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DVD & Blue Ray

The DVD Wrapup: Babadook, Big Eyes, Happy Valley, Tale of Winter, Odd Man Out, The Missing and more

Despite the warm welcome accorded The Babadook by festival audiences and critics of both the mainstream and genre persuasion, this nifty Australian export about things that go bump in the night received an unfairly puny release upon its arrival here. I can’t explain why that might be so, except to point out that someone in the distribution game really missed the boat.

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The DVD Wrapup: A Most Violent Year, Interstellar, The Immigrant and more

Extremely well-crafted and emotionally taxing, The Immigrant depicts one Polish immigrant’s introduction to the dark side of the American Dream, circa 1921. Ironically, if it suffers at all, it’s from the familiarity we have with all of the movies and documentaries that were informed by the same photographs and newsreel footage. Practically every scene harkens to images already etched into our collective consciousness. It couldn’t help but distract me, even momentarily, from the personal drama of Ewa Cybulska.

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The DVD Wrapup: Imitation Game, The Circle, Roommates, Putin, MST3K and more

What separates Morten Tyldum’s take on the story from the others is the magnetic presence of Benedict Cumberbatch, as the almost madly single-minded computer scientist, Alan Turing, and the level of tension sustained throughout The Imitation Game’s 114-minute length. The less-told story describes how British authorities later would go so far out of their way to tarnish the legacy of the brilliant cryptanalyst and mathematician, who, according to Winston Churchill, made the single greatest contribution in England’s war effort. Despite having played an essential role in the Allies’ victory over fascism, police used his homosexuality as an excuse to harass, humiliate and prosecute Turing.

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The DVD Wrapup: Into the Woods, Unbroken, Errol Morris, Michael Almereyda, Mr. Bean and More

It’s no secret that the Disney empire owes a great debt of gratitude—if not any licensing fees or screen credits–to the Brothers Grimm, whose many wonderful stories the company has cherry-picked for movies, television shows, Broadway, amusement parks, plush toys and costumes. If proceeds from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs allowed Uncle Walt to create Disney Studios in Burbank, the success of Cinderella, 13 years later, probably saved it from financial ruin.

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The DVD Wrapup: Top Five, Soft Skin, Disorder, Mondovino, Troop Beverly Hills and more

If Chris Rock’s film career isn’t nearly as celebrated as those of Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy–standup giants before turning to feature films–it isn’t because the movies he’s in don’t make money. Most of them, especially the animated features to which he adds his distinctive voice, do well enough at the box-office to think that they probably did even better on DVD. It’s likely that Rock was responsible for selling as many tickets as Adam Sandler to the critically reviled, yet financially successful Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2.

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The DVD Wrapup: Liberator, Watchers of the Sky, R100, Code Black, Red Road, Red Tent and more

Because American students have never been required to be proficient in the history of the Americas south of the Alamo, the vast region continues to be something of a mystery to us. After learning how the conquistadors demolished and/or converted the indigenous population and sent their treasures back to Spain to fill the depleted coffers of the monarchy, we were left only with misconceptions. It took the martyrdom of Che Guevara, fear of communism and outrages of fascism to rekindle our interest in the affairs of South and Central America. The scourge of cocaine, black-tar heroin and illegal immigrants added a sense of urgency heretofore unwarranted. Affordable airfares and improved tourist accommodations have done more to educate Americans about the new realities of life in the western hemisphere than all of the textbooks that ignored imperialism and CIA meddling in national politics.

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The DVD Wrapup: Better Angels, Humbling, Tinker Bell, Blacula, Outlander and more

It’s difficult to imagination that any film starring Al Pacino, directed by Barry Levinson and adapted by Buck Henry, from a novel by Philip Roth, couldn’t find distribution outside the festival circuit and a couple of big-city art houses. Thirty years ago, such a thing would be unthinkable.

