This week on the small screen, legendary DP Jack Cardiff gets the tribute he deserves, Ellen Page goes a bit crazy and much more.
DVD/Blu-rays This Week
What to Buy
“Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff”
Why It’s a Must Own: Legendary director of photography Jack Cardiff (“The Red Shoes,” “The African Queen,” “Under Capricorn”) gets a comprehensive and fitting tribute in this documentary from Craig McCall, which screened at various film festivals including Cannes, Karlovy Vary and Palm Springs. A number of famous faces pop up to pay their respects to the master’s eye for the camera (among them: Kirk Douglas and Martin Scorsese). This is essential viewing for any film buff. Chances are if you’re reading this, that means you.
Extras: Interview with Craig McCall by Ian Christie; Jack’s actress portraits; Jack’s behind-the-scenes movies; a number of featurettes; photo galleries; original theatrical trailer; and other Strand Releasing trailers.
What to Rent
Why Rent: This demented indie superhero satire plays like the twisted cousin to “Kick-Ass,” which is saying something. In James Gunn’s bizarre and bracingly funny film, Rainn Wilson (TV’s “The Office”) plays a guy who loses his wife (Liv Tyler) to a drug dealer (Kevin Bacon). To deal with the loss and get even, the sad sack assumes the role of the superhero “The Crimson Bolt.” His weapon of choice? A massive wrench. Yeah, it gets ugly. Ellen Page also pops in for a great supporting turn as his messed up sidekick.
Extras: Audio commentary with Gunn and Wilson; a 20-minute featurette; a deleted scene; and more.
“The Battle of Algiers”
Why Rent: Gillo Pontecorvo’s massively influential political film “The Battle of Algiers” (1966) gets a gorgeous upgrade courtesy of the folks over at the Criterion Collection. The black-and-white film, shot in documentary style, re-creates a year in the Algerian struggle for independence from the occupying French in the 1950s. It’s a troubling and a tough watch, but well worth catching if you haven’t seen already.
Extras: High-definition digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Marcello Gatti (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition); “Gillo Pontecorvo: The Dictatorship of Truth,” a documentary narrated by literary critic Edward Said; “Marxist Poetry: The Making of “The Battle of Algiers,” a documentary featuring interviews with Pontecorvo, Gatti, composer Ennio Morricone, and others; interviews with Spike Lee, Mira Nair, Julian Schnabel, Steven Soderbergh, and Oliver Stone on the film’s influence, style, and importance; “Remembering History,” a documentary reconstructing the Algerian experience of the battle for independence; “États d’armes,” a documentary excerpt featuring senior French military officers recalling the use of torture and execution to combat the Algerian rebellion; “The Battle of Algiers: A Case Study,” a video piece featuring U.S. counterterrorism experts; “Gillo Pontecorvo’s Return to Algiers,” a documentary in which the filmmaker revisits the country after three decades of independence; production gallery; theatrical and rerelease trailers; plus a booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Peter Matthews, excerpts from Algeria’s National Liberation Front leader Saadi Yacef’s original account of his arrest, excerpts from the film’s screenplay, a reprinted interview with cowriter Franco Solinas, and biographical sketches of key figures in the French-Algerian War
“Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam”
Why Rent: This rousing documentary, shot from 2007 though 2009, follows a number of Taqwacore (Islamic punk) bands and performers touring the U.S. and Pakistan. For those unfamiliar with this underground movement in music, this is fascinating stuff.
VOD Pick of the Week
“Burke and Hare”
Why Watch: The latest from John Landis (“The Blues Brothers”) is a well-cast black comedy about two 19th century grave robbers who find a lucrative business providing cadavers for an Edinburgh medical school. Among the solid key players in this funny tale: Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Tim Curry, Isla Fisher, Tom Wilkinson and Tim Curry. Catch it on a VOD a month before it lands in theaters.
Where to Find It: IFC Films.