Criterion Sets ‘Marriage Story,’ ‘War of the Worlds’ For Blu-ray in July

The Criterion Collection Blu-ray slate for July 2020 will include the 1953 sci-fi classic The War of the Worlds, 2019 Oscar winner Marriage Story, Preston Sturges’ 1941 screwball classic The Lady Eve, and 1997 Palme d’Or winner Taste of Cherry.

The War of the Worlds, adapted from the H.G. Wells alien invasion novel by producer George Pal and director Byron Haskin, arrives on Blu-ray Disc and DVD July 7 with a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, and a new alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack created by sound designer Ben Burtt and presented in DTS-HD master audio on the Blu-ray.

The film stars Gene Barry as a nuclear physicist and Ann Robinson as a librarian who attempt to help the military fight off a devastating Martian attack on Earth’s cities. The Technicolor film received an Oscar for its special effects. The story was continued in a 1980s TV series with Robinson returning as her character.

Extras on the Criterion edition of The War of the Worlds include an audio commentary from 2005 featuring filmmaker Joe Dante, film historian Bob Burns and author Bill Warren; “Movie Archaeologists,” a new program on the visual and sound effects in the film featuring Burtt and film historian Craig Barron; “From the Archive,” a new program about the film’s restoration featuring Barron, Burtt and Paramount Pictures archivist Andrea Kalas; an audio interview with producer George Pal from 1970; “The Sky Is Falling,” a 2005 documentary about the making of the film; The Mercury Theatre on the Air radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds from 1938, directed and narrated by Orson Welles; a radio program from 1940 featuring a discussion between Welles and H.G. Wells; the film’s trailer; and an essay by film critic J. Hoberman.

The War of the Worlds

Due July 14 on Blu-ray Disc and DVD is The Lady Eve, written and directed by Preston Sturges, and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. The Criterion version includes a new 4K digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.

Aboard a cruise liner sailing up the coast of South America, Stanwyck’s conniving card sharp sets her sights on Fonda’s nerdy snake researcher, who happens to be the heir to a brewery fortune. But when the con artist falls for her mark, her grift becomes a game of hearts-and she is determined to win it all.

Lady Eve extras include audio commentary from 2001 featuring film professor Marian Keane; an Introduction from 2001 by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich; an Interview from 2020 with Sturges biographer and son Tom Sturges and friends; a new video essay by film critic David Cairns; costume designs by Edith Head; a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film from 1942 featuring Stanwyck and Ray Milland; an audio recording of “Up the Amazon,” a song from an unproduced stage musical based on the film; and an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and a 1946 profile of Sturges from Life magazine.

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Marriage Story, Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actress for Laura Dern, arrives on Blu-ray Disc and DVD July 21. The Netflix original movie from writer-director Noah Baumbach stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson in Oscar-nominated performances as a couple whose marriage falls part, with Dern playing a divorce lawyer. The cast also includes Alan Alda, Julie Hagerty and Ray Liotta. The film earned six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.

The Marriage Story Criterion edition includes a new 4K digital transfer supervised by Baumbach, with a 5.1 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new interview with Baumbach; “The Players,” a new program featuring interviews Johansson, Driver, Dern, Alda, Hagerty and Liotta; “The Filmmakers,” a new program about the production of the film, featuring interviews with Baumbach, editor Jennifer Lame, production designer Jade Healy, costume designer Mark Bridges and producer David Heyman; “The Making of Marriage Story, a new program featuring behind-the-scenes footage; new interviews with composer Randy Newman and Baumbach about the film’s score; a new program featuring Baumbach walking the viewer through a key location from the film; trailers; and notes on the film by novelist Linn Ullmann.

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The first Iranian film to win the Palme d’Or (shared with The Eel), director Abbas Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry arrives on Blu-ray July 21 with a new 4K digital restoration, a new English subtitle translation and uncompressed monaural soundtrack. The drama follows the middle-aged Mr. Badii (Homayoun Ershadi) as he drives around the hilly outskirts of Tehran looking for someone who will agree to dispose of his body after he commits suicide, a taboo under Islam. Extended conversations with three passengers (a soldier, a seminarian, and a taxidermist) elicit different views of mortality and individual choice.

Extras include Project, Kiarostami’s 39-minute 1997 sketch film for Taste of Cherry, made with the director’s son Bahman; a new interview with Iranian film scholar Hamid Naficy; a rare 1997 interview with Kiarostami, conducted by Iranian film scholar Jamsheed Akrami; the film’s trailer; and an essay by critic A. S. Hamrah.

Criterion previously announced the July 14 release of the Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits Blu-ray boxed set collecting five kung-fu classics starring the international martial-arts legend.

Criterion Releasing Bruce Lee ‘Greatest Hits’ Boxed Set    

The Criterion Collection July 14 will release a seven-disc Blu-ray boxed set containing five of kung-fu action star Bruce Lee’s greatest films.

Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits brings together five films that define the Lee legend: furiously exciting fist-fliers propelled by his innovative choreography, unique martial-arts philosophy and whirlwind fighting style. Though Lee completed only a handful of films while at the peak of his stardom before his untimely death in 1973 at age 32, he left behind a monumental legacy as both a consummate entertainer and a supremely disciplined artist who made Hong Kong action cinema a sensation the world over.

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Game of Death

The set will include 4K digital restorations of The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Game of Death and The Way of the Dragon, with uncompressed original monaural soundtracks. The set will also include two versions of Enter the Dragon digitally restored in 2K: the 99-minute 1973 theatrical version with uncompressed original monaural soundtrack, and the 102-minute special edition version.

The Blu-rays will include audio soundtracks for the films, including original English-dubbed tracks and a 5.1 surround soundtrack for the special-edition version of Enter the Dragon.

The set will include six audio commentaries. The Big Boss comes with a voiceover by Bruce Lee expert Brandon Bentley; producer Paul Heller provides one for the extended cut of Enter the Dragon; and Hong Kong-film expert Mike Leeder offers his thoughts on The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Game of Death and The Way of the Dragon.

Game of Death will include “Game of Death Redux,” a new presentation of Lee’s original Game of Death footage produced by Alan Canvan, and a high-definition presentation of the 1981 sequel Game of Death II.

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Other extras include:

  • New interviews on all five films with Lee biographer Matthew Polly;
  • A new interview with producer Andre Morgan about Golden Harvest, the company behind Hong Kong’s top martial-arts stars, including Lee;
  • A new program about English-language dubbing with voice performers Michael Kaye (the English-speaking voice of Lee’s Chen Zhen in Fist of Fury) and Vaughan Savidge;
  • A new interview with author Grady Hendrix about the “Bruceploitation” subgenre that followed Lee’s death, and a selection of Bruceploitation trailers;
  • Blood and Steel, a 2004 documentary about the making of Enter the Dragon;
  • Multiple programs and documentaries about Lee’s life and philosophies, including Bruce Lee: The Man and the Legend (1973) and Bruce Lee: In His Own Words (1998);
  • Interviews with Linda Lee Cadwell, Lee’s widow, and many of Lee’s collaborators and admirers, including actors Jon T. Benn, Riki Hashimoto, Nora Miao, Robert Wall, Yuen Wah and Simon Yam, and directors Clarence Fok, Sammo Hung and Wong Jing;
  • Promotional materials;
  • New English subtitle translations and subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing;
  • An essay by critic Jeff Chang.

Criterion Announces June 2020 Slate, Including ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’

The Criterion Collection will release the 2019 film Portrait of a Lady on Fire on Blu-ray Disc and DVD June 23, its first time on home video.

Written and directed by Céline Sciamma, the film tells the story of an artist in the 18th century named Marianne (Noémie Merlant), who is hired to paint a wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), but instead the two end up engaged in a forbidden lesbian romance.

The film earned $3.76 million at the domestic box office.

The home video edition will include a 4K digital master, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a conversation between Sciamma and film critic Dana Stevens; interviews with Haenel and Merlant; an interview with cinematographer Claire Mathon from the 2019 Cannes Film Festival; an interview from 2019 with artist Hélène Delmaire on creating the paintings for the film, along with behind-the-scenes footage; and an essay by film critic Ela Bittencourt.

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Making its Blu-ray debut June 9 will be 1978’s An Unmarried Woman, a comedic chronicle of changing 1970s sexual politics directed by Paul Mazursky. When her husband of 16 years abruptly leaves her for a younger woman, Manhattan gallery worker Erica (Jill Clayburgh) finds herself alone, but also empowered to explore her desires as she tests a new relationship with a charismatic artist (Alan Bates).

The new Blu-ray and DVD editions from Criterion will include a 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include an audio commentary from 2005 featuring Mazursky and Clayburgh; new interviews with actors Michael Murphy and Lisa Lucas; a new interview with author Sam Wasson on Mazursky’s work; an audio recording of Mazursky speaking at the American Film Institute in 1980; the film’s trailer; and an essay by critic Angelica Jade Bastién.

