Editor’s Notes: Who’s Crazy?, Unforgettable, The Warlock Collection, Prizzi’s Honor, LEGO Scooby-Doo! Blowout Beach Bash, The Final Master, Black Butterfly, The Glass Coffin, Facing Darkness, Minnie’s Happy Helpers, & Girls: The Complete Sixth Season are out on their respective home entertainment released July 25th.
Who’s Crazy? (Kino Classics), made in 1966, and long thought to be lost, follows a group of mental patients who gather in a Belgian farmhouse where they cook large quantities of eggs and condemn one of their own in an impromptu court. The actors, from the Living Theatre, perform mostly without words as they dance, set things on fire, and drip hot wax on each other instead.
Ornette Coleman and the other members of his trio recorded their score for Who’s Crazy? in one take while the film was projected for them, and the result resembles a slapstick silent film with far-above-average accompaniment. Director Thomas White’s minimalist narrative depicts patients in the farmhouse either attacking or imitating the conduct and rituals of traditional society and family. Most of these scenes satirize typical bourgeois institutions.
The opening sequence intrigues us enough to wonder what will happen with this group of mental patients, but after a while, their actions tend to become both monotonous and without point. Even though the patients themselves may be conducting themselves outside the parameters of normalcy, the film itself should have direction rather than just pointing its camera for sensationalistic effect. Because the movie meanders, it simply doesn’t sustain involvement.
Jazz aficionados will enjoy the “lost” Ornette Coleman score. Coleman, who was inducted into the Downbeat Hall of Fame in 1969, is known for his avant-garde approach to jazz and formed several jazz combos throughout his career. He died in 2015.
Bonus materials on the full-screen, black & white Blu-ray release include Q & A with director Thomas White, the featurette “David, Moffett & Ornette,” and a booklet containing a critical essay.
Unforgettable (Warner Home Video) is a dramatic thriller about Tessa Conniver (Katherine Heigl), who is having difficulty coping with the end of her marriage when ex-husband David (Geoff Stults) becomes happily engaged to Julia Banks (Rosario Dawson). This brings Julia into the home they once shared but also into the life of their daughter, Lily (Isabella Kai Rice). Trying to settle into her new life, Julia believes she has finally met the man of her dreams — the man who can help her put her own troubled past behind her. But Tessa’s jealousy soon takes a pathological turn until she will stop at nothing to turn Julia’s dream into a living nightmare.
Heavily reliant on soap opera, Unforgettable depicts two women who appear outdated because of their focus on the same rich guy at the expense of their own dignity and happiness. This obsession makes them look sadly shallow and dull. This kind of plot might have worked back in the 1940s with, say, Bette Davis and Mary Astor vying for the same man, but in the 21st century, Tessa and Julia look helplessly retro, and not in a good way.
Dispensing with subtlety and nuance in favor of over-explaining and over-dramatizing, the film gives little credit to the viewer. Novice director Denise Di Novi doesn’t make these women interesting enough to sustain interest. Despite their petulance, jealousy, and self-loathing, they just aren’t worth our time or energy.
Bonus materials on the 2-disc Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack include director’s commentary, deleted scene with commentary, and the featurette “Reclaiming What’s Yours: Making Unforgettable.”
The Warlock Collection
The Warlock Collection (Lionsgate) contains three feature films. “Warlock” (1989) begins in 1691 Boston when a warlock (Julian Sands) is condemned to die. Calling for Satan’s intervention, the warlock is sent forward in time to contemporary Los Angeles, where he begins to wreak havoc until a 17th-century warlock hunter is sent into the future to find the warlock, using a witch compass to track him.
Warlock: The Armageddon (1993) features the return of the evil warlock (again played by Sands), who kills, mutilates, and destroys one person after another on a quest for a set of six magical rune stones needed to summon the Devil to Earth. However, a group of powerful druids have become aware of the sinister plan and must defeat the warlock to prevent Armageddon. Production values are improved over the first film, and there are impressive special effects and lots of blood and gore.
