May 4, 2010

Tokyo Sonata

Also this week: Suburbia, Tetro, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, District 13 Ultimatum, Dark Nature, Saving Private Ryan/Minority Report

Highlight of the Week
Tokyo Sonata (E1) The economic meltdown had not yet hit when the latest movie by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to Akira) took the Jury Prize at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. Now, his account of a salaryman who gets laid off and then conceals it from his similarly reticent family feels almost passé. Kurosawa has already proven himself a near-maverick of the macabre, but anyone expecting paterfamilias J-horror will instead see a mature and ambitious evolution in the director’s impressive oeuvre. Generous extras include an excellent hour-long making-of, premiere footage, director and cast Q&A and a DVD-appreciation featurette.
Also Available
Suburbia (Shout! Factory) To clarify: this ain’t Richard Linklater’s similarly titled 1996 coming-of-ager (infuriatingly, still unavailable on DVD). Helmed by future Wayne’s World director Penelope Spheeris and produced by legendary B-movie rebel Roger Corman, 1983’s Suburbia follows a group of squatter punks known as “The Rejected,” who become targets to a group of ill-tempered suburbanites. This enormously endearing genre exploiter also marks the acting debut of soon-to-be Red Hot Chili Pepper Flea as a harebrained youth named Razzle. Midnight movies don’t get much better. Extras: vintage Spheeris commentary, new commentary with Spheeris, producer Bert Dragin and actress Jennifer Clay. 

 (Mongrel) Adapted from his first original screenplay since 1974’s The Conversation, Francis Ford Coppola has not made a film this rich and rewarding in too long. (Apologies, Jack fans.) Frequent detours into magic realism will perplex many, but there are myriad cinematic influences for seasoned filmgoers. How can anyone not fall in love with an artfully monochrome Argentine backdrop that blends Powell and Pressburger with Vincent Gallo? With any luck, this will entice open-minded admirers to spin 2007’s underrated Youth Without Youth. Extras: commentary with Coppola and newcomer actor Alden Ehrenreich, buncha mini-featurettes.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
 (E1) There is a lot to like and loathe in Terry Gilliam’s newest odyssey oddity — not a harsh criticism in view of his other recent work. Swapping actors in place of Heath Ledger is the film’s riskiest move and perhaps its biggest payoff. The performances are all up to snuff, and Tom Waits is, as always, relentlessly amusing. A lumbering Gilliam effort if ever there were (there were), Parnassus’ iffy art direction is best experienced in pristine high-def. Just make sure you don’t accidentally rent Mr. Magorum’s Wonder Emporium. Extras: Gilliam intro and commentary, Ledger wardrobe test, deleted scenes, more.

District 13
 Ultimatum (Alliance) Action-preneur Luc Besson revisits B13 six years later with more bon cop-bad-cop parcour stunts atop the roofs of Paris. And that’s the only reason we’re still watching, right? The plot is skimpy, but the smartly choreographed chase sequences are instantly replayable. It’s a videogame actually worth watching, if possible with minimal attention. Extras: making-of, deleted scenes, music vid.

Dark Nature
 (Troma) A family getaway to a secluded Scottish village turns blood-spattered in this shoestring-budget eco-chiller that fancies itself a lot cleverer than it is. This one lacks the sleazy merits of Troma’s best-worst movies, so take a pass in favour of more legit trash like Surf Nazis Must Die. Extras: director’s commentary, short film featuring Santa and a shotgun, behind-the-scenes, interview.

Saving Private Ryan
 + Minority Report (Paramount) Spielberg and his two Toms get high-def’d. The man is sure taking his snail-paced time upgrading his films to Blu, but the results have been satisfying. Now can we please get the more essential stuff like Dueland Jaws? Extras: Minority Report: same as before. Saving Private Ryan: same as before + Richard Schnickel–directed doc Shooting War