For the week of May 14th, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is bringing Cloud Atlas to Blu-ray. This feature, a joint collaboration between The Matrix creators Lana & Andy Wachowski and Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer, is a sprawling, ambitious take on David Mitchell's equally sprawling and ambitious novel; both iterations of Cloud Atlas present six interlocking stories, which run the gamut from film noir mystery to psychological romance to dystopian thriller. But whereas Mitchell gives readers the first half of each story before cycling back around and finishing with the second halves, the Wachowskis and Tykwer freely edit between tales, blithely disregarding traditional notions of time and space. It's a film experience that is challenging and frustrating, but the good ultimately outweighs the bad, thanks to Tykwer and the Wachowskis' confident direction and a brilliant cast that includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, James D'Arcy, Keith David, Susan Sarandon, David Gyasi, and Hugh Grant.
Kenneth Brown used his Blu-ray review to comment on the film's tone, the way it "hinges on grand ideas and profound revelations. Tykwer and the Wachowskis are actively, deliberately trying to blow your mind, and at all costs; even when it's to the detriment of the very fabric of the film. But Cloud Atlas isn't mind-blowing. Mind-blending perhaps, headache-inducing most certainly, but not mind-blowing. It doesn't invite you in and treat you to its depths and wonders as the novel does, it assaults the intellectual senses and declares itself king. More to the point, as explored on screen, its ideas aren't that grand. Only its execution. Commendable? Yes. Brave? No doubt. Profound? All told, not really. It deals in endless universal and esoteric commodities, sure. But it doesn't offer much in the way of a return. While Tykwer and the Wachowskis succeeded in making Mitchell's unfilmable book filmable, even functional, theirs is a failure of translation, not conceptualization. It's not style over substance, it's style in the guise of substance, and it confounds far more than it enlightens."
Shout Factory offers up a vintage cult classic with its HD release of Crimewave. Crimewave is notable for three reasons: 1) The Evil Dead and Spider-Man mastermind Sam Raimi directed the film 2) from a script that Academy Award-winners Joel and Ethan Coen wrote, yet 3) the end result is mostly terrible. Part of the trouble was out of their (very) capable hands; the studio executives meddled with their Crimewave vision every step of the way. Ultimately, though, this movie just isn't very good, though it would establish some thematic templates that resurface in later, better pictures from Raimi and the Coen Brothers.
Jeffrey Kauffman's Blu-ray review noted how "Crimewave might in fact be...one of the prime cinematic examples of Murphy's Law, for certainly just about everything that could go wrong did, and despite its promising genealogy, the film ended up being released only in Kansas and Alaska (something that's perhaps more funny than anything in the movie itself) and then quickly disappeared, not even raising much of a ruckus in the nascent days of cable television...Looking back now from the vantage point of some twenty-five years-plus, not to mention the rather impressive subsequent filmographies of Raimi and the Coen Brothers, it's hard not to see Crimewave as something of a disaster, but there are still glimmers of what might have been running through the film and it will probably forever remain an object of fascination (and, perhaps, ridicule) for fans of its famous creators."
Finally, we end the week with a Delmer Daves/Glenn Ford double-feature from the Criterion Collection: 3:10 to Yuma and Jubal. These layered, psychologically probing dramas are two of the most unique Westerns ever made, and they represent some of Daves' finest work as a director. Based on a short story from Get Shorty and Out of Sight author Elmore Leonard, 3:10 to Yuma takes two of Leonard's favorite fictional archetypes - the conflicted, morally righteous hero and the charming rogue - and throws them in opposition with one another, as Van Heflin's frustrated everyman takes it upon himself to deliver a dangerous outlaw (Glenn Ford) to justice. Their conflict unfolds in a series of charged conversations, as Ford's loquacious killer tries his best to harangue Heflin into letting him go, and that emphasis on dialogue places the film on vastly different footing from James Mangold's entertaining-but-action-packed remake.
In his Blu-ray review, Svet Atanasov wrote that "instead of flashy shootouts there are a series of intense conversations that allow the key characters to shine. The fine line that separates the good and bad is also effectively blurred. The second half, in particular, is a fascinating morality play with constantly evolving themes. The finale is also quite unusual. It forces the viewer not only to reexamine events from the first half of the film, but also reconsider whether the film is indeed about heroes and villains. Everything is put together very well, without the old clichés other similarly themed films from the era are typically plagued with. The acting is first-class. Glenn Ford is terrific as the suave outlaw who is convinced that it is only a matter of time before he regains his freedom. Van Heflin is equally convincing as the determined to keep his word rancher."
Likewise, Jubal also takes inspiration from a literary source, albeit one a few centuries older than Elmore Leonard. Daves tells the story of a brutish rancher (Ernest Borgnine) who lets a scheming cowhand (Rod Steiger) convince him that the title character (Ford, again) is having an affair with the rancher's unhappy wife (Valerie French); these broad strokes recall William Shakespeare's classic tragedy Othello. However, even though Daves bases Jubal in the sexual and political machinations of that earlier work, he does so in a quintessentially Western style, overstuffing the film with widescreen vistas and a rough-and-tumble, cowpoke atmosphere. It's an interesting mix of old and new, and an extremely worthwhile pairing of Daves and Ford.
Svet Atanasov called Jubal "enormously entertaining. The frequent clashes between Ford and Borgnine, in particular, add a great deal of intensity and quickly force one to choose sides. On the other hand, Borgnine's brutish rancher is in the middle of quite a few comic episodes. As...is the case with 3:10 to Yuma, the action in Jubal is of little importance to the story. The focus of attention is exclusively on the evolving relationships between the main characters...The unique framing gives the film a certain noirish atmosphere. The interior footage...has plenty of low-angle shots where light and shadow are treated with the same attention they were given in many of the best noir films from the 1950s."
That Glory re-release has me intrigued, mostly cos I never get tired of updating my collection!- Thought the previous one was a very faithful reproduction of the theatrical presentation. Like to see how much of a step up this one is.
Can't wait to see Cloud Atlas in Hi-Def.....Glory remastered looks promising but idk the original release i have is pretty outstanding but the slipcover and good reviews could change my mind everything else no