The Normal Heart (HBO, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD), the made-for-HBO feature based on Larry Kramer’s play and directed for cable by Ryan Murphy, arrives on disc the day after winning the Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie. Kramer wrote the play in 1985, based in part on his own experiences as a gay activist in the early years of the AIDS crisis, and it captures an era when thousands of gay men were dying yet the mainstream media shied from reporting on the plague (as it was called then) and government officials would not even say the name AIDS in public. 30 years out of time, it seems more of a polemic than ever but it also captures the fear and fury of the men in the community facing a crisis that even the government won’t acknowledge.
Mark Ruffalo takes the lead as Ned Weeks, a writer and activist that Kramer based on himself. He’s the rabble rouser of the group that he founds in 1981, a guy so angry and confrontational that he’s finally pushed out. But the internal politics are more about the culture at large—many of the most active members of the group (played by Taylor Kitsch, as the photogenic face of the gay men’s health group, Jim Parsons and Joe Mantello) still haven’t come out in public—and the fears that many have of creating a panic that will turn the public against them. Matt Bomer co-stars as Weeks’ boyfriend, a New York Times reporter who also hasn’t come out, and Julia Roberts is apparently the only doctor in New York City who is concerned with the still-unidentified disease. Most of these characters were based on people Kramer knew, friends and family alike, and some of these characters are dead before the film ends in the year 1985. Just like in real life.
It came to HBO after a successful stage revival but 30 years out of time it plays more like a period piece, removed enough from the immediacy of the crisis to really pour on the sense of outrage and fear, something that the earliest films to confront AIDS could never allow themselves to do. That outrage, and the committed performances of the cast, surely helped this feature earn its Emmy last night.
On Blu-ray and DVD with a nine-minute featurette on author Larry Kramer and the autobiographical roots of the original play. It sheds some interesting perspective on the personal dramas explored here. Also available as a Digital purchase and free for subscribers to HBO via Cable On Demand and HBO Go.
Trust Me (Anchor Bay, DVD) is the second features directed by Clark Gregg, whose profile has risen recently (in well-deserved fashion) thanks to a terrific role in The Avengers and the TV spin-off Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. He also writes and stars in this Hollywood satire as a former child-actor turned failing child-actor agent, a would-be player struggling to hold on to his last client when he stumbles upon a talented young teenage actress, Lydia (Saxon Sharbino, who is quite talented indeed). She’s one of those smart, tough kids who got there the hard way—her alcoholic father (Paul Sparks) has been representing her, and pretty poorly at that, and her mom is simply gone—and Howard (Gregg) has been there himself. He may be a bottom-feeder, as he’s called more than once, and he no longer has the connections or the respect he once had (if he ever did), but he knows what the business does to kids and Lydia brings out his protective side. For a guy who has failed a lot of people, he feels that he has a shot at getting it right for her.
Gregg has a likable screen presence and a lot of friends who show up to help him out: Amanda Peet as the gorgeous neighbor he loves, Felicity Huffman as a high-powered producer, Allison Janney, Molly Shannon, and Sam Rockwell as a fierce rival. And for the first hour the film is quite engaging, a clever satire with a witty script and an interesting take on the culture of child actors in the Hollywood machine. Then Gregg takes a turn into another film entirely, a noir-ish drama that is briefly signaled in the ominous opening flashforward. It doesn’t necessarily negate the story that’s come but it loses the human drama in a thriller contrivance that turns the characters into schemers and patsies.
No supplements. Danny Miller talks to Gregg about Trust Me for Cinephiled here.
Jesse Eisenberg meets his doppelganger in The Double (Magnolia, Blu-ray, DVD), his exact physical double but with an altogether more powerful personality: confident, charismatic, engaging, everything the timid original is not. Directed by Richard Ayoade and inspired by the Dostoyevsky novella, it’s the second film of the year to play with doppelgangers, and the better of the two. Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn and Noah Harris co-star. Read the reviews here.
Third time is not the charm for Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in Blended (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, VOD), a comedy of single parents who, after a blind date, end up at the same family holiday resort with their kids in tow. It scored a 14 on the Tomatometer and didn’t exactly set the box office on fire, but as we know, Adam Sandler still has his fans. The Blu-ray and DVD include a couple of featurettes and deleted scenes. The Blu-ray adds more supplements, none of them particularly enlightening.
Belle (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD) stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a mixed-race woman raised in privilege by her aristocratic great-uncle (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson) in 18th century England, where she has wealth but no social standing or respect. Miranda Richardson, Penelope Wilton and Matthew Goode co-star. With five featurettes.
Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas (Music Box, Blu-ray, DVD), adapted from the Heinrich von Kleist novella, stars the always magnetic Mads Mikkelson as the title character, a merchant who goes all Robin Hood to get justice from a thieving aristocrat in 16th century Germany. Denis Lavant, Bruno Ganz and Sergi Lopez co-star in this French production with an international cast. In French with English subtitles, with interviews with Mads Mikkelson and director Arnaud Des Pallieres and deleted scenes.
A Promise (IFC, DVD), starring Rebecca Hall and Alan Rickman, is the English language debut of French director Patrice Leconte. Based on the novel “Journey into the Past” by Stefan Zweig, it’s a romantic triangle set in early 20th century Germany. No supplements.
Jackpot (Doppelganger, Blu-ray, DVD) is a bloody, blackly-comic caper film from Norway based on a story by Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbo (author of the cult crime import Headhunters). Norwegian and Swedish with English subtitles, with a bonus featurette.
