September 22, 2010

The Best of Trailers From Hell: Volume One

Also this week: The Secret in Their Eyes, Ondine, Vigilante, American Beauty

Highlight of the Week

The Best of Trailers From Hell: Volume One (LLC) I’m going to assume, perhaps incorrectly, that most of our readership has never surfed the Trailers From Hell website, a pet project from director Joe Dante that encapsulates a rich collection of “genre” movie trailers, including classics (The Birds), cult classics (Phantom of the Paradise) and lesser-known stinkers with unusual theme songs (Green Slime). Anyone can dig up an obscure trailer off YouTube, but what makes this site one to visit (and re-re-revisit) are the introductions and giddy commentary provided by an outstanding crop of filmmakers. Recently released is this compilation containing 20 items selected and hosted by the eclectic likes of Joe Dante, Mick Garris, John Landis, Eli Roth and Edgar Wright. Nearly all the horror and sci-fi bases are covered, and many of these voice-overs are amusingly insightful(“Werewolves ALWAYS throw flaming haystacks”). Extras make up for the small number of trailers: we get two vintage animated shorts and a swell feature-length film, 1933’s The Vampire BatThe Best of Trailers From Hell is not distributed in Canada, but you can order it from their website, which you’re going to check out immediately after reading this, obviously.
Also Available
The Secret in Their Eyes (Sony) Though it robbed Michael Haneke of the Oscar he deserved to take home for The White Ribbon, Juan José Campanella’s elegantly mounted potboiler is no slouch. Destined to be pointlessly remade into a thriller starring Clive Owen, The Secret in Their Eyes is an accessible mystery for any audience, as is. The premise is far from groundbreaking (retired court clerk writes a novel about an unsolved rape-murder from 25 years ago… flashbacks ensue, shit resurfaces), but it’s a cleanly executed, unpretentious secret worth solving. Extras: Campanella commentary, behind the scenes.  
Ondine (Alliance) Hit-and-miss director Neil Jordan returns to his pseudo-fantastical Irish roots after 2007’s Dirty Harry–riffing clunker, The Brave One. This not-too-shabby film played at TIFF ’09 before sinking into obscurity. It resurfaces a year later on DVD, but it’s a pity that it took this long for us to see Colin Farrell in one of his most credible performances, as a recovering drunk who catches what may be a legit singing mermaid. Jordan-regular Stephen Rea provides comic backbone, and DP all-star Christopher Doyle shoots the hell out of the film’s fabulous seaside locale. If you’re feeling open-minded and somewhat schmaltzy, Ondine hits all the right notes. Extras: are lacking.
Vigilante (Blue Underground, eOne) It was the early ’80s, and Death Wish–fever was in the air. Never one to miss an opportunity to cash in on a lowbrow phenomenon, William Lustig followed up his influential Maniac with this brutal urban payback flick. Robert Forster stars as a guy who takes back the streets after doing hard time for lashing out on the judge who let his son’s killer walk. Vigilante is in many ways superior to the franchise it emulates, and Blue Underground has gone above and beyond in providing a flawless high-def transfer. Extras: two commentaries and very entertaining trailers ported from 2007’s standard edition.
American Beauty (Paramount) It’s been 11 years since everyone went gaga for Sam Mendes’ awards-sweeping debut. What’s changed? Mendes is certainly not the out-and-out auteur many thought he would be, and Wes Bentley sure as shit ain’t Jake Gyllenhaal. Revisiting American Beauty on Blu-ray yields interesting results: the teens feel even phonier and Annette Bening’s way-over-the-top presence is actually more grating, but it’s still the performance of Kevin Spacey’s career to date. Most significant is this impressive high-def presentation of Conrad L. Hall’s exquisite cinematography that enhances the film tenfold. Though top-notch, extras are recycled from the old-school DVD (new commentary woulda been supoib).