The Adderall Diaries
The Green Room
Stephen Elliott’s book The Adderall Diaries makes a bumpy transition to film: novice writer-director Pamela Romanowsky can’t balance the varied strands of her protagonist’s life—abusive childhood, difficult adulthood, creative block—with James Franco, Amber Heard, Ed Harris, Cynthia Nixon and Christian Slater left adrift as a result. The effective claustrophobic thriller Green Room is too single-minded to transcend its genre: no one cares who lives or dies among those at a remote Oregon rock club. The killings—bludgeonings, shootings, slicing-and-dicings and pit-bull maulings—become numbing after awhile, and writer-director Jeremy Saulnier badly errs with one of the lamest final dialogue exchanges ever. Both films have first-rate hi-def transfers; Adderall extras are deleted scenes, making-of featurette and Romanowsky’s commentary, and Room extras are Saulnier’s commentary and making-of featurette.
Slasher—Complete 1st Season
If originality means little, then enjoy this derivative but creepy Canadian horror series (shown on the Chiller network), which begins with the ultraviolent murders of a husband and his pregnant wife by a hooded Halloween hoodlum, then jumps ahead to follow their grown daughter who—and why not?—moves into the house where they were killed. Of course it’s completely absurd, but the ongoing series of murders soon takes on a Seven vibe that’s enough to keep it on track. The visuals look quite good on Blu; lone extra is an on-set featurette.
Writer-director duo David Siegel and Scott McGehee’s 1993 debut is a snail’s-paced, self-satisfied homage to/rip-off of superior movies about paranoia and identity like The Manchurian Candidate and The Face of Another. Despite professional actors like Dennis Haysbert and Mel Harris and Greg Gardiner’s tangy B&W photography, the overall vibe is of an efficient amateurishness. It does look authentically grainy on Blu; extras comprise directors’ commentary with fan Steven Soderbergh, new making-of featurette, deleted scenes and the duo’s first short, Birds Past.
The Swinging Cheerleaders
Jack Hill’s 1974 softcore drive-in movie gets the T&A part right, thanks to a trio of gregarious leads: Rainbeaux Smith, Colleen Camp and Rosanne Katon before becoming a Playboy Playmate, which makes the stiffly acted story of uncovered campus corruption on the gridiron expendable. The film has been nicely restored in hi-def; extras comprise a new Hill commentary and interview, 2012 post-screening Q&A with Camp, Katon and Hill, and additional archival interviews.
Lumbering for 135 minutes, this 1964 adaptation of the Broadway musical by the man behind the classic The Music Man falters in nearly every way; even Debbie Reynolds’ portrait of a woman who is never beaten down is outsized and generic at the same time, despite a Best Actress Oscar nomination. Meredith Willson’s songs are as forgettably similar as his Music Man tunes were true classics; at least director Charles Walters uses the beautiful Colorado scenery to good effect. The film (shot in Panavision) looks terrific on Blu; lone extra is a featurette.
(Cohen Film Collection)
In Maurice Pialat’s superlative 1991 biopic, actor Jacques Dutronc is mesmerizingly understated as the Dutch painter living out his final days in obscurity and mental instability in northwestern France. Pialat displays with utmost artistry and no artifice the uniqueness of artistic creation; one of Pialat’s greatest films, this masterpiece will haunt the viewer for days afterward. The film’s incredibly rich colors and shadings are preserved on Blu; voluminous extras comprise interviews and over an hour’s worth of deleted scenes, although inexplicably missing are Pialat’s early Van Gogh short and an interview with Pialat himself (both included on the superior European release).
My Golden Days
French director Arnaud Desplechin’s captivating and complex comic drama is a two-hour memory piece about the main character of his 1996 masterpiece My Sex Life (or How I Got into an Argument) and his adventures as a young man. It feels, if anything, too short: to breathe more, it needs another 30 minutes or so to flesh out every characterization, relationship, storyline. Still, this wonderfully, generously Dickensian view of life in all its permutations has energy, insight, and the unbeatable Mathieu Amalric at his harried best. So why isn’t this often-dazzling, visually stimulating film on Blu-ray? Extras comprise a Desplechin interview, casting session and featurette on the actors.
The Preppie Connection
Dramatizing the true story of a group of affluent college students who rely on a working-class interloper to smuggle cocaine directly from Colombia for their parties during the greed-is-good Reagan ‘80s, director/co-writer Joseph Castelo has fashioned an interesting cautionary tale of excess and privilege that remains relevant today. Thomas Mann is a mite obvious as the local preppie who doubles as the buyer, while Lucy Fry convincingly plays the unattainable beauty who falls for him. Extras are commentaries by Mann and Castelo and behind the scenes featurette.
The Next Big Thing
(Icarus)Marjoleine Boonstra’s Silence succinctly recounts the career and art of Mark Rothko through interviews with experts, glimpses at his monumental paintings and works that influenced him, and even the appearance of his son Christopher, who reads from his father’s own writings about art. Frank van den Engel’s Next Big Thing amusingly (and sometimes bemusedly) shows how the contemporary art scene has become entirely cost-driven, with ultra-rich collectors making sure that, when they pony up millions of dollars for artworks, it’s worth it to their bottom line.