One of Claude Chabrol’s final films, “The Color of Lies,” makes its Blu-ray debut this week, as does Oliver Stone’s fourth go-round of his biography of Alexander the Great.
“The Color of Lies” (Cohen/Blu-ray/DVD, 1998, in French with English subtitles, audio commentary, trailer; eight-page booklet). French filmmaker Chabrol, who is sometimes referred to as the “Gallic Hitchcock,” began his career in the 1950s as one of the celebrated members of the French New Wave. His later films were much more hit-and-miss, but this one, released two years before his death at age 80, is one of his better efforts.
In a small village in northern France, the body of a murdered 10-year-old girl is found and the finger of suspicion points to her art teacher, apparently the last person to see the girl alive. A new police chief investigates and is unable to find any evidence of the artist’s involvement — but that doesn’t stop the gossip and mistrust.
Chabrol’s style is low-key, contemplative and rich with detail, and there is an array of eccentric small-town characters to provide the viewers, if not the villagers, with other suspects.
“Alexander: The Ultimate Cut” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2004; unrated/R for violence, sex, nudity; two discs, two versions (new “Ultimate Cut” and original theatrical version), new audio commentary (for “Ultimate Cut”), new documentary: “The Real Alexander and the World He Made”; theatrical-version commentary, featurettes, trailers). Oliver Stone’s epic retelling of the story of Alexander the Great, starring Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Val Kilmer, Christopher Plummer, etc., was a box-office bust in America but did well overseas.
Well enough, in fact, that the studio has financed no less than three makeovers, culminating with this 10th-anniversary “Ultimate Cut” that is 31 minutes longer than the three-hour theatrical version, which is also included here. On the other hand, this one is eight minutes shorter than Stone’s “Final Cut,” and it again shifts things around a bit. Whether it’s any better than any of the other versions is for Stone’s fans and film buffs to decide.
“Kids for Cash” (SenArt/On Demand, 2014, PG-13). This riveting documentary is an indictment of the U.S. juvenile court system but is at its most shocking when it focuses on a scandal involving a corrupt judge in Pennsylvania who sentenced some 3,000 children to incarceration for minor offenses — in some cases for offenses so petty that a slap on the wrist might have seemed extreme. The film is imperfect in its structure, but director Robert May never sensationalizes what is horrifying enough in its straightforward telling.
“The Cold Lands” (Cinereach/On Demand, 2014, not rated). A single mother (Lili Taylor) raises her teenage son (Silas Yelich) in a remote area of the Catskill Mountains, instructing him to be wary of human contact. Naturally, when she dies suddenly, the boy hides in the woods from authorities. Eventually, he connects with a homeless drifter (Paul Scanavino) with whom he forms a tenuous bond. This low-budget melodrama explores independence vs. isolationism and has some interesting set pieces. And though it sags in the middle, it picks up again in the final third.
“The Motel Life” (Cinedigm/Blu-ray/DVD, 2014; R for sex, language, nudity, violence, drugs; featurette, illustration gallery, trailer). Excellent performances by Emile Hirsch and especially Stephen Dorff anchor this tale of troubled brothers who go on the lam when one is involved in a hit-and-run accident, but the story too often digresses with flashbacks and animated sequences. Dakota Fanning and Kris Kristofferson co-star.
“We Always Lie to Strangers” (Virgil/DVD/On Demand, 2014, not rated). This documentary looks at Branson, Missouri, the Ozark mountain town of just 10,500 that attracts some 7.5 million tourists each year to its 100-plus theaters, bringing in $3 billion in tourism. The selling point is clean, conservative, family-oriented, patriotic musical shows, but things are a bit more complicated than that. The focus is on four families living and performing there, including a gay couple working in different shows. It's interesting, but the muddled narrative prevents the film from delving beneath the surface.
“Mirage Men” (Cinedigm/DVD, 2014, not rated). The mythology surrounding UFOs is actually a government counter-intelligence attempt to cover up experimental weapons and clandestine operations as teams within the military promulgate such stories to misdirect the general public. That’s the premise of this documentary that includes interviews with those involved on both sides.