Category: DVD Report

The DVD Report #629

Dead of Night has been released for the first time in the U.S. on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber. The granddaddy of the horror film anthology has been given a 4K restoration that does full justice to the 1945 British film that was released in the U.S. in 1946 with two of its five stories missing. The two missing stories which seemed to bother American film censors of the day were restored for the U.S. television debut of the film shortly thereafter.

Directed by Charles Crichton (A Fish Called Wanda), Basil Dearden (Victim), Robert Hamer (Kind Hearts and Coronets), and Alberto Calvalcanti (Went the Day Well? ), it features Mervyn Johns, Roland Culver, Googie Withers, and Sally Ann Howes in the linking story with Withers and Howes prominently featured in two of the other segments as well, along with Miles Malleson, Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne, Michael Redgrave, and Elisabeth Welch in other segments. Redgrave and Welch star in the film’s most famous segment, “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” with Redgrave’s portrayal of the mad ventriloquist long regarded as the prototype for Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho fifteen years later.

Extras include commentary by film historian Ted Lewis and a 75-minute documentary, “Remembering Dead of Night”.

Criterion has released a Blu-ray upgrade of The BRD Trilogy consisting of three films directed by Germany’s Rainer Werner Fassbinder: The Marriage of Maria Braun, Veronika Voss, and Lola. The films are connected in a thematic, rather than a narrative, way with the emphasis on the title characters in each film set in West Germany in the aftermath World War II. The three-letter acronym stands for Bundersrepublik Deutschland, the official name of West Germany and of the now reunited Germany.

1979’s The Marriage of Maria Braun and 1981’s Lola were given 4K restorations while 1982’s black-and-white Veronika Voss was given a high-definition digital restoration.

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The DVD Report #628

The Aftermath is a British drama about the effects of the aftermath of World War II on the people of Hamburg, Germany and the soldiers who occupy their city. As one British officer puts it, the Russians got the wine, the Americans the views, and the Brits the ruins.

Directed by James Kent (Testament of Youth), the film stars Keira Knightley as a colonel’s wife who lived through the war in London, losing her 11-year-old son in the 1942 bombing of the city. She’s come to Hamburg to reunite with the husband (Jason Clarke) she hasn’t seen for five years, the newly assigned officer in charge of the British occupation. The British Army has commandeered the mansion of an anti-Nazi architect (Alexander Skarsgard) whose wife was killed in the bombings on Hamburg in 1943 as billeting for Clarke and Knightley. Skarsgard and his teenage daughter have been ordered to leave the house and take up residence in a British camp, but Clarke allows them to stay in the house. Skarsgard and his daughter have occupancy of the upper floor while Clarke and Knighley have the lower floor. With Clarke on duty much of the time and Skarsgard’s daughter supposedly attending school, the inevitable happens and Knightly and Skasrgard begin an affair.

The romantic drama plays out against the turmoil of the times as Skarsgard’s daughter falls for a murderous Hitler youth leader. Both narratives are handled sensitively with Flora Thiemann as Skarsgard’s daughter, Jannik Schumann as the Nazi youth, and Fionn O’Shea as Clarke’s driver turning in excellent supporting performances. It’s all very well done, but the two narratives are too quickly resolved at the film’s conclusion. This is one film that would have benefitted from a few additional scenes. An hour and forty-eight minutes running time is too short to do justice to a film with such lofty ambitions. What might have been one of the year’s great films had it been handled differently, becomes instead a pleasant time killer.

The Aftermath is available on Blu-ray and standard DVD.

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The DVD Report #627

Dumbo is the latest live-action version of a Disney animated classic to reach home video.

For eighteen years, 101 Dalmatians was the only animated Disney film to get a live-action remake from the studio. Then in quick succession we got Sleeping Beauty (as Maleficent), Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, the current Aladdin, and the forthcoming The Lion King, Lady and the Tramp, and The Little Mermaid. Discounting Universal’s Snow White and the Huntsman, there’s currently talk about remaking Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as a live-action film as well. There’s no talk of a live-action Disney remake of Pinocchio but Guillermo del Toro is planning his own animated version of Carlo Collodi’s beloved classic.