In Warlock III: The End of Innocence (1999), a woman discovers that she has inherited a spooky old mansion. While on a trip to check out her new property with a group of her friends, they meet a previous “tenant” — one who has sinister plans in store for them. Bruce Payne plays the warlock in this, the weakest of the three films. Originality is shunted aside in favor of the predictable — several young people are thrown together in a creepy house, only to be knocked off one by one.
Bonus materials on the 3-disc Blu-ray release include director’s audio commentary, behind-the-scenes footage, interview with Julian Sands, vintage interviews with casts and crews, theatrical trailers, stills gallery, making-of featurette, and an examination of the film’s special effects.
Prizzi’s Honor (Kino Lorber) stars Jack Nicholson as Charley Partanna, the adoptive son of Don Corrado (William Hickey), head of Brooklyn’s Prizzi family. At a family wedding, Charley sees a beautiful woman, Irene Walker (Kathleen Turner), who intrigues him and whom he eventually marries. But her beauty obscures the fact that she is a thief and a killer for hire. His feelings for Irene exacerbate the animosity between Charley and ex-girlfriend Maerose Prizzi (Anjelica Huston), who is the Don’s granddaughter. Maerose begins a scheme to get both of them eliminated, relying on her cleverness, vindictiveness and ability to adhere to the family’s strict code of honor.
Nicholson, Hickey and Huston all received Oscar nominations under John Huston’s direction. The characters are all deeply flawed, and the moral dilemma that writer Richard Condon sets up (based on his own novel) creates fascinating, and often darkly comic, situations. A lot happens in two hours — a kidnapping, a gang war, police corruption, and a power struggle within the Prizzi crime organization. Charley and Irene even get caught up in a complex extortion scheme.
Chemistry between Nicholson and Turner sizzles, but Anjelica Huston’s tough broad survivor is the film’s best performance. Director Huston combines crime drama, black humor, and satire, creating suspense and tension along the way. Prizzi’s Honor doesn’t have the Shakespearean resonance of The Godfather, but it is nonetheless an exceptional motion picture.
Special materials on the R-rated widescreen Blu-ray release include film historians’ audio commentary and a trailer gallery.
LEGO Scooby-Doo! Blowout Beach Bash
LEGO Scooby-Doo! Blowout Beach Bash (Warner Home Video) finds Scooby-Doo and his pals Fred, Daphne, Velma and Shaggy attempting to solve a spooky mystery. The annual Blowout Beach Bash promises three fun-filled days of games, dancing, and food. As Scooby-Doo and friends make their way to Blowout Beach for a wild party in the Mystery Machine, the Ghost Pirates threaten to ruin the gang’s fun. It’s up to Scooby and company to get the party back on track and keep things cheerful.
The Scooby-Doo animated cartoon franchise dates back to 1969. The original series, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, was created by Hanna-Barbera Productions. Subsequent TV shows, theatrical films, reruns, and direct-to-video movies have kept the series in the public eye. Blowout Beach Bash is the 29th entry in the direct-to-video series of Scooby-Doo films, and the second in the series based on the Scooby-Doo brand of LEGO.
Bonus extras on the Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack include 3 bonus cartoons: Go Away Ghost Ship, A Clue for Scooby-Doo, and Party Like It’s 1899. A digital copy is enclosed.
The Final Master
The Final Master (Well Go USA) takes place in 1930s China as unrest pervades the nation. Chen, the last Wing Chun master, arrives in Tianjin to expand his king fu and acquires an apprentice whom he’ll train to challenge the 19 local martial-arts schools. He also marries a disgraced local beauty and adopts a puppy, and both will prove their loyalty. But ambition gets Chen entangled in a power struggle among Tianjin’s martial arts Grandmaster, a dominant underworld Madam, and the town’s military leaders.
Director Xu Haofeng, who contributed to the screenplay for Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster, not only wrote the script for The Final Master, but the book on which it is based. In addition, he produced, co-edited, and choreographed the action sequences. As with many martial arts movies, the action scenes are the best, with simple plots constructed around them. When fists and feet aren’t flying, The Final Master slogs along until the next action set piece.
