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Pick of the Week
What is it? A live commentary track sees unexpected secrets revealed.
Why see it? As a big fan of commentary tracks — I do a weekly column on them — I’m a sucker for a film that makes one a part of the plot. This one sees a podcaster (voiced by Patton Oswalt) recording a live commentary over an old film from the 30s alongside the grandson of the film’s director. It plays as expected with the men enlightening viewers on anecdotes and details, but things take a fun and thrilling turn as more information comes to light. Kino’s disc also includes a filmmaker commentary which gives it another level of craziness. Part comedy, part horror story, and all love for the movies.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, original Sex Madness film from 1938, short film]
What is it? Teenagers come of age between the pop dreams of their favorite singer and the harsh realities of life.
Why see it? Shunji Iwai’s cruel and heartbreaking tale is a harder watch than most coming-of-age films, and I don’t see myself enduring it a second time, but there’s an undeniable power to its drama. The focus is on two boys who become friends before bullying, school gangs, and brutality have their way with them, and the constant throughout is Lily’s music. It’s a rough watch for the content, but Iwai’s camerawork and style choices also make for an aggressive experience. Fans, though, should rush to pick up this new Blu-ray from Film Movement.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurette]
What is it? A mission to extract an enemy behind the lines leads to disaster.
Why see it? Ridley Scott’s action-filled look at the very real 1993 incident in Somalia is a thrilling tale of American heroism and cockiness, and the events unfold through a sharply crafted fog of war. Issues stem from above as the brass succumbs to D.C. pressures, but the chaos, confusion, and bloodshed leave soldiers in harm’s way. It’s a thrilling watch with a crazy great cast — there are over twenty recognizable faces among the military units — and Scott’s direction is spot on. Big chunks of the film and action unfold at night, and this new 4K upgrade does wonders with the contrast and sharpness of it all.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Three commentaries, featurettes, TV shows, deleted scenes, Q&As, music video]
What is it? An ex-sheriff helps an innocent man accused of murder.
Why see it? Lee Van Cleef headlines this terrific spaghetti western pitting his graying gunfighter against a despicable trio of brothers, and while the story details are doled out slowly the action and character beats keep things moving at a thrilling pace. Plenty of iconic action scenes fill the screen, but we also get some atypical stunt work as the innocent man fights to clear his name. Arrow’s new Blu-ray is beautifully produced, as expected, and in addition to the restored picture the disc comes fully loaded with interviews and appreciations.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, interviews, featurettes, short film]
Shoah: Four Sisters
What is it? The continued truth about the Nazi horror.
Why see it? Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah remains one of the most memorable, affecting, and important documentaries going, but even at over four hours there were still stories he couldn’t tell. He went on to release a few more docs related to the subject, but this is the one that’s most direct in its existence as a companion. The four women profiled here reveal depths of courage and strength that most of us can only imagine, and while it’s once again a lot to take in it’s important we do so.
[Blu-ray extras: Interview]
What is it? A well-off family crumbles from within.
Why see it? One of the American Film Theatre’s first season offerings, this adaptation of Edward Albee’s acclaimed play lets both Katharine Hepburn and Paul Scofield cut loose as the head of a family in distress. Their own concerns weigh them all down, and things are only complicated by the arrival of visitors. It’s a family drama and character piece that finds the highs and lows of those we hold closest.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews]
What is it? Nothing is awesome.
Why see it? This follow-up lacks the laughs and surprise of the original, but fans will fins enough to warrant a watch here as characters return for a new adventure. That said, the story continues from its predecessor, with the “real” kids playing with the toys, and while its point is solid I’d argue too much time is spent with them. They’re not as magical this time around, and we instead lose time with the actual characters. Still, enough works to make it fun for the kids.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, music video, commentary]
What is it? A man’s near-death experience leaves him with a doppelganger
Why see it? Roger Moore headlines this psychological thriller — his last role before jumping into James Bond’s shoes — and gives a solid turn as a man falling apart mentally. Is he mad, or is his double causing chaos in his life? And if the latter, who is this other man? It’s a sedately paced thriller more interested in character beats than action ones, but Moore makes it easy to go along for the slowly revealing ride.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary with Roger Moore, featurette]
What is it? A prequel to The Turn of the Screw.
Why see it? Michael Winner has made some fantastic films (The Mechanic, 1972; The Sentinel, 1977), but this oddball drama is not among them. As a prequel it’s wholly unnecessary, but more than that it enjoys Marlon Brando’s excesses a bit too much. The darkness of it all works as the kids are every bit as twisted, but it doesn’t quite come together. All of that said, the disc is worth it for the commentary track featuring Winner in all his glory. He was an interesting guy who absolutely was out of step with modern sensibilities, and his chatter makes for a great listen.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, introduction by Michael Winner]
What is it? A man is troubled to discover people are turning into rhinos.
Why see it? The beauty of labels like Kino Lorber is that they often find little-seen films from the past and give them new life. I had never heard of this oddball film before seeing this Blu, and while the highs of its absurdities clash with the obnoxiousness, it remains a fascinating watch. Gene Wilder headlines, and he’s as wonderfully manic as ever, and the story works well to craft a surreal environment questioning both his sanity and our own. Like A Delicate Balance above, this is another in the American Film Theatre experiment.
[Blu-ray extras: Interviews]
Swing Vote [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? An everyday dude is the deciding vote in the presidential election.
Why see it? Kevin Costner playing an “Aww shucks!” kind of American is a case of the right actor in the right role, and the story is a guaranteed feel-good kind of tale. It’s harmless with admirable ideals and a worthy moral, and that’s never a bad thing either. It’s also slight and a bit sitcom-like at times, but the positives including a supporting cast with Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Paula Patton, Nathan Lane, Stanley Tucci, and many more. It’s sweetly entertaining and ultimately a good double feature with the superior Dave (1993).
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurette, deleted scenes]
Also out this week:
Better Call Saul – Season Four, Blaze, Bonanza – The Official Ninth Season, Everybody Knows, The Head Hunter, My Scientology Movie, Never Ever, The Prodigy, They Shall Not Grow Old