DVD & Blue Ray

The DVD Wrapup: Bridge of Spies, Truth, Snow White, Breathe and more

There’s always a point in a Steven Spielberg movie where I want to pull out my cellphone – or hit the pause button on my remote – to check the validity of what’s just happened on the screen. Likewise, there are times in every performance by Tom Hanks when he appears to be channeling Henry Fonda or Jimmy Stewart, instead of remaining within the skin of his character. It doesn’t take me out of the picture for very long, just enough to remind me that the operative word in “based on a true story” is “based,” not “true.” Most fact-based movies made in Hollywood require a suspension of disbelief for the sake of telling a story. It comes with the price of a ticket. If any collaborative team is allowed more latitude than Spielberg and Hanks, however, I’d be hard-pressed to name it.

Read the full article » 1 Comment »

The DVD Wrapup: Burnt, Assassin, New Girlfriend, Patels, Mr. Robot and more

As mouth-watering as Burnt is, I would discourage anyone from assuming that all foodie movies taste the same. The cranky-perfectionist conceit works better in Daniel Cohen’s Le Chef, Jon Favreau’s Chef, Lasse Hallström’s The Hundred-Foot Journey, Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci’s Big Night and Brittany Murphy’s largely undiscovered gem, The Ramen Girl. Also tempting are Mostly Martha and its Hollywood remake No Reservations, Woman on Top. Tampopo, Ratatouille, Julie and Julia and, of course, Babette’s Feast and Like Water for Chocolate.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Straight Outta Compton, Diary of a Teenage Girl, Howl, I Am Thor and more

As difficult as it might be for fans of Straight Outta Compton to believe that it was nearly shut out of Oscar competition, it’s just that hard for me be to believe that enough voters in any category actually watched enough of the movie to endorse it. Unlike The Help and 12 Years a Slave, the story behind the rise and fall of the genre-shattering hip-hop group, N.W.A., had several things working against it from the get-go. Not all of them can be attributed to racial insensitivity and the lack of diversity in the academy, although they can’t be discounted out of hand. For example, I can’t imagine any voter over, say, 40, rewarding a movie whose acoustics required them to keep a tight grip on the remote control every time the explosive musical soundtrack kicked in on their state-of-the-art Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo or DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 system.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: The Walk, Irrational Man, Look of Silence, Bitter Rice, Last Horror Film and more

Absent any physical evidence of the edifice’s longtime mastery of the city’s skyline, Petit’s feat might just as well have been a scene from a movie.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Sicario, Sleeping With Other People, Maneater, Cruel, Broad City and more

Stripped to its narrative framework, Sicario is a powerfully rendered procedural that, while chronicling a strike against a cartel kingpin, forces viewers to endorse or decry the extralegal tactics used in the elimination of so-called narco-terrorists. In the same way that Osama Bin Laden was denied the luxury of a trial by a Navy SEAL hit squad, the target of the CIA-led commando unit in Sicario isn’t likely to require the services of a lawyer, either. Do we care? No more than we sweated the details of the raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. Villeneuve reserves those questions for Blunt’s ethically grounded FBI agent.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: War Room, Nasty Baby, Queen of Earth, Leonard Cohen and more

Queen of Earth, Elisabeth Moss portrays Catherine, a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. After the recent death of her father, a famous artist, and being dumped by her boyfriend, Catherine accepts an invitation from her best friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston) to recuperate at her lake house. Although her memories of the house include images of happy times spent with her then-boyfriend, Catherine anticipates spending quality time with Virginia. While it’s possible to anticipate the close friends partaking in some sexual healing, what happens next is far more disturbing. For a while, Catherine is able to hold her own in the increasingly nasty verbal exchanges. Moss’ facial expressions provide all the evidence we need to determine precisely when Catherine reaches her breaking point. Alex Ross Perry’s Bergman-esque approach to his story benefits from the pastoral setting.

