Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox run for their lives as Michael Bay's giant robots trample onto the home video scene on DVD (single-disc or two-disc special edition) and Blu-ray (two-disc special edition). The special editions includes audio commentary by Bay and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, deleted / alternate scenes, a music video, and additional features, such as "A Day With Bay: Tokyo," "Giant Effing Movie," and "The Matrix of Marketing." To approximate the theatrical experience, play really, really loud, and sit as far back from the screen as you possibly can. Resistance is futile. Rent it.
Blood: The Last Vampire
Chris Nahon's live-action adaptation of an anime series features a half-human, half-vampire samurai battling an infestation of demons. "the result is so laughably awful that it easily qualifies for so-bad-it's-good status," wrote Jeffrey M. Anderson. "As you may expect, the English-language dialogue is ultra-serious and absurd, the action is inept and shaky, and the visual effects look like they might have been generated on an old Atari video game." Also on Blu-ray. Skip it.
Michelle Pfeiffer's reunites with her Dangerous Liaisons director (Stephen Frears) and scripter (Christopher Hampton) for a movie based on a novel by French writer Colette about a passionate affair. "For some reason," Jeffrey M. Anderson wrote, "Chéri is dead on arrival, a cold fish. It just lies there, too lethargic to be funny and too timid to be sexy, but not deep enough for any real drama." Skip it.
They Killed Sister Dorothy
An electrifying documentary that examines the aftermath of the murder of Sister Dorothy Stang, "a Catholic nun and environmental and social activist [who was] gunned down in the Brazilian rainforest in which she had lived and worked for over 30 years."
Kim Voynar wrote in her review: "This isn't a purely objective film. It's clear from the outset on which side of the controversy around Sister Dorothy's death the filmmakers' sentiments lie ... At its heart, this is really a story about the wealthy versus the poor, and about an activist trying to protect a natural resource from those who would destroy it for profit." I completely agree -- this is a terrific, heartbreaking story. Directed by Daniel Junge. Rent it.
"More or less a collection of music videos," says Jeffrey M. Anderson, "all performed in the Portuguese fado style. The music is very sentimental, passionate and sad, very often about poverty and lost loves." Director Carlos Saura "starts out with a brief history and description of fado, but then shuts up and lets the music speak for itself ... I was enthralled and quite moved. It's amazing how the segments form a kind of emotional throughline, despite all the different styles, settings and faces." Rent it.
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We could talk about the cultural significance of this classic 1969 road movie, the flick that's often credited with kick-starting the revolutionary (and far too brief) period when Old Hollywood studios opened up to the New Hollywood, but it's far more fun to concentrate on the groovy atmosphere and luxuriate in the heady mix of concrete highways and grassy highs.
For the uninitiated, producer Peter Fonda and director Dennis Hopper star as two hippies on motorcycles that travel across America in search of drugs and the meaning of life. Jack Nicholson become a star with his performance as a straight guy who gets stoned out of his gourd around a campfire.
As to the Blu-ray, "it felt like a theatrical viewing and the audio quality of the music had me pump the volume," according to Gary Tooze at DVD Beaver. "For those who are as big a fan of this film as I -- the 1080P viewing was beautifully grainy with bright colors -- a wonderful treat to revisit Easy Rider this way -- and in my own home no less! This is definitely far superior to the last DVD I watched -- light years ahead actually." No new supplemental features, though.
Boo! The extended edition, released on DVD last year, is not included. Kevin Costner stars as an unhappy mariner in a future covered with water. Dennis Hopper, 26 years after Easy Rider, plays the bad guy. I paid to see this in theaters and was left completely indifferent, but some positive notices about the extended edition got my curiosity up. I might pick that up now rather than this Blu-ray.
Long before she started making starry biopics like Amelia, Mira Nair made this light-hearted and romantic comedy / drama that features more clashes between cultures and families than most any other wedding-day movie. Gary Tooze at DVD Beaver points out that the film was made with Super-16mm equipment. Having that in mind -- this ain't no Transformers -- "the Blu-ray gives a superior representation of the theatrical intent of the film's appearance. It's clean, gritty with vibrant, impressive, colors." The Criterion Collection edition includes an audio commentary by Nair and seven of her short films.
The William Castle Film Collection (13 Frightened Girls / 13 Ghosts / Homicidal / Strait-Jacket / The Old Dark House / Mr. Sardonicus / The Tingler / Zotz!)
"William Castle the filmmaker was at best a prolific schlockmeister, a B-movie journeyman with a flair for enjoyably cheesy knock-offs," opines Dennis Lim in Los Angeles Times. "But William Castle the promoter was some kind of genius, a lo-fi forefather of the modern blockbuster who understood that the best way to sell a movie was to turn it into an event."
Schlock they may be, but appreciated with the right spirit -- and preferably an adult beverage or two of your choice -- these flicks are a riot. The collection includes eight films by Castle plus Jeffrey Schwarz' excellent documentary on the man and the myth, Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story.
Also out: Live at the Isle of Wight -- Oscar winning music documentarian Murray Lerner is back with more footage from 1970's Isle of Wight festival. First it was The Who, and now: Leonard Cohen. Disc includes CD and DVD of the performance.