Tuesday, July 5, 2016

July '16 Digital Week I

Blu-rays of the Week 
Back in the Day
This inept mash-up of Rocky and Goodfellas takes the measure of a boxer from the streets who avenges the deaths of his mom and best friend both on those responsible and those he meets in the ring. Despite a few accomplished actors—Alec Baldwin and Annabella Sciorra, both wasted—Paul Borghese’s amateurish film, based on William DeMeo’s rudimentary script, is populated by a bunch of negligible  performers who seem to be reading their lines phonetically (especially Mike Tyson in a risible cameo appearance). The film looks decent on Blu.

Blood and Black Lace
Mario Bava’s lively 1964 giallo, which concerns several comely models who get their comeuppance by a killer with a white stocking over his head, is foolish in the extreme, but also moves quickly without dawdling over the usual inconsistencies that are often fatal to the genre. American actor Cameron Mitchell seems out of place, but that’s a minor quibble in the scheme of things. Arrow’s new hi-def transfer is excellent; extras include a documentary on the film, Blood Analysis; commentary by Bava’s biographer Tim Lucas; interviews; alternative opening titles; and The Sinister Image: Cameron Mitchell, an episode of a 1987 TV profile series.

Hollywood in Vienna—The World of James Horner 
(Varese Sarabande)
Honoring Hollywood composer James Horner in 2013—two years before his untimely death—this concert at the Austrian capital’s famed Konzerthaus plows through several of his greatest hits, from his scores for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (which sounds suspiciously like Prokofiev) and Aliens to Braveheart and Avatar. There are also smash songs like Titanic’s “My Heart Will Go On”—sung here by Ildiko Raimondi, while Deborah Cox dazzles in her own vocal performances—and everything is played with verve by the ORF Radio-Symphony Orchestra under David Newman’s baton. The hi-def video and audio are terrific; extras comprise a Horner symposium and short featurette.

Ray Harryhausen—Special Effects Titan
In 2013, the FX genius Ray Harryhausen died, leaving such a monumental legacy among so many top Hollywood directors that it’s amazing to hear that he was never nominated for, let alone win, an Oscar for his innovative stop-motion effects work. But, as this 2011 documentary makes clear through interviews with everyone from Spielberg and Cameron to Landis and del Toro (along with their own visual effects wizards), his legend lives on, not only in groundbreaking films from Mighty Joe Young (1949) to Clash of the Titans (1981), but in his singular way of working outside the Hollywood system. Extras include additional interviews, deleted scenes, Q&As and an audio commentary.

DVDs of the Week 
All-American Bikini Car Wash
When a movie has this title, what you see is what you get: a parade of scantily-clad young women in various stages of wetness while they wash cars. It’s mindless but harmless, unless you count the bare breasts, but even that seems less hypocritical than dutiful. The performances are non-existent, and there’s little going on, but you could do worse looking for escapist fare that harkens back to the heyday of mid-70s drive-in fodder. Extras are a commentary by actress/2015 Miss Asia USA Ashley Park; a gag reel and featurettes.

Elstree 1976
The ultimate in Star Wars fanboyism, Jon Spira’s documentary comprises interviews with people who were extras or had bit parts in the original 1977 George Lucas classic—some, like David Prowse, who played Darth Vader (but didn’t voice him, as Prowse explains in a funny aside), had careers before and after—and elicits observations on the shoot, acclaim and legacy. There are almost too many talking heads (my eyes glazed over halfway through the 100-minute running time), but there are interesting anecdotes galore; of course, your mileage may vary if you are—or aren’t—a huge fan of the films.

The Family Fang 
(Starz/Anchor Bay)
In this probing broken-family drama, Jason Bateman and Nicole Kidman play the grown offspring of performance-artist parents—played with gleeful relish by Maryann Plunkett and Christopher Walken—whose disappearance might be their most infamous stunt or the real (and fatal) thing. Although director Bateman displays an uncertain tone covering such wide emotional and chronological territory, the well-tuned performances help navigate the film’s troubled and unsettling waters. The lone extra is Bateman’s commentary.

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