Editor’s Notes: The Revenant, Lamb, Ip Man 3, Fatal Beauty, The Stuff, & Betrayed will be released on their respective formats on April 19th.
The Revenant (20th Century-Fox) is set during the winter of 1823 on the Great Plains. This Alejandro Inarritu-directed film stars Leonardo Di Caprio as real-life Hugh Glass, a frontiersman hired as a scout to guide a team of fur trappers through harsh territory. The journey is plagued by Indians, bitter cold, and dangerous terrain. Glass keeps watch over his teenage son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), who is half Pawnee.
The movie chronicles the obstacles — both from nature and man — faced by the trappers as they attempt to get back to Fort Kiowa. Tom Hardy co-stars as Fitzgerald, a particularly untrustworthy member of the trapping party, and Domhnall Gleeson portrays Capt. Andrew Henry, the official leader of the group.
A highlight of the movie is an attack on Glass by a bear rendered with computer imagery. The sequence is incredibly realistic as Glass is tossed about like a rag doll and clawed repeatedly. After the attack and his near-death experience, we focus on Glass’ struggle to survive alone in the wilderness.
Di Caprio dominates the film but has very little dialogue, building his performance on physical action, expression, and pantomime. The film’s violence reflects the harsh, unforgiving surroundings. The Revenant was filmed in Canada and Argentina under arduous conditions by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who used only natural light, resulting in spectacular images of pristine wilderness.
The only bonus extra on the Blu-ray release is the making-of documentary, “A World Unseen.” A digital HD copy is included.
Lamb (Sony Home Entertainment) is based on an award-winning novel by Bonnie Nadzam. David Lamb (Ross Partridge) is a Chicago businessman whose marriage has recently disintegrated. While having a cigarette one afternoon, he is approached by 11-year-old Tommie (Oona Laurence) who wants to impress her more popular schoolmates by bumming a cigarette from him.
Hoping to regain some faith in his own goodness, David turns his attention to the awkward and unpopular girl. Convinced that he can help her avoid a destiny of apathy and emptiness, he takes Tommie on a road trip from Chicago to the Rockies to let her experience the beauty of the mountain wilderness. Their journey will lead to an unusual connection and change them both in significant ways.
The premise is discomfiting from the get-go. We wonder about a middle-aged man heading off to a cabin in the wilderness with a preadolescent girl, and director Partridge keeps the suspense percolating. Tommie is drawn to David because he’s the only person of any age who’s nice to her, and her parents are too high on drugs to care. We’re aware that Tommie sees in David a father surrogate, but it’s not clear what David wants. Just when you think you’ve figured out where the story is going, it takes an unexpected turn.
Special features on the widescreen DVD release include audio commentary, photo gallery, and deleted scenes.
Ip Man 3
Ip Man 3 (Well Go USA) is the final chapter in director Wilson Yip’s trilogy, starring Donnie Yen. This installment of the Ip Man saga takes place in 1959 Hong Kong and finds Ip Man (Yen) attempting to save his son’s school from an intimidating property developer (Mike Tyson). With the police unable to help, Ip Man recruits his students to face off against the developer’s flunkies in an action-packed fight sequence that ends with the school’s headmaster being kidnapped. After resolving this crisis, Ip Man faces another opponent in a fight to decide the true Grandmaster of the martial art Win Chun.
Yen portrays Ip Man as a proponent of peace and serenity. He is a center of calm amid chaos, an exemplar of purity and dignity in a corrupt world. Of course, this man of peace with the powerful, lightning-fast fists and feet eventually gets into plenty of elaborately staged fights — the main draw of this franchise. The plot is merely an excuse for these fights and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
The movie peaks about two-thirds of the way through with the confrontation between the good guys and roughnecks terrorizing their community, making the final third, in which Ip Man looks after his wife as he contemplates a challenge from a loud-mouthed adversary, anti-climactic. Mike Tyson’s presence is initially distracting, but he delivers in his big fight scene.
For the first time in the series, this episode does not feature a fight to the death. Despite portraying violence as a failure of civilization, its terrific action choreography is the trilogy’s best attribute.
The film is presented in Cantonese, with dubbed versions in English, Spanish, and French. There are also optional English, Spanish and French subtitles. There are no bonus features on the widescreen Blu-ray release.
Fatal Beauty (Olive Films) is a 1987 police action flick starring Whoopi Goldberg as Detective Rita Rizzoli, a street-wise cop who dresses in Goldberg’s typical screen attire — jeans and baggy sweatshirts. Rizzoli is on the trail of a drug dealer who has been pushing a particularly potent form of cocaine called Fatal Beauty. Her investigation leads to drug king Conrad Kroll (Harris Yulin) and his head security man, Mike (Sam Elliott). To nail Kroll, Rizzoli sets her sights on Mike as an unlikely ally.
