Crank: High Voltage (Two-Disc Special Edition)
With Gamer out in theaters, the mini-debate about Neveldine and Taylor -- mad geniuses of action cinema or destroyers of all that is visually coherent? -- can continue. Never-say-die Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) comes roaring back to life for another adrenaline-fueled adventure, accompanied once again by the very game Amy Smart. It's the only new mainstream film out on DVD today, so be prepared to fight like a dead man if you want to rent a copy at your local shop. Also on Blu-ray. Rent it.
Valentino: The Last Emperor
Why not try something a little more refined, a little more elegant, a little more ... Valentino? The legendary fashion designer himself is showcased in Matt Tymauer's doc, and by all accounts he's a charismatic, charming personality. In other words, no need to fear if you feign little interest in fashion; the film is more interested in listening to Valentino talk than in delineating the vagaries of changing styles, which may help explain why it became a box office success. Also on Blu-ray. Rent it.
The Quick and the Dead
Sharon Stone got the lion's share of the attention during the film's original 1995 release, but her star billing could not eclipse the burning talents of young Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, not to mention the villainous Gene Hackman and the incredible supporting cast, including Gary Sinise, Pat Hingle, Lance Henriksen, Keith David, and Tobin Bell (the future Jigsaw). It all hangs on the ferocious, audacious direction by Sam Raimi. New on Blu-ray. Buy it.
Indies on DVD, more Blu-ray picks, and Collector's Corner -- all after the jump!p>
Set in a Mennonite community in Northern Mexico, Carlos Reygadas' film explores what happens when a married man is tempted to fall in love with another woman. It divided critics when it debuted at Cannes in 2007, but the supporters seem to outweigh the naysayers. "One after another, Reygadas' long, slow ultra-wide shots, occasionally sprinkled with psychedelic lens flares, took my breath away," wrote Karina Longworth at Spout. "It's more like watching grass grow than paint dry, but either way, it's undoubtedly a film that rewards a certain viewing temperament."
Also set in an isolated community in Mexico, Alex Rivera's film differs radically in its time period and approach. Sleep Dealer is "a captivating thriller that transcends its budgetary limitations to create a wholly convincing vision of the future," declared Michael Tully at Hammer to Nail. "An exhilarating and entertaining work of science fiction ... [that] is also trying to say something about where we're heading and why we need to keep things in check."
The Country Teacher
A third film set in a small village, but this time thousands of miles away in the Czech Republic, as a school teacher from Prague takes up a new job, hoping to heal from a recently-broken heart. "Czech writer-director Bohdan Sláma's ... explores a basic situation with such insight into the human heart," observed Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times, "that it becomes an instance of a small, intimate film that quietly develops an emotional impact of unexpected power."
Requiem for a Dream
Darren Aronofsky's dark nightmare about drug addiction is, on one level, exceedingly disturbing to watch; on another, it's fascinating to see how far the director and his talented cast -- Jennifer Connelly, Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans -- are willing to go in their attempts to cast new light on a subject that had become a bit musty by 2000, the time of its original release.
I'm not sure they succeeded entirely, but, frankly, I'm also not eager to watch it again. Some movies are more an endurance test than anything else, and Requiem falls into that category. The Wrestler felt pretty upbeat, by comparison. It's not even so much about the slow pace as it is the brutal subject matter, at least for me.
I have no such qualms about Lawrence Kasdan's post-modern Western, with its anachronistic casting (John Cleese as a Sheriff?) and rousing pace. Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover, and Kevin Costner make for very appealing cowboys, with Brian Dennehy properly menacing as another authority figure, as well as Jeff Goldblum and Jeff Fahey lurking in the background. Too bad Rosanna Arquette was so underused.
Phillip Noyce's terrific thriller eased his entry into Hollywood and introduced the world to Nicole Kidman as the young wife of Sam Neill. Recovering from an automobile accident that took the life of their infant child, the couple is trying to sail away their troubles when they encounter Billy Zane. True, Zane is such an obvious bad guy that he might as well be twirling his (non-existent) mustache, but the film strikes like lightning, and Kidman's fresh-faced ingenue adds a welcome dollop of sexuality to the proceedings.
The New World (The Extended Cut)
Terence Malick's epic sparked many animated critical discussions about its relative merits. Personally, it never caught fire for me. In the few films that he's directed, Malick has been slowly but steadily moving away from narrative conventions into a whole 'nother realm, approaching his own version of cinematic poetry. So you have to be in the right mood -- and be wide awake -- to fully appreciate what he's doing. All of which to say: I need to give this film a few more watches.
Also out and recommended: Creepshow, Freddy vs. Jason, Friday, Menace II Society.
Also out and not recommended: Catwoman, Dance Flick, Over the Top, The Postman, Sphere.
Love & Pain & The Whole Damn Thing (1973, d. Alan J. Pakula)
Model Shop (1969, d. Jacques Demy)
The Pursuit of Happiness (1971, d. Robert Mulligan)
The Buttercup Chain (1970, d. Robert Ellis Miller)
Summertree (1971, d. Anthony Newley)
Sony Pictures releases a handful of early 70s flicks that are redolent of the era, though they sound more like remnant of a late 60s hangover.
The Human Condition
That Hamilton Woman
Three new releases from The Criterion Collection, ranging from David Mamet's 1991 dramatics with Joe Mantegna and William H. Macy to Masaki Kobayashi's nine-hour 1961 humanist epic to Alexander Korda's tragic 1941 romance starring Vivian Leigh and Laurence Olivier.
Universal Horror: Classic Movie Archive
The Black Cat (1941)
Man Made Monster (1941)
Horror Island (1941)
Night Monster (1942)
Captive Wild Women (1943)
Five-disc box set; none of the films has been previously released on DVD. Note: Will be released next Sunday, September 13.