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Mike Clark

Mike Clark Blog

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Mike Clark has been writing about film for more than 20 years, starting with a weekly column in USA Today in 1985. He also served as program planner and director of the American Film Institute Theater.

June 21, 2010
New on Disc: 'A Star Is Born,' 'She's Out of My League' and more …

A Star Is Born: Special Edition

Street 6/22
Warner, Drama, $20.97 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson, Charles Bickford, Tommy Noonan.
Until the very last frame can be found and assembled — and rumors still exist that a full print is out there — this is about as good as one of my favorite movies ever is likely to get. The movie always had a harsh, orangey tint that I can’t quite recall being replicated in any other movie, but the restoration and 6K resolution — just smashing here — has a much warmer, cleaner look.
Extras: The copious bonus extras (including the Blu-ray’s essay by John Fricke) include one of the most amazing features I’ve ever seen: take after alternate take — the approach is to put one on top and one on the bottom — of the “Man That Got Away” sequence.
Read the full review

She’s Out of My League

Street 6/22
Paramount, Comedy, B.O. $31.6 million, $29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language and sexual content.
Stars Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, T.J. Miller, Mike Vogel, Nate Torrence, Krysten Ritter, Lindsay Sloane.
If you never caught him in such TV series as “Undeclared” and “Just Legal” — or didn’t particularly notice him in Million Dollar Baby, Knocked Up or Tropic Thunder — here’s a chance to see actor Jay Baruchel in action. But the main selling point is co-star Alice Eve and a premise advancing the theory that maybe, just maybe, a stunning woman might get so sick of the egotistical male “10s” she’s used to dating that she’d prefer the calming influence of a “5.”
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Green Zone

Street 6/22
Universal, Drama, B.O. $35.1 million, $29.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for violence and language.
Stars Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson.
As grown-up entertainment, Green Zone isn’t bad, and the second hour is directed as if it were another “Bourne” action pic (certainly, it was sold like one) as a prelude to some cringe-worthy speechifying near the end.
Extras: Matt Damon shares DVD commentary labors with director Paul Greengrass. It also includes some deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes featurettes.
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Mystery Train

Criterion, Comedy, $39.95 DVD or Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Nicoletta Braschi, Steve Buscemi.
Writer-director Jim Jarmusch’s quirky three-parter does, say those in the know, capture Memphis’ low-rent-district ethos from the era in which it was filmed.
Extras: There’s a lovely featurette on the depressed sections of Memphis from the time of shooting, plus a Q&A with Jarmusch.
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Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country

Oscilloscope, Documentary, B.O. $0.05 million, $29.99 DVD, NR.
Under likely threat of imprisonment or death, these VJs (“video journalists”) secretly recorded street protests against the brutal military government of Myanmar. The video quality is remarkable given the raw circumstances under which it was shot.
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By: Mike Clark

June 14, 2010
New on Disc: 'Youth in Revolt' and more …

Youth in Revolt

Street 6/15
Sony Pictures, Comedy, B.O. $15.3 million, $28.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for sexual content, language and drug use.
Stars Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Ari Graynor, Rooney Mara, Zach Galifianakis, Jean Smart, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, Steve Buscemi, Mary Kay Place,
M. Emmet Walsh, Fred Willard.
Michael Cera’s Nick Twisp takes on an alter ego to win the girl of his dreams (Portia Doubleday). Any movie that gives us a bare-chested Fred Willard lying face down on the living room floor after ingesting psychedelic mushrooms earns at least enough points to get in the front door.
Extras: You can see from Doubleday’s screen test, which is included with others on the DVD/Blu-ray bonus section, that she came naturally to what can’t have been the easiest role.
Read the Full Review


Street 6/15
MPI, Documentary, B.O. $0.05 million, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Featuring Michael Ruppert.
Director Chris Smith’s must-see interview of the controversial Mike Ruppert, who predicted the recent economic collapse and now thinks the depletion of the oil supply will reset society’s definition of advanced technology to the wheelbarrow.
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Flash Gordon (Blu-ray)

Street 6/15
Universal, Sci-Fi, $26.98 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Max Von Sydow, Timothy Dalton.
This good-looking lark remains a guilty pleasure, and as a massage on the senses it has its moments. The Blu-ray is basically just a format upgrade from the 2007 “Saviour of the Universe” DVD but a better BD job than Universal did with Spartacus and Out of Africa.
Extras: Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. is kind of funny when being profiled on a bonus featurette, which, like the other extras, are carried over from the “Saviour” DVD.
Read the Full Review

