High and Low

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: High and Low

Where You Can Stream It: The Criterion Channel

The Pitch: After making two back-to-back samurai classics, Yojimbo and Sanjuro, director Akira Kurosawa switched into contemporary mode to make High and Low (literal translation: Heaven and Hell), an urban thriller centering on an executive who faces a moral choice. On the cusp of orchestrating a shrewd and righteous corporate takeover, the executive’s chauffeur’s son is kidnapped and ransomed for 30 million yen. Should the exec pay the money – everything he’s saved and has spent his entire life working for – or refuse the kidnapper and go through with his takeover?

Why It’s Essential Viewing: Kurosawa’s movie is largely about income inequality, and that subject is so evergreen that the movie still feels incredibly vital even though it first premiered in 1963. (In fact, it would work wonderfully as a double feature with Bong Joon-ho’s recent Best Picture winner Parasite, which is now streaming on Hulu.) In addition to its explorations of wealth and poverty and the delicious moral quandaries it puts its characters through, High and Low is also a propulsive detective procedural which devotes a significant portion of its runtime to seeing characters use their wits to track the kidnapper. Considering how ingrained procedural tropes have become in popular culture, this film feels incredibly modern when viewed for the first time. Read More »

chris rock high and low

Chris Rock revealed his next project to Black Voices: writing the screenplay remake/adaptation of Akira Kurosawa‘s 1963 detective thriller High and Low for director Mike Nichols. If you were going to ask me who might replace David Mamet on this modern day remake/adaptation, Rock would certainly have been near the bottom of the list.

Read More »

Mike Nichols (Closer, Charlie Wilson’s War) will direct a remake of Akira Kurosawa‘s High and Low.

Based loosely on Evan Hunter’s King’s Ransom, the original 1963 detective thriller that tells the story of an executive named Kingo Gondo, who learns that his son has been kidnapped. He is prepared to pay the ransom amount until he discovers that the kidnappers mistakenly abducted the child of his chauffeur. Gondo must decide between using the money he has saved up for a critical corporate buyout, or to use the cash to save his drivers son.

If the names involved thus far don’t get you excited, then read on. Originally commissioned by Martin Scorsese in 1999, the screenplay is written by David Mamet. The film has yet to begin casting, but it sounds like the ball is now rolling after years of being stalled due to rights issues. Scott Rudin will produce, and its likely that Scorsese will executive produce.

This is one of the few Kurosawa films that I have yet to see. But now it looks like I might have to order the new Criterion and clear out some time to watch it.

This Week in DVD is a column that compiles all the latest info regarding new DVD releases, sales, and exclusive deals from stores including Target, Best Buy, Circuit City, and Fry’s.

The Good

Finally being made available in the US, the 14-episode long UK sitcom Spaced proves what hilarious characters and writing can do with even the simplest of premises. The show comes from the minds of the hilarious star-director duo Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (and let’s not forget Nick Frost, who has a supporting role here), who later went on to make the instant classic hits Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. If that isn’t enough to convince you this is a must buy, you must not have seen those films.
Blu-ray? No.
Notable Extras: New audio commentary By Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Bill Hader, Matt Stone, Patton Oswalt and Diablo Cody, the original commentaries included on the VCI release, deleted scenes, raw footage, a Spaced On Stage reunion Q&A, a feature length documentary, outtakes, and a Homage-O-Meter.

Target Best Buy Circuit City Fry’s
$34.99 $39.99 $59.98 $44.99

Beating out Family Guy’s Star Wars special (entitled “Blue Harvest”) to the punch by a few months, Robot Chicken’s special is just now getting the treatment it deserves. Some people may not find much incentive to pick this set up, being that it’s only one 23-minute episode and you can already watch it online for free at AdultSwim.com. More diehard fans of Robot Chicken/Star Wars, however, will find justification for the splurge courtesy of the extensive amount of special features and the very low price.
Blu-ray? No.
Notable Extras: Seven audio commentaries, video commentary, an animation meeting, a behind the scenes featurette, a production design featurette, deleted scenes, a panel presentation, time lapse sequences, alternate audio recordings, and on-air bumps.