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Arriving on Blu-ray Disc and DVD June 16 is Buster Keaton’s 1928 movie The Cameraman, the first film the silent-screen legend made after signing with MGM. In the final work over which he maintained creative control, Keaton plays a hapless newsreel cameraman desperate to impress both his new employer and his winsome office crush as he zigzags up and down Manhattan hustling for a scoop. The new home video edition comes with a new 4K digital restoration undertaken by the Cineteca di Bologna, the Criterion Collection and Warner Bros.; and a new score by composer Timothy Brock, conducted by Brock and performed by the orchestra of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna in 2020, presented in uncompressed stereo on the Blu-ray. Extras include audio commentary from 2004 featuring Glenn Mitchell, author of A-Z of Silent Film Comedy: An Illustrated Companion; 1929’s Spite Marriage, Keaton’s follow-up feature for MGM, in a new 2K restoration, with a 2004 commentary by film historians John Bengtson and Jeffrey Vance; Time Travelers, a new documentary by Daniel Raim featuring interviews with Bengtson and film historian Marc Wanamaker; So Funny It Hurt: Buster Keaton & MGM, a 2004 documentary by film historians Kevin Brownlow and Christopher Bird; a new interview with James L. Neibaur, author of The Fall of Buster Keaton: His Films for MGM, Educational Pictures, and Columbia; and an essay by film critic Imogen Sara Smith.

Coming June 23 on Blu-ray and DVD is Tokyo Olympiad, a documentary capturing images from the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The new edition includes a 4K digital restoration, a new English subtitle translation, and uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include an introduction by film historian Peter Cowie; audio commentary from 2001 by Cowie; 80 minutes of additional material from the Tokyo Games, with a new introduction by Cowie; archival interviews with director Kon Ichikawa; a new documentary about Ichikawa featuring interviews with cameraman Masuo Yamaguchi, longtime Ichikawa collaborator Chizuko Osaka, and the director’s son, Tatsumi Ichikawa; trailers; and an essay by film scholar James Quandt.

Due June 30 on Blu-ray and DVD is Soviet director Elem Klimov’s 1985 film Come and See, a senses-shattering plunge into the dehumanizing horrors of war. As Nazi forces encroach on his small village in Belorussia, teenage Flyora (Alexei Kravchenko) eagerly joins the Soviet resistance. Rather than the adventure and glory he envisioned, what he finds is a waking nightmare of unimaginable carnage and cruelty. The disc includes a new 2K digital restoration by Mosfilm, a new English subtitle translation, and uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new interview with cinematographer Roger Deakins; a new interview with the director’s brother and frequent collaborator, German Klimov; Flaming Memory, a three-film 1975-77 documentary series from by filmmaker Viktor Dashuk featuring firsthand accounts of survivors of the genocide in Belorussia during World War II; a 2001 interview with Elem Klimov; interviews from 2001 with actor Alexei Kravchenko and production designer Viktor Petrov; “How Come and See Was Filmed,” a 1985 short film about the making of the film featuring interviews with Elem Klimov, Kravchenko and writer Ales Adamovich; a theatrical re-release trailer; and Essays by critic Mark Le Fanu and poet Valzhyna Mort.

Mike’s Picks: ‘A Little Romance’ and ‘Salesman’

A Little Romance

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Laurence Olivier, Diane Lane, Thelonious Bernard, Sally Kellerman, Arthur Hill.
1979.
It was spring of 1979 when 12-year-old Diane Lane made the cover of Time magazine back when that really meant something — ostensibly as part of a cover story on “Hollywood’s Whiz Kids” but spurred primarily by her utterly beguiling screen debut opposite Laurence Olivier in A Little Romance, the first film released, albeit through Warner Bros., by the then brand new Orion Pictures.
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Salesman

Criterion, Documentary, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
1969.
Salesman was the documentary feature debut that put the Maysles Brothers (David and Albert) on the map along with Charlotte Zwerin, whose subtle editing choices here are, with good reason, the kind often termed as “invisible,” though we subliminally sense that they’re there. We end up following four Irish-Catholic door-to-door salesmen of middle age and pet nicknames — charged with unloading deluxe doorstop Bibles full of elaborate illustrative paintings to customers who haven’t the money to make the monthly payments.
Essay: The accompanying essay by critic Michael Chaiken and a 1969 Maysles TV interview by onetime Newsweek film critic Jack Kroll are up to Criterion standards and the original DVD’s commentary by Albert Mayles and Zwerin has been carried over. But the high point is unquestionably the full-length inclusion of a spoof from the “Documentary Now!” cable series, in which Bill Hader and Fred Armisen expertly have their way in Globesman, a precisely detailed replication about guys trudging through the same snow and the like to peddle globes. Hader also provides a separate appreciation for the original film.
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Criterion May 2020 Slate Includes ‘The Great Escape’

The Criterion Collection May 2020 slate of special-edition Blu-rays will include John Sturges’ World War II classic The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen; Dance, Girl, Dance, a subversive backstage melodrama starring Maureen O’Hara and Lucille Ball; Husbands, John Cassavetes’ portrait of American manhood in crisis, and his first collaboration with stars Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk; Paul Dano’s directorial debut, Wildlife, anchored by a revelatory Carey Mulligan performance; Eric Rohmer’s wildly influential Six Moral Tales; and a collection of five newly restored short films by Martin Scorsese, including the intimate documentaries Italianamerican and American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince.

