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This Week on Home Video: Blaxploitation Flicks and Godzilla Movies

This Week on Home Video: Blaxploitation Flicks and Godzilla Movies

This week’s new Blu-Ray and DVD releases include two of the best films of the blaxploitation era, courtesy of Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

First comes Ossie Davis’s terrific “Cotton Comes to Harlem,” which is distinguished as being one of the most community-focused (and least violent) blaxploitation films, which is key for a film that’s about exploitation of a community by members of that community. It’s joined by “Across 110th Street, a more violent and tense film than “Cotton,” but with purpose. The violence is punishing rather than exhilarating, and the clash between the upright black officer (Yaphet Kotto) and the unrepentant racist white officer (Anthony Quinn) forced to work together is fascinating and complex; the film doesn’t totally demonize the latter, nor does it condemn the crook they’re after (Paul Benjamin), who’s mostly a product of a dirty system than he is a bad man. Kino Lorber also has a pair of Richard Lester-directed classics out this week: his 1966 adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and his 1974 thriller “Juggernaut.” 

Meanwhile, those looking to check out what the Godzilla was up to before Gareth Edwards’ recent remake brought him back to life have a trio of films hitting Blu-Ray. The first, “Godzilla 2000,” sees the third Godzilla series (the Millennium series) getting off to a shaky start, but it’s followed by the stylish, deliberately melodramatic “Godzilla Against Mechagozilla” and the awkwardly-titled “Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack,” which brings the King of the Monsters back to his purely destructive origins while playing with his rogues’ histories (the normally villainous Ghidorah is a hero here, for example).

Those looking for a creepier monster movie, on the other hand, can check out Scream! Factory’s reissue of “Pumpkinhead,” while those looking for a funnier one can pick up “Young Frankenstein” and determine whether or not there’s anything as inherently funny as Gene Wilder screaming (answer: no). 

Newer releases this week include the Blu-Ray and DVD release of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which threw in just enough 70s conspiracy thriller influences to keep the film from being just another film from the Marvel machine (OK, it’s that, too) and of “God’s Pocket,” John Slattery’s directorial debut and one of the final films of Philip Seymour Hoffman. The challenging but fascinating Dutch film “Borgman” also makes its way to Blu-Ray this week, just in time for a new group of people to react to it with a hearty “WTF?” And though it’s only coming to DVD, Gia Coppola’s “Palo Alto” shows the latest Coppola progeny (granddaughter of Francis, niece of Sofia) has some chops behind the camera, her dreamy but matter-of-fact look at aimless teenagers serving as a “The Virgin Suicides” for a new generation.

More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:

Criticwire Average: B+

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

While easily comparable to Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games,” the characters in that movie were more blatantly psychopathic, while the motives of Borgman and his crew are difficult to discern until the very end. That makes its narrative progression less of a knockout than a tantalizing curiosity, but certainly heavy enough with themes worthy of analysis. As a symbol, Borgman represents the encroachment of fatalism and dark urges on the pristine image of suburban idealism. With its palatial setting, “Borgman” shows how money can buy luxury, but it can’t salvage the corruption that comes from within. Read more.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Criticwire Average: B+

A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club

Hurdling through darkened office buildings, down shadowy corridors of power, and across narrow lanes of D.C. traffic, Evans’ super soldier has clearly stumbled headlong into a kind of comic-book reinvention of the 1970s political thriller. The Russos, transparent about their influences, pepper “Winter Soldier” with knowing winks to “The Odessa File” and “The Boys From Brazil” — to say nothing of the appearance of “Three Days Of The Condor” star Robert Redford as a jaded politician. (Talk about a Tarantino-worthy casting coup.) Read more.

“God’s Pocket”

Criticwire Average: C+

Mike D’Angelo, The Dissolve

The film is neither particularly literary (despite occasional florid voiceover from a character who’s a writer) nor especially cinematic, and it doesn’t fully work as a stand-alone narrative. What it offers, in spades, is a precise, evocative sense of time and place, deftly suggesting a shared history among the colorful denizens of a vividly realized milieu. Read more.

“Palo Alto”
Criticwire Average: B

Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York

“Palo Alto” doesn’t play like a ticking time bomb. Instead, the film is empathetic to a fault, seeing beauty in each character’s struggle even if it can’t always sell them as flesh- and-blood human beings. Fred, especially—driving heedlessly into freeway traffic, among other transgressions—fits too neatly into the charismatic-sociopath mold favored by a certain strain of self-absorbed juvenile fiction. (Frankly, it’s all very Franco.) Fortunately Coppola’s sensitivity is always evident, especially in the open-hearted performances she gets from Roberts and Kilmer (whose father, Val, has a funny, pot-addled cameo). Hopefully she’ll hone this raw humanism into something grander. Read more.

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