‘The Illusionist,’ ‘Winter Passing’ and ‘Resurrecting the Champ’ Among Star-Studded Films Joining MVD Marquee Collection

The MVD Marquee Collection is adding five films from Yari Film Group to its lineup on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

Due June 25 are Resurrecting the Champ, Winter Passing and The Illusionist.

Resurrecting the Champ, directed by Rod Lurie (The Contender), stars Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett with Alan Alda, Kathryn Morris, Teri Hatcher, David Paymer and Peter Coyote. In the film, sportswriter Erik Kernan (Hartnett) wants nothing more than to discover a story great enough to make headlines. When he meets Champ (Jackson), a former boxing champion living on the streets, he knows he has a shot to save them both. Recording his newfound friend’s tale of triumph and defeat, Kernan gets his story and his fame. But as Champ’s tale falls under more scrutinizing eyes, Kernan learns what truly makes a story great is the quality of the man behind it. Bonus material includes a feature audio commentary from Lurie, a behind-the-scenes featurette, interviews with the cast and crew, and the original theatrical trailer.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Winter Passing is an offbeat film about homecoming and reconciliation that features Zooey Deschanel, Will Ferrell, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Dallas Roberts, Michael Chernus, Anthony Rapp, Sam Bottoms and Rachel Dratch. When a book editor (Madigan) offers to buy the love letters of Reese Holden’s (Deschanel) parents, she returns home to recover them, only to find her widowed dad (Harris) golfing upstairs, sleeping outside and living with roommates — a pretty grad student (Amelia Warner) and a quirky wannabe musician (Ferrell). Bonus material includes a behind-the-scenes featurette and the original theatrical trailer.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The Illusionist stars Paul Giamatti and Edward Norton along with Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. In the film, acclaimed illusionist Eisenheim (Norton) has not only captured the imaginations of all of Vienna, but also the interest of the ambitious Crown Prince Leopold (Sewell). But when Leopold’s new fiancée (Biel) rekindles a childhood fascination with Eisenheim, the Prince’s interest evolves into obsession and the city’s chief inspector (Giamatti) finds himself investigating a shocking crime. As the Inspector engages him in a dramatic challenge of wills, Eisenheim prepares for his most impressive illusion yet. Bonus material includes a feature audio commentary from writer/director Neil Burger, “The Making of the Illusionist” featurette, the “Jessica Biel on the Illusionist” featurette and the original theatrical trailer.

Taking 18 years from the start of production to theatrical release, Shortcut to Happiness finally makes its debut on Blu-ray and DVD July 16. Originally titled The Devil and Daniel Webster, the film was to be the directorial debut of Alec Baldwin. With the film plagued by investor problems and rumored creative differences, Baldwin had his director credit removed from the film and replaced with the pseudonym Harry Kirkpatrick. Producer Bob Yari rescued the film from bankruptcy court and finished it without Baldwin’s participation. It received limited theatrical screenings in 2007. Years later, it aired on Showtime and Starz channels. Set in New York’s literary world, Shortcut to Happiness is a contemporary re-telling of the classic short story ”The Devil and Daniel Webster,” starring Baldwin, Dan Aykroyd, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Kim Cattrall, Bobby Cannavale, Amy Poehler and Darrell Hammond. It follows Jabez Stone (Baldwin), a down on his luck writer who sells his soul to the devil (Love-Hewitt) in exchange for fame and fortune. When things don’t turn out as planned, Stone ultimately decides that he wants his old life again and enlists the help of Daniel Webster (Hopkins) in order to win his soul.

Finally, Sept. 17 comes Find Me Guilty from director Sidney Lumet (Serpico, Network, Dog Day Afternoon). Vin Diesel stars with Peter Dinklage, Annabella Sciorra, Alex Rocco, Ron Silver and Linus Roache in this true story. When police arrest 20 members of the Lucchese crime family, the authorities offer Jackie Dee DiNorscio (Diesel) a bargain: a shortened prison term if he’ll testify against his own. But the wisecracking DiNorscio has other ideas. Refusing to cooperate, he decides to defend himself at his own trial and proceeds to turn the courtroom upside-down, culminating in one of the most shocking verdicts in judicial history. Bonus material includes the “A Conversation with Director Sidney Lumet” featurette, the original theatrical trailer and three TV spots.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Art School Confidential’ and ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’

Art School Confidential

Street 11/6/18;
MVD, Comedy, $24.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Max Minghella, Sophia Myles, John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent.
2006.
Something of a halfway follow-up to Ghost World, Art School Confidential remains the last feature to date of Terry Zwigoff, full of been-there comic observations that give Confidential a distinct point of view.
Extras: This Blu-ray release is basically a replication of the old Sony DVD, but the colors have added vibrancy, a couple of the bonus deleted scenes add to the dark party.
Read the Full Review 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Olive, Sci-Fi, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, King Donovan, Carolyn Jones, Larry Gates.
1956.
Whether viewed as the sci-fi/horror classic it justifiably is, or as an example of inept studio suits sabotaging their own picture, or as an early example of a theatrical underachiever subsequently “made” by television showings, the original screen version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers has provided lots of fodder for yarn-spinning over the years.
Extras: Includes a pair of commentaries, one by historian Richard Harland Smith, another by director Joe Dante with stars Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter. There are also readings from director Don Siegel’s autobiography, other filmmakers describing what the film meant to them, a look at the filming locations and numerious retrospectives.
Read the Full Review

Art School Confidential

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 11/6/18;
MVD;
Comedy;
$24.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for language including sexual references, nudity and a scene of violence.
Stars Max Minghella, Sophia Myles, John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent.

