This week’s roundup features an usually eclectic group of new releases: in theaters and streaming, a documentary simply titled “Cow”; in theaters, a documentary about Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, “¡Viva Maestro!”; and, on Blu-ray, a pair of forgotten Kevin Costner vehicles from 1985, “American Flyers” and “Fandango.”
Streaming/In-Theater Releases of the Week
Cow (IFC Films)
British director Andrea Arnold, who to her credit has never made the same film twice—from “Fish Tank” to “Wuthering Heights” to “Fish Tank”—now tackles the nature documentary in the form of a dairy cow named Luma whose existence on English farm is followed by Arnold’s probing camera. The mindnumbing sameness of Luma’s life, giving milk, calving, and finally—shockingly—dying, is recorded by Arnold and her cinematographer Magda Kowalczyk with clinical precision but not much clarity; even at a fleet 90 minutes, the sense of repetition, of going over the same ground, as it were, is strong, and the ending is not as powerful as it wants to be.
¡Viva Maestro! (Greenwich Entertainment)
Gustavo Dudamel went from being the whiz kid conductor from Venezuela who took the classical music world by storm to the 40-year-old not-quite-elder statesman who is classical’s ambassador and superstar, making the L.A. Philharmonic into a force to be reckoned with. Theodore Braun’s documentary provides inside access over the course of a season as Dudamel rehearses in L.A., returns to his home country to work with young musicians of the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra that he founded, and even—against his nature—gets involved politically when Venezuela is taken over by an authoritarian government. It’s all exciting and fascinating, both musically and as a portrait of the artist as a not-so-young man.
Blu-ray Releases of the Week
American Flyers (Warner Archive)
It’s Kevin Costner week at Warner Archive as two of his early starring roles from 1985—also see “Fandango,” below—are given belated Blu-ray releases. John Badham directed this meandering, at times silly but heartfelt sibling rivalry drama as Costner plays a doctor who reunites with his distant brother to enter a bike race in an attempt to bond after their father’s death from a congenital heart defect that could reappear in them. Steve Tesich’s snappy dialogue hides the fact that this is a lesser cousin to “Breaking Away” (also penned by Tesich), but attractive performances by Costner, David Grant (brother), Janice Rule (mother), Rae Dawn Chong (Costner’s GF) and Alexandra Paul (Grant’s GF) make this an appealing watch.
Fandango (Warner Archive)
Kevin Reynolds’ 1985 road movie expands his USC film-student short, “Proof,” which was seen by Steven Spielberg and who financed the feature through his Amblin Entertainment. Set in 1971, “Fandango” follows a group of Texas college students who go off on a wild road trip before the inevitable events that will soon overtake them—graduation, marriage and possible draft for the Vietnam War. The cast is led by Kevin Costner, charmingly boisterous, but the movie, scruffy and likeable, stops dead several times, notably during an extended skydiving sequence that’s basically “Proof” dropped into the longer movie. Still, it’s watchable throughout, and has a poignant final shot that hints at more gravitas than it has. There’s a first-rate hi-def transfer.
Oranges and Sunshine (Cohen Media)
The shocking true story of thousands of British children being sent to new, orphaned lives in Australia was brought to the screen in 2010 with the humane anger of a Ken Loach film—not surprisingly, since Jim Loach, the brilliant director’s talented son, directed this. As his father does, Loach fils smartly casts his central role, as Emily Watson (one of those rare actresses believable in anything) beautifully plays the woman who helps the now grown-up adults discover—or at least find out about—their real families. This nicely understated drama delivers an emotional punch in the usual Loach tradition. There’s a sturdy, understated hi-def transfer; extras include interviews with Loach, Watson, writer Rona Munro and other actors.