Holiday 02/25/20

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

George Cukor’s classy late-’30s Park Avenue romp gives us Katharine Heburn and Cary Grant at their best; Grant is especially good in a particularly demanding comedy role. The original play is warmed up a bit with comedy touches, and some pointed political barbs slip in there as well. The marvelous acting ensemble gives terrific material to favorites like Jean Dixon and Edward Everett Horton; also starring Doris Nolan, Lew Ayres, Binnie Barnes and Henry Daniell. A special extra: an entire HD encoding of the early talkie version of Holiday, starring Mary Astor. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
02/25/20

Under the Shadow 02/25/20

Second Sight (UK)
Region-Free Blu-ray

Guest reviewer Lee Broughton returns with a rundown on Babak Anvari’s smart tale of supernatural happenings in the Middle East. The Farsi-language British production filmed in Jordan is set in Tehran at the height of the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. The atmosphere of fear and anxiety generated within a bombed-out apartment block attracts a group of demonic Djinn intent on evil-doing: the spiriting away of a vulnerable young girl. On Region-free Blu-ray from Second Sight.
02/25/20

Canyon Passage 02/22/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

This great, unheralded western is divorced from the usual concerns of law and order and gunslinger protocol. As in most every film by Jacques Tourneur, we feel a strong empathy for characters that behave like real people working out real problems. The Oregon Territory is pioneered by imperfect people — opportunists, knaves and hopeful dreamers — all rich in personality. Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward lead a large cast in a tale with just as much conflict and violence as the next western, but with an integrity one can feel. The icing on the cake is the presence of ‘troubadour’ Hoagy Carmichael and his beautiful music. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
02/22/20

It Started with a Kiss 02/22/20

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

It’s another big-star MGM romantic comedy, and not exactly a classic. Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford pick their way through a travelogue story that seems made of leftovers from I LOVE LUCY, inventing flat-farce gimmicks to sex things up without offending the Production Code. What’s the movie most remembered for?  It features the exotic concept car that became TV’s Batmobile. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
02/22/20

Tex Avery’s Screwball Classics Volume 1 02/18/20

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Guest reviewer “B” returns to write a full review article on the first Blu-ray collection of cartoons by the unchallenged king of animated hilarity. The 19- title collection includes a fistful of no-contest classics, plus a number of Avery’s oddball character cartoons, best represented by the anarchic Screwball Squirrel and the surreal Droopy Dog. The lead-off headliner is Red Hot Riding Hood, (no cover, no minimum), who inspires Old Wolfie into fits of, uh, stimulation that defied the pious Production Code. Animation Nirvana, beautifully remastered. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
02/18/20

Endless Night 02/18/20

Powerhouse Indicator
Region B Blu-ray

We love Hayley Mills, and wish she made more good movies as an adult. This suspense thriller adapted from an Agatha Christie novel once again casts Ms. Mills opposite Hywel Bennett, in a slack tale that spins its wheels, sets up a lot of material that goes nowhere, and eventually becomes a depressing, desultory murder mystery. But every film has something, and this one can boast one of Bernard Herrmann’s final movie scores, one that’s never been available on records or discs. That’s all many fans will need to give it a try. With Britt Eklund, George Sanders and Per Oscarsson. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator .
02/18/20

Parasite 02/15/20

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment/ Neon
Blu-ray

Hipster film folk love a good black comedy, and one that doesn’t hit too close to home can become a big hit. Bong Joon-ho has been making smart, clever movies for years, and this intense satire hit pay dirt, commercially. Neon played their Oscar season cards beautifully as well, with the personable director seemingly omnipresent at festivals and on NPR. The film itself? I find it wickedly clever, yet fundamentally humanist — it’s not mean-spirited. Starring Choi Woo Shik, Song Kang Ho, Chang Hyae Jin, Cho Yeo Jeong, Park So Dam, Lee Sun Kyun, Jung Ziso, Jung Hyeon, and Jeong-eun Lee. On Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment / Neon.
02/15/20

X The Unknown 02/15/20

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

Hammer’s copycat Quatermass picture stands apart from similar ‘mystery sci-fi monster’ thrillers by virtue of its serious tone and realistic presentation. Talk about a sober semi-docu style: there are no major female roles and the leading character is a mass of radioactive mud. (Is there an election year joke in that?) Hammer found a new writer in Jimmy Sangster, imported the Yankee name actor Dean Jagger, tried to hire the expatriate director Joseph Losey. With Edward Chapman, Leo McKern, and other people that just can’t take the heat, plutonium-wise. Former child actor Anthony Newley has a small part, but he doesn’t get to sing X’s theme song: “Who can I turn to, when nobody needs me, because the flesh is melting from my skull?”  On Blu-rayfrom Scream Factory.
02/15/20

The Great McGinty 02/15/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Charlie Largent reminds us why we love Preston Sturges with his first feature film, the near-perfect political satire with Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff showing future demagogues how to put the $$ in good old honest American corruption. Ya got a state with budget problems. It needs a few new highways and few more dams! Donlevy’s Dan McGinty learns too late that a little reform can be a big headache. It’s one of the brightest director debuts, with one of the all-time best American comedy screenplays. With Muriel Angelus, and a lot of Sturges’ stock company already checking in to work: William Demarest, Thurston Hall, Esther Howard, Frank Moran, and Jimmy Conlin. How many people do YOU see in this photo of a sports event grandstand?   That’s an inside joke. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
02/15/20

