This week’s roundup features my reviews of several new films, including a fascinating documentary about John Lennon, “The Lost Weekend”; the loony “Cocaine Bear”; and Steven Soderbergh and Channing Tatum’s latest collab, “Magic Mike’s Last Dance.”
In-Theater/Streaming Releases of the Week
The Lost Weekend (Iconic Events)
When John Lennon went to L.A. without Yoko Ono in 1973, their assistant, 22-year-old May Pang, accompanied him—he ended up staying there partying and recording while he and Pang began a romance that lasted for 18 months, until Ono decided she wanted him back. Most Lennon fans are familiar with that basic outline, but Eve Brandstein, Richard Kaufman, and Stuart Samuels’ documentary recounts those heady days through the eyes of Pang herself, who narrates her version of events, saying that Lennon was ready to leave Yoko for her, a claim that is seemingly backed by Lennon’s son, Julian, who not only chats engagingly about his dad and his own friendship with Pang, but is also seen, at the end, hugging her and walking down the street arm in arm, a pointed visual about John and Mae’s relationship if there ever was one.
Passion (Film Movement)
Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi has made his mark with the mammoth character study “Happy Hour” and last year’s international breakthrough—and Oscar-winning best international film—“Drive My Car.” That notoriety has led to the release of his 2008 student film, in which the themes and directorial hallmarks of his later films are given rough, choppy form. Unlike his mature films, where dialogue is meaningful and has its own kind of narrative propulsiveness, here the characters falling in and out of relationships sit around and don’t have much to say that’s memorable. Still, this is an interesting blueprint for what would be (mostly) perfected later.
4K/UHD Releases of the Week
Cool Hand Luke (Warner Bros)
Stuart Rosenberg’s 1967 chain-gang drama, which has earned its status as an American classic, came out at a time when anti-establishment rebels started appearing in movies and novels; Luke could be a cousin of McMurphy of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” And like McMurphy, his legend lives on among his fellow prisoners. Paul Newman as Luke is perfection and George Kennedy indelible in his Oscar-winning turn as compatriot Dragline headline a first-rate cast (including Strother Martin, who gets to say the immortal line, “What we have here is a failure to communicate”). It’s beautifully directed by Rosenberg, grittily photographed by Conrad Hall and satisfyingly scored by Lalo Schifrin. The film looks great in 4K; extras are a commentary by Newman biographer Eric Lax and a vintage making-of featurette.
The Maltese Falcon (Warner Bros)
One of Hollywood’s first—and best—detective stories, with Humphrey Bogart as the immortal private eye Sam Spade, is this 1941 classic directed confidently by John Huston and featuring an unforgettable cast led by Mary Astor as femme fatale Ruth and Peter Lorre as bad guy Joel Cairo. It’s unbeatable entertainment, and Warner’s UHD transfer gives the B&W photography by Arthur Edeson added luster. Extras on the accompanying Blu-ray are another Eric Lax commentary; “Warner Night at the Movies”; featurettes “The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird” and “Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart”; short “Breakdowns of 1941”; makeup tests; and three radio broadcasts.
Blu-ray Releases of the Week
Cocaine Bear (Lionsgate)
The title tells all in this crazy little movie about a bear who downs the drug stash dropped from a plane and ends up tearing several poor suckers to pieces when they happen to cross its path in a Georgia national forest. It’s sort of based on a true story, but director Elizabeth Banks and writer Jimmy Warden have instead turned it into a rollickingly idiotic comedy. Good sports like Keri Russell, Margo Martindale, Jason Whitlock Jr and (in his last role) Ray Liotta provide the human fodder and make this more entertaining than it has any right to be. There’s a good hi-def transfer; extras are interviews, a gag reel and deleted/extended scenes.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance (Warner Bros)
We didn’t really need another Magic Mike movie (although my wife disagrees); still, director Steven Soderbergh finds ways to subvert genre clichés, managing to make Mike’s final go-round if not particularly substantial at least intermittently diverting. Channing Tatum is better at moves than speaking, and he has a perfect partner in Salma Hayek, better at wearing well-tailored clothes than speaking. There are amusing if old-hat U.S. vs. Britain jokes (it takes place in London), along with sensational dance numbers, including one on a double-decker bus and a drenched pas de deux finale between Tatum and the spectacular Kylie Shea that’s worth sitting through the other 110 minutes for. The film’s saturated look is well-captured on Blu; extras are a making-of featurette and a deleted scene.
DVD Release of the Week
Martin Roumagnac (Icarus Films)
This 1946 tragic romance stars the great French actor Jean Gabin and international sensation Marlene Dietrich—surprisingly, the only time they ever made a film together even though they were real-life lovers for seven years—as an odd couple separated by class and ultimately united in murder. Georges Lacombe helmed this sophisticated drama that has pockets of dry wit and a sober view of how snobbery is two sides of the same coin, as the tense trial that serves as the film’s histrionic climax (followed by a rather obvious O. Henry ending) flavorfully shows.