THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“The Heat”: Even in this enlightened era, female buddy movies are far and few in between — so it’s a pleasure to have two top comediennes join forces to tear up the big screen with outrageous bits and wild shtick. It’s a great concept picture: Take sassy, foul-mouthed Melissa McCarthy and slapstick-savvy Sandra Bullock and cast them as a boundary-busting Boston cop (McCarthy) and a straight-laced FBI agent (Bullock), throw them on a typical crime case (they join forces to bring down a ruthless drug lord), and watch the sparks — and laughs — fly. Needless to say, Bullock’s by-the-book procedures clash with McCarthy’s nasty and violent style of police work, but the pair eventually learn to work together and bring down the bad guys. Think “Rush Hour” with women. This is one funny movie. Sequel anyone? (Actually, there are rumors of a “Heat 2” in the works). Extras include commentary, bloopers, alternate scenes and behind-the-scenes featurettes. From Fox.
“Pacific Rim”: Guillermo del Toro has come a long way since “Mimic” (1997) and “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001). His horror instinct led him to direct “Hellboy” (2004) and the award-winning “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006) and write “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” as well as the “Hobbit” outings (and produce a host of horror and dark dramas). He’s certainly produced and written more films than he’s helmed. So fans who have been eagerly awaiting a new directorial effort on his part (it’s been five years since “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”) won’t be disappointed with “Pacific Rim,” a solid modern CGI-driven monster flick that can only be described as Godzilla meets the Transformers. The plot is simple — Legions of gigantic, monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, rise from another “world” through a breech in the Pacific Ocean, bent on destroying mankind and consuming the Earth’s resources. To combat them, the world’s armies cooperate to build massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. But it’s a losing battle until a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi) are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past. Though the story line is a bit silly and full of holes, one easily suspends disbelief to savor del Toro’s style and flourish and his fantastic images. It’s a slam-bam action-adventure that doesn’t ask you to think too much — you just need to crank up the volume and allow the images to wash over you. Extras include commentary by del Toro; a trio of behind-the-scenes documentaries, “Drift Space,” “The Digital Artistry of Pacific Rim” and “The Shatterdome”; a series of “Focus Points” featurettes that go further behind the scenes (pointing out, for example, that even though the film used a lot of CGI, del Toro had the actors interact with real-size mock-ups of the Jaegers — muscle-breaking work — to heighten verisimilitude); deleted scenes and a blooper reel. From Warner.
Topping the list of must-viewing this week is “Eyes Without a Face” (1960), making its Blu-ray debut from The Criterion Collection. At his secluded chateau in the French countryside, a brilliant, obsessive doctor (“Children of Paradise’s” Pierre Brasseur) attempts a radical plastic surgery to restore the beauty of his daughter’s disfigured countenance — at a horrifying price. “Eyes Without a Face,” directed by the supremely talented Georges Franju, is rare in horror cinema for its odd mixture of the ghastly and the lyrical, and it has been a major influence on the genre in the decades since its release. There are images here — of terror, of gore, of inexplicable beauty — that once seen are never forgotten. In French with English subtitles, in a new high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack.
“Wild Style” (1983) is the landmark New York film that introduced hip-hop, break dancing, freestyle rapping and graffitti art to the world. Legendary New York graffitti artist Lee Quinones stars in the role of Zoro, the city’s hottest and most elusive graffitti writer as he makes his way from the bombed-out streets of the Bronx to the lively art world of downtown Manhattan, all the while working through his complicated feelings for fellow graffitti artist Rose (Sandra Fabara). Along his journey, Zoro encounters a number of other New York denizens on the streets, in subway trains and out in the nightclubs, who revel in the passion and innovation of the burgeoning hip-hop culture. In a special 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition two-disc set with a 48-page booklet written by director Charlie Ahearn, $29.95 from Music Box Films … “Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle” (2013) is a well-made and fairly comprehensive three-part PBS documentary that examines the comic book genre and its powerful legacy in America, beginning some 75 years ago when these “disposable diversions” were created in large part by the children of immigrants whose fierce loyalty to a new homeland laid the foundation for a multi-billion-dollar industry. The first part, “Truth, Justice, and the American Way (1938-1958)” chronicles the origins of superheroes — from Superman and Batman to Wonder Woman and Captain America. In the next section, “Great Power, Great Responsibility (1959-1977),” the next generation of comic books were subject to intense government scrutiny for their influence on American children (vis-a-vis the infamous Comic’s Code Authority), and the comics grew up. In the final section, “A Hero Can Be Anyone (1978-Present),” superheroes (and mere mortal heroes) became an influential part of our national identity, and reflected the darker side of late-20th and early 21st century culture and politics. Among the notable on-camera talents in the film are Stan Lee, Adam West, Lynda Carter, Pulitzer Prize-winners Michael Chabon and Jules Feiffer, and interviews with the late greats Joe Simon (co-creator of Captain America) and Jerry Robinson (who helped create the Joker). Airs on PBS Tuesday Nights, October 8–October 22. On DVD $24.99; Blu-ray $29.99. From PBS Distribution.
Think you know your American (or world) history? Unless you’ve read Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” or made a heroic effort to dig down deeper into historical sources, past what we’ve been taught in high school and most colleges, there’s a myopia that prevents many Americans from seeing the wider picture of the world around us. Here’s an antidote: “The Untold History of the United States” (2013), a 10-part Showtime Original Series from three-time Academy Award-winning writer and director Oliver Stone. The in-depth, surprising, and totally riveting series, co-written by Stone with Peter Kuznick and Matt Graham, was directed and narrated by Stone. Stone and Kuznick, esteemed American University Associate Professor of History, and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute, co-authored the companion book (Gallery Books) to the series, which presents our country’s unlearned history, drawing on archival findings from around the world and recently declassified material. The documentary looks back at human events that at the time went under-reported, but that crucially shaped America’s unique and complex history throughout the 20th century, covering the time period from the atomic bombing of Japan to the Cold War, through the fall of Communism to the events of today. Beside the 10 chapters, this release will boast more than three and a half hours of bonus material, including two unaired chapters and a new companion documentary featuring Stone and Tariq Ali — author, philosopher, activist, writer, socialist leader, editor — who worked with Stone on the documentary “South of the Border.” Right now the project is only available as four-disc Blu-ray set for $49.99; from Warner.
Other notable releases this week: The Blu-ray debut of “High Plains Drifter” (1973), directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Eastwood, Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill, Mitch Ryan, Jack Ging, Morgan Allen and Stefan Gierasch. One of Eastwood’s signature Westerns, and his second film as a director, it’s a variation on the “man with no name” theme. Eastwood stars as the drifter known only as “the Stranger,” who mysteriously appears out of the heat waves of the desert and rides into the lawless, sin-ridden town of Lago. After making a name for himself with a string of blazing gun battles, The Stranger is hired by the townspeople to provide protection from three ruthless gunmen. A prime example of Eastwood’s emphasis on justice, redemption, revenge and morality. From Universal … Universal has released “Love Actually — 10th Anniversary Edition” (2003), a delightful romantic comedy — and perennial holiday season favorite — that follows eight couples whose lives intersect shortly before Christmas. Stars Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Sienna Guillory, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Laura Linney, Keira Knightley, Martin Freeman, Andrew Lincoln, January Jones, Thomas Sangster, Kris Marshall, Heike Makatsch, Gregor Fisher, Joanna Page and Chiwetel Ejiofor. On DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo, with such extras as deleted scenes, “The Music of Love Actually,” “The Storytellers,” Kelly Clarkson “The Trouble With Love Is” music video, Billy Mack “Christmas is All Around” music video and commentary.