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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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4 May, 2015

New on Disc: 'Sullivan's Travels' and more …


Sullivan’s Travels

Criterion, Comedy, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest.
1941.
Sullivan’s Travels is a strange movie of contradictions, just as director Preston Sturges was himself. The movie has at least two distinct moods, which is what throws some people – yet this is also what makes it worth so many viewings.
Extras: A sharp essay by The Nation’s Stuart Klawans rounds out a lot of good material in the bonus section, which includes Kenneth Bowser’s first-rate “American Masters” documentary Preston Sturges: The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer, an interview with widow Sandy Sturges and a new David Cairns video essay. Another treat carried over from the earlier DVD is a commentary by documentarian Bowser, filmmaker Noah Baumbach, plus Christopher Guest and Michael McKean.  
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Blue Sky

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, Blu-ray $29.95, Rated ‘PG-13’
Stars Jessica Lange, Tommy Lee Jones, Powers Boothe, Chris O’Donnell.
1994.
Here’s another of Olive’s barebones transfers, though one certainly better than the old DVD; more vivid color intensity does make something of a difference in how the garb that Oscar winner Jessica Lange wears has an emotional effect on the viewer.
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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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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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