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The Blu-ray edition of Six Moral Tales arrives May 5 with a new 2K digital restoration and uncompressed monaural soundtrack. One of the founding critics of the history-making Cahiers du cinéma, Rohmer began translating his written manifestos to film in the 1960s, standing apart from his New Wave contemporaries with his patented brand of gently existential, hyperarticulate character studies set against vivid seasonal landscapes. The subsequent Six Moral Tales presents a succession of encounters between fragile men and the women who tempt them — 1963’s The Bakery Girl of Monceau and Suzanne’s Career, 1967’s La Collectionneuse, 1969’s My Night at Maud’s, 1970’s Claire’s Knee and 1972’s Love in the Afternoon.

Extras include a 2006 conversation between Rohmer and filmmaker Barbet Schroeder; a 2006 video afterword by filmmaker and writer Neil LaBute; “On Pascal,” a 1965 episode of the educational TV series “En profil dans le texte” directed by Rohmer, on the French philosopher Blaise Pascal, the subject of debate in My Night at Maud’s; archival interviews with Rohmer, film critic Jean Douchet, producer Pierre Cottrell, and actors Jean-Claude Brialy, Béatrice Romand, Laurence de Monaghan and Jean-Louis Trintignant; trailers; and a booklet featuring essays by critics Geoff Andrew, Ginette Vincendeau, Phillip Lopate, Kent Jones, Molly Haskell and Armond White, plus excerpts from cinematographer Nestor Almendros’s 1980 autobiography and Rohmer’s landmark 1948 essay “For a Talking Cinema,” along with an English translation of Six Moral Tales, the book of stories by Rohmer on which the films are based. The Blu-ray also includes four short films by Rohmer — Presentation, or Charlotte and Her Steak (shot in 1951 and completed in 1961); Véronique and Her Dunce (1958); Nadja in Paris (1964); A Modern Coed (1966)-and one on which he advised, The Curve (1999).

The Blu-ray and DVD edition of 1963’s The Great Escape arrives May 12 with a 4K digital restoration, an uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, and an alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack presented in DTS-HD master audio on the Blu-ray.

Extras include two audio commentaries, one from 1991 featuring director Sturges and composer Elmer Bernstein, the other from 2004 featuring actors James Coburn, James Garner and Donald Pleasence; a new interview with critic Michael Sragow; The Great Escape: Heroes Underground, a four-part 2001 documentary about the real-life escape from the Stalag Luft III prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, including interviews with POWs held there; “The Real Virgil Hilts: A Man Called Jones,” a 2001 program on the United States Army Air Forces pilot David Jones, the inspiration for Steve McQueen’s character in the film; “Return to The Great Escape,” a 1993 program featuring interviews with Coburn, Garner, actors David McCallum and Jud Taylor, stuntman Bud Ekins, and McQueen’s son, Chad McQueen; the film’s trailer; plus an essay by critic Sheila O’Malley.

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Due May 19 on Blu-ray and DVD is 1940’s Dance, Girl, Dance, featuring a new, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new introduction by critic B. Ruby Rich; new selected-scene commentary featuring film historian Cari Beauchamp; and an essay by critic Sheila O’Malley.

The 1970 film Husbands arrives on Blu-ray and DVD May 26 with a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include audio commentary from 2009 featuring critic Marshall Fine; new interviews with producer Al Ruban and actor Jenny Runacre; a new video essay featuring audio recordings of John Cassavetes in his own words exploring the actor-director’s spirited approach to acting; “The Story of Husbands — A Tribute to John Cassavetes,” a half-hour program from 2009 featuring Ruban, actor Ben Gazzara, and cinematographer Victor J. Kemper; an episode of “The Dick Cavett Show” from 1970 featuring Cassavetes, Gazzara and actor Peter Falk; the film’s trailer; plus an essay by filmmaker Andrew Bujalski.

Arriving May 26 is Scorsese Shorts, a compilation of five early short films by Martin Scorsese that offers a window onto his artistic development. Spanning the years from Scorsese’s time at NYU in the mid-1960s to the late ’70s, when he was emerging as one of the era’s top talets, Scorsese Shorts centers on the 1974 home movie Italianamerican, a loving snapshot of the director’s parents, and 1978’s American Boy, a freewheeling portrait of a larger-than-life raconteur. Also included are 1967’s The Big Shave, a daringly visceral response to America’s involvement in Vietnam, and the bracing student films What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1963) and It’s Not Just You, Murray! (1964).

The Blu-ray and DVD include 4K digital restorations of all five films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new conversation between director Martin Scorsese and film critic Farran Smith Nehme; a new discussion among filmmakers Ari Aster, and Josh and Benny Safdie; plus an essay by film critic Bilge Ebiri and various materials from Scorsese’s archive.

The Blu-ray and DVD of 2018’s Wildlife arrives May 26 with a new 2K digital master, with a 5.1 surround DTS HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. This represent’s the film’s home video debut. Adapted by Dano and Zoe Kazan from the novel by Richard Ford, this meticulously crafted portrait of the American nuclear family in crisis charts the rift that forms within a 1960s Montana household when the father and breadwinner (Jake Gyllenhaal) abruptly departs to fight the forest fires raging nearby, leaving his restless wife (Carey Mulligan) and teenage son (Ed Oxenbould) to pick up the pieces. Extras include new interviews with Dano, Kazan, Mulligan, Gyllenhaal, cinematographer Diego García, production designer Akin McKenzie and costume designer Amanda Ford; a new conversation on the film’s postproduction with Dano, editor Matthew Hannam and composer David Lang; a “Film at Lincoln Center” conversation from 2018 between Dano and novelist Ford about the film’s source material; and an essay by critic Mark Harris.

Update (5/13/20): The original ‘Wildlife’ street date of May 19 was changed to May 26 by Criterion.

Four Netflix Films Join Criterion Collection

Four Netflix films — Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s American Factory and Mati Diop’s Atlantics — will join the Criterion Collection in 2020.

These four films will join Alfonso Cuaron’s three-time Academy Award winning Roma, which was previously announced as the first Netflix film to receive a home video debut via the Criterion Collection. Roma will be available on Criterion DVD and Blu-ray on Feb. 11.

The Irishman, a mob film starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, has received five Golden Globe nominations, 10 BAFTA nominations, and 10 Academy Award nominations, in addition to being named Best Film of the Year by the National Board of Review and NY Film Critics Circle. With his ninth directing nomination, Martin Scorsese is the most-nominated living director in Academy history.

Marriage Story, a drama starring Scarlet Johansson and Adam Driver, won Best Film at the Gotham Awards and received six Golden Globe nominations, the most of any film, with Laura Dern winning the Golden Globe and the SAG Award for Best Supporting Actress. This was followed by six Academy Award nominations. It has received multiple SAG, BAFTA and PGA nominations.

American Factory premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival where directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert won the Directing Award for U.S. Documentary. Produced with Participant Media, American Factory is the first title presented by President and Mrs. Obama’s Higher Ground Productions. Since its August release, the film has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary as well as the Best Documentary BAFTA award. For Reichert, American Factory marks her fourth Oscar nomination.

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Atlantics premiered in competition at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it was awarded the Grand Prix. The film is Diop’s feature directorial debut and she is the first black woman to compete for the Palme d’Or at Cannes. The film went on to play the Toronto Film Festival, where Diop was awarded the inaugural Mary Pickford Award, recognizing emerging female talent. Atlantics was on the Academy shortlist for the Best International Feature Film Oscar and Diop received a DGA Nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director.

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Each Criterion Collection release will include exclusive behind-the-scenes content, special features and a filmmaker-supervised master.

The Roma Criterion release will include Road to Roma, a new documentary about the making of the film, featuring behind-the-scenes footage and an interview with Cuarón, as well as many other special features.

Criterion March 2020 Slate Includes Films From Streisand, Spike Lee

The Criterion Collection March 2020 slate of special-edition Blu-rays will include John M. Stahl’s Technicolor melodrama Leave Her to Heaven, Spike Lee’s satire Bamboozled, James Whale’s Show Boat with Irene Dunne and Paul Robeson, director-producer-star Barbra Streisand’s The Prince of Tides, the Maysles brothers’ Salesman, and Mikhail Kalatozov’s The Cranes Are Flying.

Due March 10 on Blu-ray is 1969’s Salesman, a portrait of American dreams and disillusionment from Direct Cinema pioneers David Maysles, Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin. The film explores the worlds of four dogged door-to-door Bible salesmen as they travel from Boston to Florida on a seemingly futile quest to sell luxury editions of the Good Book to working-class Catholics. The Blu-ray will feature a new 4K restoration, plus a new appreciation of the film by actor Bill Hader; audio commentary from 2001 featuring directors Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin; “Globesman,” a 2016 episode of the television series “Documentary Now!” that parodies the film, starring Hader and Fred Armisen; a television interview from 1968 with directors David and Albert Maysles, conducted by critic Jack Kroll; an audio excerpt from a 2000 episode of NPR’s “Weekend Edition” profiling James Baker, one of the salesmen featured in the film; the film’s trailer; and an essay by critic Michael Chaiken.

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Due March 17 on Blu-ray and DVD is director Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, a satire from 2000 that examines the past, present and future of racism in American popular culture. Under pressure to help revive his network’s low ratings, television writer Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans) hits on an explosively offensive idea: bringing back blackface for a “new-millennium minstrel show.” The home video release includes a new 2K digital restoration, with a 5.1 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a 2001 audio commentary by Lee; a new conversation between Lee and film programmer and critic Ashley Clark; new interviews with choreographer and actor Savion Glover, actor Tommy Davidson, and costume designer Ruth E. Carter; “On Blackface and the Minstrel Show,” a new interview program featuring film and media scholar Racquel Gates; “The Making of Bamboozled,” a documentary from 2001 featuring members of the cast and crew; deleted scenes; music videos for the Mau Maus’ “Blak Iz Blak” and Gerald Levert’s “Dream With No Love”; alternate parody commercials created for the film; a poster gallery and trailer; and an essay by Clark.

Due March 24 on Blu-ray and DVD is the 1957 Soviet film The Cranes Are Flying from director Mikhail Kalatozov, about a couple who are in love until the eruption of World War II tears them apart. The home video features a new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, and a new English subtitle translation. Extras include a new interview with scholar Ian Christie on why the film is a landmark of Soviet cinema; an audio interview from 1961 with Kalatozov; Hurricane Kalatozov, a documentary from 2009 on the Georgian director’s complex relationship with the Soviet government; a segment from a 2008 program about the film’s cinematography, featuring original storyboards and an interview with actor Alexei Batalov; an interview from 2001 with filmmaker Claude Lelouch on the film’s French premiere at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival; and an essay by critic Chris Fujiwara.

Also due March 24 on Blu-ray and DVD is 1945’s Leave Her to Heaven from director John M. Shahl. Novelist Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) seems to have found the perfect woman in Ellen (Gene Tierney), a beautiful socialite who initiates a whirlwind romance and steers him into marriage before he can think twice. Yet the glassy surface of Ellen’s devotion soon reveals monstrous depths, as Richard comes to realize that his wife is shockingly possessive and may be capable of destroying anyone who comes between them. The home video includes a new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new interview with critic Imogen Sara Smith, the film’s trailer, and an essay by novelist Megan Abbott.

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Due March 31 on Blu-ray and DVD is the musical Show Boat, director James Whale’s 1936 take on Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s adaptation of Edna Ferber’s novel. Show Boat spans four decades and three generations as it follows the fortunes of the stage-struck Magnolia (Irene Dunne), an aspiring actor whose journey takes her from her family’s humble floating playhouse in the 1880s South to the height of fame in the 1930s North. The cast of show-business legends includes Helen Morgan, Hattie McDaniel, Charles Winninger and Paul Robeson, who provides an iconic rendition of “Ol’ Man River.” The home video includes a new 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include audio commentary from 1989 featuring American-musical historian Miles Kreuger; a new interview with James Whale biographer James Curtis; “Recognizing Race in Show Boat,” a new interview program featuring professor and author Shana L. Redmond; Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist, a newly restored Academy Award-winning short documentary from 1979 by Saul J. Turell; two performances from the sound prologue of the 1929 film version of Show Boat, plus 20 minutes of silent excerpts from the film, with audio commentary by Kreuger; two radio adaptations of Show Boat, featuring stage and screen cast members Allan Jones, Helen Morgan and Charles Winninger, plus actor Orson Welles and novelist Edna Ferber; and an essay by critic Gary Giddins.

Also due March 31 on Blu-ray and DVD is the 1991 adaptation of Pat Conroy’s novel The Prince of Tides, directed by and starring Barbra Streisand. Summoned to New York after his sister attempts suicide, Tom Wingo (Nick Nolte) must serve as her memory, reckoning with the traumas of their southern childhood so that her psychiatrist, Dr. Susan Lowenstein (Streisand), can help her recover. But Tom’s sessions with Lowenstein will plunge him into the depths of his own long-repressed pain-and reawaken the possibility of love within him. The home video features a new 4K digital restoration, with a 2.0 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include an audio commentary featuring Streisand, recorded in 1991 and updated in 2019; a making-of featurette from 1991; an excerpt from a 2018 interview with Streisand, conducted by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez on El Rey Network’s “The Director’s Chair”; audition and rehearsal footage; deleted scenes and alternate takes; costume and makeup tests; alternate end credits with vocal performance by Streisand; behind-the-scenes footage; a gag reel; a production-stills gallery and other archival materials; an interview with author Pat Conroy from a 1992 episode of “Cinema Showcase” with Jim Whaley; an interview with Streisand from a 1992 episode of the British television show “Aspel & Company” with Michael Aspel; trailers; and an essay by film historian Bruce Eder.

 

Criterion Releasing Netflix’s ‘Roma’ on Blu-ray and DVD

The Criterion Collection will release director Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar-winning 2018 drama Roma on Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 11.

Cuarón re-created the early-1970s Mexico City of his childhood, portraying the life of a middle-class family through the experiences of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), their maid. Charged with the care of four small children abandoned by their father, Cleo tends to the family even as her own life is shaken by personal and political upheavals.

