Editor’s Notes: Listening, The Last Diamond, Barbershop: The Next Cut, Born to Be Blue, & Opry Video Classics will be released on their respective formats July 26th.
Listening (MVD Visual) is a psychological thriller about penniless grad students who invent mind-reading technology that destroys their lives. David (Thomas Stroppel) and Ryan (Artie Ahr) hope their invention will solve all their problems, but instead it opens a Pandora’s box of dangers, as the team discovers that when they open their minds, there is nowhere to hide their thoughts. Secrets and betrayals surface, and the technology is stolen by a covert government agency with a sinister agenda.
The sci-fi premise has promise but writer/director Khalil Sullins undermines it with sloppy character development. Two guys who are supposedly so brilliant that they can invent a telepathy machine conduct themselves like dim college dorm boys and appear extremely naive about the value of their invention, especially to unscrupulous types who might try to get their hands on it. When David and Ryan take on Jordan (Amber Marie Bollinger) as an assistant, they seem totally taken in by her physical attributes and don’t have a clue that she might have a devious agenda of her own.
Editing is choppy, with huge leaps in plot made without benefit of proper transition or indication of time passage. The story is so unclear that we have to draw our own lines between scenes to keep up with it. Director Sullins often slows the pace with sluggish, talky scenes. The movie is overstuffed — too much plot, too little time to develop all of its tendrils.
Bonus features on the DVD release include a British Film Institute Q & A with director, cast, and crew; “Making the Score” with composer Edward Patrick White; “A Look Into Editing Listening with editor Howard Heard;” theatrical trailer; alternate posters; and behind-the-scenes photos.
The Last Diamond
The Last Diamond (Cohen Media Group) is about a planned theft of a valuable, ancient jewel. Simon Carrerra (Yvan Attal) has just been released from prison and is now on parole. His friend Albert persuades him back to his old ways with the idea of stealing a celebrated diamond — the Florentine — in Antwerp, where it is soon to come up for auction after the death of its owner. The owner’s daughter, Julia (Berenice Bejo), is in charge of the sale. Simon meets Julia while posing as a friend of her mother, and uses their relationship to get to the diamond.
The first part of the film develops like a traditional romantic comedy sparked by crime. The latter section deepens characterization, exploring themes of honor among thieves, greed, and love’s ability to change a person. The plot has several interesting twists and stays ahead of the viewer with unexpected situations that cause shifts in characters’ motivations. Director/co-writer Eric Barbier has imbued the characters with wit and intelligence, qualities often sacrificed to serve plot in sloppily crafted movies. Unfortunately, the ending doesn’t live up to the classy build-up.
The scenes of the robbery are the film’s best, as the meticulously detailed plan is carried out. If it had been devoted entirely to the robbery, the movie would have been a terrific caper thriller. But a tacked-on sequence in which Simon seeks redemption dulls the overall impact.
Bonus features on the DVD release include an interview with director Eric Barbier, interview with stars Berenice Bejo and Yvan Attal, and theatrical trailer. The R-rated film is in French, with English subtitles.
Barbershop: The Next Cut
Barbershop: The Next Cut (Warner Home Video), the third film in the comedy franchise, once again focuses on Calvin (Ice Cube) and his longtime crew, including Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), who are still hanging around the shop, though it has undergone some major changes. Most prominently, the once male-dominated shop is now co-ed. The ladies bring their own gossip and drama, challenging the guys constantly to comic effect. In contrast to the good times, big laughs, and camaraderie within the shop, the surrounding community has taken a turn for the worse. Calvin and his friends come together in an effort to save not only the shop, but the neighborhood as well.
Though this installment of the franchise veers into more serious social commentary, it retains the easy repartee among a colorful group of folks, exchanging opinions, gently dissing one another, and — this time around — continuing the ages-old battle of the sexes. Director Malcolm D. Lee keeps the pace brisk, the one-liners coming, and the conflicts simmering just enough to keep us involved.
