Two Woody Allen classics make their Blu-ray debuts this week.
Hannah and Her Sisters
Rated PG-13, 107 minutes. Available Tuesday on Blu-ray.
Rated PG, 89 minutes. Available Tuesday on Blu-ray.
Many consider the sublime 1986 Hannah and Her Sisters to be Allen’s best film — winner of Oscars for Allen’s screenplay as well as for actors Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest. The nearly perfect socio-comedy weaves a story of a seemingly close family straining under everyday pressures, often made worse by various infidelities.
Three Manhattan sisters (Mia Farrow, Wiest and Barbara Hershey) are either married to or involved with equally neurotic men (Caine and Allen). Old Hollywood royalty Lloyd Nolan and Maureen O’Sullivan play the sisters’ disputatious parents. Look for Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Louis Black in small roles.
In 1973’s Sleeper, Allen was still indulging his tastes, and talents, for one-liners and sketch comedy. The science-fiction premise sees Allen playing a typical store clerk nebbish who wakes after 200 years of being frozen to find a future world much unlike the one he left behind.
The plot grows sillier when he first passes for a robot. Then he befriends a pretentious poetess (Diane Keaton), and they become involved in a plot to steal the dismembered nose of a dictator who is supposed to be cloned, one of the earlier cinematic referrals to cloning.
Fun, innocuous film with hints of Allen’s later filmmaking prowess.
Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis (***1/2) Jerry Lewis has had one of the most unparalleled careers in entertainment.
Starting in show business as a child in his father’s nightclub act, he went on to team with Dean Martin for the lighter side of a highly successful comedy-singing act. When they separated in a notorious and highly publicized breakup, he graduated to writing and directing his own films, turning out a succession of commercially lucrative films.
The now 86-year-old Lewis talks about his career and more to director Gregg Barson, who had unfiltered access, even accompanying Lewis to France for awards and adulation. The highlights in this engaging documentary come in clips from Lewis’ movies as he dissects them, offering information and trivia about making them.
Seeing his career assembled into one package reveals the extent of Lewis’ life, career and talent. Not rated, 116 minutes.
Scene of the Crime (***1/2) and Code Two (**1/2) The Warner Archive Collection releases two manufactured-on-demand unrated police dramas, each with its charms.
Scene of the Crime (1949, 94 minutes) stars veteran MGM stock player Van Johnson as detective Mike Conovan, a no-nonsense officer whose sense of propriety is offended when a fellow officer is killed while under suspicion of graft.
Conovan then becomes embroiled in the attempted takeover of local gambling by an outside mob. Meanwhile, his dutiful wife, Gloria (Arlene Dahl), waits patiently for him, even when, in the line of duty, he befriends sultry nightclub singer Lili (Gloria DeHaven). Director Roy Rowland maintains a steady pace, sticking to the story and letting in no gimmicks or diversions.
Code Two (1953, 69 minutes) represents a typical B-movie of the era. In the formulaic story by Marcy Klauber and directed by Fred Wilcox, a trio of young men (Ralph Meeker, Robert Horton and Jeff Richards) enter the Los Angeles Police Department together.
They go through training, eventually proving themselves to the gruff but understanding instructor (Keenan Wynn). Two of them then become motorcycle highway patrolmen, a dangerous assignment made worse when an officer is killed and the others find themselves breaking up a modern-day rustling outfit. Solid, by-the-numbers police fare.
Officer Down (**1/2) In this crime drama directed by Brian A. Miller, from a script by John Chase, Stephen Dorff plays a crooked detective who keeps wanting to go straight.
Detective David Callahan (Dorff) was previously shot but then saved by an anonymous stranger. Later, when Callahan is investigating a serial abuser of female dancers, the stranger returns asking a favor — one that puts the detective in a moral bind.
Miller sustains tension while delivering a few adequate action sequences. The supporting cast includes James Woods, Stephen Lang, AnnaLynne McCord, Walton Goggins, Dominic Purcell and, in his screen debut, Soulja Boy. Rated R, 97 minutes.
And, finally, from this week’s TV files:
Scarecrow and Mrs. King: The Fourth and Final Season This popular CBS series ran for four seasons, from 1983 to this final 1986-87 season. The two principals, the seemingly shy Amanda King (Kate Jackson) and her animated partner Lee “Scarecrow” Stetson (Bruce Boxleitner), are two romantically attached undercover agents who invariably find themselves in trouble.
In this season of 22 episodes on five discs, Lee is framed, the couple goes into hiding, they protect a defector, Amanda is kidnapped by a terrorist, a Vietnamese double agent fools them, and they end the season with two episodes helping out friends. Not rated, 1,031 minutes.
An Idiot Abroad 2: The Bucket List Ricky Gervais must have pulled the wings off flies as a kid judging by the torment and torture he puts his friend Karl Pilkington through.
Gervais and his writing and producing partner Stephen Merchant previously teamed up to send the cantankerous, constantly complaining but endlessly entertaining Pilkington around the world to see its great wonders. The result was an hilarious travelogue filled with Pilkington’s unique perspectives.
Now, Karl has been invited back, this time to participate in eight “bucket list” wishes. The catch is that the wishes are not his, setting him off on a round of adventures that he had rather not do, leading to yet another series of hilarious musings and grumblings by the delightfully strange Pilkington.
He swims with sharks, floats in the Arctic, sumo wrestles, skis, and generally makes a fool of himself while remaining immune to any outside cultural understanding.
Not rated, 345 minutes. The two-disc collection holds eight of Karl’s adventures along with seven deleted scenes totaling 12 minutes, the brief “Ain’t No Pleasing You” of Karl singing karaoke, and the 19-minute “Pilko’s Pump Pants Featurette,” comprised mostly of Karl’s pitching his pants on a shopping network TV program.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: End of Watch, Nobody Walks and Searching for Sugar Man.