The Jesus Rolls

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 5/5/20;
Screen Media;
Comedy;
Box Office $0.02 million;
$24.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong sexual content, language throughout and brief nudity.
Stars John Turturro, Bobby Cannavale, Audrey Tautou, Christopher Walken, Jon Hamm, Pete Davidson, Susan Sarandon, J. B. Smoove, Gloria Reuben.

The biggest source of audience interest in The Jesus Rolls will likely center on the return of John Turturro to the role of Jesus Quintana, the trash talking bowler he played in 1998’s The Big Lebowski.

Quintana was one of the more memorable supporting characters of Big Lebowski despite appearing in just two scenes with less than four minutes of total screen time. However, Turturro was interested in revisiting the character, and received special permission from the Coen Brothers to make him the central character of his own movie.

While Quintana’s presence as the focus of this new film might make it a loose spinoff and spiritual sequel to The Big Lebowski, once the curiosity factor wears off what’s left is a rather bland attempt to spread the character’s quirky appeal throughout a feature-length story that comes up just shy of 90 minutes.

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Written and directed by Turturro, The Jesus Rolls is essentially a remake of the 1974 French farce Going Places, which itself was based on the novel Les Valseuses, the title coming from a slang term for male genitals.

Upon being released from prison and told that another arrest will likely get him locked up for life, Quintana proceeds to do little else but commit petty crimes in support of a bohemian lifestyle. Hooking up with his best friend Petey (Bobby Cannavale), the pair steal a vintage sports car belonging to a tough-talking hairdresser (Jon Hamm) and make off with one of his stylists (Audrey Tautou), who confesses that in her promiscuous adventures she has never had an orgasm. In search of someone with more potential appreciation for their skills in the arts of pleasure, Jesus and Petey decide to pick up a random woman (Susan Sarandon) just being released from prison. This sets them down a path of establishing their own unconventional family unit to enable their carefree ways.

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The application of an existing story framework is certainly not out of bounds for a follow-up to Big Lebowski, which itself borrowed the structure of a Raymond Chandler crime novel.

The Jesus Rolls manages to emulate the stream of consciousness tone of Big Lebowski, and the two films are further connected through the heavy use of Gipsy Kings music (stemming from the fact that Quintana was originally introduced while a Gipsy Kings cover of “Hotel California” was playing). Turturro also provides the requisite fan service of reprising a few of Quintana’s notable lines from Big Lebowski, expands on a few details revealed about the character in his first appearance, and even works in one scene of him going bowling.

Otherwise, though, Turturro could be playing anybody, and the film completely stands on its own.

This latter point may explain why Turturro and Cannavale never directly mention The Big Lebowski in their commentary track for the film (the Blu-ray’s only bonus feature). Turturro also never discusses what motivated him to play Quintana in particular in his version of Going Places, though much of the commentary is devoted to his admiration for the French source material, and comparing the elements of them he included. The pair also discuss the process of low-budget indie filmmaking, and enjoy the acting touches provided by their fellow castmates.

They seem more amused by the material than many viewers might be, but the film does manage to find a few honest laughs in its own right.

All in all, some fun performances, fabulous music and Turturro’s commitment to one of his signature characters offer enough of a reason to at least check it out, especially for Big Lebowski fans.

Criterion July Slate Includes ‘Bull Durham’

The Criterion Collection in July will release new Blu-ray special editions of the classic 1988 baseball movie Bull Durham and Steven Soderbergh’s directorial debut, sex, lies, and videotape.

Arriving July 10 (order date June 12) on Blu-ray and DVD, Criterion’s Bull Durham features a new 4K digital restoration supervised by director Ron Shelton, with a 2.0 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray, plus an alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD master audio on the Blu-ray.

Extras include two audio commentaries featuring Shelton and actors Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins; a new conversation between Shelton and film critic Michael Sragow; “Between the Lines: The Making of Bull Durham,” a 2002 program featuring interviews with cast and crew, including Shelton, Costner, Robbins and actress Susan Sarandon; “The Greatest Show on Dirt,” a 2008 appreciation of the film featuring former players, broadcasters, and sports-film aficionados; a NBC Nightly News piece from 1993 on the final season of baseball at Durham Athletic Park, where Bull Durham takes place and was shot; an interview with Max Patkin, known as the Clown Prince of Baseball, from a 1991 episode of NBC’s “Today”; the film’s trailer; plus excerpts from a 1989 piece by longtime New Yorker baseball writer Roger Angell, with new comments from the author.