There is humor present, both intended and unintended, such as overly loud sound effects that accompany the fight scenes. The use of various forms of cutlery and monstrous blades is inventive, if exaggerated tenfold, often making very good fight choreography seem cartoonish. As far as entertainment value goes, the film certainly delivers, if you can forgive a number of lapses in plot logic.
Bonus materials on the widescreen Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack include the featurettes The Weapons and The Director, and a trailer. The film is in Mandarin. Available subtitles include English, Chinese, and Spanish.
Black Butterfly (Lionsgate) is a psychological thriller about Paul (Antonio Banderas), a reclusive alcoholic writer who has been living in squalid conditions in his mountain home ever since the mysterious disappearance (and suspected murder) of his wife — the first of a series of unsolved killings in the area. Once regarded as the Golden Boy of literary circles and in Hollywood, Paul hasn’t turned out anything of value in many years.
When an altercation with an aggressive truck driver threatens violence, a drifter (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) intervenes on Paul’s behalf. Grateful, Paul offers the drifter a place to stay and a meal for the night. The drifter introduces himself as Jack and tells Paul he’s an ex-con, recently released from prison. Jack insinuates himself in Paul’s life, determining to shatter his writer’s block and wean him off alcohol. A co-dependence arises, with dark motives driving the two men.
It’s hard to accept Banderas as a serious writer and Meyers has been seen previously mostly in far-less violent roles, so the casting against type is a jarring element. Both actors are effective, given the material, but are deserving of a better script. Though the film moves along with palpable suspense building, a couple of twists at the end really hurt what might have been a very good thriller. Those twists repay the viewer for buying into the situation with a ridiculous payoff.
Special features on the widescreen Blu-ray release include audio commentary with director Brian Goodman and co-writer Marc Frydman, the featurette “Black Butterfly: Backstage,” and trailer gallery. A digital HD copy is enclosed.
The Glass Coffin
The Glass Coffin (MVD Visual) is a horror thriller set in a single location — the inside of a limousine. Dressed in an elegant evening dress, Amanda (Paola Bontempi) enters the huge, luxurious limousine waiting in front of her house to take her to the gala where she will receive a prize for her acting career. Suddenly, the windows are tinted black, Amanda’s cell phone is disabled, and she cannot open any of the doors. And then a voice, distorted by a filter, starts a series of lurid, invasive and shocking commands that slowly eat away at her self-respect and integrity. Trapped inside her glass coffin, Amanda must do whatever the sinister voice asks, or some really unpleasant things will happen to her.
The idea of confining action to a single location has been incorporated successfully in thrillers such as Reservoir Dogs, Buried, and Exam. Such a film risks failing to sustain viewer involvement while attempting to build suspense. The director doesn’t have the benefit of a large cast and endless camera set-ups to tell his story. In The Glass Coffin, director Haritz Zubillaga sets up the situation almost immediately. We know little about Amanda, but can empathize with a woman being held prisoner against her will in a setting that ordinarily suggests comfort and affluence, not terror.
Ms. Bontempi turns in an effective performance as her Amanda is initially surprised, then annoyed, then defiant, and eventually terrified by the creepy, inhuman sounding voice. Given the responsibility of carrying the film, she plays Amanda as an intelligent woman using her wits to extricate herself from a situation that gets worse by the minute. As the demands of the voice increase, Amanda must balance obeying its orders and refusing to debase herself.
There are no bonus features on the unrated DVD release, which is in Spanish, with English subtitles. The original Spanish title is “El Ataud de Cristal.”
Facing Darkness (Virgil Films) is the true story of a group of American medical personnel in West Africa stricken with the deadly Ebola virus and the race against time for international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse to evacuate the patients and get them home for treatment.
American aid workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were medical missionaries working in a hospital in Liberia. As they fought a surging epidemic of the killer virus Ebola, a crisis the world largely ignored, Kent and Nancy caught the disease themselves. The team worked around the clock toward the sole hope for Brantly and Writebol — evacuating them to the United States for treatment and cure.
