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New on Disc: 'Amelie' Blu-ray and more …

25 Jul, 2011 By: Mike Clark

Amélie (Blu-ray)

Lionsgate, Comedy, $19.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for sexual content.
In French with English subtitles.
Stars Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kasovitz, Rufus, Lorella Cravotta.
The story of a gamin-like cutie who plays a good Samaritan/Cupid to the detriment of her own stunted emotional development, France’s internationally popular five-Oscar nominee (a striking tally for a foreign-language release) offers proof that modern-day movies can still “do” saturated color, and it’s the added ocular benefits that get my vote when it comes to maximum enjoyment of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s peripatetic screen original.
Extras: The Blu-ray extras do the old Buena Vista DVD one better by adding a commentary by Jeunet to the original tally.
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Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird

First Run, Documentary, B.O. $0.03 million, $24.95 DVD, NR.
Writer-director Mary Murphy’s appreciation of all things Mockingbird has to be the most appealing book junkie’s documentary (or movie of any kind) since 2002’s The Stone Reader — and she had to pull off this feat with a huge crater in the middle of her picture. That would be author (Nelle) Harper Lee’s total abstinence from interviews since a New York radio Q&A in 1964, which Murphy’s portrait samples generously. The documentary approaches Mockingbird from the angles of the racial progress it portended; as a work of Southern literature (many Southern writers weigh in); as a formative experience for other well-known folks (Oprah Winfrey, Rosanne Cash, Tom Brokaw); and as the source of a movie that will turn 50 next year. Assumed to be something like the no-nonsense tomboy “Scout” narrator she invented for the only novel she ever wrote, Lee turns out to be something of a “Boo” Radley — the elusive key character Robert Duvall played in the 1962 movie version of the book (his big-screen debut). In her own milieu, Lee hasn’t been a recluse, and no one has had any trouble spotting her walking around hometown Monroeville, Ala. It’s just that she doesn’t like to speak in public — and more recently has been severely impaired by a stroke and significant blindness (something the documentary doesn’t address).
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The Letter

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Jeanne Eagels, O.P. Heggie, Herbert Marshall.
This comparably stilted and nearly “lost” film based on Somerset Maugham’s 1927 play, released by Paramount early in the sound era, is very much worth seeing — primarily because it preserves one of the first performances ever nominated for the Best Actress Oscar: by famed stage actress and legend-of-the-day Jeanne Eagels not long before her death at 39. The movie is only a little more than a photographed stage play, but the hot-house atmosphere is fairly convincing, allowing for the primitive filmmaking origins.
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The Goddess

Manufactured on demand via online retailers
Sony Pictures, Drama, $20.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Kim Stanley, Lloyd Bridges, Steven Hill.
The Goddess, Paddy Chayefsky’s thought-to-be takeoff on Marilyn Monroe, is a most compelling project to have been mounted — then or now — because there’s no time in history when it could have been a feel-good project; it’s almost the “anti-Amélie” in that regard. What’s more, Monroe was still an active and very public figure at the time this not exactly flattering portrait was released in the late spring of 1958. Making things even more compelling is the fact that The Goddess marked the big-screen debut of revered stage actress Kim Stanley. The director is the underrated John Cromwell (father of actor James), who was especially good with actresses.
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