Log in
  

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
Sort by: Title | Date
19 Jul, 2010

New on Disc: 'Black Narcissus' and more …


Black Narcissus

Street 7/20
Criterion, Drama, $39.95 DVD or Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Deborah Kerr, David Farrar, Sabu, Jean Simmons.
1947.
Thanks to an unusual story stirringly told plus apt and imaginative casting, the high-Fahrenheit film version of Rumer Godden’s novel played well even when shown in black-and-white in early TV showings decades ago. The Blu-ray pretty well equals the impressive theatrical print of this Technicolor psychological drama with religious overtones that dramatized the challenge of British Anglican nuns to bring a sense of order to what is at least physical paradise in the Himalayas, which merits serious consideration as one of the 10 most beautiful color movies of all time.
Extras: A booklet contains magnificent color stills and an essay by Kent Jones, plus several more supplements (some that carried over from a 2001 DVD) that relay a lot of information about the production.
Read the Full Review

White House Revealed

Street 7/20
Infinity, Documentary, $14.98 DVD, NR.
Narrated by Martin Sheen.
2010.
You have to believe that no one ever says “it’s just a job” when it comes to the 95 resident staffers in the White House detail, who begin and end their day (which can last up to 20 hours if a state dinner is on the calendar) serving the leader of the free world, family members and a dog or two. Martin Sheen (an apt choice considering his role on “The West Wing”) narrates this 50-minute history, which frequently cuts to the senior George Bush and first lady Barbara for warm recollections.
Read the Full Review

New York Confidential

VCI, Drama, $19.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Broderick Crawford, Richard Conte, Anne Bancroft, Mike Mazurki.
1955.
If you don’t expect too much beyond grown-up subject matter and actors who can carry the show, there’s a hefty body count to be enjoyed from what the DVD box art refers to as “the Holy Grail of missing noir films.” Seen by relatively few at the time and fondly remembered by a few, the movie basically fell off the face of the earth until a recent well-received public showing at the American Cinematheque’s annual noir festival in Los Angeles.
Extras: On the commentary by Alan K. Bode and Kim Morgan — one of the most entertaining and certainly the funniest I’ve heard in a while — the film is not unjustly described as “roots” of The Godfather.
Read the Full Review

Verboten!

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $24.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Dick Kallman, James Best, Susan Cummings, Tom Pittman.
1959.
Fans of writer-director Samuel Fuller will let him get away with anything and even relish the nerviness of his conceits. How many movies do you know that feature Beethoven’s Fifth on the soundtrack, followed by the voice of an unbilled Paul Anka singing the title tune? Fuller’s extensive combat experiences in World War II no doubt colored this rather raw ‘B’-pic (or close) about a conquering G.I. (James Best, later of the filmmaker’s quintessential 1963 Shock Corridor) who is cared for in a rubble-surrounded house by an anti-Nazi fraulein (Susan Cummings). Best so specialized in playing good ol’ boys that he later ended up as Sheriff Roscoe in TV’s “The Dukes of Hazzard,” and there’s a little of that here.
Read the Full Review
 


12 Jul, 2010

New on Disc: 'Dragnet 1968' and more …


Dragnet 1968: Season 2

Shout! Factory, Drama, $44.99 six-DVD set, NR.
Stars Jack Webb, Harry Morgan.
1967-68.
The successful 1960s revival of the classic cop drama packed in some camp value during the counter-culture heyday. The jokiness began to seem more forced when juxtaposed against more adult subject matter like sex predators, LSD and racial turmoil. Even so, these episodes do give a hint of where the country was at the time.
Extras: The set includes the 1966 pilot episode, a sit-around with longtime associates of Jack Webb and informative essays by Webb’s daughter (Stacy) and Webb’s official biographers.
Read the Full Review

Jason and the Argonauts (Blu-ray)

