View From the Couch: The Batman, Trekkies, Without Warning, etc.
View From The Couch is a weekly column that reviews what’s new on Blu-ray, 4K and DVD.
View From The Couch is a weekly column that reviews what’s new on Blu-ray, 4K and DVD.
Robert Pattinson in The Batman (Photo: Warner & DC)
(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.)
THE BATMAN (2022). Say this about The Batman, yet another movie about the Caped Crusader and starring yet another actor brave and bold enough to tackle the role: It wears its nihilism well. Unlike the silly and superficial Joker, which was absurdly greeted in impressionable circles as Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver 2: The Return of Travis Bickle, this effort from writer-director Matt Reeves (whose last film was 2017’s War for the Planet of the Apes) is a down and dirty affair that allows the story’s moral rot to seep into every brick in every grungy Gotham home. Do we actually need another brooding Bat-flick of this type? Not really — a little of Vincent Price prancing around as Egghead would be a welcome sight right about now — but given its assignment, it mostly gets the job done. It’s too long at three hours, it offers merely OK interpretations of Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz) and Alfred (Andy Serkis), and the hints that the spotlight-hogging Joker (Barry Keoghan) will be the primary villain in the sequel are enough to drive someone to start a time-wasting petition on Change.org. But Paul Dano’s derangement as the Riddler is more frightening than Joaquin Phoenix’s Method madness, Jeffrey Wright is one of the best Gordons to date, Michael Giacchino’s score and the makeup that renders Colin Farrell unrecognizable as the Penguin deserve Oscar nods, and the film offers some interesting takes on the theme of corruptibility that often flows through the franchise. As for Robert Pattinson, he looks fabulous in that Batsuit but largely fails to sell his angsty Bruce Wayne.
Extras in the 4K edition include a making-of featurette; a look at Farrell’s transformation into the Penguin; and deleted scenes.
CANDYMAN (1992). Give Candyman hosannas for offering an intriguing premise, but then give it hell for not following through on its initial promise. Virginia Madsen delivers a strong performance as Helen Lyle, a graduate student gathering material for her thesis on urban mythology. Helen is especially fascinated by the story of Candyman, who in the late 19th century was a black artist tortured and murdered by racists after he fell in love with a white woman. Cut to the present, and Candyman is rumored to be a hook-handed specter who haunts Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project. Helen is skeptical of his existence but soon becomes a believer after Candyman (Tony Todd) materializes and commences with the killing. Adapted by writer-director Bernard Rose from Clive Barker’s story “The Forbidden,” this initially gets its hooks (pun intended) into viewers with its unique setting as well as its subtext regarding the horrors of the ghetto potentially being rationalized by mythmaking. But it’s after Candyman makes his first appearance that the movie ironically loses its potency by tossing aside its uneasy ambience and largely devolving into a typical gorefest. The clumsy climax is especially pitiful, as is the tacked-on shock ending. The 2021 remake is a tad better, albeit with its own set of issues.
The new 4K + Blu-ray edition contains the theatrical and unrated cuts. Extras include four audio commentaries (various participants include Rose, Barker, Madsen, and Todd); interviews with Barker, Madsen, and Todd; storyboards; and the theatrical trailer.
GIRLS NITE OUT (1982). An 18-foot-tall bear, like the one showcased in 1976’s Grizzly, is a scary creature; ditto a monstrous, mutated bear, such as the one featured in 1979’s Prophecy. But a person in a bear suit that sports enormous love-me eyes and a dangling tongue almost as long as that of KISS’s Gene Simmons? Let’s just say that Yogi and Boo-Boo look positively dangerous, demented, and demonic when compared to this cuddly killer. This comical visual undercuts any potential tension in Girls Nite Out, a routine slasher film that briefly played under the title The Scaremaker. The setting is an Ohio college, the event is an all-night scavenger hunt, the victims are nubile coeds and their dunderheaded boyfriends, and the obligatory name actor is Hal Holbrook, who made this in the same year as the bigger-budgeted horror yarn Creepshow. Hal plays the campus security officer trying to figure out who’s bumping off members of the student body — little does he suspect the murderer is disguised as the school mascot, which happens to be a goofy bear. Director Robert Duebel and his team of writers at least try to add some genuine mystery to the slasher proceedings — the identity of the killer will catch many viewers off guard — but irksome characters and a general air of torpidity help sink this one.
