Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.
WHAT: Three years after giving some misguided advice on the radio led to a tragic event, former shock jock Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) gets a chance at redemption when he meets – and subsequently helps – a homeless man (Robin Williams) who was an unwitting victim of Jack’s mistake.
WHY: With the one-year anniversary of Robin Williams’ untimely death just around the corner, Criterion has given fans another excuse to celebrate the actor’s remarkable career by revisiting this 1991 dramedy that easily ranks as one of the finest live-action performances of Williams’ career. Though it’s about 20 minutes too long and a bit of a mess narratively, “The Fisher King” also happens to be one of director Terry Gilliam’s best films, not to mention his most accessible. The movie isn’t without Gilliam’s typical offbeat visual flair and penchant for the fantastical (as evidenced by the hallucinatory Red Knight sequences), but at its core is a sweet and occasionally funny story about humanity that’s difficult not to enjoy. Of course, none of it would work without Williams and Jeff Bridges, who form such a great chemistry that every scene they share together is fascinating to watch. Mercedes Ruehl also turns in some solid work as Bridges’ undyingly loyal girlfriend, though it’s hardly deserving of the Academy Award that the actress earned for the role. “The Fisher King” may be remembered more for those three performances than the film as a whole, but that doesn’t make it any less of a charming adult fairy tale.
EXTRAS: This Criterion release is packed with bonus material, including an audio commentary with director Terry Gilliam, new interviews with the cast and crew, a 2006 interview with actor Robin Williams, a new video essay featuring Jeff Bridges’ on-set photographs, deleted scenes with optional commentary and more.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: Actor and playwright Wallace Shawn sits down with his friend, theater director Andre Gregory, at a French restaurant in New York’s Upper West Side for a philosophical discussion about life, death and everything in between.
WHY: Louis Malle’s 1981 art-house classic has its share of admirers, but sadly, no amount of complimentary pieces written about the movie can change the fact that I’m not one of them. Though the idea of filming an entire dinner conversation between two friends is loaded with potential (and Michael Winterbottom’s “The Trip” films probably come the closest to realizing that potential), the discussion at the center of “My Dinner with Andre” is perhaps the worst pseudo-intelligent dinner conversation ever recorded… unless you’re a pretentious, bohemian twat like Andre Gregory. Watching the film is like being cornered at a party by the most annoying person there, because Gregory’s New Age bullshit is so dry and uninteresting that it’ll have you thinking about ways to kill yourself. The usually charismatic Wallace Shawn hardly gets a word in edgewise, and when he finally does offer his response in the final 30 minutes, challenging all the philosophical crap that’s been spewed up until that point, it makes you wish that the rest of the movie wasn’t so horribly one-sided – or at the very least, that the elderly waiter serving Gregory’s blowhard would just drown him in a bowl of potato soup.
EXTRAS: In addition to a 2009 interview with actors/co-writers Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory conducted by filmmaker Noah Baumbach, there’s a 1982 episode of the BBC show “Arena” in which Shawn interviews director Louis Malle, as well as a booklet with an essay by film critic Amy Taubin and the prefaces written by Gregory and Shawn for the published version of the screenplay.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP