Digital Week – September 12th

Blu-rays of the Week

Amsterdamned (Blue Underground)

Dick Maas’s cleverly titled slasher movie is set in Holland’s jewel of a city, whose famous canals provide excellent cover for a rampaging murderer. It’s too bad that, at 113 minutes, the movie is simply too long, sinking under its own weight of too much repetition and false starts. Still, a decent cast does fine work, especially Monique van de Ven, known for her appearances in Paul Verhoeven’s early films. The hi-def transfer looks good and grainy; extras include a making-of featurette and interviews.

Endeavour—Complete 4th Season (PBS)

For this fourth go-round, Endeavour Morse teams with Fred Thursday for more murder investigations, as they prowl the Oxford area in the summer and fall of 1967 to find those responsible. Shaun Evans and Roger Allam again have fine chemistry as the detectives, and there’s an attractive supporting performance by Sara Vickers as Joan Thursday, Fred’s daughter and Endeavour’s unrequited love, returning for the final episode. The four whodunits, set in lovely countryside locales, are well-paced, if not always convincingly argued. The hi-def transfers are excellent; extras are short featurettes and interviews.

Hamlet (Unitel)

Seemingly forgotten since its 1865 premiere, Franco Faccio’s operatic adaptation of Shakespeare’s play has been heavily if intelligently pared down by librettist Arrigo Boito (who also penned the libretti for Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff), but Faccio’s routine music only comes to life in the pageantry scenes and, surprisingly, the tragic climax. This 2016 Bergenz Festival production is well-staged by Olivier Tambosi, superbly sung by Pavel Chernoch (Hamlet) and Julia Maria Dan (a sympathetic Ophelia), and beautifully performed by the Vienna Philharmonic and Prague Philharmonic Choir under conductor Paolo Carignani. Hi-def video and audio are first-rate.

The Man with Two Brains (Warner Archive)

Director Carl Reiner and star-writer Steve Martin collaborated for the third time on this lunatic 1983 comedy about a brain surgeon who falls in love with a brain in a jar (voiced by Sissy Spacek) and hopes to plant it into the head of his luscious but hateful wife. Despite many stretches of silliness, it’s the most sustained and funny comedy the pair made together—following The Jerk and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid—thanks to Martin’s prodigious comic skills and the fearlessly funny performance by Kathleen Turner, who simultaneously sends up and revels in her own sexpot image. There’s a great Merv Griffin cameo as well. The hi-def transfer is good.

Maurice (Cohen Film Collection)

In 1987, Director James Ivory and producer Israel Merchant followed up the previous year’s Oscar-winning breakthrough A Room with a View with an adaptation of a less acclaimed E.M. Forster novel about repressed homosexuality in early 20th century England. (The script was by Ivory and screenwriter Kit-Hesketh-Harvey.) Sumptuously mounted and smartly acted by a cast led by James Wilby as Maurice and an unknown Hugh Grant as his lover, Maurice is nonetheless too slow-moving and long to have much dramatic impact—even if it was cut down from three hours, as Ivory himself states. The film’s restoration looks exemplary on Blu; a second disc of extras includes several Ivory interviews, deleted scenes and commentary.

DVDs of the Week

Citizen Jane—Battle for the City (Sundance Selects)

In the 1950s and 60s, urban activist Jane Jacobs fearlessly took on New York City planning czar Robert Moses for, among other things, his feckless attempt to put a highway through lower Manhattan to connect the Holland Tunnel with the Lower East Side bridges, thereby decimating neighborhoods. That fight is entertainingly recounted in Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary, crammed with archival interviews and statements from the adversaries themselves. (Marisa Tomei provides the voice of Jacobs.)

Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In—Complete First Season—Complete First Season (Time-Life)

The groundbreaking comedy-variety series debuted in 1968, and—as the 14 first-season episodes show—was full of irreverent, topical, and silly humor from the get-go, with ringmasters Dan Rowan and Dick Martin introducing and interacting with a cast featuring Goldie Hawn, Joann Worley, Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Arte Johnson, and Henry Gibson. Among the guest stars willing to send themselves up were Johnny Carson, Tiny Tim and Sammy Davis; extras include the series’ pilot episode, highlights from the 25th anniversary reunion, bloopers, and an interview with creator and executive producer George Schlatter.