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Blu-ray slight return: Heist edition

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It may be so cold that the dogs are sticking to the sidewalk, but the Blu-ray/DVD landscape is hot. Consider this array of current releases, many of them foreign films that should be on a must see list.

Torrente 4: Lethal Crisis (Dopplegänger, 12/17/13) mixes sophisticated spy genre antics with lowbrow and often gross humor. The Torrente series is the brainchild of triple threat (writer/director/actor) Spanish comedian Santiago Segura who uses his rotund physical appearance to humorous effect. In the fourth installment of this hit franchise Torrente finds himself in prison. Torrente keeps the politically incorrect and racist jokes coming and in doing so lampoons those who would actually spout the same sentiments.

Torrente 4 is the highest grossing film in Spain to date; the first installment features Javier Bardem in an uncredited cameo. Dopplegänger is the genre division of Music Box films and also has a series called The Torrente Package with all four films.

Rewind This! (1/14, FilmBuff) chronicles the history of VHS tape. This doc is a loving tribute to the consumer format that coined phrases like “fast-forward” and “direct to video.” Even when the film gets dorky, and it does, the information compels you to watch and contrast to how we view media today. Interviewees include Lloyd Kaufman and Atom Egoyan, in addition to several video geeks.

We Are What We Are (Entertainment One, 1/7) delivers horror thrills in an appropriately gory manner. Story concerns a family that tortures and eventually eats its prisoners, a ceremonious process that has been passed down through generations. When flood waters undercover bones long ago buried, a local resident (whose family members were victims) starts his own investigation. Bill Sage, Ambyr Childers, Julie Garner, Michael Parks and Kelly McGillis star.

Rififi (Criterion Collection, 1/14) is simply the crown jewel of heist movies. This 1955 French import has been digitally restored at 2K resolution, and presented in its release aspect ratio of 1.37:1; the case contains both a Blu-ray and DVD of the film.

Director Jules Dassin was a victim of the Hollywood Blacklist and found himself in France helming what would become the poster child of the robbery genre. Recruiting a top-notch cast that includes veteran French actor Jean Servais, Dassin eventually cast himself as one of the robbers when another cast member dropped out. Extras include a lengthy interview with Dassin that was filmed in 2000.

Four master criminals, some of whom have served time, plot to steal valuable jewels from a high-end retail store. The mastery of Rififi is how Dassin lets the robbery sequence unfold without dialogue. Once the heist is accomplished things start to go wrong with another group of mobsters intent on grabbing the goods. Rififi explores the backstories of its characters. Some are family men; some are ruthless thugs. All live with a code of thief’s honor.

- Michael Bergeron

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