RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Fear and Loathing on Criterion Blu-Ray

Plus, a couple of acclaimed animes, a BBC series, and a Bob Dylan doc.

by | April 27, 2011 | Comments

It’s finally happened: this week on home video, we don’t have any notable DVDs of recent films that saw a theatrical release. Sure, there are plenty of standard reissues of movies, like The Crow, Cinema Paradiso, Shakespeare in Love, Amelie, and the Scream movies, but there’s nothing particularly special about them. So this week, we’ve chosen just a handful of the more interesting ones, including Criterion Blu-Ray releases of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Blow Out, as well as a couple of Jodorowsky cult favorites, a couple of recent anime films, an old Bob Dylan documentary on Blu-Ray, and a new BBC nature series. So have a look, and if nothing suits your fancy, you’ll just have to wait until next week.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Criterion Collection Blu-Ray


Earlier this year, Johnny Depp portrayed a neurotic, Hawaiian-shirt sporting chameleon trapped in the desert in Rango, and it was clear to many that the character was an outright reference to one Depp played in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Based on the semi-autobiographical Hunter S. Thompson novel of the same name, Fear and Loathing recounts the drug-fueled misadventures of a writer named Raoul Duke (Depp) and his attorney Dr. Gonzo(Benicio Del Toro), who travel to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race. The film is filled with cameo appearances by the likes of Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Gary Busey, and Harry Dean Stanton, but they more or less wander in and out of Raoul’s constant hallucinations. Though it only managed a 47% on the Tomatometer, Fear and Loathing is something of a cult classic, with its casual handling of rampant drug use and manic montage of wild scenes. The film’s already gotten the Criterion treatment, but this week it arrives on Criterion Blu-Ray for the first time in a director-approved special edition with all the goodies, so fans of Thompson, Gilliam, and the film should find plenty to love.

Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back – Blu-Ray


Bob Dylan is undoubtedly one of rock’s greatest songwriters, but his filmography veers wildly from the sublime (Martin Scorsese’s brilliant documentary No Direction Home) to the bewildering (the four-hour concert doc/home movie Renaldo and Clara, directed by Mr. Tambourine Man himself). Considered by many to be the first great rockumentary, Don’t Look Back captures Dylan at a point when the times really were a’changin’ ? specifically his 1965 tour of
England, just before the young folkie and “voice of a generation” went electric and transformed rock ‘n’ roll forever. Don’t Look Back is revolutionary as cinema ? its cinema verite style influenced virtually all backstage docs to come ? but Dylan is (famously) a bore, talking smack to journalists and generally acting too cool for school while a gaggle of 1960s royalty (including Joan Baez and Donovan) pop in and out of the frame. A sparking new Blu-Ray features the film (which opens with the proto-video of “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” in which Dylan holds up, and then tosses, a series of cue cards with the lyrics to the song), and also features audio tracks, audio commentary from director D.A. Pennebaker and Dylan road manager Bob Neuwirth, and a bonus disc, 65 Revisited, featuring even more footage and performances from the tour.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – Blu-Ray


Anime director Mamoru Hosoda had modest success (a relative term for the few Japanese animation films that actually see a US theatrical release) last year with his sci-fi romance Summer Wars, but he really turned heads with his prior film, 2006’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Though the film was the anime equivalent of a limited-release indie, word began to spread and soon theatergoers in Japan were even standing in the aisles to watch it. The story revolves around a high school girl who discovers she has the ability to leap backwards in time and begins to use her power frivolously, often with unintended results. When she later learns that she can only activate the power a limited number of times, she attempts to correct all the problems she inadvertently caused. After its success in Japan, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time traveled the festival circuit and got a very limited release in the US, but it was never a box office success. This week, it arrives on Blu-Ray for the first time, and as it currently enjoys a healthy 87% Tomatometer (admittedly based on just 15 reviews), it should be a solid pickup for any fan of the genre.

