Mark Wahlberg and Tom Holland in Uncharted (Photo: Columbia)

(View From The Couch is a weekly column that reviews what’s new on Blu-ray, 4K and DVD. Ratings are on a four-star scale.)

Belle (Photo: Shout! Factory, GKIDS & Studio Chizu)

BELLE (2021). Given the stateside title of Belle (in its native Japan, it’s called The Dragon and the Freckled Princess) and a plot involving a fierce yet sensitive beast and the beauty who loves him, it’s not hard to dig up this animated film’s roots. But while taking a central idea from the classic fairy tale (and with a special emphasis on Disney’s toon version), this imaginative piece from writer-director Mamoru Hosoda (the Oscar-nominated Mirai) is very much its own, uh, beast. Suzu is an insecure teenage girl who, prodded by her best friend, creates an online character in a virtual world known as “U.” Suzu’s alter ego Belle is a singing sensation who attracts a record number of followers, but her mixed feelings about her newfound (albeit anonymous) success temporarily get shelved after she encounters an intimidating creature known as The Dragon. Belle runs just over two hours, and its length is felt in several lighter sequences that keep the story needlessly idling. But the film’s weightier moments make an impact, whether it’s the tragic opening, the anti-bullying stance, or the surprising turn that takes the movie in an unexpected direction.

Blu-ray extras include a making-of featurette; a conversation with Hosoda; a piece on the music; and scene breakdowns.

Movie: ★★★

Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop II (Photo: Paramount)

BEVERLY HILLS COP II (1987). Even before Beverly Hills Cop was released in December 1984, there was chatter at Paramount about a sequel — a no-brainer given the amount of money Eddie Murphy had already made for the studio with 1982’s 48 Hrs. and 1983’s Trading Places. Yet Beverly Hills Cop II proved to be a massive disappointment, little more than a sleazy, sexist, and stupid follow-up. (And while a hit with $153 million, that was no match for the staggering $234 million gross of the exciting original.) This one finds Detroit cop Axel Foley (Murphy) returning to sunny California to help his detective buddies Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Taggart (John Ashton) discover who shot Captain Bogomil (Ronny Cox). Aside from Ashton’s Taggart, the characters here are nothing like their interpretations in the first film (Rosewood, for instance, is one step away from being a psychotic militia man), and the villains (played by Jürgen Prochnow, Dean Stockwell, and a wooden Brigitte Nielsen) are a particularly dull assemblage. Gilbert Gottfried (RIP) appears in one funny scene as an excitable accountant. This earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song (Bob Seger’s “Shakedown”).

There are no extras on the 4K Ultra HD edition.

Movie: ★½

Sy Richardson and Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith in Cinderella (Photo: Full Moon Features)

CINDERELLA (1977). In a View From the Couch column earlier this year, I noted that Michael Pataki, a workaholic actor known for credits as varied as Rocky IV, Airport ’77, and Zoltan … Hound of Dracula, only directed two movies over the course of his lengthy career. One was the 1976 horror yarn Mansion of the Doomed; the other was this softcore version of the classic fairy tale, advertised with the line, “What The Prince Slipped Cinderella Was Not A Slipper.” I had caught this on videocassette while in college back in the ‘80s and found it moderately enjoyable; to my surprise, that’s the same diagnosis it’s receiving from my recent viewing. The story is basically the same — poor Cinderella (Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith) lives with her wicked stepmother (Jennifer Stace) and hideous stepsisters (Yana Nirvana and Marilyn Corwin) — except here the fairy godmother is a black homosexual (scene-stealing Sy Richardson, later a regular in Alex Cox films like Repo Man and Sid & Nancy) and the climactic (in more ways than one) ball is a full-blown orgy. There are plenty of musical numbers, plenty of bawdy gags, and plenty of nekkid bods of all shapes and sizes.

Full Moon Features’ Blu-ray release contains the complete 95-minute cut. Extras consist of trailers for other Full Moon titles.

Movie: ★★½

Mark Wahlberg in Infinite (Photo: Paramount)

INFINITE (2021). Mark Wahlberg and director Antoine Fuqua, who had previously worked together on 2007’s Shooter, only shoot themselves in the feet with Infinite, one of those grueling efforts that renders the science fiction genre about as much fun as a root canal sans anesthetics. The notion of past lives is the hook, with those who recall their previous existences known as Infinites. The Infinites are divided into two groups: the Believers, who view their memories as cherished gifts and want to serve humankind, and the Nihilists, who despise their total recall and figure the best way to end their cerebral callbacks is (to paraphrase Jackie Brown) to absolutely, positively kill every motherfucker in the world. So both factions find themselves pursuing the Egg, a thingamajig that can destroy the world (or at least scramble or fry it). As in Transformers: The Last Knight, it’s determined that Mark Wahlberg is humanity’s last great hope — a terrifying concept no matter how it’s sliced. Wahlberg’s Evan McCauley doesn’t recall his rich past(s), so it’s up to the Believers to jog his memory so they can prevail against the Nihilists. Take my advice regarding this dopey film and fuhgeddaboudit.

