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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 May, 2015

New on Disc: 'Mr. Turner' and more …


Mr. Turner

Sony Pictures, Drama, $30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for some sexual content.
Stars Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson.
2014.
Director Mike Leigh’s portrait of the now revered 19th-century artist J.M.W. Turner really has it all: full-blooded characters, the grunt work of artistry, social life among the upper classes, peer rivalries and political considerations.
Extras: One of the delights of Leigh’s hugely informative feature-length commentary is hearing him talk about his abundant stock company stretching many movies back.
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42nd Street (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Musical, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, George Brent, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell.
1933.
The movie that established Busby Berkeley as a major force is just what one would hope a pioneer Depression-grounded movie would look like in the modern home viewing era.
Extras: Includes a “Merrie Melodie” spoof carried over from the DVD and a newly produced featurette that traces the film’s origins and production.
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20 Apr, 2015

New on Disc: 'Imitation of Life' and more …


Imitation of Life: 2-Movie Collection (Blu-ray)

Universal, Drama, $26.98 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Claudette Colbert, Warren William, Louise Beavers, Lana Turner, Juanita Moore, Susan Kohner.

1934/1959. The lush 1959 remake of the Fannie Hurst perennial is so revered by Douglas Sirk worshippers that the not insignificant power of the ’34 John Stahl original tends to be obscured.
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Singles (Blu-ray)

Warner, Comedy, $19.98 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13’ for language, sex related dialogue and scenes of sensuality.
Stars Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Matt Dillon.
1992.
Even some people who love 1989’s Say Anything and 1996’s Jerry Maguire may be unfamiliar with the easygoing charmer that writer-director Cameron Crowe sandwiched between them.
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13 Apr, 2015

New on Disc: 'The Thin Blue Line' and more …


The Thin Blue Line

Criterion, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
1988.
The prodigious list of amazing things about Errol Morris’ landmark miscarried-justice buster includes the fact that it got made in the first place, looking into the case of an Ohio drifter apparently railroaded for the murder of a Dallas cop that a teenaged walking rap sheet had almost certainly committed. About a year after Blue Line’s release, the state of Texas dropped charges against Randall Dale Adams and released him. The print here is one of renewed luster, and this is its own reward because it’s been said that the documentary had fallen into sad shape.
Extras: As we see and hear Morris himself quote his wife as having noted during the essential 40-minute interview featurette that Criterion has included with its Blue Line package, entire cable stations are now devoted to the kind of projects that he worked so exhaustingly to bankroll a quarter-century ago. Included in the extras is a “Today” show joint satellite interview with Morris in one studio and Adams plus lawyer in another. Blue Line was a true groundbreaker, something attested to with vigor on another bonus extra by filmmaker Josh Oppenheimer, whose The Act of Killing received its own huzzahs a couple years ago.
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The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars George Sanders, Ella Raines, Geraldine Fitzgerald.
1945.
Given the censorship strictures of the time, Harry’s compelling narrative does paint itself into such a corner that it’s no surprise that five different endings got market-tested before Universal settled on the notorious end result. Which is: probably the worst wrap-up ever for a movie that is still basically a winner up until the final three or four minutes.
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6 Apr, 2015

New on Disc: 'Ride the Pink Horse' and more …


Ride the Pink Horse

Criterion, Mystery, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Robert Montgomery, Wanda Hendrix, Thomas Gomez, Fred Clark.
1947.
An oddly beguiling genre scrambler that goes against a slew of grains, this cultist cause seems to have been worthily undertaken by Criterion (even more than most of their selections) to make it more widely known to the general public.
Extras: Criterion extras include an essay, commentary by ubiquitous noir pros Alain Silver and James Ursini; an interview with Imogen Sara Smith (author of In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City); and a Lux Radio Theatre spinoff.
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Our Mother’s House

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Dirk Bogarde, Pamela Franklin.
1967.
The boozy Brit womanizer top-billed Dirk Bogarde plays here is a textbook definition of a fun-to-watch wastrel, but by the time he shows up almost 40 minutes in to add some welcome buzz to the drama, we’ve already been treated to a compelling-enough setup involving seven siblings forced to take their lives into their own hands.
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30 Mar, 2015

New on Disc: 'The Band Wagon' and more …


The Band Wagon (Blu-ray)

