Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

Welcome back to This Week In Discs!

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Discs Section: Pick of the Week

WINTERS TALE bluWinter’s Tale

Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is a man out of time in early 20th century New York City. He’s on the run from a devilish mob boss (Russell Crowe) when a last minute detour lands him in love with a socialite (Jessica Brown Findlay) dying of tuberculosis. Can their romance survive human mortality, a Jimi Hendrix-loving Satan and a self-directed script by Akiva Goldsman?

Winter’s Tale, so named because some scenes take place when it’s cold out apparently, is a terrible movie in most senses of the word. The romance doesn’t work, the fantastic elements feel out of place, there’s barely a single effective moment of suspense or emotion and the metaphysical message is a confused jumble of words randomly typed by chimpanzees while peyote smoke is blown into their anuses by drunken clergymen. There’s no getting around any of that, and yet… I want you to see it. To experience it. And to confirm for me that I didn’t just dream the whole damn thing. Check out my full review here if you still need convincing.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

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HARD DAYS NIGHT bluA Hard Day’s Night (Criterion)

The Fab Four run down the streets of Liverpool, chased by a cavalcade of screaming young women as their tunes fill the soundtrack. One of movie history’s most famous opening shots gives way to a relentlessly paced and gloriously irreverent portrait of a young band attempting to make a television broadcast on time while dealing with a sneaky grandfather, a lost Ringo, and a rather devoted and enthusiastic fanbase.

While I certainly wasn’t around to see it, I’m convinced that A Hard Day’s Night still carries the manic humor, Breathless-esque cheerful anarchism, and lightning-bolt pace it originally greeted audiences with fifty years ago, thanks largely to comedy auteur Richard Lester’s handheld, improvisatory shooting methods. The film has an incredible energy to it that makes it almost impervious to aging, despite how much has (hello, EDM) and hasn’t (we still have superfans like those on display here) changed in pop music since. A Hard Day’s Night is an essential piece of musical film history, and thanks to Criterion’s 4K transfer and Abbey Road-approved sound mixing, the cinematic Beatles have never looked or sounded better.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Audio commentary featuring crew and cast (though no Beatles); 1964 audio interviews with the Beatles about the film; three retrospective documentaries; two new pieces on Lester’s style; an early short by Lester; interview with biographer Mark Lewisohn; illustrated booklet featuring an essay and a 1970 interview with Lester]

STAR TREK SEASON 6 bluStar Trek: The Next Generation – Season Six

The crew of Starship Enterprise continues their voyage through space, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that their next leap will be the leap home. Okay, maybe not, but they do encounter various mysteries and alien races that challenge their abilities as both representatives of Starfleet and simple humans.

I never watched the show during its actual run from 1987-1994, but the years since have seen me catch an episode here and there during syndicated re-runs. It wasn’t until the series began getting the Blu-ray treatment that I started actually watching though, and I was pleased to discover that it’s actually a solidly entertaining show. The sixth season is easily my favorite, and while there are still moments of cheese to be found there’s a high percentage of fun, exciting and interesting episodes too with “Ship in a Bottle” and “Relics” being two great examples.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, commentaries,deleted scenes, gag reel]

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300: Rise of an Empire

Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) is a Greek general aware of Xerxes’ imminent invasion and struggling to rally the various Greek states together. Sparta ignores his pleas and instead sends 300 of their bravest off to battle (and we all know how that turned out), so he’s forced to make do and form the best navy he can muster. His enemy equal on the sea, Artemisia (Eva Green), leads the Persian naval forces, and the two master commanders go head to head (and groin to groin) to determine the fate of all of Greece. If for no other reason, 300: Rise of an Empire is worth seeing for Miss Green in all her wide-eyed, soul-swallowing glory.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Blood Ties

Two brothers, one a cop (Billy Crudup) and one a recently paroled ex-con (Clive Owen), struggle to work through their differences as they try to live their lives, but pressures at work and at home lead to seemingly unavoidable conflict. Director Guillaume Canet takes a stab at ’70s-set American drama with mixed results. The performances and cast (which also includes Mila Kunis, James Caan, Lili Taylor, Zoe Saldana and Marion Cotillard) are good, but the story and characters never quite reach the level of engaging or even all that interesting.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes]

Camp Dread (UK)

A once popular director (Eric Roberts) of horror films tries to recapture that old magic with a reality show based at a summer camp stocked with twentysomething delinquents who “die” one by one. They’re not supposed to be dying for real of course, but it wouldn’t be a summer camp movie without murder. The premise here is unnecessarily convoluted, the script is not good and the only real highlight is a couple of scenes with Danielle Harris.

