Something Wild (Blu-ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES B-
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 7
(OUT OF 10)
This Jonathan Demme film came out in 1986, the year I graduated from high school. I hadn't seen it since then, and I remembered it as being far more shocking. Before the likes of Quentin Tarantino started tearing things up, Something Wild was quite a shocker, I guess. You might even say it was a pioneering film.
This got Demme back on track after the disappointment of Swing Shift. (He would, of course, go on to direct such classics as The Silence of the Lambs.) Jeff Daniels stars as a tense business type who meets up with a spontaneous, freewheeling woman (Melanie Griffith) who takes him on a wild weekend adventure.
Ray Liotta, then a newcomer, played ex-boyfriend Ray, a role that is still among his best. Daniels, coming off his excellent turn in The Purple Rose of Cairo, certainly hit his peak as a leading man in this one. As for Griffith, sadly, she would never be this good again. (Don't tell me her work in Working Girl was better than her turn here.)
Demme infuses the soundtrack with some good tunes from the likes of David Byrne and the Fine Young Cannibals, and gets some good friends (John Waters, John Sayles) to do cameos. Demme regulars like Charles Napier (famously disemboweled in Lambs) also show up for a little screen time.
SPECIAL FEATURES: This one is kind of sparse for a Criterion release. While the interview with Jonathan Demme is a good feature, and the booklet is a fun read, you get little else.
Blue Valentine (Blu-ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES A-
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 9
(OUT OF 10)
Man, this film gets more devastating with each viewing. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams have created one of the saddest, most heartbreaking and—unfortunately—most realistic couples I've ever seen in a movie.
Derek Cianfrance cooked up his tragic divorce story for many years before cameras finally rolled on the destruction of Dean and Cindy (Gosling and Williams). Filmed in two separate parts that are intercut masterfully by Cianfrance, we see the final days of Dean and Cindy's relationship, along with their hopeful and optimistic beginnings.
The results are unflinchingly honest, and sometimes very hard to watch. Ironically, the film's happy moments between Dean and Cindy (including Dean's charming ukulele serenade on their first date) are often the hardest to watch. It's difficult to see them in happy mode knowing that bad stuff is just around the cinematic bend.
Williams pulled down an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Cindy, a much-deserved nod for a very brave actress. It's a bit criminal that Gosling didn't receive the same honors. His Dean is tragic; he's a nice guy overall, but he has some brutal flaws.
I imagine that when people see this one at Best Buy or offered up on Netflix, some might jump on it, thinking it's a beautiful romance featuring two marquee stars. But consider yourself warned: This one is not for the faint of heart, and if you are looking for a good date movie, this should probably be avoided.
Let it be said that with this movie and The Notebook, Gosling is carving out a name for himself as King of the Tear-Jerkers.
SPECIAL FEATURES: This package includes an excellent commentary from Cianfrance and co-editor Jim Helton, which reveals much about the making of the movie. Cianfrance went to extremes to make the film feel organic, requiring his stars to stay apart until they started filming the courtship scenes. When those were done, they switched into "final days" mode, where they even stayed in a house together with the young actress who plays their daughter. Cianfrance notes that it was the early oral-sex scene that got him into trouble with the MPAA (the film initially received an NC-17), and that a producer nearly rushed in and ruined the take where Gosling scaled a fence on a Manhattan bridge. You also get some deleted scenes, including a rather gnarly one in which Gosling induces vomiting—and tries to do the same for Williams. There's a home video made by Gosling and Williams when they were living in the house, and a very good making-of documentary. This is a great Blu-ray.
The Dilemma (Blu-ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES C
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 4
(OUT OF 10)
Ron Howard's attempt to lighten up his career hits a speed bump, despite a capable cast, including Vince Vaughn, Kevin James and Winona Ryder.
On one hand, the movie's attempts at humor are stale, and the infidelity subplot is just a bummer and a half. On the other hand, Vaughn is fun when the material suits him (and most of this material does not), while Ryder exhibits an effective nastiness. The movie is just off balance and doesn't work in the end. Kevin James was better on TV.
SPECIAL FEATURES: You get some deleted scenes and an alternate ending.