Warner, Musical, $19.98 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Jack Buchanan, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabray.
1953.
In a kind of daring move roughly around the two-thirds mark, story considerations get scrapped almost altogether, and Wagon turns into a dazzling rat-tat-tat revue with one socko Howard Dietz-Arthur Schwartz musical number after another.
Extras: Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein join forces in a bonus commentary carried over from the 2005 DVD.
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Alice’s Restaurant

Olive, Comedy, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Arlo Guthrie, Pat Quinn, James Broderick, Pete Seeger.
1969.
Here’s the only Arthur Penn achievement beyond Bonnie and Clyde and The Miracle Worker to be honored with a Best Diretor Oscar nomination, a wistful hippie concoction that was and is superior to the same year’s Easy Rider. Sprung from lead Arlo Guthrie’s same-titled 18½-minute folky monologue tune that became one of the counter-culture staples of the era, Alice’s Restaurant the movie is more factually embellished than the recording, though a lot of its still ticklishly broad comedy would disqualify it as realism under any circumstances.
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13 Oct, 2014

New on Disc: 'Dick Cavett's Watergate' and more …


Dick Cavett’s Watergate

Street 10/14
PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2014.
Just about the only non-news show that would touch the subject of Watergate during the period was the one hosted by the only Johnny Carson rival who managed to carve out an equally vital late-night niche of his own. This pressure-packed remembrance is hosted by today’s version of Dick Cavett, assisted by star Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, former White House counsel and eventual beans-spiller John Dean, former Nixon Library historian Timothy Naftali (this guy is the final word in historical context) and more.
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Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Western, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Randolph Scott, James Craig, Angie Dickinson, James Garner.
1957.
Truth to tell, there’s really no shoot-out in this lukewarm but sporadically ticklish Randolph Scott Western, but you do get a punch-out or two once the baddies start to get theirs in piecemeal fashion in the later reels. James Garner and Angie Dickinson have major roles when they were very young.
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23 Jun, 2014

New on Disc: 'Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction' and more …


Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction

Adopt Films, Documentary, B.O. $0.02 million, $29.95 DVD, NR.
2013.
At just 76 minutes, Sophie Huber’s portrait of a remarkably durable character actor features more cover vocals by its subject than you might expect, but then Stanton has an extensive background as a singer, and the entire project takes a kind of backdoor approach to emerge as a satisfying tribute, if hardly a thorough one.
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Kismet (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Musical, $18.95 Blu-ray.
Stars Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, Dolores Gray, Vic Damone.
1955.
Time hasn’t been kind to this instantly creaky musical version of Kismet based on the ’53 stage musical that had taken a Tony.
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26 May, 2014

New on Disc: 'Two Rode Together' and more …


Two Rode Together (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Stewart, Richard
Widmark, Shirley Jones, Linda Cristal.
1961.
John Ford’s Two Rode Together doesn’t splice together too well and is something of a mess, likely a must for Ford fans but probably a much tougher sell for anyone else.
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The Public Defender

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Richard Dix, Shirley Grey.
1931.
Despite it having come out during the Hoover Administration, we could be talking about a movie from today, given the targeted heavies and the methodology used to combat them.
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5 May, 2014

New on Disc: 'Double Indemnity' and more …


Double Indemnity (Blu-ray)

Universal, Drama, $29.98 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson.

1944. The Blu-ray of this increasingly durable version of James M. Cain’s novel is the visually darkest rendering I’ve ever seen of the picture, but the image clarity is super sharp. Similarly sharp were Billy Wilder’s casting instincts over many years, and as good as the script is, it is tough to imagine the definitive insurance-fraud movie being as revered as it is were the choice of players not so distinctive. 
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Riot in Cell Block 11

Criterion, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Neville Brand, Emile Meyer, Leo Gordon.

1954. The backstory to this example of what used to be called a “shaky-A” is probably a little more interesting than the film itself, an exposé of prison abuses. Brutal for its day, Riot runs a tight 80 minutes and occasionally reflects a low budget that doesn’t give the great cinematographer Russell Harlan that much to do, though his deep-focus shots of the darkened prison corridor are not unimpressive.
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28 Apr, 2014

New on Disc: 'The King of Comedy' and more …


The King of Comedy (Blu-ray)

Fox, Comedy, $24.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis,
Sandra Bernhard, Diahnne Abbott.
1983.
This discomforting film from Martin Scorsese absolutely nails the show-biz nerd subculture, particularly in terms of what New York City fringe living was at that time. 
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Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Warren Oates, Isela Vega, Gig Young, Robert Webber, Emilio Fernandez.
1974.
This is the one Sam Peckinpah movie, according to the director himself, that he got to make without studio or producer interference.
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