James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Cole Clay // Film Critic
The Paramount Presents line has started cooking with gas this summer. After THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH released in March, the release calendar laid dormant for a few months. Finally – and not to be too dramatic – but a sleeping giant has awoken.
The line announced has released five titles in the past two months–including MOMMIE DEAREST, LAST TRAIN FROM GUN HILL, 48 HRS., ANOTHER 48 HRS., and ALMOST FAMOUS. And there are three more coming this August, one being pulled from the Criterion Collection–BUGSY MALONE, A PLACE IN THE SUN, and NASHVILLE.
There’s no other major studio propping up their catalog in this way. Paramount is shining a light on films that tell the studio’s story. Each release may not be the most obvious choice, but it allows fans and collectors to rediscover films they may have forgotten or just in time to scratch a new cinematic itch. The only thing that comes close to Paramount Presents is the Colombia Classics 4K box sets, which cost a grip of cash but are worth the inevitable wallet dent.
Now that the formalities are out of the way, it’s time to dish a little bit on the current releases from the semi boutique studio Blu-ray house.
48 HRS./ANOTHER 48 HRS.
Walter Hill’s 1982 buddy comedy is known for a couple of things. First, for launching the movie career or wunderkind Eddie Murphy and creating the template for the ’80s/’90 action comedies. Even though other films from the era perfected the subgenre, Hill, Murphy, and Nolte were among the first. Second, both entries are flawed looking at it through today’s lens, and it’s undoubtedly offensive on many levels in a way that doesn’t reckon with the issues presented. This just isn’t that kind of movie. Walter Hill is no Melvin Van Peebles.
Hill, in the grand scheme of his career, is a journeyman filmmaker. In his best-known films, he’s able to bring a signature grit to the streets he was shooting upon, with a tactile and poignant eye for the way his characters move in the space, which attributes as to why Nolte and Murphy have such intense chemistry. Rarely, if ever, can a film these days penetrate the culture and catapult a comedian into the stratosphere. Hollywood is more concerned with making action stars comedians (The Rock, Dave Bautista, etc.) than fostering the talent to make these hits happen. And even though neither of these films is genuinely that special, it’s difficult not to give the 48 HRS.
Rent/Buy: The special features are the real reason I’d say to buy these films alone. The transfers look solid, especially ANOTHER 48 HRS., and the movies are an easy watch. But the real highlight is the interviews with Hill. He gives an oral history of how the films came together, interspersed with retro interview footage of the cast and production diaries. This is a clever and entertaining way to provide the audience with behind-the-scenes information from the horse’s mouth. Take note Blu-ray producers: we don’t want a single camera shot of an interview subject with clips from the movie we more than likely just watched. These are a buy for Eddie Murphy-enthusiasts only.
This release has been long-awaited by this reviewer and a long list of fans who praise Cameron Crowe’s travelogue as one of the best films of the 21st century. They’d be right; ALMOST FAMOUS is like wish fulfillment for any fan of rock and roll music.
Crowe crafted the film right from his own experiences with a few fictitious spins on the narrative. As a result, we received a picture full of life, humanity about life on the road, and Americana. The film takes a fascinating approach as being told through a teenager William Miller (Patrick Fugit), a journalist plucked from obscurity and chosen by Rolling Stone magazine to follow the band Stillwater on tour, led by disaffected singer Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup).
It’s a long ride that pays off with big moments of joy and little moments you’ll remember forever and a nostalgic glow that never gets too sentimental. And let’s not forget the fantastic supporting performances, including Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs, the god-tier music journalist, Frances McDormand, and Marc Maron in a tiny but memorable role.
Rent/Buy: This film marks the second Crowe film to enter the Presents line, with the other being ELIZABETHTOWN. Crowe, presumably starting to wind down his career, has been more than open to sharing on the signature filmmaker focus special features. In addition, the disc comes loaded with features new and old and the coveted 162-minute Bootleg Cut. There’s also a 4K steelbook version available, but this looks too perfect on the shelf not to cop immediately.
Paramount Presents films are available from all major online retailers.