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Blu-rays of the Week
When Jean-Jacques Beineix made this 1986 comedy-drama, his career was in the gutter following his disastrous followup to Diva, his debut hit, The Moon in the Gutter.
Thanks to a one-of-a-kind performance by the magnetic and irresistible Beatrice Dalle in the title role, Beineix’s alternately enervating and exciting study of a mentally ill young woman’s relationship with a struggling writer (Jean-Hughes Anglade) has its charms alongside its deficiencies, which Beineix’s own three-hour director’s cut multiplies. (It’s too bad that the two-hour theatrical cut isn’t included.) Criterion’s hi-def transfer is magnificent; extras include new and archival interviews with Beineix, Dalle and Anglade; an archival making-of featurette; and a 1977 Beineix short.
The Angry Birds Movie 2
This sily sequel shows how those natural enemies the birds and the pigs join in an uneasy alliance when both Bird and Pig islands are threatened. Sure, it’s slightly overlong (a movie like this should be 80 minutes, tops), but the creators know their audience and give it more of the same: corny jokes and goofy animated visuals in spades.
The accomplished voice cast includes Josh Gad, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage, Leslie Jones, Rachel Bloom, Awkwafina and Sterling K. Brown. There’s a first-rate hi-def transfer; extras include a mini-movie titled Live Stream, featurettes, interviews and a holiday sing-along.
Blinded by the Light
The true story of Sarfran Manzoor, a Pakistani national in England who falls in love with Bruce Springsteen’s music, might have made for a heartwarming five-minute interview, but cowriter-director Gurinder Chadha has flattened it into a risible rom-com that takes what could have been an illuminating study of angst and racism amid the working class and makes it into a cutesy “Bruce is God” movie.
The cast is exceptionally earnest, with the happy exception of Rob Brydon, whose few scenes have an energy missing from the rest of the film. Even Springsteen’s music and lyrics—and I’m not a fan—are ill-served by slapping the words to certain songs onscreen or having a turgid musical sequence set to “Born to Run.” The hi-def transfer looks good; extras are two featurettes and deleted/extended scenes.
Writer-director Joe Begos’ dark tale of a young female artist who throws herself willingly and wantonly into a life of hedonism, turning into a literal monster, might be clunky and obvious, but it also has, in the lead role, the remarkable Dora Madison, whose intense performance compels you to keep watching even as the movie itself goes bloodily off the proverbial rails.
The hi-def transfer is excellent; extras include two commentaries and a deleted scene.
47 Meters Down—Uncaged
Yet another Jaws rip-off, Johannes Roberts’ shark movie at least finds itself in unfamiliar surroundings: in an enclosed cove, four young women go scuba diving and find themselves face to face with marauding great whites.
The claustrophobia content is high, which ratchets up the tension at times even though, at 90 minutes, Roberts stretches things out well past credulity, especially the never-ending ending. Still, the quartet of actresses is physically up to the water-logged task. There’s a fine hi-def transfer; extras are a commentary and making-of.
Michael Sheen and David Tennant battle it out as an angel and a demon in this hackneyed but diverting series about good and evil doing their damnedest to prevent the destruction of the human race and planet earth.
Despite hoary subplots and often risible—and mostly unfunny—asides and characters, Sheen and especially Tennant take their tendency to overplay to the extreme, making this more watchable than it should be. There’s a fine hi-def transfer; extras include commentaries, deleted scenes and several featurettes.
Rolling Stones—Bridges to Buenos Aires
In 1998, the Rolling Stones toured South America, and its outdoor concert in Argentina’s capital makes for a night full of hits, deep cuts and even a surprise guest star—the appearance of Bob Dylan (unacknowledged onstage) for a rip-roaring version of “Like a Rolling Stone.”
Mick Jagger is at his best during “Sister Morphine” and “Gimme Shelter,” while the whole band is locked in for terrific run-throughs of “Miss You,” “When the Whip Comes Down” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” The SD video is acceptable, but the audio sounds great. The entire concert audio is also on two CDs.
Tel Aviv on Fire
Writer-director Sameh Zoabi’s beguiling comedy follows a Palestinian interning on a popular TV soap opera who becomes one of the writers and is soon assailed on all sides: the stressed-out lead actress, the producers, the sponsors, his family, the woman he’s in love with and—most sidesplittingly—the Israeli checkpoint commander who demands the show be rewritten to reflect his reality.
There are bumpy patches, but Zoabi’s film amusingly shows how personal interactions can help smooth over seemingly irreconcilable differences. There’s a splendid hi-def transfer; lone extra is a director interview.
Yesterday Was a Lie
Stylishness is everywhere in James Kerwin’s great-looking but empty 2009 mystery revolving around a couple of dull femme fatales, a singer and a private eye. Despite the glittering B&W cinematography of Jason Cochard, this drama doesn’t go anywhere thanks to Kerwin’s own leaden script.
The lead actresses, Kipleigh Brown (P.I.) and Chase Masterson (singer), do their best but are defeated by the material. The film looks terrific in hi-def; extras include interviews, screen tests, commentary, featurettes, outtakes and Wondercon panel discussion.
DVDs of the Week
Québécois director Philippe Lesage made these two films about childhood and adolescence and, despite static longeurs and self-indulgence, they are sensitive explorations of the nuances of growing up, from the innocuous to the horrifying and everything in between.
The Demons (2015) is more of an apprentice work, a blueprint for the more accomplished and affecting Genèse (2018). Genèse extras are a Lesage commentary and a short film by Swiss/French director Tristan Aymon, The Lesson.
CD of the Week
Arthur Bliss—Orchestral Works
One of the unsung British composers of the 20th century, Arthur Bliss (1891-1975) wrote arresting and vigorous music in all categories: chamber music, symphonies, concertos, ballets, film and vocal. This last is the draw of a new disc comprising a trio of later Bliss works (all composed between age 60 and 72), which not only features his rapturous 1952 scena The Enchantress but also the first recording of Mary of Magdala, a lovely sacred cantata composed in 1962-3.
The impassioned instrumental work Meditations on a Theme of John Blow rounds out this superior recording, conducted by Andrew Davis, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and sung by Sarah Connolly and James Platt.
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