May Arrival Edition Criterion's SOMETHING WILD on Blu Plus: THE GREEN HORNET, THE BOY
FRIEND and More
trip movie, romantic comedy, and crime thriller,
Jonathan Demme’s terrific 1986 film SOMETHING WILD
(***½, 113 mins., R) arrives on Blu-Ray this month as a
Criterion Collection release – a fitting tribute to this richly
textured, entertaining (if admittedly uneven) Orion Pictures release,
which initially bombed at the box-office.
Jeff Daniels plays Charlie Driggs, a New York City yuppie businessman
whose chance encounter with a free spirit named Lulu (Melanie Griffith)
leads to a wild ride of sex, drinking, a visit to “Lulu”’s mother, a
high school reunion and the appearance of Lulu’s estranged husband Ray
(Ray Liotta), a volatile con just sprung from prison.
Every performance here hits the mark and then some: Daniels, coming off
his star-making turn in Woody Allen’s “Purple Rose of Cairo,” is superb
as the likeable “straight arrow” with a wild streak. Griffith, soon to
hit full-blown stardom in “Working Girl,” is charismatic as the
mysterious Lulu/Audrey, and Liotta, in his first film, gives one of his
scary-good (and just flat out scary) turns as a psycho who becomes
unhinged without a moment’s notice.
All three make E. Max Frye’s original screenplay come alive, but it’s
the direction of Jonathan Demme that makes “Something Wild” an
enduringly unique and energetic viewing experience. Demme had to juggle
Frye’s shifting tone from offbeat romance during its initial 45 minutes
to more of an uncertain thriller in its second half – a tonal change
that jarred some audiences at the time, and can still leave some
viewers shocked if they’re unprepared upon seeing it for the first
time. Yet Demme maintains a levelheaded approach to Daniels and
Griffith’s characters from the very beginning – they’re consistently
embodied by the actors despite the genuine craziness that happens in
the movie’s second half.
The director’s penchant for offbeat humor pays off throughout (some of
the film’s best lines, we find out in the disc’s supplements, were
improvised), as well as his eye for detail in the picture’s locations.
Demme and long-time cinematographer Tak Fujimoto vividly capture the
open road, suburban America circa 1986 as well as the big city in such
a naturalistic, beautifully plain manner that the movie truly makes you
feel as if you’re really there.
Demme is a director whose career has been hit-or-miss, but here, coming
off the disaster of the 1984 Goldie Hawn WWII era pic “Swing Shift”
(Hawn recut the film herself and had another director come in to handle
extensive re-shoots), the director was coming into his prime.
“Something Wild” marked the start of several films he would make at
Orion (“Married to the Mob” and the Oscar-winning triumph “Silence of
the Lambs” would follow), and all the elements came together to create
a vibrant piece of entertainment that has aged well.
Criterion’s Blu-Ray package of “Something Wild” is highlighted by a
superb AVC encoded 1080p transfer with 2.0 DTS MA stereo sound.
Fujimoto and Demme’s natural visual style is enhanced by the move to
high-def, while extras are limited to the trailer, a 10-minute
interview with the screenwriter (who mentions the battles over the
film’s violent climax) as well as a 33-minute talk with Demme. Affable,
candid and filled with anecdotes, Demme rightfully calls “Something
Wild” one of his best films in an excellent interview that caps off
another great Criterion package. New from the Warner
A pair of vintage musical offerings join the Warner Archive this month.
Ken Russell’s THE
mins., 1971, G) was an old-fashioned
expansion of Sandy Wilson’s musical, which was a star-making vehicle
for leading lady Julie Andrews when the British show made its way to
Broadway in the mid ‘50s.
By the time Russell produced his film version, the movie musical was on
a downward spiral – a genre that had been hit hard by expensive flops
like MGM’s “Goodbye Mr. Chips,” Fox’s “Star” (with Andrews), and
numerous other failures. So perhaps it was no surprise that “The Boy
Friend” didn’t do all that well upon its initial release, especially in
the U.S. where MGM added insult to injury by cutting Russell’s original
version down to under two hours.
