Blu-rays of the Week
David F. Sandberg’s dopey but disarming superhero movie smartly doesn’t take itself too seriously—except when it annoyingly piles on endless false endings, dragging things out 20 minutes longer than they should be, and threatening an inevitable sequel during the end credits. Asher Angel and Zachary Levi are in fine form as teenage Billy and his superhero alter ego, Mark Strong is amusingly villainous as Dr. Sivana and Jack Dylan Grazer is a born scene-stealer as Billy’s foster brother Freddy. It all looks splendid on Blu; extras include a commentary, gag reel, featurettes, deleted scenes, and alternate opening and closing.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s three melodramas about postwar Germany are highlighted by three great actresses: Hanna Schygulla (1979’s The Marriage of Maria Braun), Barbara Sukowa (1981’s Lola) and Rosel Zech (1982’s Veronika Voss) give glorious performances that raise the level of these otherwise strident films. There’s also visual luster in the rich cinematography of Michael Ballhaus (Braun) and Xaver Schwarzenberger (Lola and Voss, with its enticing B&W images). Criterion’s hi-def transfers look tremendous; voluminous extras include commentaries, interviews, archival footage of Fassbinder interviews and on-set workings, and I Don't Just Want You to Love Me, a full-length career-spanning doc about the director.
Cowriter-director Julia Hart’s pretentious sci-fi drama, set in an arid Midwest in a near-future, follows a young woman with supernatural powers, on the run from the shadowy authorities, who returns home to see her estranged mother and young daughter. Despite inventive flashes, Fast Color bogs down in confusion in lieu of interesting character development; luckily, the cast—led by the extraordinarily compelling Gugu Mbatha-Raw—provides the humanity the script and direction lack. There’s an excellent hi-def transfer; extras are a commentary and making-of featurette.
DVD of the Week
In Italian director Matteo Garrone’s latest, vengeance takes the form of a put-upon dog groomer who finally has enough of the town bully, after spending a year in jail for refusing to implicate him in a robbery. Despite Marcello Fonte’s entirely believable performance in the title role, Dogman is an entirely predictable fantasy that contents itself with scenes of vicious but repetitive violence, set in a crumbling town where I doubt such a dog grooming saloon could stay in business. Fonte won Best Actor at Cannes last year, but his intensity isn’t enough to rescue Dogman from the dog house.
CD of the Week
Composer Clara Schumann (best known as the wife of 19th century master Robert Schumann) is on a roll! This disc—played with beauty and precision by Isata Kanneh-Mason—is the third in the last few months containing her romantic music that I’ve reviewed, but it’s the first that’s all Clara from start to finish. Kanneh-Mason delicately tackles several lovely miniatures (Romances for piano and for piano/violin, along with two transcriptions of Robert’s lieder), but reserves her greatest strengths for traversing Clara’s A Minor concerto and G Minor sonata, both substantive, engrossing works which deserve wider currency.