There’s certainly no harm in reimagining these classics as live-action or combination animated/live-action dramas. Most are based on centuries old tales that have been filmed before as live-action events. Aladdin, for example, was first filmed live-action in 1917 as Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, then in 1926 became the first animated feature as Germany’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed combining Aladdin’s story with that of the prince. 1940’s The Thief of Bagdad, which was a variation on the Aladdin story, remains a beloved live-action masterpiece. The 1992 Disney animated musical version of Aladdin was equally beloved in its day, the current live-action remake, not so much.

I found both Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent to be ho-hum versions of the classic fairy tale. To me, both Disney versions of Cinderella pale in comparison to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s made for TV musical.

I’ve always preferred the 1942 non-Disney live-action version and Disney’s own 1994 live-action version of The Jungle Book to Disney’s animated 1967 musical version and certainly to their 2016 live-action remake of the 1967 animated musical. While I love Jean Cocteau’s 1946 live-action French version of Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s 1991 animated musical version has been my favorite Disney film ever since. I found the 2017 live-action remake to be pretty good in its own right as well.

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The DVD Report #626

Hotel Mumbai marks the feature film debut of Australian director Anthony Maras who co-wrote the screenplay with veteran Scottish writer John Collee (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Happy Feet).

This non-stop thriller is a highly suspenseful action-packed account of the 2008 attack on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel aka “the Taj” and other locations in Mumbai, India. Although other attacks are shown, the emphasis of the film is on the attack on the five-star luxury hotel, which first opened its doors in 1903.

While the screenplay is a composite of actual and fictional events, the attack by an Islamic terrorist group out of Pakistan was based on hundreds of hours of interviews with survivors and witnesses. A significant amount of dialogue was taken verbatim from intercepted cell phone calls made during the three-day siege.

On the night of November 28, 2008, a group of young men armed with explosives and AK-47s stormed the hotel with instructions fed to them through an earpiece from a controller called “Brother Bull” who promised them Paradise for killing infidels and money paid to their families for their sacrifice in the name of “Allah.” The local police were overwhelmed and initially did nothing but wait for the Special Forces from New Dehli, hours away, to arrive. Eventually, a handful of brave local police did enter the hotel in a mostly failed attempt to help evacuate guests and employees. In the meantime, it was up to the guests and staff members to fend for themselves.

The film plays out much like the 1974 disaster film The Towering Inferno in which various hotel guests, staff members, and public officials were indiscriminately killed while others survived an attack on the hotel by fire.

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The DVD Report #625

RKO Classic Romances, the new Blu-ray collection from Kino Lorber, gives us five Pre-Code tearjerkers, all of them preserved by the Library of Congress and restored by Lobster Films.

In chronological order, the films are Sin Takes a Holiday, released in November 1930; Millie, released in February 1931; Kept Husbands, also released in February 1931; The Lady Refuses, released in March 1931; and The Woman Between, released in August 1931.

The odd thing about these five films is that the leading ladies in all but one of them are well-remembered today, but their leading men are all but forgotten.

Constance Bennett, the star of Sin Takes a Holiday, had a career that outlasted her. She died eight months before the release of her last film, the 1966 version of Madame X, in which she played Lana Turner’s mother-in-law. Her co-star, Kenneth MacKenna had a career and a life that lasted almost as long, but most of his later roles were in distinguished but rather small parts in such films as the college president in 1960’s High Time and as one of the judges in 1961’s Judgment at Nuremberg the year before his death.

Bennett plays a poor secretary in love with her wealthy boss (MacKenna) who doesn’t reciprocate her love but is close enough to her to ask her to enter in a marriage of convenience so he can hold off a predatory female who won’t take no for an answer. It takes a shipboard romance between Bennett and third-billed Basil Rathbone to make MacKenna jealous and realize he loves Bennett after all.

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The DVD Report #624

The Man Who Laughs, the 1869 novel by Victor Hugo, has been adapted for the screen less frequently than the myriad versions of Hugo’s better-known works, 1831’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and 1862’s Les Misérables. The most famous version was Paul Leni’s 1928 silent classic, given a 4K restoration for its Blu-ray release by Flicker Alley.

