Digital Week – August 15th

Blu-rays of the Week

After the Storm (Film Movement)

Although he’s made memorable dramas about family bonds (Still Walking; Like Father Like Son), Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda comes up short with his latest about Ryota, a writer and gambler behind on support payments for his son. As always, Kore-eda has enormous sympathy or every character, and Hiroshi Abe’s sensitive portrayal beautifully balances Ryota’s irresponsibility with half-hearted attempts to mend fences, letting us root for him even as he keeps screwing up. But Kore-eda’s insight into tempestuous family relationships is only intermittent, despite wonderful moments scattered throughout, especially in the final rainstorm scenes. The hi-def transfer is excellent; extras are a 75-minute making-of documentary and a short film, The Last Dream, by directors Noemie Nakai and Carmen Kobayashi.

Beatrice et Benedict (Opus Arte)

French director Laurent Pally’s amusing 2016 production of Hector Berlioz’s charming opera based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing juggles with, but doesn’t puncture, either the Bard or the composer, and the result is an unalloyed delight. As the eponymous haters-turned-lovers, American Paul Appleby and French soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac are perfect together and apart, while Sophie Karthauser provides winsome support as the aptly-named Hero. Hi-def video and audio are superb; lone extra is a backstage featurette.

Everything, Everything (Warner Bros)

I know, I know: I’m not the target audience for this treacly adaptation of a YA novel by Nicola Yoon. But even teens and pre-teens surely see the contrivance and melodrama of a plot about a teenage girl stuck in her house since she was a baby due to a damaged auto-immune system who finds love—and freedom—when the new cute boy next door notices her. Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson are good and Anika Noni Rose as the over-protective mom is superb, but the movie never breaks out of its cutesy trajectory from the first frame. The film looks quite good on Blu; extras are deleted scenes and featurettes.

Freebie and the Bean (Warner Archive)

Richard Rush—who went on to direct the dazzling 1980 feature The Stunt Man—helmed this ramshackle, politically incorrect but eminently watchable comic drama about a couple of borderline-inept detectives who fight each other more than they track down criminals. James Caan and Alan Arkin are at the top of their game, while Rush dazzlingly uses San Francisco locations for several daring car chases all the more impressive for their authenticity, unlike fake, CGI-laden sequences proliferating today. Warner Archive’s hi-def transfer is first-rate.

The Zodiac Killer (AGFA)

Low-budget doesn’t begin to describe the Z-movie specs of Tom Hanson’s 1971 drama that ineptly but earnestly tries to dramatize the horrifying drama of the infamous murderer that terrorized the Bay Area: amateurish acting, distaff writing and non-existent directing all sink it. The Blu-ray—which shows off a messy surviving print in hi-def—also includes an equally risible feature, Another Son of Sam (1977), director’s commentary and retrospective interviews.

DVDs of the Week

The Summer of All My Parents / Louise on the Shore (First Run)

In one-named director Diasteme’s intimate character study, The Summer of All My Parents, teenage sisters—one 17, the other 14—must deal with their own (and their sister’s) sexual confusion and their divorced parents’ new lives; a superlative cast led by two remarkable young actresses as the sisters, Luna Lou and Alma Jodorowsky hits all the right marks. Louise on the Shore, Jean-Francois Lagionie’s inventive animated film, about a 70-ish woman who finds herself alone after a freak storm at her usual vacation spot strands her, is filled with spare, lovely touches (including a talking dog companion) that make this far more than a mere kids’ flick.