The new DVD and Blu-ray editions of 1989’s sex, lies, and videotape arrive July 17 (order date June 19), with a new 4K digital transfer supervised by Soderbergh, and a 5.1 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include audio commentary from 1998 featuring Soderbergh in conversation with filmmaker Neil LaBute; a new program Soderbergh responding to fan questions; interviews with Soderbergh from 1990 and 1992; a new documentary about the making of the film featuring actors Peter Gallagher, Andie MacDowell and Laura San Giacomo; a new conversation with composer Cliff Martinez and supervising sound editor Larry Blake; a deleted scene with commentary by Soderbergh; trailers; plus an essay by critic Amy Taubin and, in the Blu-ray release, excerpts from Soderbergh’s diaries written at the time of the film’s production.

Coming July 3 (order date June 5) are Blu-ray and DVD boxed sets of Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood, a collection of six films pairing director Josef von Sternberg with German actress Marlene Dietrich.

The set includes the films Morocco (1930), Dishonored (1931), Shanghai Express (1932), Blonde Venus (1932), The Scarlet Empress (1934) and The Devil Is a Woman (1935).

All six films feature new 2K or 4K digital restorations, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays. Also included are new interviews with film scholars Janet Bergstrom and Homay King; director Josef von Sternberg’s son, Nicholas; Deutsche Kinemathek curator Silke Ronneburg; and costume designer and historian Deborah Nadoolman Landis. Other extras include a  new documentary about actor Marlene Dietrich’s German origins, featuring film scholars Gerd Gemünden and Noah Isenberg; a new documentary on Dietrich’s status as a feminist icon, featuring film scholars Mary Desjardins, Amy Lawrence and Patricia White; The Legionnaire and the Lady, a 1936 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of Morocco, featuring Dietrich and actor Clark Gable; a new video essay by critics Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López; The Fashion Side of Hollywood, a 1935 publicity short featuring Dietrich and costume designer Travis Banton; a 1971 television interview with Dietrich; plus a book featuring essays by critics Imogen Sara Smith, Gary Giddins and Farran Smith Nehme.

Also due July 10 is 1967’s Dragon Inn on Blu-ray and DVD, with a new 4K digital restoration supervised by cinematographer Hua Hui-ying, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new interview with actor Shangkuan Ling-fung; a 2016 interview with actor Shih Chun; scene analysis by author and New York Asian Film Festival cofounder Grady Hendrix; newsreel footage of the film’s 1967 premiere in Taiwan; the trailer; a new English subtitle translation; and an essay by critic Andrew Chan.

The 1946 film A Matter of Life and Death, with David Niven and Kim Hunter, arrives on new Blu-ray and DVD editions July 24 (order date June 26), with a new 4K digital restoration, plus uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Bonus materials include a 2009 audio commentary from film scholar Ian Christie; a new interview with editor Thelma Schoonmaker, director Michael Powell’s widow; a new interview with film historian Craig Barron on the film’s visual effects and production design; an interview from 2009 with filmmaker Martin Scorsese; The Colour Merchant, a 1998 short film by Craig McCall featuring cinematographer Jack Cardiff; plus an essay by critic Stephanie Zacharek.

A Bad Moms Christmas

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 2/6/18;
Universal;
Comedy;
Box Office $72.11 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some drug use.
Stars Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, Susan Sarandon, Jay Hernandez, Justin Hartley, Peter Gallagher, Wanda Sykes.

With the popularity of 2016’s Bad Moms ($184 million worldwide box office against a $20 million budget) all but ensuring a sequel, the writer-director team of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore managed to have a follow-up produced and in theaters a bit over a year later. The quick turnaround is something of a throwback to the halcyon days of Hollywood, where quickie sequels were much easier to pull off.

Where the first film dealt with the rigors of balancing work, home and school, the sequel transplants the rowdy moms into a holiday setting, and cranks up the proverbial heat by bringing in their moms for a little added pressure.

I suppose the idea is to inform on what makes the core moms tick and possibly led them to snap in the first movie. While the story is driven by this newfound family angst, it often falls back on a string of sketches tied to family-related Christmas settings. The film offers a smattering of caricature and broad ruminations on the holiday season, with some gags that work better in concept than execution.

Christine Baranski in particular, as mom to Mila Kunis’ Amy, comes across like a less-intense version of Leonard’s mom from “The Big Bang Theory,” which may have been a primary reason they sought her out for this.

The best pairing is Susan Sarandon and Kathryn Hahn, if only because their characters are the ones with the fewest inhibitions — the apple not falling too far from the tree in that regard.

Fans of the raunchiness that set the original film apart need not worry, as the jokes are often as crude as they were in that one, if not more so.

Coincidentally, the same multigenerational premise was used for the guys in the Daddy’s Home sequel around the same time, with similar results.

The Blu-ray is rather sparse in its extras, offering a seven-minute gag reel, four minutes of alternate takes and a two-and-a-half-minute music video featuring the production crew dancing along to an R&B holiday song used in the film.