Bullhead, Midsomer Murders, God Bless America
There's quite a bit of mayhem and outright violence in this week's lineup, some ironic, some intense and all potentially disturbing. With imports from Belgium and Britain plus a homegrown black comedy, Blu-ray continues to surprise with its esoteric HD delights.
Bullhead (Drafthouse Films/Image Entertainment)
An Academy Award nominee (Best Foreign Language Film, 2011), the Belgian Bullhead follows its title character, the steroid-addicted Jacky, portrayed by Matthias Schoenaerts in a staggering star turn. Jacky exhibits the mental and physical problems to prove his condition, a cattle farmer by trade but he makes the mistake of cutting a deal with the mob. His life takes a downward spiral, the consequences fraught with murder and other unwelcome confrontations. Masterfully directed by first-timer Michaël R. Roskam, Rundskop (native title) tackles the always-fascinating topic of what it means to be a man, explored with grit, an unflinching eye, and an undercurrent of electric rage.
Roksam's 2005 short film (also featuring Schoenaerts) is included among the extras, along with director commentary, interviews and a "making of." This generous package also arrives with an elaborate booklet introduced by filmmaker Michael Mann, plus a Digital Copy of the movie.
Midsomer Murders, Set 20 (Acorn Media)
Did you know that "English Village Mysteries" was its own sub-genre? And that novelist Caroline Graham is the queen thereof? Since its British television debut in March 1997, Midsomer Murders has grown far beyond her seven original books, and this newest set collects the final investigations of Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles), who turns over his caseload to cousin John (Neil Dudgeon). Four complete TV movies are presented here (in 1080i) on two discs: "Master Class," "The Noble Act," "Not in My Back Yard" and "Fit for Murder."
Although past installments have run on A&E, these cases have never aired in the U.S., making this set quite the coup for fans. A retrospective photo gallery and a nostalgic essay comprise the modest but appropriate bonus content.
God Bless America (Magnet)
Since this will be my last column before we celebrate Independence Day, I thought I'd dedicate some space to a patriotic title... but it turns out that the title is all that's wholesome here. Violent and bound to offend the masses, America takes aim at a generation obsessed with perhaps the lowest form of entertainment: reality television. Joel Murray shines as a decent everyman who, when bad news gives way to even worse news, has nothing left to lose. Fed up and no longer a passive schlimazel, he goes on a mission to eradicate the symptoms of a world gone mad, targeting the self-styled icons of reality TV for assassination.
Dark, opinionated, and certainly not perfect (the first act's setup trumps Act III's payoff), the movie deserves kudos nonetheless for comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, who has embarked upon quite the successful second career as a writer/director. He's a mainstay in the copious extras, which include commentary, interviews, bloopers, a look behind the scenes and quite a bit more.