Tuesday, June 28, 2016

June '16 Digital Week IV

Blu-rays of the Week 
In this well-meaning but hopelessly belabored look at the life of a good man who’s been seriously wounded in an attack in front of his Manhattan apartment building, director-writer-actor Tim Blake Nelson’s film is as gooily sentimental as the Oscar-winning Crash, with no discernible point: characters, relationships and dialogue only allow the drama to lumber from A to B. Wasted is a cast comprising Sam Waterston, Gretchen Mol, Corey Stoll, Michael K. Williams and Nelson himself, all of whom could do better with far better material. The movie looks fine on Blu.  

Clouds of Sils Maria
Olivier Assayas' biggest failure since 2007’s Boarding Gate finds the usually luminous Juliette Binoche at her self-consciously mannered worst as an actress returning to the stage in a play she made her mark in two decades earlier, this time opposite a far younger superstar (the always intriguing Chloe Grace Moretz). Kristen Stewart looks lost in the thankless role of Binoche's assistant; sadly, her appearance is mainly a study in the vintage T-shirts. Assayas moves his camera with characteristic fluidity, although endless shots of the Alps (where this was shot, beautifully, by Lorick Le Saux) do little but provide an unnecessary metaphor for the movie, its morose leading lady and the pretentious play she's stuck in. Le Saux’s visuals soar in hi-def; extras comprise Assayas, Binoche and Stewart interviews and the 1924 short Cloud Phenomena of Maloja.

Eye in the Sky 
The confused, complicated world of drone warfare is dramatized with almost too much discernment by director Gavin Hood, who parses the agonizing split-second decisions military and political leaders make to shoot down imminent threats to our security. In his final screen role, Alan Rickman has the proper gravitas as the lieutenant general in charge, but Helen Mirren seems unduly constricted by her role as the colonel who makes the call, and Phoebe Fox and Aaron Paul play the drone operators so weepily when things go awry that the movie turns into a liberal guilt-ridden morality play flattening the ethical concerns at its center. There’s a stellar hi-def transfer; two short featurettes are extras.

(Cohen Media Group)
In this often dry comedy, two brothers who haven’t spoken in decades find their precious flocks of sheep decimated by disease and have to decide how to keep themselves afloat after such a financial disaster. Director Grimur Hakonarsen has a way with his deadpan material, and his cast—led by the actors playing the warring middle-aged siblings—is perfect, yet there’s a nagging sense that everything’s a little too pat, a little too neat, judging from the too-cute final shot. The wintry landscapes look breathtaking in hi-def; extras are a Hakonarsen interview and short film, Wrestling.

(Warner Archive)
Thirty-four years after its release, this crass Blake Edwards farce about a woman who impersonates a man to get a singing job in a Paris nightclub in the mid-1930s has finally had current transgender events catch up with it, giving it added relevance. Although it’s not nearly as funny or daringly radical as its defenders say, its set design, costumes and Henry Mancini’s music are first-rate, as are Julie Andrews in the lead and Robert Preston as her drag-dressing best friend; Lesley Ann Warren provides deliciously bimboish support. Finally on Blu-ray, the movie looks strikingly colorful in hi-def; the lone extra is an entertaining and informative Andrews and Edwards commentary.

DVDs of the Week
I, Anna
(Icarus Films)
Director-writer Barnaby Southcombe’s 2012 neo-noir about a murder investigation that may or may not involve an attractive grandmother is equally fascinating and off-putting. Although the plot itself is humdrum, there are persuasive performances by Charlotte Rampling as Anna, Gabriel Byrne as the detective whose own ethics come into question when he refuses to consider her a suspect, and the sadly underused Hayley Atwell as Anna’s daughter raising her own small child.

King Georges 
(Sundance Selects)
This sunny portrait of French restaurateur Georges Perrier, one of the America’s most celebrated chefs and proprietor of the elegant Philadelphia restaurant Le Bec-Fin, shows his final days there, before it closed in 2010. Perrier’s old-fashioned personality—he screams and swears his head off at his loyal and talented kitchen staff—might make a sour note for some, but his ebullience and mentorship (one of his best assistants opens his own upscale Philadelphia restaurant) are the backbone of director Erika Frankel’s always engrossing documentary.

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