Video Verdict: ‘Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,’ ‘The Collector,’ ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy on Blu-ray

Josh Steward plays Arkin, the unusual hero of "The Collector."

This week’s home video releases include a bizarre police drama, a run-of-the-mill horror thriller, and the Blu-ray debut of a fantasy masterpiece.

 

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
3 stars (out of four)
Rated R for drug use and language throughout, some violence and sexuality
First Look Studios
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Director Werner Herzog’s re-imagining of the 1992 Abel Ferrara drama “Bad Lieutenant,” is a fascinating character study that allows Nicolas Cage to do what he does best: instill offbeat, troubled characters with nuance and depth.

In the film, Cage plays Terrence McDonagh, a New Orleans police officer struggling with drug addiction and gambling woes while overseeing a murder investigation in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Clearly, Terrence is a troubled man, and Cage doesn’t make excuses for him. As the film progresses, viewers see him in tender, caring moments with his girlfriend, a prostitute named Frankie (Eva Mendes), but also in moments of unforgivable cruelty.

Because Cage is a fine actor, both sides of Terrence are well fleshed out and believable, even if his continued affiliation with the New Orleans Police Department is not. Some of Terrence’s actions are so blatant and obvious, that it’s difficult to imagine that he could escape without at least a reprimand, but he’s treated as a rising star of the police force, even while battling demons.

One has to imagine that Herzog wanted viewers to consider the implications of corruption in law enforcement and government while watching the film. Although, the audience can empathize with Terrence in minor ways, he spends the bulk of the movie walking the same ground as the criminals he is charged with apprehending, yet he’s considered a hero. The rundown New Orleans setting and the failure of government to help many citizens during Katrina only emphasizes the devastation that can occur when public servants neglect their duties.

Herzog is a skilled filmmaker and “Bad Lieutenant” is fascinating and fast-moving even when it strains the boundaries of believability. The real joy here, however, is watching Cage deliver a powerful, over-the-top performance reminiscent of his outings in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include an image gallery and making-of feature.

 

The Collector
2 stars
Rated R for pervasive sadistic bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity
Vivendi Entertainment
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Too many modern horror films have become little more than 90-minute torture festivals, the filmmakers apparently unaware of the lessons director Alfred Hitchcock gave us decades ago. Hitchcock and his disciples knew that, while violence may be necessary in horror movies, it’s the suspense that keeps viewers on the edges of their seats.

With “The Collector,” director and co-writer Marcus Dunstan gives us a reasonable amount of suspense, but he constantly corrupts it with extended sequences of bloody torture and gore. This won’t surprise horror fans because Dunstan – although making his directorial debut – is known as the writer of the “Feast” franchise and several of the “Saw” films.

To his credit, “The Collector” has a nice twist. The story centers on a handyman named Arkin (Josh Stewart) who drives out to a country home with the intent of stealing a jewel from the family safe. Thing is, the family is supposed to be on vacation, but when Arkin breaks in he discovers that they have been taken captive by a homicidal maniac (Juan Fernandez). The same nut job has also set booby traps all over the house. Because Arkin is a good-hearted thief – and because he learns that the family’s youngest daughter is hidden safely within the home – he decides to try and help.

It’s not often that a criminal becomes the emotional center of a horror film, so that’s a nice move by Dunstan. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for things to digress into a bloody string of violent acts that are, quite frankly, repellent and difficult to watch. There may be something here for people who delight in hardcore gore, but Hitchcock this is not. What’s more, the film’s ending is not only bland but clearly designed to set up a sequel.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include an alternate ending, deleted scenes and a filmmaker’s commentary.

 

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy on Blu-ray
4 stars
Rated PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and frightening images
New Line Cinema
Available on: Blu-ray

A few months ago, when charged with compiling a list of the top 10 movies of the last decade, I had little hesitation lumping the three “Lord of the Rings” films together and placing them at No. 1. In my humble opinion, no other film or series of films better defined the early 2000s in terms of quality, cinematic impact and popular appeal. In short, each “Lord of the Rings” movie is great and when viewed together – as this boxed set allows – they are phenomenal.

It’s nothing new to have the “Rings” movies out on video, as each – “The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King” – has long been available on DVD. This release, however, brings them to Blu-ray for the first time, and they look gorgeous in high definition.

For the uninitiated – and it’s hard to imagine there are many of you left – “Rings” is a film adaptation of writer J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel about a land known as Middle-earth. When viewers are introduced to the world, it is facing troubled times, with a dark lord threatening to take over the land. To do so, he desperately wants to recover a magical ring that he forged and then lost decades before. The ring has great power but it also has the side effect of corrupting whoever holds it near.

Much of the story involves the journey of Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), a humanoid creature called a hobbit who agrees to carry the ring to the only place it can be destroyed: the dark lord’s homeland. Frodo’s quest is aided by a number of allies, including a powerful wizard named Gandalf (Ian McKellen), a battle-tested dwarf named Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), a quick-witted elf named Legolas (Orlando Bloom), a human warrior named Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and several other hobbits (Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan).

During the course of the movie, these heroes face extreme danger and find themselves at the heart of an epic struggle between good and evil. All three films were directed by Peter Jackson, and they received such a warm theatrical welcome that their success seemed predestined, but that’s only because Jackson’s work is so strong. The “Rings” novel has a rabid following and a poorer film interpretation could have been disastrous.

Fortunately, Jackson was the perfect man for the job, as he created movies that strike the ideal balance between special effects and raw emotion. In short, “The Lord of the Rings” series is a cinematic masterpiece and it has never looked better than on Blu-ray.

The Blu-ray set includes digital copies of all three movies, plus three separate discs devoted to extra features. The latter include eight documentaries on the making of the films, image galleries and music videos. It’s worth noting that a number of hardcore “Rings” fans are upset that this release includes only the theatrical versions of the movies and not the extended cuts that are already available on DVD.

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“The Lord of the Rings” – Original Animated Classic: Movie lovers who don’t get enough of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth from Peter Jackson’s “Rings” trilogy can pick up this 1978 animated film by director Ralph Bakshi. The only trouble is that it presents only the first half of Tolkien’s story. That’s because the planned sequel was never funded. Still, this is a nifty offering for “Rings” fanatics and animation buffs.

“Dolan’s Cadillac”: Crime drama about a schoolteacher (Wes Bentley) who seeks revenge after a crime boss (Christian Slater) kills his wife. The film is based on a story by Stephen King.

Lionsgate thrillers on Blu-ray: Lionsgate is giving three 1990s films their DVD debuts: “Jade” (1995), “The Relic” (1997) and “Flight of the Intruder” (1991). “Jade,” directed by William Friedkin, tells of an assistant D.A. (David Caruso) whose former lover (Linda Fiorentino) is implicated in a murder. “The Relic” stars Penelope Ann Miller as a biologist who teams with a police officer (Tom Sizemore) in hopes of discovering the source of several killings. “Flight of the Intruder” is the story of several military men who launch an unauthorized bombing raid during the Vietnam War. Willem Dafoe, Brad Johnson and Danny Glover star.

“My Friends Tigger & Pooh — Super Duper Super Sleuths”: New animated adventure that considers what happens when the Winnie the Pooh characters develop super powers. The 45-minute film is supplemented by a never-before-seen episode of the Pooh TV series.

“Dirt! The Movie”: Documentary film about the overlooked-but-crucial role that dirt plays in all of our lives. Narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis.

 

Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at Forrest@ForrestHartman.com

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