Well, it’s not a big week for releases this week, but there are some strong releases, including the greatest musical act in world history, so that’s something to get excited about! Continue reading!
The Beatles: Come Back
Quite possibly the most stunning and significant home video release of the past 20 years, The Beatles: Get Back makes its home video debut this week on Blu-ray and DVD. Directed by the great Peter Jackson, the event originally started as a movie. However, with hundreds of hours of footage to go through, Jackson finally decided to create a three-part miniseries that lasts eight hours. And it is… GLORIOUS! The film chronicles the Beatles’ recording of the Let it Be album in 1969, and you can see the band completely unfettered. There are live performances, footage of them creating songs on the fly, jokes, arguments…everything. It’s real stuff to fly off a wall, and it’s absolutely mesmerizing. There’s also tons of footage from the famous Beatles rooftop concert that was eventually broken up by the police. The set is a three-disc box set that comes in very nice packaging, and the Blu-ray in particular looks and sounds fantastic. My only complaint is the lack of additional features. I mean, with several hundred hours of material to sift through, couldn’t they have found a handful of deleted scenes? Or did he give us a making-of in which Jackson discussed his approach to making the show? Yet that little detail aside, it’s 100% absolutely essential viewing for any Beatles fan.
Star Trek: Lower Decks – Season 2
I’ve been a Star Trek fan for as long as I can remember, and one of the things I’ve always loved about Trek at its best is how humorous it can be. So when Paramount announced a comedy animated series set in the Next Generation universe, let’s just say I was pretty damn excited. Under the leadership of Mike McMahon, one of the showrunners of Rick & Morty (of which I am not a fan, by the way), the show gives us a glimpse into the lives of four officers of the “lower decks” of the USS Cerritos, a pretty lower tier ship in Starfleet. Returning this season are Ensign Boimler, rebellious Ensign Mariner, geeky cyborg Ensign Rutherford, and over-enthusiastic Ensign Tendi, who of course find themselves in all sorts of trouble. But what’s great about the show is that even though it’s a comedy, it never lacks Trek-style exploration and action. It actually stays very true to the Trek aesthetic, it has a lot of fun doing it. And the comedy is affectionate, not resentful; the show often pokes fun at Trek tropes, but in a way that’s never mean-spirited. Not to sound cliché, but Lower Decks doesn’t laugh at Star Trek, it laughs WITH Star Trek. I love it and can’t wait for season 3!
Pompo the movie buff
Many anime titles are filled with fantastical creatures, magical powers, and other worlds, but most of my favorite anime releases from the past few years deal with the real world. Pompo le cinéphile is one of these films. In it, acclaimed director Pompo offers her latest script to her assistant, Gene, for direction. Gene lacks confidence but Pompo sees the talent hidden deep within him. What follows is a film about making movies and finding your voice, which I found quite enjoyable. There’s a lot of humor and a few good jokes inside Hollywood that’s sure to make you laugh if you know a thing or two about how movies are made. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual swords, monsters, cyborgs, and dream realms that populate so many anime movies these days. Worth a look, especially if you’re a more laid back anime fan like me.
Also available on Home Video this week:
- sex drive – This Japanese film features a trio of loosely related stories that deal with sex and its connection to food. In the vignettes, we meet a man whose marriage has lost its sexual spark, an office worker suffering from panic attacks, and a man who wants to end his sexual relationship. There’s a message about secrets floating through all three stories thanks to an offbeat character named Kurita. Despite the fact that the film is only an hour and 10 minutes long, it still feels too long. While there is some erotic material, the film is actually relatively tame for what it seems to offer, and I never found myself caught up in any of the characters or their lives. In the end, there is nothing exciting about this one.
- poppy field – This LGBTQ+ drama comes from Romania and it has an interesting premise that isn’t fully fulfilled by the movie itself. In it, Cristi is a police officer who finds himself with his team in a cinema showing a lesbian film and is disturbed by protesters. As they attempt to control the crowd, Cristi is called by a man from his past who claims to have dated Cristi, which Cristi vehemently denies as he is surrounded by his homophobic and macho co-workers. This leads to moments of tension and bad decisions. It’s an intriguing premise for a movie, and it certainly delivers some memorable and intense scenes. It also drags on occasion, with a pacing that sometimes lets things settle a little too much. Overall, I liked the movie, with its solid performances and morally interesting characters. Worth a visit if you want thought-provoking foreign dishes.