As a police thriller, the film closely resembles Beverly Hills Cop, made three years earlier. Instead of Eddie Murphy, it’s Goldberg rat-tat-tatting wisecracks, spewing profanities, and showing that a woman can be an action hero as well as a man. There’s also the fish-out-of-water slant of Goldberg’s Rizzoli pushing her way into the homes of the rich and quickly letting the occupants know who’s in charge. Unfortunately, the swaggering and non-stop insults and put-downs wear out their welcome quickly. The film takes a turn for the serious when we learn about Rizzoli’s past and what inspired her to be such a determined cop.
For Goldberg, this role is far afield from her excellent work in The Color Purple. Rizzoli is probably a more comfortable fit for the actress, as it relies on her comic delivery and flair for the stinging one-liner. What is disappointing is how much Fatal Beauty cribs ideas and situations from other films, especially the aforementioned Beverly Hills Cop. Goldberg’s talent deserves a more worthy script. Director Tom Holland (Fright Night) is content to let the action and Ms. Goldberg’s mouth drive the film.
Also in the cast are Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) as one of Kroll’s thugs and Ruben Blades as Rizzoli’s partner.
There are no bonus features on the widescreen Blu-ray release.
The Stuff (Arrow Video) is the new dessert sensation sweeping America. It’s tasty, low in calories, and doesn’t stain. The downside: it has a life of its own. Young Jason (Scott Bloom) seems to be the only person who doesn’t love The Stuff. In fact, he won’t go anywhere near it after seeing the pudding crawling around the refrigerator one night. Everyone who eats The Stuff starts acting weird. Teaming up with industrial saboteur David “Mo” Rutherford (Michael Moriarty), Jason is determined to put a stop to The Stuff and the devious organization behind it, or they face a gooey demise.
Combining elements of The Blob and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Stuff attempts to satirically comment on Americans’ tendency to become infatuated with anything new and trendy. Once the plot is set in motion, however, the film never lives up to its potential. With some routine chase sequences and a bunch of wisecracks uttered as the real purpose of The Stuff is revealed, the movie teeters on the fence between comedy and horror, never settling on a consistent tone. Even as horror/comedy, The Stuff falls short.
Director Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, Original Gangstas) uses the premise as a jumping off point for shots at commercials, marketing, industrial espionage, and nutrition. One of the humorous — though pessimistic — messages of the movie is that since we don’t seem to care enough about food additives that could contribute to illness and even death, it’s faster simply to ingest a food that doesn’t prolong the agony.
Though the premise is far-fetched and the script is uneven, the movie’s characters are well defined, three-dimensional folks who find themselves in situations that aren’t so hard to believe. An above-average cast —Andrea Marcovicci, Paul Sorvino, Danny Aiello, Patrick O’Neal, Alexander Scourby, and Russell Nype — allow us to suspend disbelief and lose ourselves in the bizarre fantasy.
Bonus extras on the R-rated Blu-ray release include an introduction and trailer commentary by director Darren Bousman (Saw II, Saw III); making-of documentary featuring director Larry Cohen, producer Paul Kurta, actress Andrea Marcovicci, and mechanical make-up effects artist Steve Neill; reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned art work; original trailer; and collector’s booklet with a new essay on the film and original stills and promotional materials.
Betrayed (Olive Films), directed by Costa-Gavras (State of Siege, Missing), is a dramatic exploration of white supremacist groups in America. After the murder of a left-wing Jewish talk show host in Chicago, the FBI sends undercover agent Catherine Weaver (Debra Winger, Terms of Endearment), posing as an itinerant farm worker, to investigate Gary Simmons (Tom Bringer, Platoon), a widower who lives on a farm with his two kids and may have been complicit in the murder. Her loyalties are put to the test when she falls in love with Gary.
Though the film works as a thriller, it pushes the parameters of good taste, particularly in a scene in which Gary and his buddies capture a black man and stage a hunt, chasing him through the woods at night until they eventually kill him. On the one hand, the movie is a political indictment of right-wing terrorism, while on the other hand, it plays as suspenseful thriller.
The real dramatic hook is the dilemma posed by Catherine’s duty to job and her genuine affection for Gary. Writer Joe Eszterhaus allows us to see a monster as a human being and a human being as monster. We see this man through Catherine’s eyes, so it’s not so easy to brand Gary a crazy from the lunatic fringe. He’s a father who works hard to support his family. Berenger plays Gary like your average Joe — the type of man who blends in with his community. The true horror is that deep-seated hatred, though often secreted, is a societal cancer.
There are no bonus features on the R-rated Blu-ray release.