"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer." - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
1 from Criterion
Memories of Underdevelopment (Cuba, 1968)
Poor Sergio. It's 1961, the Bay of Pigs invasion is over, family and friends have fled to Florida, and the Cuban intellectual (played by Sergio Corrieri) is left behind in Havana to make sense of it all. For his fifth feature, director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea blends fictional narrative, archival footage, photography and documentary filming to chronicle the post-revolutionary alienation of bourgeois freethinkers in their "underdeveloped" Marxist country. Daisy Granados plays the narrator's 17-year-old virgin lover, Elena. A landmark in Cuban cinema and a longtime favourite on the art-house circuit, the movie has now been restored in 4K by Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project and gets a stellar presentation on the new Blu-ray from Criterion (also available on double-disc DVD). Extras are plentiful: a feature-length documentary on Gutiérrez Alea by his wife, Mirtha Ibarra, from 2008 (97 mins.); new interviews with film critics B. Ruby Rich and José Antonio Évora (19 mins.) and novelist and screenwriter Edmundo Desnoes (16 mins.), and two more from 2017 with Granados (10 mins.) and editor Nelson Rodríguez (16 mins.). There's also audio of an interview that Gutiérrez Alea gave in 1989 (12 mins.) and, finally, a trailer. Everything has optional English subtitles, of course. The accompanying booklet has an essay by American geographer and author Joshua Jelly-Schapiro.
3 from the U.K.
The Miraculous Virgin (Czechoslovakia, 1966)
A surrealist gem from the era of great Czechoslovak movies, this fantasy adapted by Dominik Tatarka from his novelette and directed by Štefan Uher (The Sun in a Net) follows a mysterious young woman named Anabela (Jolanta Umecka, of Polanski's Knife in the Water fame) as she falls in with a group of artists who discover in her the many facets of love, real and imagined, light and dark. For the new Blu-ray and DVD, Second Run use a new 2K restoration by the Slovak Film Institute that's a significant step up from previous DVD editions. There are optional English subtitles. Extras include a documentary short Uher made in 1959 about a school for the blind (17 mins.), a featurette that sets his film in the context of his career and the Slovak "nadarealist" movement (24 mins.); a vintage newsreel about the search for the lead actress for the film (3 mins.), and a trailer. There's also a 16-page illustrated booklet with an essay by film scholar Michal Michalovic.
I Vitelloni (Italy, 1953)
Federico Fellini's second feature film, I Vitelloni tells the story of five restless 20-somethings in a seaside town in post-WWII Italy. Fausto (Franco Fabrizi) gets a girl pregnant, Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste) writes a play, Riccardo (Riccardo Fellini, Federico's brother) plans a singing career, Alberto (Alberto Sordi) unabashedly sponges off his sister, and Moraldo (Franco Interlenghi) watches and waits for a chance to abandon his friends and move away. Fellini and his co-writers Ennio Flaiano and Tullio Pinelli received Oscars for their screenplay. Unfortunately, the new Blu-ray from British distributor Cult Films (locked to region B, and with an accompanying DVD) is a lousy transfer: soft, interlaced, no match for the DVD that Criterion put out in the U.S. way back in 2004. The sole extra is a quarter-hour, talking-head intro by Oxford University professor of Italian culture Guido Bonsaver that's, alas, strictly Fellini-for-beginners.
Ciao! Manhattan (U.S., 1972)
"Poor little rich girl" Edie Sedgwick, '60s fashion model, muse to Andy Warhol and emblem of The Factory, got addicted to drugs and died in 1971 at age 28, only three months after shooting wrapped of Ciao! Manhattan, a lively yet ultimately sad docu-fiction about her life. It'll have you thinking of Amy, the 2015 documentary on British soul singer Amy Winehouse, which also ended badly. New to Blu-ray, on a region B-locked disc from British distributor Second Sight, the movie comes with the same extensive extras that were on the 30th anniversary DVD that Plexifilm released in the U.S. in 2002. Chief among them is a narrated selection of silent outtakes from 1967, with lots of footage of New York City at the height of the hippie/yippie era, the full-frontal surprise of a naked and chanting Allen Ginsberg, and statuesque Swedish actress Nena Thurman looking remarkably like her future actress daughter, Uma.
