Digital Week – September 11th

Blu-rays of the Week

Tag (Warner Bros)

With Ed Helms in the lead, this mainly inane comedy about grown men acting like children (based on a true story) tries to equal the vapidity of Helms’s biggest hit, The Hangover; indeed, there are several moments that reach that movie’s embarrassingly crude lows. But however often it scrapes the bottom of the comedic barrel, it has just enough energy from a game cast that throws itself into the lunacy with aplomb, especially Jeremy Renner’s proto-Bourne character; the exaggerated use of slo-mo gets the most laughs. The film looks pristine on Blu; extras comprise a featurette, deleted scenes and gag reel.

Found Footage 3D (Shudder)

Do we need yet another found-footage horror flick? Well, maybe: this one is as unnecessarily crude, dully-acted and predictable as the others—with the added bonus of it being in gimmicky 3D, if anyone still wants to watch with those stupid glasses on—but at least it injects some self-referential humor into the proceedings. It doesn’t always work, but it remains halfway entertaining even while it clumsily falls apart, which is something, I guess. The hi-def transfer is excellent; extras include deleted scenes, etc.

Hereditary (Lionsgate)

One of the most imbecile horror movies I’ve ever seen, writer-director Ari Aster’s risible drama is as ridiculously silly as they come, with the kitchen sink thrown in for good measure. Not only does he steal brazenly from The Shining’s visuals and music (the opening shot, among others, is a direct Kubrick rip-off, and the score by Colin Stetson is nothing but an empty lift from Penderecki and Ligeti), but he has none of Kubrick’s artistry or originality. Poor Toni Collette’s performance is pitched so high that she makes Nicholson’s Shining work look positively understated. And the bizarrely insane ending must be seen to be disbelieved, coming after two hours of complete nonsense. The hi-def transfer is first-rate; extras are deleted scenes and a featurette.

The Last Hunt (Warner Archive)

Shot on the actual locations in South Dakota—scenic Custer State Park and foreboding Badlands National Monument (now National Park)—Richard Brooks’ familiar but efficient 1956 western follows hunters shooting down magnificent bison during the area’s annual bison cull (which is actually shown in the film). Stewart Granger is fine as the hunter whose last hunt this is, but the drama of the puny humans is secondary to the majesty of the locales and the animals themselves in living color. The hi-def transfer is transfixing.

Supernatural—Complete 13th Season (Warner Bros)

(Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.)

It’s rare that a non-Law and Order or Shonda Rhimes drama lasts on network television as long as this lighthearted fantasy that spells out its modest dimensions in its very title, but after 13 years—and with its 14th season upcoming this fall—Supernatural still churns out not very original but watchable tales of two brothers battling various antagonistic creatures. You would have thought that Sam and Dean had already gone up against every supernatural being around, but this latest season will set you straight. There’s a fine hi-def transfer; extras are deleted scenes, commentaries, featurettes and a gag reel.

DVDs of the Week

The Escape (IFC)

Gemma Arterton gives a touching and subtle performance as a harried wife who decides to leave her husband and son behind and head to Paris, where she meets (natch) the ultimate alluring foreigner, allowing her to contemplate emotional and sexual freedom. Director-writer Dominic Savage telegraphs everything without arriving at any insight into his heroine’s behavior, except that she’s sick of it all. But Arterton provides the needed subtext through a simple brief look or the mere raising of an eyebrow whenever her director can’t do so.

Laugh-In—Complete Final Season (Time-Life)

The sixth and final season of one of the goofiest but politically astute variety shows to grace the small screen came in 1972-3 when Nixon’s White House fortunes were taking a turn for the worse, and this set captures all 24 episodes led by ringmasters Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. Among the guests for this last ride include Steve Allen, Jack Benny, Carol Burnett, Johnny Carson, Howard Cosell, Sammy Davis Jr., Angie Dickinson, Phyllis Diller, Jack Klugman, Rich Little, Don Rickles and Sally Struthers—but there’s no Tricky Dick saying “sock it to me,” and the regular cast itself received a makeover into obscurity: I’ll bet you don’t know who Patti Deutsch, Jud Strunk, Willie Tyler & Lester or Sarah Kennedy are.

That Summer (Sundance Selects)

Here’s a more celebrated found-footage movie than the 3D one above, put together by director Göran Hugo Olsson from film shot in 1972 at the Beale’s East Hampton compound by famed photographer Peter Beard and others (including one of the Maysles brothers, who made Grey Gardens a few years later). Mother and daughter Big Edie and Little Edie Beale became celebrities despite—or perhaps because of—their living in a garbage- and cat-strewn home, and there’s a profound sense of sadness that underlies what we watch, especially since we know what happened to both women. Beard and Lee Radziwill (Jackie Kennedy’s sister and Big Edie’s niece) narrate.