LJ video reviewer/Fast Scans columnist Jeff T. Dick rounds up his favorite discs in a varied list that necessarily omits streaming-only titles from Netflix, Amazon, et al., and primarily favors recent releases
over titles originally shown in the prior calendar year. Documentaries are limited to popular programs in lieu
of arguably more worthy educational material.
The biggest takeaway this year? Sixteen-plus hours—
two miniseries—devoted to O.J. Simpson.
Dr. Strangelove; or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
2 discs. Stanley Kubrick, Criterion Collection. DVD ISBN 9781681431710;
1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781681431703.
Relying on the versatile Peter Sellers in three roles, including the titular ex-Nazi, the remastered Strangelove (1964) delivers a payload of darkly brilliant satire on nuclear war premised on mutual assured destruction, aptly abbreviated as M.A.D. (LJ 11/15/16)
The Graduate. 2 discs. Mike Nichols, Criterion Collection.
DVD ISBN 9781681431123; Blu-ray ISBN 9781681431116.
College grad Ben (Dustin Hoffman) has an affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) while dating her daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross), in this digitally upgraded 1967 romantic comedy encapsulating the mid-Sixties cultural zeitgeist. (LJ 6/15/16)
High Noon. b/w. Fred Zinnemann, Olive Films. DVD UPC 887090600101;
Blu-ray UPC 887090600200.
Forsaken by a craven citizenry but not his Quaker bride (Grace Kelly), a dutiful small-town marshal (Gary Cooper) faces down ruthless killers in this allegorical 1952 Western remastered in 4K and replete with extras in a “Signature Edition.”
Howards End. James Ivory, Cohen Media Group. DVD UPC 741952834199; Blu-ray UPC 741952834090. Rated: PG.
Nominated for nine Academy Awards, this 1992 Merchant/Ivory adaptation of E.M. Forster’s classic novel dramatizes the devastating effects of Edwardian caste structure on its various vividly drawn characters. Restored and remastered in 4K. (LJ 12/16)
The Ox-Bow Incident. b/w. William Wellman, Kino Lorber.
Blu-ray UPC 738329206123.
“Hangin’ is any man’s business that’s around,” argues an honest cowboy (Henry Fonda) trying to stop a lynch mob from administering vigilante justice to cattle rustlers accused of murder in this 1943 morality tale that comes to no good end. (LJ 11/1/16)
Dark Horse. Louise Osmond, Sony. DVD UPC 043396474369. Rated: PG.
A barmaid in a small Welsh village takes an unlikely shot at breeding and training a racehorse, selling shares in the appropriately named “Dream Alliance” to her pub regulars. Nosing out top thoroughbreds in the UK makes this a feel-good winner.
Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War. color & b/w. Ken Burns & Artemis Joukowsky, PBS. DVD UPC 841887029704.
In an inspiring story voiced by Tom Hanks, American minister Waitstill Sharp and his wife, Martha, undertake humanitarian missions that save hundreds of European refugees and dissidents, as told through their letters and interviews with survivors. (LJ 12/16)
Life, Animated. Roger Ross Williams, Sony. DVD UPC 043396481572. Rated: PG.
Diagnosed with autism at age three, Owen Suskind learns to communicate from watching animated Disney films—an inspirational story told through home movies, film clips, and animation of 25-year-old Owen’s amazing journey.
Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World. Werner Herzog,
Magnolia Home Entertainment. DVD UPC 876964010153. Rated: PG-13.
Internet addiction, cyber warfare, cell-tower allergy, computer dreaming, and other Internet-related issues—both real and ethereal—are the focus of thoughtful ruminations from the inimitable filmmaker behind Grizzly Man and Cave of Forgotten Dreams. (LJ 12/16)
O.J.: Made in America. 5 discs. b/w & color. Ezra Edelman, ESPN Films. DVD/Blu-ray UPC 825452521817.
The rise and fall of football superstar–cum–accused murderer Orenthal James Simpson gets the epic treatment its place in American culture deserves in this revealing look at L.A. race relations, celebrity, and the criminal justice system.
FOREIGN & INDIE
The Best Intentions. In Swedish w/English subtitles. Bille August,
Film Movement. DVD UPC 857692005246; Blu-ray UPC 857692005826.
Telling the story of director Ingmar Bergman’s parents, this wrenching 1992 drama of the stormy courtship and difficult marriage of his prideful father (Samuel Fröler) and aristocratic mother (Pernilla August) exemplifies suffering in the name of love. (LJ 8/16)
Bicycle Thieves. b/w. In Italian w/English subtitles. Vittorio De Sica,
Criterion Collection. Blu-ray ISBN 9781604657326.
In a postwar Rome with rampant unemployment, a family man’s livelihood putting up posters is threatened when the bicycle he relies upon is stolen. Digitally restored yet not pristine and debuting in high-def, this 1948 neorealist masterpiece endures. (LJ 5/15/16)
Eye in the Sky. Gavin Hood, Universal Studios. DVD UPC 025192349249;
Blu-ray UPC 025192349164. Rated: R.
Innocent lives hang in the balance when a British colonel (Helen Mirren) requests a drone strike to take out Nairobi terrorists plotting suicide bombings, prompting a provocative and suspenseful argument by decision-makers about collateral damage.
Hell or High Water. David MacKenzie, Lionsgate. DVD UPC 031398251040; Blu-ray UPC 031398251071. Rated: R.
Down-on-their-luck brothers (Chris Pine, Ben Foster) rob a series of small banks in order to keep their family farm from foreclosure, putting them on a collision course with a grizzled sheriff (Jeff Bridges) in this morally complex modern-day Western.
The Innocents. In French & Polish w/English subtitles. Anne Fontaine,
Music Box Films. DVD UPC 741360539044; Blu-ray UPC 741360539051.
In postwar Poland, a French Red Cross doctor (Lou de Laâge) serves as midwife and caregiver to a convent with seven pregnant nuns, survivors of rape by Soviet soldiers—a deeply conflicted situation for the rigid abbess in a moving exploration of the meaning of faith. (LJ 11/15/16)
All the Way. Jay Roach, HBO. DVD UPC 883929548682;
Blu-ray UPC 883929548675. Rated: TV-MA.
Profane, paranoid, and pugnacious, Lyndon Baines Johnson negotiated a political minefield like Machiavelli to pass landmark civil rights legislation. Tony winner Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) channels LBJ in a reprise of his great stage work. (Trailers, LJ 8/16)
American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. 4 discs. Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, 20th Century Fox. DVD UPC 024543283430.
The verdict was nine Emmys (out of 22 nominations) for this déjà vu–inducing dramatization of the incendiary “trial of the century,” which succeeds on many levels but is led by a riveting performance from Sarah Paulson as prosecutor Marcia Clark.
Downton Abbey: Season 6. 6 discs. Julian Fellowes, PBS.
DVD UPC 841887025782; Blu-ray UPC 841887025799.
Their traditional way of life in inexorable decline, the upstairs-downstairs denizens of Downton Abbey make plans for a downsized future with a mixture of dread and determination in the final season, which ties up loose ends in sentimental fashion. (LJ 2/15/16)
The Fall: Series 2. 2 discs. Allan Cubitt, Acorn Media. DVD UPC 054961245994; Blu-ray UPC 054961246090.
Family man serial killer Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) continues to battle wits with dogged pursuer detective Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) in this follow-up to The Fall, a psychologically complicated police procedural in the vein of Prime Suspect. (LJ 10/1/16)
The Night Manager. 2 discs. Suzanne Bier, Sony. DVD UPC 043396477803; Blu-ray UPC 043396477780.
A British soldier–cum–hotel manager (Tom Hiddleston) turns mole to bring down a chillingly amoral arms dealer (Hugh Laurie) safeguarded by high-placed figures in Western governments in the BBC miniseries based on John le Carré’s twisty novel.