Tuesday, November 15, 2016

November '16 Digital Week III

Blu-rays of the Week 
Citizen Kane—75th Anniversary
(Warner Brothers)
Rightly celebrated as The Great American Movie, Orson Welles’ towering debut remains a remarkable cinematic achievement, with an innovative narrative structure that still works its strange magic 75 years later. And the sterling Blu-ray transfer only enhances Gregg Toland’s lustrous B&W compositions, as well as throwing Welles’ youthful genius into sharp relief: he never topped himself in the next 40+ years of making (or trying to make) movies, although he came close with his follow-up, The Magnificent Ambersons. Warner Brothers’ latest Blu-ray release comes on the heels of its stacked 70th anniversary edition in 2011; there are fewer extras this time around: Roger Ebert and Peter Bogdanovich commentaries, still photography with Ebert commentary, interviews and world premiere footage.

Doc Savage
(Warner Archive)
In one of the laziest superhero movies ever made, Ron Ely (TV’s Tarzan) plays the “Man of Bronze” in Michael Anderson’s 1975 camp fest, which isn’t very amusing, exciting or entertaining throughout its turgid 112 minutes. Aside from a nice performance by Pamela Hensley in the sole female role (she’s of course just eye-candy), this remains an often cringe-worthy flick that probably won’t warrant repeat viewings even for camp fans. The film does have a sparkling transfer, so there’s at least that.

Finding Dory 
The latest animated Pixar juggernaut is this cute tale of a fish with short-term memory loss who gets by with a little (actually a lot) of help from her friends—including some voiced with aplomb by Albert Brooks and Ed O’Neill. Ellen DeGeneres provides the engaging voice of Dory, while the clever director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) is back for more, which brightens up this sequel immensely. The hi-def transfer is spectacular; extras (spread out over two discs) include shorts, featurettes and deleted scenes.

The Goodbye Girl
(Warner Archive)
Richard Dreyfuss won the 1977 Best Actor Oscar for his fresh and ingratiating comic portrayal of a down-on-his-luck actor who befriends—and soon falls for—the dumped girlfriend of the guy who sublet a Manhattan apartment to him, along with her adorable little daughter. Neil Simon’s script is funny and tender in equal measure, Herbert Ross’s directing brings everything into comedic and romantic harmony, and Marsha Mason and 10-year-old Quinn Cummings are as terrifically irresistible as Dreyfuss. The hi-def transfer is solid and detailed.

Lone Wolf and Cub 
Six films’ worth of a samurai and a stroller-bound toddler, filed with geysers of blood and stylized violence might seem a bit too much, but that’s what this boxed set brings together: the half-dozen Lone Wolf films, made in a creative spurt by four directors between 1972 and 1974. Although it’s overkill (pun intended), there’s great fun in watching our hero vanquish opponents with the greatest of ease, all with his kid watching the increasingly bloody proceedings. All of the films have stunning new transfers and are complemented by extras comprising Shogun Assassin, the American recut of the first two films, which was a hit over here; interviews; and featurettes.

The Rolling Stones—Havana Moon
(Eagle Rock)
Mick, Keith and what’s left of the boys performed in Havana last March in front of over a million fans, who responded ecstatically to a sharp and polished performance that’s highlighted by bulls-eye versions of “Angie” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (complete with choir) among the handful of timeless tracks on the set list. The band sounds as tight as ever, and extras feature an additional five songs that were cut from the concert film for some reason, the best of which is a surprisingly funky “Miss You.” Both hi-def audio and video are outstanding.

DVDs of the Week 
Art21: Art in the Twenty-First Century—Season 8
The latest series of programs dealing with several cutting-edge artists from across the country and the world touches down in Chicago, Los Angeles, Mexico City and Vancouver to profile four artists in each city, all of whom are making their own mark and staking their own claim in an increasingly fractured and crowded art market in the age of the internet. The most interesting of these artists are both from L.A.: Edgar Arceneaux, whose investigation of history includes his reenactment of Ben Vereen’s discomfiting performance at President Reagan’s 1981 inaugural ball, and Liz Larner, whose remarkable sculptures play with time and space.

Okinawa—The Afterburn
(First Run)
The still unresolved status of the island of Okinawa—under the control of the United States, with its army bases, since the end of the Second World War—is encountered head on by director John Junkerman, who interviews survivors from both sides of the incredibly bloody and drawn-out battle, along with Americans and Japanese who either lived or were stationed on the island in the intervening decades. Although he is clearly on the side of those many who are still loudly protesting the presence of the U.S. military bases, Junkerman cuts to the heart of and illuminates a still polarizing subject for Americans and Japanese alike. Extras comprise additional interviews.

CD of the Week 
Lang Lang—New York Rhapsody
(Sony Classical)
Now that he’s reached classical super-stardom, pianist Lang Lang can make any kind of album he wants, including this pell-mell stew of pop and Broadway tunes, jumbled together and turned into ersatz light-jazz, which adversely afflicts Don Henley’s “New York Minute,” Alicia Keys’ “New York State of Mind,” and even Lou Reed’s “Boulevard,” mashed-up insipidly with “Summertime” by George Gershwin. These New York-inspired tunes are rounded out by a flashy version of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” Lang has always been an idiosyncratic player, but too often on this disc he sounds like a mere cocktail-bar ivory tickler.

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