- Bigfoot or Bust – The saddest part about this ultra-low-budget comedy is that director Jim Wynorski was once a relatively successful low-budget writer and director. His credits include forbidden world, Witch, screw balls, hash mall, Not of this Earthand The Return of Swamp Thing. I mean, I get that they’re not classic epics, but they were the kind of movies that were made with passion and had a lot of cult followings. Bigfoot or Bust, however, is the worst kind of budget fare. Crude, immature, cheap and pointless, the film sees a group of busty celebrities as well as a team of busty time travelers in search of Bigfoot. This translates to a group of older B-movie actresses with surgically-enhanced breasts running around, ripping their shirts off, jumping on trampolines, and chasing a guy in a cheap Bigfoot costume. Honestly, even as a lowest common denominator rate, it’s pretty inexcusable.
- Spotlight on the World Bank Archives – The Warner Archive is continuing its print-on-demand service with a new batch of Blu-ray releases this month, and there are a few that I was particularly excited to receive. As always, these titles are available Warner Archive Amazon Store or online retailers where DVDs and Blu-ray® are sold. First up we have a pair of early Kevin Costner films, American flyers and fandango. Now Kevin Costner is quite possibly my favorite actor, and I had never seen any of these movies before, so it was very cool to dig into them for the first time. American flyers (1985) is a bicycle racing drama; not bike races like mountain biking, but rather Tour de France style races. It is directed by John Badham (Saturday night fever, War games, Surveillance) and Costner sports a bad mustache, but it’s a great mix of racing/cycling training and character drama. It’s not essential viewing, but Costner and Badham together make for an enjoyable watch. fandango (1985) sees Costner and Judd Nelson as two of five friends who go on a road trip before facing their future, which may include the Vietnam expedition. This one is made by Costner’s Robin Hood and water world director, Kevin Reynolds, who is actually a good director on his own merits. The film is a comedy-drama and focuses more on male bonding and friendship than the usual sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll of most road trip movies. I liked it. Also from the WB Archive this month are a handful of classic Hollywood entries, starting with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the 1941 adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel starring Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner. While this casting had me salivating, the movie has its ups and downs. Dr. Jekyll from Tracy is terrific; his Mr. Hyde… a little less. The movie starts out strong but then starts to falter a bit, though one would expect it to get more exciting as it goes on. It has a pretty decent climax, but I can see why it’s not considered a great monster movie alongside Universal’s most famous monster movies of the time. Then we have 1945 The clock, a Judy Garland/Robert Walker vehicle about a World War II soldier and a girl who meet and fall in love during a two-day whirlwind. It’s a perfectly good movie; I can’t say I was totally taken by the romance, but I didn’t enjoy it either. Garland’s performance is terrific, however. Then there is 1941 Ziegfeld Girl, which features an all-star cast including James Stewart, Judy Garland, Hedy Lamarr and Lana Turner. All three women leave their lives behind to become famous Ziegfeld girls, leading to love, fame, and melodrama. It’s a bit long for a musical (12 minutes over two hours), but it’s also big, brassy and very energetic. Plus, the cast is top-notch, so it’s definitely worth watching, especially if you like musicals. Following this, we have For me and my girlfriend (1942), another Judy Garland musical directed by the iconic Busby Berkeley. Set during World War I, this might be my least favorite movie of the lot, but if you like that era, actors, and musicals, you’ll be fine. Finally, things are getting a bit more recent (sort of), with The Carey Treatment (1972) with James Coburn and Jennifer O’Neill. Directed by the great Blake Edwards and based on a novel by Michael Crichton, the film is a medical thriller, a rare countertype for Edwards. Now, even with all that talent involved, the film can be described as “solid.” It’s pleasant enough, although there’s way too much endless dialogue, but it’s not one of Crichton’s best adaptations. It’s worth watching and mildly enjoyable, but it doesn’t equal the sum of its parts.