Editor’s Notes: Into the Forest, The Demolisher, Dracula’s Daughter, Diary of a Chambermaid, Prince Movie Collection, The Hunting of the President Redux, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series are out on their respective home entertainment formats October 4th.
Into the Forest
Into the Forest (Lionsgate) is set in the not-too-distant future. Nell (Ellen Page, Juno) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood, The Ides of March) are sisters living in a remote house in the woods of Northern California with their recently widowed father (Callum Keith Rennie). Nell is constantly online studying for exams while Eva rehearses diligently for an upcoming dance recital. Things change abruptly when the electricity mysteriously goes out. It never comes back on, and there’s talk that the whole country and possibly the entire world is in the dark. The sisters are thrust into survival mode when it becomes uncertain what the future will hold.
Writer/director Patricia Rozema has fashioned what can be called an intimate dystopia. Most of the film takes place in and near the sisters’ house. There are no virus outbreaks, roaming hordes, or looting — elements common to most movies set in an apocalyptic world. The two young women cope as best they can. Fortunately, they have plenty of provisions, but the situation in the nearby town is pretty grim. Page and Wood convince us that these two have a history together and find that tested by the fearful uncertainty that makes their bond even stronger. Their glances and gestures suggest that each knows what the other is thinking. A romantic subplot and a brutal attack offer new, unforeseen challenges to the sisters.
Bonus extras on the widescreen Blu-ray release include a making-of featurette and audio commentary with writer/director Patricia Rozema.
The Demolisher (MPI Home Video) is a vigilante film in the style of Death Wish. The title character is an ordinary cable repairman, Bruce (Ry Barrett), who is tormented by a crippling sense of responsibility for his wife, Samantha (Tianna Nori), an ex-policewoman who was attacked by a vicious gang and left disabled physically and emotionally. Bruce takes care of her dutifully but at night, while she’s asleep, he channels his sense of injustice into vigilantism, donning riot gear and taking to the streets to right the seemingly infinite number of wrongs committed each day. Bruce becomes The Demolisher, a one-man destructive force tearing through a city blighted by crime.
The film is strong on violence and visually striking. Director Gabriel Carrer portrays the late-night streets as the province of those who take advantage of the innocent. With deep shadows, rain-soaked sidewalks and strange noises, this is a frightening environment. The dialogue is spare; Bruce isn’t a man of many words. Beyond the reason for his vigilante obsession, we learn little about Bruce or his wife. A subplot dominating the second half of the movie involves a young woman (Jessica Vano) who might lead to his wife’s attackers.
Bonus extras on the unrated widescreen Blu-ray release include deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes making-of featurette, filmmakers Q & A at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, and theatrical trailer.
Dracula’s Daughter (Kino Lorber), directed by Jess Franco in 1972, was inspired by the enormously popular Hammer horror films made in England. Franco looked back to the iconic monsters of the 1930s, placed them in labyrinthine castles and crypts of the Spanish countryside, and spiced up the thrills with nudity and eroticism — uncommon in American films of the period. The film is loosely based on Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla.
A series of brutal killings are plaguing a remote European village. The locals insist they are the work of vampires, but a police inspector (Alberto Dalbes) and a reporter (Fernando Bilbao) dismiss this claim as superstition. The murders coincide with the arrival of beautiful Luisa Karlstein (Britt Nichols), summoned by her dying mother, who tells Luisa she is the direct descendent of a man who harbored a terrible secret.
The movie is a combination of the lesbian vampire theme; the Italian giallo genre, usually with mystery elements and often with slasher, supernatural horror, or crime fiction elements; and sexploitation. There aren’t any really scary horror moments. Count Dracula himself (Howard Vernon) is a character but remains in his coffin throughout. As a vampire films go, this is pretty tame stuff, the pace is far too slow to create much suspense, and the acting is merely fair.
Bonus features on the unrated widescreen Blu-ray release include new audio commentary by film historian Tim Lucas, alternate “safe” footage (less sexually explicit), and original theatrical trailer. The film is in French, with optional English subtitles.
