The Court Jester

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount;
Comedy;
$29.99 Blu-ray;
Not Rated.
Stars Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns, Angela Lansbury, Basil Rathbone, Mildred Natwick, Cecil Parker and John Carradine.

The 1956 classic The Court Jester, starring Danny Kaye, is celebrating its 65th anniversary with a new Blu-ray release as part of the “Paramount Presents” line. A riotous combination of physical comedy, wordplay and one-liners, the medieval farce still has the power to elicit laughs (notably without leaning on the crude humor of many modern comedies).

Kaye was a singular talent, with the singing chops of a Broadway star, a mastery of slapstick comedy similar to Jim Carrey or Jerry Lewis and impeccable timing. In top form in The Court Jester, Kaye plays kind-hearted entertainer Hawkins who disguises himself as the legendary king of jesters, Giacomo, to infiltrate the court of an evil villain (the legendary Basil Rathbone). In one of the most memorable physical comedy scenes, when a sorceress hypnotizes him, royal chaos ensues as the jester alternates identities at the snap of a finger — one moment he’s a swordsman with the skill of Errol Flynn and the next a cowering bumbler. The film also features one of the funniest wordplay sequences in classic movies including the oft-quoted line, “The pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.” Kaye combines that tongue-twister with another ongoing physical gag that will still make fans laugh heartily 65 years later.

Following a turn in the classic holiday film White Christmas, Kaye earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor — Comedy or Musical for his leading role in The Court Jester, which was added to the National Film Registry in 2004 and included on the AFI’s list of the 100 Funniest American Movies of All Time.

The Court Jester was shot in Paramount’s trademark “VistaVision” widescreen format, capturing a grander scope of information on the film negative. For this new restoration, the original negative was scanned at 6K and one of the “separation masters” was also scanned and recombined with the negative scans to address color fading in the negative. The result is a vibrant picture that beautifully renders costumes by the famed Edith Head, art direction by Hal Pariera and cinematography by Ray June.

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The limited-edition Paramount Presents Blu-ray packaging includes a foldout image of the film’s theatrical poster and an interior spread with key movie moments. The Blu-ray also includes access to a digital copy of the film, the theatrical trailer, and a new “Filmmaker Focus” with film historian Leonard Maltin. Maltin clearly has a special fondness for the film, which he likens to “an old friend” in his commentary outlining the history and talent behind the comedy.

“You do have a relationship with movies that you love, and this is one that I love,” he says.

Ditto.

Comedy Classic ‘The Court Jester’ to Bow on Blu-ray in Paramount Presents Line Jan. 26

The classic comedy The Court Jester, starring Danny Kaye, celebrates its 65th anniversary Jan. 26 with a new Blu-ray release as part of the “Paramount Presents” line from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Originally released in 1956, The Court Jester was shot in Paramount’s trademark “VistaVision” widescreen format, capturing a grander scope of information on the film negative. For this new restoration, the original negative was scanned at 6K and one of the “separation masters” was also scanned and recombined with the negative scans to address color fading in the negative. The result is an incredibly vibrant picture that faithfully captures the colors and textures of Edith Head’s costumes and Hal Pariera’s sparkling art direction.

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Kaye earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor – Comedy or Musical for his leading role in this comic farce, which was added to the National Film Registry in 2004 and included on the AFI’s list of the 100 Funniest American Movies of All Time.

The limited-edition Paramount Presents Blu-ray is presented in collectible packaging that includes a foldout image of the film’s theatrical poster, and an interior spread with key movie moments. The Blu-ray also includes a new “Filmmaker Focus” with film historian Leonard Maltin, access to a digital copy of the film and the theatrical trailer.

In the film, Kaye plays kind-hearted entertainer Hawkins who disguises himself as the legendary king of jesters, Giacomo. Hawkins infiltrates the court of an evil villain (Basil Rathbone), but when a sorceress hypnotizes him, royal chaos ensues as the jester alternates identities at the snap of a finger, between swordplay and wordplay. The supporting cast includes Glynis Johns, Angela Lansbury, Mildred Natwick, Cecil Parker and John Carradine.

Holiday Film ‘Buttons: A Christmas Tale’ Due on Digital Nov. 19, DVD Dec. 3 From Paramount

The holiday film Buttons: A Christmas Tale will arrive on digital Nov. 19 and DVD Dec. 3 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

The cast includes Jane Seymour, Roma Downey and Abigail Spencer, along with screen legends Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury.  The film is narrated by Kate Winslet and Robert Redford.

From creator/director/writer/composer Tim Janis, who has sold millions of albums and worked with a wide array of artists, Buttons: A Christmas Tale follows the heartwarming journey of two orphan girls whose only wish is to find a home for Christmas. With a little help from their guardian angels (Van Dyke and Lansbury), they discover that miracles really can happen when you find the power to believe.

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The DVD includes bonus songs, a music video and a photo gallery.

Mary Poppins Returns

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/19/19;
Disney;
Musical;
Box Office $171.69 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘
PG’ for some mild thematic elements and brief action.
Stars Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Nathanael Saleh, Pixie Davies, Joel Dawson, Julie Walters, David Warner, Jim Norton, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury, Dick Van Dyke.

