Digital Week – September 7


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It’s a truncated holiday week, highlighted by the 4K/UHD release of “Zach Snyder’s Justice League,” the overlong original director’s cut of the flop 2017 superhero adventure that most likely would have been better served as a multi-episode mini-series.

4K/UHD Release of the Week

Zach Snyder’s Justice League (Warner Bros)

A big, lumbering beast of a movie, Zach Snyder’s four-hour cut of the 2017 superhero epic—which he left while shooting because of his daughter’s suicide (this version is dedicated to her) and was replaced by cowriter Joss Whedon, who turned it into something completely different—is pretty much humorless, dark and dingy, but might work better at home in hour-long chunks: think of it as a four-part mini-series that doesn’t have to be binged. The superheroes Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash, Cyborg and even Superman (who’s been resurrected from the dead) are secondary to the super villains, and Snyder rarely nods to any plausible humanity throughout, even though parent-child relationships are front and center. Snyder also shot “Justice League” in the nearly-square 4×3 aspect ratio, which might have worked well on a huge IMAX screen, but even in ultra hi-def on a large TV, it looks impressive and incomplete. The lone extra is the featurette, “Road to Justice League,” with Snyder.

Blu-ray Releases of the Week

A Life at Stake (Film Detective)

Paul Guilfoyle’s 1955 low-budget crime drama pairs a frisky Angela Lansbury with a stolid Keith Andes in a “Body Heat”-type situation that (of course) soon unravels to the man’s disadvantage. Despite its brevity, this still seems stretched beyond what should have been an hour-long “Perry Mason” episode, but Lansbury and Claudia Barrett—as her virtuous sister—give it more than fleeting interest. The B&W images look terrific in a restored hi-def transfer; extras are a commentary by film historian Jason A. Ney and a short featurette on actress/director Ida Lupino’s career making films for her own company, The Filmakers (sic).

Mathis der Maler (Naxos)

German Paul Hindemith’s operatic masterpiece of stirring music and taut drama about the 16th-century Flemish painter Matthias Grunewald—whose extraordinary Isenheim Alterpiece is in the Unterlinden Museum in France—includes layers of humane, political, social and artistic themes. Keith Warner’s 2012 Vienna production underscores Hindemith’s artistry in his starkly vivid staging, superbly conducted by Bertrand de Billy, played by the Vienna Philharmonic, sung by the Slovak Philharmonic Choir and embodied by a first-rate cast led by Wolfgang Koch as Mathis, in a performance of deep empathy. The hi-def video and audio look and sound impeccable.

One Crazy Summer (Warner Archive)

This 1986 Cape Cod comedy by writer-director Savage Steve Holland is about as subtle as its creator’s name: that’s not to say it’s not entertaining—there are several moments of eye-popping inventiveness—but after the movie hits its stride about 30 minutes in, it goes on repeating itself while attempting to find more original avenues, turning it more enervating by the end. Still, this diverting little film has attractive performances by John Cusack, Demi Moore and the winning Kimberly Foster, who for some reason disappeared in the early ’90s after a choppy career. There’s an excellent hi-def transfer; lone extra is a commentary by Holland and actors Bobcat Goldthwait (forgettable in an obvious role) and Curtis Armstrong.

Wagner/Bruckner/Salzburg Concert (Unitel)

This summer 2020 Salzburg Festival concert unites one of the great voices of our time, Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča, with Richard Wagner’s wonderful Wesendonck Lieder, heard in an orchestration by Felix Mottl; Garanča caresses the melodies with loveliness and tact, and Christian Thielemann leads the orchestra’s sensitive musical accompaniment. I’m no fan of Anton Bruckner’s gargantuan statement symphonies, but Thielemann and the orchestra provide quite a workout performing the Austrian’s fourth symphony, which amid its overwrought structure has some beautiful passages. There’s first-rate hi-def audio and video.