This week, we begin on the Yorkshire moors:
The Bronte Sisters
Not rated, 120 minutes. Available Tuesday
on DVD and Blu-ray.
The Cohen Film Collection continues its invaluable and admirable practice of retrieving notable, overlooked films with this high definition Blu-ray and DVD debut of French director Andre Techine’s 1979 biopic based mainly on the three Bronte sisters.
Rarely seen in the U.S., the film benefits from three respected actresses as Les Soeurs Bronte (its French title): Emily (Isabelle Adjani), Charlotte (Marie-France Pisier) and Anne (Isabelle Huppert). Pascal Greggory plays their underachieving brother, Branwell, a drug addict and failed poet and sculptor.
Techine wrote the film with Pascal Donitzer. While entertaining, the film stumbles in pinpointing how all this talent thrived in one family. Instead of probing the minds of brilliant artists, Techine stays mostly with individual events in their lives, such as Charlotte’s time spent in Brussels, Anne and Branwell working in a repressed household, Branwell failing in his attempts at illicit romance, and, eventually, Anne and Charlotte meeting with their skeptical London publishers.
The film dutifully evokes Bronte-esque feelings of isolation, despair and loneliness with Bruno Nuytten’s cinematography of the barren moors and endless landscapes of the Brontes’ native Yorkshire.
The DVD also holds an excellent hourlong “making of” documentary, as well as a conversation between film historian Wade Major and Bronte scholar Sue Lonoff de Cuevas.
Trance (**1/2) Oscar winning Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) directed this glossy psychological thriller with a rambling plot from a script by Joe Ahearne and frequent Boyle collaborator John Hodge. The director’s acute visual style delivers some shocks along the way for anyone who can overlook the contrivance of using amnesia and hypnosis as narrative devices.
An auction house employee, Simon (James McAvoy), is involved in an art heist. During the violent act, he suffers a head blow. Unfortunately for everyone, particularly himself, he then forgets where he has hidden the booty.
Rosario Dawson plays a double-dealing psychologist, and the always-villainous Vincent Cassell is the bad guy determined to make Simon remember where he stashed everything.
Rated R, 101 minutes. The DVD, in all formats, includes seven deleted scenes, a comprehensive 34-minute “making of” featurette, a five-minute Boyle retrospective featurette and a 13-minute short film by Spencer Susser. Plus: segments on “The Look,” hypnotherapy, the final rewrite and more.
Francis Ford Coppola double feature: Peggy Sue Got Married (***) and Twixt (**1/2) Although 25 years separates the releases of these two films, they help chronicle the career of the director who has made some of the best American films ever: The Godfather, The Godfather II, Apocalypse Now.
Many baby-boomer moviegoers may have seen Coppola’s Peggy Sue when it debuted in 1986, but how many now remember Helen Hunt playing the daughter of Charlie (Nicolas Cage) and Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner), or Joan Allen as one of Peggy Sue’s friends, or future director Sofia Coppola as Peggy Sue’s younger sister, or Jim Carrey as one of Charlie’s friends?
In the fantasy based on the ever popular premise of replaying one’s youth, Peggy Sue attends her 25th high school reunion just as she and longtime husband Charlie are about to divorce. A magical movie time machine whisks her back to her high school days.
She foolishly believes she won’t make the same mistakes again, but, as she learns, “being young is just as complicated as being old.” Rated PG-13, 103 minutes.
Francis Ford Coppola changed genres in 2011’s Twixt, a stylish yet somewhat strained Gothic tale about a middling mystery writer (Val Kilmer), Baltimore, who stops in a small town and becomes embroiled in a local secret. The sheriff (Bruce Dern, reliably over the top) reveals to the writer a recently retrieved corpse, one with a wooden stake through her heart.
Before long, Baltimore talks to a girl long dead (Elle Fanning) and eventually discusses the story about the town’s big secret with a conveniently conjured Edgar Allan Poe (Ben Chaplin).
Coppola shows enough of his renowned craft to create some truly creepy atmospherics to complement his acute eye. The narrative slogs, if not wanders, at times, but the director maintains interest with a fascinating succession of eye-catching images. Rated R, 88 minutes.
Rushlights (**1/2) A neo-noir master director, John Dahl (Rounders, The Last Seduction, Red Rock West) might have made something from the rich material found in this tale of a drug-addicted waitress, Sarah (Haley Webb), who agrees to a scheme proposed by her sleazy boyfriend, Billy (Josh Henderson).
When Sarah’s roommate dies from a drug overdose, Sarah discovers a letter from a rich uncle leaving everything to the dead roommate. So, Sarah masquerades as her dead roomie as she and Billy travel to Tremo, Texas, to claim the inheritance. Once there, their lawyer (Aidan Quinn) accepts the claim and advises them on their obligations and possible restrictions.
But his brother (Beau Bridges), the local sheriff, knows something seems wrong. Before long, the body count rises, while varying claims of extortion and false kinship play out.
Writer and co-director Antoni Stutz shows little panache in drawing out the plot’s suspenseful elements and often slows his narrative down needlessly.
Rated R, 95 minutes. The DVD includes a four-minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette.
And, finally, something for the kids:
The Magic School Bus: Revving Up and The Magic School Bus: In a Pickle The popular Magic School Bus series from Scholastic Storybook Treasures returns as the new school year nears. In these two collections starring Ms. Frizzle and her wondrous bus, kids have fun in various learning experiences.
Revving Up holds four episodes on three discs featuring “Under Construction,” “Getting Energized” and “Cracks a Yolk.” They cover the mysteries of electricity, computers, animals and other subjects.
The single disc In a Pickle has four new episodes, including the title episode along with “Meets Molly Cule” (which looks at microbes), “Makes a Stink” (the sense of smell) and “Meets the Rot Squad” (decomposition).
Neither is rated. Revving Up is 270 minutes; In a Pickle is 69 minutes.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Black Rock, Filly Brown, G.I. Joe: Retaliation.