Diary of a Chambermaid
Diary of a Chambermaid (Cohen Media Group) is the third film adaptation of Octave Mirabeau’s 1900 novel (previous versions were directed by Jean Renoir and Luis Bunuel), which relates the scandalous experiences of an observant housemaid, Celestine (Lea Seydoux), a young Parisian chambermaid who works in the provincial household of the unhappily married Lanlaires. She detests the noxious iron rules and pettiness of her high-handed bourgeois mistress (Clotilde Millet) and repeatedly rebuffs the advances of Monsieur (Herve Pierre). She is attracted to gardener Joseph (Vincent Lindon); his passionate anti-Semitism repulses her, but his plan for economic independence definitely captivates her.
Ms. Seydoux plays Celestine as cocky and resentful of her position but also delighting in men’s attentions, whether wanted or not. Occasional flashbacks to her previous positions all in some way relate to sex. In one, she is approached on a Paris street by an elderly woman who wants to recruit her for a brothel. In another, a policeman insists that the maid’s employer open a red box that contains an embarrassing object. Most significantly, we see Celestine’s time at a seashore mansion where she becomes intimately involved with Georges (Vincent Lacoste), a handsome young man dying of tuberculosis.
Though the performances are effective and the film’s production design evokes turn-of-20th-century Paris, director Benoit Jacquot has a problem finalizing subplots; he creates several interesting ones, but in the movie’s final third either abandons them or allows them to hit dead ends, leaving the viewer wondering what has happened.
Bonus extras on the unrated Blu-ray release include a making-of featurette and theatrical trailer. The film is in French, with optional English subtitles.
Prince Movie Collection
Prince Movie Collection (Warner Home Video) features Prince’s only three acting performances: Academy Award-winner Purple Rain with newly remastered audio and video; its unofficial sequel, Graffiti Bridge; and Under the Cherry Moon. The latter two are available for the first time on Blu-ray.
Purple Rain (1984) marks the movie debut of Prince as The Kid, an alienated, but extremely talented Minneapolis club musician. The Kid struggles with a rough home life and his own smoldering anger while taking refuge in his music and his love for beautiful Apollonia Kotero. Prince and the Revolution perform “Let’s Go Crazy,” “I Would Die 4U,” “When Doves Cry,” and the title song. The film is a part autobiography, part concert film, providing a time capsule view of Prince at the height of his career. As drama, however, it tends to be simplistic, drawing on cliches rather than exploring characters in depth. The film is driven by Prince’s larger-than-life personality.
Under the Cherry Moon (1986) both starred and directed Prince in his second film. He plays American musician Christopher Tracy, three times divorced, living with his pal (Jerome Benton) on the French Riviera. His current object of affection is a lovely, spirited rich socialite (Kristin Scott Thomas in her movie debut). He doesn’t count on confronting the girl’s enraged father (Steven Berkoff) nor does he count on falling in love. Shot in black and white to suggest the romantic movies of the 1940’s, the film blends romantic comedy with melodrama. Prince once again commands the screen with his sheer charisma. Unfortunately, he doesn’t sing much.
Graffiti Bridge (1990) features, once again, Prince as The Kid. Songs include “Thieves in the Temple,” “New Power Generation,” “Elephants and Flowers,” and other tunes from the soundtrack. Other performers include Morris Day and The Time, George Clinton, Tevin Campbell, Robin Power, and Mavis Staples.
The 3-disc Blu-ray release is heavy on extras for Purple Rain — there’s commentary by the director, producer, and cinematographer; MTV Premiere Party original broadcast; 8 music videos; three behind-the-scenes featurettes; and theatrical trailer. The trailers for Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge are included.
The Hunting of the President Redux
The Hunting of the President Redux (Virgil Films) is a documentary based on the best-selling book “The Hunting of the President,” by journalists Gene Lyons and Joe Conason. It examines the genesis of partisan vendettas against Bill Clinton and explores both the myths and truths behind the more than 25-year campaign to systematically destroy the political legacy of Bill and Hillary Clinton. The film was originally released in 2004 but anti-Clinton forces managed to get it largely suppressed.
