DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
Good filmmaking, like all good storytelling, revolves around a set of themes as old as time: Among them the loss of innocence, revenge, triumph over adversity, love conquers all, good wins out over evil and humans vs. nature. If you add to the latter entry “dinosaurs eating humans,” you’ve got the reason that “Jurassic World” crushed opening-weekend boxoffice records, scoring the highest domestic, international and worldwide openings of all time. The film has taken in more than $1.6 billion globally to become the third-highest grossing U.S. and fourth-highest grossing worldwide film in history. The story is simple and predictable: 22 years after the abortive opening of Jurassic Park, an even bigger and enormously popular attraction has taken its place: Jurassic World. But there’s trouble afoot. To keep attendance high, a new dinosaur –a genetically modified hybrid, the Indominus Rex — is introduced to the park. Little do the operators know that the military has a hand in the new species, and soon Indominus Rex gets out of its paddock to wreck havoc on the island. There’s the regular cast of stereotypes to move the plot along — a pair of oblivious kids on vacation (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson); the park’s ethical ex-military expert in animal behavior, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt); Jurassic World’s driven careerist, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who famously runs from the leapin’ lizards in high heel shoes; the nasty ex-military head of security, Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), who has an ulterior motive for hunting down Indominus Rex; and Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong), an evil scientist who created the monster. And there’s all the usual set pieces: dinos chasing cars, dinos on human killing sprees, dinos killing dinos, dinos eating the military, etc, etc. But it works. “Jurassic World” is a great fun thrill ride that — despite the fact you know who’s gonna live and who’s gonna die — keeps you on the edge of your seat. My heart was pumping. Enjoy.
“Z for Zachariah” (2015) is a post-apocalyptic tale set in a rural valley in West Virginia untouched by an un-named nuclear war that has destroyed virtually the entire world. A young woman (Margot Robbie) survives on her own in a surprisingly clean and pristine environment (without electricity), fearing she may actually be the proverbial last woman on Earth — until a middle-aged, distraught scientist (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who’s nearly been driven mad by radiation exposure and his desperate search for others, enters the valley. Together they build a tenuous relationship, almost ready to be a new Adam and Eve, until another, younger man enters their paradise, causing things to slowly go awry. Director Craig Zobel (2012’s “Compliance”) slowly but surely builds up this moody character study that ends, not surprisingly, as muted as the rest of the film. It’s compelling and moving and gives its three talented stars plenty of room to fill out their characters. The source material for the film — Robert C. O’Brien’s posthumous 1974 novel — had only two characters, and Zobel’s addition of a third brought to mind 1959’s “The World, the Flesh and the Devil,” which starred Harry Belafonte, Inger Stevens and Mel Ferrer, and which “Zachariah” resembles in too many ways — if this was a song, you’d call it a remix. Still, if you’re in a contemplative mood and want good storytelling and acting, check it out. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate.
“The Wolfpack” is a fascinating documentary about a family who — out of fear — homeschooled and raised their seven children in the confinement of their apartment in the Lower East Side of New York City. The film, directed by Crystal Moselle, premiered on January 25, 2015 at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize. Locked away from society for 14 years — with only infrequent outings outside — the Angulo brothers learn about the world through movies on TV and DVD. To escape their isolation and loneliness, the brothers act out their favorite films by creating word-for-word and scene-for scene scripts, using elaborate homemade props and costumes. The movies give meaning to their lives — and prepare them for the eventual day when they leave their isolation. Director Crystal Moselle — who encountered the boys, known as The Wolfpack on the streets of the Lower East Side — was allowed unprecedented access into their world and their vast archive of home movies. She’s created a fascinating — if flawed — portrait of an extraordinary family, capturing the thrill of the Wolfpack’s discoveries without skirting the darker questions of emotional abuse and confinement. The film is a wonder because it shows how movies saved these boys’ lives — and flawed because of its repetition and disorganization. And, at times, we weren’t quite sure whether Moselle was using her camera as verite — or if the boys were playing to her camera. Still, an amazing journey. On DVD and Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since Robert Zemeckis unleashed Marty McFly, Doc Brown and a time-traveling DeLorean on an unsuspecting movie-going public — but the folks at Universal haven’t lost track of time. To celebrate the anniversary, the studio has released the “Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy” that includes all three movies (“Back to the Future,” the innovative “Back to the Future Part II” and the humdrum “Back to the Future Part III”) plus a new bonus disc with more than two hours of content, on both DVD and Blu-ray. There’s plenty of great extras: New original shorts including “Doc Brown Saves the World!” starring Christopher Lloyd; “OUTATIME: Restoring the DeLorean,” an inside look at the 2012 restoration of one of the most iconic cars in film history; “Looking Back to the Future,” a nine-part retrospective documentary from 2009 on the trilogy’s legacy; “Back to the Future: The Animated Series,” two episodes (“Brothers” and “Mac the Black”) from the 1991 series featuring live action segments with Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown’ “Tales from the Future” six-part documentary; “The Physics of Back to the Future”; deleted scenes; Michael J. Fox Q&A; eight archival featurettes; behind the scenes footage; music videos; audio commentaries; “Back to the Future: The Ride.” By the way, Wednesday is the famed October 21, 2015 from “Back to the Future Part II.”
