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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.


Mike's Picks
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11 Apr, 2016

New on Disc: 'The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates' and more …


The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates

Street 4/26/16
Criterion, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
1960-64.
The four JFK-oriented documentaries here are Primary, Adventures on the New Frontier, Crisis and Faces of November. This is one of those home releases where viewers should take the mammothly rewarded time to watch all the bonus features.
Extras: In addition to still-gripping background material on how the once unlikely Kennedy presidency came to be, there’s a lot of interview footage with the filmmakers, plus outtakes.
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The Gong Show Movie (Blu-ray)

Shout! Factory, Comedy, $24.97 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Chuck Barris, Robin Altman, Jaye P. Morgan.
1980.
Chuck Barris (playing himself) questions whether or not his career as a game show host has been worth the time and effort — due, in part, to all of those novelty acts who insist on auditioning for him when he’s standing at the urinal.
Extras: Includes a commentary by pop culture historian Russell Dyball.
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29 Feb, 2016

New on Disc: 'I Knew Her Well' and more …


I Knew Her Well

Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Stefania Sandrelli, Mario Adorf, Jean-Claude Brialy.
1965.
This vastly underseen Italian import, about someone without too much ammo at her disposal trying to exploit the one commodity she has (looks) to survive in a pool of male sharks, is enough of a discovery to make one wonder how many other submerged treasures there are out there from the ’60s. The 4K spiff-up is so easy on the eye that we’re again reminded of Criterion’s consistent prowess at rendering black-and-white.
Extras: There’s a good backgrounding essay by journalist/author Alexander Stille about the societal changes in ’60s Italy that led to a cinematic re-emphasis from the rural to the metropolitan; a Stefania Sandrelli interview plus her original screen test; and an interview with scholar Luca Barattoni on the career of writer/director Antonio Pietrangeli.
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These Three

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD
Stars Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon, Joel McCrea, Bonita Granville.
1936.
Long cited as one of the more artful end runs around the Hollywood Production Code, this first of eight pictures in the fruitful Samuel Goldwyn-William Wyler association is an unacknowledged (at least in the credits) first screen version of Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour.
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8 Feb, 2016

New on Disc: 'All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records' and more …


All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

FilmRise, Documentary, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
2015.
I’m not sure how it came to be that Colin Hanks (son of Tom) took on Tower’s story as a screen project, but on some level it was out of love because there’s just too much wistful adoration in every frame here.
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The Wrong Man (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive 
Warner, Mystery, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Henry Fonda, Vera Miles, Anthony Quayle.
1956.
This is a powerful fact-based movie and definitely one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s stronger achievements. It tells of how a financially strapped family man got picked up for a series of neighborhood armed robberies after trying to borrow some money on his wife’s insurance policy for her dental work.
Extras: In addition to retaining a smooth making-of short that appeared on the long-ago Man standard DVD, Warner has given the picture a new transfer with a surprising amount of grain that suits the picture’s semi-documentary style.
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25 Jan, 2016

New on Disc: 'Bitter Rice' and more …


Bitter Rice

Criterion, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Vittorio Gassman, Doris Dowling, Silvana Mangano, Raf Vallone.
1949.
An almost perfect blend of genuine Italian neo-realism and art house sexploitation.
Extras: Includes a remembrance of director Giuseppe De Santis and an essay by journalist/academic Pasquale Iannone.
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The Detective (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Frank Sinatra, Lee Remick, Jacqueline Bisset, Ralph Meeker, Robert Duvall.
1968.
For all its narrative sputters and misses, the once popular movie version of Roderick Thorp’s sprawling novel remains something of a grabber, in part because it’s both retro and progressive.
Extras: The Blu-ray has a particularly lively commentary by Twilight Time guru Nick Redman, his frequent bonus track partner Lem Dobbs and David Del Valle in an entertaining court jester role.
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28 Dec, 2015

New on Disc: 'You Can't Take It With You' and more …


You Can’t Take It With You (Blu-ray)

Sony Pictures, Comedy, $19.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Edward Arnold.
1938.
This 4K restoration of iffy but best-existing printing materials showcases an in-his-prime Frank Capra fashioning a little something of his own out of the George S. Kaufman-Moss Hart Pulitzer winner — auteurism, in fact, that won the director his third Oscar in five years from 1934-38.
Extras: The overall production is classy all the way: digibook with glossy paper and still reproductions; a historical-essay overview plus Crisp’s primer on the restoration challenges; and a vintage commentary by Frank Capra Jr. and Cathrine Kellison
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American Masters: Althea

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2015.
Rex Miller’s PBS Althea Gibson documentary unearths a goodly amount of archival footage, and Miller is so deft at mixing film and stills that one will possibly get the impression that more first-hand film exists than really does.
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21 Dec, 2015

