Digital Week - December 11th
Blu-rays of the Week
Brewster McCloud (Warner Archive)
Made immediately after his 1970 breakthrough, M*A*S*H, Robert Altman’s character study of a young man who wants to fly—literally—while living in the bowels of the Houston Astrodome is one of the director’s most willfully bizarre efforts. The enjoyably oddball cast—Bud Cort, Sally Kellerman, Margaret Hamilton, Michael Murphy, and Shelley Duvall in her debut—can only provide so much color to Altman’s aggressively experimental failure, which weakly nods towards better films like 8-1/2 and The Wizard of Oz. The film has a good and grainy look on Blu-ray.
A Dry White Season (Criterion)
Euzhan Palcy’s 1989 drama is a blunt but insightful anti-apartheid tract, as a white South African family sheltered from the realities of the government’s racist system discovers what’s happening after its beloved gardener is put on trial. Donald Sutherland and Susan Sarandon are decent, Janet Suzman and Zakes Mokae are terrific, while Marlon Brando gives one of the most energetic performances of his late career (and an Oscar nomination) as a boisterous lawyer. There’s a sparkling hi-def transfer; extras include a new Palcy interview; a vintage Palcy/Nelson Mandela conversation; and a 1989 Sutherland “Today Show” interview.
God Bless the Broken Road (Lionsgate)
In this draggy expansion of a popular country tune, a young widow (her soldier husband was killed in Afghanistan) finds her faith sorely tested until the arrival of a handsome stranger who befriends her daughter and helps her back on the right path. Lindsay Pulsipher as the mom and Makenzie Moss as her daughter are quite good, while the supporting cast led by Kim Delaney, Jordin Sparks and Robin Givens is OK. But the whole thing feels like one long melodramatic sermon, mitigating the goodwill of its premise. The hi-def transfer is first-rate; extras include interviews and featurettes.
Mame (Warner Archive)
This turgid musical stars an over-the-hill but game Lucille Ball as the partying aunt of a young boy who becomes his guardian and manages to steer him well despite her reputation, with songs by Jerry Herman that run the gamut from the now-holiday classic “We Need a Little Christmas” to standards “Loving You” and “It’s Today.” Robert Preston matches Lucy as her love interest, but the rest of the cast isn’t up to snuff; Gene Saks’ fuzzy direction makes its 130 minutes seem like 130 hours. The film looks fine in hi-def; lone extra is a vintage making-of featurette.
Picnic at Hanging Rock (Acorn)
Joan Lindsay’s classic novel about the mysterious disappearance of four young women was made into a stylish if muddled 1975 Peter Weir film; this new five-hour mini-series has all the stylishness but replaces the confusion with a haunting quality that gives the story its powerful impact. Natalie Dormer is perfect as the school headmistress who must deal with the emotional fallout and disastrous aftermath of the (mainly) unsolved disappearance. There’s an especially good hi-def transfer; extras comprise cast and crew interviews and on-set footage
Smallfoot (Warner Bros)
Yetis are abominable snowmen for those who don’t remember (and a cousin of Bigfoot, hence the title), and this humorous animated feature’s clever conceit—that a human is spotted by one of the yetis, who thought it was just a legend—helps paper over some interchangeable songs by Common and Zendaya. The top-notch voice cast, including James Corden, Gina Rodriguez and Channing Tatum—also does its part to keep the movie’s good-natured quotient high. There’s an excellent hi-def transfer; extras include interviews, featurettes, a mini-movie and music videos.
Support the Girls (Magnolia)
Andrew Bujalski’s usually annoying mumblecore aesthetic is kept to a minimum in this entertaining glimpse at the manager of a local T&A bar (a would-be Hooters) on her last day, dealing with personal and professional problems like acting as a surrogate mother for the young women employed as scantily-clad waitresses. In the lead, Regina Hall gives a tremendously affecting performance that forms the film’s emotional core, and she has a great rapport with the rest of the cast, especially Haley Lu Richardson and Shayna McHayle as her closest employees. There’s a superior hi-def transfer.