Blu-rays of the WeekAnt-Man and the Wasp
In this protracted, fitfully entertaining sequel to Ant-Man, the interplay among Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer makes it work, despite several good actors like Bobby Cannavale, Michael Pena and Anthony Mackie having scandalously little to do. The effects are decent and Hannah Jones-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne and Walton Goggins are an intriguing trio of villains, but another installment is promised—oh boy. The hi-def transfer is first-rate; extras include deleted scenes, a gag reel and featurettes.
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
Joaquin Phoenix’s intense but sympathetic performance as John Callahan, a caustic cartoonist who was a paraplegic and worked from a wheelchair until his death in 2010, is the main draw of Gus Van Sant’s interesting but workmanlike biopic. There’s little to distinguish this than something like The Sessions, with John Hawkes and Helen Hunt, and the typically blah appearances by Jonah Hill and Rooney Mara in supporting roles don’t help; luckily, Phoenix’s committed portrayal smooths over most of the rough spots. There’s a fine hi-def transfer; extras are two brief featurettes.
Reiner Werner Fassbinder’s gargantuan 1973 made-for-West-German-television series takes its working-class family seriously, but a few hours’ worth of material is stretched to eight, making the perceptiveness of the early scenes give way to self-parody and melodrama by the time it limps to its conclusion. Excepting the 15 1/2-hour Berlin Alexanderplatz—which, to be sure, gave the director ready-made source material in the form of the original classic novel—Fassbinder usually did better with less; the extended format gives free rein to his damaging self-indulgences. The hi-def transfer is solid; extras include a retrospective featurette comprising new interviews with actors Hanna Schygulla, Irm Hermann, Wolfgang Schenck and Hans Hirschmüller.
Joseph W. Sarno Retrospect Series
Joseph W. Sarno was a straightforward purveyor of soft-core flicks in the ‘60s and ‘70s before moving into hardcore features, and this set collects three of the most typical examples of his sexploitation flicks, whose titles cheekily promise more than they deliver. Confessions of a Young American Housewife (1974), Sin in the Suburbs (1964) and Warm Nights Hot Pleasures (1964) are basically teases that pretend to explore sexuality more deeply than they do; they’re interesting historical curios, at least. The films have decent hi-def transfers; extras are commentaries and deleted scenes.
(Cohen Film Collection)
Luis Puenzo’s powerful 1985 drama, set in the ‘70s during Argentina’s military dictatorship, focuses on an affluent couple with a young daughter whom they illegally adopted—the mother slowly realizes the girl may be the child of one of the regime’s victims who disappeared and was presumably murdered. Puenzo’s film—which won the Best Foreign Film Oscar—retains its potency thanks to a searingly real performance by Norma Aleandro as the mother who wants to protect her daughter but realizes the moral (and mortal) implications. The new hi-def transfer is excellent; lone extra is a four-part Puenzo interview.
CD of the Week
Weinberg—Symphony No. 13 and Serenade
I feel like a broken record extolling the virtues of Russian composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg, who years after his death in 1996 suddenly had his music getting played and recorded. The always enterprising Naxos label has released several discs pairing one of his symphonies with another orchestral work, and this disc continues that tradition. The two works, both world premiere recordings, are Serenade (1952), relaxed, yearning and with little of Weinberg’s usual musical agitation; and the weighty, somber Symphony No. 13 (1976), a one-movement, 35-minute work dedicated to the composer’s mother. Vladimir Lande ably conducts the Siberian State Symphony Orchestra.