“The Wild Life” (1984, Kino Lorber) Wasted days and wasted nights with three boys (Eric Stoltz, Chris Penn, and Ilan-Mitchell Smith) navigating the suburban jungles of Los Angeles. Minor retread of co-director-writer-producer Cameron Crowe and co-director Art Linson‘s “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” with Penn as an amusing ersatz Spicoli; it’s best enjoyed as a series of vignettes, some more clever than others, and for spotting ’80s faves (Smith, Lea Thompson, Sherilyn Fenn, Jenny Wright), character players (Rick Moranis, Michael Bowen, Robert Ridgely) and eclectic cameos (Dick Rude, Ronnie Wood, Lee Ving, Nancy Wilson) in the cast (as well as glimpses of Reagan-era Valley spots like Burbank’s Marlindo Lanes and the Equestre Inn) Devotees should note that the original soundtrack, featuring two cuts by Eddie Van Halen and tracks by Prince, Madonna, the Three O’Clock, and Louise Goffin and Charlotte Caffey, is featured on the disc (it had been removed for rights issues from TV broadcasts and previous DVD releases). Kino’s Blu-ray includes smart/funny commentary by the late Mike McPadden and author/DJ/publisher Ian Christie, an interview with Smith, and various promo spots.
“Jeremy” (1973, Fun City Editions) The arc of a romantic connection, tentatively bridged between smart but painfully shy music student Robby Benson and ballerina-in-training Glynnis O’Connor, is traced through small but achingly emotional gestures. A favorite among viewers of a certain age, who helped to mint Benson as a major teen star of the period, “Jeremy” is slight and sweet, and notable more for writer-director Arthur Barron‘s hand-held, 16mm aesthetic (Barron was a documentarian and applies that approach here, which lends a lot of verisimilitude to the story) and a script which focuses on the fine-grain moments – working up the nerve to make that first call – rather than sweeping plot points. The Blu-ray by new imprint Fun City Editions features a 2K restoration and lengthy interview with Benson and O’Connor, as well as very thoughtful commentary by Mike McPadden and “Diabolique’s” Kat Ellinger; a “Trailers from Hell” edition with Larry Karaszewski and essay by filmmaker Chris O’Neill round up this well-packaged set.
“The Projectionist” (2019, Kino Lorber) Wistful remember-when documentary by Abel Ferrara which ostensibly concerns his childhood friend, movie theater owner Nicolas Nicolaou, but instead blossoms into a reverie on the state of New York moviegoing days gone by.Nicolaou is an ideal subject – an immigrant from Cyprus who carved out his own corner of New York in the moviehouse business and watched it change from the bad old days of the 1970s to a multipiex-dominated industry that overshadowed his modest revival houses – and his banter with Ferrara is equal parts bluster and mournful reminiscence. Ferrara does well to illustrate his friend’s recollections with clips and footage of films and period NYC, especially the “Deuce” era of grindhouse screenings; “The Projectionist” might have benefited from a judicious trimming, especially when Ferrara banters with Nicolau’s patrons, but Nicolau is an engaging speaker, and his stories will undoubtedly stir most viewers’ own recollections of movie theaters gone by. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray includes an appealing short, “Cinevangelist” (2018) by the label’s publicity director, Matt Barry; his subject, George Figgs – a onetime member of John Waters’ Dreamland repertory and key figure in some of the best East Coast revival houses, including Baltimore’s Orpheum and the Orson Welles in Boston (which I’m old enough to recall attending) – is an equally engaging advocate for moviehouses past and present, which Barry summarizes as well as Ferrara but in half the time.
“The Killing Floor” (1984, Film Movement) Black Southerners Damien Leake and Ernest Rayford join the thousands of fellow sharecroppers and European immigrants who flooded Chicago and other cities to take industrial jobs vacated by white men fighting in World War I. There, they discover opportunities and complications, namely through unionizing efforts, as well as the institutional racism they endured in their home states. Pilot for a proposed series about American workers which aired as part of PBS’s consistently fine “American Playhouse” series is top-notch in every way, from a stellar cast that includes Moses Gunn and Mary Alice to direction by actor Bill Duke, an underrated but talented filmmaker. It also offers a measured perspective on unions – a timely issue with the PRO Act and other factors in play as you read this – which is impressive, given that several unions underwrote this production; the more significant takeaway is the struggle faced by workers of all colors. Film Movement’s Blu-ray is impressively appointed, offering interviews with Duke, Leake, producer Elsa Rassbach and other members of the cast and crew, as well as two essays on the Black experience in Chicago during the movie’s time frame.
“Ivans xtc.” (2000, Arrow Video) The death of a high-powered Hollywood agent (Danny Huston) leads to a reflection on both his reputation (bad) and his life (complicated). Ambitious indie drama by Bernard Rose (“Candyman,” “Immortal Beloved”) is allegedly based in equal parts on Leo Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Illyich” and the downward spiral of CAA agent Jay Moloney, which made the film persona non grata for funding and required Rose to shoot it on hi-def video. That aesthetic lends documentary gravitas to Huston’s car wreck existence, and allows the ruminations by the people in his orbit – movie star Peter Weller, wife Lisa Enos (also the film’s co/writer and co/producer) – to play as talking head interviews. The takeaway is that appearing to have it all is in no way an indication of personal or professional satisfaction, which may seem like a foregone conclusion, but given the century-plus between the film’s two influences, appears to be a lesson worth repeating. Arrow’s Blu-ray offers both two theatrical cuts (Rose’s and the producer) as well an extended producer’s cut, commentary by Enos, who’s also featured in interviews alongside Rose, Huston, Weller, and others; outtakes and a making-of doc by Enos round out the disc.