Casino Jack: Three stars out of five — George Hickenlooper’s final effort is a mixture of Mamet-inspired dialogue, Usual Suspects acting styles and D.C.-culture debauchery. Though the braid doesn’t always work as a result of the complex legal denouement at the centre of the story, Kevin Spacey’s performance as sullied lobbyist Jack Abramoff does. Spacey takes on the role of the deal-maker and influence peddler with absolute abandon, infusing the morally ambiguous character with a huge ego and a very low moral bar. The truly fascinating part of Spacey’s turn is how he convinces us of Abramoff’s self-righteousness, despite his obvious moral lapses. A study in unfathomable ego, and how power-players perceive the world as their personal oyster, Casino Jack is filled with ugly people, ugly motives and ugly morals, but it’s a good wake-up call, because it’s also filled with truth. Special features include director photo diary, gag reel and deleted scenes.
Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood: Three and a half stars out of five — Christopher Plummer is the perfect narrator for this series that takes the viewer on a quick, but surprisingly thorough, trip into the archives and the very dawn of cinema. From the magic lantern craze, to the entrepreneurial push of Thomas Edison and his moving picture machines, all the way to the rise of television, the end of the studio era and the rise of the independents, this Turner Classic Movies production has all the credibility of a textbook. In fact, it feels like the script was modelled after the film-school bible, A History of Narrative Film. The details are all interesting, even if they’re already well-known pieces of lore, but the pictures make the experience. Filled with key interviews from central players, including the late Sidney Lumet, the show illuminates the key turning points in Tinseltown with a loving eye. However, the somewhat monotonous pace, tempered delivery and Plummer’s soothing voice also make this an excellent sleep aid. Special features include over an hour’s worth of added insight for each episode from historians and producers.
Captain Planet and the Planeteers: Three stars out of five — “Captain Planet, he’s a hero, gonna take pollution down to zero!” The world is in peril, and the Earth (Gaia) is in trouble. The only hope comes down to a five-member force from each continent, combined into one hero named Captain Planet. Saturday mornings lost a lot of their substance in the wake of the Transformers era, but Captain Planet and the Planeteers is everything a parent could want in kids’ entertainment: a watchable show wrapped around a golden nugget of current events. It all might seem a little too forced and granola-ish, but after watching the episode Meltdown Syndrome, I felt I knew more than I did after watching a month’s worth of Fukushima coverage. It all starts with a technician moaning: “Another radiation leak?! I wish they could have built this thing as well as I designed it.” Special features include concept art and more.
Blow Out: Three stars out of five — Though the very phrase “one of John Travolta’s finer performances” could be considered tongue-in-cheek commentary, this Brian De Palma film does feature a very earnest Travolta in the surprisingly believable role of Hollywood sound recordist. Accidentally recording the noises surrounding the death of a presidential candidate, the aural technician becomes embroiled in a cloak-and-dagger mystery as he attempts to isolate the sounds on his tape recording. An obvious tip of the hat to Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up — which involved a photographer blowing up an image to reveal a crime — as well as hints of The Conversation, this De Palma film has fun with the source material, and the whole moviemaking process, but it’s nowhere near the same piece of art as its inspiration. Special features include restored digital transfer, interview with co-star Nancy Allen, original trailer and more.
El Topo: Three stars out of five — Considered one of the high watermarks of the midnight-movie genre, or cinema nocturne, this acid-edged Mexican movie from 1970 is a classic unto itself. Unrelentingly gory and drug-addled, this surreal piece of cinema follows the central character El Topo (Alejandro Jodorowsky, also the director) through a bizarre and rather bloody landscape, as he attempts to right many wrongs committed by heartless banditos. A revenge movie filled with sex, blood, violence and jarring imagery, El Topo isn’t for the casual fan — or the mainstream movie lover. It’s a niche movie for those who don’t mind a little metaphysical musing mingling with mass hysteria. Special features include digitally remastered and restored transfer, dub track, photo gallery, feature commentary and more.
Also released April 26:
Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back
British Royal Weddings of the 20th Century
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Doc Martin, Series 1-4 Collection
Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Foreigner: Rockin’ at the Ryman
Growing Pains, Season 2
Human Planet: The Complete Series
IP Man 2
Katy Perry, Good Girl Gone Bad
The Lucy Show: Complete 4th Season
Mongolian Death Worm
NOVA: Making Stuff
Poor Pretty Eddie
President’s Book of Secrets
Revenge of the Bridesmaids
Russell Peters Presents
South Park, Complete 14th Season
Yanni: A Living Legacy
A Year in Provence
UFC 126: Silva vs. Belfort
- DVD releases for July 5
- DVD releases for July 5
- Captain America Trailer
- Allen’s `Midnight,’ De Niro’s jury open Cannes
- Which superhero power would you like most of all?