Seven Psychopaths, Jack & Diane, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - Part 2
When character eclipses plot, a movie can sometimes feel indulgent and pretentious, but that is certainly not the case with the delicious Seven Psychopaths. And in a cinematic world where the romance genre has already given way to countless stories of young love and more than a few same-sex relationships, where can they take us next? Check out the unique Jack & Diane for the answer. Last up, Warner Premiere has dropped that long-awaited other shoe, with the complex and resonant conclusion to what might be the greatest comic book ever written.
Seven Psychopaths (Sony Pictures)
I'm fairly certain that, had I been given the opportunity to write this column two-and-a-half years ago, I would have featured writer/director Martin McDonagh's Oscar-nominated previous effort, In Bruges. For his second film, Seven Psychopaths, he leaves the shadowy world of professional hitmen behind to instead focus on screenwriters, actors, gangsters and other crazy people. So when a prized Shih Tzu is dognapped and its homicidal owner (Woody Harrelson) declares war on those responsible, it's just the story fodder that down-on-his-luck screen scribe Marty (Colin Farrell, an In Bruges alumnus) has been dreaming of. It's a bloody, foul-mouthed, decidedly adult story, one driven by some of the most colorful characters and underrated performances of last year.
For the Blu-ray edition, we're given a surprisingly shallow array of featurettes, frankly, fluffier and briefer than these things usually are. Only these, a pair of marginally relevant trailers for other titles, and UltraViolet copy via a unique printed code are included.
Jack & Diane (Magnolia)
Edgy and inspired as too few movies are these days, Jack & Diane follows two young girls in love. Theirs is a passionate and fast-paced affair, a combination which can all-too-often lead to heartache. But when tomboy Jack (Riley Keough) learns that irresistibly innocent Diane (Juno Temple) will soon be leaving town without her, don't expect the usual tears, shouting, and demands of "I want my shit back." Instead, Diane's runaway emotions begin to manifest themselves as a hideous and violent beast that takes over her body in strange and graphic detail. Is the symbolism here a little heavy-handed? Yes, at times, and this is not a perfect film, but kudos to writer/director Bradley Rust Gray for tackling a subject that most filmmakers would shy away from, and for doing so in an unexpected fashion.
That being said, a full running commentary might have gone a long way to explain some of his artistic choices, but in its place we are given two neatly packaged behind-the-scenes programs, one centered on the special effects, which are actually quite impressive.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - Part 2 (Warner Premiere)
Chrisses Nolan and Bale continue to hog the glorymost recently on Blu-rayfor their triumphant tale of Batman's final days in the cape and cowl, but where would they be without Frank Miller's graphic novel exploration of remarkably similar material in The Dark Knight Returns? In this second half of that epic event, animated for its direct-to-video debut, Bats (voiced by Peter Weller) goes toe-to-toe with his two greatest nemeses: a crazier-than-ever Joker LOST's Michael Emerson) and that goody-goody Superman (Mark Valley). In both of these classic battles we witness the true essence of the "dark" hero: a grim, solitary man of justice who uses evil to punish evil. And while old age might have robbed him of some of the spring in his step, it has also made him even more of a badass.
Featurettes highlight the Superman/Batman conflict as well as the history of the DC Universe's nuttiest fruitcake, The Joker. There's also a remarkably rich 44-minute documentary about the process of adapting these final chapters, an absolute must-watch-for fans.