Blu-ray Releases For April
A Poem is a Naked Person (1974) (** ½) is documentarian Les Blank’s portrait of musician/songwriter Leon Russell at his Oklahoma studio circa 1972-74. I’m not a particular fan of Blank’s style, which chooses to focus more on Russell’s surroundings than the man himself. The extras, featuring interviews with Russell, prove to be more than worth the price of the disc and deserve a separate rating of (*** ½).
Concussion (2015) (***) In spite of its TV movie trappings, writer/director Peter Landesman’s dramatization of the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu’s (Will Smith) discovery of football-related head trauma manages to be a fairly compelling film for the most part. Sony’s Blu-ray release also includes documentaries and commentary by Landesman.
Macbeth (***) (2015) Directed by Justin Kurzel and featuring great work by Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender, this latest version of Shakespeare’s famed play is definitely worth a look and contains a featurette and Q & A as extras.
Daddy’s Home (2015) (***) The latest Will Ferrell comedy is helped by the fact that the film contains the stunt premise of having him paired onscreen with Mark Wahlberg as a stepdad (Ferrell) vying for the affection of his stepchildren. It’s a surprisingly engaging and mostly funny film. The disc includes deleted scenes and a making of documentary.
The Big Short (2015) (***) Director Adam McKay’s breakdown of the financial crisis of 2008 ultimately bites off more than it can chew but still remains a fairly compelling film, largely thanks to its cast, which includes Brad Pitt, Steve Carrell and Christian Bale. The disc features deleted scenes and documentaries as extras.
Sidney Poitier & Lilia Skala in Lillies of the Field, 1963
Twilight Time, whose releases are limited to a pressing of 3000 units for each of their titles, has issued a new batch of classics during the month. Their product can be ordered via www.twilighttimemovies.com and www.screenarchives.com. This month’s offerings include the following titles.
Exodus (1960) (** ½) Director Otto Preminger teamed up with the formerly blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo to deliver this three-hour plus epic dramatizing the formation of the state of Israel. Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint and Ralph Richardson lead the fine cast. The film moves in fits and starts but is gorgeously lensed and features the iconic score by Ernest Gold, which can be found on the disc in a separate isolated track. The film is also presented for the first time on video in six-track stereo.
10 Rillington Place (1971) (***) Sir Richard Attenborough was best known as a seasoned director (Shadowlands, Gandhi) but one of his finest acting performances can be found in this gem of a film based on the true life crime tale of British serial killer John Christie (Attenborough). The film is well directed by veteran Richard Fleischer (The Boston Strangler, Soylent Green) and the disc features two audio commentaries (one with actress Judy Geeson, the other with actor John Hurt), an isolated score track and the film’s original theatrical trailer.
Alexander the Great (1956) (***) In spite of Oliver Stone’s 2001 attempt at an Alexander biopic, this version from director Robert Rossen (The Hustler) is still the one to beat and features all the rousing elements of spectacle you would expect from an epic film of this nature. The Blu-ray release features an isolated music track, an interview with star Claire Bloom and the original trailer.
Anastasia (1956) (***) One of Ingrid Bergman’s essential performances from the decade of the 1950s can be found in this somewhat fictionalized tale of the woman who may or may not be the famed Russian Princess. The film also stars Yul Brynner and Helen Hayes in great supporting roles and boasts a script by Arthur Laurents (The Way We Were). The disc is packed with extras, which include multiple commentary tracks, an isolated music score track, original newsreels and the original theatrical trailer.
Lilies of the Field (1963) (** ½) Sidney Poitier may have won his first Academy Award for his role in Lilies of the Field-and he is good here-but it’s a shame the film itself isn’t a bit more substantial. It’s a simple, leisurely paced tale of a handyman (Poitier) who helps a group of nuns build a chapel that hasn’t aged all that well but, nevertheless still has occasional moments that stay with you. The disc includes an isolated score track, audio commentary and original theatrical trailer.
That’s it for this month. In April you can also find such titles on shelves as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Lady in the Van, The Revenant and Fifty Shades of Black. I’ll cover those in May.
Questions or comments? Filmfan1970@hotmail.com or find me on Facebook.