Tuesday, June 21, 2016

June '16 Digital Week III

Blu-rays of the Week 
Cornbread, Earl and Me
If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium
I’ll Take Sweden
(Olive Films)
A low-key drama and two farcical travelogues are on deck this month, starting with 1974’s Cornbread, a sober study of mistaken identity transforming lives in a black Chicago neighborhood forever; the film gains immeasurably by quietly powerful acting by Moses Gunn, Laurence Fishburne and Rosalind Cash. In 1969’s Belgium and 1965’s Sweden, various stars are touring the Old World: Belgium, featuring European Ian McShane, Senta Berger and Joan Collins, has a lovely performance by American Suzanne Pleshette, while Sweden—a middling Bob Hope vehicle—has a young Tuesday Weld as her most appealing. The films look better than ever on Blu-ray.

London Has Fallen
This action-packed sequel to Olympus Has Fallen reteams Aaron Eckhart as President and Gerard Butler as his most trusted secret service agent: now they are among world leaders overrun by a group of diabolical—and murderous—terrorists at a the British prime minister funeral in London. Explosions and gunplay take up an inordinate amount of the movie’s 91-minute running time, but anyone in the mood for mindless action and a granite-like Butler—the rest of the cast, which includes Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman, is largely wasted—then this will provide a brief thrill. The film looks superb on Blu; extras are two featurettes.

Midnight Special 
(Warner Bros)
Writer-director Jeff Nichols’ sci-fi drama about a boy with supernatural powers and his father’s desperate attempts to keep him away from the authorities starts out intriguingly, but after a ridiculous scene in which the boy is kidnaped by thugs, the movie veers off the road and never recovers. Soon Nichols completely loses control, culminating in a CGI-powered finale that’s staggering in its incoherence. Even the cast seems cowed: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Sam Shepard, Kirsten Dunst and little Jaeden Lieberher give performances that look like they’re in different movies. The hi-def transfer is first-rate; extras are featurettes and interviews.

Power—Complete 2nd Season
(Starz/Anchor Bay)
The trappings and allure of legal and illicit power are on display throughout the unsubtle but entertaining second season of this 50 Cent-produced series, which follows its characters through the worlds of hip-hop, entertainment, illegal drugs and law enforcement with an increasingly jaundiced, even bemused eye. Of course, there’s always time for a romp or two in bed, which the performers have become increasingly adept at, and blood is spilled at ever more regular intervals. The series’ 10 episodes have stellar high-def transfers; extras include several featurettes.

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon 
They Were Expendable
(Warner Archive)
This pair of films starring John Wayne and directed by John Ford represented the high-water mark of their collaborations, which extended from 1939’s Stagecoach to 1963’s Donovan’s Reef. 1945’s Expendable has Wayne as one of several seamen who fought the Japanese in the pacific following Pearl Harbor; though overlong, it brings to life the heroism of the everyday sailor. 1949’s Yellow Ribbon, by contrast, is one of the director-star combo’s most effective westerns, shot in picturesque Monument Valley and starring Wayne as a cavalry officer winding down his long and distinguished career. Both the B&W Expendable and color Yellow Ribbon (which won the Best Cinematography Oscar) have great hi-def transfers; Ribbon extras are Ford’s home movies.

DVDs of the Week
Fear of 13
We Monsters
(First Run)
In Fear of 13, convicted killer Nick Yarris makes what for him is a sane, rational decision: to get off death row and be executed. Utilizing Errol Morris’s well-worn devices of reenactments and interviews, director David Sington nevertheless creates a chilling study of mortality. German director Sebastian Ko examines morality in We Monsters, as divorced parents of a teenage girl—who insists she killed the friend who disappeared when they were alone—decide to protect her at all costs. This frighteningly realistic scenario is acted to perfection by Mehdi Nebbou (dad), Ulrike C. Tscharre (mom) and Janina Fautz (daughter) under Ko’s persuasive direction. The lone extra on 13 is Sington and Yarris’s Q&A.

Going Away 
(Cohen Media Group)
French actress Louise Bourgoin sinks her teeth into one of those meaty but messy roles actresses love: a tattooed, independent single mother with sundry problems who will do anything for her young son. Her chemistry with Pierre Rochefort as the teacher who finds himself watching over the boy—and, by extension, the mother—one weekend, keeps Nicole Garcia’s otherwise routine 2013 romance afloat; young Mathias Brezot also contributes nicely as the son.

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