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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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5 Dec, 2016

New on Disc: 'Time After Time' and more …


Time After Time (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Sci-Fi, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Malcolm McDowell, David Warner, Mary Steenburgen.
1979.
Debuting director Nicholas Meyer, who also penned the screenplay, presents a surprisingly sweet time travel fantasy dealing with novelist H.G. Wells’s pursuit of Jack the Ripper into 1979 San Francisco.
Extras: A commentary is carried over from the old DVD.
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Two Women (Blu-ray)

All-Region Import
Cult Films, Drama, $20 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Sophia Loren, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Eleanor Brown, Raf Vallone.
1960.
Given its reputation for, among other things, having won Sophia Loren the Oscar while establishing her as an international superstar, Vittorio De Sica’s Two Women has been insulted by wretched prints over the years, so while the visual result of this Blu-ray import is on the high side of passable with some room for improvement, the overall release is borderline exceptional thanks to some surprising bonus extras.
Extras: The supplements are a treat. There’s a 54-minute interview with Loren, and the wonderful 2009 documentary Vittorio D., which in 93 minutes substantively covers De Sica’s career as actor, family man, gambling addict, occasional political activist and director. A fairly amazing lineup of interviewees includes Shirley MacLaine, Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen, Paul Mazursky, Leonard Maltin, De Sica children from two marriages, John Landis, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Ettore Scola and Lina Wertmuller.
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28 Nov, 2016

New on Disc: 'One-Eyed Jacks' and more …


One-Eyed Jacks

Criterion, Western, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Pina Pellicer, Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens.
1961.
Marlon Brando’s sole outing as director is the link between the traditional Western with lush old-school Hollywood production values and the grittier and meaner riffs that Clint and Sergio began playing later in the 1960s as agents of permanent change.
Extras: A great supplement on this Criterion must-own is film historian Toby Roan’s concise and digestible explanation of the picture’s byzantine production history. This rewarding package also includes a visual essay by David Cairns, whose concentration on aesthetics complements Roan’s counterpart about the film’s production history; Brando audio tapes that illuminate how a film that began in one direction quickly went in another; and an essay by critic Howard Hampton.
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It’s Always Fair Weather

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Musical, $17.99 DVD, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey, Cyd Charisse, Michael Kidd, Dolores Gray.
1955.
The decline of the movie musical in the 1950s is the main reason It’s Always Fair Weather got hit with stormy box office — and not the fact that it’s widely acknowledged as being cynical and downbeat, notwithstanding its good reviews at the time or the size of its subsequent cult. The Betty Comden-Adolph Green satire is almost as on point about encroaching television as it was about the talkie transition in Singin’ in the Rain.
Extras: Blu-ray bonus materials carried over from the old DVD include a deleted “Love Is Nothing But a Racket” number; a making-of featurette; a deleted Michael Kidd number; some raw footage from “The Binge” scene; two promotional segments from ABC-TV’s short-lived “The MGM Parade”; and two early Scope cartoons, one of them with Droopy.
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14 Nov, 2016

New on Disc: 'Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte' and more …


Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead.
1964.
Taken as a kind of spiritual sequel to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, director Robert Aldrich’s pandemonium-packed melodrama (both on and behind the camera) holds up better than I expected. Even without the wall-to-wall bonus extras here, this disc would be worth it for fans because visually, it improves on the DVD beyond compare.
Extras: The infamous offscreen tension between Bette Davis Joan Crawford, which may have led to Crawford’s being replaced on the film by Olivia de Havilland, is one reason why there’s enough material to support two voice-over commentaries, as well as a making-of featurette titled “Hush … Hush, Sweet Joan.” Film historians David Del Valle and Steven Peros offer a lively new commentary that complements a carried-over 2007 one from “DVD Savant” Glenn Erickson.
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One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich and the Lost American Film

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Documentary, $21.99 DVD, NR.
2015.
An inside-baseball examination of the fallout from an almost unspeakable personal tragedy, One Day Since Yesterday’s primary focus is on how director Peter Bogdanovich and his friends and family were affected by the experience of making 1981’s still relatively unseen They All Laughed, the movie he had just filmed when the featured player who was also the love of his life (Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten) was brutally murdered.
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7 Nov, 2016

New on Disc: 'Under the Cherry Moon' and more …


Under the Cherry Moon (Blu-ray)

Warner, Romantic Comedy, $14.97 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13.’
Stars Prince, Kristin Scott Thomas, Morris Day, Steven Berkoff.
1986.
In his flop follow-up second feature to Purple Rain, Prince plays a piano-playing gigolo whose relationship with a rambunctious rich-girl (played by Kristin Scott Thomas in her feature debut) runs afoul of her father. Prince, in a truly terrible performance, goes full-throttle lounge lizard here in a story with a French Riviera setting in next-to-unheard-of ’80s black-and-white. It helps — along with the visual cosmetics, some of the supporting casting and overall affability — that not a whole lot of time passes until there’s another musical number.
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Strategic Air Command

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Stewart, June Allyson, Frank Lovejoy, Barry Sullivan.
1955. The equally gorgeous and lumbering Strategic Air Command must be the only Air Force movie whose opening scenes are set against the St. Louis Cardinals’ spring training, with Jimmy Stewart as a baseball player called back into military service.
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31 Oct, 2016

New on Disc: 'Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary Edition' and more …


Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary Edition

Sony, Comedy, $19.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, George Bancroft, Douglass Dumbrille.
1936.
The new Blu-ray of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town looks stunning, further reminding us that for all of director Frank Capra’s defining common-man sentiments and ability to direct actors, his films were enduring advertisements for the trademark luminosity of cinematographer Joseph Walker. Capra never considered anyone other than Gary Cooper for the title role, figuring he was the only choice to bring off a whopper premise about a small-town Vermont tuba player considered crazy because he wants to dispense an unexpected $20 million inheritance to the Depression downtrodden as a grub stake for the family farms his largesse will make possible.
Extras: The digibook utilizes glossy paper for still photo reproduction and includes both a good backgrounding essay and a two-page layout of lobby cards. The movie includes a commentary with the late Frank Jr.
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Abilene Town (Blu-ray)

Panamint, Western, $29.99 Blu-ray, Import, NR.
Stars Randolph Scott, Ann Dvorak, Edgar Buchanan, Rhonda Fleming, Lloyd Bridges.
1946.
Everything about ‘Abilene Town’ is on the high side of boilerplate, which presumably explains why so many people who take a flyer with this onetime United Artists indie have a better time than expected, assuming they have a tolerance for Westerns in the first place.
Extras: This British import is accompanied by a 16-page booklet that provides bios of the film’s cast and crew.
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24 Oct, 2016

New on Disc: 'Hot Type: 150 Years of The Nation' and more …


Hot Type: 150 Years of 'The Nation'

First Run, Documentary, $24.95 DVD, NR.
2015.
Filmmaker Barbara Kopple’s portrait of spiritually old-school stalwarts laboring in the digital age at America’s oldest continuing weekly magazine is predominantly for political junkies.
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On Dangerous Ground (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner Archive, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan, Ward Bond.
1951.
An unusual movie for its day that it addresses police brutality, the first half of director Nicholas Ray’s On Dangerous Ground is a grimy noir cop drama, the kind that RKO did better than anyone.
Extras: Includes expert commentary from Glenn Erickson.
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10 Oct, 2016

New on Disc: 'Body Snatchers' and more …


Body Snatchers (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive       
Street 10/18/16
Warner, Sci-Fi Horror, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for violence, nudity and language.
Stars Gabrielle Anwar, Terry Kinney, Meg Tilley, Forest Whitaker, R. Lee Ermey.
1994.
Here’s the third and probably most obscure of four variations of Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchers novel filmed from 1956 through 2007, in a Blu-ray that isn’t easy to resist.
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La Moglie Piu Bella (The Most Beautiful Wife) (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Ornella Muti, Alessio Orano, Tano Cimarosa.
1970.
Ornela Muti plays a 14-year-old in this fact-based fiction about a landmark 1966 Italian legal case in which a teenager sued a former fiancé who kidnapped and raped her after she broke off their engagement.
Extras: Includes about 45 minutes of bonus interviews carried over from the onetime NoShame standard DVD release.
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3 Oct, 2016

New on Disc: 'Valley of the Dolls' and more …


Valley of the Dolls: Special Edition (Blu-ray)

Criterion, Drama, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, Sharon Tate, Susan Hayward.
1967.
This new release of the box office hit of Jacqueline Susann’s majestically trashy best-seller is nothing if not pressure-packed with bonus material.
Extras: The terrific Criterion extras, which include a brave guilty-pleasure Valley paean by Kim Morgan, go a lot into some tabloid history about Judy Garland’s firing from the film. Also included are screen tests, reflective interviews with writer Amy Fine Collins, a vintage documentary on Susann, a look at the film’s ship-board premiere, a half-journalistic/half-jokey commentary carried over from the original Fox DVD, an essay by Glenn Kenny, and an excerpt from a 2009 interview of Patty Duke by Bruce Vilanch.
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Moby Dick (1930)

Available via Warner Archive      
Warner, Adventure, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars John Barrymore, Joan Bennett, Lloyd Hughes.
1930.
A good way to take in this not-quite-faithful adaptation of the Herman Melville novel is to block out the title and enjoy a surprisingly acceptable primitive talkie about whaling on which obvious production care was taken.
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26 Sep, 2016

New on Disc: 1948's 'Road House' and more …


Road House (1948) (Blu-ray)

Kino Lorber, Mystery, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Ida Lupino, Cornel Wilde, Richard Widmark, Celeste Holm.
1948.
This is not the better-known Patrick Swayze gutter trash from 1989, but an earlier one with a notably name cast for its day — the one that starts out as an unlikely feminist drama and then turns noir-ish around the time Richard Widmark’s character begins to go over the brink.
Extras: Includes a featurette about stars Ida Lupino and Richard Widmark, plus a commentary by Eddie Muller and Kim Morgan, carried over from the DVD.
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Tony Rome/Lady in Cement (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR (Tony Rome)/’R’ (Lady in Cement)
Stars Frank Sinatra, Jill St. John, Raquel Welch, Richard Conte.
1967-68.
Tony Rome is halfway-good grindhouse/drive-in fodder that remains guiltily entertaining, while Lady in Cement is a conspicuously ragged toss-off that arguably plays a little breezier than it did at the time.
Extras: Tony Rome includes an entertaining, factoid-filled commentary with historians Eddy Friedfeld, Anthony Latino, Lee Pfeiffer and Paul Scrabo.
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19 Sep, 2016

New on Disc: 'The Enemy Below' and more …


The Enemy Below (Blu-ray)

Street 9/20/2016
Kino Lorber, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Robert Mitchum, Curt Jurgens, Theodore Bikel.
1957.
This intelligent, if not all-out stirring study in logistical one-upmanship, is something of a groundbreaking 1950s film due to Curt Jurgens’ characterization of the German counterpart to Robert Mitchum’s U.S. Navy captain amid their 97 screen minutes of cat-and-mouse between an American destroyer escort and a German U-boat that the former has the misfortune to encounter in the South Atlantic.
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Love Me or Leave Me (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Doris Day, James Cagney, Cameron Mitchell, Robert Keith.
1955.
Doris Day, as Broadway/radio/recording notable Ruth Etting, goes fully toe-to-toe with James Cagney in one of the most rewarding of all show biz biopics, a socko achievement given that the latter’s third and final Oscar nomination was indisputably deserved in what is one of the essential films of his 31-year career.
Extras: Includes a couple of Etting’s Warner Vitaphone shorts (her voice never had the oomph of Day’s), plus an amusing 1955 CinemaScope featurette that deals with what was then MGM’s coming imminent release schedule: a 17-minute commercial called “Salute to the Exhibitors,” which rightfully touts Love Me.
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