Digital Week – December 14


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The Red Shoes (Criterion)

My latest Digital Week roundup is highlighted by Criterion’s 4K upgrade of one of the most gorgeous-looking color films ever made, Powell and Pressburger’s “The Red Shoes,” along with a new Blu-ray release of a stunning-looking B&W drama, Bela Tarr’s “Damnation.”

4K/UHD Releases of the Week

The Red Shoes (Criterion)

The Red Shoes (Criterion)British directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger—who teamed on many memorable movies in the 1940s, from “I Know Where I’m Going” and “A Matter of Life and Death” to “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp”—reached their peak with this gloriously tragic 1948 portrait of art and love…and one of the most ravishing color films ever made, thanks to the incomparable Jack Cardiff’s cinematography. Criterion’s new UHD upgrade comes from the 2009 restoration, which might give one pause: but the results are so spectacular that you may find yourself freeze-framing constantly while watching the film to savor the results. Extras include a commentary; restoration demo with Martin Scorsese; 2000 documentary, “A Profile of ‘The Red Shoes’”; interview with Powell’s widow, Thelma Schoonmaker; audio recording of Jeremy Irons reading excerpts from the creators’ own novelization; and the featurette “The ‘Red Shoes’ Sketches.”

Blu-ray Releases of the Week

Damnation (Arbelos Films)

Damnation (Arbelos Films)Bela Tarr made several interesting pictures about Hungarian life under the Communist regime in the 1980s, but after discovering Profundity with his exasperating seven-hour “Satantango,” he became the Hungarian David Lean (whose best films were also the earlier, shorter ones). Case in point: this glacially paced but magnificently photographed 1988 film about a depressive, in love with a married singer, whose machinations get her husband out of the way. Gábor Medvigy’s B&W photography—his first of three collaborations with Tarr—shimmers on Blu-ray; extras comprise new interviews with Tarr, composer Mihály Víg, and lead actor Miklós B. Székely.

Angels with Dirty Faces (Warner Archive)

Angels with Dirty Faces (Warner Archive)One of the pivotal crime dramas of 1930s Hollywood, Michael Curtiz’ good guy-bad guy study of lifelong friends—Rocky Sullivan, who becomes a crime boss, and Jerry Connolly, who becomes a priest—pivots on a group of boys (played by the Dead End Kids) that might either become delinquent or law-abiding. James Cagney (Rocky) and Pat O’Brien (Father Connolly) give powerhouse portrayals; Ann Sheridan and Humphrey Bogart are nearly as good in support. The gritty B&W images look splendid on Blu; extras are “Warner Night at the Movies 1938,” hosted by Leonard Maltin, with a newsreel, music short and cartoon; featurette “Whaddya Say? Whaddya Say?”; radio version with Cagney and O’Brien; and a commentary by film historian Dana Polan.

Broadcast Signal Intrusion (Dark Sky Films)

Broadcast Signal Intrusion (Dark Sky Films)Writers Phil Drinkwater and Tim Woodalland along with director Jacob Gentry’s intriguing idea—their protagonist finds hidden messages in the mysterious broadcast signals he discovers while working on videotapes, circa 1999—stays afloat for over an hour but it begins to unravel in its final third. Gentry has learned the lessons well of paranoiac ’70s dramas from “The Conversation” to “All the President’s Men,” his own visual palette effectively if derivatively aping those washed-out visual palettes. There’s a fine hi-def transfer; lone extra is a commentary by Gentry and lead actor Harry Shum Jr.

Cry Macho (Warner Bros)

Cry Macho (Warner Bros)Now a frail 91, Clint Eastwood keeps regularly churning out movies, but for every modest but effective entertainment like “The Mule,” there are less proficient items like “The 15:17 to Paris,” “Richard Jewell” and now “Cry Macho,” which stretches its barebones plot—a craggy old man does a favor for a longtime friend and goes to Mexico to retrieve the friend’s young son, encountering a few bumps in the road—as thinly as possible over 100 minutes. Eastwood still has a nice laidback charm, but the rest of his movie is painfully amateurish. The film looks excellent on Blu; extras are two making-of featurettes.

Rick and Morty—Complete 5th Season (Warner Bros)

Rick and Morty—Complete 5th Season (Warner Bros)This animated series about a mad scientist and his grandson seems to have reached a new level of insanity during the pandemic, as its creators cram even more visual imagination and verbal zaniness into the mix than usual, which threatens viewers with overload. But the crude humor and eye-popping animation make granddad Rick and grandson Morty’s journeys to alternate realities an entertaining 10-episode trip. The entire season looks colorfully dazzling on Blu-ray; extras include “Fighting Gravity,” a making-of feature; 10 “Inside the Episode” featurettes; and creator/crew interviews.

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