For the second week in a row, the selection of new movies on disc is mighty slim (what can you do, these are late-winter theatrical releases). But there are still plenty of options; to prep for the forthcoming De Palma documentary, NYC’s new favorite revival house Metrograph is doing a comprehensive Brian De Palma retrospective, so we tracked down some De Palma flicks for those of you who aren’t in the ol’ Tri-State. And on top of all that, there’s a shiny new Blu-ray restoration of a mind-boggling blaxpoitation fave.
Sisters: The best of our streaming trio is also the most decidedly De Palma. This twisted 1973 effort was, in fact, his first stab at the Hitchockian thrillers that would become his legacy; before that he’d mainly dabbled in comedy, though this decidedly self-aware and darkly witty picture certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yet the hallmarks of his style are firmly in place: operatic suspense, ingenious use of split-screen, homages galore (including a score by the great Bernard Hermann), and a delicious sense of a director — and, in many ways, his audience — getting away with something.
Scarface: One of De Palma’s most iconic movies — yet one that took some time to find an audience, its initial 1983 release meeting with mixed reviews and so-so box office. But it became a sensation of the VHS era, where gangster movie lovers (and no shortage of future gangsta rappers) found thrills and poetry in its glorious excesses. It doesn’t always feel like a De Palma picture (it often veers closer to the sensibility of screenwriter Oliver Stone), but it’s a singular piece of work, and its bonkers set pieces continue to amaze.
ON AMAZON PRIME
Mission: Impossible: Twenty years old this very weekend and still De Palma’s biggest box office hit (it’s not even close), his crack at the Tom Cruise superspy series proved (as The Untouchables had a few years earlier) that even when working as a hired hand in the blockbuster machine, De Palma could still infuse a mainstream movie with his distinctive look, style, and feel. Pass on the overheated climax (and its poorly aged effects); this one’s all about the Dutch angles, the crisp compositions, and that silent Langley heist scene, which is still the most memorable action scene in a series stuffed with them.
ON BLU-RAY / DVD/ VOD
Triple 9: If you’re surprised you haven’t heard of a movie with a cast that includes Casey Affleck, Kate Winslet, Chiwitel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, Clifton Collins Jr., Michael K. Williams, Gal Gadot, and Norman Reedus, well, that says less about you than about how little distributors know about releasing a sturdy little B-movie these days. Triple 9‘s pleasures are surface, but they’re honest: a deep bench of fine actors has a great time playing good guys and bad guys (and variations between), while director John Hillcoat (The Proposition, Lawless) bangs out as many high-tension action beats as he can make excuses for. He’s interweaving the urban heist picture and the dirty cop movie, trying for a Michael Mann-Sidney Lumet hybrid; it’s not quite up to those high standards, since the story is old hat and the characters are stock. But he knows how to orchestrate this cast, and the chaos they inhabit. (Includes deleted scenes and featurette.)
The Human Tornado: Even among bad-movie connoisseurs, the oeuvre of Rudy Ray Moore inspires awe and delight — and this, his second “action”/”comedy,” offers up all his leitmotifs: poverty-stricken production values, amateurish camerawork, fiendishly over-the-top acting, arrhythmic editing, scene construction that borders on surrealism, and a bonkers insistence o frequently displaying his nude form. But it certainly isn’t dull, thanks to the rhyming couplets, general incompetence, and inescapable sleaze; you absolutely can’t take your eyes off it, up to and including the “we shot it all, we’re using it all” climax, where the punches are ineptly pulled and Moore’s staggeringly unathletic martial arts moves are masked (badly) by Keystone-style sped-up cameras. The good folks at Vinegar Syndrome give it a new, widescreen 2K restoration (a huge improvement over the previous, full-frame DVD); it’s part of their new series of Moore releases – which will, yes, include Avenging Disco Godfather — and God bless them for it. (Includes audio commentary, featurette, interviews, trailers, and radio spot.)