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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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27 Jul, 2015

New on Disc: 'The World of Henry Orient' and more …


The World of Henry Orient (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Comedy, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Peter Sellers, Tippy Walker, Merrie Spaeth, Angela Lansbury.
1964.
Veteran screenwriter Nunnally Johnson’s adaptation of daughter Nora’s same-name 1956 novel was probably the best movie specifically centered on teenaged girls until 2001’s Ghost World. As a second-rate concert pianist who has still managed to attain a small but dwindling following, Peter Sellers becomes an object of fascination for two early adolescents (Merrie Spaeth and Tippy Walker), students at an upscale Manhattan school who’ve just met and become instant friends.
Extras: Twilight Time regulars Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo (with film music expert Jeff Bond) offer a breezy commentary, though it’s amusing to note the friendly tension between Orient-adorer Kirgo (whose age and upbringing make her a dead-on soul sister with the key characters) and Redman (who has little use for Sellers in the movies not directed by Stanley Kubrick and doesn’t mind telling you so).
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Prime Cut (Blu-ray Review)

Street 7/28/15
Kino Lorber, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R’
Stars Lee Marvin, Gene Hackman, Sissy Spacek, Angel Tompkins.
1972. Prime Cut
’s brisk 86-minute pacing enables an apt cast to keep at least pulp fanciers sticking with a notably preposterous piece of work.
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6 Jul, 2015

New on Disc: 'Dodge City' and more …


Dodge City (Blu-ray)

Warner, Western, $19.98 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Alan Hale, Bruce Cabot, Ann Sheridan.
1939.
A good cast, fast pacing and a gorgeous exterior go a long way toward making this a fun journey to dip into every once in a while.
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Entertaining the Troops: American Entertainers in World War II

MVD, Documentary, $19.95 DVD, NR.
1994.
Robert Mugge’s undeservedly ill-known documentary focuses on the Hollywood stars who battled the elements and puddle-jumping plane rides to provide brief R&R to those serving the country in World War II. The early going of Entertaining the Troops is fun and full of foolproof footage (probably in the public domain) of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby and Judy Garland and bandleader Kay Kyser and many more doing in-person engagements and/or radio shows bee-lined for the troops. But the soul of the story comes late when its longer opening act concludes, and Mugge films a sit-around with Hope and his core troupe.
Extras: Includes a bonus outtake section that runs about 25 minutes.
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29 Jun, 2015

New on Disc: 'Absolute Beginners' and more …


Absolute Beginners

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Comedy, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Eddie O’Connell, Patsy Kensit, David Bowie, James Fox.

1986. The movie built on the emerging teen market probably bites off more late-1950s London turmoil than it can chew — which is, relatively speaking, to its credit, given the dearth of daringly ambitious screen entertainments from the mid-1980s.
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The Whistler & The Power of the Whistler

Available via Sony Choice Collection
Sony Pictures, Thriller, $20.95 DVD each, NR.
Stars Richard Dix.
1944-45.
Eight "Whistler" movies sprang from the popular radio show, with the first and third presented here, focused on some crime-centered pickle in which the story’s protagonist had gotten himself immersed.
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22 Jun, 2015

New on Disc: 'Magician' and more …


Magician: The Astonishing Work & Life of Orson Welles

Cohen, Documentary, B.O. $0.016 million, $24.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, NR.
2014.
The accurate rap on Magician, including by the many to whom this brisk overview gave a good time, is its tendency toward surface skimming in dealing with a subject who directed in multiple mediums, acted, was an ubiquitous talk-show guest in his day and counted among his wives Rita Hayworth.
Extras: Includes a short interview with film historian Annette Insdorf.
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Moonlighting

B2MP, Drama, $29.98 Blu-ray/DVD combo, ‘PG.’
Stars Jeremy Irons, Eugene Lipinski, Jirí Stanislav, Eugeniusz Haczkiewicz.
1982.
Jerzy Skolimowsky’s political movie involves a Polish construction crew that probably thinks it’s being offered a good deal for a London assignment but is likely getting ripped off by the party official who has hired them during the days of Solidarity.
Extras: Jeremy Irons offers intermittent commentary on this release’s alternate audio track.
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15 Jun, 2015

New on Disc: '1776: Director's Cut' and more …


1776: Director’s Cut (Blu-ray)

Sony Pictures, Musical, $19.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars William Daniels, Howard Da Silva, John Cullum, Ken Howard, Blythe Danner.
1972.
The 4K restoration of this somewhat underappreciated flop, an adaptation of the Tony-winning musical about America’s Founding Fathers, rewards the work put into it.
Extras: There’s a pair of commentaries: one carry-over with director Peter H. Hunt with the now deceased screenwriter Peter Stone — plus a new one with Hunt and stars William Daniels and Ken Howard. And screen tests, as well.
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Smiling Through the Apocalypse

First Run, Documentary, B.O. $0.005 million, $19.99 DVD, NR.
2014.
As heydays go, you couldn’t beat Esquire in that counterculture decade, and the Southern gentleman pulling the strings was handsome Harold Hayes out of Wake Forest. Apocalypse, which shares its title with a well-known published anthology of Esquire writings from those very days, is directed by Harold’s son Tom.
Extras: Includes three extended interviews.
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8 Jun, 2015

New on Disc: 'Jamaica Inn' and more …


Jamaica Inn: 75th Anniversary Edition

Cohen, Drama, $29.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Hara, Robert Newton, Leslie Banks.
1939.
Nobody much, it seems, liked or likes Alfred Hitchcock’s big-screen version of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn very much, but it was a huge box office hit, and within clearly stated limitations is a lot more fun to watch than its reputation would indicate — certainly in this new 4K restoration that’s pleasing to watch just on general principle.
Extras: Includes a commentary by film historian Jeremy Arnold and an overview by Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto that’s kind of a model of its featurette kind.
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Children of Giant

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2015.
The documentary about George Stevens Sr.’s adaptation of Edna Ferber’s novel Giant definitely adds to the literature of a blockbuster that remains fascinating in so many ways.
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1 Jun, 2015

New on Disc: 'Thank Your Lucky Stars' and more …


Thank Your Lucky Stars (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Musical, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Eddie Cantor, Dinah Shore, Joan Leslie, Dennis Morgan, Edward Everett Horton, S.Z. Sakall.
1943.
Thank Your Lucky Stars, from Warner, came early in the cycle of all-star musicals, and many regard it as best of the bunch.
Extras: The Blu-ray throws in some bonus extras mostly carried over from the old DVD — including one on the lives of chorus girl bit players.
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Hombre (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Paul Newman, Fredric March, Richard Boone, Diane Cilento.
1967.
Paul Newman had a distressing streak of indifferent movies in the mid-1960s, but Hombre was something of a return to form.
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25 May, 2015

New on Disc: 'X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes' and more …


X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes

Kino Lorber, Sci-fi, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Don Rickles, Harold J. Stone.
1963.
Director Roger Corman was lucky to have an actor of Ray Milland’s caliber starring as a mad scientist whose experiments on himself give him the ability to see through things.
Extras: In addition to a Joe Dante intro, thee are a couple commentaries on this release: one by Corman and another by film historian Tim Lucas.
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Kid Glove Killer

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Van Heflin, Marsha Hunt, Lee Bowman.
1942.
Fred Zinnemann’s modest debut feature turned out notably well on a ‘B’ budget, with the chief selling point being its subject matter about crime lab microscoping.
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18 May, 2015

New on Disc: 'The River' and more …


The River

Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Nora Swinburne, Esmond Knight, Arthur Shields, Suprova Mukerjee, Radha Burnier.
1951.
Set in what feels like a timeless era that has nothing directly to do with the postwar Gandhi-propelled political upheavals, this remembrance directed by Jean Renoir and based on a novel by British but India-bred Rumer Godden is certainly an alternative to Kipling in its treatment of race relations and choice of central characters.
Extras: A lot of the bonus extras (mostly carried over from the old Criterion DVD) deal with Renoir’s good fortune in finding a financial angel: Kenneth McEldowney, who was a successful L.A. florist. Other supplements here include Ian Christie notes, a new video essay by filmmaker Paul Ryan, an audio interview with McEldowney (who died in 2004); and a 2008 documentary on the movie’s making, which runs an hour.
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April Love (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Comedy, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Pat Boone, Shirley Jones, Dolores Michaels, Arthur O’Connell.
1957.
If late-1950s Hollywood just had to make Pat Boone vehicles, April Love was probably the way to go about it.
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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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