This week, the Criterion Collection has decided to release three of their most anticipated offerings this year. Indiewire’s DVD/Blu-ray picks for the week also include an Academy Award-nominee for Best Foreign Language Film and a comedy that pairs Greg Kinnear with Alan Arkin after their work in “Little Miss Sunshine.”
#1. “Shallow Grave” (The Criterion Collection)
Before getting Oscar’s stamp of approval with the feel-good drama “Slumdog Millionaire,” Danny Boyle was known more for skewing to the dark side thanks to his first breakout feature, “Shallow Grave,” “Trainspotting” and “28 Days Later.” The Criterion Collection has taken it upon itself to remind folks of Boyle’s earlier output by releasing his deliciously twisted debut.
Written by “Trainspotting” screenwriter John Hodge, “Shallow Grave” centers on three Edinburgh roomates (Kerry Fox, Christopher Ecclestron and a young Ewan McGregor), who take in a moody boarder. When the new addition dies of an overdose, the three are surprised to find a suitcase full of money left behind, leading them to all make some very bad decisions.
Extras: Two audio commentaries: one by director Danny Boyle and the other by screenwriter John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald; new interview piece featuring Eccleston, Fox and McGregor; “Digging Your Own Grave,” a 1993 documentary by Kevin Macdonald on the making of the film; Andrew Macdonald and Kevin Macdonald’s video diary from the 1992 Edinburgh Film Festival, where they shopped the “Shallow Grave”script; a “Shallow Grave” trailer and the “Trainspotting” teaser; plus an essay by critic Philip Kemp.
#2. “In Darkness”
Agnieska Holland, director of the Academy Award-nominated Holocaust drama “In Darkness,” is no stranger to documenting that period on film (or to Academy Award nominations, for that matter), having made “Angry Harvest” and “Europa Europa,” both Holocaust films nominated for Oscars. But “In Darkness” is her first film set primarily undergound.
Based on a true story, “In Darkness” centers on Leopold Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz), a sewer worker in Lvov, a Nazi-occupied city in Poland. After coming across a group of Jews trying to escape the liquidation of the ghetto, Leopold agrees to hide them undergound in the town’s sewer system, for a price. What soon begins as a business arrangement soon blossoms into something deeper as Leopold’s conscience gets the better of him.
Go HERE for Indiewire’s profile of Holland.
Extras: “An Evening With Agnieszka Holland,” in which the director recalls the film’s inspiration and describes its development and production; “In Light: A Conversation With Agnieszka Holland and Krystyna Chiger,” a 28-minute chat between the director and a living survivor; deleted scenes; and the film’s theatrical trailer.
#3. “The Gold Rush” (The Criterion Collection)
It’s hard to believe it has taken until now for the Criterion Collection to release Charlie Chaplin’s comedic masterwork “The Gold Rush” on their label, but late’s better than never. Shot partly on location in the Sierra Nevadas, “The Gold Rush” charts a prospector’s search for fortune in the Klondike. What does he end up finding? Love. Chaplin purists can breathe a sigh of relief; this special edition features both Chaplin’s definitive 1942 version, for which the director added new music and narration, and a restoration of the original 1925 silent film.
Extras: New audio commentary for the 1925 version by Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance; three new programs: Presenting “The Gold Rush,” which traces the film’s history and features filmmaker Kevin Brownlow and Vance; “A Time of Innovation: Visual Effects in “The Gold Rush,”” featuring effects specialist Craig Barron and Chaplin cinematographer Roland Totheroh and Music by Charles Chaplin, featuring conductor and composer Timothy Brock’ “Chaplin Today: “The Gold Rush”” (2002), a short documentary featuring filmmaker Idrissa Ouédraogo; four trailers; plus an essay by critic Luc Sante and James Agee’s review of the 1942 rerelease.
#4. “Harold and Maude” (The Criterion Collection)
After years spent making his name as one of Hollywood’s most talented editors, “Harold and Maude” was Hal Ashby’s his second film and arguably his most beloved (he also went on to direct “Coming Home” and “Shampoo”). Written by Colin Higgins, “Harold and Maude” tells the oddly endearing story of the bond between a death-obsessed and suicidal young man (Bud Cort), and 79-year old woman (Ruth Gordon). The classic features a soundtrack by Cat Stevens.
Extras: New audio commentary by Hal Ashby biographer Nick Dawson and producer Charles B. Mulvehill; illustrated audio excerpts from seminars by Ashby and writer-producer Colin Higgins; new interview with songwriter Yusuf/Cat Stevens; plus a booklet featuring an essay by film critic (and founder of Indiewire’s Press Play) Matt Zoller Seitz; a 1971 New York Times profile of star Ruth Gordon; and two excerpted interviews, one from 1997 with star Bud Cort and cinematographer John Alonzo and one from 2001 with executive producer Mildred Lewis.
#5. “Thin Ice”
“Thin Ice” is by no means a great film, but it does make for a decent watch when taking into account the film’s odd journey to the screen. Originally titled “The Convincer,” the dark comedy premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival to mixed to good notices, only to see ATO Pictures release a new edit of the film last fall that boasted a new title, a new editor, and a new score. Indiewire reported on what went down, all of which can be found HERE, and it makes for a fascinating read. The film’s not equally as fascinating, but it does feature fine performances from Greg Kinnear and Alan Arkin (reuniting after “Little Miss Sunshine”). Kinnear plays an insurance agent who hits paydirt when he comes across a retired famer who happens to own a rare violin that’s worth a small fortune. Things take a turn for the dire when Billy Crudup shows up as a meddlesome con man.