4K extras include a making-of featurette; a piece on the visual effects; and scene breakdowns.

Movie: ★½

Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman in Licorice Pizza (Photo: Universal & MGM)

LICORICE PIZZA (2021). Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s ninth feature film has been wildly overpraised in some circles, considering it’s really not much better (but certainly no worse) than the zillion “coming of age” tales that preceded it. It also stands as PTA’s most conventional work to date, possessing little of the blazing originality found in the likes of Boogie Nights, Punch-Drunk Love, and the criminally overlooked Hard Eight. Its insular nature is part of the problem — whereas the best films of this sort generally allow their youthful characters to register as Everyteen by tapping into universal triumphs and travails, feelings and frustrations, this one is specific to a fault. Set in 1973 San Fernando Valley, it focuses on the will-they-or-won’t-they relationship between a 25-year-old woman (Alana Haim) and the 15-year-old boy (Cooper Hoffman, Philip Seymour’s son) who adores her. Licorice Pizza is sweet and sentimental, with one great performance (Bradley Cooper is terrific playing real-life producer Jon Peters as possibly insane), but, unlike its Valley setting, it contains few peaks. This earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.

Blu-ray extras include behind-the-scenes footage; camera tests; and a deleted scene.

Movie: ★★½

Lee Marvin and James Stewart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Photo: Paramount)

THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962). Merely one of the greatest Westerns ever made, this John Ford masterpiece is notable for (among other attributes) the immortal line, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” James Stewart (top-billed in all the promotional material) and John Wayne (top-billed in the on-screen credits) play polar opposites of the type of men seeking to tame the West, and it’s their relationship — and the events that forge it — that allows the movie to emerge as one of the first to question the tendency to mythologize the Wild West (a theme also featured in such latter-day classics as Arthur Penn’s Little Big Man and Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven). Stewart plays the civilized tenderfoot lawyer trying to hold his own, Wayne is the macho gunslinger who occasionally helps out, and Lee Marvin provides gritty villainy as the sadistic Liberty Valance. Costume designer Edith Head landed an Oscar nomination for her Western duds.

The latest release in the Paramount Presents series, this one offers both 4K and Blu-ray discs. Extras include audio commentary by filmmaker and historian Peter Bogdanovich, featuring his archival recordings with Ford and Stewart; a retrospective making-of piece; and a discussion of the film with critic Leonard Maltin.

Movie: ★★★★

Tom Holland (Finalized);Sophia Taylor Ali (Finalized)
Tom Holland and Sophia Ali in Uncharted (Photo: Columbia)

UNCHARTED (2022). Given the sorry history of movies based on video games — there’s last year’s rollicking Werewolves Within and then there’s everything else — Uncharted is probably better than it had any right to be. It falls into that “S’OK” middle ground also occupied by Tomb Raider (the Alicia Vikander version) and Pokémon Detective Pikachu: None are quite recommendable, but all offer something of value to mentally coasting viewers. In Uncharted, it’s a lengthy and large-scale set-piece involving an airplane, unsecured cargo, and hapless humans playing what can be described as a life-or-death version of dodgeball. The rest is the usual pablum involving characters searching for long-buried treasure and viewers searching for anything that would set it apart from, say, the National Treasure flicks or Jungle Cruise. Neither Tom Holland nor Mark Wahlberg are entirely convincing as swashbuckling types, although Holland’s effortless charisma carries him a long way; there’s also a hissable villain (Antonio Banderas), a colleague (Sophia Ali) who wavers between possible romantic interest and potentially dangerous betrayer, and a pair of Marvel-like end credit scenes meant to jump-start the project’s franchise possibilities.

Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by director Ruben Fleischer; deleted scenes; and a look at the stuntwork.

Movie: ★★½


Review links for movies referenced in this column:
Beverly Hills Cop
48 Hrs.
Jackie Brown
Jungle Cruise
Little Big Man
Mansion of the Doomed
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Repo Man
Rocky IV
Sid & Nancy
Tomb Raider
Trading Places
Transformers: The Last Knight
Werewolves Within
Zoltan … Hound of Dracula

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s