It was released briefly in theaters in the United States by Netflix before being available on the streaming service.

Roma earned 10 Oscar nominations, and won for Best Foreign-Language Film, Best Cinematography and Best Director. It was the first time a foreign-language film won for direction, and the first time a director won for cinematography for his own film.

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The disc release will include a 4K digital master supervised by Cuarón, with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack on the Blu-ray, plus alternate French subtitles and Spanish SDH.

Extras include:

  • “Road to Roma,” a new documentary about the making of the film, featuring behind-the-scenes footage and an interview with Cuarón;
  • “Snapshots from the Set,” a new documentary featuring actors Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira, producers Gabriela Rodríguez and Nicolás Celis, production designer Eugenio Caballero, casting director Luis Rosales, executive producer David Linde, and others;
  • New documentaries about the film’s sound and postproduction processes, featuring Cuarón; Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay, and Craig Henighan from the postproduction sound team; editor Adam Gough; postproduction supervisor Carlos Morales; and finishing artist Steven J. Scott
  • A new documentary about the film’s theatrical campaign and social impact in Mexico, featuring Celis and Rodríguez;
  • “Nothing at Stake,” a new video essay by filmmaker Kogonada;
  • Trailers;
  • Essays by novelist Valeria Luiselli and historian Enrique Krauze.

 

The Blu-ray will exclusively feature an essay by author Aurelio Asiain and production-design images with notes by Caballero.

Other February 2020 Criterion Blu-ray releases include Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Antonio Gaudí (Feb. 18), a 1984 tribute to the visionary Catalan architect; Pier Paolo Pasolini’s provocative 1968 film Teorema (Feb. 18), starring Terence Stamp; 1990’s Paris Is Burning (Feb. 25), a look at Harlem’s vibrant drag-ball culture in the 1980s, featuring more than an hour of never-before-seen outtakes; and Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman (Feb. 25) collecting the renowned special-effects fabulist’s film’s Journey to the Beginning of Time, Invention for Destruction and The Fabulous Baron Munchausen.

Mike’s Picks: ‘When We Were Kings’ and ‘The Return of Martin Guerre’

When We Were Kings

Criterion, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG’ for images of violence, brief nudity and some language.
Featuring Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton.
1996.
The now famed, Zaire-set 1974 Rumble in the Jungle boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman provided the century-caliber upset of which Oscar-winning documentaries are made, which is what happened with 1996’s When We Were Kings, one of my favorite movies of any kind ever made, dealing with Ali’s spiritual renewal with the African people who adored him.
Extras: A three-night event featuring concerts by some of the era’s major musical acts was filmed leading to the main event, and much more of the music footage formed the basis for 2008’s theatrically released Soul Power, which is included on this release as well.
Read the Full Review

The Return of Martin Guerre

Cohen, Drama, $22.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gerard Depardieu, Nathalie Baye.
1982.
The possibility of identity theft in The Return of Martin Guerre provides the drama, as it looks at the effect its title’s mysterious not-exactly-stranger has on a 16th-century village. A onetime arthouse hit that Hollywood later modified and more or less remade, it boasts two international stars, one or two familiar faces from French cinema and a lot of cackling chickens who’d probably be crossing the road if there were any roads here beyond modest horse paths.
Extras: Includes an interview of female lead Nathalie Baye.
Read the Full Review

 

When We Were Kings

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Criterion;
Documentary;
$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG’ for images of violence, brief nudity and some language.
Featuring Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton.

“No. No way. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to pay that much money to watch Ali get killed in the ring.”

That was me to my best friend in 1974 as the now famed, Zaire-set Rumble in the Jungle approached, the subsequent Rope-a-Dope bout between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman — long before the latter became the Anthony Bourdain of college dorms. This was the same friend with whom I’d seen the closed-circuit broadcast of Ali-Frazier II in Washington, D.C.’s long extinct RKO Keith’s — right round the corner-and-change from the White House and we were the only white guys in the raucously wild-ass balcony (an experience). Later, we’d see Ali in person win a close and controversial decision against Jimmy Young up in Landover, MD. But as for the Rumble, I wouldn’t go back to the Keith’s or anywhere the fight was transmitted, thus missing the century-caliber upset of which Oscar-winning documentaries are made. Which is what happened with 1996’s When We Were Kings, one of my favorite movies of any kind ever made.

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Ali’s imminent death or at least serious maiming was the common wisdom at the time, stated by no less than Norman Mailer (author of The Fight, a book I love) and George Plimpton, all the way down to just about any person on the street, which by that time was where Richard Nixon was not quite three months after his resignation. Everyone knew that Ali was too old and too sapped (particularly by what the U.S. government had done to him), while Foreman was a sullen destroyer still eons away from a subsequent and complete alteration of his personal image, one arguably more jolting than Frank Sinatra’s and Dick Powell’s put together. Whereas Ali eventually spent most of his time actively charming the locals and then some, Foreman showed up in Zaire with a German shepherd, which was not the pet of choice for all the Africans who remembered or knew about British colonialism, which was just about everybody.

