Saved By The Bell Story
(2013/Polanski/Sundance Selects/MPI DVD)/Whitey:
The United States Vs. Whitey Bulger
World Of Hugh Hefner
(1973/Tony Palmer/MVD DVD)
B-/C+/C+/B-/C Sound: B-/C+/C+/B-/C Extras: C+/C-/C/C/D
Main Programs: C+/C/B-/B/B-
following set of releases are of the wild side wild life and criminal
happenings, plus a few so shocking that some wanted to make criminal,
even if they were not...
Berg & Frank Keraudren co-directed The
Dog (2013) about John
Wojtowicz, the real life man who robbed a bank to pay for his male
lover's sex change operation. That became the basis for the great
Sidney Lumet film Dog Day
Afternoon (1975, reviewed
elsewhere on this site) with Al Pacino playing the man very
sympathetically. Turns out they really took liberties because the
real life man turns out to be a real character, obnoxious,
overbearing, lucky to be alive and the kind of personality crazy
enough to pull off what he did... until he was finally arrested.
looks like an examination of the man, events, times and starts as a
comparison to the film slowly drifts into a run-on of interview
footage with Wojtowicz that barely covers anything about the film,
has him repeating the same gross ideas, behaviors and anger over and
over and over again. The makers did not seem to know how to edit and
as a result, they let him hijack their work, trashing its
journalistic potency within the first half-hour, for which this
otherwise fine opportunity to examine an under-examined event of the
early 1970s or a clown show.
a shame, because ironic distance and more information about other
people, things and the times would have really helped out here.
Besides many things from the deleted scenes that should have stayed
in and more that should have been edited down or cut out, it never
truly captures the era, stays with the viewer and disappoints. If
you want to see it, make sure you are not tired.
include a 12-page booklet inside the Blu-ray case, while the disc
adds Deleted Scenes, a digital download, Original Theatrical Trailer
and feature-length audio commentary track by the co-directors with
Saved By The Bell Story
(2014) is the story of the teen show that would not die and became a
hit by accident due to holes in cable TV schedules. From the point
of view of Dustin Diamond, the actor who played the infamous Screech
character, we see how bitter things got, how they were being
exploited and the weird twists and turns that he says took place.
The actors playing the young cast are not bad and some of what
Diamond is saying (his character joins everyone breaking the fourth
wall to talk to the audience) is very credible, but outside of a few
amusing things, this is not deeply engaging and seems to be holding
back some things. You can just feel it.
see how overbearing his father was (confirmed by later years where
his father still lived with him longer after the show was axed) and
in the end when we learn the fate of the actors on the show, he
conveniently omits that he made some explicit XXX sex films. This is
worth a look for what is entertaining, but it is not to be taken
are no extras.
Polanski's Venus In Furs
(2013) has Polanski again toying with the idea of turning stage plays
into feature films as he did with Death
& The Maiden (1994 &
highly underrated) and Carnage
(2011, with interesting results) by taking the controversial play by
David Ives and bringing it to life. He is again successful enough,
though some of this is obvious in ways no one can do anything about.
time a stage director (Mathieu Amalric) is visited by an actress
(Emmanelle Seigner) who exchange witticisms, quotes and advanced
ideas as she tires to convince him to hire her for the role of sex
symbol, thinker, dominatrix, etc., and running 96 minutes, the actors
and Polanski are able to keep this going just well enough to be slyly
amusing and consistently effective enough to see it at least once.
This is very self-conscious from the opening shots of the idea of the
stage itself, so they are not delusional about what they do, but they
just pull it off.
include an Original Theatrical Trailer and Interviews with Polanski,
Seigner and Amalric.
Berlinger's Whitey: The
United States Vs. Whitey Bulger
(2014) is a co-produced by CNN and investigates pretty thoroughly how
and why James Bulger was able to stay unarrested on a reign of terror
in Boston for decades without FBI or other federal retaliation. Not
killing any major federal figures did not hurt, but it turns out
while people were being killed if they were a threat to his power or
massive accumulation of money, many people who were supposed to get
him were likely taking big chunks of money to look the other way and
no one else did anything about it.
forward to now and he is finally
arrested, but the court case keeps getting delayed as we watch and
key questions are being shot down throughout as the relatives of the
slain think and hope they'll get justice from a man who became a
sociopath and was on the kill for far too long. Rich and well
researched, you feel bad for the victims and their families &
friends, wonder why this was not otherwise stopped sooner and
realizes this left a big scar on a great city like Boston it did not
need or deserve.
feds wanted to bust Italian mobsters (the ones most likely to be
dubbed Mafia despite the term being invented by the Chinese for their
Triads) at any and all costs. It worked, even if it meant leaving
other ethnic mobsters alone. Today, the records will say some
organized crime families or organizations have ceased to exist and no
known mob/group activity is left, though we all know the crime is as
alive as ever. That means not just small nondescript criminals have
taken over, but that activity has been hidden behind legitimized
business and people and from this program, you can imagine more
government people are looking away or would prefer to deal with the
devils they know than do anything about it. That's how politics
perpetuates crime and this documentary shows the more outrageous
forms that takes, if not the only ones.
include BD Live interactive features, an Original Theatrical Trailer
and Sundance Film Festival Interviews.
Palmer's The World Of Hugh
Hefner (1973) has the
documentary filmmaker take a never-long-enough look at the Playboy
Magazine empire and the man who created it. At this time, it is one
of the most imitated magazines on the world, one of the most
profitable, most successful, has defined the higher class of the
counterculture lifestyle & then some and was in its early prime
before the Internet, cable and satellite TV. We see Hefner enjoying
the latter two, taping feature films off of TV long before VHS and
Beta became commonplace and several steps ahead of all of his
competitors or even the rest of Corporate America in using
advanced-for-its-time technology in running his empire. Amazing.
we see the amazing women, the smart photographers (also maybe the
happiest around!) and the man in action, telling all about what he
thinks, sees and feels about the world around him. Hefner has never
held back and this film is no exception, talking progressively about
making the world a better, happier place, what it is to be a grown
adult and how doing that and taking responsibility just brings more
happiness and pleasure. Some recent projects tying into the magazine
have disappointed, but this is one of the great records of the man
and his empire, which is why you should see it.
are sadly no extras.
1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on both Blu-rays (Dog
is badly mislabeled as 2.35 X 1) are documentaries that use their
share of old analog videotape (including black and white!) to tell
their tales of crime and infamy, plus we get some old film footage,
but that is to be expected. The
anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Bell
is a little sharper than the same on Hefner,
which despite being filmed and restored, needs some more work or an
outright HD transfer, but is more sharply shot. That leaves the
anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 HD-shot image on Furs
second only to the Blu-rays by a sliver of color and definition
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on both Blu-rays have the
new recordings in decent stereo, the older audio often monophonic or
simple stereo and surrounds usually delivering music. The lossy
Dolby Digital 5.1 on Furs
and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Bell
tie for second place, with the former dialogue-based and the latter a
flat telefilm recording. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Hefner
is the one with the least fidelity, recorded well for its time, but a
little rough. I wonder if a lossless version would bring out more?