Warner Archive’s manufactured-on-demand edition of “The Boy Friend”
offers the director’s original 136-minute cut in its full Panavision
splendor, and fans should be delighted with the presentation: this
dated but charming “show within a show” musical offers ample homages to
Busby Berkeley, a tuneful score and Twiggy as an assistant who gets the
break of a lifetime in a small stage production when leading lady
Glenda Jackson suffers an injury. The movie is a bit long but musical
aficionados ought to enjoy it in Warner’s good-looking 16:9 transfer,
which also offers a 2.0 stereo soundtrack and an eight-minute vintage
Meanwhile, Herman’s Hermits made their screen debut in the ridiculous
1966 offering HOLD
with the British group rocking
their way through a tour of the USA that includes meetings with NASA,
Shelley Fabares and Sue Ann Langdon.
It’s silly mid ‘60s fluff with bubblegum music (and a couple of
chart-topping hits) that looks just fine in Warner Archives’ 16:9
(2.35) widescreen transfer, preserving the original Panavision frame.
Warner Archives also has the superior, later Hermits vehicle “Mrs.
Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” available for ordering.
AND THE IMPOSSIBLES (383 mins., 1968) also joins the Warner
Archives this month in a terrific two-disc set offering all 18 episodes
from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series of the late ‘60s.
The show coupled two different offerings: “Frankenstein Jr.” (voiced by
Ted Cassidy) was a creation of whiz-kid scientist Budd Conroy and his
father, who employed the herculean robot to take down evil doers with
the simple press of a ring. “The Impossibles,” meanwhile, were a
collection of super-heroes (Multi Man, Coil Man, and Fluid Man) who
posed as a Beatles-esque rock group whenever they weren’t fighting
The short-lived series was recycled a couple of times by Hanna-Barbera,
who originally canceled it because of pressure from parents who
objected to the show’s level of violence. Naturally it’s hard to
envision that now, but it generated a bit of an additional cult
following for the program over the years because of it. Warner’s
Archive release looks decent and is now available exclusively from the
Archives webpage. Cult, Exploitation
& Assorted Horrors
Blu-Ray (105/126 mins., 1975, Not Rated; Blue Underground): Blue
Underground has done a favor for all fans of Dario Argento and
"Spaghetti Splatter" with a fully remastered edition of the director’s
1975 “giallo” thriller, which was previously available years ago as an
Anchor Bay DVD.
Though I'm not the biggest fan of Argento or Euro-horror, “Deep Red”
offers plenty of interesting visual flourishes for curious horror
aficionados, and certainly ranks as a "must-have" for Argento-philes.
“Profondo Russo,” which follows David Hemmings as an English jazz
musician who joins up with a female journalist (Daria Nicolodi) to
track down the killer of a renowned psychic, is regarded as one of
Argento's most celebrated works, and it looks stunning in Blue
Underground’s new 1080p transfer with DTS MA 7.1 audio. Not only that,
but both the uncensored English version and its extended Italian
version are offered here, along with excellent interviews including
Argento, co-writer Bernardino Zapponi and Goblin, who composed the
score, plus trailers, a Goblin music video, and a Daemonia music video.
MAD/MOVING VIOLATION DVD (90-91 mins., 1976, R-PG; Shout!) EAT MY
DUST!/GRAND THEFT AUTO DVD (88-84 mins., 1976-77, PG; Shout!):
More ‘70s B-movie fun from Shout! Factory arrives this month in the
form of two new double-feature DVD sets.
The latest entry in Shout’s line of Roger Corman discs, Ron Howard
starred in both the 1976 Corman production “Eat My Dust!” and its
follow-up, 1977's “Grand Theft Auto,” which the “Happy Days” star also
directed. Both movies provide silly, nostalgic fun for those old enough
to remember them, along with numerous TV veterans (“Partridge Family”’s
Dave Madden, future “Trapper John MD” star Christopher Norris, along
with Howard’s TV mom Marion Ross) supporting Howard as he tried to
branch out from his “Happy Days” role as Ritchie Cunningham.
Numerous extras include a new interview with Ron Howard, terrific new
16:9 (1.78) widescreen transfers, commentary on “Grand Theft Auto” with
Howard and Roger Corman, another new commentary on “GTA” with Rance
Howard (who co-wrote the film with his son) and Joe Dante among others,
older interviews with Howard conducted by Leonard Maltin, trailers, TV
spots, new retrospective featurettes, and a conversation with Corman
poster artist John Solie.
Also new this month from Shout! are two more car-driven ‘70s drive-in
flicks, coupled in one Double Feature set. The 1976 Corman production
FIGHTING MAD offers Peter Fonda as an Arkansas farmer who takes on evil
land developers in a Fox release written and directed by Jonathan
Demme, while another Corman effort, MOVING VIOLATION, finds Stephen
McHattie and Kay Lenz being set up for a crime they didn’t commit by
corrupt sheriff Lonny Chapman.
New commentaries (by Corman, Demme, Fonda and co-star Lynn Lowry on
“Fighting Mad”; and Julie Corman, Roger Corman, McHattie and director
Charles S. Dubin on “Moving Violation”), trailers and TV spots are
on-hand for both movies along with new 16:9 (1.78) widescreen transfers
and mono soundtracks.
Also New on DVD
THE GREEN HORNET Blu-Ray/3-D Blu-Ray/DVD (**, 119 mins.,
2011, PG-13; Sony): My first reaction while watching “The Green
Hornet” was that at least funnyman Seth Rogen wasn’t strictly clowning
his way through this long-in-development adaptation of the
radio/TV/comic book masked hero of yesteryear. That relief, though,
soon turned to the realization that Rogen as a “serious” super-hero
wasn’t any more workable, ultimately, than the comedic approach that
his casting initially suggested.
The 2011 “Green Hornet” follows Rogen as Britt Reid, the son of a
newspaper publisher (Tom Wilkinson) who crusades against injustice but
is also a bit of a SOB. When not-so-dear o’l dad dies suddenly, Britt
finds his calling not behind the pen but rather by joining his father’s
faithful servant Kato (Jay Chou, in a role originally intended for
Stephen Chow) in donning super-hero attire and taking down local
criminals including a Russian mobster (Christoph Waltz from “Inglorious
Basterds”) wreaking havoc on Los Angeles.
Directed by Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”),
“The Green Hornet” is a lazy and uninspired vehicle for Rogen, who
dials down his typical comedic persona so much that here he’s just
boring as Britt. The talented Waltz seems to be on auto-pilot in a role
that Nicolas Cage bailed out of late in pre-production (what does that
tell you?), while Cameron Diaz fails to ignite any chemistry in the
token female role of Britt’s unknowing research assistant.
The movie follows past incarnations of the character in its set-up, but
is pretty much by-the-numbers in terms of entertainment: a couple of
one-liners, a few explosions, some feeble 3-D effects, rinse and repeat
is the formula Rogen and his co-writer Evan Goldberg adhere to, and
while Gondry’s visual style keeps the film watchable, the film never
aspires to being much more than that.
Sony’s Blu-Ray is a combo pack sporting a standard BD, 3-D BD, and DVD
edition of the picture. The 3-D wasn’t well utilized in the picture to
begin with so this is not a title worth purchasing on those merits
alone, making the regular BD the version of choice here (the 1080p
transfer and DTS MA soundtrack are both excellent). Extras include a
gag reel, deleted scenes, commentary and a whole bunch of Making Of
featurettes, plus BD Live functions and Sony’s interactive “Cutting
Room” feature where you can piece together your own edit of selected
scenes from the picture.
Blu-Ray (82 mins., 2011, R; Lionsgate): Disposable fluff about
a college student (Kyle Gallner) who decides to start up an escort
service for older gals including “Cold Case” star Kathryn Morris and
Denise Richards among others. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray includes commentary,
a deleted scenes, trailer gallery and a behind the scenes featurette
plus a 1080p widescreen transfer and DTS MA 5.1 audio.
VALENTINE Blu-Ray (**½, 112 mins., 2010, R; Anchor Bay): Michelle
nomination for her role as the wife of Ryan
Gosling in Derek Cianfrance’s independent drama about a couple who rush
into marriage and then suffer the eventual consequences several years
later. Many scenes in “Blue Valentine” were apparently improvised by
the actors, and there are numerous sequences of emotional power in the
picture, along with some graphic sex scenes (which nearly netted the
film an NC-17); it’s all well acted but so depressing that it
ultimately wears you down. Anchor Bay’s Blu-Ray includes commentary
from the director, deleted scenes, home movies and a Making Of
featurette; the 1080p transfer is excellent as is the DTS MA 5.1 audio.
