Top picks: Classic
The Lusty Men (Warner Archive)
The lonely, yearning form of self-destruction that haunts Nicholas Ray’s best work gets its most sensitive portrayal in this multi-faceted 1952 masterpiece. Boasting superb performances from Robert Mitchum, Susan Hayward, and Arthur Kennedy, and a sharp sense for its milieu—the itinerant rodeo circuit, where crippling injuries outnumber big paydays—this is arguably Ray’s best film, subtler and richer than better-known classics like Rebel Without A Cause and Bigger Than Life. One wishes that it were making its long-delayed disc debut in something better than a featureless, print-on-demand standard-def release; still, any effort to make this film available to a large audience has to be commended.
Clean-cut, small-town art-school type David Lynch spent most of the 1970s channeling all of his anxieties about adulthood and inner-city life into his first feature, a singularly non-commercial work that paved the way for one of the most unlikely careers in the history of Hollywood. In recent years, Criterion has become the Glenn Gould of the arthouse canon, releasing “definitive” editions with transfers so at odds with the prevailing norm that they amount to reinterpretations. This Lynch-supervised release is no different, based on a 4K restoration that’s significantly darker than any previous video release of the film.
Other classic releases
Regardless of whether you think it’s funny, Jerry Lewis’ The Nutty Professor (Paramount) still qualifies as one of the most assured and audacious American comedies of the 1960s—a serious piece of ego art that is, paradoxically, distinguished both by its confidence and its intense neuroticism.
Paul Verhoeven’s English-language debut, the hyperviolent swords-and-armor adventure Flesh + Blood (Kino Lorber), is the most overtly pessimistic and downright nasty of his American films—a brutal depiction of life in the Middle Ages that posits that civilization is one part hypocrisy, one part survival instinct, and two parts irredeemable shit. Verhoeven’s long-standing fascination with religion and Christian imagery gets its fullest, most aggressive workout here; the original title was God’s Own Butchers.
To coincide with the first film’s 30th anniversary, Ghostbusters (Sony) and Ghostbusters II (Sony) are getting revamped Blu-ray releases, mastered from a new 4K transfer. The two are available separately or can be purchased as a set.
The pulpy Michael Crichton adaptation Congo (Paramount) is no one’s idea of a great movie, but it’s mixture of intentional and unintentional camp is made more palatable by a scenery-chewing supporting cast—which includes Ernie Hudson, Tim Curry, Delroy Lindo, and Bruce Campbell—who seem to be in on most of the jokes. Those who just can’t get enough Crichton can also pick up The Great Train Robbery (Kino Lorber), his lightweight adaptation of his own 1975 novel.
There’s a slew of lesser Westerns out from Warner Archive this week: Gunfighters Of Casa Grande, best known for having the first trailer narrated by Don “In a world…” LaFontaine; the Spanish-made Son Of A Gunfighter, starring Russ Tamblyn; Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend, which Randolph Scott made in between two of his seminal Budd Boetticher collaborations, The Tall T and Decision At Sundown; and Raton Pass, which is based on a novel by “The Ballad Of Davy Crockett” lyricist Thomas W. Blackburn.
Also out this week: the Albert Zugsmith-produced The Big Operator (Olive), which stars Mickey Rooney as a corrupt union boss and features an appropriately rumbling, farty score; the Roger Corman-produced disaster movie Avalanche (Kino Lorber), which has the dubious distinction of being the only American film shot by the great French cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn, best known for his work with Bertrand Tavernier; the Ronald Neame-directed disaster movie Meteor (Kino Lorber), which reuses footage from Avalanche; and, finally, Lawrence Kasdan’s largely forgotten Stephen King adaptation Dreamcatcher (Warner Bros.).
Top picks: Catch-up
Faust (Kino Lorber)
Russian filmmaker Aleksandr Sokurov’s demented conclusion to his Tetralogy Of Power—whose earlier entries focused on 20th-century political figures—reimagines Faust as a 19th-century anatomist who sells his soul to a buffoonish, ugly devil. The overwhelming vision is of a decaying, ridiculous world where the only thing worth having is power.
Godzilla (Warner Bros.)
Gareth Edwards’ King Of The Monsters reboot may suffer from cardboard-thin characterizations and a boring protagonist, but it’s still a lot of fun—a series of delayed reveals and Jurassic Park-isms strung together to form one of the summer’s most purely enjoyable Hollywood movies. The film’s most underrated asset, however, might be its use of music, from Alexandre Desplat’s subtle (at least by tentpole standards) score to György Ligeti’s “Requiem,” which scores the best of the movie’s set pieces.
Other catch-up releases
The year’s least surprising ”surprise hit,” the YA adaptation The Fault In Our Stars (20th Century Fox), hits home video this week. Our own A.A. Dowd called it “a snappy and resonant teenage weepie, blessed with sparks of wit and buoyed by the talents of a charismatic cast.”
It’s an otherwise slim weak for new titles, with the major foreign releases being The German Doctor (First Run Features)—Lucía Puenzo ’60s-set, Nazi-themed rehash of her debut, XXY—and Agnieszka Holland’s three-part, post-Prague Spring miniseries Burning Bush (Kino Lorber), which ran on HBO Europe last year.
Also out this week: the unbearably bland Think Like A Man Too (Sony), which does away with the bizarre cult-of-personality trappings of the original, and Burt’s Buzz (Kino Lorber), a documentary about the Burt’s Bees lipbalm brand that is sure to please fans of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox and that one Chipotle commercial with the Coldplay cover performed by Willie Nelson.