This week, we begin in 1970s Italy:
The Lina Wertmuller Collection
The Seduction of
Love and Anarchy (**1/2)
All Screwed Up (***)
Coming Tuesday to Blu-ray. Titles available separately or as a set.
Kino Lorber gives Blu-ray debuts to three of Italian director Lina Wertmuller’s entertaining diversions from the early 1970s.
She regularly turned out weighty comedies tinged with social relevance yet topped off with an inevitably tortured romance. Her frequent co-stars Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato appear in The Seduction of Mimi (1972) and Love and Anarchy (1973).
In the unbridled, unfocused Mimi, Giannini plays the title character, a Sicilian worker who tires of paying constant tribute to his Mafia bosses. He flees to Turin, where he falls for a radical street peddler (Melato).
They become involved in local leftist politics, while he rises at work and begins to raise his new son. He conveniently forgets about his wife left behind until he is transferred home, forcing him to interact with his abandoned wife, who has become pregnant by another man.
In Love and Anarchy, Tunin (Giannini) goes to Rome from the south to assassinate Mussolini. He is to be aided by Salome (Melato), a prostitute. But he ends up falling in love with one of her co-workers (Lina Polito) who tests his revolutionary resolve.
In All Screwed Up (1974), two young bumpkins (Luigi Diberti and Nino Bignamini) from the provinces go to big-city Milan. There, they fall in with a group of other young people who decide to live together in one apartment. While love and romance blossom, the chaotic comedy turns gradually darker as the young adults confront life’s realities.
Together, the three films offer an in-depth look at one of the era’s most celebrated filmmakers.
The Seduction of Mimi: 112 minutes. Love and Anarchy: 129 minutes. All Screwed Up: 108 minutes.
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (***) This renowned 1946 drama comes to Blu-ray after being digitally restored from the original 35 mm prints. The result is a glossy black and white picture that seems to capture the striking original contrasts.
Veteran director Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front) choreographed his fine cast through one of the first film noir entries.
Iconic femme fatale Barbara Stanwyck plays the title character, a spoiled child who matures into a nasty adult married to weak-willed social climber Walter (Kirk Douglas, in his film debut). When an old childhood friend, Sam (Van Heflin), returns to town after 18 years, Martha and Walter believe it is to blackmail them over an adolescent secret they all share.
Several plot twists bring about heightened conflicts, particularly when a recently released convict (Lizabeth Scott) appears to team up with Sam.
Not rated, 116 minutes. Extras: Includes example of the film’s before-and-after restoration. Available on Monday.
Seeking Justice (***) Gaping plot holes keep this decent action-thriller from otherwise being more absorbing.
In one of his more restrained roles, Nicolas Cage plays Will, a mild-mannered schoolteacher married to Laura (January Jones). While she recovers in a hospital after being beaten and raped, the mysterious Simon (Guy Pearce) approaches Will and tells him the man responsible can be “taken care of” if Will agrees to a future favor.
Of course, this so-called favor simply sets Will up for prospective crises, with the police and local politicians and journalists.
Rated R, 105 minutes. Extras: A seven-minute “making of” featurette. Available on Tuesday.
A Bag of Hammers (***) Two irresponsible young Los Angeles buddies, Ben (Jason Ritter) and Alan (Jake Sandvig), live together while stealing cars to make ends meet. Through dramatic circumstances, they unexpectedly take responsibility — without telling authorities — for a 12-year-old boy (Chandler Canterbury) living next door.
What begins as slacker comedy turns serious and even dark, a mood shift director Brian Crano handles adequately enough. Top talents Rebecca Hall and Amanda Seyfried are wasted in supporting roles.
Not rated, 85 minutes. Extras: an 11-minute “making of” featurette. Available on Tuesday.
Reel Love (**) Chicago attorney Holly (LeAnn Rimes) returns to her Southern home when she learns her cantankerous father, Wade (Burt Reynolds), has had a heart attack. Once there, he refuses help or medication and wants to do nothing but fish, particularly in pursuit of the giant bass known as the Queen of Sheba.
Holly sticks around long enough to rekindle old friendships, including an unexpected romance with local hunk Jay (Shawn Roberts). She learns she can go home again in this innocuous yet uninspired romantic comedy.
Not rated, 86 minutes. Extras: Brief, separate interviews with Rimes and Reynolds. Available on Tuesday.
A Fool and His Money (**1/2) Triple-threat writer-actor-filmmaker David Talbert takes from A Raisin in the Sun for his story about a family winning a million dollars in a contest only to have moochers and unknown relatives appear from nowhere. Funnyman Eddie Griffin stars, with Michael Beach, Chyna Layne and Ann Nesby.
Not rated, 105 minutes. Extras: Three featurettes — “behind the scenes,” “making of” and “walking the set.” Available on Monday.
The FP (**) Various genres clash in this mix of fight-action, video gaming, dance and other media diversions for the futuristic story of two gangs facing each other with pride, and a woman, on the line. With Jason Trost and Liz Valmassy, and narrated by James Remar.
Rated R, 83 minutes. Extras: commentary, a booklet and a multi-part, 36-minute “making of” featurette. Available on Tuesday.
And, finally, from this week’s TV offerings:
Web Therapy — The Complete First Season Lisa Kudrow co-created and then starred in this comedy series as Fiona Wallice, a befuddled, short-fused therapist. She hates her patients so much, as well as their whining, she has reduced sessions to three minutes and only to take place by webcam.
The split-screen device encourages improvisation with the rotating guest stars. And Kudrow obviously called in some favors as shown by this initial season’s impressive list of appearances: Jane Lynch, Courteney Cox, Alan Cumming, Steven Weber and others. The great Lily Tomlin plays Fiona’s mother.
Not rated, 266 minutes. Ten episodes on two discs. Available on Tuesday.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Big Miracle, Jeff Who Lives at Home, Project X, Wanderlust, Louie — The Complete Second Season and Wilfred — The Complete First Season.