Read the full article » No Comments »

DVD Geek: Pan

An ‘origin’ story that does its darnedest to turn Peter Pan into Harry Potter.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: M:I, Ted 2, Burroughs, Time Out of Mind, Slow Learners and more

Everyone who’s fallen in love with the mythos of the Beat Generation has, at one time or another, wondered how William S. Burroughs fit into the bigger picture. Apart from being an extremely cool guy, an accomplished writer, avant-garde artist and intellectual outlaw, the grandson of the man who founded the Burroughs Adding Machine Company didn’t fit into any of the molds created by the media to explain the confederation of artists that most prominently included Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, Herbert Hunke, Neal Cassady, Gary Snyder and Gregory Corso. It’s almost impossible to imagine Burroughs hitchhiking across the country with Kerouac and Cassady, simply to “go,” and not be mistaken for a mortician or bible salesman. And, yet, go he did … to Mexico, Tangier, Paris, Rome, London and the Amazonian rain forest.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Ant-Man, Minions, Blind, Girl King, Speedy, Lucky and more

Is anyone surprised to learn that Universal’s family-oriented Minions sailed right past the movies from which it was spawned, Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2, on its way to an astonishing $1.157-billion worldwide box-office haul? I was.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Momentum, Amorous, Secrets of War, Grace of Monaco, The Wall, The Square, Hunting Ground, MST3K and more

Last week, the dull thud of one of the worst box-office duds of all times reverberated from the U.K. to trade and gossip sites across the U.S. Momentum, a crime thriller that cost an estimated $20 million to make, returned a whopping $69 to its investors from its opening week’s run in 10 theaters. How is that even possible? Is Momentum really as bad as all that? Yes.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup, Gift Guide II: Great American Dream Machine, McHale’s Navy, Brothers Quay, Shaun the Sheep, No Escape and more

At a time when public-broadcast stations were commonly referred to as “educational TV,” a show likened to an “intellectual ‘Laugh-In’” began production on New York City’s non-commercial WNET. “The Great American Dream Machine” was a weekly satirical variety television series. Its audience may have been miniscule compared to “Laugh-In,” but it was composed of hard-core liberals, media mavens and the next generation of opinion-makers. It didn’t take long for the show to bear fruit in the form of “The Groove Tube,” “Saturday Night Life,” “SCTV” and Kentucky Fried Movie. Watch the show today on DVD and you’ll recognize the forebears of Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, Trevor Noah and John Oliver.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Crumbs, Meru, Tenderness of Wolves, Living in Oblivion and more

As tiresome as most movies about our shared dystopian future have become, longtime fans of the increasingly predictable sub-genre shouldn’t give hope of finding something new and different until they’ve seen Crumbs, an instant classic from a place that looks as if it had already experienced the apocalypse and was left standing.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Stations of the Cross, Code Unknown, Julien Duvivier, Eric Rohmer and more

Ida revealed truths about the deeply engrained anti-Semitism of many of the faithful. Stations of the Cross is Dietrich Brüggemann’s tragic depiction of religious fundamentalism at its most destructive and, as such, can be construed as serving as an indictment of one particularly conservative Catholic order. This one is based in southern Germany, an area not immune to fanaticism.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Jurassic World, Back to Future, Inside Out, Toy Story, Benoit Jacquot and more

To paraphrase the Budweiser advertising jingle, “When you’ve collected $1.58 billion at the worldwide box office, you’ve said it all.”

