February 17, 2010

Black Dynamite

Black Dynamite (Sony) Scott Sanders’ super-sly send-up honours ’70s-era blaxploitation cinema with intelligent affection. Not only does Black Dynamite underline numerous genre clichés, it deliberately emphasizes the technical blunders that came with making these films on the (super) fly. From dipping booms to clumsy zooms, it gives off a suitably goofy vibe that’s both nostalgic and endearing. Co-scribe Michael Jai White plays the titular Dynamite to a T as he attempts to uncover a surreal conspiracy that involves the Viet Cong, Watergate and a brand of malt liquor that shrinks black men’s penises. Similarly DYN-O-MITE is this DVD, which features a terrifically detailed commentary, numerous featurettes and a handful of deleted scenes. Jive turkeys are advised to pick up the Blu-ray that boasts outtasight AV and an exclusive doc on BD’s appropriately tacky design.

Also Available
Hunger/Revanche (Criterion) Steve McQueen’s unnervingly intimate Hunger takes us to the final six weeks in the life of IRA hunger-striker Bobby Sands. Long before Inglourious Basterds, Michael Fassbender blew minds with his Christian Bale–level dedication to embodying Sands in his skeletal dying moments. Equally radical in its less-is-more formal austerity, Götz Speilmann’s Revanche unfolds like a neo-noir Greek tragedy. The film’s balance of city and countryside is downright mythic. Both broody slow-burners saw their North American premieres at TIFF ’08, and were among the best of the fest and arrive concurrently on home video. Grab these in Blu to enhance their visual might. In typical Criterion fashion, extras are top-tier: Hunger comes with a McQueen/Fassbender interview, a short making-of and vintage BBC doc on the Maze Prison hunger strikes, while Revanche has a new Spielmann interview and making-of, in addition to the director’s student film that has much in common with his latest.

Coco Avant Chanel (Alliance) La fille de Monaco director Anne Fontaine’s biopic of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel plays like a pretty, petty love-triangle tale. An understated and elegant lead performance from Audrey Tautou rescues the film from outright mediocrity. Subtitled extras: Fontaine commentary, solid making-of.
Goodfellas: 20th Anniversary Edition (Warner) Listen up, ya dirty mugs: this marks the second Blu-ray release of Marty Scorsese’s landmark gangster flick. What’s here to amuse you? The transfer remains the same, but Warner has included a rather nice century-spanning doc on the history of gangster pictures, in addition to a bevy of genre-friendly toons and a swell Digibook.

Amreeka (E1) Arab immigrants butt heads with small-town America in writer-director Cherien Dabis’ pseudo-verité feel-goody about a family’s assimilation into a sheltered Midwestern suburb, post-9/11. The family is represented with smarts, but the sum gets bogged down by a few missteps into cookie-cutter territory. A relevant flick to screen at high schools, its message is somewhat elementary. Extras: cast and crew interviews, making-of.

Freeway Killer (E1) For the most part, this watered-down depiction of real-life freeway killer William Bonin feels like a fairly decent TV movie. Despite this hindrance, Scott Leet (whose previous IMDb credit is “Tough Guy” in a recent episode of Days of Our Lives) is over-the-top and unpredictable in all the right ways as Bonin. Added bonus: Henry: Portrait of Serial Killer’s Michael Rooker co-stars as the man who brings him down. Extras: writer/director commentary, featurette.

Barnaby Jones: The First Season (Paramount) The Beverly Hillbillies’ Buddy Ebsen starred as the title character in this very respectable Columbo-esque ’70s series. During the show’s 13-episode first season, Barnaby gets pulled out of retirement in order to track down the culprit responsible for his son’s murder. With the assistance of his newly widowed daughter-in-law, Jones gets back on the scene as a wily private dick with an unquenchable thirst for tall glasses of milk. Extras: episode promos. 

Lowlight of the Week
Forest Warrior (Good Times Video) Chuck Norris stars and his brother directs. Good times indeed. Extras: Norrisless.