Sony Pictures, Adventure, $24.95 Blu-ray, ‘G.’
Stars Todd Armstrong, Honor Blackman, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond.
1963.
Generally, the colors on the darker Jason Blu-ray aren’t as bright as those on my old and generally brighter DVD copy, though I noticed certain reds on the Blu-ray that carried the day. Overall, the grainier Blu-ray is sharper, though there’s visual inconsistency in both versions. The result is kind of a litmus test for how much or little Blu-ray can do for a movie shot on a limited budget.
Extras: The Blu-ray offers a pair of commentaries, one of which is with stop-motion special effects guru Ray Harryhausen (who just turned 90) and film historian Tony Dalton. The other discussion features visual effects artist Randall William Cook (The Lord of the Rings) and Peter Jackson.
Read the Full Review

Obama’s Deal: Inside the Battle for Health Care Reform

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2010.
April’s “Frontline” special from its top creative gun (Michael Kirk) is about the grimy hands that resulted from presidentially mandated arm-twisting on the long road to getting a bill passed. Expect the usual array of Washington characters and confrontations, though here, of course, the stakes were upped. You get a great sense of how arduous the process is and how many unsavory things one has to do even to win a squeaker, which Kirk gives us in just under an hour.
Read the Full Review

Five Star Final (Remastered)

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $14.95 Download, NR.
Stars Edward G. Robinson, Marian Marsh, Boris Karloff.
1931.
Though a couple of its supporting performances have their overwrought moments, this pioneer best picture Oscar nominee is still the real deal when it comes to the screen’s most acidic portrayals of the tabloid press. And there’s nothing overwrought about Edward G. Robinson, who proved to audiences that his range went well beyond playing iconic hood “Rico” in Little Caesar, which had made an overnight star of the Broadway import earlier in the year. Said to be based on the experiences of a vengeful former newshound, this play-to-film casts Robinson as the managing editor of a rag called the New York Evening Gazette. With the sales force wanting more sensationalism, Robinson reluctantly gives it to them by dredging up a society shooting from 20 years before. What follows is escalating tragedy that turns the stomach of Robinson — who, in an effective symbolic gesture, is always seen sudsing up his hands with hot water, as if to excise layers of Gazette dirt.
Read the Full Review
 


5 Jul, 2010

New on Disc: 'Film Noir Classics II,' 1927's 'Chicago'


Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics II

Street 7/6
Sony Pictures, Drama, $59.95 five-DVD set, NR.
Stars Glenn Ford, Fred MacMurray, Kim Novak, Gloria Grahame.
1954-59.
This boxed set contains, in order of personal preference: Human Desire (1954), Pushover (1954), City of Fear (1959), Nightfall (1957) and The Brothers Rico (1957). All five are correctly presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
Extras: Martin Scorsese introduces one of the selections, and there are further bonus cameos from Shutter Island colleague Emily Mortimer (talking about noir women and situations), plus Memento/The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan on “Pulp Paranoia” and the fact that noir is as much a state of mind as it is a means of shadowy photographic expression.
Read the Full Review

Chicago

Street 7/6
Flicker Alley, Comedy, $39.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Phyllis Haver, Victor Varconi, Robert Edeson.
1927.
Thought to be lost for so many years, the first screen version of Maurine Watkins’ play is more sober than that of its follow-ups, ultimately presenting a more jaded view of press fickleness.
Extras: A booklet contains three informative essays, enticing on-screen supplements and a half-hour featurette that explains the flapper phenomenon by interviewing women who offer first-hand remembrances. The standout bonus is the inclusion of an obscure but lively 63-minute “March of Time” documentary The Golden Twenties, which RKO distributed in 1950.
Read the Full Review

It Came From Kuchar

IndiePix, Documentary, $24.95 DVD, NR.
2009.
In the great scheme of (non-cineaste) things, we are talking about the fringe of the fringe here — back from the days before DVD democratized everything, and there was a certain quaint excitement and daring in watching underground movies (even by the most rigid underground standards) in some storefront or other makeshift venue. If you want to see who was capable of influencing John Waters in his formative years (and this is nothing to be high-hatted about), you need go no further than Bronx-bred twins George and Mike Kuchar. Jennifer M. Kroot’s documentary is a good introduction that doesn’t probe too deeply into a subculture.
Extras: There are 40 minutes of deleted scenes, the same length as the actual film. We see George making it to Telluride (earning a tribute, in fact), where he hob-knobs with Leonard Maltin, Todd Haynes and even Ken Burns.
Read the Full Review

