This week on DVD/Blu-ray: The best film of Cameron Diaz’s career; a powerful AIDS documentary that rocked last year’s Sundance Film Festival; the most controversial film to come out Cannes in 2011; Glenn Close’s passion project; and the latest collaboration between Woody Harrelson and Oren Moverman.
#1. “Being John Malkovich” (Criterion Collection)
Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman’s seminal (and completely gonzo) collaboration “Being John Malkovich” gets a spanking new digital transfer (supervised by Jonze himself) courtesy of Criterion, in this long overdue release from the Collection.
Starring John Cusack, Catherine Keener, an unrecognizable Cameron Diaz and of course, Malkovich, “Being John Malkovich” centers on an out-of-work puppeteer (Cusack) in an unhappy marriage to a pet-crazed wife (Diaz), who discovers a portal into Malkovich’s mind.
Roger Ebert named it the best film of 1999 and with good reason. “Every once in a long, long while a movie comes along that is like no other. A movie that creates a new world for us and uses it to produce wonderful things,” he wrote in his glowing review. “Either ‘Being John Malkovich’ gets nominated for Best Picture, or the members of the Academy need portals into their brains.”
Turns out they do. The film didn’t manage to snag a nomination for Best Picture, but it did walk away with three for Best Supporting Actress (Kenner), Best Original Screenplay and Best Director.
Extras: It’s been a long wait, but this film finally gets the treatment it deserves thank to the folks at Criterion. Included: selected-scene audio commentary featuring Michel Gondry; a new behind-the-scenes documentary by Lance Bangs; a new conversation between Malkovich and humorist John Hodgman; a new interview with Jonze where he discusses his on-set photos; two films within the film; a documentary by Bangs on the art of puppeteering; the trailer and some TV sports; plus a booklet featuring a conversation between Jonze and pop-culture critic Perkus Tooth.
#2. “We Were Here”
In his powerful documentary “We Were Here,” filmmaker David Weissman (“The Cockettes”) chronicles the arrival of AIDS in San Francisco and its subsequent aftermath through the eyes of five individuals who were witnesses to history. It world premiered at Sundance last year (where Peter Knegt said it was “one of the standout films at the festival”).
“The doc provides a powerful snapshot of a time in American history that few are fully aware of,” Knegt said of the film. “Though certainly not the definitive AIDS documentary, Weissman and Weber bring an affecting sense of intimacy by focusing on just five individuals and one city.”
Go HERE for our interview with Weissman.
Extras: A video interview with Weissman.
There was no film more controversial at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival than Markus Schleinzer’s feature film debut, “Michael.” The gripping tale of five months in the life of a pedophile (Michael Fuith) and the young child he keeps in his basement, “Michael” took Cannes audiences by surprise with its provocative story, which the festival did not reveal in advance. Schleinzer launched his career in the film industry 17 years ago, when he took a part-time job working for then-casting director Daniela Stibitz. He’s since worked with some of Austria’s biggest names, including Michael Haneke and Ulrich Seidl, all of whose influences are evident in his profoundly disturbing and provocative debut.
“Press notes claim that ‘Michael’ takes place over the course of a five-month period, but the sense of time stays ambiguous, as if to underscore the inescapable quality of Wolfgang’s conditions,” wrote Eric Kohn in his review. “Those mundane details heighten the tension that Schleinzer skillfully creates, but they also embolden the suspense of the movie’s final act, when sudden events begin to call Michael’s set-up into question.”
Go HERE for our profile of Schleinzer.
#4. “Albert Nobbs”
Directed by Rodrigo Garcia (“Mother & Child”), “Albert Nobbs” is a period drama starring Glenn Close as a penniless woman who poses as man so she can work as butler in 19th century Ireland. Close first starred in an off-Broadway adaptation of the short story on which “Nobbs” is based back in 1982, so this has been a long time coming for the actress. The wait paid off; both Close and her co-star Janet McTeer were nominated for Academy Awards for their efforts, and the film netted a nomination for Best Achievement in Makeup.
Go HERE for our interview with Close and McTeer.
Extras: Garcia and Close take part in a lively audio commentary. Also included are four deleted scenes and the film’s trailer.
Woody Harrelson gives his most ferocious performance since “Natural Born Killers” in “Rampart,” a thriller that reunites him with his director from “The Messenger,” Oren Moverman. In the Independent Spirt Award-nominated film, Harrelson stars as Officer Dave Brown, a Vietnam vet and cop, dedicated to asserting his own code of justice, often blurring the lines between right and wrong.
“Partly inspired by the real-life Rampart scandal of police misconduct that afflicted the LAPD in the late 1990s (and set in 1999 to reflect that heated climate), ‘Rampart’ is co-written by crime writer James Ellroy as a messy, disorienting noir, and shot by cinematographer Bobby Bukowski with an unsettling degree of realism,” wrote Kohn in his review. “Using an improvisatory method built around Harrelson’s fiery performance, Moverman — showing incredible range in jagged contrast to the understatement of ‘The Messenger’ — foregrounds Date Rape Dave’s commitment to a lost cause.”
Extras: A meaty behind-the-scenes featurette (it clocks in at 30-minutes) delves into the making of the film. Also included is an audio commentary by Moverman and cinematographer Bobby Bukowski.