It's an odd movie week, as Nicolas Cage, a serial killer, and elves are the stars on the home video front.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Nicolas Cage delivers "a completely absurd performance" in Werner Herzog's film, according to our own Eugene Novikov. "The movie itself is a hilarious genre pastiche that too frequently winks to let us know how aware it is of its own unseriousness." Sounds like a blast! Rent it.
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Sneaking into theaters last summer, the directing debut of Marcus Dunstan pulled no punches for horror fans, offering up a grisly, bloody spectacle. As Jette Kernion wrote in her review for Cinematical: "It goes straight for the shocks." A man in trouble decides to rob the house of a family away on vacation, only to encounter a fiendish foe bent on torture, murder, and traps without end. Rent it.
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The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (Theatrical Editions)
Finally on Blu-ray, but why would any devoted Ring-o-phile want the theatrical editions only? If you must have your fix now, get out your credit cards. Look for a detailed review to be published right here at Cinematical to help the less committed decide, but for my money, it's a rental. Fans, though, have probably already pre-ordered. Rent it.
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After the jump: mind your Beeswax, animated Rings, and Hammer suspense.
Andrew Bujalski made a scruffy little indie called Funny Ha Ha that has a breezy, lo-fi charm. His follow-up, Mutual Appreciation, felt somewhat forced to me, a quality that is absent from his third film, Beeswax. Instead, the characters simply live their lives and the camera follows along on they exist, day by day.
That may sound exceedingly dry, but it's not. The whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Two sisters play sisters: Jeannie (Tilly Hatcher) and Lauren (Maggie Hatcher) deal with friends, work issues, romance, and their own relationship.
Cinematical's Jette Kernion observed: "Beeswax is a movie where the smallest details tell the story, with no need for a lot of background observation or context. ... Bujalski seems to be working to make his film as natural as possible, as if we were peeking in on real people from the window." It's a marvelous achievement.
Also out: Taxidermia, Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love.
The Natural: Director's Cut
Robert Redford leads an all-star cast in this highly Hollywood-ized version of Bernard Malamud's novel. For baseball fans, it's a glorious way to celebrate the opening of the 2010 season; for movie purists, it's a lot of corn to swallow, as director Barry Levinson paints with very broad strokes and ladles on the sentimentality freely.
Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley, and Barbara Hershey provide support, but it's Redford's aging pretty boy performance that nearly redeems the whole thing. That, and Randy Newman's deceptively simply score.
As for Levinson's "director's cut," this appears to be the same one that first appeared on DVD in 2007, adding 20 minutes or so of material, mostly to the set-up of Redford as Roy Hobbs, and deleting material throughout, so that the running time is only six minutes or so longer than the theatrical version.
The Lord of the Rings (1978)
Ralph Bakshi ambitiously took on the trilogy -- or at least the first half -- and emerged entirely scathed. All I can remember is entering the theater more than 30 years ago with very high hopes, and quickly becoming bored as the story dragged on and on. Bakshi's state of the art rotoscoping (tracing over live-action footage) was off-putting and, instead of livening up the ancient tale, made it seem irrelevant to the animation. If nothing else, the Blu-ray edition should, it is hoped, make the animation look better than ever.
Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films
Joseph Losey's These Are the Damned leads the six-film collection, released on three discs by Sony Pictures. As explained by Dave Kehr at The New York Times, it's a "slippery, unsettling blend of social commentary and science-fiction."
The film was released, both in the UK and in the US, in severely-cut editions, and is now presented uncut at its original length of 95 minutes. Read Kehr's column for more insightful comments.