1 from Twilight Time
Gloria (U.S., 1980)
Is the fact that Gena Rowlands stars reason enough to watch this otherwise ordinary crime thriller? Yes. Is the fact she is once again directed by her husband, John Cassavetes, this time as a woman under the influence of the Mob? Double yes. In an Oscar-nominated turn, Rowlands plays (wink, wink) Gloria Swensen, the unsuspecting neighbour of a Bronx Mob accountant (Buck Henry). When it's revealed he's actually informing on his bosses to the FBI and is on a hit list, Gloria reluctantly takes charge of his young son (John Adames, badly miscast) and goes on the run. Always one step ahead of the killers and the police, the unlikely duo finally get separated, bringing peril to both. But Gloria has enough street smarts – and, it turns out, a long-standing familiarity with the Mob – to outwit the evildoers. Gloria was re-made under the same name in 1999, with Sidney Lumet directing Sharon Stone in the lead role – no comparison. There are no extras on this Blu-ray, which is too bad, but Cassavetes completists will welcome its release anyway.
4 from Powerhouse (Indicator)
Ministry of Fear (U.S., 1944)
Fritz Lang (Metropolis) directs Ray Milland in this Hollywood adaptation of the Graham Greene novel, set in England during the Second World War. Milland plays a man discharged from a mental hospital who stumbles upon a Nazi spy ring while visiting a country fair. Dan Duryea (who'd go on to star in two other Lang noirs, Scarlet Street and The Woman in the Window) plays the villain. The region-locked (for the U.K.) Blu-ray improves on the BD that Criterion released in the U.S. in 2013. Extras are extensive: there's a select-scene audio commentary with film historian Neil Sinyard (35 mins.), audio of a lengthy BFI/Guardian interview with Fritz Lang from 1962 that you can play while watching the film (80 mins.); a new video appreciation of Lang and his film by film scholar Tony Rayns (21 mins.); a new interview with Greene scholar Adrian Wootton (25 mins); a trailer and an image gallery. The booklet has a new essay by Sinyard, press clippings and more.
Missing (U.S., 1982)
Jack Lemmon stars in this real-life drama as an American businessman who goes in search of his son, journalist Charles Horman (played by John Shea), after he disappears in the U.S.-backed military coup in Chile in 1973. Horman's wife (Sissy Spacek), helps look for him; Costa-Gavras directs. Extras on the region-B Blu-ray are as extensive (though mostly different) as the two-disc DVD set that Criterion released in the U.S. a decade ago. First, by way of full-length commentaries, you get audio of a pair of on-stage interviews at Britain's National Film Theatre: Costa-Gavras in 1984 (85 mins.) and Lemmon in 1986 (116 mins). Next are short interviews with the director at Cannes, where Missing won the Palme d'Or, in 1982 (3 mins.) and on French TV that same year (4 mins.). Then, in a half-hour interview from 2006, Costa-Gavras reminisces on the film's production and critical reception; in another half-hour interview that year, Joyce Horman describes what it was like to be portrayed by Spacek. Next up is a new appreciation by director/actor Keith Gordon (24 mins.). Rounding things out are an original theatrical trailer and an image gallery. The accompanying 40-page booklet has a new essay by Michael Pattison, an interview with Costa-Gavras, an interview with journalist Thomas Hauser (on whose book the movie was based), an overview of responses to the film, and a list of credits.
The Odessa File (U.K./West Germany, 1974)
Another Nazi-spy thriller, this time made in the '70s, adapted from a Frederick Forsyth novel and directed by Ronald Neame (The Poseidon Adventure). Jon Voight plays a German freelance journalist on the trail of a network of ex-SS officers. The region-free Blu-ray easily bests the barebones BD that Image Entertainment put out on the U.S. market in 2012. Restored in 2K, the film comes with a good many extras. There's Neame interviewed at length at Britain's National Film School in 2003 (67 mins); cinematographer Oswald Morris interviewed at the same location three years later, by film critic Anwar Brett (62 mins); short new interviews with stuntman Vic Armstrong (3 mins.) and continuity supervisor Elaine Schreyeck (7 mins.); the original Super-8 version of the film (17 mins); a trailer and an image gallery. The booklet has new essays by Carmen Gray and Keith Johnston, Neame's own account of the movie, and contemporary press clippings.
