Z

DVD & Blue Ray

The DVD Wrapup: Unfriended, Water Diviner, Reckless, Life on the Reef, Lost Soul and more

Unfriended isn’t for the casual users of the Internet. The multi-image presentation, which is extremely sophisticated, requires far more work on the part of the viewer than the typical narrative feature. The more experience one has in the world of cyber-communication, the scarier Unfriended will be.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: What We Do In Shadows, Resnaisx2, Marfa Girl, and more

One needn’t have been a zealous fan of “Flight of the Conchords” and Eagle vs Shark, or even a vampire completist, to be drawn to What We Do in the Shadows. Those who are, however, probably will get a real kick out of this razor-sharp genre parody from New Zealand. The largely improvised mockumentary defies the odds by doing an end-run around the Scary Movie and Scream franchises and adding a supernatural spin to such bros-will-be-bros pictures as Swingers and Saturday Night Fever.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Salt of the Earth, Ex Machina, It Follows, Goodbye to All That, Black Stallion and more

Alex Garland’s highly ambitious digital wet dream Ex Machina advances the sub-genre by setting it in an idyllic retreat, owned by a reclusive cyber-billionaire, and infusing his megalomaniacal vision with ideas inspired by Greek and Roman tragedies and mythology, the Old Testament, the Bhagavad Gita, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, Titian, Mary Shelly, crappy 1970s disco and Depeche Mode. Ex Machina is the kind of super-smart movie that should carry footnotes at the bottom of the screen.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Woman in Gold, Clouds of Sils Maria, Human Capital, House of Cards and more

I wonder if Meryl Streep gets depressed when she isn’t nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress. Maybe she feels relieved, knowing that she can avoid the annual crush of parties, press conferences and all of the ass kissing that comes with each and every nomination. Maybe, someday, Streep will be allowed the privilege of being chosen alongside one or both of her acting daughters, Grace and Mamie Gummer, or simply cheer them on from the sidelines. Streep doesn’t appear in Clouds of Sils Maria, Olivier Assayas’ brilliant drama about actors and acting. If any actress deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Streep, it’s Juliet Binoche, who not only stars in Clouds of Sils Maria, but also delivers one of the great performances of her career.

Read the full article » 1 Comment »

The DVD Wrapup: Danny Collins, Get Hard, Decline of Western Civilization, Downtown 81 and more

There are moments in Dan Fogelman’s wildly uneven rock-‘n’-roll fantasy, Danny Collins, that suggest the writer-director was raised on classic-rock radio and his titular protagonist (Al Pacino) was modeled less after Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger or Rod Steward, than Neil Diamond, Billy Joel or a post-Wings Paul McCartney. That much is clear when Collins arrives on stage for the first time, looking as if he might rip into “Born in the U.S.A.,” “Katmandu” or “Maggie May,” but, instead, delivers what amounts to Diamond’s between-innings anthem, “Sweet Caroline.” It sounds out of place when sung by a wrung-out, blurry-eyed geezer, whose “Elvis scarves” are older than everyone in his band. Collins has been so strung out for so long that he hasn’t written a new song in 30 years and can’t readily recall the details of two of his marriages.

Read the full article » 1 Comment »

The DVD Wrapup: Timbuktu, The Bridge, Pit Stop, Dog Soldiers and more

When Kidane confronts the belligerent fisherman, the pistol he’s carrying to intimidate the man accidentally discharges, killing him. This sets off a series of events that puts Kidane in direct contact with the jihadists and their alternately severe and absurd interpretations of Sharia law. It outlaws music, dance, laughter, cigarettes and, even, the bare hands of women selling messy products in the market, while authorizing stoning adulterers to death, lashing outlawed musicians and accepting bribes and granting favors. Kidane’s biggest problem is his inability to come up with the compensation – 40 cows – ordered by the court, which includes a man who’s itching to steal the herdsman’s wife. If this was all Sissako gave us to ponder in Timbuktu, it would be an unbearable experience. Instead, he lightens the overall tone by demonstrating the determination of residents to get around the rules, even under the watchful eyes of the fanatics.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Welcome to Me, Wild Tales, Gett, Bob Hope and more

Any doubts that Wiig might not be able to accurately depict her character’s tortured mental state disappeared when leaked photos of a stark-naked Wiig, walking through a crowded Palms Spring casino, began to appear on celebrity-skin websites. It’s a brave performance and Wiig is excellent throughout Welcome to Me. How far her fans are willing to accompany Kleig into her journey into madness is open to question.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Camp X-Ray, Free the Nipple, Giuseppe Andrews, Pillow Book and more

Who knows how many of today’s straight-to-DVD movies will stand the test of time and find new audiences decades after their initial release? Some of today’s crop of genre filmmakers almost surely will be asked to look back on their early films in featurettes recorded 20 years from now for Blu-ray or whatever new format is being foisted on consumers.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: McFarland USA, Scarecrows, Mickey Rourke, Justified, Rectify and more

Kevin Costner is typically effective as the high school football coach who’s fired for throwing a shoe at the starting quarterback – the wiseass deserved worse – and forced to look for work elsewhere. He finds it in a predominantly Mexican-American school in the Central Valley of California. As beneficiaries of the unionization of farm workers, led by Cesar Chavez, the families no longer are migratory and some have found ways to control their own livelihoods. They are still poor, however, and many of their kids are required to split their days between work in the fields and school, with little or no hope of going on to college.

