Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September's New/Classic on DVD/Blu-ray


Caravaggio (E1)
– If you're going to make a 3-1/2 hour epic on one of the greatest post-Renaissance Italian painters, then you need one of the best cinematographers to do his life and art visual justice. And Angelo Longoni's bio of Caravaggio has him in spades in Oscar winner Vittorio Storaro, whose artistry jumps out of every frame of the film, splendidly plunging us into the violence of the early 17th century without ever slavishly imitating Caravaggio's impassioned paintings filled with dark corners and shadowy figures. Alesso Boni vigorously enacts the artist and Longoni keeps standard-biopic cliches to a minimum, holding our interest until the tragic end, but it's Storaro's magic that's most on display. Unlike Derek Jarman's Caravaggio, this version is not dripping with homoeroticism—Boni's painter has an eye for the ladies—so it's anyone's guess which is closer to the historical truth. Somewhere in the middle, I'd wager. E1's disc has no bonus features, but just getting to see the entire film (a shorter version played in Manhattan a couple of years back) is bonus enough.

Afterschool (IFC) misses the chance to be an unsettling exploration of how electronic gadgetry makes today's young people cold, calculating and unfeeling—instead, it ends up as a mediocre imitation of a Stanley Kubrick film (best extra: unused video footage); I would say that the “humor” of Alien Autopsy (Warners) doesn't travel well from England, but since good American actors—Bill Pullman, Harry Dean Stanton, even Orson Bean—are present, it must be me (best extra: alternate opening); the recent remake of The Amityville Horror (Fox Blu-ray) travels the same sordid ground with more icky effects as the original did in the late 70s, which isn't a very compelling reason to recommend it (best extra: featurette on actual murders); The Black Cauldron—25th Anniversary Edition (Disney) finally rescues one of Disney's less popular animated titles from oblivion with a nicely designed new package: still too dark for most fans, the movie earns points as the first to use computer-generated animation (best extra: deleted scene); Mexican import I’m Gonna Explode (IFC) has some affinities with Y Tu Mama Tambien in its story of disaffected youth but lacks that film's insight into its teenage characters (lone extra: making-of featurette); Just Wright (Fox Blu-ray) might have Queen Latifah and rapper Common in the leads, but this straitlaced romantic comedy is stolen by gorgeous Paula Patton as her knockout best friend (best extra: making-of featurette); the 1978 remake of the classic sci-fi flick Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Fox Blu-ray) still wears its revisionism well: it also looks very good on Blu-ray, with the movie also included on standard DVD, along with a commentary by director Philip Kaufman (best extra: making-of featurettes); Marmaduke (Fox Blu-ray), despite its often inane canine humor, gets by as an acceptable time-killer for kids and for adults who don’t have anything else to do—although this should have been animated, the sight of real dogs and cats speaking with voices like Owen Wilson, Emma Stone and Fergie is only occasionally grating (best extra: Canine Casting featurette); the creepily effective horror story The Order (Fox Blu-ray) features one of Heath Ledger’s final performances as a priest burdened by a series of killings—too bad the always interesting Shannyn Sossamon (best extra: deleted scenes); based on a Philip K. Dick story, the animated A Scanner Darkly (Warners Blu-ray) is unsurprisingly more intriguing visually—especially with Blu-ray’s added clarity and depth—than it is dramatically (best extra: audio commentary); the knock-out animation of Superman/Batman Apocalypse (Warners Blu-ray), which tracks the arrival of Supergirl alongside criminals troubling the superheroes of the title, is recommended for anyone skeptical of the Blu-ray format: it will definitely change their mind (best extra: all-new Green Arrow short); octogenarian Hal Holbrook gives a sweetly beguiling performance in That Evening Sun (Image Blu-ray), an unassuming little movie that’s nearly impossible to dislike (best extra: making-of featurette); Tinker Bell—The Great Fairy Rescue (Disney Blu-ray), another direct-to-disc Disney movie, entertains in the best Disney fashion, and with eye-popping hi-def visuals to boot (best extra: deleted scenes); Why Did I Get Married Too (LionsGate Blu-ray) is Tyler Perry’s latest—and by far least—would-be comedy about the battle between the sexes, with shrill acting, ridiculous plotting and (worst of all) some of the lamest dialogue ever to grace a movie (best extra: The Women of Married featurette).

No comments: