In this often lumbering sequel to Attraction—the 2017 sci-fi epic in which aliens land in Russia and a general’s daughter falls for one of them—the daughter and the alien reunite and find themselves under attack by the Russian armed forces, while her father tries to get her back safely…or does he?
Director Fyodor Bondarchuk stages some exciting action set pieces in the streets of Moscow as well as on the Moscow River, but the film screeches to a halt too often. The film looks splendid on Blu; lone extra is a short making-of featurette.
(Film Movement Classics)
Italian director Luchino Visconti’s final film (released in 1976 after his death at age 69) is, typically, a visually sumptuous but dramatically inert story about a nobleman cheating on his wife with a princess who’s enraged when his wife takes a lover, becomes pregnant and refuses to have an abortion.
That usually racy actor Giancarlo Giannini is an ill fit for the nobleman, while Laura Antonelli and Jennifer O’Neill, while stunning in their costumes, can’t transform ciphers into complex individuals. As usual, Visconti prefers interior decoration to his characters’ interior lives. The new hi-def transfer looks tremendous; lone extra is a visual essay about the film.
Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney were paired early and often in their careers, and these Warner Archive releases highlight their chemistry and precocious talent. 1945’s Strike Up the Band, dazzlingly directed by Busby Berkeley, is an overlong but engaging tale of two teenagers falling for each other as they fight for the right to have the school band play at a national contest.
In 1942’s enjoyable Girl Crazy—which Berkeley began directing and Norman Taurog finished—Rooney is a spoiled rich kid shunted off to the boondocks for college, where he meets Garland and they fight for the right of the school to stay open. Rooney and Garland sing, dance and even (in Rooney’s case) play drums in entertaining musical interludes—Girl Crazy is awash in Gershwin songs—so these vehicles make a perfect double-header. Both B&W films have spectacularly detailed new hi-def transfers; extras include Rooney intros, vintage cartoons and shorts, stereo remixes of song sequences and a 1940 radio adaptation of Strike Up the Band with Rooney and Garland.
Diao Yinan’s convoluted crime drama follows a mobster (on the lam after accidentally killing a cop) who discovers that, even in the underworld, there are no safe places to hide—or to not be betrayed. Diao does conjure up some oppressively heady atmosphere, especially in a tangent about a young woman who befriends our anti-hero, which ultimately (and unfortunately) morphs into the main plot.
Still, there’s a nagging feeling that much of The Wild Goose Lake is nothing more than a wild goose chase, however exceptionally well-made. The hi-def transfer is excellent; extras comprise an on-set featurette with Diao, cast interviews and a short, The Goddess, by Chinese-American director Renkai Tan.
(Long Distance Productions)
Author Flannery O’Connor was born and raised in the South, and her writing mirrored the ambivalence and sense of unfairness she felt living in that segregated era—and Elizabeth Coffman and Mark Bosco’s documentary presents her life and her art in context (“n” words and all), which makes this a vivid evocation of not only a great writer’s life but also the state of the country she wrote about.
Mary Steenburgen engagingly narrates as O’Connor’s voice; excerpts from filmed versions of O’Connor’s work are interspersed, including John Huston’s 1979 adaptation of her first novel, Wise Blood; and interviews with friends, colleagues, editors, and admirers fill in the blanks of a complex, flawed but necessary voice in American literature.
Brian Cox gives his usual expansive, overflowing performance as a beloved actor with terminal Parkinson’s who must navigate his own daughter’s selfishness as well as his slowly building affection for his new caretaker, a budding Hungarian actress.
Director Janos Edelenyi guides this unsubtle but bittersweet chamber drama with a sturdy hand, and supporting the great Cox is a formidable group of supporting actors: Emilia Fox (daughter), Coco Konig (caretaker), even Roger Moore (himself). Lone extra is a bizarre look at raving moviegoers after a screening in Toronto.
As irascible as ever, Larry David returns for another season of his alter ego getting into as much trouble as ever—including sexual harassment allegations by both his assistant and a caterer at a party, of all places—all while trying to shame his former favorite coffee shop in a way only he can.
For me, a little of David’s observational comedy goes a long way, so your mileage may obviously vary; still, there are priceless moments, as when Larry decides to wear a MAGA cap so people will leave him alone. The two-disc set includes all 10 episodes and an on-set featurette.
In this six-hour series, the lives of the great, the good and the horrible—all influencing the previous century’s shocking body count of millions in two world wars, for starters—are recounted in informative but predictably four-square fashion.
Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Churchill and FDR are the main characters, with Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai-shek, Harry Truman and others making a first-rate supporting cast in a half-dozen episodes comprising vintage video, still photos and audio alongside talking-head historians’ discussions.
Thomas Adès—In Seven Days
These discs feature uncompromising piano works by two masters composing a century apart but similar in their unique approaches. Frenchman Erik Satie (1866-1925) composed Vexations on a single page; it’s considered his most minimalist and expansive work, which could last for several hours if one takes Satie at his word: he asked, perhaps facetiously, for 840 repetitions. Fearless pianist Noriko Ogawa tackles the slow, hypnotic Vexations for an illuminating 80 minutes.
Thomas Adès—who began as an enfant terrible before his magnificent 2006 opera The Tempest—has, in Russian-American pianist Kirill Gerstein, a most sympathetic interpreter of his piano works. Gerstein dispatches Adès’ Berceuse from his failed 2016 opera The Exterminating Angel and 3 mazurkas with aplomb, and plays the obbligato part in In Seven Days—an orchestral work about creation which Adès sensitively conducts—brilliantly. As a bonus, the two men team for a two-piano Concert Paraphrase from Adès’ breakthrough 1995 opera Powder Her Face.