More foreign films on disc: François Ozon’s Young and Beautiful (IFC, DVD), about a teenage call girl (French with English subtitles), and Triad (Well Go, DVD, Digital), a Hong Kong crime drama with Patrick Tam (Chinese with English subtitles).
And finally, let me also draw your attention to President Wolfman (Wild Eye, DVD). Not because I’ve watched it (I haven’t, despite my curiosity) but because it’s a movie on disc called President Wolfman and that makes me happy. Hail to the teeth, baby! Features director commentary (because who doesn’t want to know what was going through his head), bonus short films, outtakes and a music video.
The Two Faces of January (Cable VOD) stars Viggo Mortenson as an American con man in Italy with his young bride (Kirsten Dunst) and Oscar Isaac as the expatriate tour guide who gets pulled into his crimes. Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, who wrote the books that “Strangers on a Train” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley” were based on, it turns a sunny holiday into a dangerous triangle filled with power games and lies. After touring the film festival circuit, it arrives on cable VOD on Thursday, August 28, before it goes to theaters.
Life of Crime (Cable VOD), a comedy with Jennifer Aniston and John Hawkes, will be available to watch at home on Friday, August 29, same days as theaters.
Also arriving on Friday is Moebius (Film Movement, VOD), Kim Ki-Duk’s latest provocation about a vengeful wife who takes revenge on her husband by targeting their son. It’s available on per-per-view and digital VOD via iTunes, Amazon Instant, and other digital providers.
Available before disc: Draft Day (Lionsgate, Cable VOD) on Friday, August 29 (four days before disc) and Brick Mansions (Fox, Digital HD).
Cinemanovels (Monterey, DVD, Digital, VOD)
Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD)
Music From the Big House (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD)
Truth in Numbers? Everything, According to Wikipedia (Kino Lorber, DVD, VOD)
Ghost Bird (Kino Lorber, DVD, VOD)
Same Same But Different (First Run, DVD)
Führer Cult and Megalomania (First Run, DVD)
The Siege of Leningrad (First Run, DVD)
Deadbeat (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital)
Aftermath (Image, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Stream (Cinedigm, DVD, Digital and Cable VOD)
The Possession of Michael King (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD, iTunes)
Cat Run 2 (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Forbidden Girl (Inception, DVD)
Revelation Trail (eOne, DVD)
Blood Glacier (IFC, DVD)
Greencard Warriors (Screen Media, DVD)
Jersey Shore Massacre (Attack, Blu-ray, DVD,VOD)
Sanctuary: Quite a Conundrum (Midnight Releasing, DVD, Digital, VOD)
Circle the Wagen (Brink Vision, DVD)
A River of Skills (A&E, DVD)
My Fair Zombie (Camp Motion Pictures, DVD, VOD)
Closed Circuit Extreme (MVD, DVD)
Adventure Planet (ARC, DVD)
TV on disc:
The Musketeers: Season One (BBC, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD)
Welcome Back, Kotter: The Complete Series (Shout Factory, DVD)
Masterpiece: Breathless (PBS, Blu-ray, DVD)
Elementary: The Second Season (Paramount, DVD)
Sons of Anarchy: Season 6 (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD)
Portlandia: Season Four (VSC, DVD)
Revenge: The Complete Third Season (ABC, Blu-ray, DVD)
Criminal Minds: Season 9 (Paramount, DVD)
Haven: The Complete Fourth Season (eOne, DVD)
Heartland: The Complete Fourth Season (eOne, DVD)
Murder in Suburbia: The Complete Collection (Acorn, DVD)
The Twilight Zone: The Complete 80s Series (RLJ / Image, DVD)
Blandings: Series 2 (Acorn, DVD)
Murder in Suburbia: The Complete Collection (Acorn, DVD)
Inspector Manara: Season 1 (MHz, DVD)
Inspector Manara: Season 2 (MHz, DVD)
Cesare Mori – The Complete Series (MHz, DVD)
Donna Detective: Season 1 (MHz, DVD)
Borsellino: The 57 Days / Giovani Falcone: The Judge (MHz, DVD)
Medieval Lives (Acorn, DVD)
Morbito: The Complete Series (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD)
75 Years of WWII (A&E, DVD)
Classics and Cult:
Queen Margot: 20th Anniversary Director’s Cut (Cohen, Blu-ray, DVD)
All That Jazz (Criterion, Blu-ray+DVD Combo, DVD)
Vengeance is Mine (Criterion, Blu-ray)
The Legend of Hell House (Scream Factory, Blu-ray)
Hell of the Living Dead / Rats: Night of Terror (Blue Underground, Blu-ray)
On the Beach (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Party (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
What’s New Pussycat? (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
Cast a Giant Shadow (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
High School Confidential (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
I’ve Always Loved You (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Western Double Feature: The Hills Run Red / Apache (Shout Factory, DVD)
Gene Autry Movie Collection 7 (Shout Factory, DVD)
The Men From Shiloh: Special Edition (Shout Factory, DVD)
Friendly Fire (1979 TVM) (Scorpion / Kino Lorber, DVD)
The Elephant Man (1982 TVM) (Scorpion / Kino Lorber, DVD)
Detour (Film Chest, DVD)
Fear in the Night (Film Chest, DVD)
Quicksand (Film Chest, DVD)
Aces High (Cheezy Flicks, DVD)