BLUE VELVET (1986). At the end of the 1980s, American Film magazine polled 54 critics to determine the best movies of the decade. Placing third, just under Raging Bull and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and just above Hannah and Her Sisters, Atlantic City and Raiders of the Lost Ark, was David Lynch's Blue Velvet, which went unnoticed by the masses (it grossed a mere $7 million) but was certainly on the radar of critics, moral watchdogs, cultists, and Lynch's fellow filmmakers. Woody Allen, whose Hannah and Her Sisters was also released in 1986, publicly declared it the best movie of the year, major critics' groups honored it with various awards (particularly for Lynch and supporting actor Dennis Hopper), and even the often timid Academy couldn't resist nominating Lynch for Best Director (Hopper was nominated for his less threatening performance that year, as the town drunk in Hoosiers). Still, not everyone was enamored: Roger Ebert famously gave the movie one star while Leonard Maltin managed to give it two, although my favorite blurb came from the typically hyperventilating Rex Reed, who fumed, "It should score high with the kind of sickos who like to smell dirty socks and pull the wings off butterflies, but there's nothing here for sane audiences." Twenty-five years later, the film continues to stir healthy debate, often among the same individual. I've seen the picture six times since its debut, and unlike most great movies, this one loses some of its power with each subsequent viewing. Scenes that were once shocking now seem silly (most involving Hopper's turn as the deranged Frank Booth, who says "Fuck" about as often as the rest of us blink), while much of the story, hampered by gaping plotholes, doesn't even make sense. But Kyle MacLachlan is still appealing as the clean-cut youth whose discovery of a severed ear exposes the seedy underbelly of picket-fence America (although set in the Pacific Northwest, the movie was filmed in Wilmington), the symbolic gestures (love those bugs!) still resonate, and Lynch's directorial choices retain their demented edge.
The big news with this 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release is the inclusion of 52 minutes of newly discovered footage that was thought to have been lost all these years; they don't add significantly to the story but are a thrilling find nevertheless. Other extras include a 70-minute making-of feature; four brief behind-the-scenes vignettes; and the original Siskel & Ebert show review.
THE CHANGE-UP Another men-will-be-boys bit of buffoonery from Hollywood, The Change-Up opens with a baby projectile-pooping straight into his father's mouth — it's a sensation that won't be entirely unfamiliar to viewers who subject themselves to this cinematic cesspool's frontal assault. Part of a subgenre that seems to be growing more witless as it grows more raunchy, this "man-child" feature also brings back that popular 1980s staple: the body switch comedy. Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds respectively portray workaholic family man Dave and slacker pothead Mitch, who drunkenly wish they had each other's lives while urinating into a magic fountain (stay with me, people). Waking up the next morning occupying the other's body, Dave and Mitch desperately try to reverse the situation. But first, they must spend a few days as the other fellow, meaning that the uptight Dave has to perform Mitch's duties in a softcore porn flick while the irresponsible Mitch has to dole parental advice to Dave's oldest daughter (Sydney Rouviere) and share the matrimonial bed with Dave's wife Jamie (Leslie Mann). A chaotic scene in which Mitch fails to properly supervise Dave's twin infants, resulting in near-accidents with a blender and an electrical outlet, will infuriate many adults, but truth be told, it's about the only gag that's even remotely fresh in this stale endeavor (if anything, it reminded me of Baby Herman's outlandish exploits in those Roger Rabbit cartoons). The rest is the usual mix of anus-and-penis-fixated gags, ritual female humiliation (Mann, as usual, deserves far better), and insincere, late-inning attempts to show us that all of these wacky shenanigans turned Dave and Mitch into better people. Riiight ... I'm more likely to believe that Rick Santorum will be the keynote speaker at Charlotte's upcoming Democratic National Convention.
The Blu-ray offers both the theatrical version and an unrated cut that's about five minutes longer. Extras include audio commentary by director David Dobkin; a deleted scene; a gag reel; and two behind-the-scenes featurettes.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS — PART 2 (2011). A series that has gotten it right since Day One has maintained its integrity and commitment to quality to the very end. Everyone has their favorite Harry Potter film, and for many viewers, this final entry will be that movie. For me, the entire series works so well as a whole, as one continuously flowing entity, that it's difficult to single one out (forced to choose, I guess I'd go with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). To that end, this last chapter is no more and no less exciting than many of the past pictures, even if it does contain the climactic life-or-death match between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). To reach that point, we pick up where Deathly Hallows — Part 1 trailed off and continue with the quest of Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) to find the Horcruxes that will allow them to possibly defeat Voldemort. It's also revealed that Hogwarts is now under the control of Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), with Dementors standing guard outside the castle perimeters. Harry knows that he has to break into the school, a mission that will ultimately provide some surprising answers to the many questions still plaguing him. More than ever, Radcliffe is asked to take control of the screen as his boy wizard faces his own demons before finally facing Voldemort, and the talented thespian is up to the task, holding nothing back in an ofttimes ferocious performance. Fiennes again oozes reptilian menace, while Rickman remains a high point as he deftly handles the saga's most complex role. Beginning as a magical mystery tour for kids and ending as a mature saga about solidarity and sacrifice, the Harry Potter film franchise has spent a decade entertaining global audiences of all ages. Its run may be over, but like family-film classics from the past, this is one series that's almost certain to hold future generations equally spellbound.