Two on a Guillotine

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $24.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Connie Stevens, Dean Jones, Cesar Romero.
1965.
For those who like horror movies where the principal characters take a break in the action to visit an amusement park and disco (showcased in Panavision, no less), this movie is for you. Artistically, the movie isn’t the stuff of shelf lives, except for in one regard: You sense pretty quickly that a superior cinematographer must have photographed it. And though one can argue that Guillotine’s puppy-loving (really … a roller coaster ride?) waters down the horror and inflates the 107-minute running time, it’s unexpected enough to get the movie out of the predictable ‘B’-movie rut in which director William Conrad (one and the same as the portly actor) was laboring in during this period.
Read the Full Review

 


28 Jun, 2010

New on Disc: 'Leave It to Beaver,' 'The White Ribbon' and more …


Leave It to Beaver: The Complete Series

Street 6/29
Shout! Factory, Comedy, $199.99 37-DVD set, NR.
Stars Jerry Mathers, Barbara Billingsley, Hugh Beaumont, Tony Dow.
1957-63.
The show was and is so well-written that it almost certainly helped thousands of youngsters to develop their senses of irony — the kind that comes from observing an adult world through youthful eyes.
Extras: A revealing bonus disc includes the original pilot, which had a few different actors in the cast. There also are several anecdotes spun in an outstanding talking-heads documentary in which enthusiastic participants Billingsley, Mathers and Dow make it obvious that they still like and see each other.
Read the Full Review

The White Ribbon

Street 6/29
Sony Pictures, Drama, B.O. $2.2 million, $28.95 DVD, $38.96 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for some disturbing content involving violence and sexuality.
In German with English subtitles.
Stars Ulrich Tukur, Burghart Klaussner, Rainer Bock.
2009.
The continually absorbing German film The White Ribbon won the Golden Palm at Cannes but may have been too grim (despite a Golden Globe win as well) for Oscar voters.
Extras: Though the Blu-ray contains a making-of featurette and a couple more on writer-director Michael Haneke, the standard DVD has no extras.
Read the Full Review

Night Train to Munich

Street 6/29
Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Margaret Lockwood, Rex Harrison, Paul von Henreid.
1940.
No fans of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic train mystery The Lady Vanishes should deny themselves director Carol Reed’s unofficial follow-up.
Extras: Briskly compact at 95 minutes, it’s slighter than it’s made out to be in Criterion’s accompanying essay by critic/
historian Philip Kemp and video interview with critics Peter Evans and Bruce Babington.
Read the Full Review

Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story

Street 6/29
Infinity, Documentary, $19.98 DVD, NR.
2010.
Narrated by Patricia Clarkson and packed with voiceovers of germane writings by Federal Writer’s Project employees whose later fame eclipsed their years tiling in crummy makeshift WPA offices, the story is almost inevitably entertaining because it deals with attempts to bring order to a Depression-era endeavor.
Read the Full Review

Fog Over Frisco

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $14.95 Download, NR.
Stars Bette Davis, Donald Woods, Hugh Herbert, Lyle Talbot, Margaret Lindsay.
1934.
Society types and the lowlifes they attract (the press included) are perpetually zipping around in this 68-minute stallion of a movie that serves as an example of how whodunits and screen melodramas in general should move.
Read the Full Review



 


21 Jun, 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.
1954.
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.
2010.
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.”
Read the full review

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.
2010.
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.
Read the full review

Mystery Train

Criterion, Comedy, $39.95 DVD or Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Nicoletta Braschi, Steve Buscemi.
1989.
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.
Read the full review

Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country

Oscilloscope, Documentary, B.O. $0.05 million, $29.99 DVD, NR.
2009.
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.
Read the full review

 


14 Jun, 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.
2010.
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

Collapse

Street 6/15
MPI, Documentary, B.O. $0.05 million, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Featuring Michael Ruppert.
2009.
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.
Read the Full Review

