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New on Disc: 'Cinema Verite' and more …

23 Apr, 2012 By: Mike Clark

Cinema Verite

Street 4/24
HBO, Drama, $19.97 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Diane Lane, Tim Robbins, James Gandolfini.
Though it went far beyond your everyday landmark, filmmaker Craig Gilbert’s mammoth documentary An American Family has never gotten an official home release. But last August, PBS’s home entertainment arm did, at least, issue a two-hour DVD commemorating and excerpting the 1973 nonfiction miniseries, which in full form ran six times longer during a three-month air span while pretty well originating what is now familiar as “reality TV.” Santa Barbara’s once instantly famous Loud family in 1971 agreed to allow a crew to film their every move (within merciful biological limitations). At any running time, the showstopper scene/documentarian’s dream was an ambushing divorce proceeding launched by mother Pat against philandering father Bill after filming had gotten underway. This typically polished HBO dramatic treatment about the family’s experience deals in part with what the camera didn’t capture (one senses some creative license here). The Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated result is both compelling and arguably a little gratuitous — yet, in one gotta-see regard, absolutely amazing. Somehow, with no obvious applications of putty or latex, the subtle makeup manages to make leads Diane Lane and Tim Robbins look like both their regular selves and, to a chilling degree, like the real-life subjects they’re playing — simultaneously. Both actors have the Loud speech patterns and body language down dead-on as well, so this is a movie that can make you blink a lot if you’ve seen any portion of the original.
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Wilder Napalm

Manufactured on demand via online retailers
Sony Pictures, Comedy, $20.95 DVD, ‘PG-13’ for thematic elements, language and some sensuality.
Stars Debra Winger, Dennis Quaid, Arliss Howard, Jim Varney.
Usually, it’s a putdown when someone says, “What were they on when they dreamed this one up?” But I’ll make an exception for what has to be one of screen history’s few farces about telekinetic pyromania (or close), a major critical/commercial catastrophe that has been one of my movie pets since day one. I will say only that it belongs on any definite list of films about sibling rivalry — and that it may be the funniest movie I’ve ever seen about somebody possessing a rare or even amazingly unique ability who can’t get rich from it and is regarded as a freak by most members of society for this very skill. This is the situation that faces two brothers who can start fires whenever they want. One of them (aggressive Dennis Quaid) is willing to promote his talent — while the other (Arliss Howard) is wearily resigned and moonlighting as a volunteer fireman. That the latter is wed to a woman the other covets (Debra Winger) has a way of nurturing animosity. Napalm remains a cult item looking for its cult.
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The Youngest Profession

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $17.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Virginia Weidler, Edward Arnold, Agnes Moorehead.
This half-labored, half-cute curiosity is a comedy about autograph seekers who toiled in a much more innocent time, before the practice became a big-business concern and even a pathological one. Along the way, we also take away a curious view of upper middle-class New York living by people who seem almost completely divorced from World War II.
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