. Baum adaptation from director Sam Raimi that plays out as a prequel to the classic "The Wizard of Oz." Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams play the witches of Oz in this lavish production, originally released in 3D, and are more interesting characters than the shallow huckster who grows into a hero. Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, and VOD. Videodrone's review is here.
"Snitch" (Summit) is a Dwayne Johnson thriller that favors gritty crime drama over action movie superheroism. Susan Sarandon and Barry Pepper co-star. Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand, VOD, and at Redbox. Reviewed on Videodrone here.
"Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" (Paramount) stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as fairy tale character grown up into fantasy warriors dispatching wicked witches and other monsters preying on the hamlets of medieval Germany. Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, On Demand, VOD, and at Redbox. More from Videodrone here, including an exclusive clip from the Blu-ray extras.
On the indie front is Quentin Dupieux's "Wrong" (Drafthouse, Blu-ray and DVD), an absurdist tale of a man looking for his lost dog, and from the small screen comes "Betty & Coretta" (Lionsgate, DVD) with Angela Bassett and Mary J. Blige as civil rights leaders Coretta Scott King and Dr. Betty Shabazz.
And arriving from foreign shores is the erotic thriller "The Taste of Money" (IFC, DVD) from South Korean filmmaker Im Sang-soo, plus "11 Flowers" (First Run, DVD) from China and "The Monk" (Flatiron, DVD) with Vincent Cassel from France.
Most releases are also available as digital download and VOD via iTunes, Amazon, and other web retailers and video services.
TV on Disc:
"The Newsroom: The Complete First Season" (HBO), Aaron Sorkin's HBO original series set at a cable news channel that is remarkably idealistic and full of brilliant people who have sharp political instincts and poor impulse control, arrives a month before the second season launches. 10 episodes on Blu-ray and DVD. Videodrone's review is here.
"House of Cards: The Complete First Season" (Sony) brings the Netflix original series, produced by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey as a savagely Machiavellian politician, to disc. 13 episodes on Blu-ray and DVD. Reviewed on Videodrone here.
"Major Crimes: The Complete First Season" (Warner) reworks the TNT original series "The Closer" with Mary McDonnell taking charge of the crack Major Crimes squad, and I actually prefer this incarnation. 10 episodes on DVD.
"Killing Lincoln" (Fox, Blu-ray and DVD) is the docudrama originally produced for the National Geographic Channel and "After People" (History) collects four speculative documentaries on DVD. Also arriving this week: "Wedding Band: The Complete First Season" (Fox, DVD), "Burn Notice: Season Six" (Fox, DVD) and "Perry Mason: The Ninth and Final Season, Vol. 1" (Paramount, DVD)
Cool and Classic:
"Enter the Dragon: 40th Anniversary" (Warner) is a new edition of the film that elevated martial arts star Bruce Lee to the status of international icon, and the last film that Lee completed before his untimely death. Blu-ray and DVD with new supplements. Videodrone's review is here.
Ingmar Bergman's "Wild Strawberries" (Criterion), a road movie transformed into a contemplative journey of an aging professor into his unexamined past, debuts on Blu-ray in a new restored digital film transfer. Reviewed on Videodrone here.
"At Long Last Love" (Fox) is the disc debut of Peter Bogdanovich's musical which flopped on release but is getting a second look in a new cut on Blu-ray and DVD.
"Richard Pryor – No Pryor Restraint: Life in Concert" (Shout Factory) is a substantial package with all three concert films of the pioneering comedian and seven CDs of live performances, and "Rockshow" (Eagle Vision) delivers the 1980 Paul McCartney and Wings concert film on Blu-ray and DVD.
From Disney comes three Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack double features, including "Atlantis: The Lost Empire / Milo's Return" (Disney), and on the cult side, James Vanbebber’s "The Manson Family" (Severin) debuts on Blu-ray.
Streams and Channels:
"Upstream Color" (2013), the latest low-budget / big-ideas headtrip from filmmaker Shane Carruth, hits Netflix mere weeks after its disc release. Not so much recommended as simply new is "Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection" (Lionsgate), which pairs Madea (Tyler Perry) up with Eugene Levy. Far less mainstream is "Kaboom" (2010) from queer icon Gregg Araki.
Reaching back a few more years, there's the romantic thriller "The Deep End" (2001) with Tilda Swinton, the heist film "The Score" (2001) with Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton, and "At Close Range" (1986) with Sean Penn and Christopher Walken.
HBO's summer documentary series begins this week with "Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer," a portrait of the art collective tried on charges of religious hatred in Russia. More on the series at Channeling Movies.
New On Demand:
"Snitch," starring Dwayne Johnson as a blue collar guy who goes undercover in a drug ring to save his son from prison, and "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters," the revisionist fairy tale as action fantasy with Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, are available same day as disc and VOD.
Available on Friday, June 14, same day as theaters, is "Berberian Sound Studio," an unusual tribute to the art of Italian horror filmmaking starring Toby Jones. Also making the rounds in theaters is "As Cool As I Am," a comedy with Claire Danes and James Marsden.
Available from Redbox this week:
"Snitch" (Summit, Blu-ray and DVD) with Dwayne Johnson and "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" (Paramount, Blu-ray and DVD) with Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, are available same day as video stores and VOD.
