Digital Week - November 29th
Blu-rays of the Week
Beware of the CHUDs (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers), hiding in Manhattan’s sewers and fatally mauling their victims in this dopey but guilty-pleasure 1984 horror flick by director Douglas Cheek, who knows that he has silly material but runs with it, resulting in a mindless entertainment strongly aided by its cast. Then-unknown actors John Heard, Daniel Stern, Kim Geist, John Goodman and Jay Thomas do their best. The hi-def transfer is excellent; extras comprise two commentaries, new crew interviews, extended shower scene and NYC locations featurette.
Heart—Live at the Royal Albert Hall (Eagle Rock)
Ann Wilson’s magnificent voice is a freak of nature, as she proves throughout the 90-minute concert she and sister Nancy’s band played in June at London’s fabled Royal Albert Hall, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra sitting in for some tunes, giving depth and elegance to “Dreamboat Annie” and “Sweet Darlin’,” among others; but it’s Ann’s pipes on “Alone,” “Beautiful Broken” and “Barracuda” that really propel the show. The audio and video are superb, the Wilson sisters interview is interesting, but director James Russell botches it by continually cutting away from Ann singing to pointless glimpses of views from the cheap seats or to audience members—whom we don’t care about—singing along.
Poldark—Complete 2nd Season (PBS)
Ross Poldark knows all about drama, and the series’ second season finds him in so many near-fatal—or at least life-changing—scrapes that it becomes second nature for him to squeeze his way out of them in this ravishing-looking remake of the classic BBC drama series based on Winston Graham’s books. Aidan Turner is a dashing Poldark, Heida Reed a bewitching Elizabeth—Ross’s ex-fiancée who’s still dangerously nearby—and Eleanor Tomlinson a spunky, feisty Demelza, Poldark’s wife. The 10 episodes have been given top-notch hi-def transfers; extras include interviews and featurettes.
Private Vices, Public Virtues (Mondo Macabro)
Hungarian director Miklos Jancso, who died in 2014 at age 92, made this visually unique Italian-Yugoslav co-production in 1976, featuring his customarily lyrical cinematography, with gorgeous colors and stunningly choreographed movement. There’s not much else to tempt non-Jancso fans, unless you count plentiful nudity—it’s of a piece with the rest of his singular artistry, although it does wear out its welcome before its 105 minutes finish. The hi-def transfer looks exquisite; the film soundtrack is in Italian or English, and contextual extras are interviews with co-writer Giovanna Gagliardo, actress Pamela Villoresi and historian Michael Brooke.
Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow—Memories in Rock (Eagle Rock)
As part of last year’s Monsters of Rock festival at two sites in Germany, guitarist extraordinaire Ritchie Blackmore brought the latest incarnation of his band Rainbow for a fervid two-hour concert featuring such Rainbow favorites as “Since You Been Gone” and “Man on the Silver Mountain” along with Deep Purple classics like the ubiquitous finale, “Smoke on the Water.” Blackmore’s playing is inspired, while vocalist Ronnie Romero does great impersonations of Ian Gillan, Ronnie James Dio and Graham Bonne). Audio and vid
eo are first-rate; two CDs provide an audio recording of the entire concert.
Throughout its eight one-hour episodes, director Jeff Dupre and Maro Chermayeff’s series explores how recording, video and other technical innovations have changed the way music is created and how we absorb it. Even if such a format inevitably makes it more of a general overview than an in-depth examination, the historical performance clips and interviews with luminaries from George Martin and Paul McCartney to Rick Rubin and Tom Petty are something to see, especially in the first two (and best) parts, The Art of Recording and Painting with Sound. The Blu-ray looks fine; extras include even more interviews, including Ringo demonstrating rock’n’roll drumming.
Time After Time (Warner Archive)
In Nicholas Meyer’s sensationally entertaining 1979 time-travel adventure, Malcom McDowell makes a witty and sympathetic H.G. Wells, who lands in modern-day San Francisco in his own time machine—chasing Jack the Ripper (a perfectly creepy David Warner), who loves the chaotic 20th century. A terrifically clever premise and undeniable if offbeat chemistry between McDowell and Mary Steenburgen as the woman who aids Wells make this a grand diversion. There’s a superior hi-def transfer; lone extra is a Meyer and McDowell commentary.
DVDs of the Week
True New York / When Two Worlds Collide (First Run)
Anthologies don’t come more absorbing than True New York, comprising five documentary shorts about some incredible characters living in a New York City not usually shown: teens cliff-jumping in the Harlem River; workers at a Queens yellow-cab depot; an artist who draws interiors of all of New York’s subway stations; a financial whiz who takes over his father’s halal slaughterhouse; and a Harlem street performer who regales drivers on the FDR Drive. In Heidi Brandenburg & Mathew Orzel’s astonishing documentary When Two Worlds Collide, Peruvian indigenous people and government forces clash over the destruction of valuable rainforest by companies that those in power have given the green light to. Angry rhetoric soon devolves into violent, fatal clashes—it’s a timely and depressing look at authoritarian control. True extras include filmmaker interviews.