New on Disc: 'Robbers' Roost' and more …


Robbers’ Roost

Kino Lorber, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars George Montgomery, Richard Boone, Sylvia Findley, Peter Graves.
1955.
This more-fun-than-expected Zane Grey adaptation is mostly a “guy” thing full of familiar ’50s faces to Boomer fanciers of Westerns.
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Hitler’s Children

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Tim Holt, Bonita Granville, Kent Smith, Otto Kruger.
1943.
Based on the memoirs of an American educator and onetime broadcaster who taught at an American school in Germany, this is the story of a student who ends up in a Nazi work facility after her childhood friend takes up with the country’s Youth movement.
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14 Dec, 2015

New on Disc: 'Downhill Racer' and more …


Downhill Racer (Blu-ray)

Criterion, Drama, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Robert Redford, Gene Hackman, Camilla Sparv.
1969.
Director Michael Ritchie’s debut is the best fictional movie about skiing — ever.
Extras: Though Robert Redford’s baby from its inception, Downhill Racer was an extraordinarily collaborative effort, a point made clear during the informative interviews that constitute much of this Criterion upgrade’s bonus materials.
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The Kid From Cleveland

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars George Brent, Russ Tamblyn, Lynn Bari.
1949.
In addition to giving speaking parts to (among several others) Cleveland Indians player-manager Lou Boudreau, Hank Greenburg, Tris Speaker and maverick Indians owner Bill Veeck, Kid From Cleveland marked the feature debut of Russ Tamblyn in that brief early period when he was billed as Rusty, as a young troublemaker taken under the wing of a sportswriter and the baseball team.
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30 Nov, 2015

New on Disc: 'Best of Enemies' and more …


Best of Enemies

Magnolia, Documentary, B.O. $0.89 million, $26.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for some sexual content/nudity and language.
2015.
This super-crisp documentary by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon chronicles how a Hail Mary pass by basement-dwelling ABC to team William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal for a series of televised debates in 1968 helped lead to the kinds of political-donnybrook talk shows that prevail today.
Extras: Enemies has a full hour of interviews that are as good as the documentary itself. Here’s a case where, without the extras, you’re only getting maybe 60% of the package.
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The Hurricane

Kino Lorber, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jon Hall, Dorothy Lamour, Raymond Massey, Mary Astor, Thomas Mitchell.
1937.
Director John Ford’s solemn tale of a Polynesian unfairly imprisoned by a French colonial governor in the South Seas is all island foreplay for the main event: a 14-minute hurricane sequence that has a few technically dated bits but still plays remarkably well by today’s standards.
Extras: Preeminent Ford biographer Joseph McBride provides a commentary, which alone is worth the price of admission.
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9 Nov, 2015

New on Disc: 'One Deadly Summer' and more …


One Deadly Summer (Blu-ray)

Street 11/10/15
Bayview, Drama, $24.99 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Isabelle Adjani, Alain Suchon, Suzanne Flon.
1983.
Ultimately, this revenge saga belongs to Isabelle Adjani and a vibrant “look” with a color quality that rocks on Blu-ray. The story takes a lot of tasty twists and turns, though at 133 minutes, the picture is a tad long and lumpy.
Extras: Included here are interviews with Adjani and director Jean Becker.
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Matchstick Men (Blu-ray)

Warner, Drama, $14.98 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13.’
Stars Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman.
2003.
When Nicolas Cage is good and has watchable material, he’s really good, such as his memorable turn here as an obsessive-compulsive con artist who likes leaving his lair only a little more than Dracula does during the daylight hours. This is, of all things, a Ridley Scott movie — one of those (like, say, Someone to Watch Over Me or The Good Year or The Counselor) that don’t seem to go with the usual or at least frequent program.
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2 Nov, 2015

New on Disc: 'Diary of a Lost Girl' and more …


Diary of a Lost Girl

Kino Lorber, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Louise Brooks, Andre Roanne, Fritz Rasp.
1929.
If you think you’ve seen sordid, a characterization meant as a compliment, do not go through your movie life without seeing this second of two masterpieces (along with the previous year’s Pandora’s Box) that were filmed in almost boom-boom fashion by Germany’s G.W. Pabst — both starring misused-by-Hollywood Louise Brooks, whose legend is based near-exclusively on these collaborations.
Extras: To show us how quickly Brooks’s career declined, Kino’s release includes an 18-minute Brooks short subject titled Windy Riley Goes to Hollywood, which has the added curio factor of having been directed by an even more professionally compromised Fatty Arbuckle
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Wind Across the Everglades

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Burl Ives, Christopher Plummer, Gypsy Rose Lee, Peter Falk.
1958.
This oddball directed mostly by Nicholas Ray (who was fired and replaced by writer Budd Schulberg) is one of the era’s more fascinating projects, though that’s about the extent of its success.
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