The Best Blu-ray & DVD Releases of the Week! ‘La Notte,’ ‘The Fury,’ and a Low Budget ‘Bounty Killer’
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The future! Corporations grew too powerful and went to war with each other with the real victims being the rest of society. A council was organized to issue bounties on the heads of CEOs responsible for the apocalypse, and Drifter (Matthew Marsden) and Mary Death (Christian Pitre) are two of the best bounty killers to answer the call. Throw in an army of Juggalo-like Gypsies, Gary Busey, and the female Terminator from Rise of the Machines (Kristanna Loken), and the two bounty killers are forced into a surprising fight for their own lives.
This low budget, post-apocalyptic action/comedy packs more fun, creativity, and clear love for movies into its ninety minute run-time than far too many big Hollywood productions manage these days. Sure there’s overly excessive CGI abuse (some of the blood/explosions), but there’s also a lot of bloody practical effects, cleavage, and impressive action sequences. Even better, the damn thing is surprisingly funny too. Director Henry Saine and his co-writers deserve a shot at the big leagues. (But not before we get a sequel please.)
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes, trailer]
Pitch: “Ever have one of those years?” Gladly for a free sample of Jess Weixler…
Jillian (Jess Weixler) is taking a semester off from law school in order to find herself, but all she’s found so far is a drinking problem, a series of dumb-ass guys in her bed, and a favor that puts her in an ice cream truck all day handing out free samples. A series of strangers and friends alike pass through her day leading to laughs and frustrations, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll her to herself as well.
The deliriously adorable and talented Weixler is almost always the best thing about any movie she’s in, but too frequently she’s also the only good thing. That’s not the case here though. The film feels like it’s going to ramble, but with Weixler front and center in every scene it instead builds a steady rhythm of laughs and growing sense of sincerity. It’s just a delightful watch with a surprisingly affecting finale.
DVD extras: Interviews, short film, photo gallery, booklet
Pitch: “An experience in terror and suspense” Well, one out of two isn’t bad…
C.I.A. agent Peter Sandza (Kirk Douglas) and his son Robin (Andrew Stevens) are enjoying some quality beach time in the Middle East when a squad of assassins appear on the scene attempting to kill the old man. Forced to feign his death, Peter watches as his son is taken away. He sets out to find him again with the help of a young psychic (Amy Irving).
Like Neil Jordan below, Brian De Palma’s films are always visually interesting even when the drama fails to land. His 1978 thriller is a bit dodgy thanks in large part to an inconsistent pace, but there are more than a few highlights throughout including a pretty explosive final shot. De Palma and his cast keep things interesting with his visual style too, even if the slow-motion is overused, making this one of his more memorable films. Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray isn’t loaded with extras, but the beautiful new transfer is enough to warrant a buy.
Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, short film, photo gallery, booklet *This is an import Blu-ray release.*
Pitch: Don Draper’s favorite Antonioni film gets the Criterion treatment…
Italian modernist auteur Michelangelo Antonioni followed his landmark L’Avventurra with a similarly existential masterwork about a married couple (played by European art cinema superstars Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau) whose relationship slowly and quietly disintegrates. The filmmaker trades the daunting and uncertain shores of the Italian coast for the rigid and imposing architecture of modern Milan, exploring an empty underbelly residing in the land of ‘la dolce vita.’
La Notte (sandwiched between L’Aventurra and L’Eclisse in Antonioni’s unofficial trilogy about contemporary alienation) is characteristically quiet and restrained. But through its deliberate pacing, observant camera, and stark sound design, the director brilliantly captures everyday moments often unremarked upon: stolen glances, awkward silences, the conspicuous absence of words that should have been said. Even though the cast ‐ and Milan itself ‐ are undeniably beautiful (perfectly rendered with Criterion’s 4K transfer), Antonioni’s interest here is what happens underneath that magnetizing sheen, when the typically comforting but superficial ornaments of contemporary life are no longer sufficient. While La Notte doesn’t get the canonized love of its career-making predecessor, it’s every bit as great of a film, equally rich in its subtleties and disturbing in its ambiguities, and a rewarding opportunity to see an essential filmmaker and three giant stars at the top of their talents. ‐ Landon Palmer
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Informative interviews with three academics, theatrical trailer, illustrated booklet with an essay by film critic Richard Brody]
The tale of Faust comes to life in glorious black & white, and the result is a fun and well-told variation on the classical story. Sure it’s in French and drags a bit in the middle, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the lavish sets and set pieces in service of a strong narrative.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, trailers]
Neil Jordan never fails to make attractive films imbued with a tangible atmosphere, but that doesn’t mean they’re always all that interesting. His latest features two female vampires (Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan) struggling to survive this unforgiving modern world while being hunted by a mysterious pair of guys in black. There are some good moments, but the majority drags.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, trailer]
Christopher Guest’s latest endeavor to make the world a happier, wittier, and drier place comes in the form of an HBO series, and as such it’s a bit more of an investment to get to the best bits. Still, with a cast that also includes Fred Willard, Bob Balaban, Michael McKean, and Kevin Pollak, it can’t help but be time well spent.
[DVD extras: Bonus scenes, featurettes]
An Italian western about a pair of dueling bounty hunters taking on Mexican coyotes who callously run hopeful immigrants across the border into the United States only to leave the poor fools to die? Yes please.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Documentary, booklet]
Pixar’s first alternate universe prequel sees the birth of a friendship as Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) meet in college. Before they can become BFFs though the two begin as adversaries in opposing fraternities, but adversity and some bad luck brings them together. The result is a fairly mediocre comedy that’s far less annoying than Cars but not that much more worthwhile.
Blu-ray/DVD extras: Short film, commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, gallery
I haven’t seen this film, but since I keep hearing that it’s a Men In Black ripoff and Men In Black is a lot of fun then this must be damn good too. You should probably blind buy it. Probably.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted/alternate scenes, featurettes, gag reel]
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and review material was unavailable:
Damages: The Complete Series
Home Alone: The Holiday Heist
La Notte (Criterion)
Line of Duty: Series 1
Santa Claus Conquers the Martian
The Snow Queen