Human Planet

Back in 2006, the BBC produced what might be called a blockbuster nature documentary series called Planet Earth, which explored several of the planet’s most exotic habitats and their indigenous animal populations. After following that up with another similar nature series, Life, the good people of the BBC decided to focus on the human side of things, and this brought forth Human Planet. Human Planet is an equally astounding 8-part miniseries that, naturally, focuses on various peoples found around the world and the ingenious ways in which they’ve learned to adapt to their environments. Narrated by John Hurt (in lieu of BBC legend David Attenborough), the series explores various habitats, ranging from life in the mountains to survival in the arctic, and documents fascinating events like narwhal hunting in Greenland to discovering prefiously uncontacted tribes in Brazil. It’s a noteworthy addition to the BBC documentary canon, fascinating to nature enthusiasts and those interested in eclectic cultures, and it arrives on home video this week.

Blow Out – Criterion Collection


With nods to Hitchcock, Antonioni’s Blow Up, and Coppola’s The Conversation, Brian De Palma’s Blow Out is both an expert homage and a bracing, paranoid thriller. In one his finest post-Saturday Night Fever performances, John Travolta stars as an audio engineer who’s recording atmospheric audio for a low budget horror film when he witnesses a horrific car crash. Soon, he discovers that the car was driven by a presidential hopeful, and a prostitute (Nancy Allen) was also in the car. He also finds that the audio he recorded at the crash site sounds a lot like a gunshot; was the crash induced by an assassination attempt? This underrated suspense-fest finds De Palma on top of his game, and a new director-approved Criterion disc makes the case that Blow Out is worthy of another look; special features include an hour-long interview with De Palma by Noah Baumbach, an early De Palma feature, Murder à la Mod, and on-set photographs from the making of the film.

El Topo & The Holy MountainBlu-Ray


For the unfamiliar, Alejandro Jodorowsky is one of the godfathers of cult cinema, having directed some of the most bizarre and heavily allegorical avant-garde films of the 1970s. It’s said that his experimental western El Topo was the birth of the “midnight movie,” as it was initially only shown in the US at late night screenings, and his work has been admired by the likes of David Lynch, Marilyn Manson, Peter Gabriel, and John Lennon, just to name a few. The latter on that list, in fact, loved El Topo so much he even convinced The Beatles’ company president to donate $1 million to Jodorowsky for his next film, which ended up being The Holy Mountain. Now, to summarize either El Topo or The Holy Mountain in one paragraph would be futile, as anyone who’s seen either of them knows. Suffice it to say that Jodorowsky intended both to be the equivalent of a cinematic acid trip (and he indeed was no stranger to LSD), and they accordingly feature all kinds of bizarre themes and surrealist imagery in service of epic plots woven from the fabrics of various philosophies and religions. Jodorowsky’s films aren’t for everyone, but those with open minds may just find themselves rewarded for the experience. Both El Topo and The Holy Mountain arrive on Blu-Ray for the first time this week, and the special features include commentaries and interviews, as well as deleted scenes (for The Holy Mountain) and some photos and trailers. Good stuff for Jodorowsky fans.

5 Centimeters Per Second

Another anime film in the weekly home video roundup? You could argue that our choices were just that limited, but you would be wrong. Keeping in mind that the animation industry in Japan is just as robust, if not more so, than its film industry, there are always anime auteurs wiling to push the boundaries of what we’ve come to expect from our “cartoons.” It’s true, Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli is the Japanese equivalent of Pixar in its success and popularity, but Makoto Shinkai’s 5 Centimeters Per Second is a contemplative, beautifully crafted melodrama that touches on some of the same human emotions that make Miyazaki’s works so accessible. The story is broken into three segments, each chronicling a period in the life of a boy/man named Takaki Tono, who first falls in love with a childhood friend, then moves far away and reminisces about her, then nearly experiences a breakdown as an adult, due to his lifelong love for the same girl. Since its release, 5 Centimeters Per Second has earned tons of critical accolades from those who have seen it, and though some may find it to be a bit on the sentimental side, it’s also a lush, visual treat to behold, and fans of anime will appreciate its attention to detail.

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