THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“3 Days to Kill”:
Kevin Costner plays a dying CIA hit man who quits the agency to get closer to his estranged wife and daughter in Paris but takes on one last job when he’s offered an experimental drug that could save his life. The catch: He has to hunt down and kill the world’s most ruthless terrorist while looking after his angry teenage daughter for the first time in 10 years while his wife is out of town. While it’s a distinct pleasure to see the 59-year-old Costner take on the bad guys (and even some teen bad guys who mess with his daughter), the film is much too uneven to make it a totally enjoyable viewing experience; the story bounces back and forth between super-violent CIA killing sprees and domestic housekeeping. But Costner, a grizzled veteran of the Hollywood wars, redeems the film as he moves seamlessly from confident killer to worried dad. Writer Luc Besson loves strong women, and throws in a tarted-up Amber Heard as Costner’s CIA handler, putting a new spin on “La Femme Nikita” for director McG. Extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette. From Fox.
“The Monuments Men” could have been an exciting, edge-of-your-seat thriller about an unlikely World War II platoon tasked by FDR to go into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from the Nazis but instead becomes a muddled mess in the hands of director George Clooney, whose previous helming duties have been spotty at best — aside from his debut behind the camera on “Good Night, and Good Luck.” The problem is uneven pacing, truncated and unfinished sequences, and an elliptical structure that never lets the viewer get a handle on the plot line or the characters. Which is a shame, because the true story of the seven museum directors, curators, and art historians who were part of the real-life Monuments Men is at once fascinating and awe-inspiring as they found themselves behind enemy lines in Germany to salvage 1,000 years of culture one step ahead of the advancing Allies and Russians. Stars Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and John Goodman. Extras include a couple behind-the-scenes featurettes and a featurette about the real Monuments Men. From Sony. For a more involving and exciting look at an attempt to rescue a Nazi horde of art, check out John Frankenheimer’s 1964 “The Train,” starring Burt Lancaster.
Also due this week: “About Last Night,” a modern reimagining of the classic romantic comedy from 1986, here about four Los Angeles singles who get a thorough workout in the ups and downs of today’s dating world. Stars Michael Ealy, Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Joy Bryant, Christopher McDonald and Paula Patton; from Sony. “Pompeii” pits slaves, gladiators, damsels-in-distress and corrupt Romans against the erupting volcano in an exciting sword and sandal actioner starring Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland, Jared Harris, Carrie-Anne Moss, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Jessica Lucas and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (“Resident Evil”); from Sony. Unavailable for viewing was The Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay’s “Vampire Academy.”
THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS:
“The Color of Lies” (1999 — France), starring Jacques Gamblin, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Sandrine Bonnaire and Antoine de Caunes, is a late-career masterpiece from director Claude Chabrol which, as in many of his suspenseful films, uses a murder mystery to expose the underlying tensions and deceptions of a close-knit community. A 10-year-old girl’s violated body is found in the woods of a Brittany fishing village. Suspicion immediately falls on Rene (Gamblin), a painter and the girl’s art teacher; he is apparently the last person to have seen her alive. The inspector in charge of the investigation (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) immediately questions him. In this provincial town where the residents all know each other, Rene becomes increasingly unsettled by his neighbors’ suspicions and by the inspector’s investigation. Children stop coming to him for lessons. His beloved wife, Vivianne (Sandrine Bonnaire), a nurse, protects and supports him, but is tempted by the advances of an arrogant local TV personality (Antoine de Caunes). True to form, Chabrol is less interested in whodunit mechanics than in dissecting a culture of lies — from advertising to adultery — that permeates modern society. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc from the Cohen Film Collection.
Abbas Kiarostami has spent his movie career exploring the tiny spaces that separate illusion from reality and the simulated from the authentic. At first blush, his extraordinary, sly “Like Someone in Love,” (2013) which finds the Iranian director in Tokyo, may appear to be among his most straightforward films. Yet with this simple story of the growing bond between a young part-time call girl and a grandfatherly client, Kiarostami has constructed an enigmatic but crystalline investigation of affection and desire as complex as his masterful “Close-up” and “Certified Copy” in its engagement with the workings of the mercurial human heart. In a Blu-ray/DVD Dual Format Edition .New 2K digital film transfer, supervised by director Abbas Kiarostami, with 3.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection.
“The Great Flood” (2012) is the story, told without dialogue, of the Mississippi River Flood of 1927, the most destructive in U.S. history and the cause of a million people’s displacement. Bill Morrison, the acclaimed director of “Decasia” (the newest inductee to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry) and Bill Frisell, Grammy-winning composer and guitarist, have teamed up to create a powerful new cinematic experience. In the spring of 1927, the river broke out of its earthen embankments in 145 places and inundated 27,000 square miles. Part of its legacy was the forced exodus of displaced sharecroppers, who left plantation life and migrated to Northern cities, adapting to an industrial society with its own set of challenges. Musically, the Great Migration fueled the evolution of acoustic blues to electric blues bands that thrived in cities like Memphis, Detroit and Chicago, becoming the wellspring for R&B and rock as well as developing jazz styles. For the film, Morrison scoured film archives, including the Fox Movietone Newsfilm Library and the National archives, for footage of the Mississippi River Flood. All film documenting this catastrophe was shot on volatile nitrate stock, and what footage remains is pock marked and partially deteriorated. The degraded filmstock figures prominently in Morrison’s aesthetic with distorted images suggesting different planes of reality in the story — those lived, dreamt, or remembered. For the score, Frisell has drawn upon his wide musical palette informed by elements of American roots music, but refracted through his uniquely evocative approach that highlights essential qualities of his thematic focus. Playing guitar, Frisell is joined by Tony Scherr on bass, Kenny Wollesen on drums and Ron Miles on trumpet. From Icarus Films.
“Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley” (2014): Often referred to as “the funniest woman in the world,” the iconic black comedienne Jackie “Moms” Mabley broke racial and gender boundaries as the first black female headliner at the Apollo Theater and Carnegie Hall. In her directorial film debut, Whoopi Goldberg pays homage to this pioneering talent by bringing together an impressive roster of A-list entertainers and historians to celebrate Mabley’s storied life and career. Born Loretta Mary Aiken in Brevard, N.C., on March 19, 1894, Mabley was one of the most successful entertainers to perform on the black vaudeville stage, also known as the “chitlin’ circuit.” Her monologues touched on traditional topics such as family, as well as more controversial subjects that were typically avoided by comedians of the era, regardless of race, including infidelity, poverty, welfare and alcohol. Her successful career spanned five decades (though white audiences generally did not learn of her until the early 1960s), throughout which she recorded more than 20 comedy albums and appeared in numerous films. This documentary includes vintage clips and recordings of her performances, as well as recent interviews with some of the world’s top comedians, and Mabley fans, including Eddie Murphy, Joan Rivers, Kathy Griffin, Robert Klein, Bill Cosby and Goldberg. $19.98 from HBO.
“John Wayne: The Epic Collection” is a collection of 40 Warner and Paramount Films starring the iconic actor, on 38 discs, $149.98. The collection comes packaged in a handsome book with unique collectibles and hours of special features: The coffee table book includes a chronological presentation of Wayne films, enhanced with wonderful photographs; the special features include commentaries, documentaries, featurettes, vintage shorts and classic cartoons; and the special John Wayne collectibles include personal correspondence, script pages/covers, pages with Wayne’s notations and behind-the-scenes artifacts. View the complete list of films here. From Warner.
“The Abbott and Costello Show: The Complete Second Season” (1953) is a four-disc set with 26 episodes digitally restored and re-mastered. Beginning in 1952, the filmed half-hour series “The Abbott and Costello Show” appeared in syndication on local stations across the country. Loosely based on their popular radio series, the show cast the duo as unemployed wastrels, with one of the show’s running gags involved Abbott perpetually nagging Costello to get a job to pay their rent. The simple plotlines were often just a set-up to recreate the pair’s classic comedy routines — including “Who’s on First?” and other familiar set pieces — from their films and burlesque performances. Also featuring Sidney Fields as their landlord, Hillary Brooke as a friendly neighbor often caught in the pair’s schemes and Joe Besser as Stinky, a 40-year-old dressed in a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit, “The Abbott and Costello Show” was voted as one of the “Top 100 TV Shows of All-Time” by both Time and Entertainment Weekly. From Entertainment One.
“Weekend of a Champion” (1971/2013), a nearly forgotten film by Roman Polanski, made at the height of his fame, has resurfaced to thrill fans of the director as well as lovers of auto racing. Restored and with new footage, the film is a you-are-there look at racing great Jackie Stewart as he competes in the renowned Monaco Grand Prix. In 1971, Oscar-winning filmmaker and racing fan Roman Polanski spent a weekend with world champion Formula One driver Jackie Stewart as he attempted to win the Monaco Grand Prix, one of the premier events in the sport. Polanski was given intimate access to Stewart’s world for three days, both on the track and off. The result was an extraordinarily rare glimpse into the life of a gifted athlete at the height of his powers. The film, produced by Polanski and credited to documentary director Frank Simon, premiered at the 1972 Berlin Film Festival and played throughout Europe. But it then sat dormant for 40 years until Polanski restored and recut the film, adding a new epilogue showing Polanski and Stewart reminiscing in present-day Monaco, having a conversation about their friendship, the evolution of racing, and life in general. The revitalized film premiered as an Official Selection at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and went on to a successful theatrical U.S. release. From MPI Home Video.
And there’s two important Blu-ray debuts this week: Since its release, director Werner Herzog’s “Nosferatu the Vampyre” (1979) has not only become one of the director’s most acclaimed films, but one of the most compelling and visually-striking interpretations of the Dracula story ever committed to film. In his haunting interpretation of F.W. Murnau’s 1922 classic, Herzog eschews the popular conception of the vampire as confident and alluring, and instead focuses on the tragedy of the creature: doomed to immortality, weary, and disgusted at his own existence. Stars Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani and Bruno Ganz. From Shout! Factory … The comedy-Western “McLintock!” (1963) stars John Wayne as George Washington McLintock, a proud, defiant cattle baron whose daughter is due home from college. But G.W.’s happy reunion is tempered by the arrival of his headstrong wife (Maureen O’Hara), who recently left him, and whose return brings with her verbal fireworks and slapstick pratfalls. Scanned in 4K. Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and co-starring Patrick Wayne, Stefanie Powers, Jack Kruschen, Chill Wills, Yvonne De Carlo, Jerry Van Dyke, Edgar Buchanan, Bruce Cabot, Perry Lopez and Strother Martin. From Paramount.