The Hobbit

This Week in Home Video: The Hobbit, This is 40, Nanook of the North and Bigfoot in Toronto

This Week in Home Video previews all the latest Blu-ray, DVD and on-demand titles hitting the street this week, plus lost gems, crazed Cancon, outrageous cult titles and the best places to rent or buy movies in Toronto.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

The delayed-by-a-decade Lord of the Rings victory lap looks unsurprisingly sublime in home friendly HD, without any of the confusing and eye traumatic 48 fps malarkey that distracted too many people during its theatrical run last year. Bilbo Baggins' trilogy sprawling quest is off to a mighty start here, with all the clarity and hilarity of hallucinogenic mushrooms but none of the scary pitfalls. Although, minor quibble, one does wonder why exactly the Trolls speak in a Ray Winstone-like Sarf London patois.

Since there will no doubt be super-sized expanded editions released in the future, this place holder release still features impressive bonus material, including the always insightful Peter Jackson production diaries, vlogs and video game trailers. Most exiting is a password which will allow you to join in the online premiere of a "live worldwide sneak peek of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" with Jackson himself, but move fast as the event is scheduled for March 24!

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

Zero Dark Thirty (eOne Films)

Katherine Bigelow's non-partisan hi-tech valentine to the art of female intuition aided by superior firepower managed to whip both right and left-wing punditry into a pants wetting tizzy, quite a noble accomplishment. The film's ice cold structure owes more to the studied and talky sub-genre of police procedural, while Bieglow's camera probes the human anthill of both CIA and Al Queda networks before a rapturous and therapeutic finale featuring (SPOILER ALERT) kitted out S.E.A.Ls riddling the spectral corpse of Usama Bin Laden full of silent bullets. Does it really matter if it went down exactly like this? Extras include a look at how Bin Laden's terrorist compound was lovingly reconstructed from varied eye witness sources, and a profile of the film's knockout MVP Jessica Chastain.

Nanook of the North/The Wedding of Palo (Flicker Alley)
This beautiful 1922 "savage ethnographic" silent film is quite correctly regarded as the very first feature length documentary, staged sequences et al. Robert Flaherty famously followed the life of Inuit Nanook and his family as they carved out a life in the harsh Canadian Arctic. As they did so beautifully with Méliès' Trip to the Moon, the A/V boffins at Flicker Alley have re-mastered Nanook in high definition, and have also included a wealth of fascinating extra material - short films including The Wedding of Palo (1934), Dwellings of the Far North (1928), Arctic Hunt (1913), Eskimo Hunters of Northwest Alaska (1949), Face of the High Artic (1959) and Nanook Revisited, which looks at how Inuit life has changed in the intervening decades since Flaherty documented Nanook.

It also comes with a 32-page booklet features exerpcts from Flaherty's 1924 book "My Eskimo Friends" and a new essay from noted historian Lawrence Millman. Nanook of the North was local film buff and TVOntario maestro Elwy Yost's favourite film, and he ran it on what seemed like a loop on Saturday Night at the Movies and Magic Shadows. He sure would he have loved this Blu-ray release!

Les Misérables (Universal)

Intoxicating Oscar bait framed by deft and off-kilter visuals, amusing performances, lovely production work and a leather bound old-school quality that thankfully still has a place in trashy modern Hollywood. Extras include "The Stars of Les Misérables", "Creating the Perfect Paris", "The Original Masterwork: Victor Hugo's Les Misérables", and a film-school worthy running commentary from toffee voiced director Tom Hooper; Blu-ray only extras include "Battle at the Barricade", "The West End Connection" and "Les Misérables on Location", and "Les Misérables Singing Live" which illustrates the extreme difficulty of singing live in front of a gargantuan film crew.

This is 40 (Universal)

Kind of sort of like the visual equivalent of a 2 hour 30 minute jam band session by Judd Apatow's brand of comedy, this episodic catalogue of First World Problems has its moments, both comical and sentimental, but could also be fairly accused of over staying its welcome, being too coy by half, and wasting an inordinate amount of screen time talking about busted old stuff, like Lost and Facebook (thanks, Gramps!). Great line-up of extras include both theatrical and unrated versions, deleted scenes, a feature length commentary from the chef Judd Apatow, and an obligatory gag reel which, shock horror, isn't all that different from the final cut.

Timerider (Shout! Factory)

Wacky 1980's time-travel hijinks from the decidedly un-Back to the Future school of temporal displacement, which is more of an excuse to throw genre veteran Fred Ward into a grizzled Western with shouty character actors like L.Q Jones, Ed Lauter, Richard Masur, Macon McCalman and Peter Coyote. Adoringly rescued from the black hole of video store amnesia by the always on-point Shout Factory, this Blu-ray easily takes the title as best time travel themed release of 2013 (so far).

Badlands (The Criterion Collection)

Visual demi-God Terrence Malik started his revered career with this emotionally detached adaptation of the Charles Starkweather killing spree in the late 1950s. Great 70's vibes and cast including Martin Sheen, Warren Oates and a young Sissy Spacek deliver a true cult art house classic.

Miles Davis with Quincy Jones & the Gil Evans Orchestra Live at Montreux (Eagle Rock Entertainment)

Totally legendary and essential recording made at the 1991 Montreux Jazz festival. Despite his anti-nostalgia, Davis was persuaded by Quincy Jones and Claude Nobs to take part in this tribute to his great friend Gil Evans, who had passed away in 1988. Performed just a few months before of his death, this session is a fitting tribute to both Miles Davis and Gil Evans.

