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Blu-rays of the Week
Despite its long absence, several arias are among the most popular and memorable in the repertory, and Angela Gheorghiu and Jonas Kaufmann sing them passionately. The orchestra and chorus—led by conductor Mark Elder—are in good form. Visually, McVicar’s production has its peculiarities, with sets and costumes not of the period; the sound blasts out of the speakers. The lone extra is a making-of featurette.
The Criterion Collection deserves accolades for bringing back this modest masterpiece: perhaps its subtle politics will register where didacticism won’t. The low-budget film looks excellent on Blu-ray; extras comprise Young and producer Michael Hausman’s commentary, a new interview with Edward James Olmos (who has a small role) and a short 1973 documentary by Young, Children of the Fields.
Their chemistry—and some del Rio skin—help the bumpy 82-minute ride. The original 35mm print, courtesy of Rochester’s George Eastman House, has been satisfactorily upgraded, although there are inevitable visual blemishes.
The cast is in top form throughout, there are solid one-liners and enough guest stars (Linda Hamilton and Carrie Ann Moss, most obviously) to make the 13 hit-or-miss episodes endurable. On Blu-ray, the series shines; extras include featurettes, deleted scenes and audio commentaries.
The movie has a decent hi-def transfer; extras include on-set featurettes.
Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are tastes I’ve yet to—and probably won’t—acquire, and despite the fact that one of my favorite singers, Aimee Man, loves them, and despite cameos from the likes of Will Farrell, John C. Reilly, Robert Loggia and William Atherton, this ill-conceived vanity project is DOA. On Blu-ray, the movie looks better than it deserves; extras include a commentary, deleted/extended scenes, interviews and featurettes.
Directors Marlind and Stein’s action sequences have occasional visual pop, but the belabored attempts to make these characters mythic weighs down the plot. The extravagant set pieces translate well to Blu-ray; extras include music video, making-of featurettes, bloopers and a picture-in-picture accompaniment to the film.
Andrea Riseborough and especially Abbie Cornish completely outclass their material, but aside from savvy art direction and Oscar-nominated costuming (both come off best in hi-def), there’s little else to recommend here. The lone extra is a 20-minute featurette.
Among those profiled are Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who could not attend the unveiling of his sculptures in Manhattan because he was jailed as a dissident; Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic; and British painter Rackstraw Downes. All of the artists discuss how their provocative art challenges their audiences.
The Architecture of Doom brilliantly dismantles the Nazi ideology of art, which was followed to its fatal end; Dear Uncle Adolf recounts ordinary Germans’ affection for their Fuhrer with an illuminating look at letters written to him; Hitler: A Career succinctly sums up his life and politics in 150 minutes; and The Top Secret Trial of the Third Reich unveils the show trial of those conspirators in the failed assassination attempt of Hitler on July 20, 1944.
Danny Huston is not bad as the narrating anti-hero, but Elisabeth Rohm is simply outstanding as the wife, giving a rare American film performance filled of naked—in many ways—eroticism. She transforms this cardboard character into a full-blooded woman; all that matches her are excerpts of Beethoven’s chamber music.
If you’re in the right mood, you might get a brief scare, but most viewers will be patently bored: and happy that several of the performers went on to bigger and better things.
Since she never appeared in another movie, having only this on her resume is nothing to crow about. Still, collectors of soft-core flicks will find something here to sate their appetite.
Soon, thanks to grassroots campaigns and bad publicity, it all fell apart for awhile. The director talks with former “patients” and leaders of the program, letting them have their say; extras include a post-Memphis Film Festival screening panel and Fox’s onstage marriage proposal to his partner.
Accompanied with equal parts finesse and power by Kozena’s husband, conductor Simon Rattle, and the Berlin Philharmonic, this live recording is crystalline-sounding.
In the hands of conductor Valery Gergiev, the London Symphony Orchestra plays it for all its worth in a truly dazzling performance. Scarcely less good is their traversal through Igor Stravinsky’s pungent Symphony in Three Movements. Too bad another substantial work didn’t round out this excellent but too short (58 minutes) disc, whose Super Audio CD surround sound is impressive.
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