DVD Reviews

The DVD Wrapup: Letter From An Unknown Woman, Despicable Me 3, Crucifixion, Maurizio Cattelan, A New Leaf, Silent Night and more

Letter From an Unknown Woman is an old-fashioned Hollywood melodrama I might have watched for a few minutes on television long ago and abandoned in favor of a baseball game. Black-and-white films, no matter how opulent or romantic, never looked the way they were supposed to on television. Even when Laserdiscs and TCM came, analog sets couldn’t do justice to the director and cinematographer’s shared vision. Scratches were left in disrepair, just as fuzz and other artifacts clung to prints as if intended. The digital revolution made restoration miracles possible, transforming tired old movies into the classics they actually are. High-resolution screens made everything even better. Even so, I might not have accepted the challenge of watching Letter From an Unknown Woman – its title is as inviting as a warm beer or cold cup of coffee – if I hadn’t already seen the Criterion Collection editions of Max Ophüls’ La ronde, Le Plaisir, The Earrings of Madame de … and Lola Montès, all of which were made after he returned to Europe after World War II. After absorbing the lessons dispensed in the bonus features, it was easy to appreciate this widely admired film from his surprisingly unproductive Hollywood sojourn. Now, at least, I knew what to look for in the upgraded Olive Signature release.

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DVD Gift Guide II: Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Der Bingle, Hitchcock, Homicide, Agatha Christie, Jean Rouch, MST3K, Curtiz, Logan Lucky, Animal Factory, Woodshock and more

Because our grandparents and great-grandparents already seem to have everything they need, they get shorted when gifts are being handed out around the Christmas tree. The challenge of picking out presents grows greater every year, it seems. After all, how many sweaters, robes and slippers can a person possibly own? Why not give the gift that never gets older that it already is: nostalgia. No matter how many channels there are, the ones dedicated to shows seniors might recall with fondness are limited to TCM, PBS and niche services on premium networks.

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The DVD Wrapup: Good Time, Hitman’s Bodyguard, Tavernier’s Journey, Valerion, Lemon, Jabberwocky, Mick Ronson, Harmonium and more

Robert Pattison has come a long way from his tenure as Edward Cullen.

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The DVD Wrapup: Wind River, Unlocked, In This Corner of the World, Funeral Parade of Roses, Zoology, Romero Redux, Indiscretion and more

What makes Wind River compelling is how Sheridan integrates it into the depiction of life above the tree line both for humans and animals.

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The DVD Wrapup: King George, Cars 3, Overdrive, Afterimage, Glass Castle, Whisky Galore, The Journey, Into the Night, Sissi, Stay Hungry and more

Even if Olive Films weren’t presenting its Blu-ray release of The Madness of King George as a cautionary tale, it would be difficult for any American – Republicans included – not to draw parallels to our current political predicament.

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The DVD Wrapup and Gift Guide I: Fellini, Ernie Kovacs, Green Acres, Carol Burnett, Person-to-Person and more

It’s difficult to imagine discovering a movie by Federico Fellini that lovers of foreign films haven’t seen at least once. In the case of Arrow Academy’s “The Voice of the Moon: Special Edition” Blu-ray, “discovery” might not be the right term. The Maestro’s final feature has been sitting around in plain sight for more than a quarter-century, just waiting for some distributor to give it a whirl. Better late than never.

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The DVD Wrapup: Lady Macbeth, Girls Trip, Moka, Chicago, American Gods and more

s as if a sympathetic visitor had left a copy of Gustave Flaubert’s recently published “Madame Bovary” within her reach, hoping it would spark Katherine’s desire for something more substantial than practicing her needlepoint and making sure the surfaces are being dusted. When their relationship becomes the subject of village gossip, Katherine concocts plans that would leave her the true head of the estate. Viewers may not be able to precisely identify the peril that looms just over the horizon, but we know it can’t possibly bode well for the weak-willed Sebastian. In an interesting decision, Oldroyd and screenwriter Alice Birch elected to make three key characters of African descent. The story practically ignores their race, leaving the audience to make of the casting what it will.

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The DVD Wrapup: Queen of the Desert, POTC 5, DeMille’s Lost City, Otherworld, Patsy Cline, Wanda and more

Herzog also allows time for coverage of her love affairs, which either were ill-advised or crushed by her domineering parents. But as fascinating a character as Bell is, the director’s longtime fans won’t find anything in Bell that recalls Klaus Kinski’s eccentric behavior in Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo, or, for that matter, Nicolas Cage, in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Maybe, critics were hoping for a bit more craziness in Kidman’s portrayal of such an independent and driven soul as Bell. There’s nothing at all wrong with Peter Zeitlinger’s cinematography, which nicely captures the desert scenery and extremes of Jordan and Morocco.