The documentary underscores the selflessness with which aid workers risked their own lives to hep the afflicted. Many contracted the virus, which could be as easy as touching the perspiration of an infected person’s arm or face. Since Liberians have a custom of holding, hugging and washing their dead, cases of Ebola increased exponentially through the mourning process. Aid workers faced the difficult task of getting people to change deeply imbedded cultural practices. As the movie points out, during the Ebola crisis, your “enemy” could be your mother, sister, or next-door neighbor who simply wanted a hug or a handshake.
A complicating factor in treating the outbreak was Liberia’s history of civil war and the dissemination of misinformation. Many Liberians believed that the aid workers themselves were intentionally spreading the disease, and hospitals were attacked.
The documentary plays like a suspense thriller with the lives of millions at stake and the danger of a worldwide pandemic a real possibility were it not for the efforts of a relative few to stop the spread of the disease.
Bonus materials on the widescreen DVD release include an overview of the Samaritan’s Purse ministry, footage of the film premiere in Atlanta, a message from executive producer Franklin Graham and Dr. Kent Brantly, Ebola survivors sharing their stories, a featurette about the widows of Ebola, and a theatrical trailer.
Minnie’s Happy Helpers
Minnie’s Happy Helpers (Disney Home Entertainment) is a collection of six episodes featuring Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck, who spend their time in Hot Dog Hills helping their friends with fun and odd jobs as The Happy Helpers. No task is too big or too small for them to handle. With a quick spin in their Turn-Styler, the Happy Helpers are ready for any adventure that comes their way. Whether babysitting an egg that’s about to hatch, planning the perfect luau for a client, or fixing London’s Big Ben just in time for afternoon tea, Minnie and Daisy are ready to go the extra mile.
Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck look great for their ages. Minnie made her movie debut in 1928 in Steamboat Willie, with co-star Mickey Mouse. Daisy Duck made her screen bow in “Mr. Duck Steps Out” (1940), co-starring with Donald Duck. The two characters have essentially been supporting players, with their male counterparts getting into most of the adventures. This is the first time the ladies star in their own series of cartoons.
Episodes on the DVD release include Egg-Xasperating, Happy Hula Helpers, Tea Time Trouble, Happy Birthday Helpers, Bed, Breakfast, and Bungled, and Gone Fishin. The bonus episode “Teed Off” is also contained in this widescreen release.
Girls: The Complete Sixth Season
Girls: The Complete Sixth Season (HBO Home Entertainment) continues to follow the various trials and tribulations of a group of 20-something friends in New York City. Season Six picks up six months after the end of Season Five, with Hannah (Lena Dunham) enjoying new success as a writer while her roommate and best friend Elijah (Andrew Rannells) considers getting serious about his acting career. Marnie (Allison Williams), now in a relationship with Ray (Alex Karpovsky), wants to maintain her independence after her divorce from Desi (Ebon Moss-Bacharach).
Now also a couple, Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Adam (Adam Driver) decide to embark on a creative project to channel their passions, which could become a source of contention. Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) is on the right path, professionally, though she recognizes that her friendships may be holding her back. This season, the show’s final one, follows the four young women as they attempt to achieve what they’ve always envisioned, despite the occasional hiccup that life provides.
For most of its run, Girls has focused on a period when actual adult responsibilities — career, marriage, child rearing — are contemplated while its characters enjoy the freedom of single life. These are no longer kids, but not quite grown-ups, and their angst and misadventures form the basis of its episodes. The dialogue, with often extremely graphic language, sounds real rather than artfully contrived, making the girls appear identifiable and down to earth.
The 2-disc Blu-ray release contains all 10 episodes from the show’s final season, which originally aired from February to April, 2017. Bonus materials include A Goodbye to Girls: Extended Cut, a special version of the series’ finale with audio commentary with Lena Dunham and producers Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner; a close look “Inside the Episodes”; and “Favorite Moments,” spotlighting each of the girls’ most memorable scenes.