Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April '16 Digital Week IV

Blu-rays of the Week
And Then There Were None
The classic Agatha Christie mystery, a.k.a. “Ten Little Indians,” returns in this fitfully entertaining yarn that is, quite simply, too long: I know it was made to fill out three one-hour television time slots, but stretching out the story with plentiful flashbacks to the victims’ previous lives strangles the tautness that was Christie’s stock-in-trade. It’s certainly a first-class production, with strong performances by Charles Dance, Toby Stephens, Miranda Richardson, Maeve Dermody and Sam Neill, among others. The hi-def transfer is first-rate; extras include featurettes and interviews.

Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street
(Olive Films)
In Costa-Gavras’s 1988 Betrayed, Debra Winger and Tom Berenger are superb as an undercover FBI agent and the possibly racist murderer she falls for; too bad Joe Eszterhas’ script and Costa-Gavras’s direction highlight the illogical plot holes instead of the stars’ far more interesting character dynamics. 1972’s Dead Pigeon, made in Germany and one of the more bizarre items in director Samuel Fuller’s career, is an alternately fascinating and frustrating drama about an American detective looking for his partner’s killer. Both films have good hi-def transfers; the lone Pigeon extra is the documentary Return to Beethoven Street: Sam Fuller in Germany.

Haven—Complete Final Season

(e one)
In the final season of this offbeat supernatural drama based on Stephen King’s novella The Colorado Kid, the population of the supposedly idyllic seaside town uncovers still more unsettling stories and reveals dark secrets. The large cast—led by Emily Rose, Eric Balfour, Adam Copeland and Lucas Bryant—is able to remain straight-faced throughout, a not inconsiderable fat under the circumstances. The series’ 13 episodes all look impressive on Blu; extras include featurettes, interviews and commentaries.

The Merchant of Venice
(Opus Arte)
Although I’m not too enamored of director Polly Findlay’s modern-dress vision of one of Shakespeare’s more problematic plays, she does have an authentic Shylock in actor Makram J. Khoury, who provides this disjointed production with its most dramatic moments. It’s also unfortunate that Findlay has cast Patsy Ferran, a charmless and one-note Portia, who especially looks bad next to the far more engrossing Khoury. The Blu-ray transfer is excellent; extras include interviews, featurettes and Findlay’s commentary.


Even though Anthony Hopkins and Al Pacino are top-lined in this legal thriller, it’s Josh Duhamel’s show all the way, so your mileage may vary if you’d rather see two past-their-prime legends as the leads instead of mere support, but the main problem with director Shintaro Shimosawa’s routine drama is its inconsistencies, which grow more desperate as it all continues. Still, the cast does decent work—aside from the men, there are Malin Akerman, Julia Stiles and Alice Eve all scoring in thankless parts—which somewhat mitigates the absurdity that’s mostly on display. The film looks fine on Blu; extras include deleted scenes and a making-of featurette.

Outlaw Gangster VIP—The Complete Collection
Another shining example of Arrow’s growing hi-def collection of films that have been either neglected or simply ignored, this set of the six films in the Outlaw Gangster series—fast-paced, trashily entertaining Japanese gangster flicks churned out starting in 1968, and begun by director Toshio Masuda and star Tetsuya Watari—is the latest gem of a release. The movies themselves are mainly disposable but sturdy entertainments; the hi-def transfers of all six features are stellar; and the extras include a commentary, visual essay and 42-page booklet.

The Stuff
The Zero Boys
These wacky, grisly mid-80s horror flicks have been brought back from obscurity for whoever wants them. The Stuff, a 1985 entry by Larry Cohen (best known for It’s Alive), is a risibly silly chiller about a new dessert that turns its eaters into…well, something. There’s a surprising then-name cast involved, including Andrea Marcovicci, Michael Moriarty, Paul Sorvino, Garrett Morris and Danny Aiello, while the premise is just whacked-out enough to keep one watching. As for The Zero Boys, Nico Mastorakis’ 1986 slasher entry, neither the deer-in-the-headlights performers nor the less-than-clever ways that people are killed off help matters, while one of Hans Zimmer’s earliest (and synth-laden) scores is only a temporary reprieve. The hi-def transfers are decent enough; extras include intros, interviews and audio commentaries.

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