Blu-ray: Into the Night

Into the Night (Shout! Factory, Blu-ray)

Shout! Factory

After the 1970s recast film noir in shades of nostalgia (Chinatown, 1974, The Late Show, 1977) and private eye revisionism and cynicism (The Long Goodbye, 1973, Night Moves, 1975), the eighties gave it a burst of color and energy with Neon Noir. John Landis’s Into the Night (1985) doesn’t have the self-consciously chiaroscuro lighting we associate with noir (Landis uses light for clarity, not atmosphere) but otherwise he takes a classic noir story—the middle-class innocent jolted out of his protected but dull existence and plunged into a nightmarish odyssey into the urban underworld—and treats it right. It was a commercial disappointment in its day and tends to be forgotten in the annals of post-noir crime cinema but if anything it looks better today than it did in eighties.

Jeff Goldblum is our married suburban everyman Ed Okin, an aerospace engineer whose dreams of space have been grounded in cubicle land, sleepwalking through his days and unable to sleep at night. “My life is a dead-end,” he tells his carpool coworker (Dan Aykroyd), “I feel like I’m from another planet,” and things don’t improve when he finds his wife having an affair (but slinks away rather than confront her). This isn’t a man bored by his compromises to conformity, but a man unsure why he is so unfulfilled after doing everything right.

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TV on Disc: ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent – The Eighth Year’

Law & Order: Criminal Intent – The Eighth Year (Universal) opens like pretty much any other season, with Vincent D’Onofrio’s Detective Goren and Kathryn Erbe’s Detective Eames following a murder case to a political family with dirty little secrets, but the second episode brings in a new player and a whole new chemistry.

Jeff Goldblum wanders into episode two like an alien, arriving to a crime scene with a big smile on his face, bags full of food in his hands, and a breezy attitude that immediately puts off Detective Wheeler (Julianne Nicholson), a veteran of the squad (and the show) who is a little low on trust, thanks to losing her old partner (farewell, Mike Logan, we’ll miss you) and her fiancé in the previous season.

Detective Zach Nichols is a terrific Goldblum creation, entering every conversation with a banter that bounces around like a bebop solo and veers off in sudden zig-zags before circling back to the case, keeping his subjects off balance while he lobs them with questions. He’s the son of psychiatrist parents (unseen this season but keep an eye out for a guest shot in season nine) and he has his own style, which makes him an interesting contrast to the more intense and obsessive Goren. And, frankly, more fun. Nichols seems to enjoy his work, even as he keeps frustrating Wheeler with his unconventional methods. It’s not just the suspects he manages keep of balance with his methods.

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DVDs for 09/22/09 – Trips to Hunger Steppes, the Israeli desert and the foggy port towns of yesteryear France

Tulpan (Zeitgeist), the first narrative film from Russian documentary director Sergei Dvortsevoy is fiction steeped in the landscape and nomadic lives of the shepherds of unending plains of Kazakhstan. Asa (the optimistic and upbeat Askhat Kuchinchirekov) is a young Kazakh man who returns home from service in the Russian navy to join his sister’s family as a shepherd scraping out a living on the barren Hunger Steppes. He must have a wife if he wants his own flock and (dressed to impress in his naval uniform) he woos the shy Tulpan, unseen but for eyes only glimpsed behind a chador, but this is no romantic fable. The sheep are starving, the potential bride is unwilling and Asa’s buddy, a rowdy young man whose truck in the only link these folks have to rest of the world, wants Asa to leave it all behind and go with him to the city.

Hunger Steppes of Kazakhstan are alive with the sounds of music!

The film has a distinctive, deliberate rhythm that suggests the different pace of life here and Dvortsevoy shoots each scene as a single, unbroken handheld shot, which gives adds unexpected drama to the scenes, notably a live sheep birth that Asa must midwife without an assist from his gruff but experienced brother-in-law. There is plenty of life and humor to the film, thanks to the little kids scrambling around the yurt and singing their hearts out, and to a determined camel relentlessly following a calf wrapped in gauze and tucked into the motorcycle sidecar of the area vet. While it is no documentary, this lovingly made film captures a culture and a rural way of life with a mix of realism and poetry. In Kazakh with English subtitles.

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