Any Day Now. color. 97+ min. Music Box Films. 2012. DVD UPC 741360538184. $24.95; Blu-ray UPC 741360538207. $29.95. Rated: R.
Alan Cumming, a superb stage and occasional movie actor best known for his role as sly attorney Eli Gold on The Good Wife, is a veritable force of nature as a drag queen performer with serious singing aspirations who tries to adopt a neglected teenaged boy with Down syndrome. Inspired by a real incident in the less gay-friendly 1970s, Travis Fine’s drama has a made-for-TV vibe to its manipulative plotline, but the actors (including Isaac Leyva as the homeless kid) should eventually win over the most unsentimental viewers.
Ivan’s Childhood. b/w. 95+ min. In Russian w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 1962. Blu-ray ISBN 9781604656855. $39.95.
Voluntarily sent on risky reconnaissance missions against the German army along the Soviet front, a 12-year-old orphan operates as an unconventional spy near the close of World War II. Despite his commander’s reservations, talented Ivan keeps volunteering rather than attend military school. Andrei Tarkovsky (Solaris) made an auspicious first film with this haunting tale informed by flashbacks of its young protagonist’s prior joyful family times. Making its high-def debut, this unusual war film deserves a wide audience.
A Man Escaped. 2 discs. b/w. 101+ min. In French w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 1956. DVD ISBN 9781604657074. $29.95; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781604657067. $39.95.
A French resistance fighter (François Leterrier) determined to break out of jail executes a careful escape plan complicated by a new cell mate who may be an informer. Minimalist Robert Bresson (Pickpocket; Diary of a Country Priest) studiously shuns conventional dramatic techniques in favor of an austere style: close-ups detailing mundane action, miserly music but meticulous use of sound, and performances minus a hint of acting. Patient viewers will be rewarded with a surprisingly suspenseful jailbreak picture.
The Sweeney. color. 112+ min. Entertainment One. 2012. DVD UPC 741952734390. $19.98; DVD/Blu-ray UPC 741952742593. $24.98. Rated: R.
Based on a hit British television series (1973–78), Nick Love’s crime thriller—named for London’s elite police unit targeting armed robbery—puts more emphasis on action without sacrificing character. Ray Winstone is spot-on as Regan, an old-school copper whose boss (Damian Lewis) cuts him slack but can’t protect him from an Internal Affairs chief who has the unit leader in his crosshairs—despite being unaware that Regan is shagging his wife (Hayley Atwell). For genre buffs who welcome entries with real bollocks.
The Thief of Bagdad. 149+ min. color-tinted. Cohen Media Group. 1924. DVD UPC 741952739395. $24.98; Blu-ray UPC 741952739494. $29.98.
Loosely based on The 1001 Arabian Nights, this epic fantasy-adventure stars swashbuckling Douglas Fairbanks (who also produced and codirected with Raoul Walsh) as Ahmed, a disarming pickpocket and burglar who relies on magic tricks to aid his endeavors, including attempting to woo the lovely daughter of the caliph. Painstakingly restored to practically pristine condition and accompanied by maestro Carl Davis’s stirring orchestration, this lavish National Film Registry selection is an accessible silent classic.