Blu-rays of the Week
Alice in Wonderland (Disney) – For the 60th anniversary release of one of its first animated classics, Disney has unsurprisingly pulled out all the stops, beginning with one of its best Blu-ray transfers, showing off eye-poppingly glorious color for a film made in 1950. The movie hasn't dated much either, as some of Disney's most imaginative animation gives us more lastingly memorable visualizations of Lewis Carroll's amazing worlds than Tim Burton did just last year. There are lots of extras, of course, comprising a deleted scene, Reflections on Alice featurette, Walt Disney's own TV introduction from 1959, and an interactive game.
All About Eve and An Affair to Remember (Fox) – These two classics finally arrive on Blu-ray: although the 1957 Affair is merely a classy romance starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, 1950's Eve, Joseph L. Mankiewicz's endlessly witty dissection of fame and celebrity with Bette Davis, George Sanders and Anne Baxter at their best, is one of the all-time great films ever to come out of Hollywood. The Blu-ray transfers are gorgeous, Affair in breathtaking widescreen color and Eve in pristine black and white. The extras include audio commentaries, various retrospective featurettes and vintage newsreels.
Never Let Me Go (Fox) – Mark Romanek's adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel about a romantic triangle that unfolds differently than usual is tasteful and controlled but falls just shy of truly grabbing our hearts. The acting by Carey Mulligan (no surprise), Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley is stellar, but the central conceit is too haphazardly developed and Romanek tries too hard not to overdo anything to the point where the drama lies there inertly by film's end. Adam Kimmel's superlative photography certainly transfers well to Blu-ray, but the meager extras (short making-of featurette, Romanek's on-set photography) are disappointing.
Night Catches Us (Magnolia) – Tanya Hamilton's low-key character study charts the return of Marcus, Black Power member, to his neighborhood in 1976, years after he left. Anthony Mackie is a charismatic Marcus, and Kerry Washington matches him as Patricia, an old flame now a happily married mom. Hamilton piles on one subplot too many, but she ends the film with welcome restraint, and her eye and ear ring unerringly true in a strong evocation of an era not usually so precisely dramatized. The film looks solid on Blu-ray; extras include deleted and alternate scenes, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Black Panthers Bobby Seale, Jamal Joseph and Emory Douglas.
DVD of the Week
Client 9 (Magnolia) – Alex Gibney’s Client 9 compellingly recounts NY Governor Elliot Spitzer’s resignation after it was revealed he paid for prostitutes. Gibney—whose Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room also explored “infallible” men’s hubris—sympathetically builds his documentary around an interview in which Spitzer sometimes speaks candidly about his meteoric rise and even faster fall from grace. But Gibney, also a good investigative reporter, roots out what happened to force Spitzer to resign from the position seen as a stepping stone to being our first Jewish president. Client 9 presents the case that vengeance also took down Spitzer. Extras include deleted/extended scenes, more interviews and an interview with and commentary by Gibney.
CD of the Week
Bach: A Strange Beauty (Sony Classical) – Simone Dinnerstein's Goldberg Variations were a sensation thanks to her idiosyncratic interpretations of familiar music. On her new disc, Dinnerstein gives us more Bach, with dazzlingly different versions of English Suite No. 3, two Keyboard Concertos and a few solo pieces thrown in for good measure. I've always found the slow movement of the fifth Keyboard Concerto Bach at his most exquisite, and Dinnerstein plays it to the hilt, almost turning it sentimental but reining it in to revel in its unearthly beauty. If we need more Bach piano recordings—aren't there enough by now?—Dinnerstein would be my choice.