Bob Hope: Thanks for the Memories Collection

Universal, Comedy, $39.98 three-DVD set, NR.
Stars Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Bing Crosby, Jane Russell.
This set includes the DVD debuts of Thanks for the Memory (1938), The Cat and the Canary (1939) and Nothing But the Truth (1941), as well as longtime favorites The Ghost Breakers (1940), The Road to Morocco (1942) and The Paleface (1948).
Extras: Bonus featurettes deal with Hope entertaining the troops during World War II.
Read the Full Review


Available Now via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive.
Warner, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, $14.95 Download, ‘PG.’
Stars Anthony Quinn, Shelley Winters, Claude Akins, Tony Bill.
Director Carol Reed’s next-to-last movie, a curiously comic modern-day Western based on the novel Nobody Loves a Drunken Indian.
Read the Full Review

By: Mike Clark

June 07, 2010
New on Disc: 'Shutter Island' and more …

Shutter Island

Street 6/8
Paramount, Thriller, B.O. $127.8 million, $29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for disturbing violent content, language and violence.
Stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer.
Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Dennis Lahane’s period mystery about all kinds of mental instability on an island asylum in 1954 is an impressive pro job with bull’s-eye performances and masterful cinematography by the great Robert Richardson. The movie improves on Lahane’s very respectable book — especially with the ending.
Extras: A commentary would’ve been nice, but the DVD/Blu-ray extras we get are better than the usual boilerplate: We really get a sense of what the director and cast were trying to do here plus a lot of insights as to where psychiatry was in 1954.
Read the Full Review

My Lai (American Experience)

Street 6/8
PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
Pressure-packing a prodigious amount of information into just over 80 minutes, this “American Experience” presentation is a huge sock to the gut — though, of course, you’d have to deem this particular documentary a failure were it not — chronicling still controversial events that resulted in the massacre of between 347 and 504 Vietnamese civilians in 1968.
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Reds Memories: The Greatest Moments in Cincinnati Reds History

Street 6/8
Shout! Factory, Sports, $19.93 DVD, NR.
Here’s a feel-good cheerleading set about a baseball team that has often given me that feel-good sensation — which means this isn’t the place where we’ll hear about Pete Rose’s banning from the sport or about some of the outlandish public comments one-time Reds owner Marge Schott used to make. There’s much more here than the Big Red Machine of the 1970s, but the Big Red Machine will do quite nicely, thank you.
Extras: The finale to Tom Browning’s perfect game, Seaver’s no-hitter, milestone home runs, Johnny Bench’s funny Hall of Fame speech and more.
Read the Full Review

Word Is Out

Street 6/8
Milliarium Zero, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, NR.
As a landmark gay documentary worthy of its reception at the time yet with equal or surpassing power today, this intense labor of love from San Francisco’s Mariposa Film Group collective benefits from eerie historical placement that wasn’t evident at the time.
Extras: Generous bonus material includes an outstanding update.
Read the Full Review

No Orchids for Miss Blandish

VCI, Drama, $19.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Jack La Rue, Linden Travers.
This notably lurid underworld melodrama was one of the all-time misconceived howlers — a British attempt to re-create the American gangster movie. Well, yesterday’s camp classic can occasionally become today’s “expressive” cinema, especially with VCI’s handsome-looking DVD.
Extras: A commentary and a lengthy interview.
Read the Full Review

By: Mike Clark

May 31, 2010
New on Disc: 'The Eastwood Factor,' 'MLB Bloopers' and more …

The Eastwood Factor: Extended Version

Street 6/1
Warner, Documentary, $14.97 DVD, NR.
The Eastwood Factor is a pleasing afternoon chat with a legendary filmmaker. The documentary has been expanded from a version that was included in the 35 Films 35 Years at Warner Bros. boxed set from February. Several Eastwood films also are being released on Blu-ray, such as Heartbreak Ridge, Absolute Power and The Rookie.
Read the Full Review

MLB Bloopers: Baseball’s Best Blunders

Street 6/1
Shout! Factory, Sports, $14.97 DVD, NR.
You go into one of these amusing grab-bags — this one seems like the millionth since the dawn of the VHS era — wondering if it will pay deep and deserved homage to the May 23, 1993, Indians-Rangers game in which a fly ball hit Texas outfielder Jose Canseco in the head and bounced into the stands for a home run. The bounce heard ’round the world is, in fact, the funny DVD’s opening selection. The DVD also, for better or ill-focused worse, includes more than bloopers: think song-time in the dugout during rain delays or players tarp-sliding in the same situation.
Read the Full Review

