It’s a bit of a slow week for home video releases, led by Eli Roth’s torture-for-hire gore fest (Hostel II) and Disney’s latest kid pic (Meet the Robinsons). Thankfully, those wonderful folks at Criterion have another wave of beautifully restored classics for us (Breathless, Days of Heaven, and Under the Volcano), all chock full of extra features!
Writer-director Eli Roth has earned a bad rap for his gore-filled flicks, but we love a filmmaker who employs subversive themes and sly cinematic references in his works. (What up, Ruggero Deodato!) In this sequel to the 2005 hit, a trio of young coeds find that their European spa getaway is really pricey. As in, it’ll cost them their lives. Gruesome torture ensues, of course, but you might also like the commentary with Roth, his producer brother Gabe Roth, and Quentin Tarantino, four featurettes, a “Blood and Guts” montage, deleted scenes, and more.
A charming CG-animated pic about a boy inventor seeking his birth mother with the help of a futuristic friend, Disney’s Meet the Robinsons is this week’s best new family-friendly release. The frenetic tale boasts the vocal talents of Angela Bassett, Tom Selleck and Adam West, with a features menu that includes a director commentary, deleted scenes, music videos and a kid’s character matching game.
Andrew Currie. When the Robinson family buys a new household pet — a domesticated zombie named Fido — both young Timmy (K’Sun Ray) and his mother (Carrie-Ann Moss) develop a bond with their undead help. The DVD includes deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and commentary track.
Director Philip Groening lived with and filmed the monks of the Roman Catholic Grand Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps for four months shooting this meditative documentary about daily life in the slow-moving religious order, where members live with their vows of silence. Look for extras like a making-of feature, scenes showing the monastery’s famous Chartreuse liquor distillation, and a guide to the silent lives of the Carthusian monks.
If you’re like us, you’ve been waiting over a decade for the George Lucas-produced Young Indiana Jones Chronicles to hit the home video circuit; if you’re really like us, the news of the series coming to DVD this week even brought a tear to your eye, out of sheer gratitude. Starring a dashing then-27-year-old Sean Patrick Flanery (playing a full decade-younger teen Indy), Chronicles showcased the early exploits of Indiana Jones as he traipsed the globe and encountered various historical figures in 44 hour-long episodes, written and directed by filmmakers like Lucas, Frank Darabont, Mike Newell, and Jonathan Hensleigh. In this first of three volumes, you’ll get 12 discs with episodes, historical documentaries, and a primer on being a real-life archaeologist.
Criterion Corner — Salivate, Cinephiles!
I know what you’re thinking: how have the folks at Criterion not yet released Breathless, Jean-Luc Godard‘s utterly groundbreaking noir homage about a wanted Parisian thug and his American girlfriend? Well, we say better late than never, because this two-disc release of the seminal French New Wave classic is predictably stuffed with all the Breathless goodies your heart could desire: archival interviews with Godard, his actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, and Godard mentor Jean-Pierre Melville (who appeared as a pompous author); a detailed roadmap explaining the pop culture references sprinkled throughout the film; and a 1959 short film by Godard, starring Breathless leading man Belmondo. Add to that a retrospective documentary about the making of Breathless, new crew interviews, the French theatrical trailer, an 80-page booklet, and more — not to mention a beautifully crisp new digital transfer — and this is a definite must-have for any cinephile.
Days of Heaven
Thought by many to be one of the most beautiful films ever made, Terrence Malick‘s turn-of-the-century tragic tale has been newly restored under the supervision of the director himself. The 1978 film was only his second after making his debut with Badlands, and Malick took an infamous two decade break from filmmaking shortly thereafter, but his transcendental, poetic style affected here (and again in his later The New World) marked the hand of a visionary auteur. Pick up the Criterion edition for the new restoration print, a crew commentary track, and an interview featuring notoriously Oscar-snubbed cinematographer Haskell Wexler.
Under the Volcano
John Huston‘s faithful adaptation of Malcolm Lowry’s 1947 novel covers a day in the life of Geoffrey Fermin (Albert Finney), a British ambassador in a small Mexican town who finds himself booze-soaked and self-destructing on the Day of the Dead. The film earned two Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Finney) and Original Score, and would be the great director’s antepenultimate film before his death three years later. Criterion’s gone and given the 1984 pic a new shine, and offer a 1984 audio interview with Huston, new interviews with star Jacqueline Bisset and screenwriter Guy Gallo, a 1984 on-set documentary, and more.
Knowing is Half the Battle
Kevin Costner stars in this split personality thriller about a family man and upstanding citizen who also happens to be a serial killer. While some critics thoroughly enjoyed Costner’s murderous star turn, others found the plot too full of twists. You be the judge!
Home of the Brave
Four members of an army unit return from Iraq to deal with the repercussions of war in Irwin Winkler‘s film. While critics found its performances moving — including contributions from the likes of Samuel Jackson, Jessica Biel, and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson — overly hammy direction and an almost old-fashioned sensibility made this first mainstream film about the Iraq war an unfortunate misfire.
From Hollywood’s wackiest real-life pairing — married couple David Arquette and Courteney Cox — comes this comic slasher flick about a bunch of hippies being stalked in the woods of Northern California by a staunchly anti-drug crusading Ronald Reagan-lookalike killer. Press notes call it the “perfect 4:20 AM cult horror-druggie-comedy film”; critics insisted otherwise.
Until next week, happy renting!