Blu-ray extras include film historian audio commentary; an archival interview with lead actress Julia Montgomery; and The Scaremaker alternate title card.
TREKKIES (1997). Why does Star Trek boast the most devoted fans of any franchise in television history? That question gets answered — sort of — in this entertaining documentary that follows scores of Trek addicts who have made the series an integral part of their lives. Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation) serves as host, interviewing not only diehard fans but also various folks involved with the original series and/or its spin-offs. We hear how James Doohan (Scotty) came to the aid of a fan who was planning to take her own life, and how a female follower once sent DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy) a letter with a joint enclosed (“You turned me on so many times in the past that I felt I should return the favor,” she wrote). Leonard Nimoy (Spock) offers thoughtful commentary while Brent Spiner (Data) proves to be the most amusing. The ample material with the groupies is more problematic: The movie tries to get to the root of the show’s popularity, yet philosophical musings are kept to a minimum as Crosby and director Roger Nygard prefer to focus on the antics of the most flamboyant followers, including a Whitewater juror who wore her Trek costume to the trial and a fellow contemplating getting his ears surgically altered to look like a Vulcan’s.
Extras on the Blu-ray from Shout! Factory, billed as the 25th Anniversary Edition (although the film didn’t open theatrically until 1999, it did play a couple of fests in late 1997), consist of a new discussion between Crosby and Nygard, and the theatrical trailer.
VIOLENT CITY (1970). Although it began its international run in 1970, the Italian drama Violent City didn’t enjoy a wide release in the U.S. until 1973, at which point it was chopped by 12 minutes and renamed The Family to play up the mob angle in the wake of The Godfather’s phenomenal success. Those dozen minutes were later restored, but since nobody had bothered to dub them into English, the copy making the rounds on videocassette, DVD, and now Blu-ray awkwardly and abruptly switches from English to Italian from time to time. The new two-disc Blu-ray edition from Kino holds three cuts of the film: the original Italian version of Violent City (Città Violenta), the English-language version of Violent City (with those Italian interruptions), and the U.S. cut The Family. Whew! That’s an awful lot of explanation for a Charles Bronson vehicle that hardly ranks among his best. Co-written by director Sergio Sollima, Lina Wertmüller (soon to become the first woman ever nominated for the Best Director Oscar), and four other cohorts, this stars Bronson as a freelance hit man who’s miffed when his duplicitous girlfriend (Bronson’s real-life wife Jill Ireland, sadly miscast once again) leaves him for other disreputable men, one of them being a chirpy crime kingpin (Telly Savalas). The occasional bursts of effective action can’t save an otherwise plodding presentation.
Blu-ray extras include audio commentary on Violent City by author Paul Talbot (Bronson’s Loose!); an interview with Sollima; and theatrical trailers for both Violent City and The Family.
WITHOUT WARNING (1980). Predator’s got nothing on Without Warning! Scratch that; actually, Predator’s got everything on Without Warning, with the exception that Without Warning came first. Both involve an alien hunting humans for sport, and both tapped the 7-foot-2-inch Kevin Peter Hall to portray the antagonistic e.t. In all other respects, Predator is a Porterhouse while Without Warning is a skirt steak that’s been left out in the sun for a couple of days. The leads are Tarah Nutter and Christopher S. Nelson as two college-age kids who spend the majority of the running time running time and again from the evil alien and the deadly discs he tosses like a Frisbee at unsuspecting prey. The top-billed stars are Jack Palance and Martin Landau as Joe Taylor and Fred Dobbs, two oddball locals searching for the otherworldly invader. (Why Landau’s character is named after Humphrey Bogart’s prospector in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, even the ghost of John Huston couldn’t tell ya.) Palance and Landau (who would reunite two years later to play even bigger loonies in Alone in the Dark) aren’t the only old-timers on hand — the impressive (but wasted) cast also includes Neville Brand, Cameron Mitchell, Ralph Meeker, Sue Ane Langdon, and, for giggles, F Troop‘s Larry Storch as a Cub Scout leader. This is the sort of film where, if a viewer took a drink every time a character did something imbecilic or illogical, they would be dead of alcohol poisoning long before the final credits. Good monster makeup, though, courtesy of future multi-Oscar winner Greg Cannom (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Vice).
Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by producer-director Greydon Clark; interviews with Nutter and Nelson; and the trailer.
Review links for movies referenced in this column:
Alone in the Dark (1982)
War for the Planet of the Apes
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