Digital Week – June 15

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This week, two heavy-duty movie monsters face off (again) in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” in ultra hi-def; other highlights are, in theaters, streaming or on DVD, new documentaries about eminent artists Rita Moreno, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and Salvador Dali.

4K Release of the Week

Godzilla vs. Kong (Warner Bros)

Godzilla vs KongThe showdown between two of the biggest screen monsters of all time is disappointingly predictable and tame, especially after director Adam Wingard doesn’t fumble what was an unnecessarily prolonged setup. It’s not the setup that hurts, it’s what comes after, as the highly touted battle royale between the title creatures is a repetitious and, quite frankly, thuddingly dull spectacle whose flashy special effects never transcend their digital origins. Of course, it all looks quite spectacular in 4K; the feature is also included on a Blu-ray disc, and extras include director’s commentary and 10 making-of featurettes (on the Blu-Ray disc).

In-Theater/Streaming/Virtual Cinema/VOD Releases of the Week

Asia (Menemsha)

Asia (Menemsha)After her dynamic performance in the Netflix series “Unorthodox,” Shira Haas consolidates her strength as a powerhouse actress in this unbearably touching drama about how the fraught relationship between rebellious teenager Vika (Haas) and her single young mother Asia (Alena Yiv, equally good) takes an unexpected turn when Vika is diagnosed with a debilitating condition. Director-writer Ruthy Pribar never flinches throughout her thoughtful character study about a painfully believable mother-daughter relationship, right until the devastating final moments.

Rita Moreno—Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It (Roadside Attractions)

Rita Moreno—Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It (Roadside Attractions)When I was a kid, Rita Moreno on “The Electric Company” was my first celebrity crush, and Mariem Pérez Riera’s intimate and frank documentary about the legendary stage, screen and TV actress and singer demonstrates how Moreno’s life and art are intertwined. As a Cuban immigrant, Moreno had more obstacles to stardom than usual, especially in the ‘50s. But talent, charm, beauty and perseverance won out, as proven by her Tony for the play “The Ritz” and Oscar for the musical “West Side Story,” among other awards. Her on-and-off romance with Marlon Brando (characterized by domestic violence and an unwanted abortion) is an eye-opener, but Moreno never exudes negativity: instead, radiating optimism as she prepares for her 87th birthday celebration, it looks like Rita Moreno will live forever. (She’s 89 now.) We can only hope.

Take Me Somewhere Nice (Dekanalog)

Take Me Somewhere Nice (Dekanalog)In Ena Sendijarević’s serious comedy, teenager Alma travels from her home in the Netherlands back to Bosnia to introduce herself to the father she has never met—but, of course, all kinds of misadventures ensue, some patently absurd, others more realistic, but all serving to toughen up Alma and broaden her view, both personal and—unsurprisingly in the Balkans—political. Ena Sendijarević has an occasional heavy hand as she too cleverly traces Alma’s journey, filled with detours both literal and metaphorical, but she’s gifted by the fearless young actress Sara Luna Zorić, who makes every moment, every word, every silence, every gesture of Alma meaningful and humane.

Truman & Tennessee—An Intimate Conversation (Kino Lorber)

Truman & Tennessee—An Intimate Conversation (Kino Lorber)Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams—two of America’s greatest and most distinctive artists during the heyday of celebrity for writers—are brought to vivid, parallel life by Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s documentary, which dives into their early friendship and later falling-out as well as providing their insights into subjects as disparate as their addictions, successes and failures, all through their own words, written and spoken. Along with many clips of them talking with Dick Cavett and David Frost, among other TV interviewers, we hear them through the voices of Jim Parsons (Capote) and Zachary Quinto (Williams), who translate their wicked humor and regional uniqueness winningly.

Blu-ray Releases of the Week

Resurrection (Warner Bros)

Resurrection (Warner Bros)Husband-and-wife team Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, who have bankrolled several Christian projects, now dramatize the final days of Jesus and what happened to his apostles after he rose from the dead, despite the Romans’ desperate attempts to quell his support. It’s manufactured efficiently enough by director Ciaran Donnelly, with an almost risibly bloody crucifixion scene, followed by some less than idiomatic sequences of the disciples—led by Peter and Thomas—being threatened for their association. Most welcome is the presence of Joanne Whalley and Greta Scacchi as Pilate’s wife and Jesus’ mother, respectively; their presence lifts up an otherwise grounded project for a few moments. There’s a superb hi-def transfer.

There Was a Crooked Man (Warner Archive)

There Was a Crooked Man (Warner Archive)In his first and only western, Joseph Mankiewicz—director of such classics as “A Letter to Three Wives,” “All About Eve” and “Sleuth”—leisurely spins a battle of wits between an armed robber and the new warden in a frontier prison in the Arizona Territory. There’s star power aplenty here, from Kirk Douglas (robber) and Henry Fonda (warden) to Burgess Meredith, Hume Cronyn and Warren Oates (prisoners), and Mankiewicz’ solid direction and Robert Benton and David Newman’s clever script are also assets, but this 1970 film’s sheer length (two hours) and snail’s pace sorely test one’s patience, and the meager punch line at the end is too little, too late. The film looks splendid on Blu; lone extra is a vintage making-of featurette.

DVD Releases of the Week

Salvador Dali—The Search for Immortality (Film Movement)

To discover new insights into the life and work of surrealist Salvador Dali, director David Pujol went to the source: the heads of the two Dali museums in his hometown of Valencia, who enlighten us about the man, the mythic celebrity and the serious—if underestimated—artist. There are glimpses of many of his most colorful works, archival footage of Dali and his beloved wife and muse Gala speaking about art and their relationship and a look at his home studio and handpicked museum, both of which look like the places a man with Dali’s prodigious imagination would create. It’s all beautifully shot, accentuating Dali’s uniquely frenzied and disturbing artworks.

True Mothers (Film Movement)

True Mothers (Film Movement)In Naomi Kawase’s moving chamber drama, the lives of two different mothers—a teen who gave up her baby for adoption and the middle-class wife who adopted him—are illustrated by the inevitable difficulties that crop up when the young mom wants to reenter her child’s life, followed by an unexpected and bittersweet resolution. Kawase walks a tightrope of sentimentality and contrived plotting, but her honest characterizations transform this far above the soap opera it might have become. There’s immeasurably strong acting by the leads, Hiromi Nagasaku (adoptive mother) and Aju Makita (real mother), who embody these women with unaffected naturalness. Extras are a Kawase interview by Juliette Binoche and a short film, “Return to Toyama,” by Japanese director Atsushi Hirai.

Your Honor (CBS/Showtime)

Your Honor (CBS/Showtime)If you can get past the enervating first episode—in which the entire storyline is set up so laboriously, implausibly and at times risibly (no one with asthma like the teenager in this series has would forget his inhaler no matter how stressed he is, among other howlers)—then this 10-part drama series about the lengths a respected New Orleans judge will go to protect his guilty son will do quite nicely. As long as you’re don’t look too closely at all the coincidences and lucky breaks, then the acting of Bryan Cranston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Hope Davis, Hunter Doohan, Carmen Ejoho and Isiah Whitlock Jr. helps smooth over the many rough spots. Lone extra is a series of deleted scenes.

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