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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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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 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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23 Mar, 2015

New on Disc: 'John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man' and more …


John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man

Street 3/24
Olive, Documentary, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Featuring Maureen O’Hara, Martin Scorsese, Joseph McBride, Peter Bogdanovich.
2010.
Here in director Sé Merry Doyle’s full-length feature, Maureen O’Hara is front and center with her remembrances of filming 1952’s The Quiet Man and working with director John Ford.
Extras: Unlike a lot of Olive releases, this one has a robust collection of local-color featurettes and outtakes.
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The Prowler (Blu-ray)

VCI, Drama, $24.97 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Van Heflin, Evelyn Keyes.
1951.
Definitive L.A. crime novelist James Ellroy referred to director Joseph Losey’s uncommonly grown-up exercise in doom as “perv noir.” This is a handsome Blu-ray of the picture’s restoration.
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16 Mar, 2015

New on Disc: 'Eat Drink Man Woman' and more …


Eat Drink Man Woman

Olive, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Sihung Lung, Yu-Wen Wang, Chien-Lien Wu, Kuei-Mei Yang.
1994.
As a title, Eat Drink Man Woman seems pretty apt, given that it deals with four sets of romantic relationships (involving three daughters and a father) plus a lot of food. The result is still a lovely mix of family drama and social satire. A fresh Blu-ray look at this early Taiwanese import from Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee shows that it hasn’t lost a beat.
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Stormy Weather (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Musical, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Lena Horne, Bill Robinson, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, The Nicholas Brothers.
1943.
A major showcase for Lena Horne, Stormy Weather is kind of back-loaded with some of its best numbers saved till the end — but not so back-loaded that you fiddle with your socks waiting for the good stuff.
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2 Mar, 2015

New on Disc: 'Far From the Madding Crowd' and more …


Far From the Madding Crowd (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Julie Christie, Terence Stamp, Peter Finch, Alan Bates.
1967.
The movie of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd was and is a little lumpy, if never less than highly watchable, as its second half wallows too much in local color while failing to find a way to at least suggest what makes Julie Christie’s Bathsheba Everdene (Hardy was a great one for names) tick.
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American Experience: Edison — The Father of Invention (DVD Review)

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2015.
Running a full two hours (well, 114 minutes) as only occasional “American Experience” documentaries do, this portrait is deservedly respectful, though it also addresses the type of dark-side material we never get in MGM’s factually embellished 1940 Spencer Tracy movie Edison, the Man.
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16 Feb, 2015

New on Disc: 'Kiss Me, Stupid' and more …


Kiss Me, Stupid

Street 2/17
Olive, Comedy, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13.’
Stars Dean Martin, Kim Novak, Ray Walston, Felicia Farr.
1964.
At its very least, Billy Wilder’s career Armageddon is the ultimate Rat Pack movie, a tale about what the artistically driven (if not necessarily talented) will do to get out of a podunk hellhole — which is almost anything.
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Panic Button

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Maurice Chevalier, Jayne Mansfield, Eleanor Parker, Michael Connors.
1964.
Even before the script manages to get Maurice Chevalier into nun drag, we’re talking a cinematic one-of-a-kind here, about a shady business executive desperate to come up with a $500,000 tax loss who elects to use the half-million on his hands to finance a disastrous TV version of Romeo and Juliet.
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9 Feb, 2015

New on Disc: 'The Palm Beach Story' and more …


The Palm Beach Story

Criterion, Comedy, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Rudy Vallee, Mary Astor.
1942.
An uncommonly knockabout farce even by Preston Sturges standards — yet also visually lush enough for its lead actress to be expertly sporting duds by Irene — The Palm Beach Story was released smack in the middle of the writer-director’s prime years.
Extras: Also included are background featurettes with writer and historian James Harvey and “Saturday Night Live’s” Bill Hader; a luminous 4K restoration; a Sturges-written wartime short; and an essay by the Village Voice’s Stephanie Zacharek.
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Woman They Almost Lynched