This all became the nucleus of the film but not by design. The original intention was to film a concert thrown in as an extra added PR attraction by Zaire President Mobutu Sese Seko, a typically bloody-handed despot who also embezzled billions, which makes you wonder if he regarded the bout’s promoter Don King as a soul brother. But during the lead-up, Foreman walked into a training camp elbow — delaying the fight for six weeks perilously close to the rainy season. The concert dates and performers were bound by contracts, and these were heavy hitters: James Brown, B.B. King, Miriam Makeba, The Spinners, Celia Cruz and more. The three-nighter was filmed, albeit with no one in the audience for the first two nights, thanks to the postponed main event. And in the interim, filmmaker Leon Gast began to think that there might be a more novel documentary out there, dealing with Ali’s spiritual renewal with the African people who adored him. Plus, of course, the fight itself.

Cut to a modest wait of maybe two decades when Gast finally got the money (thank you, producer David Sonenberg) to begin assembling what he had from a few skyscrapers’ worth of shot material. The filmmaker wisely elected not to distract from what truly mattered by now, making the concert a presence but definitely a sideline affair. Eventually, much more of the music footage formed the basis for 2008’s theatrically released Soul Power, which in typically classy Criterion fashion is included on this release as well (it actually runs a teensy bit longer than Kings). Not exactly a concert film per se, it deals as much with its own backstage material and is a little like Murray Lerner’s Festival in that regard. The No. 1 reality it conveys is the intense heat endured by the performers (at least the fighters were mostly stripped down). The Spinners are dripping with sweat by the time they hit their first note, and, like most artists showcased, are wearing performing duds. Though the Spinners drummer, no fool, seems to be saying the hell with that and is in a t-shirt.

Back to the fight. The final capper to transform a superb documentary into an all-timer came when friend-of-the-production Taylor Hackford took a look at assembled footage and decided that a few perspective-oriented voices might round things out: Mailer, Plimpton, Ali biographer Thomas Hauser, Spike Lee. Watching Mailer talk about anything — and do we ever need him and all his first-person pseudonyms in the present political climate — puts most movies in the shade just by itself. Also great to see is Lee’s appalled reaction to the fact most young people know almost nothing when it comes to even recent history — while Plimpton gets to end the picture on a perfect anecdotal note following a couple spectacular climactic peaks: the fight itself and then one of the best music-backed photo montages I’ve ever seen to the celebratory title tune.

It’s also sweet to see Mailer given the opportunity to laud the beloved individual that Foreman eventually became, and unlike Frazier (who became understandably embittered at the adulation Ali accumulated) looked after the now handicapped champ on and offstage when Kings took the Oscar that was only its due (it had previously cleaned up in critics’ awards as well). When deciding whether or not to give the movie a “go” when an assemblage was put together, Foreman ended up seeing it 11 times, which we have to take as an affirmative. He said every viewing convinced him that he was going to win, but Ali, of course, had successfully tired out Foreman by enduring several rounds’ worth of the latter’s sideline punches while leaning against the ropes, outlasting a totally intimidating force until he could score a knockout in the eighth.

After damage inflicted here and also by Frazier and certainly by 22 subsequent bouts, Ali never lost his intelligence, but his motor skills were shot for the rest of his life. As a result, what happened to him accomplished what my seeing Benny “Kid” Paret beaten to a delayed death from a March 24, 1962, beating on ABC’s “Fight of the Week” did not: Make me lose my taste for boxing despite fervent fandom that went back at least to the three Patterson-Johansson contests and extended through all the Saturday ABC-TV broadcasts (was there a Basilio-Fullmer LXVIII?; it seemed like it).

Years after the Rumble, on the way back to my hotel after the New York press screening of Terrence Malick’s already mesmerizing film of James Jones’s The Thin Red Line, I saw Ali standing out in front of his hotel on the corner of 54th Street and Avenue of the Americas posing tolerantly (maybe even contentedly) next to one more yahoo whose buddy had an Instamatic. I’d never been more tempted to go the same yahoo route myself (of course, it would have helped if I were carrying a camera in those pre-cellphone days) but finally rejected the thought. This, however, didn’t keep me from stopping in my tracks and staring for as long as was socially acceptable; I felt I was in the presence of a king. That’s where this documentary puts you, hence its title, as Mailer, B.B. King and The Godfather of Soul rounds out a Murderer’s Row of royalty.

Mike’s Picks: ‘When We Were Kings’ and ‘The Return of Martin Guerre’