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New on Disc: 'Revenge of the Electric Car' and more …

30 Jan, 2012 By: Mike Clark

Revenge of the Electric Car

Docurama, Documentary, B.O. $0.15 million, $29.95 DVD, ‘PG-13’ for brief strong language.
Director/co-writer Chris Paine’s sequel to his 2006 film Who Killed the Electric Car? exists in an interim universe it simultaneously captures, much as last year’s Page One: Inside the New York Times became a permanent time capsule of the newspaper industry at a crossroads of change. Will electric cars catch on in any great measure if the prices can ever come down? I don’t know. But their owners (like featured Danny De Vito) seem to like or even love them, and the vehicles certainly tap into an American yearning that will never go away. You know: the one that says to Foreign Oil, “We’re not interested anymore.” The other principals featured here are Carlos Ghosn, whose Nissan Leaf may determine the fate of Renault/Nissan; Greg “Gadget” Abbott, who soups up existing cars with electric technology and has to survive an arson attack on his makeshift factory; and Elon Musk, an entrepreneur-ish developer of the Tesla who also has a parcel of other interests, including five children and a fiancée (later wife) who says she wants more. Paine’s film makes reference to doomed ‘40s auto maker Preston Tucker (who never was able to buck a system that demanded endless resources of capital), and Musk’s home life has some of the hustle-bustle seen in the very underrated Tucker: The Man and His Dream from 1988. Paine’s portrait, which includes a nourished menu of DVD extras, isn’t exactly in your face. Dramatically speaking, it lacks the natural story arc of its predecessor and isn’t necessarily the kind of documentary that makes one say, “Hey, you gotta see this” to friends. And yet, if you’ve seen the original (which is still burned fairly prominently into my movie mind), you may think it a story that virtually demanded to be filmed, given its back-from-the dead hook.
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American Madness

Manufactured on demand via online retailers
Sony Pictures, Drama, $20.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Walter Huston, Pat O’Brien, Kay Johnson, Constance Cummings.
I have a sweet spot for Frank Capra’s early talkies, and American Madness is one of my favorites. It is nothing if not topical. You don’t find too many Hollywood movies sympathetic to bankers, but the one Walter Huston plays here is a straight shooter with an altruistic streak. Huston’s character trusts his customers and his own instincts in loaning money (which, of course, puts him on the outs with his board of directors). In about 75 zippy minutes, Capra and his longtime screenwriter Robert Riskin manage to work in boardroom battles, Huston’s mildly straying wife (Kay Johnson, real-life mother of actor James Cromwell), a gangster subplot, a bank robbery that erroneously implicates a bank clerk (Pat O’Brien), and a run on the bank by depositors who don’t need Depression economics and heist artists with their own ways of depleting bank funds.
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Youngblood Hawke

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars James Franciscus, Suzanne Pleshette, Geneviéve Page, Mary Astor.
There’s not exactly an eBook-era feel to the quaint movie version of Herman Wouk’s doorstop novel about the novelist’s angst, but this is probably the trashy selling point for a black-and-white potboiler about a Kentucky truck driver who comes to New York as a hotshot writer to conquer publishers, editors, agents, effete critics (well, at first) and the bed of another man’s wife. It’s all very broad and overripe in that early-1960s Warner fashion.
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About the Author: Mike Clark

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