Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December '15 Digital Week IV

Blu-rays of the Week
Blood Rage 
Opening with a 10-year-old fatally stabbing a fornicating man at a drive-in, John Grissmer's 1987 slasher flick doesn't blink from the get-go, especially when the kid is released 10 years later: but was it he or his twin brother who's the real killer? Gleefully gore-filled—Ed French's inventively cheesy effects culminate with a head split in two—Blood stars Louise Lasser, TV's Mary Hartman, as the boys' deranged mother, and features the usual sex leading to death, as it always does in these movies. An R-rated version, Nightmares at Shadow Woods, and a version comprising both cuts are included; the hi-def transfers look terrific, and extras include Grissmer’s commentary and interviews with Lasser, other actors and makeup artist French. 

(Warner Bros)
This noisy, messy contraption purports to tell how Peter Pan met Captain Hook and took on Bluebeard before J.M. Barrie's original story begins. Although young Levi Miller makes an ingratiating Peter, Hugh Jackman is a hammy Bluebeard and Rooney Mara is as dull as ever as Tiger Lily. Then there's director Joe Wright, whose tone wavers so that his movie uncomfortably swings between loud, lumbering set pieces and quiet moments that barely register. Too bad: in the right hands Pan could have been charming rather than something to be panned. On Blu-ray, it all looks incredible; extras include Wright’s commentary and featurettes.

Time Out of Mind 
Oren Moverman's earnest homeless drama has its heart in the right place but ends up a feel-good film about a middle-aged man forced to wandering New York's streets and finding some hope in the form of his estranged daughter. Richard Gere does his best to seem mentally and physically run-down, but he looks more like a man who simply hasn't shaved for a few days: in support, Ben Vereen and Kyra Sedgwick are far more persuasively homeless. The movie has a fine hi-def transfer; extras are a featurette and Gere PSA.

DVDs of the Week
Queen of Earth 
As a woman devastated by her father's death and boyfriend's unexpected betrayal, Elisabeth Moss is alternately exasperated and angry or docile and distant, but she can't turn such disparate elements into a coherent whole in Alex Ross Perry’s slender study content to display petty outbursts sans any psychological complexity. Katharine Waterston is sensational as the best friend discovering how difficult it is to help our heroine recover, but despite both actresses, Perry relies too heavily on Keegan DeWitt's derivative score, uncomfortably reminiscent of Penderecki’s eerie Shining music, which fails to transform Queen into a horror movie of the soul. Extras are a commentary by Perry and Moss and a making-of featurette.

Xmas Without China 
Can an American family celebrate Christmas without having anything in their house that was made in China? That question hangs over director Alicia Dwyer's lively, incisive documentary about how much cheap products are part of our daily lives: after awhile, the family talked into becoming part of this experiment openly questions why they are doing it, since it's basically ruining their holiday—and their lives. Tom Xia, who came up with this challenge, also introduces his Chinese family, whose dual allegiances provide more sets of eyes open to the cultural clash of identity and consumerism.

CD of the Week
The Wiz—Live! 
For its third live musical telecast, NBC resurrected the hip 1975 Wizard of Oz update that was a Broadway hit with Stephanie Mills as Dorothy and a bomb onscreen in 1978 with Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, despite director Sidney Lumet’s inventive use of familiar New York locations. The latest version, populated by an eclectic but very able cast, has a cameo by Mills and the good sense not to give a disastrous Common any more screen time than he deserves. Happily, the singing is often on-target (Queen Latifah, Ne-Yo, Uzo Aduba) and sometimes more than that, especially from the powerhouse 19-year-old newcomer Shanice Williams. 

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