Roma 02/11/20

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Alfonso Cuarón’s labor of love will go down as having changed the delivery norm for top-quality feature motion pictures: unlike most foreign films, millions had a chance to see this highly-advertised show on Netflix, even if the life-changing experience to be had was the limited 70mm theatrical run. Cuarón’s ode to his upbringing in Mexico City is a rich slice of nostalgia and ethnography, made warmly human by the performance of Yalitza Aparicio. Viewers ‘waiting for something to happen’ will miss the point entirely. Italian neorealism was never as intense or as fascinating. Criterion’s extras are really arresting, especially the featurette explaining the near-miraculous post production process. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
02/08/20

Ulzana’s Raid 02/11/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Robert Aldrich gives the Cavalry Western a rough going-over in this brutal, unforgiving horror-western. Burt Lancaster gets in a fine late-career action turn as well. The pursuit of an Apache raiding party becomes guerilla war in the desert, the kind of conflict that cements racial hatred forever. Aldrich and Alan Sharp’s answer to the ‘mud & rags’ western of the early 1970s carries on the director’s anarchic streak. This is how the West was won? With Richard Jaeckel, Bruce Davison, Jorge Luke, Joaquín Martínez, Lloyd Bochner and Karl Swenson.  On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
02/08/20

Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman 02/08/20

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

“Not so much a suspension of disbelief, as a suspension of dreary naturalism.” Criterion acknowledges a great filmmaker with this wonderful trio of Karel Zeman spectaculars, truly original fantasies that showcase a blend of animation and theatrical effects concocted, confected, perfected half a century before CGI. The Czech filmmakers take us on a prehistoric safari, a cruise to an island of Jules Verne sci-fi marvels, and into a brightly imagined, magical storybook fantasy. Even the presentation is whimsical — the three features are packaged in a functioning pop-up book. Behold: Journey to the Beginning of Time, Invention for Destruction and The Fabulous Baron Munchausen. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
02/08/20

The Criminal 02/08/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Gangland London, 1960: Expatriate director Joseph Losey gives the Brit crime film a boost with a brutal gangster tale starring the ultra-tough Stanley Baker — and seemingly every up & coming male actor on the casting books. A committed thief returns to his craft the moment he’s freed from prison, but the emphasis is on the nasty betrayals and squeeze-plays of the criminal underworld, that conspire to foil Baker’s plans. Some of the top names in the cast are Sam Wanamaker, Grégoire Aslan, Margit Saad, Jill Bennett, Rupert Davies, Laurence Naismith, John Van Eyssen, Noel Willman, Kenneth Warren, Patrick Magee, Kenneth Cope, Patrick Wymark, Paul Stassino, Tom Bell, and Nigel Green. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
02/08/20

Two on a Guillotine 02/08/20

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Connie Stevens and Dean Jones star in a wild ‘n’ wacky happy-go-lurky mystery romp, and with this title, it isn’t for Disney! Actor William Conrad’s first directorial effort released by WB is a campy horror item starring not an actress making a comeback, but a pre- Joker Cesar Romero as a magician afflicted by the tragedy of Tod Browning’s Syndrome: he keeps accidentally beheading loved ones on stage. Klunky spook show or nail-biting spine-tingler? You be the judge. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
02/08/20

Monstrosity (The Atomic Brain) 02/04/20

Moth Inc.
Blu-ray

How can a ‘Z’ horror production so completely absorb the thoughts of this ex- film student?  This maladroit 1963 monster mash can’t even tell when it’s doing something good. A capable cast gives their all to a marginal production that, re-titled as The Atomic Brain, became a staple on late-nite TV, where it worked better than a sleeping pill. For extras, the quality disc production taps the one mortal willing to research this film’s murky depths: who else but Tom Weaver, whose original interview research actually makes sense of this screwy picture. Well, a little sense, at least. Recommended to the legions of fans of Marjorie Eaton and Frank Gerstle; don’t forget the woman who behaves like a cat, after Doctor Franks’ first cat-to-human brain transplant — we can still get your name on the list to be the second! On Blu-rayfrom Moth Inc..
02/04/20

The Light at the Edge of the World 02/04/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Jules Verne’s version of ‘Die Hard’ takes place not on Christmas Eve in Century City, but 160 years ago at a lonely lighthouse in Tierra Del Fuego. The mini-moguls the Salkinds rounded up a great cast — Kirk Douglas! Samantha Eggar! Yul Brynner! — but let them down severely in production details and particularly the edit. Most everything needed is here for a classic adventure-suspense picture, but somebody thought the action had to be ultra-violent and nihilistic. The new Blu-ray restores it to good color and an uncut state. With Fernando Ray, for about fifteen minutes. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
02/04/20

All About My Mother 02/01/20

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Pedro Almodóvar’s challenging films shouldn’t be only for his dedicated fans: nobody mixes genuine human compassion with world-class filmmaking as well as he … while maintaining a marvelous sense of humor, of human proportion. This 1999 effort is perhaps Pedro’s strongest drama, and yet another heartfelt endorsement of womankind. For the life-beleaguered Manuela, tragedy and melodramatic setbacks only bring out a primal determination to heal all wounds. Starring Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Candela Peña, Antonia San Juan, Penélope Cruz, and Barcelona. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
02/01/20

The Abominable Snowman 02/01/20

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

Just under the top echelon of British sci-fi lurks this well-produced, absorbing ‘expedition to terror!’ that surprises us by paying off on an intellectual plane. After building his monster but before defeating Dracula, Peter Cushing found himself in a real fix on a snowy mountain peak. Sure, the race of enormous Yeti are shiver-inducing, but Cushing must also withstand the mind games of a suspiciously solicitous Tibetan Lhama, and a piratical double-cross by an American huckster who goes by the deceptive name, ‘Friend.’ Forrest Tucker co-stars, perhaps giving his best film performance; Hammer’s production and Val Guest’s direction help communicate writer Nigel Kneale’s intellectual sci-fi extension of apocalyptic ideas in Lost Horizon. This came out about six weeks ago, on Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
02/01/20