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New on Disc: 'Me & Orson Welles' and more …

23 Aug, 2010 By: Mike Clark

Me & Orson Welles

Warner, Drama, B.O. $1.2 million, $18.98 DVD, ‘PG-13’ for sexual references and smoking.
Stars Zac Efron, Christian McKay, Claire Danes.
Relative newcomer Christian McKay serves up one of the most on-the-button portrayals of a 20th-century pop figure that I have ever seen. The story’s setting is New York City in 1937 — four years before Welles directed Citizen Kane and a year before he terrorized the nation with his radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. So at a just-turned-22, he’s mounting a Mercury Theatre production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar his own way. Zac Efron is the young acting hopeful and makeshift ukulele practitioner hired on the spot for a small role. The DVD is sold exclusively at Target.
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Black Orpheus

Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR. In Portuguese with English subtitles. Stars Breno Mello, Marpessa Dawn.
Writer-director Marcel Camus’ panoply of pigmented costuming (against an equally kinetic beat) remains something close to a one-of-a-kind. Certainly, it was in terms of the filmmaker, whose other movies didn’t amount to much given all the vitality here. Liberally adapted from a Vinicius de Moraes play called Orfeo do Carnaval, the movie’s male protagonist (Breno Mello) is a Rio de Janeiro streetcar conductor with guitar-playing aspirations. Its Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn) is a visitor at carnival time — an event that consumes a year of prep because it offers the one brief annual respite from squalor.
Extras: Criterion has provided a ton of extras not on its original 1999 DVD about the movie’s history and influence, including a full-length documentary. As film scholar Robert Stam points out in an excellent supplement, this is not an Brazilian film but a French one whose point of view or emphasis is one a native filmmaker probably wouldn’t have taken.
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The Great Waldo Pepper

Universal, Drama, $14.98 DVD, ‘PG.’
Stars Robert Redford, Bo Svenson, Susan Sarandon, Bo Brundin.
Historically significant as both a star-power footnote and something close to aviation-buff nirvana, this cult box office underachiever has finally received its DVD due. No widescreen movie deserves to be released in cruddy pan-and-scan, as happened to Great Waldo Pepper in 1998. Even without extras, this DVD is a beauty. An odd and even clashing mix of early aviation comedy-drama, Pepper’s period spans the post-World War I era all the way through the 1920s, with Robert Redford’s title character obsessed with the heroic efforts of onetime German flying ace Ernst Kessler.
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Les Paul: Live in New York

Questar, Music, $19.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Electric guitar pioneer Les Paul died just over a year ago at 94, but this uplifting homestretch release clarifies why it was normal to think that he’d always be around to play. New York captures Paul’s twilight performances at the Iridium Jazz Club when he jammed Monday nights on stage with guests (even Keith Richards made the pilgrimage).
Extras: The bonus material is copious and goes beyond additional Iridium performances. There’s an episode from the old “Les & Mary” TV show and the famous episode from “Omnibus” in which the couple has fun explaining multitracking against occasional crew laughter.
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