The film now includes new interviews and insights and methodically makes its case how and why right-wing zealots have for decades been trying to destroy the Clintons, first during Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign and his two terms in office, and now as Hillary Clinton is running for the office of President herself. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the film features prominent figures in politics and journalism, including James Carville, Paul Begala, Jonathan Alter, and Richard Ben-Veniste. Also interviewed are many of those who have sought to discredit the Clintons.
Though the documentary is a recap of events from the past, they definitely resonate with the Obama presidency, when Republicans determined initially to make him a one-term president by blocking him on practically every initiative he proposed. The disrespect continued with the birthers, who questioned the very legitimacy of his presidency. This is not a balanced documentary; it is clearly biased. However, when fact upon fact are compiled and cited and testimony is provided by insiders, it is clear that the movie constitutes far more than a paranoid interpretation of events. What started back with Whitewater and now takes the form of repeated questions about Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s e-mails shows that what Hillary once described as a “right wing conspiracy” continues to this day.
There are no bonus features on the unrated DVD release.
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (Sony Home Entertainment) is an animated tie-in to a video game, not the 15th movie in a series. The magical kingdom of Lucis is home to the sacred Crystal, and the menacing empire of Niflheim is determined to steal it. King Regis of Lucis (Sean Bean) commands an elite force of soldiers called the Kingsglaive. Wielding their king’s magic, Nyx (Aaron Paul) and his fellow soldiers fight to protect their homeland. As the overwhelming military might of the empire bears down, King Regis is faced with an impossible ultimatum — to keep fighting to the death and risk world domination by Niflheim or to marry his son, Prince Noctis, to Princess Lunafreya of Tenebrae (Lena Headey), captive of Niflheim, and surrender his lands. The king concedes, but it soon becomes clear that the empire will not honor its agreement and will stop at nothing to achieve its devious goals. Only the Kingsglaive stands between them and world domination.
The world created in this film is a combination of modern technology and medieval trappings, such as castles, sword fights, metal armor, and the kind of flowery speech patterns only found in fantasy films to give them an air of class. There’s lots of spectacle here, but it’s the creepy, realistic animation that draws the eye. The characters don’t quite movie like real people, which is hard to get used to. Details are impressive, whether freckles, droplets of perspiration, strands of hair, or costume intricacies. Most animation for the screen is stylized and tries not to look too realistic. As you watch, it’s often easy to forget that Nyx, Regis, Lunafreya, et.al. aren’t human actors. Not being a fan of the video game, I was often lost in the film’s convoluted plot.
Bonus features on the PG-13 rated Blu-ray release include four making-of behind-the-scenes featurettes covering the process of creating the voices, an in-depth exploration of imagining and designing the unique world of the film, capturing the computer-generated physical performances, and creating the movie’s musical score. A digital HD copy is included.
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series (Time Life) contains of 12 full shows as originally aired, including commercials. These are some of the most requested from over 30 years and 4,000 shows, with material not seen by the public since the original broadcasts. Excerpts have been issued in earlier sets, but this is the first time complete shows have been made available.
Featured are Carnac the Magnificent, Stump the Band, Streak Week from March 1974, and The Tonight Show’s November 1972 broadcasts from New York, plus Vincent Price demonstrating his quirky cooking method, a former Miss Sweden giving Johnny a massage, and monologues and desk talk with Johnny and sidekick/announcer Ed McMahon .
Guests include David Brenner, Stockard Channing, Rodney Dangerfield, Joe Frazier, James Garner, Gene Kelly, Michael Landon, Steve Lawrence, Richard Pryor, Buddy Hackett, Jack Palance, Tony Randall, Carl Reiner, and many others.
“The Tonight Show” began broadcasting in 1954. It has had six official hosts: Steve Allen (1954-1957), Jack Paar (1957-1962), Johnny Carson (1962-1992), Jay Leno (1992-2009, 2010-2014), Conan O’Brien (2009-2010), and Jimmy Fallon (2014 - present). It has also had a number of recurring guest hosts, a practice especially common during the Paar and Carson eras. Carson is the longest-serving host to date.
The 6-DVD set contains 2 hours of bonus material.