Friday, May 25, 2012

New on Blu: "42nd Street Forever: The Blu-ray Edition"

Synapses Films’ 42nd Street Forever DVD releases, which number a half dozen and counting, have become must-owns for film geeks. The collections, which the label began issuing in 2005, are a buffet of trailers from the so-called “grindhouse” era: the notorious, the long forgotten, and everything in between. Other, lesser labels have attempted to follow their lead with trailer compilations of their own, but no one does it quite as well as Synapse; their discs are howlingly entertaining and marvelously compiled, and feature about the best possible A/V quality for scraps of film as presumably neglected as these.

On DVD: "Carol Channing: Larger than Life"

I’m sure it’s possible to dislike Carol Channing, but I’m not sure how. In Dori Berinstein’s documentary Carol Channing: Larger Than Life, she strolls Broadway’s “Shubert Alley” and points out the theaters nearby where she’s played (“There are ghosts,” in the Booth Theater, she tells us. “Wonderful ghosts of great actors!”). She comes upon members of the cast for Next to Normal, who have stepped out during their matinee, and says, of the opportunity to perform on Broadway, “We should pay them!” She mentions that she’s almost 90, and the young men burst into spontaneous applause; “I don’t know why you applaud that, it just happened!” she exclaims. “I had nothing to do with it!”

Thursday, May 24, 2012

In Theaters: "Moonrise Kingdom"

There may not be an active filmmaker whose work is so immediately recognizable as Wes Anderson’s. You can walk into a room or switch over in the middle of one of his films and place it within seconds: the intricate production design, the symmetrical compositions, and the elegant tracking shots, lovingly panning from room and room and tableaux to tableaux. Some complain about the hyper-controlled aesthetic, the contained style, and say that his films are designed rather than directed, or that he’s playing in the same dollhouses over and over again. Some of those people will no doubt surface for his new film Moonrise Kingdom and make that complaint again. You must not listen to them. They are bad people, and they want to keep this movie away from your soul, where it will take residence for ninety minutes and make you flutter.

In Theaters: "Men in Black III"

It’s been a full decade since the last Men in Black sequel, which is why it was so worrisome to hear, during the production of Men in Black III, that they were working without a finished screenplay. I mean, they had ten years to write it, for goodness’ sake. That uncertainty translates to the screen—particularly in the opening scenes, which are all but drenched with flop sweat. It’s particularly dispiriting coming from a franchise whose inaugural chapter worked precisely because it had a good script that made it smarter and sharper than the average summer blockbuster; Men in Black was, yes, a giant hit thanks to Will Smith’s charisma, his chemistry with Tommy Lee Jones, and Barry Sonnenfeld’s jazzy direction, but it was also blessed with a genuinely witty screenplay by Bill & Ted writer Ed Solomon. That component was sorely missing in the inferior Men in Black II, which was not a terrible film but certainly wasn’t a good one either. That summary pretty much holds for chapter three.

Monday, May 21, 2012

On DVD: "Perfect Sense"

David McKenzie’s Perfect Sense tells a cold, frightening story with a sense of logic that is utterly arresting, and a refusal to soft-pedal its trajectory. It is not—contrary to the romantic-embrace print ad campaign, emphasizing sexy stars Ewan McGregor and Eva Green—an upbeat picture. “Without love there is nothing” reads the tagline, and whether or not that’s true, the film itself presents a pretty persuasive dramatization of the inverse: a world where there’s not much left but love, and who knows how much that’s worth.