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November '23 Digital Week I

In-Theater/Streaming Releases of the Week 
The Holdovers 
(Focus Features)
Alexander Payne teams with Paul Giamatti for their first collaboration since the droll 2004 comedy Sideways, but it suffers from a streak of self-seriousness largely missing from their earlier pairing. Giamatti plays Paul Hunham, an ornery professor at a New England prep school stuck babysitting the students who have nowhere to go during the holidays—he soon becomes friendly with bored but bright Angus, ignored by his family.
Giamatti is always terrific and newcomer Dominic Sessa is even better as Angus, but Payne overstuffs his film with incidents and subplots that he didn’t want to part with; a good 20 minutes could have been cut with no loss of integrity. Also worthy of mention is Da'Vine Joy Randolph, who gives a subtle portrayal of Mary Lamb, the school’s cook whose beloved son has just been killed in Vietnam.
Writer-director Carmen Jaquier’s quietly unsettling drama follows Elisabeth, a novice nun sent home from the convent after her older sister commits suicide. After discovering her sister’s secrets, Elisabeth follows her own path to personal, spiritual and sexual freedom.
Jaquier and the remarkable young actress Lilith Grasmug as Elisabeth have made a provocative and intelligent study of psychology and faith. Cinematographer Marine Atlan’s stunning camerawork shows the beauty of the natural world and the ugliness of the interior one in a way that alludes to, but doesn’t ape from, the philosophical musings of Terrence Malick.
4K Release of the Week 
Blue Beetle 
(Warner Bros)
The original story of DC superhero Blue Beetle—young Jaime Reyes, who is transformed into the title character by a powerful scarab—is recounted in this intermittently entertaining popcorn flick, with a boisterous George Lopez as Jaime’s uncle Rudy and a one-note Susan Sarandon as villain Victoria Kord.
Still, there’s an undeniable chemistry between Xolo Maridueña as Jaime and Bruna Marquezine as his love interest (and Sarandon’s antagonistic niece) Jenny, making this watchable until the explosive but routine finale filled with excessive CGI. There’s an excellent UHD transfer; extras are a making-of documentary, Generations: Blue Beetle, and two featurettes.
Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning, Part One 
Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt, the intrepid and seemingly immortal operative who this time goes up against not only the usual array of criminals and traitorous insiders but also A.I., which throws an almost impossible-to-fend-off wrench into the usual proceedings. Director Christopher McQuarrie and cowriter Erik Jendresen cram in as many repetitive action sequences as possible, including a car chase on the narrow streets of Venice or, in the film’s main set piece, a runaway train through the Austrian Alps.
It’s all breathtakingly filmed, and if it goes on far too long—more than two and a half hours and this is only part one—there’s a game cast led by the too infrequently seen Hayley Atwell as well as Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Simon Pegg, Henry Czerny and Ving Rhames, all outdoing Cruise except for his own stunts. It all looks vivid and immediate on UHD; extras include McQuarrie’s and editor Eddie Hamilton’s commentary, several making-of featurettes and a montage of unused shots.
Blu-ray Releases of the Week 
French composer Léo Delibes is known for a couple ballets and this opera that’s the last word in romantic tragedy, about a Hindu priestess who falls in love with a British officer who kills herself after he decides the military means more to him.
It’s carried along by shimmering music that reaches its zenith early, when Lakmé and her servant Mallika duet on the justly famous “Flower Song.” Laurent Pelly’s 2022 Opéra Comique staging in Paris is centered by Raphaël Pichon conducting the excellent orchestra and chorus, and as the title heroine, Sabine Devieilhe is heartbreakingly good. There’s first-rate audio and video.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 
For the third—and, one expects, final—installment, Toula’s family travels to Greece for a reunion, which—to no one’s surprise, considering the title—turns into an excuse to have another of the title ceremonies, with camaraderie, laughs, romance, and food and drink.
If episode 3 is stretched very thin—even at a scant 92 minutes—it has a capable cast again led by writer-director Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin and Elena Kampouris, along with the always glorious Greek locations, which look even more spectacular on Blu-ray. Extras comprise Vardalos’ commentary, a gag reel, deleted and extended scenes and on-set featurettes.
Robin Hood/The Black Pirate 
The Three Musketeers/The Iron Mask 
(Cohen Film Collection)
These double-feature releases bring together some of legendary Douglas Fairbanks’ 1920s ouput, with the first disc including Robin Hood (1922) and The Black Pirate (1926), a two-color Technicolor adventure; of course, he plays the eponymous hero in both pictures. The second disc finds Fairbanks playing the dashing D’Artagnan in both The Three Musketeers (1921) and The Iron Mask (1929), based on the classic Alexandre Dumas novels.
All four films are choppily entertaining; the restorations give them added luster, there’s a commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer on The Black Pirate, and there are 47 minutes of Pirate outtakes, 18 of them with additional Behlmer commentary. 
CD Release of the Week
Weinberg—Dawn/Symphony No. 12 
Soviet composer Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-96) died before his musical renaissance began with his emotionally shattering Holocaust opera The Passenger, several productions of which were soon followed by the dozens of recordings of his varied orchestral and chamber music.
Of the 22 symphonies he wrote, No. 12, subtitled “In memoriam D. Shostakovich” and composed right after Shostakovich’s death in 1975, is among his most personal, since Shostakovich was a mentor and close friend of Weinberg. John Storgårds conducts the BBC Philharmonic’s raw, compelling account of the symphony along with Dawn, a stirring tone poem Weinberg composed for the 40th anniversary of the Russian Revolution that was never performed in his lifetime.

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