Digital Week - March 19th
Blu-rays of the Week
Spiderman—Into the Spider Verse (Sony)
Winner of the Oscar for Best Animated Film, this enjoyable “alternative” Spiderman origin story follows a teenager who, after a bite by a radioactive spider, becomes another Spiderman—just as the original superhero supposedly dies. Crammed with inventive visuals, a creatively offbeat script and enough humorous asides to keep parents interested while their kids are enthralled, this may be the beginning of a new wave of cartoon superhero flicks. The film looks sparkling on Blu; extras include an audio commentary, alternate universal mode and several featurettes.
The Kid Brother (Criterion)
The latest Criterion release of a feature by Harold Lloyd—who was, after Chaplin and Keaton, the greatest silent film comedian—might not equal earlier Lloyd releases like The Freshman and Safety Last!, but it has the writer-director-actor-stunt man’s best qualities in abundance, from spectacular sight gags and physical humor to unexpected poignancy. Criterion’s release includes a wonderfully detailed restored hi-def transfer, two musical scores to choose from and the usual plethora of extras: audio commentary, new and archival interviews, video essays and the newly restored Lloyd shorts Over the Fence (1917) and That’s Him (1918).
Man from Atlantis (Warner Archive)
This 1977 TV movie—starring Patrick Duffy as an amnesiac man with gills and webbed feet washed ashore and taken in by U.S. officials, who need his help neutralizing a mad eco-terrorist—is typically silly stuff saved only by ahead-of-its-time environmental awareness. It’s surprising that all four of these Atlantis movies were not released together on Blu-ray, as they were earlier on DVD; their initial popularity helped green-light the short-lived (13 episodes) series. Luckily for Duffy, another series, Dallas, soon came along. There’s a vivid hi-def transfer.
Marquise (Film Movement Classics)
French director Vera Belmont’s lusty 1997 costume drama is a terrific showcase for Sophie Marceau, who has never been more charming than as the title character, a dancing girl from the sticks who works her way up the social ladder to become a member of Moliere’s acting troupe and performer for the royal court. Belmont’s sharp eye for political satire is more muted than in her wonderfully evocative 1985 film, Red Kiss—which also needs to be restored and reevaluated—but this is still a delicious glimpse at a bygone (17th century) era. The movie looks great on Blu-ray; the lone extra is a new interview with Belmont.
Mary Poppins Returns (Disney)
In this long-gestating sequel to 1964’s Mary Poppins, Emily Blunt takes on the role that Julie Andrews is beloved for: the irrepressible supernanny, who comes back to the same family she was with before. Blunt is fine, as is the rest of the cast—Lin-Manual Miranda, Colin Firth, Ben Wishaw, Emily Mortimer, and especially the welcome return of vets Dick van Dyke and Angela Lansbury—and Marc Shaiman’s songs are tuneful echoes of the Sherman brothers’ originals. Director Rob Marshall loses control over the final 30 minutes, but as family entertainments go nowadays, one could do a lot worse. The hi-def transfer is excellent; extras include a sing-along edition, deleted scenes, deleted song, featurettes, interviews and a gag reel.
The Quake (Magnolia)
Director John Andreas Andersen has made what could be called a thinking-mans’ disaster movie—at least up to a point. His hero is a Finnish geologist trying to sound the alarm about an 8.5 earthquake about to devastate Oslo and its citizens, including his family. For its first two-thirds, The Quake is fun, even brainy stuff, but when the quake arrives—and there’s tremendous, and sparing, use of special effects that show Oslo’s destruction—character development unfortunately takes a back seat to disaster movie clichés. There’s a first-rate hi-def transfer; extras are several making-of featurettes.
DVDs of the Week
Divide and Conquer—The Story of Roger Ailes (Magnolia)
In her incisive documentary about the man who created Fox News and today’s negative political campaigns, Alexis Bloom charts the rise and fall of Roger Ailes alongside oft-incriminating interviews with those who knew and worked with him—including, unsurprisingly, women who describe his sexual indiscretions and harassment. There’s nothing too surprising, but it’s put together so meticulously that it becomes a compelling if grotesque portrait of our benighted era.
Over the Limit (Film Movement)
Marta Prus’ gripping fly-on-the-wall documentary follows Margarita Marun, a world-class Russian rhythmic gymnast, practicing and participating in tournaments with an eye toward the 2016 Olympics. She seems a focused young woman, but her coach has decided that psychological bullying will ensure that she keeps that focus. Marun appears to accept such behavior as part of her reaching for greatness—up to a point. Immediately after the Olympics, she retires at age 20, shows the ambivalence. A bonus short film is Johnson Cheng’s Olympics-set Iron Hands.