New This Week
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.
Similar in theme to 2018’s The Old Man & the Gun in which 82-year-old Robert Redford played a lovable real-life 70-year-old bank robber pursued by a dedicated lawman (Casey Affleck), 88-year-old Eastwood plays a lovable 90-year-old drug runner pursued by a dedicated lawman (Bradley Cooper).
Whereas Redford seemed to be showing off, defiantly playing someone 12 years his junior, Eastwood seemed to relish his all too real slowdown, exhibiting loss of both his physical prowess and mental sharpness. His performance, under his own direction, is all the better for it in one of the year’s most under-appreciated gems.
The Mule is available on Blu-ray and standard DVD.
Newly released Blu-ray upgrades include The Sound of Music Live, Green Card, The Glass Bottom Boat, and The Blue Knight.
The Sound of Music Live marketed as the 60th Anniversary edition of the Broadway Classic is the Blu-ray and DVD release of the 2015 British ITV production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, which is not to be confused with the inferior 2013 U.S. TV production called The Sound of Music Live!, the only version given an exclamation point for emphasis.
Both live TV versions were based on the original 1959 Broadway production, hence the 2019 home video release marketing of the more than three-year-old Christmas season telecast as the 60th anniversary edition. The principal difference is the order of the songs, most notably “My Favorite Things,” which was sung by Maria and the Mother Abbess at the abbey, not Maria and the children in her room during the storm, as in the film. In the original, they sing “The Lonely Goatherd” during the storm, which was relegated to a puppet show in the film. The TV versions restore two songs sung by supporting characters. They also include “Something Good,” which was written for the film.
The British version is simply better acted and sung than the U.S. version which starred Carrie Underwood who couldn’t act and Stephen Moyer who couldn’t sing. The British version stars Kara Tointon, Julian Ovenden, and Maria Friedman as the Mother Abbess and a terrific supporting cast, all of whom can sing and act terrifically. The production values are exceptional as well. This version, like the film version, is one to enjoy over and over.
Released in 1990, Peter Weir’s Green Card was a popular comedy that won Golden Globes for Best Picture (Comedy) and Best Actor (Comedy) for Gerard Depardieu, with a nomination going to Andie MacDowell for Best Actress (Comedy). Weir’s original screenplay was nominated for an Oscar. Sadly, it doesn’t hold up. Seen today, Depardieu and MacDowell are merely serviceable and the supporting cast that includes Bebe Neuwirth, Gregg Edelman, Mary Louise Wilson, and Lois Smith is mostly wasted.
Released in time for Doris Day’s 97th birthday, 1966’s The Glass Bottom Boat is a film that has grown in appreciation since its original release. Like most of director Frank Tashlin’s films, it relies, perhaps too much, on slapstick, but some of its schtick is as hilarious as it is silly. Day is fearless in her portrayal of a beautiful, but klutzy, woman taken for a Russian spy by the nerds surrounding space scientist Rod Taylor, whose chemistry with Day equals that of former co-stars Rock Hudson and James Garner. The jokes surrounding future gadgetry are especially funny given inventions of the last fifty-three years. With Arthur Godfrey, John McGiver, Paul Lynde, Dom DeLuise, Dick Martin, Eric Fleming, Edward Andrews, Alice Pearce, George Tobias, and Ellen Corby.
1973’s The Blue Knight was the first TV miniseries, comprised of two two-hour films (3 hours and 8 minutes without commercials) for which William Holden won an Emmy in one of his best late-career performances as a beat cop on the brink of retirement. Supporting players Joe Santos, Sam Elliott, and Vic Tayback as Holden’s fellow cops are also quite good, but Lee Remick as Holden’s college instructor fiancé, Eileen Brennan as an aging stripper, and Anne Archer as a young prostitute are walking clichés. Call this one a mixed bag.
This week’s new releases include On the Basis of Sex and Welcome to Marwen.