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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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17 Nov, 2014

New on Disc: 'Pete Kelly's Blues' and more …


Pete Kelly’s Blues (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR. 
Stars Jack Webb, Janet Leigh, Edmond O’Brien, Peggy Lee.
1955.
The true big-screen baby of jazz lover Jack Webb’s career spun off from a radio show about ’20s Kansas City musicians so distracted by encroaching mob muscle that there isn’t a whole lot of time left for any fun with flappers.
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Man of the West

Kino Lorber, Western, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gary Cooper, Julie London, Lee J. Cobb, Arthur O'Connell, Jack Lord.
1958.
The brilliance of the CinemaScope staging in director Anthony Mann’s next-to-last Western makes it easy to see how the isolation of the Texas land could drive certain men crazy and basically dividing their options into two: settling down with a respectable woman or sticking up train passengers.
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10 Nov, 2014

New on Disc: 'Possessed' and more …


Possessed (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Joan Crawford, Van Heflin, Raymond Massey, Geraldine Brooks.
1947.
One of several postwar psychiatric dramas, Possessed features Joan Crawford as a paranoid schizophrenic, and her sometimes chilling performance gets further below the surface than a lot of the acting does even in some of the best noir competition.
Extras: Crawford is as vulnerable as she ever let herself be on screen, a point raised on the featurette this handsome Blu-ray has imported from the old DVD, one that features several familiar film noir specialists known to those who like digging into bonus extras.
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Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2014.
In this “American Masters” presentation, which avoids being episodic, director Dyanna Taylor presents a portrait of her grandmother, famed Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange.
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3 Nov, 2014

New on Disc: 'The Believers' and more …


The Believers (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Horror, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Martin Sheen, Helen Shaver, Robert Loggia, Harley Cross.
1987.
Aside from not having the kind of high-profile cast from which pedigrees are fashioned, this John Schlesinger urban horror film is one icky movie even before the movie loses a few beats on its way to a wrap-up that some may find risible.
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Gold Is Where You Find It

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars George Brent, Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, Margaret Lindsay.
1938.
Take away a good supporting cast and one topical selling point of interest to the ecologically minded, and we likely wouldn’t be giving this semi-obscurity too much notice were it not for its visual novelty value, which is seeing Northern California and its apple orchards in 1930s pigmentary splendor.
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27 Oct, 2014

New on Disc: 'Fedora' and more …


Fedora

Street 10/28
Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars William Holden, Marthe Keller, Hildegarde Knef, Jose Ferrer.
1978.
Billy Wilder’s troubled penultimate project has enough qualified admirers to make its Blu-ray release something of a minor event for major league movie buffs. Three-movie Wilder veteran William Holden (just off Network) plays a filmmaker facing some of the same problems his own writer-director was facing during production as an old man in a young man’s business.
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Married to the Mob (Blu-ray)

Kino Lorber, Comedy, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Matthew Modine, Dean Stockwell, Alec Baldwin.
1988.
This movie, about the challenges of an undercover FBI agent (Matthew Modine) to survive at his job while simultaneously romancing a recently widowed mob wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) is of a piece with director Jonathan Demme’s more-esteemed Something Wild (1986), thanks to its incessant wacky streak, creative casting, beat-heavy musical soundtrack and vibrant color schemes.
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20 Oct, 2014

New on Disc: 'The Lusty Men' and more …


The Lusty Men

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Robert Mitchum, Susan Hayward, Arthur Kennedy, Arthur Hunnicutt.
1952.
Newly remastered, this solid rodeo drama from director Nicholas Ray stars Robert Mitchum as an aging rodeo star who comes across a married couple (Arthur Kennedy and Susan Hayward). The tone Ray maintains throughout is mostly perfect and consistent against a triangular dramatic set-up that seems almost foolproof.
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Al Capone: Icon

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2014.
This lukewarm bio makes some good points about Al Capone’s criminal career, a central thesis being that bootlegging so “made” Capone’s career that if Prohibition hadn’t existed, it’s likely that he’d never escaped the lower rungs of Chicago sociopathy.
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13 Oct, 2014

New on Disc: 'Dick Cavett's Watergate' and more …


Dick Cavett’s Watergate

Street 10/14
PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2014.
Just about the only non-news show that would touch the subject of Watergate during the period was the one hosted by the only Johnny Carson rival who managed to carve out an equally vital late-night niche of his own. This pressure-packed remembrance is hosted by today’s version of Dick Cavett, assisted by star Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, former White House counsel and eventual beans-spiller John Dean, former Nixon Library historian Timothy Naftali (this guy is the final word in historical context) and more.
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Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Western, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Randolph Scott, James Craig, Angie Dickinson, James Garner.
1957.
Truth to tell, there’s really no shoot-out in this lukewarm but sporadically ticklish Randolph Scott Western, but you do get a punch-out or two once the baddies start to get theirs in piecemeal fashion in the later reels. James Garner and Angie Dickinson have major roles when they were very young.
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6 Oct, 2014

New on Disc: 'The Killer Elite/Noon Wine' and more …


The Killer Elite/Noon Wine

Available via www.ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Caan, Robert Duvall, Olivia de Havilland, Jason Robards.
1975/1966.
Sam Peckinpah’s stirring 48-minute telepic of Katherine Anne Porter’s short novel Noon Wine has been the Holy Grail of his career since it aired on TV once in 1966.
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The Desert Song

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Musical, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Dennis Morgan, Irene Manning, Bruce Cabot, Lynne Overman.
1943.
This isn’t a movie that emboldens one to go to the mat even in a fixed wrestling match, but it is a great deal more entertaining than anyone expects from an operetta with Nazis.
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29 Sep, 2014

New on Disc: 'The Innocents' and more …


The Innocents (Blu-ray)

Criterion, Drama, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Deborah Kerr, Pamela Franklin, Martin Stephens, Megs Jenkins.
1961.
Truman Capote was the driving force behind the screenplay for this film notable for its weird children and weird visual concepts, based on Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw.
Extras: The bonus material is juicy: an essay by critic Maitland McDonagh that’s heavy on the psychological themes plus lots with cultural historian Christopher Frayling (both a substantial on-screen intro, then voiceover commentary) that’s both substantial and accessible about a production where everything came together.
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South of St. Louis (Blu-ray Review)

Olive, Western, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Joel McCrea, Alexis Smith, Zachary Scott, Dorothy Malone.
1949.
Though it’s never more than a satisfying time-killer on the high side of routine, this release is a solid contender for the most dazzling print Olive Films has distributed to date. When it comes to showing what Technicolor really meant to the moviegoing experience most any old week at your ’40s and early ’50s neighborhood theater, this is the real deal. Joel McCrea plays a tough guy in covered-wagon territory who aims to hunt down a creep played by Victor Jory who burned down the Texas ranch McCrea had maintained with two partners.
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22 Sep, 2014

New on Disc: 'The Great Race' and more …


The Great Race (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk.
1965.
The best way to enjoy this onetime budget-buster about a farcical auto race back when cars were the new big thing is to take an “it is what it is” approach and appreciate its madcap audacity and director Blake Edwards’ lack of fear when it came to putting it on the slapstick line.
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Trial

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Glenn Ford, Dorothy McGuire, Arthur Kennedy, John Hodiak, Juano Hernandez, Rafael Campos.
1955.
Modified from screenwriter Don Mankiewicz’s Harper Prize novel, Trial deals with a racially charged murder case in 1947 involving a Hispanic teenager, a white girl who dies in his presence at a beach where he was not supposed to be, and an attorney, played by Glenn Ford, who has never actually tried a case. Dorothy McGuire gives one of her best performances and Arthur Kennedy earned an Oscar nomination as a grade-‘A’ charlatan.
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15 Sep, 2014

New on Disc: 'Casting By' and more …


Casting By

Street 9/16
First Run, Documentary, B.O. $0.02 million, $24.95 DVD, NR.
2013.
This irresistible documentary primarily concerned with the late Marion Dougherty includes anecdotes by several big names, be they other casting directors, former production chiefs, directors and all kinds of actors.
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Juggernaut

Kino Lorber, Thriller, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Richard Harris, Omar Sharif, Shirley Knight, Ian Holm, Anthony Hopkins.
1974.
This suspense thriller, an atypical genre for director Richard Lester, breathes noteworthy life into an old formula.     
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