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The DVD Wrapup: Transformers, Lynch’s Art, Piano Teacher, Ruby, Sarno, Jesús, Devil’s Candy and more

For a movie that cost an estimated $217 million to make and God knows how much more to market, Transformers: The Last Knight shouldn’t have had to rely on the overseas marketplace to save to save its ass.

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The DVD Wrapup: ET, Vietnam, Big Sick, Glory, Certain Women, The Hero, Hana-Bi, By the Time It Gets Dark, The Prison, The Flesh, Moderns … More

I wonder how many kids and young adults have only watched E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind on screens smaller than a Mini or Fiat. There probably have been plenty of opportunities to catch a special screening at a plus-size theater with state-of-the-art visuals and sonics, but the temptation to watch something with less mileage probably outweighed the advantages of seeing these masterpieces the way Steven Spielberg intended.

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The DVD Wrapup: Beatriz at Dinner, The Mummy, Soul on a String, The Resurrected, Spider, The Apology, Glen Campbell and more

Although Miguel Arteta and Mike White have proven perfectly capable of creating edgy dramedies of their own — HBO’s “Enlightened,” The Good Girl, Chuck and Buck – I can’t help but see Neil LaBute’s darkly comic influence in their latest collaboration.

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The DVD Wrapup: Band Aid, First Kill, Iron Protector, All Eyez, Wedding Plan, Maurice, Big Knife, Narcos 2 and more

In her directorial debut, Zoe Lister-Jones walks the razor-thin line separating relationship dramedy and millennial mockumentary. The 35-year-old Brooklyn native maintains her balance throughout Band Aid, while continually switching the hats typically worn by writers, actors, producers and lyricists. It demonstrates how well she’s paid attention to her environs – not to mention, dues — on the long road to prominence in a cutthroat business. Lister-Jones isn’t there quite yet, but her face should be familiar to viewers of such sitcoms as “Life in Pieces,” “Whitney,” “New Girl” and “Friends with Better Lives.”

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The DVD Wrapup: Ronin, Wedding Banquet, The Stranger, Baywatch, Bring It On, Dean, Born in China and more

On a rain-swept night in Paris, an international crack team of professional thieves, weapons buffs and a computer geek assembles in an old-fashioned neighborhood bistro, summoned by a shady crime syndicate fronted by the enigmatic Deirdre. None of the crooks appear to know each other or the special skills they’re bringing to the table. They will be handsomely paid to steal an aluminum briefcase, handcuffed to the arm of their mark, who’s guarded by several armed men – presumably, ronin, themselves, — and safely make the transfer to Deirdre’s employers. It serves as Ronin’s McGuffin. No matter what the briefcase contains, its theft will inspire two unquestionably great car chases, one through the narrow streets of Nice, the other in Paris; a shootout in and around the centuries-old Arles Amphitheatre and Café Van Gogh; and a sniper attack inside a Paris skating rink. If it sounds confusing, it’s only because viewers aren’t supposed to be able to separate the white hats from the black hats until the final reel.

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The DVD Wrapup: Guardians II, Never Let Go, La Poison, Love of a Woman, Kiki, Whale Rider and more

For diehard fans of superhero movies, the spectacular visual presentation might even trigger the same psychedelic revelations as those experienced by their parents and grandparents during the “Star Child” sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Even the opening credits featuring Baby Groot are worth the price of a rental.

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The DVD Wrapup: Latin Lover, After the Storm, Bluebeard, Meantime, Hickok and more

With dialogue in Spanish and English, How to Be a Latin Lover recovered a respectable $32.1 million at the domestic box and another $30 million overseas. It would be nice to think that those numbers mark a trend and exhibitors are paying attention to Spanish-speaking audiences. Lionsgate has testied the DVD waters with such titles as Everybody Loves Somebody, Un Padre No Tan Padre, 600 Miles, The Legend of Chupacabras and Sundown. It’s doing so in a “synergistic partnership” with Hollywood-based Pantelion Films and Mexican conglomerate, Grupo Televisa.

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The DVD Wrapup: Kung Fu Yoga, Breaking Point, Wolves, In Shadow of Women, Stand, Taisho Trilogy, Re-Animator and more

At a time when saber-rattlers in China and India have begun squabbling over a road along their shared border, it’s easy to forgive this Sino-Indian co-production for underachieving as the action-adventure it might have been, if only box-office returns weren’t an object (which they always are). Make movies, not war.