Oleanna (U.S./U.K., 1994)
Sexual misconduct in academia is the burning subject of this drama, which David Mamet (House of Games, Glengarry Glen Ross) adapted for the screen from his off-Broadway hit play. William H. Macy stars as a married college professor who takes a troubled young student (Debra Eisenstadt) under his wing, only to have her turn on him with lurid accusations of sexual harassment. Thus begins a nightmarish process of official inquiry, denial of tenure and dismissal, with professor and student locked in a "he said, she said" battle where the odds are clearly stack in favour of the alleged victim and her numerous (and equally vocal) supporters on campus. Coming on the heels of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas scandal, in which a U.S. government attorney accused a nominee for the Supreme Court of sexually harassing her, Oleanna was pertinent then and remains so today. Extras on the region-free Blu-ray – the first time this largely unseen and unappreciated film has appeared in that format – include new, excellent interviews with Macy (18 mins.) and Eistenstadt (11 mins.), as well as an original theatrical trailer and an image gallery of promotional photography and publicity material. There's a 32-page booklet, too, with a new essay by film curator and journalist Rebecca Nicole Williams, an examination of the controversy surrounding the play and film, and contemporary critical responses.
1 from Olive Films
Bound (U.S., 1996)
A feminist heist movie with a lesbian twist, Bound stars Jennifer Tilly (Bullets Over Broadway) and Gina Gershon (Showgirls): what's not to like? This debut feature from the Wachowski brothers, Larry and Andy (now transitioned to women and renamed Lana and Lily) of Matrix trilogy fame, the movie offers a grab-bag of thrills and chills (and some laugh-out-loud dialogue) as it follows the two heroines as they plot to steal $2 million from the Mafia, leaving one very violent ex-boyfriend (Joe Pantoliano) in their wake. Improving on the barebones Blu-ray it released in 2012, Olive Films now brings to market a 'Signature' edition BD that, as before, has both the R-rated and unrated versions of the film, but has now been framed in a widescreen aspect ratio that provides more to see (1.85:1 vs 1.78:1). The new edition also comes loaded with extras. There's a (previously available) audio commentary with cast and crew, a featurette on Gershon and Tilly (27 mins.), a featurette on the movie's neo-noir visuals and sound (29 mins.), a trailer, and interviews with actor Christopher Meloni (10 mins.), title designer Patti Podesta (7 mins.) and film scholars B. Ruby Rich and Jen Woorman (18 mins.). The eight-page booklet has an essay by actress and screenwriter Guinevere Turner, and the case comes inside a cardboard slipcase.
1 from Second Run
Black Peter (Czechoslovakia, 1964)
Miloš Forman's feature debut Black Peter (aka Peter and Paula) is insouciant, sexy and full of dark humour. An early classic of the Czech New Wave, the movie marked a move away from the Communist cheerleading of '50s cinema, offering a more personal and irreverent view of human nature in all its flawed glory. Ladislav Jakim stars as Peter, a young man in a provincial town who is hired to watch out for thieves in a grocery store, but who doesn't do a very good job. He meets Paula (Pavla Martinková), they go on a date, and their afternoon swim is interrupted by a loutish bricklayer (Vladimír Poucholt) and his buddy, who make a play for Paula. Will Peter win the day and the affections of his newfound love? Will he make peace at home with his overbearing father (Jan Vostrčil)? Will he, finally, learn to smile? Cast with professional and non-professional actors and shot cinéma-vérité style, Black Peter won top prize at the 1964 Locarno International Film Festival, but despite this auspicious debut the movie has been a rather neglected part of the Forman canon, at least to foreign audiences. Until now, the film was only available on DVD in the Czech Republic; the all-region disc that Filmexport Home Video released way back in 2005 had optional English subtitles for the movie but none on the plentiful extras (over an hour's worth). With its new all-region Blu-ray (also available on DVD), British distributor Second Run not only upgrade the black-and-white visuals (with a new 4K restoration by the Czech National Film Archive) and audio (Czech LPCM 2.0 Mono, on the BD), and offer optional subtitles, but also provide some English-friendly extras. There'sa new audio commentary by film historian Michael Brooke, a new 15-minute interview with Martinková, a half-hour of vintage footage of Forman talking about his early Czech films, including Black Peter, and a trailer. Completing the package is a 20-page booklet with a new essay by author Jonathan Owen.
