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New on Disc: 'The Invisible War' and more …

14 Jan, 2013 By: Mike Clark

The Invisible War

New Video, Documentary, B.O. $0.06 million, $29.95 DVD, NR.
I was such an enthusiast for documentarian Kirby Dick’s predecessor Outrage (about the deep-sixing of pro-gay legislation by allegedly gay conservatives in Congress) that it self-amazes to concede that it took me this long to see his follow-up, which is one of the better documentaries of the past year. The subject is rape in the military (obviously not just of female soldiers) and how the system is rigged to put the blame or burden of proof on the victim. There are simply too many tragic stories here related by too many people willing to give their names and be photographed for posterity on screen to doubt the veracity of the filmmaker’s raked muck, which includes a coda that lets us know the significant number of assailants who not only weren’t prosecuted but ended up receiving military promotions. It took Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta a little more than a blink to take serious action after his staff got him to see this winner of the Sundance Audience Award. And it was action that included, unless there was an amazing coincidence in timing, a further shakeup of the DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) — even though its onetime civilian head (Dr. Kay Whitley) had been replaced by a female Air Force general who, like Whitley, is interviewed in the film. Some of War’s most astonishing moments are its even hardball interview of Dr. Whitley, who comes off as the kind of zoned-out individual who would have a tough time ascertaining which direction is “up.” Dick could have called this one Outrage as well, though the poignant moments rival the fury-inducing ones, especially when we take into consideration not just the toll that unpunished rapes have taken on those assaulted but on their parents and mates as well.
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Guys and Dolls (Blu-ray)

Warner, Musical, $34.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, Vivian Blaine.
To launch its acquisition of the Samuel Goldwyn (Sr.) library for Blu-ray release, Warner has gone for musically pedigreed name value via two Frank Loesser scores, starting with this stage-to-screen makeover of the Damon Runyon bookie-gambler perennial, which on stage represented the composer’s career high. The iffy but sometimes fascinating MGM-distributed extravaganza managed to pair an actor who loathed multiple takes (Frank Sinatra) with one who liked and flourished in method-y fashion with them (Marlon Brando in that period when he played a biker, Napoleon and a Japanese scamp just to prove he could). The ensuing tension would provide director Joseph L. Mankiewicz with one of the biggest logistical migraines a filmmaker could ever imagine.
I loved the big-screen Guys and Dolls as a kid, though its staginess drives me up the wall today. But the Brando-Sinatra dynamics intrigue, Jean Simmons is inspired casting as missionary Sgt. Sarah Brown, and there are privileged moments that include stage originator Stubby Kaye’s rendition of “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” and Frankie-Boy’s almost chilling beaut of “Adelaide,” one of the new tunes Loesser composed for the movie version. This was the kind of trade-off adapters of stage musicals made in those days: Scuttled were some good tunes from the Broadway version (“Marry the Man Today” and “More I Cannot Wish You”) for add-ins “Adelaide” and “A Woman in Love.”
As a presentation, the Blu-ray is as much of a beaut as “Adelaide,” which is especially noteworthy in that there were aspect ratio and color issues with G&D releases on standard DVD. The other Loesser-Goldwyn musical in this Warner entertainment double whammy is the Moss Hart-scripted Hans Christian Andersen (1952, $34.99 BD), which was a monster box office hit when lead Danny Kaye was close to his peak of popularity.
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