Read the full article » No Comments »

DVD Geek: Jamaica Inn

Alfred Hitchcock himself would often speak disparagingly in interviews about his 1939 adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier novel,Jamaica Inn, complaining about the star, Charles Laughton, and about costume films in general. Critics, taking his lead, also speak dismissively of the film, but it is actually a very enjoyable effort.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Magician: Orson Welles, The Confession and more

In the stage and cinema works of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, it wasn’t always easy for postwar German audiences to differentiate between social satire, parody and provocation. The same holds true for his legacy on film, outside Germany. In a career that lasted 16 years, he was responsible for writing, directing and acting in nearly 50 movies, shorts and TV mini-series, as well as continuing to create Brechtian theater pieces. After beginning his career in the late 1960s making films that ranged from experimental to difficult, Fassbinder would turn to the Hollywood melodramas of German émigré Douglas Sirk for creative inspiration.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Leviathan, Lovesick, Before I Disappear, Blue Room and more

Instead of being iron-fisted by Communist Party functionaries, however, the populace is ruled by an increasingly militaristic government and bullied by plutocrats, gangsters, small-minded politicians and conservative leaders of the ascendant Russian Orthodox Church. That much, at least, can be inferred in Andrey Zvyagintsev’s overtly allegorical drama, Leviathan, which ironically was inspired by the story of a Colorado man whose beef with city officials eventually led him to armor-plate a bulldozer and use it as a battering ram against bureaucratic intransigence.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: 50 Shades, Selma, Mr. Turner, The Nun, Snuff and more

Although some of the lovemaking is inarguably sensual, the contract-negotiating scene is the only one that rivals the best passages choreographed by Adrian Lyne in 9½ Weeks or in such classics of the sub-genre as Belle du Jour, Secretary, Crash, The Story of O or The Image. As difficult as it is to take potshots at a picture that’s made more than a half-billion dollars in worldwide distribution or might match that in DVD/VOD/Blu-ray revenues, I still think we have a long way to go before mainstream audiences are allowed a real taste of non-generic eroticism,

Read the full article » 2 Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: The Gambler, Wedding Ringer, Boy Next Door, Paddington, Eddie Coyle, Wolf Hall and more

Bennett isn’t as much a degenerate gambler as one who refuses to win, even when he’s holding a pat hand. No matter how much he’s up, everyone from the pit bosses to viewers knows he’s going to give it all back and borrow even more money to keep losing. When he convinces his beleaguered mother (Jessica Lange) to give him a small fortune in cash to pay off the debts, everyone, including Mom, knows he’s going to piss it away.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup; Curling, God Help the Girl, Like Sunday Like Rain, Escape From New York and more

Something tells me that Stuart Murdoch’s underappreciated musical fantasy, God Help the Girl, might have found its rightful audience if the title were a bit more precise in targeting its intended audience. Something like, “MTV Presents ‘God Help the Girl’” or “Belle and Sebastian Want You to See This Movie” or “Love in the Time of Retro Rock.’”

Read the full article » No Comments »

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.

Read the full article » No Comments »

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.

Read the full article » No Comments »

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.

Read the full article » No Comments »

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.

Read the full article » No Comments »

DVD & Blue Ray

Quote Unquotesee all »

“At the moment, when you’re airing episode-by-episode, making those arguments is irrelevant. People are either digging the characters or they’re in it as an adventure or they’re watching it for what they’re getting—or they’re not. If you lose them, you lose them. We lost a lot of people on “Treme.” But to me, that story was as well-executed as anything I’ve ever done. I look at it, and I think: It’s on the shelf. We made it. We got to say a lot of what we intended to say, and we executed at a very high level. It’s there, thank God it’s there.  And it’s all you can do. I know I can’t write something that gets you an audience the moment I put it on, and especially if everyone is presumptive of what the reasons are for it from the very beginning. But what I can do is I can make a film. I can try to get from the beginning to the middle to the end. I can put it up on a shelf. I can hope that in the weird lending library that is modern television—that is HBOGo, that is Netflix—because it’s up on the shelf people will find it. If we’ve executed well, the story will eventually prevail and find a place.”
~ David Simon on television at this moment

“Film lived in a country or a land or a planet called reality and that is not the case today. There’s no reality anymore today. Everybody is reconciled with reality, that’s what happens today. I mean reality: tables, people walking, dogs, cars. You have to go back to the old days to see a door, a kitchen, a window, a small kid, some tears, things like that. I miss a world. I miss the kids, the dogs. I miss the street corners. I’m bored with realism today. You have to concentrate on the fight with reality. For me it’s a fight.” 
Pedro Costa And Thom Andersen In Conversation

Z Z