Something of a halfway follow-up to Ghost World, which thoroughly ambushed me in 2001 by becoming my favorite movie of the past 20 years more than any alternative I can come up with, 2006’s Art School Confidential remains the last feature to date of Terry Zwigoff. Despite what I still think are some non-fatal miscalculations on Confidential’s part (in addition to maybe 20 guffaws), this pop cultural loss illustrates, as much as anything, the degree to which mass movie entertainment has gone largely to hell over the past two or three decades. And I say this knowing that the film wasn’t very well received at the time when all sorts of all-out crummy movies were amassing passing grades from both critics and the marketplace.

As one would discern from one who made a documentary as singularly personal as 1995’s Crumb, Zwigoff isn’t the product of any tony film school — a sub-culture which, by the way, comes in for its own attendant ribbing here. This — or possibly the fact that Zwigoff notes on one of this Blu-ray’s carryover bonus extras that his past jobs included stacking humidifiers — likely gave him insight into the fringe culture that near-exclusively populates World and Confidential (both films share the same writer, Daniel Clowes, who first created the former as a graphic novel). Both creators, pretty sure, actually attended art school, and this newer film is a logical extension of the uproarious art class sequences in Ghost World. And they’re also the best thing about Confidential unless you have a thing for co-lead Sophia Myles (guilty, Your Honor).

Diffident protagonist Jerome is played by Max Minghella, son of choreographer Carolyn Choa and the late director Anthony Minghella, who pulled off the impressive triple of The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain (his preceding Truly Madly Deeply also has enthusiastic admirers, though it left me cold at the time). Unlike some of his classmates, Jerome seems to be in art school for the right reason: becoming an artist instead of postponing gainful employment — with the latter malady one that afflicts everyone on the premises, instructors included. Either Clowes or Zwigoff — though the bonus materials note that they largely think alike, anyway — has noted that a key challenge here was making the displays of classroom art here so near-uniformly awful that even novice viewers will know they’re bad. Many of these specimens, which must have been fun to concoct, are as wretched as the wall displays pictured in the remedial Illeana Douglas class that Thora Birch is forced to take along with several of the other social misfits in Ghost World.

In Confidential’s case, the teacher is played by the ever-invaluable John Malkovich as a largely non-judgmental type — possibly or probably because he’s bored with teaching and looking for his next step up the totem pole. A key comic theme here is that almost no one involved with this class is ever going to earn a dime. Yet to compound Jerome’s litany of humiliations, an artist who has made it at least commercially (Adam Scott) shows up to rub the students’ noses in his success, much like the Alec Baldwin character does to the swampland salesmen/slaves in the role David Mamet added to the splendid movie version of Glengarry Glen Ross.

A more representative example is a seedy artist who lives on or near campus in an apartment that you have to believe couldn’t escape health department condemnation in the lowest-rent districts of Calcutta. He’s played by Jim Broadbent, who certainly looks the part in a shirt dotted with food stains likely going back a couple decades (a work of art itself). This is the milieu suburban-backgrounded Jerome finds himself in, and it so approximates my own reaction from the days I was the naively white-bread class leper in NYU’s cinema studies program that there’s no way I could ever be a detractor of this movie. And to be sure, film school education gets gooned on here as well, given the Jerome roomie who has aggressively put the touch on his innocent grandfather to bankroll his unwatchable slasher movie. If you take note of the “acknowledgement” credits at the end of the Illeana Douglas character’s own student film that we see in Ghost World, you’ll see that she hit her parents up for funding herself. This is one of the universals that pretty well offer proof that Zwigoff and Clowes know exactly what they’re doing.

Then again, there’s something about having a real serial killer on campus dispatching victims — and in brutal fashion that in one scene pays direct homage to Strangers on a Train atop nearly approaching Peeping Tom in brutal intensity — that seems contrived and out of rhythm, even though it leads to some funny bits. (Of course, scrapping it would have meant a rewrite from the ground up.) On much firmer ground is the relationship between Jerome and Audrey (Myles), a slightly older nude model and collector of men — one who’s almost as messed up as everyone else in the movie, though she puts on a cooler front. Jerome is besotted and becomes desperate for success to prove himself worthy of her. You can see from all this why some of the students are in the class just to enjoy the nude models, though one of the women is understandably put off when one of the male posers thrusts his so-to-speak manhood in her face on his way to the dressing room after the session is wrapped.

All this leads to a conclusion that, of all things, brings me to mind of Paul Schrader’s otherwise standout First Reformed from earlier this year — in that it makes sense intellectually (that is, you can see what the filmmaker was trying to do) but doesn’t play particularly well and thus detracts from the rest. The rest, however, is full of been-there comic observations that give Confidential a distinct point of view, and comedies with both a strong POV and genuine wit may be the rarest movie species these days. Though it was true as well in 2006, the year I got out of first-run reviewing.

This Blu-ray release is basically a replication of the old Sony DVD, but the colors have added vibrancy, and this is no small consideration in a movie about art (though added pigment intensity can’t do much with Broadbent’s apartment). A couple of the bonus deleted scenes add to the dark party, but perhaps including them in the finished film would have compromised its overall rhythm, for which 102 minutes feels just about right.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Art School Confidential’ and ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’