The buddy cop series debuts on DVD
Detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon, formerly of "Law and Order") is an Irish American homicide detective from a blue collar Boston clan who survived her rough-and-tumble family by turning tomboyish and tough.
Dr. Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander, "NCIS"), the department medical examiner, is both brainy and fashion conscious. Think "Bones"-light, a genius with elegant tastes but no social skills. She knows her shoes and cocktails but is lost when it comes to dating.
These two opposites are colleagues and best friends on "Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete First Season" (Warner), the new TNT original crime drama based on the Jane Rizzoli novels by Tess Gerritsen but expanded to give Isles equal billing. It's a female buddy cop show with plenty of humor and character color, much of it supplied by Rizzoli's big, warm, loud family, with Lorraine Bracco as the meddling mother forever trying to get her daughter paired up with a man and out of police work and Chazz Palminteri as the easy-going plumber father.
TNT has been striking out in a couple of different directions with its increasing line-up of original programming. With so many shows going the way of the USA network formula of colorful characters and shows so breezy it's hard to remember what happened seconds after turning the channel ("Franklin & Bash" anyone?), it's nice to see something with a harder edges. This series opens with Rizzoli going up against the serial killer who almost killer year years before (Angie Harmon is no slouch when it comes to making Rizzoli a tough cookie) and works its way around to Isles discovering the truth about her absent father, who turns out to be both a wanted man and a fiercely protective father (and yes, that's another "Bones" connection, this one with a Boston organized crime twist). The final episode of the season is particularly effective, a siege on the station right out of "Assault on Precinct 13," with Rizzoli and Isles trapped inside and a war erupting around them.
The eternally underrated Bruce McGill adds plenty of unforced gravity as a veteran detective in the squad and Jordan Bridges and Lee Thompson Young fill out the cast, as Rizzoli's partner (whose weak stomach gets the better of him at particularly bloody crime seasons) and younger brother turned beat cop, respectively.
10 episodes on three discs in a standard case with hinged trays, plus a pair of better-than-average featurettes. The 8-minute "Rizzoli and Isles: Bringing the Characters to Life" features author Tess Gerritsen and series creator Janet Tamaro discussing the development of the show from book to small screen (Tamaro, by the way, was a writer/producer on "Bones," which obviously came into play in expanding Isles from supporting character to equal partner). "Rizzoli and Isles: Chicks in a Bottle" (22 minutes) brings in the cast to discuss the characters and relationships.
The new season begins on TNT in early July.
Why this much-maligned fanboy fantasy deserves reconsideration
The vague mid-20th Century setting with a 19th century gothic attitude and music-video stylings drops Baby Doll (Emily Browning) into a private sanitarium that looks like something out of the "Batman" movies. But before we have a chance to ruminate on the orphanage horror we are plunged into her fantasy of the place as a bordello prison fronted by a gangster (the head orderly, now with pencil mustache and zoot suit) in the flesh trade, with the Cuckoo's Nest of pretty young inmates now dancers in the show.
See an MSN exclusive clip from the Blu-ray "Maximum Movie Mode" below
But that's just the first step down the rabbit hole of escapist fantasy. Under the hypnotic sways of Baby Doll's magic moves, the girls are refashioned as jailbait stripper fantasies (all with exposed navels and a flash of thigh) and arm themselves with heavy metal artillery to take on one anachronistic video game scenario after another: a samurai rite of passage, a World War II mission against zombie Nazis, a siege on a castle of Orc-like beasts and dragons, a sci-fi odyssey against robot terrorists on a moon of Saturn. Because nothing says female empowerment than babydoll outfits and really big guns.
It's ridiculous and often incoherent, but also oddly fun in the sheer overkill of pulp and fantasy imagery: tragedy and triumph and ultimately a sense of empowerment buried under the exploitation. Mostly, though, it's a crazy ride though Snyder's pop culture subconscious. And if you suspend your disbelief at the mixed messages and warped metaphors, its excesses and overkill can be fun.
See more arguments in support of Snyder's "Sucker Punch" in my essay on Parallax View. Sam Adams also defends the film at Time Out Chicago, where he makes the case that its a film maudit: "a project cursed by circumstance or out-of-control instincts that’s nonetheless revealing in a way successful films rarely are." To give credit where it is due, this piece was in part inspired by Adams' short essay and by a short conversation with Adams about our shared interest in the film. Thanks, Sam.
MSN film critic Glenn Kenny, meanwhile, offers the more familiar take on the film: "were one asked to come up with a concise précis of the movie -- not an easy task, given its convolution -- one could conceivably get away with "'Sin City' meets 'Brazil,' only really, really bad.""
The DVD and single-disc Blu-ray edition features four animated "prequel stories" set in the fantasy realms of the film, short pieces without much substance that were also used as promotional shorts for the film, and a very brief featurette (under four minutes) on the musical soundtrack.
An extended cut of the film, running 17 minutes longer (including a major musical number), is featured on the Blu-ray+DVD+Digital Copy three-disc set, along with the exclusive "Maximum Movie Mode" audio/video commentary track. Zack Snyder really embraces this type of interaction and steps in to deconstruct scenes and explain himself, but he's most engaged when it comes to explaining the execution. Though his cites Joseph Campbell along the way, he never really articulates his intentions. The rest of the mode is filled with picture-in-picture behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, effects work, and storyboards.
MSN Exclusive clip: Zach Snyder shows he puts together a scene late in the film - after the jump
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)
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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.