WOMAN Blu-Ray (**, 102 mins., 2009, R; IFC): Natalie Portman has
been on quite a run of late, from winning her Oscar for “Black Swan” to
starring in commercial friendly vehicles like the rom-com “No Strings
Attached” and this week’s release of Marvel super-hero “Thor.” Not
everything she touches, though, turns to gold, as evidenced by the
box-office disaster of “Your Highness” and “The Other Woman,” a tepid
2009 indie drama with Portman as the second wife of older lawyer Scott
Coen. As if losing their young daughter isn’t enough, Portman suffers
more emotional friction from Coen’s ex-wife (Lisa Kudrow) and their son
(Charlie Tahan), who brings up Portman’s dead child more than a few
Don Roos’ film, shot as “Love and other Impossible Pursuits,” is a
thoroughly depressing affair, with Portman and Coen generating no
chemistry together and most of the characters being totally unappealing
IFC’s Blu-Ray does look nice with its 1080p transfer and 5.1 Dolby
Digital soundtrack; the sole extra is a trailer.
Season 3 Blu-Ray (460 mins., 2010, BBC): Season three of the
popular BBC series about a collection of colorful characters (two
werewolves, a ghost and a vampire) recently concluded its third season,
which makes its way to Blu-Ray this month in a three-disc set.
Episodes include “Lia,” “Adam’s Family,” “Type 4,” “The Pack,” “The
Longest Day,” “Daddy Ghoul,” “Though the Heavens Fall” and “The
Wolf-Shaped Bullet,” all presented in 1080i HD transfers with 2.0 Dolby
Stereo sound. Extras include extended cast interviews, deleted scenes,
and a tour of the set with star Sinead Keenan, whose character Nina
finds out she’s pregnant in this entertaining third season of the
DR. WHO -
PLANET OF THE SPIDERS DVD (150 mins., 1974, BBC) DR. WHO -
TERROR OF THE AUTONS DVD (95 mins., 1971, BBC): Two more
entries in BBC’s Special Edition line of Dr. Who DVDs spotlights the
Jon Pertwee era.
The 1971 arc “Terror of the Autons” finds the Doctor trapped on Earth
where the Time Lord collaborates with the Nestene Consciousness to use
dangerous Auton creatures to destroy the planet. “The Planet of the
Spiders,” a 1974 story arc (Pertwee’s last), has the Dr. and Sarah Jane
(Elizabeth Sladen, who recently passed away) battling giant spiders
from an alien planet named Metebelis 3, who have tapped into the
Earth’s landscape through an English Tibetan retreat.
Special features on “Planet of the Spiders” includes commentary from
Sladen, Nicolas Courtney, Richard Franklin, script editor Terrance
Dicks and director Barry Letts; a 37-minute profile of the production;
an interview with John Kane; a retrospective on Barry Letts; an
unrestored edit; film locations and more. “Terror of the Autons”
includes commentary from Katy Manning, Nicolas Courtney and Barry
Letts; a 33-minute documentary; PDF materials, a photo gallery and
THE KIDS IN THE
HALL COMPLETE COLLECTION DVD (aprx. 45 hrs, A&E/NewVideo):
Massive 22-disc box-set offers the entire collection of episodes from
“The Kids in the Hall,” including all five seasons of the sketch comedy
troupe’s series. Best of all: two additional discs include “Death Comes
to Town,” an exclusive double-disc DVD set that boasts over 90 minutes
of original performances from the Rivoli Theater, archival footage
that’s never been seen before, 10 best-of compilations from all five
seasons, interviews with the cast and producer Lorne Michaels, audio
commentaries, full-screen transfers, 5.1 soundtracks, cast bios, photo
galleries, slideshows and other extras for series
Season 1 DVD (aprx. 7 hours, 2010, A&E/NewVideo): Entertaining
on the Cajuns of the Atchafalaya Swamp in
Louisiana – their hardships and efforts to maintain their way of life
in the modern world. “Southern Comfort” this isn’t, and “Swamp People”
premiered to record-setting ratings for the History Channel last
summer. History’s first season DVD set includes the show’s initial 10
episodes in 16:9 transfers with 2.0 stereo sound and additional footage
on the supplemental side. NEXT
TIME: LEGEND on Blu-Ray. Until
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