Rian Johnson’s time-travel thriller turns the paradox of the enigmatic time trope on its head and then inside out with an extremely clever, mind-bending story that delights the eye and provokes the mind. It’s a very rare treat when a movie dazzles both hemispheres and is also immensely satisfying emotionally. This one plays with the notion of encountering one’s self as an assassin and victim but delivers in ways that are always surprising and hugely engaging. Here’s an instant classic — and not just of the sci-fi time-travel sub genre, but as pure story telling. Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis play young and older — or is it past and future? — versions of the same person. And they are both splendid. Too much info can spoil the initial experience, but this richly layered, complex and riveting thriller demands to be enjoyed more than once. A must see. Now playing at Cinemas Palme d’Or.


Good news for Alfred Hitchcock fans: We can finally see a restored, hi-def version of his 1953 thriller in 3D, the way it was originally shot and meant to be seen. Hitch knew what he was doing when composing his films. And he used all his considerable craft to make the extra dimension a part of the seductive movie experience and not just an add-on gimmick to lure the Eisenhower generation away from their new TVs (even though that was part of the motivation). The terrific murder mystery/love story stars Ray Milland, Grace Kelly and Robert Cummings at the top of their game in deliciously deadly love triangle. The restored print is stunning. But what’s especially rewarding, thanks to Motion Picture Imaging (MPI), a division of Warner Home Video, is the excellent merging of the original optical “left eye/right eye” dual projection process intended for polarized glasses into a crisp, meticulously restored, hi-def 3D disc that not only dazzles but literally jumps off the screen on the latest players and TVs. There’s also a nice bonus documentary “Hitchcock and Dial M.” Blu-ray. Universal.



There are two versions on this terrific looking BD transfer of one of Hitchcock’s better films. There’s a relatively unseen preview version and the slightly tighter theatrical release. I like the preview print better. This iconic “double criss-cross” murder tale with a screenplay by Raymond Chandler (!) still thrills. If you’ve seen Danny DeVito’s THROW MAMA FROM A TRAIN, take a fresh look at the source material. See again, or for the first time, tennis star Guy Haines (Farley Granger) half-jokingly discuss killing his wife with an unhinged stranger, Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker), whom he meets on a train. This beautiful print of Hitchcock’s classic 1951 hit is one for the library. Extras include three featurettes and a nice making-of documentary. Blu-ray. Universal.


Producer David Geffen has finally approved the release of the long-rumored Director’s Cut of the big 1980s hit starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vince Gardenia, Steve Martin and an unforgettable bit with masochistic dental patient Bill Murray. Look for splendid cameos from Christopher Guest and James Balushi. Of course, the real star is the man-eating, singing, alien plant that literally dominates everything. Levi Stubbs (The Four Tops) is the supremely hip and menacing voice of the plant, Audrey II. Superb and complicated puppet work animates the plant into a real screen presence that’s very much alive – and hungry!

Even after 26 years, the practical effects still astonishing. Director Frank Oz perfectly understood the delicate and dark comedic tone of this film that was originally inspired by John Collier’s 1932 novel “Green Thoughts.” It was adapted in 1960 by screenwriter Howard Ashman for a Roger Corman ultra-low budget quickie that was shot in two days on leftover sets with a memorable bit by Jack Nicholson in one of his first film roles. Corman’s film became a piece of genuine cult cinema, which in turn gave birth to an off-Broadway musical that ran for hundreds of performances. David Geffen saw the movie potential of the off-Broadway musical and it became blockbuster hit when it was released in 1986.


But what makes this much-anticipated BD release worth finding is the extended ending that was cut from the original preview when the heretofore enthusiastic audience went suddenly cold after the voracious, bloodthirsty plant ate the two stars. So here’s the big, dark, finale that has the plant not only eating the two darling lovers for whom we have rooted (no pun intended), but also taking over the world in a spectacularly cataclysmic ending. Now the legendary miniature work and great special effects of Richard Conway can finally be seen — and they are a marvel (remember, this was before digital effects). Generous extras include vintage and new features and a commentary by director Oz including his observations on the 20-minute, previously cut, alternate ending.
Blu-ray. Warner Bros.


For the true cinephile, the opportunity to see Stanley Kubrick’s first feature film is a real treat. Pretty much unseen since its 1953 premier, this short (60 minute) existential story is about a squad of enemy soldiers who, after crash-landing behind enemy lines, struggle to rejoin their unit. Along the way, they encounter a peasant girl and tie her to a tree where she is tormented by a nutso soldier (future director Paul Mazursky). The plot finds the soldiers locating an enemy base and planning the assassination of the commander before attempting an escape. The black and white photography is sometimes striking and the dialogue is often heavy handed and pretentious. But one can see faint hints here and there of some of the ideas and images that float through much of Kubrick’s relatively small cinematic oeuvre. It’s obvious this was just an exercise to see if he could make a finished, coherent film. Even though amateurish touches abound (the dialogue is clearly dubbed at times), there’s a mysterious journey on display here that can be seen in everything from PATHS OF GLORY to EYES WIDE SHUT.

Also new for the home theater are excellent Blu-ray titles of two Bette Davis classics: WHATEVR HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (with Joan Crawford) and DEAD RINGER, that’s the one about good and evil twins).

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