Blu-rays of the Week
King Arthur—Legend of the Sword (Warner Bros)
Guy Ritchie’s turgid version of the Excalibur legend favors the supernatural elements—witches, monsters, the Demon Knight—over the battling humans, with the unfortunate result that this spectacle is more enervating than entertaining. And, despite solid work by a cast that actually looks right—Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Eric Bana, Djimon Hounsou and Annabelle Wallis, for starters—Ritchie unsurprisingly slathers CGI over everything, allowing several rousing battle sequences to overwhelm the characters that are at the center of this timeless story. The film looks great on Blu-ray; extras are several featurettes.
Beyond the Darkness / Bag Boy Lover Boy (Severin)
Lovers of gory flicks will be in heaven with these new releases, starting with Beyond the Darkness, Italian director Joe D’Amato’s pulverizingly nasty 1979 thriller that features incest, necrophilia, dismemberment and other fun things to keep its target audiences reasonably entertained, especially a sequence that includes a post-mortem eye operation. Bag Boy, conversely, is a shoddy mess that tells the tale of a slow-witted Manhattan hot-dog vendor who moonlights as a fetish model, enabling him to lure several of the most unsuspecting to their deaths. Both films look fine in hi-def; Darkness extras are a D’Amato documentary, location updates and interviews, while Bag extras are a commentary and short films.
Jane’s Addiction—2016 Silver Spoon Tour (MVD)
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of its seminal album Ritual de lo Habitual (even though it was released in 1990), Jane’s Addiction—fronted by singer/songwriter Perry Ferrell—tears through a superbly-paced 85-minute set at this 2016 concert at Southern California’s Irving Meadows Amphitheatre. The incredibly tight band comprises guitarist Dave Navarro, bassist Chris Chaney and drummer Steven Perkins, and Ferrell is in top vocal shape throughout, with standouts being the opener “Stop!” and audience favorite “Been Caught Stealing.” The hi-def image and especially audio are top-notch; the three-disc set also includes the concert on DVD and CD.
Steve Gordon’s tongue-in-cheek 1985 horror flick is loosely based on an H.P. Lovecraft novella, but blood, guts and the ick factor are ramped up to eleven. There’s an amusing schadenfreude watching various characters meet their deaths, only to be brought back to life as zombies that are quite unlike George Romero’s. Despite the lunacy, there’s a healthy sense of dark humor, a no-brainer when you’re dealing with a reanimated doctor who carries around his own decapitated head. Standing out in a game cast is Barbara Crampton as our hero’s beautiful fiancée. Arrow’s thorough set includes two cuts of the film, audio commentaries and featurettes, all encased in an attractive box that even has a selection of postcards.
DVDs of the Week
In the Shadow of Women / Chantal Akerman by Chantal Akerman (Icarus)
He’s been a critics’ and film festival darling for decades, but French director Phillippe Garrel makes films that strike me as amateurish, half-baked explorations of relationships, and his latest In the Shadow of Women continues his string of stiffly-acted, superficial dramas. Leading man Stanislas Merhar is less talented than the director’s mediocre son Louis, whose merely dull presence is sorely missed. In Chantal Akerman by Chantal Akerman, the late Belgian director’s 1997 self-portrait, she begins by reading from a text about her problems making this film, then shows clips from her best-known film, Jeanne Dielman, along with several others. Non-fans will find it self-indulgent, but your mileage may vary if you’re an admirer.
Wolves (IFC Films)
A star Manhattan high school basketball player juggles a pregnant girlfriend, a gambling dad, a clueless mom and his own college prep in Bart Freundlich’s one-note melodrama which reaches its nadir in a contrived one-on-one game between father and son that pales next to a similar scene scene in The Great Santini. What Freundlich lacks in expressive writing he compensates for in casting and location scouting: Michael Shannon (dad), Taylor John Smith (son), Carla Gugino (mom) and Zazie Beetz (girlfriend) are all admirable, and the famed Greenwich Village basketball courts provide vital atmosphere.