Produced by Universal, The Man Who Laughs was the next to last film made by German director Leni who died of blood poisoning in Los Angeles a year later at the age of 44. Like Quasimodo, the title character in Hunchback, the title character in Laugh is physically deformed. Unlike Quasimodo, who was born physically deformed, Laugh‘s Gwynplaine was the son of a British nobleman who offended England’s despotic King James II before fleeing the country by refusing to kiss his ring. When he returns to England to reunite with his son in 1690, he is captured by the king’s men and told by the king before he has him executed that his son was sold to the Cormanchico gypsies who have carved a permanent grin on his face. When the Cormanchicos are exiled from England, they leave the deformed boy behind. Wandering in the cold and snow, he finds Dea, a blind baby girl, in the arms of her dead mother and rescues her, finding shelter in the home of Ursus, a showman who raises them both, making them stars in his traveling show.

Gwynplaine and Dea fall in love and are about to be married, when Barkilphedro, King James’ evil jester, plots to have Gwynplaine marry the duchess who now owns the estate once owned by Gwynplaine’s father so that Gwynplaine can be named the rightful heir to the estate by James’ successor, Queen Anne, and he, Barliphedro, can be rewarded.

The film’s success owes much to the performances of both Julius Molnar as the ten-year-old Gwynplaine and Conrad Veidt who plays him as an adult. Mary Philbin as the grown Dea, Olga Baclanova as the duchess, Brandon Hurst as Barliphedro, Cesare Gravino as Ursus, and Josephine Crowell as Queen Anne lead the supporting cast.

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The DVD Report #623

They Shall Not Grow Old, Peter Jackson’s remarkable documentary made to commemorate the centennial of the end of World War I, was released in the U.K. last November, but its U.S. debut, aside from special screenings, did not take place until February of this year. Warner Archive has now made it available on Blu-ray and standard DVD.

Jackson, best known for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, has done a stunning job of recreating the war as seen through the eyes of foot soldiers from never before seen footage stored at the British Imperial War Museum. Rather than use a standard narration, Jackson chose to use the recorded memories of World War I British veterans made in the 1960s and 70s. The film begins in black-and-white as it takes the eager young recruits from enlistment through boot camp and then goes to color as it explores the wrenching aspects of the war itself.

Unlike the colorization of old black-and-white films done in the past, Jackson’s painstaking process makes the footage look as though it was shot in color to begin with. The sound effects accompanying what were silent films are, as you would expect, the way things would have sounded if they had been recorded live. What makes it so startlingly real is the spoken dialogue pored over by lip-readers who wrote down what they found which was given to actors to speak. Many of the participants died within hours of their scenes being filmed. The carnage shown in the film is devastating. It was so great that at one point steamrollers were used to pound the bodies of 2,000 German and British soldiers, killed side by side, into the ground so that surviving soldiers could walk over them without stepping on them. You will come away from this one understanding why no one in it wanted to talk about the war for years, if at all.

While there have been a handful of great narrative films made about the foot soldier in the “war to end all wars,” this is the first documentary that can take its place proudly beside the likes of The Big Parade, All Quiet on the Western Front, Journey’s End, Westfront 1918, and Oh! What a Lovely War.

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The DVD Report #622

nullNever Look Away is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s return to grace after the disaster that was his second film, the 2010 Hollywood flop The Tourist.

The German director, who grew up in New York, the son of a Lufthansa executive, hit the big time with his direction of the 2006 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language film, Germany’s The Lives of Others, about the inner workings of the East German secret police in East Berlin in the early 1980s. After his stumble with the Venice-set The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, he was all but written off as a failed artist, but then came this collaboration with his childhood idol, cinematographer Caleb Deschanel.

The film that made von Donnersmarck fall in love with the art of moviemaking was 1983’s The Right Stuff for which Deschanel received the first of his six Oscar nominations to date. He later not only met Deschanel but served on an AMPAS panel with him and became a close friend vowing to work together some day. That day arrived with Never Look Away, a film about creativity and the artistic temperament. He had wanted to make such a film for years, thinking it might be about a musician but then he discovered visual artist Gerhard Richter, long considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

The film begins with the six-year-old Kurt Barnett and his late mother’s younger sister, Elisabeth, visiting the Degenerate Art Museum in Dresden in 1937 where both he and his aunt take a liking to “The Girl with Blue Hair” sculpture against the dictates of Goering’s exhibit. Barnett, a fictionalized version of Richter, has already decided to become an artist and is already adept at painting nudes thanks to his young aunt.

