THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“Star Trek Into Darkness”
Having grown up with so many of the TV series from the 1960s and 70s that have been rebooted into movie franchises (many with little success), it was a pleasure to see what director J.J. Abrams did with one of my favorites, “Star Trek.” The original big-screen adaptations — though fun — lacked the excitement and sizzle that the TV series offered (except one: “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”). Abrams pumped the excitement back into the old warhorse with 2009’s “Star Trek” and — for me — upped the ante with this sequel. The plot is complicated — suffice it to say that Captain Kirk gets demoted for interfering with a primitive race on a distant planet, Starfleet comes under attack by a super-powerful-humanoid (named — ummm — Khan) who threatens the Earth, the Enterprise must travel into “the forbidden zone” near the Klingon empire, and there’s a traitor of sorts manipulating everyone into a war. The action is fast-paced and coherent, the story line never obtuse, the twists not too outrageous, and the special effects worthy of “Star Trek.” A real pleasure. Stars John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Peter Weller and Anton Yelchin. Blu-ray extras (at most retailers) include “Creating the Red Planet” featurette, “Attack on Starfleet” behind-the-scenes featurette, “The Klingon Home World” featurette, “The Enemy of My Enemy” featurette, “Ship to Ship” visual effects featurette and “Brawl by the Bay” preparation for the film’s climax. Some Blu-ray versions for some retailers (such as Best Buy and Target) have different extras. From Paramount.
Also due this week: “Chasing Ice,” a documentary about photographer James Balog’s trips to the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers using revolutionary time-lapse cameras; from New Video. “Love Is All You Need,” a romantic comedy about a hairdresser — who has lost her hair to cancer and then finds out her husband is having an affair — who travels to Italy for her daughter’s wedding and meets a widower who still blames the world for the loss of his wife. Stars Pierce Brosnan, Trine Dyrholm, Sebastian Jessen and Molly Blixt Egelind; from Sony. “Peeples” is the latest Tyler Perry film, a romantic comedy about what happens when a “fish-out-of-water” crashes the Peeples annual reunion in the Hamptons to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Stars Craig Robinson, Kerry Washington, David Alan Grier, Tyler James Williams, Kali Hawk, Malcolm Barrett, S. Epatha Merkerson, Melvin Van Peebles, Diahann Carroll and Kimrie Lewis-Davis. From Lionsgate.
We loved Mike Nichols’ 1996 “The Birdcage,” starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as
a gay cabaret owner and his drag queen companion whose lives are thrown topsy-turvy when they agree to put up a false straight front for their son who’s set to marry the daughter of a right-wing moralistic U.S. Senator. But 18 years earlier we fell in love with the original, Edouard Molinaro’s “La Cage aux Folles” (1978), which is making its Blu-ray debut this week via The criterion Collection. How can you go wrong here: Toss in great acting and direction and a groundbreaking story line (in a less tolerant era), all set in the breathtaking environs of St. Tropez. Renato (Ugo Tognazzi) and Albin (Michel Serrault) — a middle-aged gay couple who are the manager and star performer at a glitzy drag club — agree to hide their sexual identities, along with their flamboyant personalities and home decor, when the ultraconservative parents of Renato’s son’s fiancee come for a visit. This elegant French farce about the importance of nonconformity and the beauty of being true to oneself was a breakout art-house smash in America and, of course, spawned “The Birdcage” and a major Broadway musical. In a new 2K digital film restoration, with a new interview with director Edouard Molinaro; archival footage featuring actor Michel Serrault and Jean Poiret, writer and star of the original stage production of “La Cage aux Folles”; a booklet featuring an essay by critic David Ehrenstein; and more.
The mid-1960s was a great time for spy films, with such dashing spymasters as James Bond (Sean Connery), Derek Flint (James Coburn), Matt Helm (Dean Martin), Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) and Quiller (George Segal). Each had their light-hearted moments amongst the spying, mayhem and killing (and a couple, of course, were too light-hearted), but none of them were as bleak as “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” (1965), based on the best-selling novel by John le Carre, about a Cold War spy on one final dangerous mission in East Germany. Richard Burton is superb as Alec Leamas, whose relationship with a beautiful librarian, played by Claire Bloom, puts his assignment in jeopardy. It’s very hard-edged and depressing, but a perfect paradigm for the frightening Cold War atmosphere of the mid century. In a new high-definition digital film restoration from Criterion, with an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with author John le Carre; “The Secret Centre: John le Carre,” a 2000 BBC documentary on the author’s life and work; a booklet featuring an essay by critic Michael Sragow; and more.
Paramount has tied in two Blu-ray releases to “Star Trek Into Darkness”: “Star Trek: Stardate Collection: contains all 10 original “Star Trek” films together on Blu-ray in a premium, collectible package with 12 discs and 25 hours of bonus content: interviews with the cast and crew, commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes and much more. The “Star Trek: The Original Series — Origins” collection showcases the origins episodes of the most significant characters from “Star Trek: The Original Series.” Introduced by Rod Roddenberry, son of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, and starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig and Ricardo Montalban, this collection includes: “The Cage,” thr original pilot episode of the epic series that introduced the iconic characters Captain Pike and Spock; “Where No Man Has Gone Before” second pilot episode in which Captain James T. Kirk is first seen at the helm of the Enterprise; “Space Seed” debut of the unforgettable super villain, Khan; “Errand of Mercy” introduces the legendary alien race the Klingons; “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Other Blu-ray releases this week: “The Fly” (1958), starring David Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall, from Fox … and, on Friday, September 13, Warner will spring “Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection” with all 12 films from Warner Bros. and Paramount in one “Horrific” collection: a 10-Disc set with seven Blu-ray debuts and 11 hours of extra content in collectible tin packaging; includes a 40-page book with behind-the-scenes photos, a Camp Crystal Lake counselor patch, more. $129.95.
And speaking of Friday the 13, the folks over at 1428 Films have put together “Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th” that takes viewers behind the mask on a journey into the making of the landmark horror franchise — from its humble beginnings in 1980 at a New Jersey summer camp to the blockbuster release of its 2009 “reboot.” Combining hundreds of rare and never-before-seen photographs, film clips, outtakes, archival documents, conceptual art and behind-the-scenes footage, and featuring interviews with more than 150 cast and crew members spanning all twelve films and the television series, this is the ultimate tribute to one of horror’s most iconic and enduring franchises. $29.95 in a two Blu-ray/two DVD Combo.