A chilling and heartfelt true story, “The Killing Fields,” has received a Blu-ray upgrade this week.
“The Killing Fields” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1984, R for violence and language, $27.98, audio commentary, trailer; 40-page book packaging). Roland Joffe’s directing debut is one of the great films of the 1980s, the incredibly moving true story of a New York Times correspondent (Sam Waterston) and his friendship with a Cambodian interpreter (Haing S. Ngor, who won an Oscar for his performance here).
And the film takes the unusual tack of allowing the story to unfold from both points of view, rather than just the American’s, resulting in a treatise on the brotherhood of man, even as it realistically re-creates the horrors of war-torn Cambodia.
Waterston was a decade away from his iconic New York district attorney Jack McCoy on “Law & Order” when he took on the role of Sydney Schanberg, a crusading journalist in Southeast Asia who stays behind after a U.S. evacuation. Ngor is stunning in his acting debut as Dith Pran, used by Schanberg and then left to fend for himself in deadly circumstances.
John Malkovich also impresses in a supporting role. Julian Sands and Craig T. Nelson are also on hand. And the Oscar-winning cinematography of Chris Menges really pops in Blu-ray.
“For Ever Mozart” (Cohen/Blu-ray, 1996, not rated, $39.98, in French with English subtitles, audio commentary, featurettes, trailer; 20-page booklet).
“Hail Mary” (Cohen/Blu-ray, 1985; R for nudity, profanity, violence; $39.98, in French with English subtitles, audio commentary, featurettes, trailers, short film: “The Book of Mary”; 16-page booklet). To describe radical filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard as quirky is to understate. Having risen to prominence in the French New Wave era of the 1960s, Godard has always enjoyed subverting traditional and linear filmmaking, but as the years passed his movies became ever more inscrutable. “Forever Mozart” unveils four short stories designed to link cinematic art to politics as a naïve group of young artists attempt to mount a production in Sarajevo. “Hail Mary” is a modern-day interpretation of the Nativity. Both are off the wall and would doubtless receive R ratings for violence, nudity and language. (Both films are also on DVD, $29.98)
“Angel of the Skies” (eOne, 2014, $19.98, in English and in German with English subtitles, trailers). Independent South African film attempts to be an old-fashioned Hollywood-style World War II action thriller about Royal Air Force troops parachuting into Nazi-occupied Germany, but it’s undermined by computer effects that seem a bit cartoony.
“Insidious: Chapter 2” (Sony/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, $40.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; featurettes, webisodes, trailers). This sequel to “Insidious” has the Lambert family still demonically connected to the spirit world, so they look for answers. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne reprise their original roles. (Also on DVD, $30.99)
“The Berlin File” (CJ E&M, 2014, not rated, $26.98, deleted scenes, featurette). A North Korean “ghost” agent is double-crossed during an illegal arms deal, but he’s not sure if it’s his country or his wife that has put him in peril. Slick, action-packed thriller.
“Badges of Fury” (Well Go/Blu-ray, 2014, not rated, $29.98, in Mandarin with English subtitles or English-dubbed versions, featurettes, trailers). Farcical comedy-action gives Jet Li top billing but the film really belongs to silly comic Zhang Wen (in the duo’s third pairing). Plot has them playing cop partners investigating eerie murders across Hong Kong. (Also on DVD, $24.98)
“Shaolin Warrior” (Lionsgate, 2014, PG-13, $26.98, in Mandarin with English subtitles, DVD and digital versions). Martial arts yarn about young man looking to escape his past by becoming a warrior of the Shaolin Temple, but first he must apprentice in lowly ways. (No relation to the 1980 film of the same title.)
“Living By the Gun” (Lionsgate, 2014, R for violence and sex, $26,98, DVD and digital versions, featurette). A woman mistakenly thinks her gunslinger uncle is responsible for the death of her father, his brother, so she embarks on revenge, leading to a high body count.Comment on this story
“We Are What We Are” (eOne/Blu-ray, 2014; R for violence, sex, nudity, language; $24.98, audio commentary, featurettes). A seemingly ordinary family has a terrible secret that involves keeping a longtime family tradition going. Hint: It has to do with cannibalism. (Also on DVD, same price)
“Ritual” (Lionsgate, 2014, R for violence and language, $26.98). A young married couple becomes mixed up with a satanic cult.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." Website www.hicksflicks.com