Comedy ensemble work is not that common in feature films, which are usually based around a star. The new Ghostbusters is an exception. The Barbershop films understand the secret of getting laughs — clever writing, point-perfect delivery, and great chemistry among the cast. Even though the characters deal with a troubled neighborhood and the movie aspires to provide a socially conscious message, the carefree chit chat in the shop keeps things percolating.
Special features on the Blu-ray release include the featurette “The Next Cut: Barbershop Bootcamp,” deleted scenes with director Malcolm D. Lee, and gag reel.
Born to Be Blue
Born to Be Blue (IFC Films) stars Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker, one of the most famous jazz trumpeters in the world, known as a pioneer of the West Coast jazz scene and an icon of cool jazz. By the 1960s, years of heroin addiction had left his career and personal life in shambles. The film deals with Baker’s attempts to extricate himself from addiction and start a life with his actress girlfriend, Jane (Carmen Ejogo), an amalgam of several women from Baker’s life.
Writer-director Robert Budreau sets his tale in 1966 and imagines what it would have been like had Baker succeeded in cleaning up his act. This half-tribute, half-speculative biopic provides a multi-faceted portrait of Baker, whose influence on jazz was major. Rather than tell the story chronologically, Budreau starts the film midway through Baker’s life, after he has served time in jail and is hoping to revive his career.
Baker was a white musician in an era dominated by black musical geniuses and was frequently shunned by them, including Miles Davis (Kedar Brown). Hawke accomplishes the difficult task of making an unsympathetic character sympathetic, and manages to capture the forces pulling at Baker — his love of music, dependence on drugs, and longing for recognition in the jazz community. He also does his own vocals. Music lovers will relish the soundtrack, which is composed of some of the best jazz standards of the time.
Special features on the DVD release include deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes making-of featurette, and theatrical trailer. The movie is widescreen and rated R.
Opry Video Classics
Opry Video Classics (Time Life) is an 8-DVD box set collection of 120 historic live country music performances, recorded from the 1950s through the 1970s, by such artists as Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, The Statler Brothers, George Jones, and Charley Pride.
The discs include Hall of Fame 2, featuring Country Hall of Fame inductees performing some of their biggest hits. Among them: “So Doggone Lonesome” (Johnny Cash), “Blue Kentucky Girl” (Loretta Lynn), and “Just Between You and Me” (Charley Pride). “Jukebox Memories” contains songs by Leroy Van Dyke (“Auctioneer”), Bobby Bare (“The Streets of Baltimore”), and Faron Young (“Wine Me Up”).
Legends 2 contains Marty Robbins’ first Number One hit, “I’ll Go On Alone,” a five-song medley from Johnny Cash with The Statler Brothers, and the Carter Family singing “I Walk the Line”/“Guess Things Happen That Way”/“Ballad of a Teenage Queen”/“I Still Miss Someone””/“Ring of Fire.”
The “Love Songs 2” disc contains Hank Locklin’s “Send Me the Pillow You Dream On,” The Statler Brothers’ “I’ll Go to My Grave Loving You,” and many other heartfelt country performances.
Pioneers 2 spotlights the trailblazers who paved the way for generations of country artists, such as singing cowboy Tex Ritter (“Rye Whiskey”), Chet Atkins (“Alabama Jubilee”), and Earl Scruggs (“Polka on a Banjo”).
Queens of Country 2 features Connie Smith (“Ain’t Had No Lovin”), Loretta Lynn (“Happy Birthday”), Kitty Wells (“Searching for Someone Like You”) as well as Crystal Gayle and Dolly Parton, who was 21 when “Dumb Blonde” hit the charts in 1967. “Songs That Topped the Charts 2” features tunes that captured the Number One spot on Billboard, including Tammy Wynette’s “Good Lovin’ (Makes It Right),” Hank Snow’s “I Don’t Hurt Anymore,” and Tom T. Hall’s “I Love.”
Other artists featured in the set include Porter Wagoner, Skeeter Davis, Don Gibson, Patsy Cline, Ray Price, Webb Pierce, Willie Nelson, The Sons of the Pioneers, Lynn Anderson, Sonny James, and Donna Fargo.