Monday, September 16, 2013

September '13 Digital Week III

Blu-rays of the Week
Friday the 13th—The Complete Collection
Have there really been a dozen Friday the 13th movies made since the 1980 original introduced Jason to a screaming audience? Three decades’ worth of unassuming and bloody trash, cleverly packaged—and repackaged—throughout (3D, Freddy Krueger tie-in, “final chapters”): there’s an audience for it, obviously, so on it goes. This set comprises 12 films on 9 discs, along with a bonus disc of featurettes old and new; there’s also a 40-page collectible book and a counselor camp patch (for “real” fans, I guess). The hi-def images look good enough.

Love Is All You Need
(Sony Classics)
Susanne Bier’s tragicomic soap plumbs the depths of sentimentality as a hairdresser just finishing chemotherapy loses her lunkheaded husband to a young bimbo. She’s thrown together with the widowed father of her daughter’s fiancée at their idyllic wedding in Italy….it’s not hard to see where it’s heading. Still, Bier’s ability to throw curveballs, coupled with the immense charm of Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm, make this less irritating than one might think. Too bad its original title, The Bald-Headed Hairdresser, was dropped. The movie looks spectacular on Blu-ray; extras include a Brosnan/Bier commentary and Brosnan/Bier/Dyrholm interviews.

Sisters & Brothers
(Anchor Bay)
The claim to fame of this shallow relationship comedy is the presence of Cory Monteith, who recently died of a drug overdose. The late Glee star’s presence overshadows the movie itself, which is a good thing, since director Carl Bessai doesn’t do anything interesting with his material (about pairs of siblings trying to make their way through adulthood). The Blu-ray image looks quite good.

Giuseppe Verdi’s stirring Requiem mass—his biggest non-operatic hit—is given an exciting rendition by Milan’s La Scala orchestra and chorus, superbly conducted by Daniel Barenboim. Both the chorus and the soloists (mezzo Elina Garanca, soprano Anja Harteros, bass Rene Pepe and tenor Jonas Kaufman) sound exquisite, separately and together. The hi-def image is clear; the music is crystalline in surround sound.

Walking Dead—Complete 3rd Season  
(Anchor Bay)
What began as a drama about survivors of an apocalypse fighting zombies has morphed bumpily into a drama about survivors being harassed by the undead and the living. It’s all done on a rather impressive scale, but the performers are let down by writing that’s underwhelming: television programs’ need to remain both clever and one step ahead of their audience forces viewers to swallow all sorts of improbabilities, even in a genre that thrives on such strangeness. The Blu-ray image is excellent; extras include commentaries, featurettes and deleted scenes.

DVDs of the Week
Aftermath—An Inspector Banks Mystery
(BBC Home Entertainment)
British TV cop shows far outstrip their American counterparts’ dramas, as witness the Inspector Banks mysteries, of which Aftermath is one of the most compelling. In this bizarre murder mystery, Inspector Banks and his new partner, Detective Sergeant Annie Cabot, solve a series of brutal crimes while also learning to deal with each other while on the job: the acting of Stephen Thompkinson and Andrea Lowe as the detectives is dead-on while, as one of the suspects, Charlotte Riley is riveting.

Army Wives—Complete 7th Season
For its latest season, the patriotic soap opera has pretty much finished jettisoning the remainder of its original cast—the main survivor is the always amazing Catherine Bell—and has shored up the wives with newbies played by Brooke Shields, Ashanti and Elle McLemore, among others. The result is fairly seamless, as the predictable show continues on an unapologetically sentimental path made palatable by likeable performances. Extras include deleted scenes and bloopers.

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death
and Targets
(Warner Archive)
Two forgettable thrillers show low-budget filmmaking at its most creatively stifled. 1971’s Jessica wants to be a subtle haunted house/psychological horror flick, but director John Hancock is unable to come to grips with handling his low-key story satisfyingly. Peter Bogdanovich’s 1968 debut Targets transforms a valid subject—a disturbed young man turns sniper at a drive-in—into a trashy genre film that wastes one of Boris Karloff’s final screen appearances. Targets include a Bogdanovich intro and commentary.

The Substance—Albert Hofmann’s LSD
When Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann discovered LSD in 1943, the powerful drug was soon overtaken by side trips, so to speak, from the medical and military professions. In Martin Witz’s compelling documentary, a final interview with Hofmann (he died in 2008 at age 102) is interspersed with fantastic clips of early LSD use (in army videos) and other talking heads to create a fascinating glimpse at a drug that’s been shunned and celebrated over the decades. The lone extra is a Witz interview.

Three Worlds
(Film Movement)
In Catherine Corsini’s hard-nosed exploration of morality in our messy modern world, an affluent young man involved in a hit-and-run, a pregnant woman who witnessed the event and the unfortunate victim’s wife are thrown together in a movie that reaches melodramatic highs and lows, sometimes in the same sequence. If the characters don’t act plausibly (the driver and witness have an improbable fling), at least Corsini puts it all on the screen, and her formidable cast—led by Raphael Personnaz (driver), Arta Dobroshi (wife) and Clotilde Hesme (witness)—make it persuasive if not entirely believable. The lone extra is a well-turned, quietly creepy short, The Piano Tuner.

The Unspeakable Act
(Cinema Guild)
Dan Sallitt’s drama about a deep brother-sister bond is never exploitative, but the straightforwardness with which he shows Matthew and Jackie’s closeness is mitigated by Sky Hirschkron’s and Tallie Medel’s stiff acting that never probes their characters in any depth. The movie’s close observation of awkward teenage sexuality is commendable, in any case. Extras are shorts by Sallitt and Hirschkron, alternate takes and clips of Medel in the web series where Sallitt discovered her.

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