2 from K-Films Amérique
Combat au bout de la nuit (Québec, 2016)
Shot by Quebec direct-cinema master Sylvain L'Espérance over two years and running close to five hours divided into three parts, this long-form documentary on the travails of contemporary Greece is many things: anti-capitalist, pro-migrant, anti-austerity, pro-nationalist, profoundly humanistic. In other words, an unflinching film about the 99% and their struggles against the 1% that, for all its Greek-centric themes of resistance and revolt, resonates far beyond Hellenic shores. We get to know the people (refugees, housecleaners, longshoremen and, yes, the neo-fascists of New Dawn) behind the headlines, and get to choose sides. Alternately titled Fighting Through the Night, the film comes with optional English or French subtitles on the two-disc DVD set from Montreal distributor K-Film Amérique. There are no extras or a chapter menu, but plenty of stops.
Tuktuq (Québec, 2018)
In this brooding docu-fiction set in Quebec's Far North, actor-director Robin Aubert plays a lonely cameraman named Martin who's hired by the provincial government to shoot footage of an Inuit village in Nunavik that's about to be uprooted by a mining project. But why is he really there? And whose agenda is he really furthering? Guided in his work via frequent phone conversations with a deputy minister (Robert Morin), Martin is forced to take sides: support the locals and their way of life, or accept the government way. The DVD has optional English subtitles (but no French ones), only four chapter stops, one extra (a pro-ecology short Aubert made in 2012, narrated by a child) and four trailers: one for the film, two for a pair of other recent Quebec films (with audience reaction after their premieres) and one for Raoul Peck's 2017 biopic The Young Karl Marx.
1 from the British Film Institute
It Happened Here (U.K., 1964)
What if, in 1940, the Germans had succeeded in invading England like they did France? Would they have been met with massive resistance? Or would the Brits, like the French, have capitulated and allowed a puppet government to allow fascism to take hold? In the mid-1950s, two English teenagers named Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo decided to start shooting a low-budget movie around the issue, re-enacting the events that could have taken place if Britain had come under the Nazi yoke. Using 16-mm (and later, 35mm) black-and-white film stock, employing a mostly amateur cast and hundreds of volunteer extras, and finding authentic WWII props in militaria shops and antique stores, Brownlow and Mollo managed to piece together a 97-minute feature film they called It Happened Here. It premiered in 1964 at the Cork Film Festival in Ireland and is now part of indie moviemaking lore, with Brownlow himself a major world figure in cinema as a film historian and restorer specializing in the silent era. Previously available on DVD, It Happened Here now gets a significant upgrade in a new dual-format edition (one Blu-ray, one DVD, both all-region) from the British Film Institute. The set comes with a raft of extras. The most substantial is a new, 65-minute interview with Brownlow reminiscing on the making of the movie. Also on the discs: "Mirror on the World" (1962) a full version of the fake German newsreel that's in the film (10 mins.); a collection of outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage Brownlow shot between1956 and 1966, with commentary by the director (22 mins.); a short excerpt from a 1976 documentary on the film (7 mins.); a short excerpt from a 2009 BFI interview with the Brownlow and Mollo (2 mins.); a new interview with production assistant Johanna Roeber (11 mins.); 4 minutes of discussion of the fake German newsreel (erroneously identified as real) on Italian TV in 1964; an image gallery; and two original trailers made for the U.K and U.S. markets. An introduction to the film by critic David Robinson (from his forward to Brownlow's 1968 book How It Happened Here) is available for download here. Rounding out the package is an illustrated booklet with contributions from Brownlow, BFI curator Josephine Botting, cinematographer Peter Suschitzky and military historian E.W.W. Fowler.
2 from The Criterion Collection
A Matter of Life and Death (U.K., 1946)
On Earth, life happens in Technicolor. When you die and go to Heaven, things fade to black-and-white. At least, that's how the British filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and their cinematographer Jack Cardiff conceived things for A Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway to Heaven), their post-WWII masterpiece on the theme of mortality and the afterlife. David Niven stars as Peter Carter, a Royal Air Force pilot who, in the very first scenes of the film, is forced to jump from his stricken aircraft into the English Channel without a parachute. Hours later, miraculously, he washes up on a British beach, very much alive. There's been a mix-up, however, and Peter soon finds himself whisked up to Heaven where, before a court of celestial judges and defended by his doctor pal Frank Reeves (Roger Livesey), he fights for his life. Will Peter be reunited with June (Kim Hunter), the U.S. radio operator who has captured his heart? Or will the fearsome Yankee prosecutor Abraham Farlan (played by Canadian star Raymond Massey) convince the judges that Peter must never return to Earth? Now properly rendered in high-definition, AMOLAD (as it's known to vintage movie fans) looks great on the new Blu-ray (also available as a DVD) from Criterion. The film has been beautifully restored in 4K rand comes with abundant extras. There's an audio commentary with film scholar Ian Christie; an interview with Martin Scorsese (9 mins.) and his longtime editor (and Powell's widow) Thelma Schoonmaker (33 mins.); a half-hour documentary on the film’s special effects (notably, the fabulous celestial staircase at the end); a 1997 short on Cardiff and his work; a restoration demonstration (5 mins.); and a full-length interview with Powell on British TV in 1986 (55 mins.). The foldout leaflet has an essay by Time magazine film critic Stephanie Zacharek.