Olive, Western, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars John Lund, Brian Donlevy, Audrey Totter, Joan Leslie.
1953.
I’ve never quite gotten over the sight of Audrey Totter in leather pants causing a lot of mayhem for saloon owner Joan Leslie in what is only the second-weirdest feminist Western (after Johnny Guitar) that Republic Pictures managed to release in a two-year period.
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2 Feb, 2015

New on Disc: 'Breaking Away' and more …


Breaking Away (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Barbara Barrie, Paul Dooley.
1979.
There are enough loopy moments in this minor pleasantry about competitive bicycling to argue against anyone calling these affable hundred minutes conventional.
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Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis

Anchor Bay, Documentary, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Featuring Jerry Lewis, Jerry Seinfeld, Steven Spielberg, Carol Burnett.
2011.
This Encore presentation isn’t a warts-and-all documentary, but it’s still OK because a love song to Jerry Lewis (especially one that plumbs his unsurpassed archives) was years overdue, and this one got me misty more than a few times (not to mention how some of the clips made me laugh out loud). This film tribute has been around on DVD for a couple of years but has been given a big push recently at Costco.
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26 Jan, 2015

New on Disc: 'Inherit the Wind' and more …


Inherit the Wind (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gene Kelly, Florence Eldredge, Dick York.
1960.
This in some way fabricated take on 1925’s Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tenn., has rarely been more topical.
Extras: To sell the film, director Stanley Kramer filmed a coming attraction, included on this Twilight Time release, where he pretended to be one of those boxing ring announcers who launch the contest and later bellow out the final decision.
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The Black Scorpion

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Horror, $17.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Richard Denning, Mara Corday, Carlos Rivas.
1957.
The effects, which are why anyone will be watching, are hit and miss in this cheapie about volcanoes unleashing hitherto trapped scorpions into the Mexican countryside.
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19 Jan, 2015

New on Disc: 'The Boys From Brazil' and more …


The Boys From Brazil (Blu-ray)

Shout! Factory, Drama, $24.97 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, James Mason, Lilli Palmer.
1978.
The only movie, pretty sure, to claim both Laurence Olivier and Police Academy’s Steve Guttenberg in its cast, this one’s about as preposterously trashy as it’s possible to be and still be worth a look. Gregory Peck plays the unfathomably queasy Nazi butcher Dr. Josef Mengele, pursued in the 1970s by a famed Nazi hunter played by Laurence Olivier.
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Frenchman’s Creek

Available via Universal Vault Series
Universal, Drama, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Joan Fontaine, Arturo de Cordova, Basil Rathbone, Cecil Kellaway.
1944.
Dramatically clumsy but a visual stunner that took the art/set decoration Oscar, the film stars Joan Fontaine, at her screen peak of beauty and certainly glamour, playing the dissatisfied redheaded wife of a debauched fop — quickly absconding solo to an oceanside mansion with two small kids in tow, only to become brazenly spellbound by a French pirate conducting business with his crew in the very vicinity.
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12 Jan, 2015

New on Disc: 'River's Edge' and more …


River’s Edge

Street 1/13
Kino Lorber, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Keanu Reeves, Crispin Glover, Ione Skye, Dennis Hopper.
1987.
Even by the seen-it-all standards of the past quarter-century, this Generation X creep-out that should have done more for director Tim Hunter’s career than it did remains unsettling.
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The Fortune (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Comedy, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Stockard Channing.
1975.
A huge flop in its day, The Fortune is mildly amusing all the way, with a great Jack Nicholson performance. Set in the 1920s, it’s a farce about the Mann Act and the onetime ramifications of taking even an adult woman over the state line for sex.
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American Experience: Cold War Roadshow

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2014.
Boasting footage from presumably the only time Nikita Khrushchev and Eddie Fisher found themselves in the same room, this chronicle of the “career-best” story for a lot of the journalists who covered it looks back at the time the Soviet Premier visited the U.S. in 1959.
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