There’s a lyric at the beginning of the original 1964 Mary Poppins in which Dick Van Dyke sings “what’s to happen all happened before.” It’s a line that hints at the mysterious nature of the magical nanny but seems a bit curious in the context at the beginning of a story in which we as an audience have yet to witness any of Mary Poppins’ adventures.

Rather, that prophetically tinged turn of phrase would seem to have more meaning when applied to this new installment, which bears fruit for the notion that Mary Poppins’ adventures are somehow cyclical.

The sequel that has been 54 years in the making has been carefully crafted for each story beat to resonate with an equivalent scene from the first film. Indeed, such echoes of the original are even reflected in the musical score, which always seems to play a few nostalgic notes when appropriate.

In the new story based on author P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins novels, the nanny returns some two decades later when the now grown Banks children, Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael (Ben Whishaw) find themselves in a bit of a financial crisis. Michael’s life is in disarray a year after the tragic death of his wife, and the financial toll exacted by her loss have put their famous house at 17 Cherry Tree Lane in danger of being seized by the bank. As Michael seems ready to given in to cynicism and despair, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) reappears to ostensibly take care of Michael’s three children while infusing a new sense of joy and imagination into everyone’s day.

Mary Poppins Returns is an effective follow-up to the original classic, capturing its spirit of whimsy with a slate of catchy tunes, even if its story could use some fine-tuning at points. While every sequence more or less serves a central premise of approaching life with a variety of perspectives, some moments seem less relevant to the primary narrative than others. Colin Firth’s bank executive, for example, seems to want the house just for the sake of typical movie villain greed, where the plot could have given him a more personal stake in the Banks family story by, say, establishing he had a grudge against their father, George, who was a senior partner at the bank.

Likewise, the film’s most eccentric musical number, “Turning Turtle,” seems to exist only to provide an outlet for interesting ideas from the books the filmmakers wanted to use couldn’t infuse elsewhere in the story, resulting in a superfluous guest appearance by Meryl Streep. ‘

Much more effective is a practically perfect appearance by the iconic Angela Lansbury as the magical balloon lady, whose perfectly “Nowhere to Go but Up” number is the most memorable of film while most effectively reminding young and old alike to never lose sight of their childlike sense of wonder.

Bonus features on the Blu-ray are mostly focused on the creation of the various musical numbers, from the 23-minute “The Practically Perfect Making of Mary Poppins Returns” to the 18-minute “Seeing Things From a Different Point of View: The Musical Numbers of Mary Poppins Returns.” And the five-and-a-half-minute “Back to Cherry Tree Lane: Dick Van Dyke Returns” delves into the now 93-year-old actor’s cameo in the new film.

The disc also includes a deleted song sequence that was replaced by another piece early enough so that the version presented here is a scratch track set to animated storyboards. The total sequence, called “The Anthropomorphic Zoo,” runs about five minutes.

There are also two true deleted scenes that run about a minute each that are extensions of musical sequences that are in the final film, as well as a two-minute blooper reel.

The disc also offers the movie in a sing-along mode that shows the lyrics during the various song sequences (as opposed to closed captioning showing all the dialogue).

The digital edition, which can be accessed using the Movies Anywhere redemption code included with the Blu-ray combo pack, offers an informative commentary with director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca.

Movies Anywhere also has two more vignettes, each running more than a minute. “Different Worlds: Creating Mary Poppins Returns is a shorter clip from the longer making-of featurette about the making of an animated sequence. And “What Is Your Favorite Disney Musical?” is a promotional video in which the title question is asked to various cast members.

Finally, the digital version on Vudu offers a three-minute featurette about the cameo of actress Karen Dotrice, who played young Jane in the original film.

‘The Grinch’ Sliding to Digital Jan. 22, Disc Feb. 5 From Universal

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch is coming to digital (including Movies Anywhere) Jan. 22 and 4K Ultra HD combo pack, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and on demand Feb. 5 from Illumination and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film earned $267.4 million in North American theaters, making it the year’s No. 6 movie, according to Box Office Mojo.

Based on the Dr. Seuss tale, the animated film follows a cynical grouch who goes on a mission to steal Christmas from others only to feel his own heart grow three sizes larger through unexpected friendships. Narrated by Pharrell Williams, The Grinch stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Strange, “Sherlock”) as the Grinch, who lives a solitary life inside a cave on Mt. Crumpit with his loyal dog, Max, for company. The voice cast also includes Rashida Jones (“Parks and Recreation,” The Muppets) as Donna Who, Kenan Thompson (“Saturday Night Live”) as Bricklebaum, Cameron Seely (The Greatest Showman) as Cindy-Lou Who and Angela Lansbury (AnastasiaBeauty and the Beast) as the mayor of Whoville.

The home entertainment edition contains more than 60 minutes of bonus content, including three mini-movies: “Dog Days of Winter” starring the Grinch and his heroically loyal dog Max; and “Yellow is the New Black” and “Santa’s Little Helpers,” both starring the Minions. It also includes featurettes and a how-to-draw tutorial.

Bonus features exclusive to disc include the interactive map “Who’s Who in Who-ville” and the “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” lyric video.