This week in DVD and Blu-Ray releases sees films from some of film history’s greatest directors and movies from talented up-and-comers. In the first group, Kino Lorber’s new Kino Lorber Studio Classics label starts its run with a pair of Billy Wilder films: 1957’s great courtroom drama “Witness for the Prosecution,” starring Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton, and 1970’s underrated and underseen “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.” Studio Classics’s other two releases this week ought to make any western fan happy: Gianfranco Parolini’s Spaghetti Western “Sabata,” starring Lee Van Cleef, and Sydney Pollack’s “The Scalphunters,” starring Burt Lancaster, Shelley Winters, Telly Savalas, and Ossie Davis. All four films are on Blu-Ray for the first time.
Also on the classic front: Abbas Kiarostami’s “The Wind Will Carry Us” from Cohen Film Collection, “The Legend of Billie Jean” from Mill Creek Entertainment, and Criterion’s new “The Essential Jacques Demy” box set, featuring both Demy masterworks (“Lola,” “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” “The Young Girls of Rochefort”) and less-heralded gems (“Donkey Skin,” Une Chambre En Ville”). Short of seeing “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” in 35mm, this new Criterion set is just about the best way to sit back and insist to the person next to you, “I’m not crying, my eyes are just broken.”
New releases include Jeremy Saulnier’s breakthrough thriller “Blue Ruin,” (currently in the top ten on Criticwire’s Best Reviewed Indie Films of 2014), Wally Pfister’s little-loved directorial debut “Transcendence,” Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson’s feature-length remake of their debut short “All Cheerleaders Die,” and Richard Shepherd’s “Dom Hemingway,” which, if nothing else, features a spectacularly unhinged turn by Jude Law.
Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects
Viewers will need to be equally good sports to find much resembling a good time with the film as the script wastes its refreshing turn of events in frustrating ways. The supernatural spin should lead to excitement and cathartic scenes of revenge — and we do get a couple gorily entertaining sequences — but the girls and the film lose that focus almost immediately. It wants to play hard with real pain and suffering while also allowing for the playful antics of My Boyfriend’s Back or Teen Wolf, but it just doesn’t work. Read more.
Gabe Toro, The Playlist
Every slip-up that Dwight makes, failing to cover his tracks, acting in a way that places others in danger, and basically diagramming a way for the killer’s family to find him, comes from a very human moment. Blair’s whimpering performance goes a long way. He speaks very little, and when he tries to make his point to punctuate his violence, he stutters. When he finally shaves, even his chin is weak. Read more.
Diana Drumm, Sound on Sight
Too bad they couldn’t have just kept Dom and Dickie’s partying with Mr. Fontaine go on for the rest of the film. After a heart-pumping first few segments (partially thanks to an awesomely punk soundtrack), the rest just feels like a letdown, outside of Dom’s graveside speech, which is one of the most heartbreaking moments to come out of this year’s TIFF. Read more.
Eric Kohn, Indiewire
Unfortunately, the couple’s ensuing plan doesn’t quite add up. When Evelyn takes root in a ghost town and helps her digitized husband set up shop with an array of satellite dishes and some undefined scheme to change the world, the cryptic nature of their scheme holds some promise. But “Transcendence” loses its grip on the mystery in play when the pieces pile up. By the time Caster has created a zombie army of locals — OK, they’re called “hybrids” —partly ingrained with his thoughts, the Pfister struggles to cobble together a compelling action finale (the concluding desert showdown involves tanks facing off against Depp’s CGI tendrils, and neither hold much visual appeal). Read more.