Tuesday, February 23, 2016

February '16 Digital Week IV

Blu-rays of the Week
I Knew Her Well 
Italian director Antonio Pietrangeli's powerful 1965 portrait of an ambitious young actress is a searing, unforgiving look at the shallow culture also on display in La Dolce Vita; although it can be thought of as a complement to Fellini's classic, Pietrangeli's film is very much its own self. It's headed by Stefania Sandrelli's transfixing performance as the woman who finds herself in the fast lane that was Rome. The B&W photography shimmers in Criterion's luminous new transfer; extras include a Sandrelli interview and audition tape.

Labyrinth of Lies 
(Sony Classics)
The collective German shrug about the Nazis let everything be swept under the rug, at least until a group of attorneys decided in the late '50s that enough was enough and they began rounding up Auschwitz guards to try them for murder, which this engrossing drama by director Giulio Ricciarelli dramatizes. A few real-life patriots become a single young district attorney, played engagingly by Alexander Fehling, while the charming Friederike Becht plays his girlfriend, who is stuck between her country's awful past and bright future. At times too on the nose showing the roadblocks in the way of justice, but a truer, more insightful film wouldn't have made the inroads this flawed but fascinating film has. The transfer is top-notch; extras are a Q&A and commentary with Ricciarelli and Fehling and deleted scenes.

The Mutilator 
Pray for Death
(Arrow USA)
One of a slew of mid-'80s slasher flicks, 1984's Mutilator puts a clever spin on offing victims, with anything from a chainsaw to a brick wall (which cuts a body in half) that mutilates and decapitates. The acting is laughable, but anyone interested in watching already knows that, and  the movie's cheesy gore is wall to wall. 1985's Pray for Death, a middling kung-fu revenge drama in which a put-upon father avenges his family against the bad guys, is feeble stuff despite a couple of rousing action sequences. Both movies have decent hi-def transfers; extras include commentaries, interviews and making-of featurettes.

Racing Extinction 
Elizabeth Kolbert's book The Sixth Extinction dissects what may be the latest mass extinction, the first since the one that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, and Louie Psihoyos's documentary urgently explores how humans themselves are mainly responsible for bringing several species dangerously close to being erased from the planet. Guerrilla filmmaking tactics prove that delicacies like whales and manta rays are being slaughtered for fine dining and money, and fossil fuel companies unsurprisingly contribute their bit as well. Despite its thesis, there's light at the end of the tunnel, the film says. The visuals are stunning in hi-def; lone extra is a virtual field trip.

Taviani Brothers Collection  
(Cohen Film Collection)
A trio of  the Taviani brothers' films—their 1977 breakthrough, Padre Padrone; their most popular, 1982's The Night of the Shooting Stars; and their greatest, 1984's Kaos—is brought together on this three-disc set that provides a glimpse of the Italian duo's extremely uneven but occasionally successful career. The pseudo-neorealism of Padrone is at times painful and the sentimentality of Shooting Stars sometimes overwhelms the poetic drama, but their three-hour Luigi Pirandello adaptation Kaos is a masterly transposition of great literature into cinema; it remains their undisputed best film. All three films have sharply-defined new transfers; lone extra is an in-depth, two-hour interview with the brothers.

This Changes Everything 
Always provocative author Naomi Klein tackles the uneasy correlation between climate change and capitalism—most notably in her book Disaster Capitalism—and this documentary by her husband Ari Lewis (and narrated by Klein) is based on her most recent book of the same name. As it travels around the world from India to the Alberta tar sands, the film shows how activism is the last best hope for humankind to effect change against planet-destroying corporations and governments and displays a knowing pessimism that becomes a guarded optimism. The Blu-ray transfer is excellent; extras comprise an interview with Klein, Lewis and executive producer Alfonso Cuaron and several deleted scenes.

DVD of the Week
Carole King—Natural Woman 
This episode of the PBS American Masters series shows how the young gal from Manhattan became, with husband Gerry Goffin, one of the most celebrated songwriting teams of the '60s (with "The Loco-Motion," Chains" and the eponymous "Natural Woman" among their big hits), then moved on to become a huge solo artist with the release of her 1971 album Tapestry. Interviews with King, her daughter, songwriters and collaborators like James Taylor make this an appealing portrait of a pop music legend. Extras are four bonus performances of King songs.

No comments: