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 Jan, 2015

New on Disc: 'The Boys From Brazil' and more …


The Boys From Brazil (Blu-ray)

Shout! Factory, Drama, $24.97 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, James Mason, Lilli Palmer.
1978.
The only movie, pretty sure, to claim both Laurence Olivier and Police Academy’s Steve Guttenberg in its cast, this one’s about as preposterously trashy as it’s possible to be and still be worth a look. Gregory Peck plays the unfathomably queasy Nazi butcher Dr. Josef Mengele, pursued in the 1970s by a famed Nazi hunter played by Laurence Olivier.
Read the Full Review

Frenchman’s Creek

Available via Universal Vault Series
Universal, Drama, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Joan Fontaine, Arturo de Cordova, Basil Rathbone, Cecil Kellaway.
1944.
Dramatically clumsy but a visual stunner that took the art/set decoration Oscar, the film stars Joan Fontaine, at her screen peak of beauty and certainly glamour, playing the dissatisfied redheaded wife of a debauched fop — quickly absconding solo to an oceanside mansion with two small kids in tow, only to become brazenly spellbound by a French pirate conducting business with his crew in the very vicinity.
Read the Full Review
 


12 Jan, 2015

New on Disc: 'River's Edge' and more …


River’s Edge

Street 1/13
Kino Lorber, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Keanu Reeves, Crispin Glover, Ione Skye, Dennis Hopper.
1987.
Even by the seen-it-all standards of the past quarter-century, this Generation X creep-out that should have done more for director Tim Hunter’s career than it did remains unsettling.
Read the Full Review

The Fortune (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Comedy, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Stockard Channing.
1975.
A huge flop in its day, The Fortune is mildly amusing all the way, with a great Jack Nicholson performance. Set in the 1920s, it’s a farce about the Mann Act and the onetime ramifications of taking even an adult woman over the state line for sex.
Read the Full Review

American Experience: Cold War Roadshow

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2014.
Boasting footage from presumably the only time Nikita Khrushchev and Eddie Fisher found themselves in the same room, this chronicle of the “career-best” story for a lot of the journalists who covered it looks back at the time the Soviet Premier visited the U.S. in 1959.
Read the Full Review


22 Dec, 2014

New on Disc: 'Only Angels Have Wings' and more …


Only Angels Have Wings (Blu-ray)

Available via TCM Shop
TCM/Sony, Drama, $29.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth, Richard Barthelmess.
1939.
This restored key Howard Hawks movie is such a 4K looker that you can see details of the rain dripping from Cary Grant’s hat. His character leads a group of pilots whose job it is to deliver mail to a town in a valley through brutal storms and fog that only periodically clears.
Extras: An unexpected extra is a roughly 15-minute featurette with sound designer Ben Burtt and visual effects maestro Craig Barron, both fans of the movie. You get a sense here of how the sound (excellent for its day) works with the miniature work to make rain-swept plane crashes look more convincing than they otherwise might.
Read the Full Review

Appointment With Danger (Blu-ray)

Street 12/23
Olive, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Alan Ladd, Phyllis Calvert, Jack Webb, Paul Stewart, Harry Morgan, Jan Sterling.
1951.
Much underrated (or at least under-seen) purely on the “fun” level, Danger joins a new slew of other past Olive releases previously available only on DVD and on two Blu-ray boxed sets. In Olive fashion, no one has given these prints much of a fresh wax job, and the final product is mostly a product of how good the printing material was in the first place.
Read the Full Review

 


15 Dec, 2014

New on Disc: 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' and more …


Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Blu-ray)

Sony Pictures, Drama, $19.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold.
1939.
Sony has given Mr. Smith the kind of deluxe treatment we don’t see very often from them anymore, a 75th anniversary treatment of a top-drawer Frank Capra film that looks better than it has in decades with its lustrous black-and-white visuals.
Extras: The Blu-ray boasts recycled but standout featurettes from the long-ago DVD release and digibook packaging with a Jeremy Arnold essay and the kind of glossy, high-test paper stock that gives still photos super-snap. Revered academic Jeanine Basinger from Wesleyan University talks of her works with the Capra archive, and the late Frank Jr. (on his commentary and several featurettes recorded many years ago) really knew how to communicate an anecdote.
Read the Full Review

Safe

Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for a sex scene and brief language.
Stars Julianne Moore, Xander Berkeley.
1995.
Writer-director Todd Haynes’ second feature was filmed just as lead Julianne Moore was coming into her own. She plays a vapid but not unsympathetic upscale San Fernando homemaker whose unexplained allergies may be in her mind yet at least to some degree have to be real. The tone here is almost exactly the opposite of what we got in disease-of-the-week TV movies from the same era, though this is actually a 1995 release set in the late ’80s with the symbolic aura of AIDS hanging over more story threads than not, though AIDS is never specifically mentioned.
Extras: Haynes and producer Christine Vachon have it exactly right on the supplements here when they emphasize that many or even most critics didn’t know what to make of the film. Moore has a tough role, though to hear her speak in a kinetic 36-minute Haynes-Moore discussion here, she seems to have to had an automatic sense of what her character was about and even where to place herself in — or take advantage of — Haynes’ striking framing. Included on this release as well is an early and once thought-to-be-lost 1978 Haynes short called The Suicide, about a bullied male teen.
Read the Full Review


8 Dec, 2014

New on Disc: 'Flaming Star' and more …


Flaming Star (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Elvis Presley, Steve Forrest, Barbara Eden, Dolores Del Rio.
1960.
Flaming Star is the picture that marked the beginning of the end of any chance Elvis had to become a serious actor, despite being one in a handful of contenders for the best narrative movie the singer ever made. Director Don Siegel and cinematographer Charles C. Clarke handle CinemaScope well for a Blu-ray presentation that significantly betters the old DVD — with bountiful interior scenes that are rarely static and an outdoor set that sticks the memory as the next thing to another character in the movie.
Extras: Twilight Time’s Nick Redman and frequent collaborator Lem Dobbs discuss The King’s film career on the commentary.
Read the Full Review

American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2014.
This is a portrait so on point that the only disappointment is the 85-minute running time when Bing Crosby is a subject that easily could have gone a full two hours. The organizational skills here are exemplary, with compact sections devoted to music and movies, the relationship with Bob Hope, Crosby’s war effort and popularization of golf, his pioneering history with tape recording (both audio and visual) and relationships with both of his families (one stormy and even tragic and one not).
Read the Full Review
 


1 Dec, 2014

New on Disc: 'It Happened One Night' and more …


It Happened One Night (Blu-ray)

Criterion, Comedy, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly.
1934.
The first movie to sweep the five major Oscars has been readily available for so long that it’s easy to take for granted, and yet Criterion’s definitive home release is almost like seeing the movie for the first time.
Extras: The Blu-ray includes a 38-minute featurette in which critics Molly Haskell and Phillip Lopate go to town on the film’s endless virtues (photographically as well). Also included is a very crisp essay by film writer Farran Smith Nehme; director Frank Capra’s 12-minute screen debut from 1921 (Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House), which turns Rudyard Kipling verse into a festival of fisticuffs and other hustle-bustle; the feature-length documentary Frank Capra’s American Dream; plus a slightly edited version of Capra’s AFI Life Achievement Award.
Read the Full Review

Sands of Iwo Jima

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars John Wayne, John Agar, Forrest Tucker, Adele Mara.
1949.
The movie said to have been responsible for more Marine enlistments than any other picture in history boasts not only one of the most prototypical John Wayne roles and performances, but one of only two (Wayne’s ultimate win for True Grit was the other) to have earned him a best actor Oscar nomination. Olive’s release has no frills but is the standard bump-up from regular DVD.
Read the Full Review


24 Nov, 2014

New on Disc: 'Portrait of Jason' and more …


Portrait of Jason

Milestone, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, $35.96 Blu-ray, NR.
1967.
Director Shirley Clarke’s once unique one-man-show is a verbal all-nighter with a black and gay male hustler (and also aspiring stand-up comic). Subject Jason Holliday knows how to work the room when it comes to relating his experiences with a tough, hard-ass father, white employers who’ve hired him as a domestic assistant and those he’s hustled for money and sex.
Extras: This release’s copious bonus section includes a live comic album (or part of it) to indicate that Holliday’s skills as an entertainer were publicly shared with more than just Clarke and interviewer Carl Lee.
Read the Full Review

Viva Maria!

Kino Lorber, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Star Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau, George Hamilton.
1965.
A prime “it is what it is” comedy that just misses wearing out its welcome until expectedly lurching into fourth gear during the final half-hour, this one’s about a pair of anarchist Marias who earn their living on stage while traveling from town to town via covered wagon transport.
Read the Full Review
 


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.
Read the Full Review

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.
Read the Full Review


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.
Read the Full Review

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.
Read the Full Review


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.
Read the Full Review

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.
Read the Full Review