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Elmore Leonard adaptations became all the rage in the late ‘90s following the success of Barry Sonnenfeld’s “Get Shorty” in 1995. Everyone from Quentin Tarantino (“Jackie Brown”) to Steven Soderbergh (“Out of Sight”) tried their hand at a Leonard movie, sometimes to great success…and occasionally to non-existent box-office, in the case of Paul Schrader’s TOUCH (96 mins., 1997, R), a picture that basically ceased to exist after its low-profile original theatrical release. Cinematographe has restored this seldom-screened curio in a new Blu-Ray limited-edition that, for all the movie’s faults, should be of major interest for fans of Leonard, Schrader, and stars Christopher Walken, Bridget Fonda and Skeet Ulrich.

Make no mistake, “Touch” is a weird movie. Schrader adapted Leonard’s tale of a young man with healing powers (Ulrich) who comes in contact with a number of wacky characters, including a former televangelist (Walken) who sees in Ulrich such a commercial opportunity that he sends a female cohort (Fonda) off to investigate. There’s also Tom Arnold as a militant Catholic (all the better for Schrader to provide some of his typical commentary on, and critique of, organized religion), Lolita Davidovich and Paul Mazursky in small supporting roles, and an especially head-scratching turn from a wig-wearing Gina Gershon as a ‘90s TV talk show host.

“Touch” needed a lighter touch to really score than Schrader, predictably, is able to provide. The tone is offbeat but not especially lively, the performances a bit all over the place and the leaden, one-note score by Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl doesn’t help. It also feels like several disparate stories rolled into one, with Ulrich’s likeable turn trying hard to anchor a ‘90s commentary that comes off as very much of its time.

Cinematographe’s 5,000-copy limited edition Blu-Ray foray preserves this UA-released, Lumiere-funded production in a 2K scan (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) of its 35mm interpositive. The image is fine while the 5.1 sound offers the guitar-laden, and dramatically ineffective, Grohl soundtrack.

Insightful extras include a new interview with Schrader which details some of the difficulty he encountered making the film, including a directive from Walken’s agent that he didn’t want “to be directed” as he had in Schrader’s previous work with him. Schrader notes “Touch” was made at a time when Walken was becoming less a serious actor and more a “brand” – which his career since has basically confirmed. It’s a revealing insight to go along with a new commentary by Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchell; a video essay by Daniel Kremer; and hardbound-book styled packaging sporting written essays by critics Chris Cabin, Bilge Ebiri, and Cosmo Bjorkenheim.

Note “Touch” is available with an exclusive slipcover (as are all the below OCN titles) directly from Vinegar Syndrome’s site.

OCN New Releases

Canada International Pictures adds to its growing roster of unique pictures with two unusual offerings this month on Blu-Ray.

Now available from CIP, ANIMATION NIGHT IN CANADA (137 mins., 1965-85) offers a wide array of shorts from the storied heyday of the National Film Board of Canada. 14 Oscar nominated shorts are offered here, from “The Drag” (1965) through a pair of Oscar winners: Eunice Macaulay and John Weldon’s “Special Delivery” (1978) and Co Hoedeman’s “The Sand Castle” (1977). The single disc Blu-Ray boasts all-new restored transfers and eight additional shorts from directors represented in the anthology; a 2004 documentary about NFB animators Chris Landreth and Ryan Larkin; and a 1983 interview with Norman McLaren.

Coming in May from CIP is THE GREAT LAND OF SMALL (91 mins, 1987), the fifth installment in producer Rock Demers’ Canadian “Tales For All Series.” This one provides little person Michael J. Anderson (soon to be seen on David Lynch’s hit series “Twin Peaks”) with the plum role of “Fritz,” a dwarf from an enchanted kingdom who loses his gold but conjures up a relationship with a pair of human kids who he brings back home. There, the King and Queen want to make them part of the kingdom, and only Fritz can lead them back in a film from Czech director Vojtech Jasny.

Picked up as a few other weirdo kid movies from around the globe were by New World Pictures back in the mid ‘80s (like “The Peanut Butter Solution” and “Making Contact”), “The Great Land of Small” may hold some cult appeal for those who recall the film. Extras include commentary by Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth; a podcast on the movie; new interviews with then-child actors Michael Blouin and Karen Elkin; interviews with visual effects producer Pascal Blais; a 1991 episode on Anderson Jr. from the “Beyond Vaudeville” TV series; additional Jasny student films; and plenty more.

Factory 25 debuts two new titles this spring: JOBE’Z WORLD (68 mins., 2019) is an independent offering from director Michael M. Bilandic that focuses on a wild night in the life of a middle-aged rollerblader, complete on Blu-Ray (1.78) with deleted scenes, featurettes, director commentary and more…Coming later in May, Geoff Marslett’s QUANTUM COWBOYS (99 mins., 2022) utilizes live-action and animation as it chronicles the adventures of two drifters (Kiowa Gordon, John Way) who team up with a woman (Lily Gladstone) across 1870’s southern Arizona in order to recover her land and a find a frontier musician along the way. Over 37 minutes of deleted scenes are included in Factory 25’s Blu-Ray (1.78, 5.1) along with additional music sequences.