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DVD Geek: Batman – The Complete Series

Under the mistaken assumption that it would teach me fiscal prudence, my parents limited my comic book purchases as a child to two magazines a month.  This was a wrenching dictum, because there were four or five that I enjoyed very much, and all of them came out monthly, but while I may have varied…

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The DVD Wrapup: Whiplash, The Connection, Fellini, Godard, Ozu, Gene Autry and more

What R. Lee Ermey was to Full Metal Jacket, J.K. Simmons is to Whiplash.

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The DVD Wrapup: Theory of Everything, Princess Kayuga, Big Hero 6, The Chair, Fear Clinic, Skating to New York, Brotherhood of Blades, Captain Scarlett … More

Having already won top honors in BAFTA, Golden Globes and SAG competition, Eddie Redmayne is as close to a mortal lock for a rare Grand Slam of acting awards as these things get.

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The DVD Wrapup: Kink, Maison Close, Dragon 2, Nekromantik 2 and more

Not having read the book upon which Fifty Shades of Grey was based, I won’t hazard a guess as to whether the movie is any more faithful to the source material than Adrian Lyne’s 9½ Weeks was to Elizabeth McNeill’s slim novel. Now, as then, reporters have begged their editors to be allowed to bring a professional dominatrix with them to a screening of Fifty Shades of Grey, merely to have her point out the differences between R-rated BDSM and the real deal, readily available on niche websites. As a public service to viewers who might be sufficiently titillated by what Christian Grey does to the virgin English-lit-major, Anastasia Steele, I suggest they work their way up the ladder to the revelatory documentary, Kink, by first checking out Luis Buñuel’s Belle de jour, Barbet Schroeder’s Maîtresse, Just Jaeckin’s Histoire d’O and Radley Metzger’s The Image, all of which are more artistic and couples-friendly than the horizon of hardcore and gonzo stuff on the Internet.

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The DVD Wrapup: Nightcrawler, John Wick, Eleanor Rigby, Dear White People, Overnighters and more

If all that writer/director Dan Gilroy was attempting to do in Nightcrawler was, as he’s previously stated, shape an indictment of local television news and viewers who’ve sanctioned “If it bleeds, it leads” reporting, he’d be selling his movie terribly short. As a working principle, “If it bleeds, it leads” has informed news broadcasts for more than 30 years and now covers brush and warehouse fires, far-flung meteorological events, car crashes and Kardashian sightings.

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Wilmington on DVDs: A Christmas Carol (1951)

Perhaps critics and movie lovers treasure it because they can see how deftly Hurst and Langley have resisted the obvious temptations of the material. This is the one of the most faithful of all “Christmas Carol”adaptations and also one of the least sentimental, one of the most stylishly crafted and one of the more psychologically acute. It’s beyond question a film for adults more than for children, which is almost never how “A Christmas Carol” is played.

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DVD Geek: Snowpiercer

So, the science is at best dubious, the drama, while engagingly performed, is hardly profound, and the story, even aside from the fantasy parts, is illogical and is a mad amalgam of genres. Why, then, is Snowpiercer so entertaining? The answer is simple, it’s a train movie.

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The DVD Wrapup: Mood Indigo, Jersey Boys, Tammy, Happy Christmas, Land Ho!, I Am Yours, Demons, Ornette/Jason, S.O.B., Compleat and more

Imagine a collaboration between Jacques Tati, Pee-wee Herman and Giacomo Puccini and it might resemble Michel Gondry’s latest romantic fantasy, Mood Indigo, not that he needs much help in that department.

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The DVD Wrapup: Million Dollar Arm, Edge of Tomorrow, Million Ways to Die, Sleeping Beauty, To Be Takei, Zappa, Dusk Till Dawn, Hemlock Grove, Houdini … More

Because of baseball’s unique learning curve, Million Dollar Arm probably could have been set in any country where cricket, soccer or, even, camel racing are king. The only thing known about baseball by the boys who participated in the contest is that it requires a player to throw an orb covered in horsehide toward an opponent with a bat in his hand, pretty much like cricket.

