New on Blu: BURIED, THE NAKED KISS, SHOCK CORRIDOR, DEATH RACE 2, ANIMAL KINGDOM, and more
Rodrio Cortes' BURIED and Philip Seymour Hoffman's JACK GOES BOATING picked a good week to release on Blu-ray. Both screened last year at the Sundance Film Festival which kicks off its 2011 fest in just two days. Criterion connoisseurs will be happy, as Sam Fuller's THE NAKED KISS and SHOCK CORRIDOR also release today. After the jump, check out our Blu-ray reviews of BURIED, THE NAKED KISS, SHOCK CORRIDOR, and DEATH RACE 2.
BURIED (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Written by J.C. De Leon
BURIED is one of 2010’s best overlooked movies. It might have been too easily dismissed because people didn’t believe the concept could work. A man wakes up in a coffin in total darkness, armed only with a lighter and a cell phone with poor reception and a draining battery. The film is set entirely in a coffin, for 90 minutes. There are no other locations. You, the viewers don’t go anywhere. You are locked into this coffin with Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), left to watch as he experiences the full range of human emotion, and you are to be left as breathless as he is in that box.
Rodrigo Cortes and his crew execute the concept brilliantly. This is shown even more so in the (sadly) only special feature on this disk, an in-depth behind the scenes look at how a full movie crew spent 17 days making this 90 minute marvel of a film. There was great ingenuity in the building of some of the coffins so that you can get the camera's swinging shots, and the lighting in the film is exquisite. You’ll be amazed when you watch the behind the scenes at how important a role the lighting played in creating this claustrophobic atmosphere that was actually shot in a huge sound stage in Barcelona.
Despite there being one special feature, and the fact that the artwork isn’t nearly as cool as any of the theatrical posters, I would recommend checking out this Blu-ray/dvd combo. Ryan Reynolds turns in an absolutely terrific performance, and the suspense in this film is unmatched in other 2010 movies. It may not have the most rewatch value, but there will be a time when you’re with someone and they want to watch something they haven’t seen before, and this will be a great suggestion.
THE NAKED KISS (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Written by Brian Kelley
Kelly (Constance Towers) is a strong-willed prostitute who beats up her manager, a scumbag who has been withholding money, and flees to a small town called Grantville. There, she meets Griff, the town's sheriff, with whom she spends an evening. After the encounter, Kelly decides she has turned her last trick and goes straight by taking a job in a hospital working with handicapped children. There, she makes friends, defends weak girls against the allure of the local brothel, and becomes romantically entangled with Griff's best friend, J.L. Grant. Things seems to be on the right track for Kelly until she stumbles upon a horrible secret and becomes wrapped up in a heinous crime. Sam Fuller's (SHOCK CORRIDOR, THE BIG RED ONE) THE NAKED KISS is a deceptive film, it would appear to be a story about a woman on the course of redemption up until the point that her entire world crashes down upon her. What makes things so tragic when Kelly's success is nearly derailed is that she is, by that time, the most innocent person involved. Everyone around her has secrets, tells lies, and wallows in sin. That she has paved her own road to redemption is ignored by those that need her to be the fall girl for the tragic circumstances that develop. While it would appear the film is an attack on the American dream, Fuller's film wraps itself up in a way that is truly a celebration of life and the chance we all have for redemption, even if it is only to ourselves. A truly powerful film that remains quite shocking today.
The Criterion Collection presents a greatly upgraded package for this release of THE NAKED KISS. The supplements begin with a wonderful 30 minute interview with Constance Towers recorded in 2007. She is a delight to listen to and provides many anecdotes not only about THE NAKED KISS but Sam Fuller himself and what it was like working with him. She also has some interesting insights into her character that add some extra depth to the film itself. A truly spectacular interview. Next is a series of excerpts from "The South Bank Show" focusing on Sam Fuller and his films. Up to "The South Bank Show's" high standards, these excerpts (which include interviews with Fuller himself as well as other talent such as Wim Wenders) provide excellent understanding of Fuller and his films. Fuller appears again in excerpts from a 2 French arts series called "Cineastes de notre temps" and "Cinema cinemas" respectively. Between the two, Fuller's career is documented from his start in newspapers through his work in the '80s. Through all of these TV series excerpts, Fuller is consistently fascinating to listen to, a singular voice to be sure. Special features conclude with a theatrical trailer for THE NAKED KISS. An (unsurprisingly) solid package from the Criterion Collection. Combined with the best picture and sound quality possible for this film, a purchase is a no-brainer.
