By Chris Azzopardi | Q Syndicate
The intention of Harmony Korine’s unsettling spring break dramatization – as discussed during the disc’s interview with the director – was to create a surreal cinematic experience with the same hypnotically wormy sensation of a pop song. Something you play over and over in your head. Something you never forget. The entire film, then, is the hook, and there’s no shaking the drugging, boozing, hyper-violent debauchery these four girls gets mixed up in while vacationing. Not only are images and sounds looped for mind takeover effect, but also, “Spring Breakers” is ridiculous. Highly and awesomely amusing, but ridiculous. James Franco totally makes the movie as a delusional gangsta named Alien; he’s super proud of all his sheeyit and considers Britney Spears one of the greatest pop stars to walk the earth (of course he does). His scene at the piano, where he serenades his chickadees with “somethin’ inspirin’” (see: Spears’ “Everytime”), is classic kitsch. Extras include a three-part doc, outtakes from the priceless Franco monologue and a single deleted scene in which the girls make a chubby nerd get naked at gunpoint.
The relevance of famed ball player Jackie Robinson rings true today as prejudicial injustices persist. But if there’s anything to gain from Robinson’s story of breaking color barriers, it’s this: hope. The handsomely filmed biopic “42” doesn’t go deep enough (we’re left with a perfect heroic figure that’s just too perfect), but it’s a feel-good film that’s hard not to feel good about whenever Robinson (newcomer Chadwick Boseman) uses his badass baseball playing to silence the haters and close racial gaps. Boseman hits a homerun in the role, displaying the tenaciousness and believability of a baseball great. But as the gruff Brooklyn Dodgers exec Branch Rickey, Harrison Ford plays too close to sports-drama cliché. Also: Look out for “Grey’s Anatomy” gay T.R. Knight as the team’s publicist. “42” includes a couple short making-ofs – one on the green screen used to create the baseball field – and how Jackie Robinson helped integrate not just baseball, but the world.
For all the obvious Mark Twain-ness of “Mud,” director Jeff Nichols’ coming-of-age triumph stands on its own as a poignant piece of literary cinema. Ellis (standout Tye Sheridan) and his buddy Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) discover a fugitive, Mud (Matthew McConaughey, continuing his acting hot streak), living in a boat hung up in the trees. Longtime bayou dweller Tom Blankenship (Sam Shepard) cautions the teens about the runaway, telling them to keep their distance, but Ellis does just the opposite. In the midst of his parents’ separation (Sarah Paulson plays the mother), Ellis finds a silver lining in Mud’s romanticized version of love – the happy ending he wants not just for Mud, but also for himself – and assists in reuniting him with his true love (Reese Witherspoon). After Nichols’ frantic modern-day allegory “Take Shelter,” the first-rate filmmaker demonstrates no sign of waning with “Mud.” It’s a great American masterpiece. Nichols discusses his personal relationship with the film during the extras, which also includes a feature on the Arkansas shoot.
A ’90s pinnacle, timeless suburban drama “The Ice Storm” – debuting on Criterion Blu-ray – was one of Oscar-winning filmmaker Ang Lee’s first motion-picture triumphs. Before award champs “Brokeback Mountain” and “Life of Pi,” Lee directed a distinguished ensemble of established Hollywood A-listers (Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline and Joan Allen) and young wannabes (Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes, Christina Ricci and Elijah Wood) in this rich, moving and darkly comical story of escapism set during the early Nixon-era ’70s. Political turmoil looms over connection seekers, where people have affairs with their neighbors and adolescents experiment. Lee’s commentary from the 2007 DVD is included, along with cast interviews and a chat with novelist Rick Moody.
In Derek Cianfrance’s ambitious follow-up to “Blue Valentine,” it’s not just Ryan Gosling’s bare chest causing those heart palpitations. A harrowing narrative spanning 15 years, it’s a tense sketch of fathers, sons and their unbreakable bonds, where choices are made and unfavorable consequences result. Gosling, a low-income dad who robs banks to provide for his kid, continues to forge complicated roles and excel at them; Bradley Cooper, as a cop, makes you forget “The Hangover Part III.” It’s a gripping, emotionally cogent saga slighting, unfortunately, some of the nuance that made “Valentine” the better film. The extras: 10 minutes of bonus scenes, a director commentary and a brief look behind the scenes.
A mood movie, “Stoker” isn’t so much about plot – there’s not much of one – as it is about feeling. And fine, because South Korean director Park Chan-wook effectively captures the feverish eeriness of a family’s bizarre dynamic when an “uncle” visits with unclear motives and a sensual desire for his shy niece. Matthew Goode, known best as Colin Firth’s lover in “A Single Man,” is wickedly potent as the enigmatic Charles, whose lurid relationship with India (Mia Wasikowska of “The Kids Are All Right” haunts in the role) becomes something almost incestuous (their sexually charged duet at the piano will creep you the hell out). Her mother (Nicole Kidman) is stuck in the middle. It’s an intoxicatingly and stylishly trippy art piece. Just some EPK featurettes and a 27-minute making-of round out the set.
Until this Halle Berry potboiler goofily derails into the same twisted horror of “The Silence of the Lambs,” it actually maintains enough of its own nail-biting chills to keep from being just another girl-in-peril rehash. Berry (in poodle hair) is Jordan Turner, a 911 dispatcher whose mistake costs her a young woman’s life; years later, when faced with the kidnapping of Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin), she’ll do anything – even risk her own life – to not let that happen again. The film gets batty in the end, with camp, cheese and the “it’s already done” zinger encapsulating a girl-power finish, but hey, that’s part of its stupid charm. An alternate ending lacking any of that awesome ridiculousness is included.
—Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at chris-azzopardi.com.