Blu-rays of the WeekThree Brothers
Francesco Rosi’s subtle, insightful exploration of the complicated relationship among a trio of siblings—one a Roman judge, one a Turin factory worker and the other a counselor in Naples—was a 1981 Foreign Film Oscar nominee, but don’t hold that against it. As usual, Rosi’s artfully unflashy direction pays dramatic dividends, especially paired with superior acting by Philippe Noiret, Michele Placido and Vittorio Mezzogiorno as the protagonists. There’s never a false moment in this quietly powerful piece of filmmaking. The hi-def transfer looks exceedingly handsome; lone extra is an hour-long 1987 audio interview with Rosi.
Caltiki—The Immortal Monster
Django Prepare a Coffin
Even by paltry B-movie standards, Caltiki—a 1959 monster movie about an ancient Mayan god who goes on a terrorizing rampage after being awoken by archaeologists—is cheesy stuff, and not even Arrow’s typically pristine hi-def presentation can transform it into something resembling a competently-made guilty pleasure. In the ho-hum Django (1968), our cowboy hero comes to the aid of framed innocent men, helping them take their revenge on the corrupt politician after their land. Caltiki extras include commentaries, interviews, intros, and a full-frame presentation of the film; the lone Django extra is an interview with a spaghetti western expert.
The Girl with All the Gifts(Lionsgate)
Yet another dystopian nightmare, this one puts a twist on the familiar zombie movie plot: children who aren’t among the undead but who still feast on human flesh are a bridge of sorts between humans and the zombies themselves, including young Melanie, our heroine. There’s suitably intense acting by Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Gemma Arterton and Sennia Nanua as Melanie, which helps sell the creepy but uneven movie’s more routine aspects. The film looks great on Blu-ray; the lone extra is a making-of featurette.
La La Land
Derivative, trite, silly and often eye-rollingly embarrassing, Damien Chazelle’s colossally vacuous musical has dull songs, flashily empty set pieces and two lovebirds whose personal and professional travails are sketched in so perfunctorily that it’s amazing this got nearly universal love and acclaim. That Emma Stone won Best Actress is the biggest catastrophe in Oscar history, and Ryan Gosling’s woozy appearance is a new way to sleepwalk through a movie. It looks impressive and fancifully colorful on Blu-ray; there are lots of extras (on-set featurettes and interviews) as well as a commentary by Chazelle and the film’s composer Justin Hurwitz.
Juzo Itami’s droll 1985 comedy began a brief but intense love affair with his movies, a bunch of endearingly silly collaborations with his wife, star actress Nobuko Miyamoto, that later included the equally lively A Taxing Woman and A Taxing Woman Returns. But Tampopo, extolling the virtues of food and cooking long before it became de rigueur on television, is the most lasting expression of the director’s effortless brand of comic mayhem. Criterion’s hi-def transfer looks simply delicious; extras include a Miyamoto interview, Itami’s own 90-minute making-of documentary and his 1962 debut short Rubber Band Pistol.
The Witness for the Prosecution
This latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s absorbing short story about the murder of a society matron is a solid effort, with superb acting by Kim Cattrall as the victim, Billy Howle as her boytoy/suspect, Toby Jones as his lawyer and Andrea Riseborough as the accused’s lover/alibi. Too bad that the production design and atmosphere take precedence over Christie’s still-marvelous mystery. Unsurprisingly, the sumptuous hi-def transfer makes the film sparkle; extras include interviews with cast and creators.
CD of the Week
Betty Buckley—Story Songs
(Palmetto)One of American musical theater’s true treasures, Betty Buckley made her Broadway debut in the classic 1776 and made her mark on shows like Follies, Sunset Boulevard and Grey Gardens. This two-disc set, with Buckley at her considerable vocal peak, shows how strong an interpreter she is within an intimate ensemble of piano, bass and drums. Disc one, recorded in Costa Mesa, California last year, features emotionally trenchant renditions of Stephen Schwartz’s “Chanson,” Kurt Weill’s “September Song” and Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up” (where Buckley sings Gabriel’s and Kate Bush’s parts). Disc two, from Joe’s Pub in Manhattan in 2015, features Buckley’s peerless versions of Sting’s “Practical Arrangement,” Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” and Stephen Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here,” alongside endearing stories about Howard Da Silva and Elaine Stritch, two of Buckley’s theatrical mentors.