[DVD extras: None]

The Chef the Actor and the Scoundrel

A cholera outbreak created by the Japanese in early 20th century China leads to a clash between locals and a pair of Japanese travelers. The result is a tone-deaf comedy guaranteed to lead to annoyance and wincing.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, bloopers, trailer]

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

The award-winning (Tony, Emmy) performer of stage and screen is the focus of this documentary, and fans will love all 80 minutes of it. Clips of her work are presented alongside archival footage and interviews with a bevy of co-stars and friends resulting in an affectionate look at this energetic and charismatic woman.

[DVD extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes, photo shoot, trailer]

Enemy

Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a college professor who sees a man who looks just like him in a movie. Anthony (Gyllenhaal) is that man, and soon both of their lives are spiraling out of control. Or maybe it’s only one life? Director Denis Villeneuve‘s follow-up to Prisoners is a metaphorical mind-fuck that may or may not be about mental illness, inner struggles, infidelity or an arachnid invasion of Toronto. It’s fantastically acted and very well shot, but it’s apparently a bit too dense for me. A re-watch may change that down the road, but even if it doesn’t it’s worth it for the talented and gorgeous Melanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

Fracknation

Fracking is a controversial method of reaching and extracting oil or gas that uses high pressure fluids (mostly water but also toxic chemicals) to crack or force open the earth. This documentary falls on the pro-side and as such acts as a counterpoint to Josh Fox’s Gasland. It lacks that film’s emotional pull, but it also appears to refute some of its claims. Ultimately, both filmmakers have agendas so do yourself a favor and research the issue after watching both.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes]

Mama’s Family: The Complete Fourth Season

Vicki Lawrence is a funny and talented performer as evidenced by her time on the Carol Burnett Show, but good god do I hate this show. To be fair, my hatred stems from years of my sister having control of the TV and forcing us to watch it as kids, but even now I find the humor lacking and the performances overdone to the point that the show just grates on my nerves. The fact that there were seven seasons of this is mind-boggling.

[DVD extras: Featurettes, interview]

Masters of Sex: Season One

Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and his assistant Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) were pioneers in the field of human sexuality, and their time together is brought to life in this Showtime series. Set in ’50s America, the show does a great job dealing with the conservative, sexist and racist reality of the time while keeping the focus on the two leads’ relationship and accomplishments. In keeping with the pay cable mandate it’s loaded with nudity and sex, but at least it’s relevant to the story being told.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, making of, featurettes, interview]

Rob the Mob

Tommy (Michael Pitt) and Rosie (Nina Arianda) are young and in love, but that may not be enough to protect them when he decides to rob a local mobster hangout. There are some interesting elements to this true story, but as a film the best part of it is the cast which also includes Andy Garcia, Frank Whaley, Griffin Dunne, Ray Romano and Burt Young.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, commentary]

Some Velvet Morning

Fred (Stanley Tucci) arrives unannounced at the home of a woman (Alice Eve) he once had an affair with, and as their conversation moves towards confrontation truths about each of them are revealed. Writer/director Neil LaBute‘s latest feels like powerful stage play (which it probably was) as its only two characters take viewers into some dark and hesitantly humorous places. It’s an incredibly frustrating watch for reasons that are clear while watching, but you have to stick it out through to the end to get the film’s full power.

[DVD extras: Interview]

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Chain of Command

The Cardassians appear to be in a run up to war so Captain Picard and friends are dispatched to talk them off the ledge of intergalactic madness, but their mission goes awry leading to Picard being tortured by David Warner. As if no one saw that coming. He’s David Warner. This two-parter is an engaging and dramatic feature, but both halves are included in the Season Six set which you should probably buy instead of this.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, deleted scenes]

Unforgettable: The Second Season

Carrie Wells (Poppy Montgomery) has a gift in that she remembers everything she sees. She uses her ability to solve crimes for the NYPD. The show is basically a less funny Monk or Mentalist, and while Montgomery is a solid lead your interest will depend entirely on how much you enjoy procedurals.

[DVD extras: Featurettes, gag reel, deleted scenes]

Wolf Creek 2

Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) is at it again in the Australian Outback, and by “it” I mean slicing, dicing and shooting tourists, animals and anyone else who crosses his path. While the first film was an effective slasher, the sequel turns Mick into a non-stop joke machine who rarely leaves the screen for more than a few minutes. He’s not scary, and his victims are never interesting enough to care about, but at least the movie looks good both cinematography and gore-wise.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, deleted scenes]

Discs Section: Also

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:

Anita: Speak Truth to Power
The Boondocks: The Complete Series
The Bridge: The Complete First Season
Comedy Bang Bang: The Complete Second Season
Duck Dynasty: Season 5
The Jungle
Repentance
Thunderbolt & Lightfoot (UK)
Two Lives
Witches of East End: The Complete First Season


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