SHOCK CORRIDOR (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Written by Josh Brunsting
What can you say about iconic filmmaker Samuel Fuller, that hasn't already been said? Journalist. Curmudgeon. Legend. Pure storyteller. Great American filmmaker.
Fuller was all of these things and more, and you can now see one of his true masterpieces, the wonderful and hauntingly frightening SHOCK CORRIDOR, in stunning HD thanks to the Criterion Collection, who have released the classic.
Released alongside Fuller’s other Criterion staple, THE NAKED KISS, SHOCK CORRIDOR treads much different ground. The film follows Johnny Barrett, a journalist striving to win the Pulitzer Prize, who is driven to investigating a murder at a mental hospital. To break the case, the man, against the judgment of his exotic-dancer main squeeze, must go inside the hospital as a patient. He pretends to go insane, and over time, the line between sanity and insanity begin to blur, until there may not be one at all.
If there is one thing that Fuller is better at than many of his peers within the medium prior to or after his career, it’s his ability to tell a story not only holistically, but economically. Never one to waste a moment, this film is the epitome of that skill. Every single ounce of this film is not only compelling, but is needed and ultimately paid off on, come the film’s final, haunting conclusion. The narrative itself is inherently compelling. You are introduced to this man, the stakes involved here, and the film’s forward motion. He’s an award hungry man who is willing to toss anything out of the window to get to his final goal. It’s storytelling 101, and it’s really refreshing to see this skill in storytelling, in stunning Blu-ray.
Speaking of the Blu-ray, SHOCK CORRIDOR is a wonder to see in HD. More often than not, black and white films seem to get overlooked when transferred or updated to the format. However, there is something about the down and dirty nature, and utter visual skill that is used within this film, that makes the film’s cinematography come off almost percussively. It’s a darkly comedic bit of punk rock filmmaking, and as Vincent Cassel’s character in BLACK SWAN would say, it’s stripped down. Visceral.
However, it’s hard to look at SHOCK CORRIDOR without looking at the film’s cast. Peter Breck is stunning here as Barrett, a person on the brink of insanity. He walks this tightrope of sanity so perfectly, right down to the inner monologues that we get here. There is a drive behind this man that makes everything that subsequently happens during this film completely and utterly believable. Constance Towers is also great here as the lead’s stripper honey, and is a part of an absolutely top notch supporting cast that sees great performances from people like Gene Evans, James Best, and Chuck Roberson.
As a release however, it’s a bit light. Featuring an interview with Constance Towers, that looks at her overall career in mere moments, the only other feature is what you’ll want to run out and grab this release for. The release features a nearly hour long documentary, directed by Tim Robbins, that looks at Fuller and his life, influences, and films. It’s a stunning piece of documentary filmmaking, that features interviews with the likes of Jim Jarmusch, and even Quentin Tarantino. It’s an absolute must see feature that makes this film, and this particular release, absolutely special.
DEATH RACE 2 [Blu-ray]
Written by J.C. De Leon
DEATH RACE 2 is the direct-to-video prequel to 2008’s Paul W.S. Anderson directed action remake DEATH RACE. Starring Luke Goss, Danny Trejo, and Ving Rhames, DEATH RACE 2 tells the story of how the infamous race evolved to a race from a simple televised fight to the death between prisoners of Terminal Island.
In the future, corporations have taken over prisons for profit, and for Terminal Island, the idea of televising fights to death, full of weapons they may be, aren’t really bringing in the ratings anymore. In an effort to spice up the death matches, and for there to be a reason for the audience watching at home to care, the prisoner who wins 5 Death Races wins his freedom. Very hokey action, with an unknown in the lead and a known name as a secondary character (Ving Rhames) can actually make for an entertaining formula in a direct-to-video prequel. Overall, it has the same plot points and elements as 2008’s DEATH RACE, but it keeps with the same consistency so if you had fun with DEATH RACE in 2008, then this should be just as fun to watch.
There are a good number of features on the disc, but you’ve got to be a really big fan of the series to get any value out of these. Chances are if you’ve bought this disc, then the deleted scenes, featurette on the cars and weapons and director’s montage will end up making the disc more than worth your purchase. Plus, if you’ve now added to your collection and have both DEATH RACE and DEATH RACE 2, then with the rumored DEATH RACE 3 possibly beginning production later this year, you’ll have yourself one action-packed, weapon-filled franchise.
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