Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October '16 Digital Week I

Blu-rays of the Week 
Banshee—Complete 4th Season
The final season of this ultraviolent crime drama doesn’t really pick up steam until the fourth episode, when Eliza Dishku appears as a stiletto-heeled, skin-tight clothes-wearing, sexy and crude FBI agent and wreaks havoc over everyone. The series itself ends more with a whimper than a bang, which is too bad. The hi-def image is exceptionally good; extras include audio commentaries, deleted scenes, episode recaps, Banshee Origins featurette, Zoomed In Eps 1– 8 on-set featurette and cast retrospectives.

Classic Albums: Beach Boys—Pet Sounds
Scorpions—Live in Munich 2012
(Eagle Rock)
For the latest Classic Albums, the Beach Boys’—mostly Brian Wilson’s—masterpiece Pet Sounds is dissected, spotlighting the artistry that went into making one of the era’s bona fide masterpieces 50 years after its release; the songs and their glistening are closely analyzed by Wilson himself, other band members and critics. For its Live in Munich 2012, German hard-rockers the Scorpions—with singer Klaus Meine and the twin-guitar attack of Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs in tow—blast through nearly two hours of hits, including sizzling versions of classic rockers “The Zoo,” “Winds of Change” and “No One Like You.” Both discs have superior hi-def video and audio; Pet Sounds’ extras are 30 minutes of more interviews.

Based on a Stephen King novel which I have not read (no surprise), this strained sci-fi thriller drops hero John Cusack into a world where those with wireless devices are transformed into frothing, flesh-eating zombies—which is mostly everybody. Director Tod Williams doesn’t do much but turn this into a Walking Dead riff with a few nice touches; Cusack, Stacy Keach and Sam Jackson keep their dignity while going about the motions starring in a routine thriller. The film looks great on Blu; extras comprise a director’s commentary and a making-of featurette.

(Harmonia Mundi)
Jean-Philippe Rameau’s baroque opera, in a stylishly lush 2015 production by director Michel Fau at France’s Opera National de Bordeaux, has lots of room for dramatic singing, and doing their vocal work best of all are Karina Gauvin, Gaelle Arquez and Florian Sempey. Conductor Raphael Pichon leads a worthy account of the Rameau’s score, and this three-hour epic concludes with a dancing ensemble showcasing Christopher Williams’ vivid choreography. On Blu-ray, the lustrous staging is eye-popping, and the music has added bite in hi-def audio. Lone extra is 20-minute behind-the scenes featurette. (A DVD of the opera is also included.)

Kamikaze ‘89 
(Film Movement)
In his final film role, Reiner Werner Fassbinder plays a grizzled detective in Wolf Gremm’s 1982 crime drama, set in the then near-future about several bombings that may be part of a vast conspiracy. The film—which has a scattering of decent ideas that are blotted out by its plethora of influences, beginning with Fassbinder’s own work—has an excellent hi-def transfer; extras, the most interesting part of this release, include an hour-long documentary, Fassbinder—the Last Year, Gremm’s video memoir A Wolf at the Door (which is on an included DVD), producer Regina Ziegler’s commentary and John Cassavetes’ radio spots.

A Scandal in Paris/Lured
(Cohen Film Collection)
Two early films by Douglas Sirk—who would make his name with intensely melodramatic 1950s soap operas—star British actor George Sanders. The first, 1946’s Scandal, is a tame drama with Sanders as a suave thief who climbs the ladder of high society in 19th century Gay Paree; the flimsy script is helped by Sirk’s solid directing. 1947’s Lured is more entertaining, a moody mystery about a serial killer who targets lovely young women, with Lucille Ball the lady who lays a trap for the murderer, and with Sanders, Charles Coburn and Boris Karloff giving juicy support. Both films are beautifully restored; extras comprise audio commentaries.

DVDs of the Week 
City of Gold
(Sundance Selects)
The adventures of Jonathan Gold, renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic based in Los Angeles, are recounted in this fresh, funny documentary that displays Gold’s defense of L.A. as anything but a cultural wasteland—at least where good food is concerned. His travels throughout the city belie any sense of it being too sprawling for its own good: Gold passionately shows how the amazing profusion of different cuisines in this vast area can coexist and even thrive.

The Seventh Fire
Take Me to the River
(Film Movement)
Jack Pettibone Riccobono’s doc The Seventh Fire, about a Native American teen and the fallout of his tribe’s violent drug culture, counts among its executive producers Terrence Malick and Natalie Portman; moments of precise observation throughout clash with a certain visual imitation. Take Me to the River’s superb performances (by Logan Miller and Robin Weigert) give director Matt Sobel’s look at a gay teen dealing with his family after he’s suspected of molesting his young female cousin its sobering intelligence. Fire extras are deleted scenes and two shorts; River extras are Sobel, Miller and Weigert’s commentary, with Miller and Weigert interviews.

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