The young and beautiful Elisabeth is diagnosed as schizophrenic by the local doctor and reported to the Gestapo. She is taken away and marked for sterilization. The doctor in charge of the Dresden hospital determines that she is incurable and has her transferred to a concentration camp where she will eventually be euthanized.

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The DVD Report #621

This Gun for Hire, The Big Clock, The Landlord, The Bedroom Window, and The House of Games have all now been given Blu-ray upgrades.

Alan Ladd had been in films since 1932, mostly in uncredited roles, when talent agent Sue Carol took charge of his career and the actor himself, marrying him in 1942, the year of his breakthrough performance as the tough-as-nails hitman in Frank Tuttle’s This Gun for Hire, a property that Paramount had been sitting on for six years.

Taken from a Graham Greene novel, the plot of This Gun for Hire is a bit convoluted, but it was the perfect vehicle for the type of film that would come to be known as film noir. Ladd was fourth billed below Veronica Lake as a nightclub singer whose fiancé Robert Preston is the local prosecutor, the only two actors billed above the title. Laird Cregar (two years before The Lodger) is the mob boss who hires Ladd to kill blackmailer Frank Ferguson and his girlfriend and then double-crosses him. He’s also the owner the nightclub in which Lake is performing.

Preston (Beau Geste) and Lake (Sullivan’s Travels) had no chemistry together, but Ladd and Lake in their one scene together sizzled, so much so that Paramount had the screenwriters add scene after scene for the two to appear in together. It would be the first of seven films in which the two appeared together, the most famous besides This Gun for Hire being 1942’s The Glass Key and 1946’s The Blue Dahlia.

Commentary on the Shout Select 4K restoration is provided by film historians Alan K. Rode and Steve Mitchell who also provided the commentary on The Glass Key and The Blue Dahlia, both of which were previously released by Shout Select.

Films noir don’t come any finer than 1948’s The Big Clock, directed by John Farrow (Wake Island), starring Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, and both Farrow’s wife (Maureen O’Sullivan) and Laughton’s (Elsa Lanchester).

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The DVD Report #620

The Heiress, given a new 4K restoration by the Criterion Collection, is a prime example of a film that improves upon both Henry James’1880 novel and the 1947 Broadway play on which it is based.

William Wyler’s 1949 film was adapted by Ruth and Augustus Goetz from their 1947 play starring Wendy Hiller as the plain title character, Basil Rathbone in a Tony award-winning performance as her heartless father, Peter Cookson as the ne’er-do-well after her fortune, and Patricia Collinge as the aunt who encourages the ne’er-do-well. Hiller’s replacement was Beatrice Straight who met and married Cookson after the run of the play. Peggy Ashcroft and Ralph Richardson played the roles originated by Hiller and Rathbone in the 1949 London production. Olivia de Havilland and Richardson then starred in the film version along with Montgomery Clift and Miriam Hopkins in the roles originated by Cookson and Collinge.

Having sued to get out of her Warner Bros. contract in 1943, a case she won in 1944, de Havilland wasted no time in going after the kinds of roles she was not given while under contract. In quick succession, she played the unwed mother reunited with her clueless grown son in 1946’s To Each His Own; twins, one good, one evil in the same year’s The Dark Mirror; the housewife suffering a nervous breakdown in 1948’s The Snake Pit; and the homely, shy, awkward, naïve, and gullible young woman in The Heiress, winning Oscars for To Each His Own and The Heiress and back-to-back New York Film Critics Circle awards for The Snake Pit and The Heiress.

The Heiress was filmed with great care by William Wyler. Wyler’s last two films, Mrs. Miniver and The Best Years of Our Lives, had both won him Oscars for his direction along with a slew of other awards. He was hand-picked for The Heiress by de Havilland, but there was never any doubt as to who was in charge as evidenced by the actress’s frequent recounting of Wyler’s making her climb those two long flights of stairs in the film’s closing scene forty times until he was happy with her performance. In addition to de Havilland, the film won Oscars for its Black-and-White Art Direction, Black-and-White Costume Design, and Score and was nominated for four others including Best Picture, Directing, Supporting Actor (Richardson), and Black-and-White Cinematography.

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The DVD Report #619

A Face in the Crowd may have been a flop on its initial release in 1957, but the film, given a new 4K restoration by the Criterion Collection, has long since been recognized as one of the great films of its era.