Bing Crosby: The Television Specials Vol. One

Infinity, Musical, $29.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Edie Adams, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peggy Lee.
Bing Crosby was unquestionably the most important American entertainer from the first half of the 20th century, but he didn’t plunge into his TV specials until the Sunday night after New Year’s in 1954. This is the first of four shows on this spotty mix of curios and the genuinely super.
Extras: It was rare to see Crosby interviewed in any depth, but there’s a 1967 beauty in this set’s outstanding bonus section. The other standout — in an array that even includes a 1964 pitch for a Thermo-Fax machine — is a spring 1952 episode of religious show “The Christophers.”
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Silver Lode: Special Edition

VCI, Western, $14.99 DVD, NR.
Stars John Payne, Lizabeth Scott, Dan Duryea.
One of the better Westerns that rode in on High Noon’s buckboard, Silver Lode exhibits the limitations of low-budget filmmaking, which reduces its effectiveness as a political tract opposing McCarthyism.
Extras: VCI previously released Lode early in the decade but here gives it a fresh spiff-up, fine-tuning the film’s inherently expressive Technicolor and cleaning up wear that detracted from its DVD predecessor’s print.
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Which Way to the Front?

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, ‘G.’
Stars Jerry Lewis, Jan Murray, Steve Franken, John Wood.
A band of American World War II draftees, played by predominantly but not exclusively Jewish actors, invades Italy to take on the Germans. This gives Jerry Lewis, sporting a distinctive mustache/beard combo, the opportunity to impersonate a lookalike general in the German high command. I dare you to watch.
Read the Full Review


By: Mike Clark

May 24, 2010
New on Disc: 'Stagecoach' and more …


Street 5/25
Criterion, Western, $39.95 DVD or Blu-ray, NR.
Stars John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Thomas Mitchell.
John Ford’s landmark Western is about as bedrock as you can get when it comes to American cinema. The print here — struck from best-existing 1942 materials, which tells you everything you have to know — is the best of the movie I’ve ever seen, though with more scratches than anyone is used to seeing in a Criterion Hollywood release. That’s the way it is: We all know the horror stories about the what-me-worry attitude the industry took toward preservation way back when.
Extras: Criterion has gone all out on the extras here, starting with a rather rigidly delivered but undeniably organized no-fat commentary by top movie Western historian Jim Kitses. You get the sense that Criterion, knowing the inevitable shortcomings of the utilized print, did everything else possible to succeed in making this one of the DVD/Blu-ray releases of the year.
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Doctor Zhivago: 45th Anniversary Edition

Warner, Drama, $24.98 two-DVD set, $35.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13’ for mature themes.
Stars Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson, Tom Courtenay.
David Lean’s blockbuster adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s novel became the No. 1 date movie of its era, and Warner’s gorgeous new Blu-ray almost makes it seem like a first-time viewing.
Extras: Extensive carryovers from previous releases, though a new 40-minute featurette has several filmmakers rhapsodizing on what Zhivago meant to them.
Read the full review

Rogues of Sherwood Forest

Sony Pictures, Adventure, $14.94 DVD, NR.
Stars John Derek, George Macready, Diana Lynn, Alan Hale Sr.
Cashing in on the new Robin Hood is a DVD quartet of ‘B’ movies that along with Rogues includes The Bandit of Sherwood Forest (1946), Prince of Thieves (1948) and Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960). This movie about Robin Hood’s son is minor, yet looks as if it cost four times more than it must have, so splendid is the Technicolor that hits us in the face with its reds.
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Roads to Memphis (American Experience)

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
Perhaps not as classy as other “Experience” presentations, this documentary at least provides context for the fateful (and fatal) convergence of Martin Luther King Jr. and his assassin, James Earl Ray, in 1968.
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Available now via WBShop.com’s Warner Archive.
Warner, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, ‘R.’
Stars Peter Falk, Emily Lloyd, Dianne Wiest, Jerry Lewis.
No more — or less — than keenly cast goombah fluff that barely got a national release at the time, this reasonably cute trifle didn’t just predate “The Sopranos” by a full decade in its portrayal of hoods at home. It also opened before Warner, almost exactly a year later, unveiled Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas to instant classic status. Cookie may be one of Warner’s DVD-R titles geared to on-demand requests, but there’s nothing wrong with its 1.85:1 presentation.
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By: Mike Clark


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