October 20, 2010

The Psycho Legacy

Also this week: Seven Samurai, How to Train Your Dragon, Night of the Demons, Altitude

Highlight of the Week
The Psycho Legacy (Shout! Factory) Just in time for Psycho’s 50th birthday comes this loving nod to cinema’s most maniacal mama’s boy. Cast and crew from Hitchcock’s genre-originator and its three spotty sequels share an equal amount of enthusiasm as they discuss all of the Psycho films. For the record, Richard Franklin’s Psycho II is a worthy follow-up (the late Franklin was an underrated genre filmmaker if there ever was one), while Psycho III, directed by the movies’ star Anthony Perkins, and Psycho IV remain curious misfires that are not without their merits. It’s this affectionate series overview that makes The Psycho Legacy more than a rehash, though it would have been swell to throw Gus Van Sant’s 1998 shot-for-shot remake of the original into the mix. Extras are generous: a second disc full of interviews, panel discussion with the late Perkins, serial-killer-inspired art (uh, thanks?) and more.

Also Available
Seven Samurai (Criterion) Weighing in at an intimidating three and a half hours, Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 samurai epic could feel daunting for some. Yet one would be hard-pressed to find another flick (popcorn, art-house or otherwise) as engaging as this one. Now is definitely the time to see one of the finest examples of what high-def can do for old-school cinema, not to mention a film hailed widely as one of the crown jewels of the medium. Blu-ray extras are identical to Criterion’s stellar 2006 reissue that included two commentaries, an hour-long making-of, a two-hour discussion between Kurosawa and fellow Japanese auteur Nagisa Oshima and a doc exploring the film’s myriad influences.
How to Train Your Dragon (Paramount) Though its dizzying third dimension has been downsized for home viewing, DreamWorks’ latest computer generated adventure also looks pretty darn good in 2-D high-definition. Canuck everynerd Jay Baruchel voices the part of a scrawny Viking who captures, befriends and trains a dragon, much to the dismay of his village-chief  father (Gerard Butler). The upshot is that it is understandably kid-friendly but has an all-ages appeal nonetheless. Blu-ray extras include a tie-in short, filmmaker’s commentary, dragon trivia and more treats.
Night of the Demons (eOne) Known for its goofy gore, sex-crazed teens and dreadful ’80s vibe, 1988’sNight of the Demons was a minor horror hit that was hardly as memorable as its slasher contemporaries. The movie’s 2009 remake follows a familiar blueprint: an outcast hottie (Shannon Elizabeth replacing the much freakier Mimi Kinkade) throws a sinful Halloween bash at a haunted mansion, where everyone is dispatched and possessed in increasingly surreal ways. Neither fun nor necessary, the reboot does contain one ghastly twist: looking entirely like the puffy, strung-out drug dealer he portrays, the return of Edward Furlong is a truly terrifying sight. Extras: commentary, making-of.

Altitude (Alliance) I regret to inform that this Canadian-made supernatural thriller is not nearly as amusing as its astoundingly silly poster art indicates. Five of the most annoying teens in movie history rent a small plane for a speedy getaway to a Coldplay concert. Immediately upon taking off, the aircraft goes haywire and everyone begins to further irritate one another, and viewers, before a mysterious black cloud engulfs the plane, which subsequently becomes prey to a (wait for it) giant flying octopus. It looks better on paper. Extras: director’s commentary, behind-the-scenes doc.