From The Criterion Collection comes DVD and Blu-ray editions of “Kwaidan” (1965), director Masaki Kobayashi’s rapturously stylized quartet of ghost stories. Featuring colorfully surreal sets and luminous cinematography, these haunting tales of demonic comeuppance and spiritual trials, adapted from writer Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folklore, are existentially frightening and meticulously crafted. Kobayashi, known for his political dramas, earned a Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar nomination. This version of “Kwaidan” is the original three-hour cut, never before released in the United States, in a new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include an interview from 1993 with Kobayashi, conducted by filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda; a new piece about author Lafcadio Hearn; an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien, and more.
More classics: “A Bucket of Blood,” Roger Corman’s 1959 hip tour-de-force, makes its Blu-ray debut this week. “Like wow, Man,” Corman’s “Bucket of Blood” is a darkly comic satire with a beatnik culture backdrop. The film — produced on a $50,000 budget, shot in five days and sharing many of the low-budget filmmaking aesthetics for which Corman’s work is known – stars Corman staple Dick Miller as a dimwitted, impressionable young busboy at a Bohemian café in southern California who is inspired by a beatnik artist’s performance to try his hand at sculpture. While working, he accidentally kills his landlady’s cat and, in desperation, covers its body in clay to hide the evidence. When the suspiciously life-like figure earns him a reputation as a brilliant sculptor, he is pressured to create similar works … and his muse becomes murder. An under-rated classic. From The Film Detective … also from (The Film Detective is the Blu-ray debut of “The Bat” (1959), starring Agnes Moorehead, Vincent Price, John Sutton, Lenita Lane. Mystery writer Cornelia van Gorder (Moorehead) resides in a town terrorized by a mysterious murderer known only as “The Bat,” said to be a man with no face who kills women at night by ripping out their throats with steel claws. Breaking into Cornelia’s countryside home one night, he releases an actual bat, which bites her maid Lizzy, sending her into a panic that she has caught “the rabies.” Cornelia calls her doctor, Malcolm Wells (Price), who happens to be conducting research on bats. Little does Cornelia know that the good doctor has an ulterior motive for coming to her assistance — a thief who has stolen $1 million in bank securities has confided in Wells, leading him to believe the stash is hidden within Cornelia’s home. After dispatching with the thief, Wells plots to claim the missing treasure. But then “The Bat” returns to terrorize the household. Digitally restored from original 35mm film elements.
Film Movement has two Eric Rohmer films on tap this week. “Full Moon in Paris”
(1984 — France) stars Pascale Ogier, Tcheky Karyo, Fabrice Luchini and Virginia Thevenet. It’s the story of Louise (Ogier), a young interior designer bored with her existence in the sleepy suburbs with her architect boyfriend Remi (Tcheky Karyo). Eager to lead the life of an independent socialite in the city, Louise arranges to move back to her Paris apartment during the week. Further complicating matters are her best friend, Octave (Fabrice Luchini), who makes plain his interest in her, and a bad boy musician who catches her eye at a party. Eventually, even the sophisticated and aloof Louise cannot untangle herself from the emotional realities of her romantic encounters. In a high definition digital restoration, on DVD and Blu-ray … “The Marquise of O … “ (1976 — Germany/France) stars Edith Clever, Bruno Ganz, Edda Seippel and Peter Luhr in an epic tale of virtue and mistaken identity. Set in 1799 during the Russian invasion of Italy, a young widow, The Marquise (Clever), lives with her parents in the fort her father commands. In the midst of battle, the Marquise is abducted by a group of rowdy soldiers and is nearly raped before the Russian commander Count F (Ganz) rescues her. Later, after she realizes she is pregnant, the Marquise pens a letter to the newspaper announcing she will marry the father, if only he presents himself. In a high definition digital restoration, on DVD and Blu-ray.
Leave it to Scream Factory to bring out the Halloween chills early: The studio has Blu-ray debuts this week of “Tales From The Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood Collector’s Edition” (1996), in which wisecracking private eye Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller) investigates some strange happenings at a titillating bordello on the edge of town where, it seems, owner Madam Lilith (Angie Everhart) and her luscious cohorts want more than money — they want blood! … and “Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight Collector’s Edition” (1995), in which a mysterious drifter known as Brayker (William Sadler) possesses the last of seven ancient keys that hold the power to stop the forces of darkness and protect all humanity from ultimate evil. But the human race is safe only so long as Brayker can evade the demonic Collector (Billy Zane) who has gathered the other six keys. In his obsessive quest for the key, the Collector rallies an army of ghastly cadavers against Brayker and the inhabitants of a run-down hotel. Armed with automatic weapons, sacred blood and sadistic humor, Brayker and the strong-willed Jeryline (Jada Pinkett-Smith) must lead the other guests in a gruesome battle against the Collector and his evil horde of ghouls.