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The DVD Wrapup: Circle, Amnesia, Lovers, I Am the Blues, Wakefield, Opening Night, 1944, Slither and more

Far-fetched? Not since Julian Assange and Edward Snowden became household names and Russian hackers interfered with U.S. and French elections. If anything, the sting of Ponsoldt’s cautionary tale was blunted by these revelations. Mae’s enthusiasm for the concept completely evaporated when Bailey’s team overplayed its hand by demonstrating to employees how any criminal – or average citizen, like her friend Mercer (Ellar Coltrane) – could be tracked down, anywhere in the world, and arrested or harassed. Not nice. Any character played by Tom Hanks is going to be a pretty tough nut to crack, however, it will take all the magic left in the former Hermione Granger to save us from corporate tyranny. Again, a bit too obvious.

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The DVD Wrapup: Ghost in the Shell, Final Master, Inseparables, Billy Jack, Stendhal Syndrome, Warlock and more

Revisiting the controversy surrounding the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi in the 2017 remake of Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 anime, Ghost in the Shell, I wonder what would have happened if DreamWorks/Paramount executives had attended Comic-Con 2015 and put the question to a vote. Who would you like to see play Major in our $110-million adaptation of Shirow Masamune’s classic 1989 sci-fi manga: Lucy Liu, Maggie Q, Gong Li, Sandra Oh, Fan Bingbing or Scarlett Johansson? I suspect there would have been a runoff between Johansson and, just for the sake of argument, let’s say, Ms. Q (“Nikita”).

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The DVD Wrapup: Resident Evil, Buster’s Mal Heart, Free Fire, Tommy’s Honour, Stormy Monday, T.J. Hooker … More

Writer-director Sarah Adina Smith has described her dark and challenging second feature, Buster’s Mal Heart, as a mix of Donnie Darko and Bad Santa. I might have added Life of Pi, Barton Fink and Lost Highway, if only as visual references. It’s a very curious movie, about a young husband and father, Jonah (Rami Malek), whose inability to handle basic realities of everyday life pushes him quickly past bipolar disorder, to outright schizophrenia, as a wildly eccentric mountain man, Buster (also Malek).

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The DVD Wrapup: Lost City of Z, Zookeeper’s Wife, Fate of the Furious, Song to Song, Rossellini’s War, Quiet Passion, Norman, Terror in a Texas Town… and more

The fact that The Lost City of Z ends in mystery squares with what we know about the explorer’s story and doesn’t detract from Gray’s yarn. The vast Amazon basin is famous for discoveries of “lost tribes” and valuable resources that force scientists to rewrite their textbooks. Who says that El Dorado — or the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, for that matter – doesn’t exist shrouded in vines and trees, somewhere between the Andes and Brasilia. Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson, Edward Ashley and Angus Macfadyen are fine in key supporting roles. Franco Nero appears in a scene almost certainly inspired by itzcarraldo, while the uncredited Aboriginal performers play their ancestors very well. Moreover, Darius Khondji’s cinematography deserves to be remembered

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DVD Reviews

Antoine Ratliff on: The DVD Wrapup: Letter From An Unknown Woman, Despicable Me 3, Crucifixion, Maurizio Cattelan, A New Leaf, Silent Night and more

Fernando on: The DVD Wrapup: King George, Cars 3, Overdrive, Afterimage, Glass Castle, Whisky Galore, The Journey, Into the Night, Sissi, Stay Hungry and more

Woody on: The DVD Wrapup: ET, Vietnam, Big Sick, Glory, Certain Women, The Hero, Hana-Bi, By the Time It Gets Dark, The Prison, The Flesh, Moderns … More

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Ray Pride on: The DVD Wrapup: Founder, Punching Henry, Paris 05:59, Apocalypse Child, Donnie Darko, Woman of the Year, Tampopo, Handmaid’s Tale and more

RAY WEIKEL on: The DVD Wrapup: Founder, Punching Henry, Paris 05:59, Apocalypse Child, Donnie Darko, Woman of the Year, Tampopo, Handmaid’s Tale and more

Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

estes1963 on: The DVD Wrapup: Drive Angry, Once Upon a Time in the West, Adua & Her Friends, A Clockwork Orange, Undertow, The Joke, Passion Play, Kaboom, Harvest ...

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

gurley1986 on: The DVD Wrapup: Blood Simple, Cat People, Shallows, Neon Demon, Sirk X 2, Warcraft, Kamikaze '89 and more

Quote Unquotesee all »

What about replacing Mr. Spacey with another actor? Mr. Plummer, perhaps.
“That would theoretically be fantastic,” Mr. Rothman said he responded. “But I have supervised 450 movies over the course of my career. And what you are saying is impossible. There is not enough time.”
~ Publicizing Sir Ridley’s Deadline Dash

“Would I like to see Wormwood in a theater on a big screen? You betcha. I’d be disingenuous to argue otherwise. But we’re all part of, like it or not, an industry, and what Netflix offers is an opportunity to do different kinds of films in different ways. Maybe part of what is being sacrificed is that they no longer go into theaters. If the choice is between not doing it at all and having it not go to theaters, it’s an easy choice to make.”
~ Errol Morris