February 24, 2010

The House of the Devil

Also this week: Lola Montès, The Informant!,The Box, The September Issue, The Crazies, Sinbad: Where U Been?, Five Corners, Cabin Fever 2

Highlight of the Week

The House of the Devil (E1) Ti West’s latest official work (see this week’s Lowlight below for more on that) is a throwback to late-’70s/early-’80s horror. One major difference between The House of the Devil and the films it emulates is that it’s arguably better than most of them. Between those utterly perfect opening and closing credits is the best straight-up horror pic of 2009. If you skipped this during last year’s After Dark fest, pick it up on DVD, Blu or better yet, in limited-edition VHS sold exclusively via (not .ca). Bonus points awarded for those who watch it in the dark with a dubious-looking medium or large pepperoni pizza. (No smalls — it’ll make sense upon viewing.) Extras: trippy making-of, deleted scenes, two worthwhile commentaries (one with West and star Jocelin Donahue, another with West, the producers and the sound designer).

Also Available

Lola Montès (Criterion) Butchered by multiple studio re-edits, Max Ophuls’ divisive final picture was recently restored by the Cinématèque Française. His only film shot in colour or widescreen, it’s easily one of the revered French auteur’s most lavish productions. This faithful renewal enhances the film’s breathtaking tracking shots (no one moves a camera like Ophuls) and complex narrative structure, giving the film new-found vivacity. Even better, Criterion has also released the film in high-def, which might be the format’s biggest triumph to date. Extras: commentary by Ophuls scholar Susan White, 1965 episode of Cinéastes de notre temps, new doc by Marcel Ophuls, hairstyle footage.

The Informant! (Warner) Boasting a career-best performance by Matt Damon, this was also a terrific contribution to Steven Soderbergh’s prolific post-Ocean’s output. The Informant! is a comically loony, bizarrely subversive film that evokes the director’s earlier work, namely Schizopolis (rent Schizopolis!). It also contains one of the greatest satirical scores of all time. Blu-ray extra: excellent director and writer commentary.

The Box (Warner) 
Just about every critic bashed Richard Kelly’s defiantly incoherent third venture into sci-fi. Pity, since he’s making some of the most boldly abstract films in American cinema. Not unlike Lynch or Kubrick, Kelly is marching to his own beat, and if he continues to make highly original, deeply personal films, he may just stumble upon the next Blue Velvet or even 2001, and skeptics will be eating their words for mocking his progress. Extras: Richard Matheson doc. Blu-ray extra extras: Kelly commentary, autobiographical inspirations doc, F/X featurettes, music vids.  

The September Issue (E1) 
What people wear and how they wear it is determined in the year’s most influential issue of Voguemagazine. The doc paints an unbiased portrait of ice-cold editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, but the real standout is creative director Grace Coddington, whose long and winding experience in the fashion industry gives the movie depth outside of the scenes of mild editorial tension. Extras: director commentary, photos, deleted scenes bonanza.

The Crazies (Blue Underground) Before catching the forthcoming remake, check out George A. Romero’s under-the-radar 1973 shocker that ranks as one of the great biochemical horror-thrillers. First time on Blu, too. Extras: Romero commentary, interview with star Lynn Lowry.

Sinbad: Where U Been? (Paramount) This is not about Ray Harryhausen’s Sinbad. This is a “comedy/funk music special” starring the ’90s comedian. As for where he’s been: Sinbad’s previous screen credit was something called Cuttin Da Mustard. Extras: behind-the-Sinbad.  

Five Corners (Alliance) Playwright and Doubt writer-director John Patrick Shanley made this ambitious and awkward screenwriting debut that featured a young Jodie Foster, Tim Robbins and John Turturro — who’s downright believable as a penguin-slugging psycho. Extras: five corners, no extras. 

Lowlight of the Week

Cabin Fever 2 (Maple) Ti West jumped ship when his campy sequel to Cabin Fever was re-edited and reshot — the guy wouldn’t even settle for an Alan Smithee credit. The result is unwatchable, albeit with a really nifty animated opening credits sequence. Extras: behind-the-scenes, gore reel.