Released the same year as The Bridge on the River Kwai, Witness for the Prosecution, 12 Angry Men, Paths of Glory, and Sweet Smell of Success, Elia Kazan’s film about a TV blowhard who convinces the sitting U.S. president to create a cabinet position for him as national morale booster, has never seemed more real than it is now, sixty-two years later.

The film marked the film debuts of Andy Griffith, Anthony Franciosa, and Lee Remick and was a milestone in their careers for both Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau.

Griffith had been a stand-up comic with several successful long-playing albums when he was chosen to play the lead in the 1955 Broadway comedy No Time for Sergeants, which led to his casting as Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd.

Rhodes was sleeping off an overnight drunk in the local jail when he was found by radio promotor Marcia Jeffries (Neal) for her program “A Face in the Crowd.” She’s the one who gives him the name “Lonesome” on the local radio station which leads to national prominence on a Memphis station and eventually TV stardom, during the course of which he morphs into the kind of small-minded, isolationist supporter of the kind of demagoguery he once lampooned. Along the way he ditches first wife Kay Medford, intending to marry Neal but instead eloping with a 17-year-old baton twirler (Remick) he met at a contest in which he was the judge. Franciosa plays Griffith’s self-serving talent agent and Matthau a cynical writer carrying a torch for Neal who is either unwilling or unable to cut Griffith loose until the film’s startling denouement.

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The DVD Report #618

The House of the Seven Gables, a 1940 Oscar nominee for Best Original Score, has been given a Blu-ray upgrade by Kino Lorber.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 gothic novel followed the author’s oft-filmed The Scarlet Letter by one year, but unlike that work, The House of the Seven Gables had been filmed only once before as a short silent film in 1910 and made its first on-screen appearance since 1940 as one of the three stories in the 1963 anthology film, Twice-Told Tales. It hit the big screen once again in limited release as a 2018 animated short.

The screenplay for the 1940 version by Lester Cole (Born Free) changes some of the characters from Hawthorne’s family curse drama in which Clifford and Hepzibah Pyncheon were brother and sister and the evil Jaffrey Pyncheon was their cousin. In this version, Clifford and Jaffrey are brothers and Hepzibah is their cousin, as well as Clifford’s love interest. Originally set to star Robert Cummings as Clifford, Margaret Lindsay as Hepzibah, and George Sanders as Jaffrey, Cummings bowed out and was replaced by Vincent Price subsequently billed third behind Sanders and Lindsay as Sanders and Lindsay were bigger names at the time.

The casting of Price suggests to modern audiences that this is a horror film in which both Price and Sanders could be the villains since both have long since made lasting impressions in such roles. Rest assured, however, that Price is the good guy and Lindsay’s faith in him is not misplaced. Lindsay’s (G-Men) haunting portrayal of Hepzibah is the film’s most memorable performance despite fine work from both her co-stars as well as a long list of supporting players led by Dick Foran and Cecil Kellaway.

The film was directed by Joe May (The Invisible Man Returns). Insightful commentary is provided by film historian Troy Howarth.

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The DVD Report #617

None Shall Escape, a 1944 Oscar nominee for Best Original Story, has been given a Blu-ray only release by Sony. Although not a huge hit in its original engagements, this film, directed by André De Toth (House of Wax) was not a “B” picture as is commonly believed, but a major release from Columbia, whose only other Oscar nominee that year was the musical Cover Girl, which had been nominated for five Oscars and won one for its score.

Although largely dismissed in its initial run, None Shall Escape has grown in stature. Filmed in 1943 and released in early 1944, it is an uncanny predictor of things to come. Acknowledged as the first Holocaust film, its handling of the fictional post-war Nazi tribunal in Warsaw predates the similar handling of the real-life 1948 Nazi tribunal depicted in 1961’s Judgment at Nuremberg.

Alexander Knox stars as an unrepentant Nazi Reich Commissioner in the same year in which he would receive an Oscar nomination of his own for playing Woodrow Wilson in Best Picture nominee Wilson. His character’s post-war trial in the not-so-distant future begins with Henry Travers (It’s a Wonderful Life) as a Polish Catholic priest recounting his behavior in 1919.

