Blu-rays of the Week
Brahms—German Requiem (Clasart Classic)
Perhaps the most emotionally charged of the famous Requiems (Mozart, Verdi, Faure, Britten), Johannes Brahms’ German Requiem is often trotted out for an anniversary or other large-scale memorial. But this 2016 performance by the Cleveland Orchestra under conductor Franz Welser-Most, the Vienna Singverein chorus and soloists Hanna-Elisabeth Muller and Simon Keenlyside in Austria’s gilded baroque Saint Florian Basilica doesn’t need any extra-musical reason to hold its audience in thrall. The hi-def video and audio are excellent.
Deep Water / The Level (Acorn Media)
Led by a bold, confident Yael Stone (best known from Orange Is the New Black), Deep Water is an absorbing police procedural about a series of murders that may be related to several unsolved gay-related killings that occurred in the same area decades earlier. And, propelled by a gritty performance by Karla Crome, The Level is an arresting crime drama about a young detective whose ties to a sordid underworld figure may hinder her investigation—especially if her colleagues discover the connection. Both sets’ extras include on-set featurettes.
Doctor Strange (Marvel/Disney)
One of the most watchable of recent superhero movies is this fairly streamlined—under two hours—if crazily plotted odyssey of an arrogant neurosurgeon who gains an awesome array of mystical powers after he’s almost killed in a car crash that destroys the use of his hands. Benedict Cumberbatch nicely balances the haughtiness and self-parody of our title hero while Rachel McAdams invests the underwritten female sidekick role with far more sympathy and humor than is warranted. The hi-def transfer is first-rate; extras are director commentary, deleted scenes, gag reel and several featurettes.
We Are the Flesh (Arrow)
Emiliano Rocha Minter’s demented post-apocalyptic drama is twisted right from the start: a trollish loner is joined by a desperate brother and sister, and to allow them to stay with him, he makes them have sex as he watches. Aside from the camp factor—there’s actual sex filmed among actors Noe Hernandez, Maria Evoli and Diego Gamaliel—it’s also been done with a certain amount of artful cleverness, but it’s the ultimate in a “dividing audiences” type of film. It looks fine on Blu; extras include director and cast interviews, two Minter short films and video essay.
DVDs of the Week
Casablancas—The Man Who Loved Women (First Run)
This engaging portrait of John Casablancas—who rose from obscurity to found the Elite model agency in 1972—is centered around a revealing interview he did two years before his untimely death in 2013. Director Hubert Woroniecki’s documentary returns to the days of celebrities hobnobbing at Studio 54 and supermodels from Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell to Stephanie Seymour and Christie Brinkley becoming global superstars. And there was Casablancas, helped make it happen.
As usual with Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s movies, more is most definitely less: the first hour or so of this ominous mystery follows a crime investigator who, while looking into an unsolved series of serial killings, discovers that the actual culprit might be his and his unsuspecting wife’s neighbor. It’s too bad that the final hour becomes increasingly more hysterical and shrill as the murderer is triggered to continue with his lethal behavior, logic be damned. The first half is suggestive, and all the more effective for it, while the second half is unnecessarily oppressive, and all the poorer for it, unfortunately.