Beacon Journal popular culture writer
When Hatfields & McCoys premiered on the History channel this year, it rocked the cable world, drawing about 14 million viewers, a record for nonsports telecasts on commercial cable channels and a number even most broadcast shows would envy.
Various theories have been offered for its success, including that it appealed to older viewers, who often seem shut out by networks fixated on young adults. And its achievements did not end with the telecasts; it recently received 16 Emmy nominations, the same as the acclaimed Downton Abbey and only one fewer than the shows that got the most Emmy love, American Horror Story and Mad Men.
If you missed all the fuss up, you can see what it was about when Hatfields & McCoys arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday (Sony, $45.99 DVD, $55.99 Blu-ray).
The three-part miniseries starred Kevin Costner as patriarch of the Hatfield clan and Bill Paxton as the head of the McCoys. It dramatizes the roots of the feud and the resulting, seemingly endless conflict. As I said when reviewing the program for television, not only did the feud involve two large families, it also included lawyers, judges, at least one minister, the governors of two states and the U.S. Supreme Court. Periods of seeming peace would end suddenly in capricious bloodletting. Dramatically, it is sprawling and well-acted, although there were times I thought the story could have been more tightly told. At the same time, it kept me watching.
Extras on the DVD and Blu-ray include a 30-minute piece about the making of the show, with a lot about the historical detail, and a music video of the song I Know These Hills performed by Costner and Modern West.
By the way, the box bore a sticker calling this the “original uncut version.” According to a Sony representative, the video releases contain the production as it premiered on History. The premieres, you may recall, ran at odd lengths; History then made some trims for replays, fitting them more tidily into time slots.
Considering Miley Cyrus’ considerable fame, it may seem surprising that she has a “lost” film to her credit. But that’s one way to describe the screen drama LOL (Lionsgate, $19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray).
Based on a French film by Lisa Azuelos, who also wrote and directed this American version, it stars Cyrus as a high school student coping with romance, temptation and her mother (Demi Moore). It was made in 2010, and clearly meant to be part of Cyrus’ move beyond Hannah Montana to more sophisticated fare.
Then, instead of going into theaters, it sat on the shelf for about two years. The Los Angeles Times noted that it made it onto some screens nationwide in May, but without any publicity, advance reviews and, according to the Times’ sources, only because “contracts with foreign distributors contained a provision that the movie must be shown domestically in at least 100 theaters.” It went largely unnoticed by audiences and reviewers, and now has lumbered onto home video.
Is it that bad? Yes. The movie is disjointed, attempts at honest moments come off as insincere and artificial, and the characters don’t give you anything to care about. Nor are the performances enjoyable — although Cyrus’ acting looks good in contrast to Moore’s ghastly line deliveries and almost immobile face.
Extras include several featurettes and an audio commentary “with director and cast,” according to the case. Don’t expect to hear Cyrus. Along with Azuelos are cast members Ashley Hinshaw and Lina Esco.
On the Blu-ray side of things, a new version of Total Recall starring Colin Farrell will be in theaters on Friday, so Lionsgate is releasing a “mind-bending” edition of the Arnold Schwarzenegger original on Tuesday for $14.99. As you might expect with special effects from 1990, the clarity of Blu-ray at times makes them look cheesy by modern standards. But it’s still a nuttily over-the-top, very violent adventure. And, along with archival extras like commentary by Schwarzenegger and director Paul Verhoeven, the Blu-ray adds a half-hour interview with Verhoeven.
Still on Blu-ray, we come to a film classic making its Blu-ray debut. La Grande Illusion (Lionsgate, $29.99) is director Jean Renoir’s 1937 masterwork about French prisoners in a German POW camp during World War I — and about questions of war and class. Film critic Ginette Vincendeau, who provides an introduction on the Blu-ray, said in an essay for the influential Sight & Sound magazine that “in its ensemble perfection, La Grande Illusion is … a snapshot of French cinema of the late 1930s at its absolute best. It is … a film not frozen in time, but open to different readings across times and cultures.”
The Blu-ray version, working from the film’s original negative, looks as if the film was made just yesterday, not 75 years ago. Extras include several discussions of the film besides Vincendeau’s, its many interpretations and reinterpretations. Vintage trailers (including one from a 1958 reissue with Renoir himself) and more. Be advised that several of the extras are in French with subtitles.
Down video road: The first scene of the popular but appalling Dance Moms arrives on DVD on Aug. 14. Horror classic Re-Animator will make its Blu-ray debut on Sept. 4. Snow White & the Huntsman will have an extended edition on Blu-ray and DVD on Sept. 11.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and in the HeldenFiles Online blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Twitter (as @rheldenfels) and Facebook. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.