The first two subjects from David Lynch’s short-form, 121-part Interview Project series, 64-year-old Jess and 54-year-old Kingman, Arizona resident Tommie, are online and available for viewing, and they both look a bit like crazy prospectors, which I suppose is a casualty of the road trip production starting west and moving east. Though only three minutes apiece, there’s some real, honest heartbreak here (“I ain’t proud of nothin’ except being alive,” says Jess), a reminder of just how hard a series of knocks life can deliver, especially to the young. There’s also a revelation totally deserving of the adjective “Lynchian.” Because, you see, it seems parolee Tommie is separated from his girlfriend for helping her bury a man without a permit.
Through almost sheer, Herculean personal effort, Ryan Reynolds elevated the original Van Wilder into something moderately funny and attractive, despite the presence of Tara Reid; its spin-off sequel, Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj, took the anarchic collegiate party-planning overseas, focusing on Kal Penn’s character, Wilder’s protégé-turned-playa. It was a down-market blend of pretty much exactly the sort of set
piece comedy and very occasional flashing of boobs that one would expect, and I don’t remember it doing well enough either in theaters (where it received an abortive release) or on DVD to give anyone the idea that another movie was in high demand.
Yet the name still has some cachet, I guess. So that leaves us with the trailer for the direct-to-DVD prequel, Van Wilder: Freshman Year, starring the improbably eyebrowed Jonathan Bennett (Mean Girls) and Kristin Cavallari. Flatly scripted, unimaginatively staged and weirdly framed/edited (though perhaps to cut around audience-pleasing nudity?), this clip really does nothing except make one pine for the original, and appreciate Reynolds even more. If it delivers on the baser elements its base desires, it could prove tolerable. But there isn’t much manifested evidence of cleverness and, you know, we don’t even seem to find out why Van first wears the mask, or kills his sister, or… oh, sorry, wrong prequel. Bennett (above left) does seem to be having a go at channeling Reynolds’ vocal rhythms, though. That might either work, or become annoying in fairly short order. Van Wilder: Freshman Year hits DVD on July 14.
Before filmmaker David Cronenberg’s fascination with the intersection of the biological and mechanical became more fully realized in works like Scanners, Videodrome, The Fly and eXistenZ, he directed this wild 1979 racing flick, set in the gritty world of top-fuel dragsters. Lonnie “Lucky Man” Johnson (William Smith) is a racing circuit pin-up star who sells lots of motor oil for sponsor FastCo. When his car suffers an explosion that upsets the timetable of upcoming races, marketing guru Phil Adamson (John Saxon) moves him to another car, setting off a chain of events that prompts Johnson to start questioning the company’s motives, and taking a more active role in his own professional future. Naturally, this rubs some folks the wrong way.
Cronenberg made Fast Company in between horror hits Rabid and The Brood, and there seems to be a base-level delight in the filmmaking here, even if the execution — functional, but hardly visionary — doesn’t necessarily seem to augur greatness. Genre-bound through and through, with some rote dialogue, trashy subplots and boilerplate corporate villainy, this isn’t the movie for fans only of Naked Lunch or Cronenberg’s more envelope-pushing films. Still, it’s interesting to see Cronenberg work in a more streamlined fashion, and Fast Company also serves as the last film of erstwhile Playboy model and drive-in goddess Claudia Jennings, who would die in a tragic car crash after the movie’s completion.
Housed in a regular Blu-ray snap-shut case, Fast Company is presented here in 1.85:1 widescreen in stunning 1080p HD
resolution on a 50GB dual layer disc, with three audio options — English 7.1 DTS-HD, English 7.1
Dolby True HD and English 5.1 Dolby digital surround EX — as well as optional English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles. A thoughtful feature-length audio commentary track from Cronenberg anchors the bonus materials. Also included is the movie’s theatrical trailer, interviews with Smith and Saxon from Inside the Actor’s Studio, an interview with director of photography Mark Irwin, and — perhaps most pleasantly of all — two hour-long short films, Stereo and Crimes of the Future, that are perhaps much more indicative of the future direction of Cronenberg’s work. It’s worth noting, too, that the disc is also enabled for D-Box motion control systems, for those with that capability. To purchase the Blu-ray via Amazon, click here. B- (Movie) A- (Disc)
Erotic obsession, dark comedy and a pinch of crime thriller get whipped up and served in marginally titilating fashion in the awkard, very literally titled Eastern import Man, Woman and the Wall, which puts modern sexual fixation under the microscope in a manner out of step with much of contemporary Asian cinema.
When young magazine reporter Ryo (Keita Ohno) moves into a new apartment building, he’s greeted by the passionate sounds of his astonishingly beautiful neighbor Satsuki (Sola Aoi). Realizing the wall dividing their two apartments is paper thin, the captivated Ryo begins to eavesdrop on every detail of the life of the girl next door, from her conversations to her bubble baths. While Ryo’s fantasies slowly start to escalate into something halfway between puppy love and creepy obsession (he starts sifting through her trash and collecting her toenail clippings), Satsuki becomes increasingly hysterical over a series of bizarre, dirty phone calls plaguing her every evening. Her boyfriend Yuta (Hiroto Kato) shows up to reassure her, but things remain mysterious. When Satsuki and Ryo’s lives finally converge, delusions and reality further blur.
Written and directed by Masashi Yamamoto, Man, Woman and the Wall fitfully recalls all sorts of American touchstones, independent and otherwise — everything from The Conversation and sex, lies and videotape to even James Mangold’s Heavy — mainly owing to its subject matter, and frank inclusion of sex. Some of the movie’s small touches and moments translate surprisingly well (Ryo excitedly talks about his new apartment having a bathtub, inviting the derision of a coworker), and others are simply a surprise (scenes set at… Outback Steakhouse?). Still, there isn’t quite enough of a sadsack heart here — a sense of
inwardly imploding, swallowed doom.
The film appears shot on video, which could have been more imaginatively interwoven into the story, given the many opportunities for tongue-lolling luridness that both Ryo’s obsession and Satsuki’s phone calls present. In fact, Ryo seems at times a slightly goofy
character, and other times potentially dangerous or tragic. Narratively, Yamamoto’s use of an imaginary Satsuki (Sho Nishino) only further complicates matters, since the movie as a whole isn’t an explicitly subjective experience.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, Man, Woman and the Wall comes to Stateside DVD via Ricochet Releasing, TLA Releasing and Eleven Arts, and is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen with a 2.0 stereo audio mix. For a film built around eavesdropping and other whispery intercepts, the latter is honestly a bit sub-par and problematic at times. The marginal graininess of the video transfer doesn’t offend too greatly, but this isn’t a superb transfer by any means. Special features include a minute-long, non-scrollable photo gallery montage, trailers for Man, Woman and the Wall and three other TLA features, and a 21-minute making-of featurette. In this subtitled segment, Yamamoto and his cast share their thoughts on production and explored themes, and Aoi confesses that she got into character by eavesdropping on cast and crew, with the assistance of some of the movie’s soundmen. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C (Movie) B- (Disc)