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.
1980.
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.
1938-48.
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

Flap

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.
1970.
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


7 Jun, 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.
2010.
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.
2010.
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.
Read the Full Review

Reds Memories: The Greatest Moments in Cincinnati Reds History

Street 6/8
Shout! Factory, Sports, $19.93 DVD, NR.
2010.
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.
1977.
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.
1948.
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
 


31 May, 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.
2010.
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.
2010.
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.
1954-70.
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.”
Read the Full Review

Silver Lode: Special Edition

VCI, Western, $14.99 DVD, NR.
Stars John Payne, Lizabeth Scott, Dan Duryea.
1954.
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.
Read the Full Review

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.
1970.
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

 


24 May, 2010

New on Disc: 'Stagecoach' and more …


Stagecoach

Street 5/25
Criterion, Western, $39.95 DVD or Blu-ray, NR.
Stars John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Thomas Mitchell.
1939.
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.
Read the full review

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.
1965.
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.
1950.
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.
Read the full review

Roads to Memphis (American Experience)

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2010.
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.
Read the full review

Cookie

Available now via WBShop.com’s Warner Archive.
Warner, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, ‘R.’
Stars Peter Falk, Emily Lloyd, Dianne Wiest, Jerry Lewis.
1989.
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.
Read the full review


17 May, 2010

New on Disc: 'The Messenger,' 'Walkabout' and more …


The Messenger

Street 5/18
Oscilloscope, Drama, B.O. $1.1 million, $29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language and some sexual content/nudity.
Stars Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Samantha Morton, Steve Buscemi, Jena Malone.
2009.
To my knowledge, here’s the first time that a movie has focused its full intensity on those soldiers whose duty it is to report the deaths of other soldiers to their families and loved ones. This is among last year’s best films.
Extras: The DVD/Blu-ray extras include a commentary and an interview of key filmmaking personnel; reflections from the set; and a documentary on the U.S. Army Casualty Notification Officers.
Read the Full Review

Walkabout

Street 5/18
Criterion, Drama, $39.95 DVD or Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jenny Agutter, Luc Roeg, David Gumpilil.
1971.
A prominent example of a movie beloved by many within cult parameters yet not particularly known to the masses. The story focuses on two siblings (played by Jenny Agutter and director Nicolas Roeg’s son, Luc) who are stranded in the Australian Outback after their father flips out, and meet a young aborigine (David Gumpilil) on a ritual quest to claim his manhood.
Extras: The print here is the longer European cut. Criterion’s extras are superb, highlighted by an hour-long documentary about Gumpilil — who has spent his life going back and forth between movie appearances and living the most primitive kind of life.
Read the Full Review

Carlito’s Way (Blu-ray)

Street 5/18
Universal, Drama, $26.98 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for strong violence, drug content, sexuality and language.
Stars Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Penelope Ann Miller, Luis Guzman.
1993.
In terms of movies about former outlaws trying to go straight but getting foiled by bad luck and bad punks, Brian De Palma’s kinetic adaptation of the Edwin Torres novel is way up there on my list of applicable favorites. The photographic interiors make this movie an enticing Blu-ray candidate, even though a fresh remastering wouldn’t have hurt.
Read the Full Review

Matinee

Universal, Comedy, $19.98 DVD, ‘PG’ for language, and for mild violence and sensuality.
Stars John Goodman, Cathy Moriarty, Simon Fenton.
1993.
You’d really have to be a pop-culture zero not to realize that the comic sleeper of its year was made by a pair of savvy movie lovers (writer Charlie Haas and director Joe Dante) who grew up paying attention to what theatrical exhibition in the early 1960s was really like.
Read the Full Review

Toys in the Attic

Available now via Amazon.com CreateSpace
MGM, Drama, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Dean Martin, Geraldine Page, Wendy Hiller, Yvette Mimiuex.
1963.
An oddball adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s play about repressed incest and other hothouse excesses in New Orleans. After a career directing live TV, George Roy Hill made Attic his second feature (of only 14 total) before he really got rolling several years later with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting and Slap Shot.
Read the Full Review