New to Blu-ray and DVD “Fear and Desire” and “Magic Mike” (release date, October 23, 2012)

Director Stanley Kubrick, age 24, shooting “Fear and Desire.”

“Fear and Desire” (1953) directed, produced and edited by a then barely known talent, a 24 year-old filmmaker named Stanley Kubrick, comes to Blu-ray and DVD this week.  Kubrick, of course, would go on to direct such films as “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), “A Clockwork Orange” (1971), “Barry Lyndon” (1975), “The Shining” (1980), and others.

Kubrick, then an unproven commodity, did not have a large budget for “Fear and Desire.”  He smartly chose a story that would conform well to his low budget aesthetic. The story of “Fear and Desire” involves a group of American soldiers, one of whom is played by a very young Paul Mazursky (director and actor), trapped behind enemy lines during World War II.  All that was needed were some actors in uniform out in the woods and minimal indoor sets. 

The film is an interesting bit of cinematic history as it shows a master director still getting his sea legs, evident in part from the film’s heavy-handed voice over.  However, this story of soldiers who decide to attempt to kill an enemy general, rather than quietly leave enemy territory, has some compelling sequences.

The film also reveals the earliest signs of Kubrick’s interest in the folly of war, a theme that he would develop in later films: “Paths of Glory” (1957), “Dr. Strangelove” (1964) and “Full Metal Jacket” (1987).  “Fear and Desire” also demonstrates some very proficiently edited sequences, including a massacre of enemy soldiers shown primarily by their dying hands helplessly clenching bits of a stew they had been eating.

Kubrick, known for relentless perfectionism and control, had “Fear and Desire” pulled from release.  In fact, years ago, Film Forum showed “Fear and Desire” for one week, during which Kubrick actually tried to have the screenings stopped.  He need not have been so concerned.  “Fear and Desire” is on the level of very good student film and is nothing of which to be ashamed.

Magic Mike

Director Steven Soderbergh’s film “Magic Mike” comes to DVD and Blu-ray this week. My predominant thought while watching “Magic Mike,” a movie about male strippers, was that it must have taken either great effort or great indifference to make a movie about strippers, regardless of gender, that was this talky and boring.  I mean, how do you mess up strippers?

In “Magic Mike” scene after scene plays as if the actors were making it up as they went along.  We have pledged time and money to this film.  It is wrong to expect us to sit through scenes that are needlessly lengthy due to the fact that the cast is still figuring out its dialogue, while the director does not seem to have shot enough coverage to enable his editor to shorten the proceedings.

In addition, the scenes in “Magic Mike” do not build upon one another.  Plot points (one of the strippers is dealing drugs) come out of nowhere and seem to exist to give the film some semblance of a story.

“Magic Mike” stars Channing Tatum as the titular character and Matthew McConaughey as Dallas, the leader of a Chippendales like male stripper club in Florida.  Dallas is a Joel Grey “Cabaret” like, slightly devious, Master of Ceremonies.

We see many well choreographed production numbers of the strippers at work, providing the only life that this otherwise lifeless movie has. Cody Horn provides a bright spot as Brooke, the caring sister of one of the strippers and a possible love interest for Mike.

Soderbergh has done a lot better (although not lately).

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on October 24, 2012, in Now on DVD and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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