View From The Couch is a weekly column that reviews what’s new on Blu-ray and DVD. Ratings are on a four-star scale.
Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Photo: Disney & Lucasfilm)
(View From The Couch is a weekly column that reviews what’s new on Blu-ray and DVD. Ratings are on a four-star scale.)
BONES (2001). Bones is basically A Nightmare on Crack Street, with Snoop Dogg playing a sleepier version of Freddy Krueger. In the flashback scenes set in 1979, Snoop’s Jimmy Bones is a beloved and benevolent figure seen being chauffeured around his prosperous neighborhood and handing out candy to kids. Taking a meeting with his business partner (Clifton Powell), a local drug dealer (Ricky Harris) and a corrupt cop (Michael T. Weiss), he’s pressured into introducing crack to the hood; after he refuses, he’s murdered by the trio. Cut to 2001, and the business partner’s two sons (Khalil Kain and Merwin Mondesir) and stepdaughter (Katharine Isabelle) are trying to turn Jimmy Bones’ now-dilapidated pad into a trendy nightspot, unaware of its grim history. Bones’ bones are buried in the basement and his spirit still haunts the premises, occasionally manifesting itself as (what else) a dog. He eventually assumes human form again, beginning his mission of revenge while making wisecracks and occasionally uttering, “Dog eat dog.” Directed by Ernest Dickerson, who served as cinematographer on several of Spike Lee’s most visually vibrant films (including Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X) before making the career switch, Bones starts off well, introducing viewers to its likable protagonists and setting up the premise with aplomb. But once Jimmy Bones makes his dramatic return, the movie turns increasingly idiotic with its obnoxious brand of humor and increasingly rote with its supernatural developments.
Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by Snoop Dogg, Dickerson and co-scripter Adam Simon; new interviews with Dickerson, Simon, director of photography Flavio Labiano and special makeup effects artist Tony Gardner; deleted scenes; and the music video for “Dogg Named Snoop.”
ENDLESS NIGHT (1972). One of the handful of novels Agatha Christie penned in the last decade of her life, 1967’s Endless Night was reported to have been one of the author’s favorites among her own works. Her adoration didn’t extend to the film version five years later, and she wasn’t alone in her disdain: The movie proved to be such a bomb in England that it never received theatrical distribution in the United States. It’s definitely an acquired taste, but those who don’t mind its leisurely pace — or its departure from the traditional murder-mystery template — will find it a worthwhile endeavor. Hywel Bennett plays a character who feels like he would belong in one of the kitchen sink dramas so prevalent in the UK during the previous two decades. He stars as Michael Rogers, who floats from menial job to menial job while perpetually dreaming of becoming rich. While working as a chauffeur, he meets and falls for the American Ellie Thomsen (Hayley Mills), only to be dismayed when he finds out she comes from a fabulously wealthy family. Michael figures that they can never be together because her family will object to his lowly station in life; he’s right about the clan’s attitude but wrong about their future together, as Ellie chooses him over the objections of her own kin. The first three-quarters of the film contain so little mystery — just some vague talk of supposedly cursed land — that one might understandably mistake this for a straightforward love story, but the late-inning jolts do arrive at a rapid clip. George Sanders appears as a family lawyer; this was one of two films released after his death, as he had committed suicide earlier in 1972, at the age of 65.
Blu-ray extras consist of audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson; the theatrical trailer; and trailers for five other films available on the Kino label.
INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN WIFE (1954). In an uneasy blend of Italian neorealism and Hollywood glamour, director Vittorio De Sica and producer David O. Selznick teamed up to present Terminal Station, an 89-minute melodrama about the final tryst between an American housewife (Jennifer Jones) and her Italian-American lover (Montgomery Clift) in Rome’s sprawling train station. But an unhappy Selznick re-edited the film, cut it down to 72 minutes, and released it under the title Indiscretion of an American Wife. This Kino Studio Classics edition offers both cuts of the film, and while the movies themselves aren’t anything special, the fascination comes in comparing the two versions. De Sica’s longer cut (the better of the two) spends much of the running time soaking up the local flavor; this extends to a large number of the movie’s extras given a close-up or a snatch of dialogue. Selznick’s version, which not only chops down the length but also substitutes different takes, camera angles and even characters, benefits from more polished technical accomplishments but emerges as more of a generic Hollywood star vehicle. Indiscretion of an American Wife earned legendary fashion designer Christian Dior a Best Black-and-White Costume Design Oscar nomination for his contributions. Incidentally, Truman Capote was one of the various writers who had a hand in the screenplay.
