Sunday, March 9, 2014
NEW ON THE SHELF
Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master.”
The Weinstein Company
"THE MASTER," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. Critically acclaimed, controversial, polarizing: These are all terms that tend to apply to the works of writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson ("There Will Be Blood"). And they certainly pertain to this singular character study, the exploration of the complex relationship between a troubled veteran (Phoenix, pulling out all the stops to mostly positive effect) and the leader (Hoffman, nominated for an Oscar) of a burgeoning cult known as The Cause.
One of those difficult to categorize films that's likely to be even better appreciated in retrospect, "The Master" is a challenging drama that further cements Anderson as one of his generation's premier filmmakers. Rated R. Running time: 2:24
Suggested retail price: $29.98; Blu-ray $39.99
"THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN -- PART TWO," starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. "Part Two" is reason for both fans and detractors of the "Twilight" series to rejoice, as it not only proves a worthy adaptation of the notoriously huge third installment of the saga, it marks the official end of the long-running teenage vampire love story that swept the nation to widely disparate worldwide reaction.
Fans have no doubt already caught "Part Two" during its original theatrical release, so this week's release will most likely be a rewatching or purchasing type of retail experience. Why not pick up a copy for the histrionic, morbid romantic in your life? We know you've got one. Special features include a seven-part making-of documentary. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:55
Suggested retail price: $30.98; Blu-ray $39.99
"AFRICA," documentary. Nobody gets up close and personal with nature these days like the BBC, and this follow up to such dazzling series as "Planet Earth" and "Frozen Planet" turns its cameras on the mysterious and dangerous wilds of Africa. This doc reveals astounding scenes that will leave viewers wondering not how the filmmakers managed to get the shots, but why they don't seem to have any regard for their personal safety. Amazing stuff as always. Not rated; contains some violence. Running time: 6:00
Suggested retail price: $29.98; Blu-ray $34.98
"CHASING MAVERICKS," starring Gerard Butler and Jonny Weston. Fact-based tale unites up-and-coming surfer Jay (Weston) with local legend Frosty (Butler) as they attempt to ride a notoriously impossible wave: The Mavericks surf break. There's plenty of excitingly shot surfing action for the beach bum crowd, but it's the believable and compelling relationship between the two leads that keeps this modest but affecting drama afloat. Rated PG. Running time: 1:56
Suggested retail price: $22.98; Blu-ray $29.99
NEW TO BLU-RAY
"THE HUDSUCKER PROXY," starring Tim Robbins and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Not a big hit for the Coen brothers from either a critical or box-office standpoint, this 1994 throwback comedy has nonetheless earned a devoted cult following over the years, much like the equally slow-to-start Coen comedy "The Big Lebowski" (though admittedly on a much smaller scale).
A young and fresh-faced Robbins headlines as Norville Barnes, a naive recent business graduate hired as president of a manufacturing company as part of a stock scam, a plan that backfires when Barnes comes up with the Next Big Thing: The hula hoop. A quirkily funny and breezy ride of a comedy with a game cast eager to bring back the screwball style of the '40s and '50s. Rated PG. Running time: 1:51
Suggested retail price: $21.95
"SANSHO THE BAILIFF," starring Kinuyo Tanaka and Yoshiaki Hanayagi. Considered by many film scholars to be one of the best Japanese movies ever made, this Criterion release brings this 1954 classic to the masses with a beautiful transfer and the usual host of extras.
Not a film to shy away from brutality, "Sansho" isn't an easy watch, but its tale of a pair of siblings working to escape the appalling conditions of the slave camp where they've been imprisoned remains mesmerizing and timeless. Special features include interviews with cast and crew and a commentary from Japanese literature professor Jeffrey Angles. Not rated. Running time: 2:04
Suggested retail price: $39.95
"HOLY MOTORS," starring Denis Lavant and Edith Scob. What exactly is "Holy Motors"? Only its creator, writer-director Leos Carax ("Pola X") knows for sure, and even that may be up for debate.
We can tell you that it's crazy, exhilarating and endlessly creative, following what is apparently a normal day for a man named Oscar (Lavant). He's a chameleonic man of indeterminate means and employment who travels the streets of Paris via stretch limo, stopping at various intervals to portray a variety of intriguing characters: An actor in a sexually explicit film one minute, a crippled beggar the next, even pulling an assassin job at one point.
Visuals and performances are unforgettable throughout, although viewers in search of a plot or easy answers are destined to come away unfulfilled. Not rated. Running time: 1:55
Suggested retail price: $19.97; Blu-ray $39.95
"THE LONELIEST PLANET," starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg. Contemplative relationship study from director Julia Loktev ("Day Night Day Night") effectively relies on subtlety to convey the emotional shift that unexpectedly emerges between engaged couple Bernal and Furstenberg, a pair of young lovers whose playful camaraderie during a hiking trip takes a hit following a moment of cowardice on Bernal's part in the midst of an altercation with unwelcoming locals.
Reminiscent of some of Gus Van Sant's more experimental work ("Gerry," "Elephant"), "Planet" is likely to frustrate viewers looking for the fish-out-of-water thriller that some of the ads have implied. But Loktev and her talented cast manage to get across the myriad ways that even the strongest relationship can sour, throwing in some gorgeous scenery besides. Not rated. Running time: 1:53
Suggested retail price: $24.98
- Courtesy of Videoport