Knox had been a German teacher in a small Polish town before the outbreak of World War I. He had returned to Germany to fight in the war, returning to the Polish town after the war where he is greeted with skepticism even by Travers’ niece, local teacher Marsha Hunt (The Human Comedy) who had been his fiancée. That skepticism turns to anger when he rapes one of his students (Shirley Mills) and her boyfriend (Elvin Field) is blamed for the crime before the girl confesses to Hunt that it was Knox before committing suicide. Getting off in the courts due to lack of evidence, Knox returns to Germany where he joins the rising Nazi Party and rises with it.

The next witness is Knox’s brother (Erik Rolf), a socialist writer with a wife (Ruth Nelson, later the first Mrs. Wilson to Knox’s Wilson) and two children. We first see a harmonious relationship between the brothers when they are reunited in 1923 but see a different relationship in 1933 when Knox has his brother sent to a concentration camp for treason and takes his son and turns him into a Nazi youth. No one will tell Rolf what happened to his wife and daughter.

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The DVD Report #616

Welcome to Marwen and On the Basis of Sex pose the same conundrum. What should we watch first, these recent narrative films about the real-life people portrayed, or the more acclaimed documentaries about their lives? I would say that if you have limited knowledge of them, watch the narrative film first, you might learn something. You can then watch the documentaries for additional insight. If you think you already know a great deal about them, it doesn’t matter which you watch first.

Robert Zemeckis’ Welcome to Marwen is a dramatization of the 2010 documentary Marwencol about Mark Hogancamp, an upstate New York man who was attacked and nearly beaten to death in a vicious hate crime in 2000. He was attacked outside a bar by five men he had been drinking with after he admitted that he was a cross-dresser.

After spending nine days in a coma, Hogancamp had no memory of his previous life. He is kicked out of the hospital after two weeks due to his inability to pay, and in time, provided his own recovery by collecting dolls and building a village in his backyard where he imagines the dolls to be American and Nazi soldiers, along with local women, in a World War II Belgium village.

The documentary unfolds through Hogancamp’s eyes in two directions, his real-life recovery and his imaginary tales of the dolls. Zemeckis’ film does the same, except that the dolls come to life in what sometimes appear to be hallucinations. Zemeckis, of course, made his reputation with such fanciful films as 1985’s Back to the Future, 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and 1994’s Forrest Gump for which he won an Oscar so he is easily at home with this material.

Zemeckis’ 2015 film The Walk was criticized for being a weak adaptation of the 2008 Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire. Welcome to Marwen drew the same complaints from the same critics, but there were others who found hidden gems in the film. Several reviewers compared the relationship between Steve Carell as Hogancamp, Leslie Mann as the woman he obsesses over, and Merrit Weaver as the woman who waits.

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The DVD Report #615

Vice is the seventh of 2018’s eight Oscar nominees for Best Picture to receive a home video release. Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, A Star Is Born, and winner Green Book have all been previously released. Roma may never be released owing to the whims of streaming service Netflix, which owns its worldwide video rights.

Based on an original screenplay by writer-director Adam McKay, Vice‘s title is a double entendre, referring to both Dick Cheney’s status as Vice President of the United States under George W. Bush (2001-2008) and his alleged immoral or wicked behavior, both in office and throughout his life.

While Cheney’s actions deserve scrutiny, there is nothing in the screenplay that hasn’t been covered in the media. We don’t learn anything we didn’t know before. The best that can be said for the film is that it gives interesting acting opportunities to its principal players – Christian Bale in heavy makeup as Cheney, Amy Adams as his shrewish wife Lynne, Steve Carell as a sleazy Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Sam Rockwell as an ill-equipped President Bush.

The film won just one of its 8 Oscar nominations, that of Best Makeup and Hairstyling, primarily thanks to Bale’s transformation. Not only didn’t it deserve to win any of its other nominations, in my opinion it didn’t deserve to be nominated for any of them. Although I found it better than 2015’s The Big Short for which McKay was previously nominated for Best Direction and Best Screenplay, I didn’t find anything in it the least award-worthy.

Vice is available on Blu-ray and standard DVD.

Clint Eastwood’s greatest achievements have generally been considered his direction of such films as Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima ,and American Sniper with his acting taking a back seat, yet he has always been a good actor from his iconic performances in Dirty Harry and Play Misty for Me through 2008’s Gran Torino. Last seen in 2012’s disappointing Trouble with the Curve, Eastwood is back at the top of his game in The Mule.

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