Also arriving in Redbox kiosks this week: "Cloud Atlas" (Warner, Blu-ray and DVD), the sprawling, dazzling, ambitious collaboration between "Matrix" makers Lana and Andy Wachowski and Germany's Tom Tykwer, and "Frankie Go Boom" (Universal, DVD), a comedy about sibling rivalry and practical joking gone awry starring Charlie Hunnam and Chris O'Dowd.
|Tags:||Week in review|
Plus more 'Madea,' Araki goes 'Kaboom,' Tilda Swinton in 'The Deep End,' and more
"Upstream Color" (2013), the latest headtrip from filmmaker Shane Carruth, gets an unequivocal recommendation from MSN film critic Glenn Kenny: "the second feature film by writer-director-performer Shane Carruth, is a tour-de-force of a science fiction/horror film, conceived and executed with rare sensitivity and intelligence. It's full of genuinely creepy and disturbing moments and trucks in some genuinely creepy and disturbing ideas and concepts. For most movies nowadays, these qualities would be more than enough to qualify as something special, and something especially ambitious as well. But "Upstream Color" has more, and that's a big part of what makes it glorious, but also a big part of what makes it challenging for what we'll refer to here as the "mainstream market.""
"Madea's Witness Protection" (2012) pairs Madea (Tyler Perry) up with Eugene Levy, a meek investment banker who takes refuge in Madea's house when he enter Witness Protection with his family. Los Angeles Times film critic Mark Olsen calls it "a spectacularly slapdash and wearingly half-hearted effort from the prolific writer-director-actor, lacking energy, structure or common sense."
"Kaboom" (2010) from Queer cinema icon Gregg Araki rolls sex, questions of sexuality, gorgeous college kids, teenage angst, witchcraft and quite possible the apocalypse into a trippy little picture. "It's by far the funniest and warmest movie Araki has ever made, with much less juvenile angst and much more command of his craft," writes Salon.com film critic Andrew O'Hehir, who describes it as: "A delirious and lighthearted pop spectacle with a dark undercurrent of apocalyptic horror…" Thomas Dekker, Juno Temple, Haley Bennett, Stella, Chris Zylka, Roxane Mesquida and James Duvall star.
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Plus disc debuts of 'At Long Last Love' and 'A Labor of Love,' a 'Richard Pryor' set, and more
"Enter the Dragon: 40th Anniversary" (Warner) is a newly remastered special edition of the film that elevated martial arts star Bruce Lee to the status of international icon. Videodrone's review is here.
In "Wild Strawberries" (Criterion), Ingmar Bergman takes that most venerable of modern genres, the road movie, and transforms it into the contemplative journey of an aging professor (played by legendary Swedish director Victor Sjôstrôm) into his unexamined past. It’s an often painful drama and Sjôstrôm gives a vulnerable, moving performance as the crotchety, morally imperious old man who slowly realizes the effect his inflexibility and hard demands has had on those around him, but it's also one of Bergman’s warmest, most understanding, and beautiful films. Ingrid Thulin is his passenger and daughter-in-law who nudges him along the craggy trail to self-awareness and Bibi Andersson is the love of his early life, revisited in musings and dreams, and the freewheeling modern hitchhiker he meets on the road.
Criterion originally released the film on DVD a decade ago is gorgeous transfer. The Blu-ray debut, mastered from a 2k digital transfer, is downright stunning, with amazing detail and texture, and it reminds us that, before Sven Nykvist shadowy work, Gunnar Fischer brought an Eden-like quality to the outdoors of Bergman's films.
New to the disc is an introduction by Bergman shot for Swedish television and behind-the-scenes footage from the set shot by Bergman, and carried over from the previous DVD release are thoughtful and illuminating commentary by Bergman scholar Peter Cowie and the 90 minute documentary "Ingmar Bergman on Life and Work" by Jörn Donner. The booklet features a new essay by film scholar Mark Le Fanu.
"At Long Last Love" (Fox) is the disc debut of Peter Bogdanovich's 1975 musical, which (despite a positive review from Roger Ebert) flopped so bad on release it became an industry joke and all but disappeared. Now the film, starring Burt Reynolds, Cybil Shepard, and Madeline Kahn and featuring the songs of Cole Porter, is getting a second look thanks to a version recut by veteran Fox editor James Blakely and approved by Bogdanovich (who never even knew of this edit until recently). Bogdanovich writes about the troubled release and the unusual history to this release in his blog on IndieWire: "I quickly began to realize that it was quite a different version than either the theatrical or the TV editions…. But it was sharper, better. In fact, it was the best version of the movie I had ever seen. And I loved it!" Blu-ray and DVD, with an isolated score track.
"The Manson Family" (Severin), James VanBebber’s retelling of the Manson family story is an acid movie flashback a la Oliver Stone. Constructed like an impressionistic documentary, with imagined footage of interviews that never took place and intimate scenes of the family in fun and crime that were never shot, it’s designed in the style of a gritty, gruesome seventies exploitation picture: a blunt instrument of a true crime drama but, for all the brutality, still more nuanced than most films about Manson and his followers. The Blu-ray debut features new commentary by director James VanBebber and a new interview with musician Phil Anselmo, plus (carried over from the DVD special edition) the documentaries "The Vanbebber Family" and "In The Belly of the Beast," deleted scenes, and an archival interview with Charles Manson.
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