Friday, August 28, 2015

August '15 Digital Week IV

Blu-rays of the Week
The Hunger 
(Warner Archive)
Impossibly stylish and pretentious, Tony Scott's 1983 vampire movie would bore the bejesus out of today's Twilight fans, and its ponderously icy atmosphere and mere poses from glamorous Catherine Deneuve, androgynous David Bowie and confused-looking Susan Sarandon add up to a glitteringly empty experience. With visual and aural nods to films like The Man Who Fell to Earth, Dressed to Kill and even Barry Lyndon, Scott's movie looks and sounds ravishing, but its portentous and failed attempts at Culture include hilariously inapposite use of music by Schubert and Ravel. The Blu-ray transfer is good but soft; lone extra is a commentary by Sarandon and Scott.

This endearing documentary is a meeting of two of the ultimate veterans in their respective fields: 88-year-old documentarian Albert Maysles training his camera (for the last time; he died after making the film) on 93-year-old New York fashion maven Iris Apfel, a delightfully ornery presence at such an advanced age, who remains a legend in her field. Maysles' sensitive camera tracks her movements from show to show, at home with her beloved husband and while reminiscing about all those years. The Blu-ray looks spectacular; extras are deleted scenes and an Apfel interview.

Mad Max Fury Road 
(Warner Bros) 
Director George Miller returns to his franchise with a vengeance, making a kinetic action flick for those who don't care about characterization, plot or dialogue for two hours but would rather see explosions, stunts and non-stop action. That's just what Miller provides: with a minimum of CGI (which still means that there's plenty), his crack technical crew conjures wall-to-wall car chases, races and hand-to-hand combat; overall, it's bludgeoning and mind-numbing, but there’s a certain rubbernecking fascination to it. Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy and others are mere props, but give them props for keeping their dignity amid the din. The hi-def transfer is first-rate; extras comprise making-of featurettes.

The Runner 
Set in Louisiana after the BP oil spill, this turgid political thriller stars Nicolas Cage as a hard-working local politician caught up in an adultery scandal which compromises his ability to assist his constituents against the big business and big oil interests that dominate the political climate. Cage works hard, sometimes effectively, and there's good support from Wendell Pierce, Sarah Paulson, Connie Nielsen and Ciera Payton, but writer-director Austin Stark never finds an interesting way to tell his topical story without wallowing in clichés. The film looks fine on Blu.

In the hinterlands of Australia, a troubled couple's two children go missing during a dust storm, bringing festering emotions to a boil in Kim Farrant's intriguing if overly arty domestic drama: the director even apes shots of the awesome landscapes which Fred Schepisi showed so devastatingly in his 1988 masterpiece A Cry in the Dark. Still, this tough, adult film only occasionally falls into mawkishness, and there’s sterling acting by Joseph Fiennes and Nicole Kidman as the couple and the equally fine Maddison Brown and Nicholas Hamilton as their children. The film's visuals look stunning on Blu; extras are featurettes and interviews.

DVDs of the Week
Criminal Minds—Complete 10th Season
Elementary—Complete 3rd Season 
In the 10th season of Criminal Minds, one of the longest-running procedurals on television, the intricately plotted caseholds are held together by from Joe Mantegna, Thomas Gibson and series newcomer Jennifer Love Hewitt. In the third season of Elementary, the updated Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century, Jonny Lee Miller's Holmes and Lucy Liu's Watson have gotten into a groove; that, coupled with well-chosen NYC locations, keeps this from being just the one-note gimmick it promised to be at the start. Extras include featurettes, deleted scenes, commentaries and gag reels.

Flesh and Bullets
Pulsating Flesh/Super Sex 
(Vinegar Syndrome)
Carlos Tobalina was a notable ‘80s adult-film director, and these releases are examples of his uninspired but competent work, starting with 1985's Bullets, which is actually one of his non-hardcore films: it features X-rated stars Mai Lin and Sharon Kelly co-existing alongside Yvonne de Carlo, Cesar Romero and even Cornel Wilde in a tired but watchable retread of Strangers on a Train. 1987's Pulsating and Super, on the other hand, are wall-to-wall hardcore porn with flimsy plots, substandard acting and sexual exploits of then-adult superstars Harry Reems, Bunny Blue and Trinity Loren. 

The Good Wife—Complete 6th Season 
Here are more twists and turns in the life and career of Alicia Florrick, played with her usual stylish flair by Julianna Margulies, who has steadily grown (from bumpy times on E.R.) into one of the best actresses on television. She's not alone, however: the supporting cast comprises many well-known names from New York's theater community, from Christine Baranski and Alan Cumming to Chris Noth and Zach Grenier, with David Hyde Pierce, Michael Cerveris and even Michael J. Fox also turning up. Extras featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel.

The Riot Club 
Based on screenwriter Laura Wade's own play Posh, this excellent comedy-drama about self-entitled male students at Oxford who mistakenly think that their elitist campus club gives them whatever they want—including, after a drunken night, non-punishment for serious crimes—is crammed with top British performers, brilliantly tiptoeing on, but never going over, the line into caricature: standouts are Holliday Granger and Jessica Brown Findlay as women brought into these young men’s line of fire. Director Lone Scherig superbly helms a sly cautionary tale that’s light on its feet, even when events spiral out of control in a familiar fashion.

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