From Yellow Veil Pictures come a pair of disparate thrillers: DANIEL ISN’T REAL (100 mins., 2019) charts the downward spiral of a college freshman who resurrects an imaginary childhood friend in order to cope with a number of problems with his family and elsewhere (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA). He eventually pays the price in Adam Egypt Mortimer’s 2019 indie. Loads of extras in Yellow Veil’s Blu-Ray, out May 28th, include commentaries, alternate endings, interviews, a director intro and more…Now available from Yellow Veil is REBEL (135 mins., 2023), Adil and Bilail’s film about a Belgium man who attempts to help war victims in Syria but is deflected back into joining Isis instead. Commentary, behind the scenes materials, comments from Oliver Stone and more are included in Yellow Veil’s Blu-Ray (2.35, 5.1).

ETR Media’s latest Blu-Rays are highlighted by OUT IN THE RING (104 mins., 2022), Ry Levey’s study of LGBTQ+ professional wrestlers, from a broad historical perspective all the way through modern representation. Ample extras include Levey and editor Brad Webb’s commentary, exclusive clips/outtakes and the trailer (2.0)…Newly available from ETR, THE UNITED STATES OF INSANITY (99 mins., 2023) finds rappers Insane Clown Posse joining with the ACLU in order to clear their name as a “gang” under the definition of the current FBI. Deleted scenes and bonus footage are all on-hand in ETR’s Blu-Ray (1.78, 5.1/2.0).

Now available from Utopia, the documentary ANOTHER BODY (80 mins., 2023) charts the investigation of a college student into the deepest parts of the “dark web” after she finds faux pornography involving her likeness online. This doc from directors Sophie Compton and Reuben Hamlyn is new on Blu-Ray (1.78, 2.0) sporting a commentary from the duo; Munich director interview; panel discussions; and a Q&A with actress Juno Temple…Coming in May from Utopia is DRIFT (93 mins., 2022) which is worthwhile for Cynthia Erivo’s performance as a refugee who arrives on a Greek island with nothing and soon strikes up a friendship with a local tour guide (Alia Shawkat). Utopia’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) includes commentary with director Anthony Chen and a stills gallery.

Coming late May from Deaf CrocodileKIN-DZA-DZA! (132 mins., 1986) is an unusual Russian sci-fi oddity from director Georgiy Daneliya about a pair of Moscow residents improbably transported across the galaxy to the planet Pluke. Absurdist comedy and social satire mix from there in this eclectic 1986 picture, restored by Mosfilm (1.37, 2.0 mono) from the original camera negative and graced with ample extras. These include a Walter Chaw commentary, hour-long interview with star Leo Gabriadze, a look at Soviet sci-fi cinema, and more…Newly available from Deaf Crocodile, WORLD WAR III (107 mins., 2022) was Iran’s 2023 Academy Award entry about a manguarding the set of a film about a contemporary Holocaust. A violent sequence of events follows in Houman Seyedi’s film, on Blu-Ray (2:1, 5.1) with an hour-long interview with the director and another commentary by Walter Chaw on the supplemental side.

Shunji Iwai’s ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU (146 mins., 2001) receives a Blu-Ray release for the second time this May from Film Movement under their “Classics” banner. This lengthy coming-of-age drama focuses on an 8th grader afflicted by bullying and teen prostitution who seeks solace in the music of Lily Chou-Chou, a Bjork-like singer. Film Movement’s Blu-Ray (1080p 1.78) offers a Making Of featurette, essay by Stephen Cremin with Iwai’s prologue, and 5.1 DTS MA sound (Japanese with English subtitles).

New from Music Box and OCN, SIGNATURE MOVE (80 mins., 2024) finds a American-Pakistani lawyer (Fawzia Mirza) falling for a Mexican-American bookshop owner (Sari Sanchez) in Jennifer Reeder’s likeable, if abbreviated, little character study. Music Box Selects’ Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) includes commentary from Mirza and Reeder; interviews with the cast and director; video production diary; image gallery; and a talk with the legendary Shabana Azmi, who plays Mirza’s mother.

Dekanalog’s newest release is Sabrina Mertens’ TIME OF MOULTING (82 mins.), a 2020 picture set in 1970s West Germany about a young girl, neglected by her parents, who harbors darker thoughts as she gets older. Mertens is interviewed along with actress Freya Keutzkam in Dekanalog’s Blu-Ray (1.78, 5.1 DTS MA)…Chad Ferrin’s SCALPER (83 mins., 2022) debuts on Blu-Ray from Darkstar Pictures with a commentary, deleted scenes, Making of featurettes and more. Bai Ling and Kelli Maroney (“Night of the Comet”) lead the cast in this modern slasher thriller…The more intriguing HUESERA: THE BONE WOMAN (97 mins., 2022) features an interesting commentary on motherhood in Michelle Garza Cervera’s supernatural thriller. A commentary from the director and three deleted scenes are among the extras in XYZ’s now-available Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA).

Last but not least, THE TUNNEL (94 mins.. 2011) serves up Aussie found footage terror once a news crew takes a look underneath Sydney’s St. James Train Station. Umbrella’s Blu-Ray (2.35, 5.1/2.0) sports commentary with director Carlo Ledesma and others; documentaries; a post-screening Q&A; an alternate ending; interviews and more…and The Film Desk’s THE SPIRIT OF ‘45 (99 mins., 2013) boasts a high-def restoration of Ken Loach’s 2013 film looking at Clement Attlee’s 1945 Labour Party win over Winston Churchill. The Film Desk’s Blu-Ray includes a vintage Loach interview amongst other extras (1.85, mono).

NEXT TIME: THE CROW Flies in 4K! Until then, don’t forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone!

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