Digital Week – January 9th

Blu-rays of the Week

It (Warner Bros)

This smash-hit adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a clown terrorizing youngsters is ridiculously bloated, and we’ve also been threatened with a Part II. The problem is that seeing Pennywise, the villain, in the flesh causes uncontrollable giggles; he’s supposed to be scary? Maybe on the page, King’s sledgehammer dramatics work more effectively, but onscreen, director Andy Muschietti’s numbingly crude 135-minute mess becomes—thanks to the talented teen cast—occasional mindlessly murderous fun. The film looks great on Blu; extras comprise featurettes, interviews and deleted scenes.

Acceptable Risk (Acorn)

This slow-burning but involving Irish series explores the convoluted goings-on after the murder of an American in Montreal who worked in Dublin for a Swiss pharmaceutical company (got that?): his shocked wife must deal with his death only a few years after her first husband—who also worked for the company, as did she—also died under mysterious circumstances. Solid acting and unpeeling layers of intrigue make up for lapses in logic, like a low-down criminal who manages to avoid the police to threaten the widow and her sister before getting his comeuppance. The hi-def transfer is excellent; extras include over an hour of on-set featurettes and interviews.

The Apartment (Arrow Academy)

Some consider this Billy Wilder’s greatest film, but I prefer Some Like It Hot to this amusing but jaundiced comedy about a low-level functionary who lets company execs use his bachelor pad for their flings, and who discovers that his married boss’s latest mistress is the cute elevator operator he likes. Despite a flimsy conceit and cardboard characters, this works handily (if obviously), thanks to Wilder’s and I.A.L. Diamond’s funny lines and Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine’s perfection in the leads. On Blu, the B&W photography looks more stunning than ever; extras include commentaries, video essays, featurettes, interviews and an impressive 150-page hardcover book.

Hell Night (Scream Factory)

Upon its release, this tepid 1981 horror entry was a failure, and with good reason: there’s enough mediocre filmmaking, amateur acting and unoriginal storytelling to ice it from the get-go. It’s not until the showdown between the heroine (a blandly uninteresting Linda Blair) and the murderer—which climaxes with a clever impalement—that genre lovers finally get what they came for. There’s a solid hi-def transfer; extras comprise new interviews with the likes of stars Blair and Vincent Van Patten, and director Tom DeSimone’s commentary.

Leatherface (Lionsgate)

We didn’t need a backstory to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but here it is anyway, wallowing in unpleasant nastiness for 90 minutes, carving up villains and victims alike in lugubrious fashion. As a sheriff out for revenge for his teenage daughter’s unspeakable killing, Stephen Dorff shows he’s in a class by himself when it comes to overacting: he even overplays as his innards are ripped out in front of his very eyes. Directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo show little sense of style, rhythm or pacing, but the blood and guts are all in order, however. The hi-def transfer is good; extras include alternate opening and ending, deleted scenes, making-of and interviews.

The Mountain Between Us (Fox)

If it wasn’t for the combined star power of Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, this stretching-credulity tale of strangers who survive a mountain plane crash would be more eye-rolling than it is. In director Hany Abu-Assad’s hands—abetted by screenwriters Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe—no cliché is clichéd enough to ignore: Winslet falls through the ice, Elba slides down a snowdrift to the mountain’s edge, the dead pilot’s dog miraculously survives a mountain lion attack; and they eventually find themselves in each other’s arms, especially in a heavy-handed happy ending. Both stars do what they can, which in the long run is not enough. The film has a fine hi-def transfer; extras are featurettes, deleted scenes and director’s commentary.

Pulp (Arrow)

Mike Hodges’ offbeat 1972 comic mystery yarn has a properly laconic Michael Caine as a trashy novelist caught up in a murder plot on a Mediterranean isle after being hired to ghostwrite a famous actor’s autobiography. Hodges, who knows how to throw curve balls, has the perfect performer in Caine, who rolls with the punches (literally) throughout this enjoyable shaggy-dog story. The hi-def transfer is good and grainy; extras are interviews with Hodges, assistant director John Glen, cinematographer Ousama Rawi, and producer Michael Klinger’s son Tony.

Time to Die (Film Movement Classics)

This morally ambiguous 1966 Arturo Ripstein drama, from a tight script by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, moves simultaneously at a snail’s and snappy pace as it heads toward a showdown between a man just released from prison for killing another in a duel, and the victim’s now-adult sons who want revenge. The engrossing B&W film looks stunning in this restored hi-def transfer; extras include Ripstein’s and actor Enrique Rocha’s commentary and an introduction by director Alex Cox.

DVDs of the Week

Shadowman ((Film Movement)

Like Basquiat and Keith Haring, artist Richard Hambleton helped found the street-art movement in 1980s New York, and Oren Jacoby’s entertaining documentary chronicles Shadowman’s incredible rise and even more precipitous fall, mainly fueled by a runaway drug addiction. Jacoby also shows how Hambleton launched a comeback that made his past work even more lucrative, historically and financially; through interviews with the artist and others he worked with or loved, Shadowman is a fine primer of the complex contemporary art world. Extras include 30 minutes of additional scenes.

The White King (Film Movement)

Based on Gyorgy Dragoman’s novel, directors Alex Helfrecht and Jorg Tittel’s dystopian drama is set in a totalitarian state where a young boy and his mother are desperate to find out whether his father—who has disappeared from sight—is still alive: no one, including his grandfather (a retired general) and the current reigning military leader, is helpful. This tidy 90-minute film has several persuasive performances, including Jonathan Pryce as the grandfather and Greta Scacchi as the military leader, while young Lorenzo Allchurch’s boy is appealing and complicated and Agyness Dehn is a warmly sympathetic mother.