THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
Jason Bateman makes his feature directorial debut and also stars in this quirky comedy about a disgruntled middle-aged man who hijacks a national spelling bee and verbally mows down his competition — eighth graders. And he’s unstoppable — contest officials, outraged parents, and overly ambitious students can’t persuade him to end his “jihad” or uncover his motivations. Bateman has made a habit of playing lovable losers in most of his recent starring roles (“Identity Thief,” “The Switch”), but here he goes against that grain by taking on a role that tests the boundaries of main character likeability. And, despite its subject matter — a kids spelling bee — the film is rated ‘R’. Also stars Kathryn Hahn, Rohan Chand, Allison Janney, Philip Baker Hall, Judith Hoag and Beth Grant. A wonderfully auspicious first outing for Bateman. Extras include deleted and extended scenes, “The Minds and Mouths Behind Bad Words,” commentary. From Universal.
“The Raid 2”:
Director Gareth Huw Evans’ follow-up to the sleeper hit “The Raid” (2011) ups the ante for violence, blood and outright outrageous gore. Babyfaced cop Rama (Iko Uwais) — who fought his way out of a building filled with gangsters and madmen in the first film — goes undercover as an enforcer for a local mob boss to get evidence linking the mob to corrupt government officials. The body count soars as Rama first fights his way into the gang, then single-handedly fends off another group of gangsters who want to take over his mob’s territory. “Raid 2” features some of the best martial arts action — and gore — you’re likely to see on the screen — rivaling the best of Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Takeshi Kitano, Yuen Woo-ping, Takashi Miike, Kinji Fukasaku and the “Ip Man,” “Ong Bak” and “Kill Bill” films. Any film that creates a killer like the “Hammer Girl” has to be taken very seriously. Extras include commentary, a “Gang War” deleted scene, and a couple interesting behind-the-scenes featurettes. From Sony.
Alejandro “Jodorowsky’s Dune” is the greatest movie you’ll never see. Coming off the success of his cult-film “El Topo” — which launched the midnight film genre in 1970 — and his follow-up “The Holy Mountain” (1973) — which was well-received around the world — visionary director Jodorowsky decided to take on an incredible ambitious project: a feature film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s futuristic best-seller “Dune.” Jodorowsky saw the film not so much as a sci-fi epic but as a spiritual journey that would awaken a higher consciousness in audiences and change the role of cinema forever. To that end in 1975 he marshalled a support group of some of the most imposing icons of the era: Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali, Pink Floyd, Dan O’Bannon, and visual artists H.R. Giger, Jean “Moebius” Giraud and Chris Foss. After two years of pre-production in which Jodorowsky and his crew created a hard-bound book of meticulous story boards, the project fell apart: none of the Hollywood studios — scared of the director’s reputation as a maverick — wanted to bankroll the production. Jodorowsky turned to writing comic books, making only a handful of films in the ensuing decades — but his ideas and concepts lived on in such films as “Star Wars,” “Alien,” “The Terminator” and even David Lynch’s awful version of “Dune.” Director Frank Pavich had unprecedented access to Jodorowsky, Giger, Gary Kurtz (producer, “Star Wars: Episodes IV and V”), Nicholas Winding Refn (director, “Drive”), Diane O’Bannon (Dan’s widow) and a host of others to tell the full saga of this amazing project. From Sony.
Also due this week: “Nymphomaniac Volume I & II,” Lars von Trier’s wild and poetic story of a woman’s journey from birth to the age of 50 as told by the main character, the self-diagnosed nymphomaniac Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Not nearly as experimental as “Dogville,” as gruesome as “Antichrist,” or as depressing as “Melancholia,” “Nymphomaniac” is provocative and indulgent and a bit boring. Co-stars Stellan Skarsgard, Shia LaBeouf, Stacy Martin, Willem Dafoe, Mia Goth, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Christian Slater, Jamie Bell, Uma Thurman, Michael Pas, Connie Nielsen, Ananya Berg. From Magnolia Home Entertainment. And “Le Week-End” — unavailable for review — about an older English couple (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) who return to Paris 30 years after their honeymoon to rekindle their marriage. From Music Box Films.
THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS:
There’s two terror-filled Blu-ray debuts this week, both from Shout! Factory:
“Lake Placid” (1999), starring Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Brendon Gleason and Betty White. The tongue-in-cheek horror film takes place in a tranquil New England lakefront that erupts into an action-packed den of destruction when visitors and residents alike get eaten by an unknown predator. An investigative team, armed with state-of-the-art equipment, high powered weaponry and a biting sense of sarcasm, are brought in to uncover and defeat Black Lake’s most ferocious resident: a prehistoric crocodile. One of the best films of the genre snaps with humor and sparkles with fun. Written by David E. Kelley (“Ally Mcbeal,” “Boston Legal”), directed by Steve Miner (“Halloween H20,” “Friday The 13th Part 2”), and co-starring White as the cantankerous Mrs. Bickerman. The other new Blu-ray is “Southern Comfort “ (1981), Walter Hill’s gut-wrenching tale of backwoods terror about nine National Guardsmen who enter the Louisiana swamp for routine training only to incite an all-out war with some angry Cajuns who know the territory like the backs of their hands. Stars Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Peter Coyote and Lewis Smith. The Criterion Collection has released DVD-only editions of two of its recent releases that first appeared in Dual Format Blu-ray/DVD versions only: Peter Weir’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock” (1975) and Howard Hawk’s “Red River” (1948).