Are you a fan of classic French cinema? I hope so, because if not, this July 4th holiday week is decidedly lacking in fireworks as far as new Blu-ray releases go.
Escape Plan: The Extractors – It says a lot that the highest profile title of the week is the second direct-to-video sequel to a middling Sylvester Stallone flick that nobody really cared much about in the first place. Once again, Dave Bautista subs in for the original film’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, who couldn’t be bothered with any more of this nonsense. 50 Cent supposedly also pops in for a brief cameo, if that helps at all.
The Best of Enemies – Sam Rockwell won an Oscar for playing a racist in Three Billboards, so here he is starring in the true story of a Ku Klux Klan leader who forms an unlikely friendship with a civil rights activist (Taraji P. Henson) in early 1970s North Carolina. Important lessons about tolerance and forgiveness are learned by all, I’m sure. I don’t recall this playing in theaters, but apparently it somehow grossed $10 million, which sounds pretty good for a movie with zero advertising, but actually isn’t so hot considering that it cost about the same amount to make. Reviews were also unimpressive.
Not a single movie makes its way to 4k Ultra HD this week.
Kino pays tribute to legendary French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville with three of his important works. New to Blu-ray are the crime thrillers Bob le Flambeur (1956) and Le Doulos (1963). The religious drama Léon Morin, Priest (1961) was previously released by Criterion, but the Kino copy promises a 4k restoration and some new bonus features.
The latter two of those pictures starred screen icon Jean-Paul Belmondo, who also headlines Kino’s releases of the (respectively) spy and cop thrillers Le Professionnel (1981) and The Outsider (1983).
In 1969, Robert Downey, Sr. (yes, Iron Man’s father) confounded the world with Putney Swope, a raucously surreal counterculture satire of the advertising industry, race relations, national politics, and just about anything else you can think of. This movie is almost indescribably crazy. Although last year’s Sorry to Bother You owes it a clear debt, even that barely approaches its wild insanity. Vinegar Syndrome brings a recent restoration of the film to Blu-ray.
In what sounds like an appropriate pairing, Vinegar Syndrome also provides the home video debut of another surreal and experimental satire, Taking Tiger Mountain (begun in 1974 with one director, completed in 1983 by another). Based on a short story by William S. Burroughs and set in a dystopian future, Bill Paxton made his acting debut as a World War III draft dodger brainwashed to assassinate a Welsh politician. The Blu-ray contains both the 1983 cut as well as a new re-edit from one of the directors.
Finally, Arrow Video tunes into FM, the 1978 disc jockey comedy with Cleavon Little, Martin Mull, and Eileen Brennan, among others.
Putney Swope is a movie I’m very excited to revisit. All three of the Jean-Pierre Melville pictures also have my attention, especially Bob le Flambeur, but I’ll probably wait for a Kino sale for those.
I expect that “Nothing this week” will probably lead our poll, but I’d love to be surprised.