sex, lies, and videotape (U.S., 1989)
Eroticism meets the camcorder. Steven Soderbergh hit a critical and commercial jackpot with this, his low-budget debut feature, winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes when the director was only 26 years old. James Spader was also named best actor there for his star turn as a loner who videotapes women talking about their sex lives then pleasures himself to the playback. Andie MacDowell and Peter Gallagher play an unhappy couple upset by this, and Laura San Giacomo is the sexy sister turned on by it. On Blu-ray (for the second time, besting Sony's BD release in 2009) and DVD, the film now gets a restored 4K digital transfer and a new 5.1 surround mix supervised by Soderbergh, who also offers a (previously available) audio commentary from 1998 with indie filmmaker Neil LaBute. Extras include a new interview with the director and two more from 1990 and 1992, totalling about half an hour; a new half-hour making-of featuring the lead actors, minus Spader; six minutes of Spader on NBC's The Today Show in 1989; a new 20-minute conversation with sound editor Larry Blake and composer Cliff Martinez; a 3-minute deleted scene (with optional commentary by Soderbergh); another 12 minutes of Blake on the film's sound restorations; two theatrical trailers; and some text-based restoration notes. The packaging is unusual: a digipak inside a clear plastic o-sleeve, printed to make MacDowell, on the cover, look like she's on TV. The larger-than-normal booklet has an essay by critic Amy Taubin and excerpts from Steven Soderbergh's diaries written during the film's production (for his full, highly-entertaining account, get the book. In the introduction, the director concludes with a word of advice: "For those aspiring to a career in the film business, I offer this equation: Talent + Perseverance = Luck. Be ready when it happens." )
1 from Eureka! Masters of Cinema
King of Hearts (France/Italy, 1966)
Who's in it and what's it about?
Alan Bates stars as a hapless Scottish soldier in this anti-war satire set and shot in northern France. Canadian actress Geneviève Bujold, only 24 at the time, looks lovely as a tightrope walker with a heart of gold. French screen legends Pierre Brasseur (Les enfants du paradis), Jean-Claude Brialy (Les cousins), Micheline Presle (Le diable au corps) and Michel Serrault (Les diaboliques) co-star, along with character actor Daniel Boulanger (Tirez sur le pianiste). The score is by Georges Delerue. And the story, well, where to start?
* * *
Synopsis by the distributor
During the latter part of World War I, Private Charles Plumpick is chosen to go into the French town of Marville and disconnect a bomb that the German army has planted. However, Charles is chased by some Germans and finds himself holed up at the local insane asylum, where the inmates are convinced that he is the "King of Hearts." Feeling obligated to help the inmates, Charles attempts to lead them out of town, but they are afraid to leave and frolic about the streets in gay costumes. Will Charles be able to deactivate the bomb in time and save his newfound friends?
Synopsis (rather different) by a reviewer on imdb.com
An ornithologist mistaken for an explosives expert is sent alone into a small French town during WWI to investigate a garbled report from the resistance about a bomb which the departing Germans have set to blow up a weapons cache. He arrives to find a very eccentric group of townspeople, inmates of the local insane asylum, as it turns out, who have stepped into the characters of the fleeing villagers.
Synopsis on Wikipedia (where all becomes clear)
Charles Plumpick (Bates) is a kilt-wearing French-born Scottish soldier of the Signal Corps, caring for war pigeons, who is sent by his commanding officer to disarm a bomb placed in the town square by the retreating Germans. As the fighting comes closer to the town, its inhabitants – including those who run the insane asylum – abandon it. The asylum gates are left open, and the inmates leave the asylum and take on the roles of the townspeople. Plumpick has no reason to think they are not who they appear to be – other than the colorful and playful way in which they're living their lives, so at odds with the fearful and war-ravaged times. The lunatics crown Plumpick the King of Hearts with surreal pageantry as he frantically tries to find the bomb before it goes off.
