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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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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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7 Dec, 2015

New on Disc: 'Making Mr. Right' and more …


Making Mr. Right

Olive, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13.’
Stars Ann Magnuson, John Malkovich, Glenne Headly.
1987.
This is one of those pictures that gets out of the gate so fast that it seems to stumble (though only occasionally) when the pacing slows down just a wee bit. For John Malkovich fans, it’s pretty essential, with an actor playing dual roles as a scientist and a space-bound android who looks like him. Ann Magnuson as a woman who falls for the robot is smooth as well at going with the flow.
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Death on the Diamond

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Robert Young, Madge Evans, David Landau.
1934.
As long as we’re not talking art or even the higher ends of entertainment, there’s something to be said for the idea that the hokier baseball movies are, the more fun they can be. One can, of course, carry the assertion way too far, but this MGM eye-roller about mass homicides during a pennant race is probably worth 71 minutes of any fan with the potential to be amused by the sight of (in very small pre-fame roles or bits) Mickey Rooney, Dennis O’Keefe, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond and others further down the historical food chain.
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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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23 Nov, 2015

New on Disc: 'The Devil’s Disciple' and more …


The Devil’s Disciple

Street 11/24/2015
Kino Lorber, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Janette Scott.
1959.
The Devil’s Disciple is an engaging and indisputably all-star (if rather odd) screen take on George Bernard Shaw’s set-in-1777 play about the Revolutionary War.
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Broken Lance (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, Jean Peters, Richard Widmark, Earl Holliman.
1954.
A revamping of the 1949 family-oriented banking drama House of Strangers into a Western setting, this compact 96-minute rouser features booming echoes of King Lear and a mighty solid told-in-flashback yarn about a cattle baron played by Spencer Tracy and his sons.
Extras: Appearing with Twilight Time chieftain Nick Redman on one of the year’s most unusual bonus commentaries is actor Earl Holliman, who is now 87.
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16 Nov, 2015

New on Disc: 'Pitfall' and more …


Pitfall (Blu-ray)

Street 11/17/15
Kino Lorber, Mystery, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott, Jane Wyatt, Raymond Burr.
1948.
This much admired but underseen Andre de Toth jewel frequently undermines expectations, is lifted by spectacular casting and is one of the relatively rare noirs to feature a heavy family angle.
Extras: Mr. Noir himself Eddie Muller offers a spicy commentary.
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Deep in My Heart (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Musical, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jose Ferrer, Merle Oberon, Helen Traubel.
1954.
A last-ditch effort to rekindle its ’40s commercial successes with all-star composer biopics, this holiday release from MGM was designed in part to showcase the versatility of lead Jose Ferrer.
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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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26 Oct, 2015

New on Disc: 'The Brood' and more …


The Brood

Criterion, Horror, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle, Cindy Hinds.
1979.
Only in a Criterion bonus section can you ever hope to find an extended “Merv Griffin Show” bonus clip featuring Oliver Reed, Orson Welles and Charo, but this is getting ahead of a movie (think: David Cronenberg, unbridled) that has enough outrageousness of own.
Extras: Aside from the “Griffin” interview from 1980, other extras include a sweet reunion between actors Hindle and Hinds, and Cronenberg’s second feature, Crimes of the Future.
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The Beginning or the End

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Robert Walker, Tom Drake, Brian Donlevy, Hume Cronyn.
1947.
The Beginning or the End does touch on a lot of important material (while leaving a lot out) and displays enough ambiguity about the development of the atomic bomb and the pro-con morality of its use to keep it from being unwatchable to many modern eyes.
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19 Oct, 2015

New on Disc: 'Murder, My Sweet' and more …


Murder, My Sweet (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Mystery, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley
1944.
The second screen version of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely, with its expressive photography and hop-headed dream sequences, is just what you want an RKO noir to be, even if decades of variations have scratched its luster (but just a little). The Blu-ray transfer is beautiful.
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An American Tragedy

Available via Universal Vault Series
Universal, Drama, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Phillips Holmes, Sylvia Sidney, Frances Dee.
1931.
Josef von Sternberg’s only Paramount talkie not to star Marlene Dietrich attempted to adapt a 20th-century literary milestone of significant heft in both senses, though it fell into obscurity after George Stevens remade it as A Place in the Sun 20 years later.
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