New on Blu-ray: 'America Lost and Found'
Another Great Collection from Criterion
I decided why fight it. I am re-dubbing this the "New on Blu-ray" column since DVD is essentially going the way of the dinosaurs. So the best this week is a collection of films from the 60s and 70s.
What would us cinephiles do without Criterion taking care of our addiction and bringing us great but not necessarily mainstream films? The most interesting Blu-ray release this week is a tempting collection called "America Lost and Found: The BBS Story." BBS is an odd footnote in American film. The short-lived production company (1968-1972) was formed by Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider and Steve Blauner, and funded by money made from their invention of the TV pop group The Monkees. Coming from mainstream success in television with "The Monkees" show, these rebel filmmakers jolted the status quo in Hollywood with films such as "Easy Rider," "Five Easy Pieces," and "The King of Marvin Gardens." The films were made within the mainstream Hollywood studio system but drew on the counterculture to appeal to a new and younger audience.
The seven-disc set includes the acclaimed ("The Last Picture Show"), the iconic ("Easy Rider," "Five Easy Pieces"), the daring ("King of Marvin Gardens"), the novel (Jack Nicholson's directorial debut "Drive, He Said"), and the nearly forgotten ("Head," "A Safe Place"). Some fun bonus features include commentary tracks by the Monkees on their film "Head;" screen tests with the Monkees; and a new documentary on the BBS. The late 60s and 70s marked an exciting new wave in American cinema and this collection highlights some of the more significant films of that era. This collection would make the perfect Christmas gift for any movie nut.
Dropping the bar on artistic quality but not necessarily on fun is the double feature of "Crank" and "Crank 2." I didn't care for the first film but the sequel was so goofy that it won my heart. Where else can you find an American film with two actors engaging in a Japanese style giant kaiju battle? More than any other film -- with the exception of "Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World" -- this film captures the sensation of being in a video game. It's wacky, over-the-top, and just stupid fun. You don't really need the first film in order to follow the plot of the second but the combo pack is a good deal.
In a similar vain of big and dumb is the Blu-ray release of the testosterone driven action flick "The Expendables." Director-star Sylvester Stallone got a fine sampling of aging action stars together (Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke) and a few slightly younger ones (Jason Staham, Jet Li, Terry Crews) for a formula action film pumped up on the camaraderie of the cast.
Not a film but still rather cinematic in scope is the cable western series "Deadwood." I highlight this complete series box set because "Deadwood" was a stellar show and because I'm a fan of its star Ian McShane. McShane deserves to win a best supporting actor award this year for his work in the ensemble Brit film "44 Inch Chest." This is a great set to own.
New on Blu-ray and not recommended is "Eat Pray Gag," oh I'm sorry, I mean "Eat Pray Love." This self-absorbed, contrived chick flick was about as appealing as having my stomach pumped. Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem look pretty though. Also gag-worthy is the faux documentary "I'm Still Here," about Joaquin Phoenix and his fake attempt to be a hip-hop star. This smug, self satisfied prank was made by Phoenix and his brother-in-law Casey Affleck. Use this as a stocking stuffer for someone you hate.
If you are a fan of Tyler Perry, then you can pick up a slew of his films including his first surprise hit "Diary of a Mad Black Woman." I find his films a mix of sometimes hilarious comedy and preachy spirituality. But I admire him for shunning mainstream Hollywood and the mainstream white media and finding repeated box office success. I also have to confess to loving the character he created and plays: Aunt Madea.
Also coming out today are "The Hunting Party," a 2007 satire that's slightly off its mark; "Countdown to Zero," a solid documentary on the nuclear arms race; and "The Nature of Existence," a passable documentary on god, faith, religion, and spirituality.