* * *
What you get on home video
The new dual-format edition (one Blu-ray, one DVD, both code-locked to Europe) is part of the Masters of Cinema series from British distributor Eureka!. It sports a new 4K restoration by U.S. distributor Cohen Media and has several extras: an audio commentary by critic Wade Major, a 14-minute new interview with Bujold, 10-minute interviews with director Philippe de Broca and his cinematographer Pierre Lhomme, and a trailer. The booklet features a new essay by critic Philip Kemp.
2 from Twilight Time
Let's Make Love (U.S., 1960)
George Cukor directs Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand in this musical comedy about a New York actress who falls for a French billionaire. The CinemaScope visuals are still a thrill, even if the story is slight and the acting feels forced. Tony Randall co-stars; Milton Berle, Gene Kelly and Bing Crosby have cameos. No extras on the Blu-ray, but you can listen to the jazz tunes (by Cole Porter, Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen) as a separate track.
Take a Girl Like You (U.K., 1970)
New to Blu-ray, this 1970 adaptation of the Kingsley Amis novel stars Hayley Mills as Jenny Bunn, a pretty young Northerner who moves to a London suburb to teach primary school and finds herself awash with handsome suitors (Oliver Reed, Noel Harrison et al). The multi-talented Jonathan Miller, of Beyond the Fringe fame, directs. No extras on the Blu-ray, but there is the option of listening to Stanley Myers' musical score as an isolated track.
1 boxset from Second Sight
Berlin Alexanderplatz (West Germany/Italy, 1980)
Rainer Werner Fassbinder's sprawling, 14-part miniseries on the underworld of the Weimar Republic first aired on Western German TV in 1980. Co-produced with the Italian TV network RAI, it's a 15-hour adaptation of Alfred Döblin's novel from 1929 and tells the tale of a murderer named Franz Biberkopf. Portrayed on screen by Günter Lamprecht, Franz gets released from prison and tries to make a living any way he honestly can in Depression-era Berlin, buffeted between the nascent Nazi movement, the Communists, and a return to criminality. He's torn romantically, too, between two prostitutes, an old flame named Eva (Hannah Schygulla) and a young one named Mieze (Barbara Sukowa). New to Blu-ray (at least, in an English-subtitled edition), the series looks a whole lot better than it did when Second Sight last released it, on DVD, in 2007, alongside a similar set that Criterion made available in the U.S. market. Extras now are a mix of old (e.g., a 65-minute documentary on the series by editor and confidante Juliane Lorenz, from 2007) and new (including a 110-minute doc by another friend, Danish filmmaker Christian Braad Thomsen, from 2015). Unfortunately missing, but still available in Criterion's DVD release, is the original Berlin-Alexanderplatz from 1931, director Phil Jutzi's early talkie whose screenplay Döblin himself helped adapt. The new Blu-ray boxset does have a 60-page illustrated book. Note that all five discs are code-locked to region B, so outside the U.K. and Europe you'll need an all-region player to screen them.
2 from the British Film Institute
The Children's Hour (U.K., 1961)
Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine star as headmistresses accused of lesbianism at a private school for girls. William Wyler directs this adaptation of Lillian Hellman's 1934 play; James Garner (Maverick) co-stars. The region-locked BFI Blu-ray sports an excellent transfer akin to the one U.S. distributor Kino used on its BD in 2014. Unlike that barebones release, however, the new one comes with an optional audio commentary (by critic Neil Sinyard), a stills gallery and trailer, a DVD copy and a 28-page booklet.
The Knack ... and How to Get It (U.K., 1965)
Oy! Beatles mythmaker Richard Lester (A Hard Day's Night, Help!) directs another funromp through mid-1960s London. Extras on the BFI Blu-ray (also available on the accompanying DVD) once again improve over Kino's U.S. release (from 2016); the new visuals and sound are better, too.) Besides a new audio commentary by Neil Sinyard, there are close to two hours of special features: some vintage (two shorts and featurette from '66 and '67), some new (including an hour-long interview with Lester). There's also a full-colour booklet.
