This week, we begin in Italy:
Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life
The Canterbury Tales, The Decameron and Arabian Nights.
Now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
In the early 1970s, Italian provocateur Pier Paolo Pasolini turned out these three colorful and sexually explicit cinematic renditions of medieval literature, now available in a three-disc boxed set from the Criterion Collection. As usual with Pasolini, he used the tales to poke fun at Italy’s sociopolitical state at the time, with a sexual subtext filled with nudity.
Pasolini drops Boccaccio’s framing device in The Decameron (1971, 111 minutes) and moves the location from Florence to Naples for the author’s risque stories. Pasolini appears in one as the painter Giotto.
The director plays Chaucer, who selects eight stories, yet avoids the pilgrimage, from The Canterbury Tales (1972, 111 minutes) to convey the scribe’s penchant for bawdy escapades.
Pasolini shot Arabian Nights (1974, 130 minutes) throughout the Mideast and frames his saga around a story of a female slave selling herself to a young man, before they are separated.
The films have received digital restorations with compressed monaural soundtracks. Each disc holds separate bonus materials.
Among many included supplements are new interviews with composer Ennio Morricone, brilliant production designer Dante Ferretti and film scholar Sam Rohdie. Roberto Chiesi provides a 45-minute documentary on a lost segment of The Decameron and a 48-minute documentary on Canterbury Tales.
Critic Colin MacCabe contributes to a 65-page booklet that also includes an essay from Pasolini. Plus: separate 25-minute featurettes on Arabian Nights and The Decameron, a 27-minute featurette on the director titled “Via Pasolini,” and more.
Men in Black 3 (***) This now-venerable franchise took a refreshing turn in its latest chapter, as Agent J (Will Smith) travels back to July 1969 in order to save the future life of his partner, Agent K, played by Tommy Lee Jones and, in his younger years, by a hilarious Josh Brolin.
J visits an age of big cars, big hair and bad fashions to eliminate escaped alien Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), who has the ability to destroy the world. The agents must travel to Cape Canaveral, Fla., to place a saving device on the departing Apollo 11 spacecraft.
Bill Hader appears as Andy Warhol, and Emma Thompson plays the new secret agency boss. Etan Cohen’s script provides plenty of comedy for Barry Sonnenfeld’s always capable direction.
Rated PG-13, 106 minutes. The DVD arrives in various formats and combo packs, including 3-D. The DVD version includes a 26-minute “making of” featurette, a four-minute gag reel and a music video by Pitbull. The Blu-ray offers additional supplements, so check labels.
Lawless (**1/2) Set in dreary Prohibition-era rural Virginia, this fact-based period piece tells the story of the three Bondurant brothers (Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke), Robin Hood bootleggers who battle corrupt law enforcement (a deliciously perverse Guy Pearce) and a vicious mobster (Gary Oldman).
The brothers endure constant shoot-outs and frantic car chases, while pausing long enough to enjoy the arrival of a beautiful woman (Jessica Chastain) and the daughter (Mia Wasikowska) of a local preacher who wants to keep her away from the brothers.
Rated R, 116 minutes. The DVD, in all formats, includes commentary, six deleted scenes, the 22-minute featurette “The True Story of the Wettest County in the World,” the six-minute featurette “Franklin County, Virginia, Then and Now,” a 13-minute featurette on the “Story of the Bondurant Family” and a music video.
Corvette Summer (**1/2), The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (****) and The Dish (***1/2) Also arriving this week are these three discs, manufactured on demand from the Warner Archive Collection.
Immediately after his breakout role in Star Wars, Mark Hamill, for some reason, starred in Corvette Summer (1978, rated PG, 105 minutes), a frothy, innocuous teen action-comedy.
He plays Kenny, a car-obsessed high school student whose shop class salvages a Corvette Sting Ray and refurbishes it to a glossy red shine, making everyone proud, until it is stolen.
Kenny lands a tip on its location, Las Vegas, necessitating an eventful road trip in which he eventually teams up with Vanessa (Annie Potts), a flighty hooker trainee who seems vague on the concept of her profession. The quest ends in several car chases through Vegas, some humorous high jinks and, of course, romance.
In Heart/Hunter (1968, not rated, 123 minutes), Alan Arkin justly earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of John Singer, a man who is deaf and mute.
Singer relocates to a small Southern town to be near his only friend, who has been incarcerated in a mental facility. Singer rents a room in a local house, making friends there, as well as possible, with high school sophomore Mick (fellow Oscar nominee Sondra Locke).
While the plot of Carson McCullers’ debut novel flips among several building dramas, the residual effects of the film come from Arkin’s deft portrayal as the anguished Singer. Without saying a word, he convincingly conveys feelings of loneliness, despair, happiness and a variety of other emotions.
The reliable Sam Neill stars in the fact-based The Dish (2000, rated PG-13, 101 minutes), a warmhearted look at what happened in July 1969 when the small Australian town of Parkes received international attention because it was the home to The Dish, the largest transmitter in the Southern Hemisphere.
Cliff Buxton (Neill) and his technical colleagues have been given the burden of transmitting the signal from Apollo 11 when astronauts will first land on the moon. The town builds to an understandable frenzy, with visits from the American ambassador, the Australian prime minister and hordes of media.
During it all, Buxton keeps calm despite several scary malfunctions, gale-force winds, an interoffice romance, and an officious overseer from NASA (Patrick Warburton). Director Rob Sitch instills a sense of good-natured fun into the proceedings while never losing sight of its gravity.
The DVD holds cast and crew biographies.
And, finally, for the kids this week:
Angelina Ballerina: Superstar Sisters Angelina teams up with her sister Polly to have fun dancing and singing with her friends and family in these five episodes. Not rated, 61 minutes. The DVD includes a picture matching game and a karaoke music video.
Barney: Let’s Go to the Doctor Barney joins BJ, Baby Bop and Riff in teaching health lessons and how going to the dentist or the doctor is good for you in these three episodes. Not rated, 52 minutes. The DVD contains a healthy snack game, a hide-and-seek game and a karaoke music video.
Thomas and Friends: Let’s Explore With Thomas Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends on Sodor Island enjoy a set of new friends while they explore new territories in these four episodes on four discs. Not rated, 228 minutes. The set holds extra games, photo galleries and sing-along features on each disc.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: The Apparition, House of Bones, ParaNorman, Sparkle.