Read the full article » No Comments »

DVD Wrapup Gift Guide I: W.C. Fields, IndiePix, Grinchmas, Human Centipede, Flowers, Neon God, Home Fires … More

The Marx Brothers have stood the test of time, delighting every new generation of comedy lovers. I wonder if W.C. Fields has demonstrated the same resilience with kids whose only knowledge of gin blossoms comes from the rock band, not one of the most famous lushes in Hollywood history.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Larry Fessenden, My Favorite Martian, Testament of Youth, A Special Day and more

Like Clint Howard, Larry Fessenden is a seemingly tireless supporting actor whose horror-perfect face is far better known than his name, at least outside of Hollywood and fan conventions. If they hadn’t found work in the pictures, both could easily be mistaken for carnies, roustabouts, road-crew workers and reprobates of all stripe. Fessenden’s background may smack of East Coast establishment, but he caught exploitation fever in his teens and hasn’t had time to look back since then. At 52, he has more than a dozen credits as an actor (84), director (22), producer (58), writer (13), editor (15) and cinematographer (14).

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Tomorrowland, Aladdin, Dope, Big Eden, Requiescant, Alleluia and ore

Despite releasing Tomorrowland and Aladdin on Blu-ray almost simultaneously, Disney may not be asking consumers to draw any conclusions about the company’s past, present and future, but, what the hell, what better time?

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Escobar, Manglehorn, People Places Things, Pee-wee… and more

In Andrea Di Stefano’s intense revisionist biopic, Escobar: Paradise Lost, we’re led to believe that his generosity toward the citizens of Medellin didn’t necessarily extend to a Canadian surfer dude who couldn’t help himself from falling in love with Escobar’s niece.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: The Connection, Aloft, Duke of Burgundy, Patricio Guzman and more

It probably would have been impossible for Cédric Jimenez and his writing partner, Audrey Diwan, to duplicate in The Connection all of the thrills and heart-pounding intrigue William Friedkin built into his groundbreaking police thriller, The French Connection, even though they’re based on the same series of events. Instead, they succeeded in telling the story of a major heroin bust, this time from the perspective of the French police and heroin traffickers.

Read the full article » No Comments »

The DVD Wrapup: Beresford, Saint Laurent, Techine, Red Road, Dennis Hopper and more

Edward Woodward, Bryan Brown and Lewis Fitz-Gerald are terrifically effective in their portrayal of the defendants, never overplaying the hands dealt their characters or wringing unwarranted sympathy for them out of viewers. Thompson, one of the most popular of all Australian actors, was awarded the Best Supporting Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of Thomas, whose frustration is palpable from the time his motion requesting more time to prepare his case is quashed. Beresford’s greatest achievement, however, was opening up Kenneth G. Ross’ play, “Breaker Morant: A Play in Two Acts,” as a way of putting the defendants’ actions into the larger context of a long, brutal and imperialistic war.

Read the full article » No Comments »

DVD & Blue Ray

Quote Unquotesee all »

“There are critics who see their job as to be on the side of the artist, or in a state of imaginative sympathy or alliance with the artist. I think it’s important for a critic to be populist in the sense that we’re on the side of the public. I think one of the reasons is, frankly, capitalism. Whether you’re talking about restaurants or you’re talking about movies, you’re talking about large-scale commercial enterprises that are trying to sell themselves and market themselves and publicize themselves. A critic is, in a way, offering consumer advice. I think it’s very, very important in a time where everything is commercialized, commodified, and branded, where advertising is constantly bleeding into other forms of discourse, for there to be an independent voice kind of speaking to—and to some extent on behalf of—the public.”
~ A. O. Scott On One Role Of The Critic

“Every night, we’d sit and talk for a long, long time and talk about the process and I knew he was very, very intrigued about what could be happening. Then of course, one of the fascinating things he told me about was how he had readers who were reading for him that never knew it was Stanley Kubrick. So if he heard of a novel, he would send it out to people. I think he did it through newspaper ads at the time. And he would send it out to people and ask for a kind of synopsis or a critique of the novel. And he would read those. And it was done anonymously. But he said there were housewives and there were barristers and all sorts of people doing that. And I thought, yeah, that’s a really good way to open up the possibilities. Because otherwise, you’re randomly looking, walking through a bookstore or an airport. I said, “How many people are doing this?” It was about 30 people.”
~ George Miller’s Conversations With Kubrick