Digital Week – May 2nd

Blu-rays of the Week

I Am Not Your Negro (Magnolia)

Remember This House, a book James Baldwin never finished, survives in manuscript form and is a personal reminiscence of three civil rights leaders who were murdered: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Director Raoul Peck’s powerful documentary—nominated for an Oscar this past year—makes intelligent use of Baldwin’s own words (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) to make the persuasive case that Baldwin’s views on racism in America have never been more relevant. The film looks splendid on Blu; extras are two Peck interviews (one of them an hour long) and Jackson interview.

Animal Kingdom—Complete 1st Season (Warner Bros)

Based on the gritty 2010 Australian film that garnered an Oscar nomination for Jacki Weaver as the matriarch of a petty crime family, this new series moves the action to the heart of southern California, a more uneasy fit than in the Outback. Still, Ellen Barkin is fun as lead villainess Janine “Smurf” Cody, who keeps her four sons under control, and the series goes off on interesting tangents after a prolonged set-up over the first few episodes. The hi-def image is excellent; extras include deleted scenes and six featurettes.

Detour / We Are X (Magnet)

In Detour, a straitlaced young man goes on a drinking bender and finds himself “befriended” by a crazed redneck and his stripper girlfriend; too bad that this derivative road-trip drama is not nearly as interesting as writer-director Christopher Smith thinks. We Are X is NOT a documentary about the legendary L.A. punk band but instead a fascinating look at the popular Japanese rock outfit that’s been led for decades by Yoshiki, an intense and conflicted artist. Both films have exemplary hi-def transfers; extras are deleted scenes, featurettes, interviews, and (on We Are X) live performances and a fan video.

A Dog’s Purpose (Universal)

Based on W. Bruce Cameron’s best-selling novel, this sanctimoniously sappy drama about a reincarnated dog’s various lives with various owners—good, bad and indifferent—is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser that makes no bones about rubbing our noses in its canine cuteness and tear-inducing melodrama. Adorable dogs notwithstanding, director Lasse Hallstrom has come a long way (down) from his breakthrough classic, My Life as a Dog, for which he got Oscar nominations for writing and directing way back in 1988. The film has a natural look on Blu; extras include deleted scenes, outtakes and two featurettes.

The Rounders / Spencer’s Mountain (Warner Archive)

Henry Fonda, in a long career, made several forgettable movies. Like these two: 1964’s The Rounders teams Fonda and Glenn Ford in a frivolous western about a couple of aging cowboys dealing with a bucking bronco. 1963’s Spencer’s Mountain—a predecessor to The Waltons—finds Fonda playing a father of nine in this sweetly unassuming if too saccharine family drama. Both films have luminous hi-def transfers; Spencer extras are vintage featurette and vintage Fonda interviews.

The Wheeler Dealers / From Hell It Came (Warner Archive)

1963’s The Wheeler Dealers is a harmless and rather pointless Arthur Hiller romantic comedy with an amusing James Garner as a typical Texas millionaire and glamorous Lee Remick as a hard-edged New York gal who falls for him. 1957’s From Hell It Came has one of the most absurd monsters ever—half-man, half-tree—terrorizing whoever crosses its path. It’s so bad that it might be worth a look just for its extreme lousiness, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. The hi-def transfers are excellent.