Blu-ray extras consist of an 8-minute prologue with Patti Page singing “Autumn in Rome” and “Indiscretion”; the theatrical trailer for Indiscretion of an American Wife; and trailers for nine other films available on the Kino label.
Terminal Station: ★★½
Indiscretion of an American Wife: ★★
THE PASSION OF DARKLY NOON (1995). Five years after his striking debut as a writer-director with The Reflecting Skin (reviewed here), Philip Ridley serves up another mood piece in which a naïve youth views sensuality as something frightening and maybe even evil. Yet the protagonist in The Reflecting Skin was a small boy, so his confusion is more understandable; in The Passion of Darkly Noon, it’s a young man, so his confusion is more unforgivable. Brendan Fraser plays Darkly Noon, the only survivor of a Waco-like slaughter of a community of religious nut jobs. Rescued by a well-meaning young man (Loren Dean), he’s taken to the woodland home of Callie (Ashley Judd), an earth-mother sort who basically adopts Darkly and plans on him living with her and her mute lover Clay (Viggo Mortensen). But while Callie treats Darkly as a friend and maybe even a son, he in turn views her as an object of lust — since this feeling runs counter to the puritanical streak beaten into him by his parents (killed in the siege), his religious fervor begins to manifest itself as a murderous rage. Here’s another movie illustrating how the root of all evil can often be found in the midst of misguided religious zeal, yet the story plays out in rather simplistic (not to mention affected) fashion — that’s a far cry from the mesmerizing and multilayered approach of The Reflecting Skin. Still, for those seeking something slightly off-kilter, it’s worth a look.
Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by Ridley; a visual essay on Ridley’s three films as writer-director (this one, The Reflecting Skin, and 2009’s Heartless); a 2015 piece featuring interviews with Ridley, Mortensen and composer Nick Bicat; and an isolated music track that includes PJ Harvey’s “Who Will Love Me Now?” as heard in the movie.
THE PRINCE OF TIDES (1991). Pat Conroy’s bestselling novel has been transformed into an enormously moving motion picture that should only displease Conroy purists. The author himself wrote the screenplay (sharing duties with Becky Johnston), paring down certain elements from his sizable book but retaining a strong emotional pull. Barbra Streisand critics like to harp on her narcissism, but there’s no questioning her overwhelming generosity on this project: She may be the director, the producer, and the female lead, but the movie completely belongs to Nick Nolte. He delivers a career-best performance as Tom Wingo, an unhappy and unemployed South Carolina teacher coping with a plethora of problems, among them a stagnant marriage, a sister (Melinda Dillon) who has just tried to kill herself (again), and a secret that he prefers to keep buried both in the past and inside his own troubled mind. As director, Streisand takes an admirably understated approach, allowing the material to move at its own lyrical pace. As actress, she’s fine, although she’s overshadowed by virtually every other cast member — particularly exemplary are Blythe Danner as Tom’s neglected wife and Kate Nelligan as his opportunistic mother. James Newton Howard’s gorgeous score is also an asset. The Prince of Tides earned seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress (Nelligan), Adapted Screenplay, and Original Score.
Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by Streisand (first recorded in 1991 and updated in 2019); a making-of featurette; deleted scenes; separate 1992 TV interviews with Streisand and Conroy; behind-the-scenes footage; audition and rehearsal footage; and a gag reel.
STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019). “Something old, something new” seems to be the philosophy behind the third trilogy of films set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker have all cannily placed familiar motifs in new packaging, a mixing and matching that has drawn praise in some quarters while earning vilification in others. The Rise of Skywalker is the least of the three yet still manages to send the series off in a satisfactory manner. Certainly, there’s much that annoys and might even infuriate. The return of Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is the movie’s worst element, and he’s basically the same one-note villain as before — like those dolls where you pull the string and it repeats the same few phrases, he seems capable of only uttering dialogue along the lines of “Come to the Dark Side” and “Give in to your hate.” The delicious tension between Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) has been a constant highlight of this trilogy, and the manner in which it’s suddenly truncated is disappointing. And some of the lines placed in the mouths of the characters (courtesy of director J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio) are awfully clunky, recalling George Lucas’ lesser moments with the prequels. But the nitpicks are small compared to what the film gets right. The relationship between Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren remains suitably complex and conflicted, and this storyline plays out in deeply moving fashion. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is finally allowed to fully evolve as a character, while Billy Dee Williams is clearly having the time of his life reprising his role of Lando Calrissian. And the final shot is perfect, invoking a bit of John Ford mythmaking while bringing the saga full circle in a way that’s fulfilling rather than forced.
Blu-ray extras consist of a two-hour making-of documentary and short pieces on various aspects of the production.