Target Best Buy Circuit City Fry’s
$8.99 $9.99 $8.99 $7.99

From Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, this two-act 1963 police procedural (based on a detective novel by Ed McBain) insightfully explores and comments on Japanese society through the tale of a wealthy industrialist who learns his son has been kidnapped. High and Low may not be one of Kurosawa’s most popular works, but quality-wise it’s definitely up there.
Blu-ray? No.
Notable Extras: An audio commentary by Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince, a retrospective documentary with Akira Kurosawa, two interviews, a trailer gallery, and a booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and an on-set account by Japanese film scholar Donald Richie.

Target Best Buy Circuit City Fry’s
$27.99 $34.99 $34.99 $29.99

An excellent movie for art-lovers and those interested in filmmaking, Vampyr is a 1932 French-German picture that tells a nightmarish tale about a young student of the occult who visits a strange castle and starts to experience haunting dreams and supernatural visions. It doesn’t have much dialogue or plot, but is heavily admired for its innovative use of light and shadows.
Blu-ray? No.
Notable Extras: An audio commentary by film historian Tony Rayns, a documentary about the director’s life and work, a ‘visual essay’ featurette, a 46-page booklet which features essays about the film and director Carl Theodor Dreyer, and a 200+ page book which features Dreyer’s script and the story Carmilla.

Target Best Buy Circuit City Fry’s
$27.99 $34.99 $34.99 $29.99

The Bad

(Available as single-disc and 2-Disc Deluxe Editions)
While not exactly terrible, the wholly generic Hollywood fluff flick 21 falls flat due to its incessant need to remove anything that could’ve made the film even remotely original or interesting. This includes, among other things, getting rid of the important cultural aspects from the true story on which the film is inspired (they were primarily Asian males), focusing far too much energy on making everything look flashy and cool instead of actually informing the audience what it is that’s happening on the blackjack table (I still have no idea what the hell counting cards entails), and spending so little time developing the lead character’s transformation that it barely even registers as an arc (there goes any hope for a compelling character study). In the end, the only thing that resonates in the slightest is the kickass soundtrack.
Blu-ray? Yes.
Notable Extras: A filmmaker commentary and 3 featurettes. In addition, the 2-disc set includes a digital copy of the film.

Target Best Buy Circuit City Fry’s
$16.99 $15.99

*Does not include 2-Disc Edition, which costs $22.99 at each of the listed stores.

What? Deluxe Edition includes The Basics of Winning Blackjack book.
Where? Target

What? Deck of 21-themed cards.
Where? Best Buy

Other noteworthy DVDs available this week…
Picture This! – The Last Winter – Bird (2-Disc Special Edition) – L.A. Ink (Season 1) – Las Vegas (Season 5) – Masters of Horror (Season 2 Box Set) – Kiss of the Spider Woman (2-Disc Collector’s Edition) [Amazon.com Exclusive]

Discuss: What are you planning to rent or buy this week?

The Specials
NOTE: Some deals may be in-store only.

Exclusive: Free E-Movie Cash (up to $7.50) to see The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, plus a Sneak Peek disc, with any of the following $5.99 DVDs.
$5.99 – Miami Vice, Children of Men, The Scorpion King, Serenity, Alpha Dog, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Unrated Director’s Cut), Tremors, Land of the Dead, Cape Fear, Billy Madison, and more…

$14.99 – Robot Chicken (Season 1-2), Aqua Teen Hunger Force (Season 1-4), The Venture Bros. (Season 1-2), Metalocalypse (Season 1)

$19.99 – Dexter (Season 1), The Tudors (Season 1)
$24.99 – Jericho (Season 1), The L Word (Season 3-4)
$27.99 – Lost (Season 3), Dirt (Season 1), Desperate Housewives (Season 3)

$5.99 – Rounders, Swingers, Gangs of New York, Equilibrium, Good Will Hunting, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Grosse Point Blank, From Dusk Till Dawn, and more…

Exclusive: Free movie money (up to $7.50) to see The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor with any of the following $9.99 and $6.99 DVDs.
$9.99 – The Mummy (2-Disc Deluxe Edition), The Mummy Returns (2-Disc Deluxe Edition), Fearless (Director’s Cut)
$6.99 – Miami Vice, Smokin’ Aces, Children of Men, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, and more…

$4.99 – The Island, The Warriors (Ultimate Director’s Cut), Lucky Number Slevin, Minority Report, The Princess Bride (20th Anniversary Edition), and more…