June 17, 2009

The Seventh Seal

Also this week: Friday the 13th, One Week, Transformers: Season One, The Strange One, 

 Highlight of the Week

The Seventh Seal (Criterion) Note to non-academics, Bill & Ted buffs and self-proclaimed philistines: Swedish art-house maverick Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 seminal meta-meditation on life and, you guessed it, death is not nearly as daunting as it’s often made out to be. Granted, the film is densely comprised of stark allegorical imagery, harsh existentialism and frequent nods to the Book of Revelation, but it also contains a fair measure of charm and levity alongside its briskly paced running time. Widely considered to be one of the most ravishing black and white films of the 20th century, it goes without saying that Max von Sydow looks totally badass by way of the film’s grainy-yet-unbelievably detailed Blu-ray transfer. Extras: always-worthwhile Peter Cowie commentary, Bergman intro, superb 2004 feature-length documentary Bergman Island, audio interview with von Sydow, tribute to Bergman by Woody Allen, Cowie-narrated featurette chronicling Bergman’s career.

Also Available

Friday the 13th (Warner) Unlike most horror heyday reboots, this one actually gets it right: the kills are equal parts goofy-gory, the photography doesn’t resemble a My Chemical Romance music video, there’s hardly any newly tacked-on backstory and the original’s low-concept blueprint remains relatively intact. Extras: featurette, “Slashed Scenes.” Blu-ray extra extras: trivia track, featurettes and the option to watch the theatrical or “killer” cut (including more boobs ’n’ blood, natch). 

One Week (Mongrel) If this year’s crop of CanCon didn’t satisfy your unquenchably patriotic thirst for all things Canuck, be sure to swallow this mother of all over-romanticized road-trip pics (sorry, Goin’ Down the Road — in fairness, you kinda bummed us out). Don’t get me wrong, Canadian landscapes, musicians and an ex–Dawson’s Creek alum are infinitely likeable, but predictably meek drama and mid-brow sap makes the Ice Cube movie in me holler “Are We There Yet?” Extras: director’s commentary, making-of, interviews, Joshua Jackson Q&A, more. 

The Transformers: The Complete First Season (Shout! Factory) The original 1984 cartoon series re-emerges on DVD to tie into the release of Michael Bay’s eye-gasmic sequel to his vastly profitable live-action adaptation. This set — which features the original broadcast versions of the series’ initial 16 episodes — is a no-brainer for purists (and Scatman Crothers completists, obvz), while non-fans will, we hope, appreciate more than meets the eye. Extras: 20-minute retrospective, vintage toy commercials, “Bumblebee: Running Away From Home” public service announcement, sweet Autobot fridge magnet (currently attached to my fridge). 

The Strange One (Sony) Catch Ben Gazzara’s 1957 big-screen debut along with fellow New York Actor’s Studio cast and crew (whoa, that rhymed) in this atypical take on military school hazing that was, in effect, so atypical that the Hays Code deemed its homoerotic undertones unsuitable. Released in its uncut form for the first time on DVD, see what the unnecessary objection was all about. Extras: 10-minute interview with the great Gazzara.