Blu-ray Slight Return: Instant Replay Edition
Why do I like baseball more than football?
Football may be more exciting in short bursts of energy, but baseball has a pace of its own. Football takes forever in the last few minutes of the game with time outs and commercials. Baseball proceeds at the same steady momentum and if the action is halted it’s because of the force majeure of extra innings or rain delays.
It’s a pleasure to watch a series game winner that takes into account both weather and scores. A two-disc set (Blu-ray + DVD) chronicles The 2016 World’s Series (December 6) with an emphasis on clinching moments, highlights and the subsequent victory parade.
But if you need more than a two-hour retrospective of events told from the perspective of the winners then there’s The 2016 World Series Collector’s Edition (December 13), an eight-disc set that includes every play in its entirety. The box set, in Blu-ray, includes complete versions of all seven World Series games plus the sixth game of the NLCS where the Chicago Cubs clinched the championship playoff berth.
You can overlook the fact that the co-owner of the Cubs, Todd Ricketts, may be a member of the upcoming Trump administration. We all work for and alternately stick it to the man. But these two releases, one feature length and the other exhaustive at over twenty hours of material, celebrate the pure adrenalin rush of sports.
Restored in a 4K-scan version the 1992 Ivory-Merchant production Howard’s End (Cohen Media Group) looks so sharp that it’s magnificence is only multiplied.
There’s one scene where the cinematographer (Tony Pierce-Roberts) holds a scene in a long shot and during the duration you see the sun burst out from clouds and quickly disappear. For about four second, the exposure goes up two F-tops and quickly recedes. What makes this tableau such a revelation is that this is not some CGI effect. Rather during a perfect moment, in an atmosphere where wind and shadows often dominate the story, the sun makes itself a character.
And this moment of truth comes during the heaviest scene of the film, one in which the wealthy Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins) speaks in a tone that reminds one of certain current charlatans. “The poor are the poor, and one’s sorry for them – but there it is.” The action takes place in the early 20th century and follows the paths of a lower class family (Basts), and middle class family (Schelegel) and the upper class represented by Hopkins, an entrepreneur who operates corporations in Africa and owns land all over England including a lovely bit of beachfront property called Howard’s End.
The Blu-ray release comes with a thick booklet and a slipcase plus two discs, one with the feature and the other with a wealth of extras. Director James Ivory was American and producer Ismail Merchant was Indian and yet they were able to capture the essence of the literature of British writer E.M. Forster. Extras include commentary by Wade Major and Lael Lowenstein, two film critics that absolutely nail every nuance and symbolic image contained in Howard’s End. There are endless shots of characters through windows. The lighting varies from the cold greys of London to the lush windswept colors of the countryside. New extras include interviews with director Ivory and co-star Vanessa Redgrave. Along with Redgrave the cast includes Helena Bonham Cater, James Wilby, and Emma Thompson, who won the 1993 Oscar for her portrayal of Margaret Schlegel.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer: 30th Anniversary offers a cornucopia of extras along with a 4K scan taken from the original 16mmm negative and presented in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. During its initial release in 1986 Henry made the rounds at film festivals but failed to find a distributor. When the film did find a distribution entity that company relinquished the film because it could not get less than a X-rating.
A great featurette, Henry vs. the MPAA: A Visual History, covers the back-and-forth between the film, the ratings board and the legal maneuverings that resulted in the film getting an R-rating. Other extras include interviews with director John McNaughton both vintage and new.
Henry pushed boundaries for a film of this nature. While there’s plenty of gore, the mood leans more to psychological thriller than the slasher genre. The two killers (Michael Rooker and Tom Towles) share a symbiotic relation as they kill together. When they steal a (then-state of the art) video camera, they incorporate that into their killing spree and then watch the video of their deeds. This sequence anticipates the whole modern spate of found-footage movies.
The deaths seen in Henry were not fantasy murders like in other horror movies of that era like Friday the 13th, et al. Perhaps not oddly the violence on display pales in comparison to modern media like television’s The Walking Dead.
The birth of the modern rock concert film begins with The T.A.M.I. Show, which was also experimental in the sense that it was shot in 1964 on high definition video cameras and released immediately into select theaters. How’s this line-up: Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys (one of the last times Brian Wilson performed live with the group in the 1960s), Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Lesley Gore (at the time the performer with the most number one hits), James Brown and The Rolling Stones.
Early 1966 would see the release of The Big T.N.T. Show, with similar popular groups such as The Byrds, Donovan, The Ike & Tina Turner Revue, Ray Charles, Roger Miller, Bo Diddley, The Ronettes, Petula Clark and The Lovin’ Spoonful. In contrast to songs that we associate with the above performers a stunning cover of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” is performed by Joan Baez with Phil Spector playing piano. David McCallum (television’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) emcees and conducts the backing orchestra.
Shout! Factory releases both of these previously hard to find concert movies in a dual Blu-ray package. Extras include a thick booklet filled with fun facts and commentary by director Steve Binder for The T.A.M.I. Show. For T.N.T. there are new interviews with Pet Clark, Henry Diltz (Modern Jazz Quartet) and John Sebastian.