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The DVD Wrapup: Transformers, Are You Here, Sordid Lives, American Muscle, Last of the Unjust, Ida, Lucky Them, Hellion, Wolf, Ivory Tower … More

In this way, Age of Extinction is the cinematic equivalent of a really explosive fireworks display on the 4th of July. Lots of things sparkle and go “boom,” but nothing lingers for very long. In addition to returning to Chicago for a while, Bay takes us to Hong Kong, Beijing, Monument Valley, Iceland and Detroit, which was redressed to fill in for other locations.

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The DVD Wrapup: Think Like a Man Too, Richard Lewis, Battery, Eraserhead, Chain Saw, Spartacus, Roosevelts, POWs … More

Watching comedian Richard Lewis in Bundle of Nerves, I naturally flashed back to a night, more than 25 years ago, when I first saw him perform live. It was in an intimate room in a Chicago hotel famous for the many legendary comics and musicians who had previously stayed there and whose ghosts may still be haunting the stage and lobby. What I remember most was laughing non-stop throughout the show and, at one point, almost falling on the floor. I’d seen Lewis on the late-night talk shows and he was even funnier in person.

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The DVD Wrapup: God’s Pocket, Captain America, For No Good Reason, Pumpkinhead, Fed Up, Midnight Special, Goldbergs, New Who … More

Anyone who may have wondered what was lost with the untimely death of Philip Seymour Hoffman–last February, at 46, to a drug overdose–shouldn’t have to look very far to study his impressive body of work. Once a prince of the indie realm, Hoffman more recently balanced his schedule with key supporting roles in such studio blockbusters as Mission: Impossible III and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, as well as dramatic turns on Broadway. Never someone who could be mistaken for a classic Hollywood leading man, Hoffman’s presence was felt in every scene in which he appeared.

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DVD Geek: All That Jazz

Not only Bob Fosse but screenwriter Robert Alan Aurthur died too young, doubly reinforcing the vivid spiritual premonition of All That Jazz, Fosse’s transfixing 1979 show business musical that blatantly anticipated his own death (eight years later) and Aurthur’s, who died before the film was finished, with Roy Scheider (who died 31 years later but still much too soon) in the autobiographical role of the stage and film director who smokes too much, ingests too much and works until he drops, creating brilliant art every step of the way.

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DVD & Blue Ray

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“Oh it was just hellish. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me. It would be stupid for me to say that I didn’t know what I was getting into. It has taken me five years to decide on a first film and I always held out for something like this. The lesson to be learned is that you can’t take on an enterprise of this size and scope if you don’t have a movie like The Terminator or Jaws behind you. Because when everybody’s wringing their handkerchiefs and sweating and puking blood over the money, it’s very nice to be able to say, ‘This is the guy who directed the biggest grossing movie of all time, sit down, shut up and feel lucky that you’ve got him.’ It’s another thing when you are there and you’re going ‘Trust me, this is really what I believe in,’ and they turn round and say ‘Well, who the hell is this guy?’ If I make ten shitty movies, I’ll deserve the flak and if I go on to make 10 great ones, this’ll probably be looked upon as my first bungled masterpiece.”
~ David Fincher, 1992

 

“I was a brat back when I made Pootie Tang. I was dealing with people every day whose pressures I didn’t understand, and I wasn’t very nice about how I said no to them. I put myself in a position I didn’t have to be in. A lot of what makes this kind of stuff work is empathy. If you’re taking money from somebody, they have a right to look after it. It’s all just trying to be clear about the arrangement. That’s why when I set up ‘Louie,’ I just said, ‘This is what I’m comfortable doing, and if you don’t want to do it, I don’t blame you. But in exchange, I’ll take very little money.’ I was only getting $200,000 per show from them, which is insane, and it goes up just by tiny increments every year. The other part of the arrangement with FX is that if this stops working for them, they should just tell me and we’ll stop doing it. Contractually, FX has a right to demand that the scripts be filtered through them before I shoot them, just like any other show. But from the beginning, they haven’t read anything, and they like the show. If I start turning in shit, then they’re going to start asking to see scripts, and that’s perfectly fair.”
~ Louis C. K.

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