STILL FRESH

BIGFOOT AT THE BLACK MUSEUM

The Black Museum is a limited engagement of horror lectures and screenings, a place for horror professionals of all kinds to share their experience, knowledge and love of the genre.
This week's lecture is entitled Primate Panic: Bigfoot on Film 1967-1980 and comes courtesy of curator and Canuxploitation! CEO Paul Corupe, who shares with us The Black Museum's thoughts on the best Bigfoot movies currently available on DVD.

Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

The granddaddy of all Bigfoot movies and the guaranteed "you know what movie scared me when I was a kid?" answer for an entire generation, Legend of Boggy Creek is gold-plated essential viewing for armchair cryptozoologists. Texas filmmaker Charles B. Pierce built his career on this groundbreaking docudrama-horror hybrid, featuring creepy reenactments, interviews and sparse narrative elements that delve into the mystery of the Fouke Monster, a legendary Bigfoot-like monster rumoured to live in the backwoods of Arkansas. A charming low budget production featuring real Boggy Creek locals in front of (and in some cases behind) the camera, Legend of Boggy Creek made convincing use of its distinct regional flavour and its ripped-from-the-headlines hucksterism to become a huge drive-in hit, although today it's only available for home viewing on various DVDs of questionable legality.

Mysterious Monsters (1974)

Veins pop out of host/narrator/Mission Impossible alumnus Peter Graves' angry face as he confronts skeptical scientists in this laughably manipulative--but still undeniably fun--"documentary". Light on science but big on speculation, Mysterious Monsters is pretty certain that Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster actually exist, thank you very much. Enjoy the DVD's battered print as the usual evidence is trotted out, including plaster casts, blurry photos, and even the infamous Gimli-Patterson Bigfoot footage as Graves poses bizarre non-questions like, "now that we've established that Bigfoot exists, why do scientists continue to ignore this audio tape recording of a scary howling?"

Like a feature-length version of '70s television staple In Search Of..., Mysterious Monsters originally aired on TV but was later picked up for theatrical exhibition by Sunn Classic Pictures, who also released paranormal exposes of everything from ancient astronauts to UFOs and the Bermuda Triangle, only with less antagonistic certainty.

Snowbeast (1977)

Easy to find in public domain DVD sets, this surprisingly decent NBC movie-of-the-week is an unabashed Jaws rip-off that tries to compensate for a lack of blood with some standard issue 1970s melodrama. This time, square-jawed 1970s heroes Clint Walker and Bo Svenson square off against a rampaging, hungry Yeti who is totally ruining everyone's fun at a winter carnival. As more and more resort guests go missing, Bo must get over his marriage breakdown with his unfaithful wife (the always lovely Yvette Mimieux) to take on the furry invader. Snowbeast's picturesque snowy setting, complete with gratuitous snowmobile footage, are decent distractions until the Yeti--who only appears in quick glimpses--finally sneaks into the resort and crashes the world's most boring party.

Sasquatch: Legend of Bigfoot (1978)

This film, which we'll be screening to kick off the second season of our lecture series, The Black Museum, is actually my favourite Bigfoot film available on DVD. It just edges out Boggy Creek as a pitch-perfect mix of reality and Hollywood embellishment. Not to be confused with the inferior stock-footage heavy Legend of Bigfoot (1974), this tale, which follows a research party that ventures into the wilds of B.C. on Bigfoot's trail, offers some hard evidence up front but is mostly a fictional feature shot in documentary style. Dramatic enactments of real cryptic encounters tide viewers over until the riveting conclusion, with features some of the most unsettling scenes in Sasquatch cinema, as shadowy figures invade the hunters' base camp at twilight. Your long weekend jaunts to Algonquin will never be the same!

Night of the Demon (1980)

From deep woods cipher to unstoppable entrail-shredding sex criminal, Night of the Demon is the Bigfoot film to watch if subtlety and nuance aren't really your bag. From the very first image of a huge footprint slowly filling with blood, it's obvious that this Sasquatch may have picked up some pointers while lurking in the woods around Camp Crystal Lake. This time, yet another Bigfoot search party ends up stumbling not only on their hairy prey, but also the girl that he raped and impregnated. While the team assembles more clues about the fate of their offspring, an oversize deadbeat dad is busy in the forest nonchalantly pushing campers faces into hot stoves, stabbing girl guides and castrating truckers. It's enough to make George A. Romero queasy. Missing on DVD for years, Night of the Demon was recently re-released by grindhouse specialists Code Red to give viewers a peak at the most mean-spirited breed of this gentle giant--one that would have certainly turned made the Boggy Creeks run red.

The Black Museum presents - Primate Panic: Bigfoot on Film 1967-1980
March 21, 2013 at 8pm
Big Picture, 1035 Gerrard Steet East, Toronto
Cost: $12 Advance, $15 at the door

CONTEST

WIN THE HOBBIT ON BLU-RAY!

The kind folks at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment have provided us with two copies of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on Blu-ray to give away. To enter, simply add a comment to this post listing your favourite Middle Earth character (feel free to be creative, as we're not looking for one answer). Please leave a valid email address in the comments field so that we can contact the winners.

Fine print:
You must be a Toronto-area resident to win. Only one comment and answer per person. If you include multiple answers or post multiple comments you will be disqualified.


Join the conversation Load comments

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