Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
Devastating, haunting, infuriating, and shamelessly manipulative: Kurt Kuenne's film about his murdered friend Andrew Bagby is all of those things and more. Erik Davis described it as "a film that will rock you to your core. You will cry. You will hurt -- and the flick will sit with you for days, weeks, months. But you will come away believing in people." After the film aired on MSNBC in December, we received dozens of comments, to which director Kuenne responded with appreciation. The DVD includes deleted scenes and additional footage as well as other extra features. Buy it.
The Haunting of Molly Hartley
Mickey Liddell's would-be horror flick is not, in fact, haunting; most often it's simply a series of regurgitated SHOCK cuts accompanied by LOUD music cues. Eric D. Snider called it a "lame, tame psychological thriller ... I've read fortune cookies that were scarier, not to mention smarter and more interesting." Skip it.
A teen comedy featuring a Mexican donut. "It's like The Sure Thing crossed with Road Trip" and five or six other movies, according to William Goss. "Is this the best modern teen comedies have to offer? A Mexican donut costume?" Skip it.
Also out: Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder.
After the jump: Indies on DVD and Collector's Corner. Plus: Is William Friedkin's rejiggered view of The French Connection on Blu-ray an artistic leap forward or a desecration of a classic?
The Whole Shootin' Match
Recently restored, the film played the festival circuit last year, garnering nothing but praise as a prime example of independent, 'regional' filmmaking. "If you haven't met Frank and Lloyd before, well, they are very much worth knowing, and a long-awaited three-disc DVD presentation of the film itself, along with a wealth of background about its makers and its making, from Watchmaker Films presents a splendid way to do so," writes Glenn Kenny at The Auteurs about Eagle Pennell's 1978 film, which "impressed Robert Redford sufficiently that it inspired him to found the Sundance Institute." The DVD extras "provide a sad and sometimes harrowing picture of how alcoholism first destroyed Pennell's work, and then Pennell."
Also out: What Just Happened, The FTA, Chris & Don: A Love Story, Red Sands, Strictly Sexual, Epitaph, Protege.
The French Connection
William Friedkin's terse, documentary-style 1971 police drama provided a street-level view of New York City detectives chasing down a drug connection from France. The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Friedkin), and Best Actor (Gene Hackman). For the Blu-ray release, Friedkin "has devised a different color palette," says Dave Kehr in the New York Times, "inspired by experimental work the cinematographer Oswald Morris had performed on John Huston's 1956 Moby Dick. The color now appears to be brushed on to what is essentially a high-grain, black-and-white image, giving the film a raw, chilly look."
Not everyone is impressed. Jeff Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere reported on early negative reactions and then pointed to rcomments by restoration expert Robert Harris: "Personally, I like what Mr. Friedkin has done with the film ... what one is seeing in this Blu-ray incarnation, is no longer the Best Picture of 1971. It is a re-vision." So if you're contemplating a purchase, be aware.
Also out: Akira (more by Dave Kehr); Vanishing Point (more by Glen Kenny); French Connection 2; Zulu; The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (more from Mondo Digital); Friday the 13th Part 2; John Carpenter's The Fog.
The Last House on the Left
"To avoid fainting, keep repeating 'It's only a movie...It's only a movie...'" Here's a case where a movie actually lives up to its infamous tagline. Directed by Wes Craven, produced by Sean Cunningham, and starring David Hess as an escaped criminal and leader of a family of deeply disturbing creeps, The Last House on the Left remains as unsettling and unpleasant as ever. Former college professor Craven freely credits Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring as an influence on this sordid tale of teenage girls, vengeful parents, and the aforementioned, disturbingly creepy criminals.
The 2002 version featured extensive extras. Metrodome's Region 2 three-disc release last fall apppeared to have even more extras. The new, bargain-priced special edition reportedly includes three new featurettes and some previously unseen footage.
Also out: Dario Argento's Four Flies on Grey Velvet, Ironweed.