1 from Paramount
Forrest Gump (U.S., 1994)
The latter half of the 20th century was an amazing time to be an American, as Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) can tell you. The down-home Alabama boy lived it all: he met Elvis Presley and JFK, served in Vietnam, played ping-pong with the Chinese, and struck it rich as an early investor in Apple. Oh, and joy of joys, he had a baby with his childhood sweetheart, Jenny (Robin Wright). Robert Zemeckis won an Oscar for directing this '90s hit, Hanks won for best actor, and the movie itself won best picture. Now, eight-and-half years after its first iteration on Blu-ray, Forrest Gump is being released in ultra-high-definition, but the 4K treatment delivers surprisingly uneven results: sometimes the visuals are impeccably crisp, sometimes they're so scrubbed of grain as to seem unnatural, and colours sometimes "pop" so much they distract. For extras, you get the same extensive offerings as the old Blu-ray set, on two discs, including a pair of commentary tracks. You can also download the movie using the enclosed digital copy code.
2 from Eureka! starring Sidney Poitier
No Way Out (U.S., 1950)
Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve) wrote and directed this drama about a young doctor (Sidney Poitier, in his screen debut) who's accused of murder by a white racist (Richard Widmark). The big extra on the region-locked British Blu-ray (part of Eureka!'s Masters of Cinema series) is a two-hour documentary called All About Mankiewicz that aired on French TV in 1983; he's interviewed extensively by critic Michel Ciment. There are also two vintage Fox Movietone newsreels, a trailer and the optional audio commentary (by noir scholar Eddie Muller) from Fox's 2006 DVD. The booklet has a new essay by critic Glenn Kenny.
The Defiant Ones (U.S., 1958)
Sidney Poitier is back, this time opposite Tony Curtis, as a Negro prisoner who escapes from a prison van chained at the wrist to a white racist. Directed by Stanley Kramer and awarded an Oscar for the (appropriately) black-and-white cinematography of Sam Leavitt, the movie culminates in a mad dash for a moving freight train that would rescue the two escapees from the clutches of sheriff (Theodore Bikel) and posse. Extras on the region-locked Eureka! Classic disc are slim (a 20-minute interview with critic Kim Newman and a trailer), the visuals are fine if unrestored, and the stereo sound is lossless and clear.
1 from Criterion
Manila in the Claws of Light (Philippines, 1975)
A harrowing glimpse by director Lino Brocka into the Philippines of the 1970s, Manila in the Claws of Light tells the story of a young fisherman (Bembol Roco) who travels to the capital, Manila, in search of his disappeared girlfriend (Hilda Koronel). Finding work in construction, he soon descends into a brutal and violent world of corruption and prostitution. Long unavailable but now restored in 4K through Martin Scorsese"s World Cinema Project, the film comes to Blu-ray and DVD via New York distributor Criterion. The major extras are two documentaries: Signed: Lino Brocka (1987), by Christian Blackwood (84 mins.), and “Manila” ... A Filipino Film (1975), featuring Brocka, Roco and Koronel (23 mins.) There's also a a short video introduction to the film by Scorsese and an new interview with critic Tony Rayns (19 mins.). The booklet has an essay by U.S. film scholar José B. Capino. Note that Manila in the Claws of Light is also available in the U.K. in a double-feature edition released last year with Brocka's 1976 follow-up Insiang (about a wayward teen, played by Koronel). The British Film Institute set (one Blu-ray, two DVDs) is region-locked but comes with even more extras than the Criterion.
1 from Disney
Peter Pan (U.S., 1953)
This 1953 reimagining of the classic J.M. Barrie play and novel – about the adventures of a boy named Peter Pan who just won't grow up – is one of the first Disney animated movies I ever saw, and it's still a highly entertaining romp. Yes, it does indulge in racist stereotypes of Native Americans in the characters of Tiger Lily and her father, an "Indian chief," and that will turn some viewers off today. But as an important artifact of '50s animation Peter Pan remains essential viewing, not least for the pleasure of seeing Captain Hook, Wendy Darling and The Lost Boys light up the screen. On Blu-ray for the second time, five years after Disney's "Diamond Edition," the new "Anniversary Edition" of Peter Pan is part of Disney's "Signature Collection." It sports the same scrubbed transfer (purists will lament the lack of film grain), lossless 7.1 audio and almost all of the supplements as before, with a couple of minor additions: a scant quarter hour of new interviews and briefsing-alongs. The package also offers a DVD and a digital download code.