‘Mitty’ fleshes out Thurber story to feature length
This week, we begin with Walter:
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Rated PG, 114 minutes.
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray and in various digital download formats.
Ben Stiller directs and takes the title role in this imaginative rendering of James Thurber’s two-and-a-half-page story from a 1939 edition of The New Yorker.
Steve Conrad supplied the screen story and wrote the screenplay, giving Walter Mitty a job handling the photographic images at Life magazine as it prepares for its last print edition issue.
Walter often “zones out,” falling into a trance. During this dreamy state, he takes on a different persona. In his mind, Walter becomes a daring world traveler and explorer — and most importantly, attractive to the ladies. The twist allows Walter and the film to indulge in outlandish, computer-aided stunts and skills.
On the hunt for a lost film negative, he must travel to Greenland, Iceland and elsewhere, all while pining away for his co-worker Cheryl (an underused Kristen Wiig). The imagined exploits let Walter find his better self, the one the audience always knew he had in him.
With Shirley MacLaine as Walter’s mother, Kathryn Hahn as his sister, Adam Scott as his new, mean boss, and Sean Penn as the mysterious photographer.
DVD extras: a music video, a photography gallery, and a total of nine deleted, extended and alternate scenes. Plus, there is an hourlong, 11-part “making of” segment with featurettes on the music, casting, titles, filming in Iceland, and the four-minute “The History of Walter Mitty.” The latter delves into Thurber’s story.
The Inspector Lavardin Collection The Cohen Film Collection continues its admirable and much welcomed practice of remastering and then releasing onto Blu-ray overlooked nuggets from world cinema. This two-disc set features two mid-1980s detective dramas from French New Wave pioneer Claude Chabrol. The first is Chicken With Vinegar (3 stars) and the second is Inspector Lavardin (3 stars).
The films star the laconic Jean Poiret as police inspector Jean Lavardin. The movies proved so popular in France that Chabrol continued the series with two additional full-length TV movies, also included here, making this a four-film package.
Cinematographer Jean Rabier photographed the entire quartet, giving it a visual consistency. Lavardin was the creation of novelist Dominique Roulet, who co-wrote the four scripts with Chabrol.
The four murder mysteries do not slowly unfold with Chabrol’s typically shocking last-second revelations. Instead, they show the ingratiating, low-key Lavardin traveling to various locations outside of Paris to trap some poor, overmatched murderer. Lavardin usually begins almost meekly but then builds in his brazenness, so by the end of several, he is breaking into houses and slapping suspects around.
The films star well-known French actors from the second half of the 20th century: Jean-Claude Brialy, the late, radiant Bernadette Lafont, Chabrol regular Michel Bouquet, and Chabrol’s wife, Stephane Audran.
Chicken With Vinegar: Released in 1985. Not rated, 109 minutes. Extras include commentary and the Lavardin TV movie The Black Snail (1988).
Inspector Lavardin: Released in 1986. Not rated, 100 minutes. Extras include commentary and the Lavardin TV movie Danger Lies in the Words (1989).
The Best Offer (3 stars) The metaphors work overtime in this twist-filled mystery from writer-director Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso, The Starmaker), the Italian master of nostalgic longing.
Reliable Geoffrey Rush plays Virgil Oldman, a Roman art appraiser and auctioneer. When asked to assess the furnishings at a dilapidated villa, he agrees, only to be stood up several times by the owner. Eventually, he discovers the 27-year-old owner, Claire (Sylvia Hoeks), lives in a hidden room inside, not having left for 12 years since her parents died.
The two go through a prolonged process of better knowing each other while he assesses the property. Supposedly, the two fall for each other, despite their icky difference in age. Tornatore leads up to multiple surprise endings, but not before drawing out several subplots. One concerns Billy (Donald Sutherland), from whom Virgil swindles his massive collection of female portraits. And the other thread revolves around Virgil’s young friend Robert (Jim Sturgess), a talented mechanic-fixer who reassembles a 19th-century robot.
The excess plot may finally buckle, but not before delivering two diverting hours with the compelling Geoffrey Rush.
Rated R, 131 minutes.
Wrong Cops (1 star) This mirthless nonsense features several hapless cops who look like they were too obnoxious and stupid even for Reno 911. One, Duke (Mark Burnham), kills a man and then puts him in his trunk. He coerces a friend to help him out, and, between them, they drive around all day looking to dispose of the body while taking time to harass women, sell drugs and proposition prostitutes. With C-list performers Eric Roberts, Ray Wise, Grace Zabriskie and Marilyn Mansion.
Clumsy production from Quentin Dupieux, who wrote, directed, edited, photographed and composed the score.
Not rated, 82 minutes.
DVD extras: Duplieux’s 14-minute short film “Wrong Cop: Chapter One.”
For the kids this week:
French for Kids: Dedans et Dehors (Inside and Out) This interactive language immersion from producer Whistlefritz teaches elementary French to young ones through various skits, singalongs and games. Viewers will learn words connected to food, the kitchen, bathroom, household and even the playground.
Not rated, 35 minutes.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Barefoot, The Trials of Muhammad Ali and The Suspect.