This week, we begin in the Soviet Union during wartime:
Not rated, 95 minutes.
Now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
The Criterion Collection gives a Blu-ray release to Andrei Tarkovsky’s stunning 1962 debut film with a high-definition digital transfer from the fine-grain master positive.
Cleaned up for sound and picture, the striking black-and-white film shimmers in its depiction of a grim Soviet outpost during World War II. There, a strikingly skinny but brave 12-year-old boy, Ivan (Nikolai Burlyaev), works as a reconnaissance scout for the army as they face a Nazi brigade in close combat. He swims a wide river and goes behind enemy lines, giving him a hot temper along with a well-earned arrogance. When superiors try to send him back to military school, he escapes to return to his unit.
Tarkovsky made this film fresh from Soviet film school when war films were still in vogue, but his deft handling of material shows a mature hand as well as glimpses of his future masterpieces. He teams with cinematographer Vadim Yusov to render a film consistently striking in imagery, composition and visual tropes.
The disc also holds a 31-minute interview with film historian Vida T. Johnson and brief interviews with Yusov and an adult Burlyaev.
Little White Lies (***) Best Acting Oscar winners Marion Cotillard and Jean Dujardin appear in this French comedy-drama written and directed by acclaimed artist Guillaume Canet (The Intouchables, Tell No One).
Set mainly on Cap Ferrat on the sunny Mediterranean coast, the film chronicles a group of friends gathered for a vacation. But old friends bring up old grudges, and old romances that won’t die come back to life. What was scheduled as a fun, leisurely respite turns into a stress-filled Riviera cauldron.
Canet prolongs the misery long enough to make viewers want to leave as much as the guests want to. With Francois Cluzet and Gilles Lellouche.
Not rated, 154 minutes. The DVD includes a nine-minute “behind the scenes” featurette.
And for kids this week:
Peter Pan: Diamond Edition (****1/2) Of the many film versions — animated, live and even silent — of James M. Barrie’s timeless children’s tale, this 1953 version from Walt Disney ranks at the top. Now celebrating its 60th anniversary with a Blu-ray debut, the still remarkably colorful film marks one of the few times that the Disney factory had all members of its famous animation team — the so-called “Nine Old Men” — working on the project.
Bobby Driscoll voices Peter Pan, and the Darling family sports a cast well known at the time, including Hans Conreid as both Captain Hook and Mr. Darling. Tom Conway narrates.
Rated G, 77 minutes. The DVD comes in all available formats and combo packs. New features include commentaries and featurettes on the “Nine Old Men,” a “Disney Intermission,” and an introduction from Diane Disney Miller. Plus: deleted scenes and songs, a “making of” featurette, a segment with Tinker Bell and more.
Elmo’s World: All Day With Elmo Elmo returns in eight episodes that follow the popular Sesame Street character around for a full day. Kids can wake up, go to school, exercise, and even brush their teeth and prepare for bed with Elmo as they follow him. Counting, learning healthy habits and elevating self-confidence are just a few of the life lessons. Not rated, 122 minutes.
Stone Soup … and Other Stories From the Asian Tradition and Stories About African American Heritage featuring March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World Scholastic Schoolbook Treasures releases two DVD titles examining different heritages and traditions. Stone Soup (not rated, 43 minutes) contains four animated tales with Asian themes, with the title story from author/illustrator Jon J. Muth, who also sits for an interview on the supplements. Other segments include The Five Chinese Brothers, Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story From China and The Stonecutter. BD Wong narrates. The disc also contains read-along captioning.
The three-disc set March On! (not rated, 200 minutes) features 13 animated stories from renowned authors and illustrators. The title disc, written by Christine King Farris and narrated by Lynn Whitfield, holds stories about African-American history. One disc concentrates on Duke Ellington, and one highlights African folk tales, including Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears.
The prestigious cast of narrators includes Samuel L. Jackson, Forest Whitaker, James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad and Michael Clarke Duncan. The set also holds read-along captioning, discussion questions, and interviews with various authors and narrators.
And, finally, from this week’s TV offerings:
Southland: The Complete Second, Third and Fourth Seasons Warner Home Video has now made it easier to catch up for anyone who has missed the recent seasons of television’s best and most praised police drama. The 26 episodes of three seasons have been assembled onto six discs along with bounteous supplements.
The series breaks ground with its authentic portrayals, not only of life behind the badge but also life in some of the more dangerous sections of Los Angeles. Breaking in rookies, having a drug-addicted partner, and carrying on a forbidden romance all figure into the ongoing drama that fills each episode, while several dramatic storylines run throughout the series. Each episode contains a complete whodunit.
The series is filmed in a gritty, saturated hue, always filled with inventive camerawork and imaginative angles that help capture the sense of life on the streets. The excellent cast includes Michael Cudlitz, Regina King, Ben McKenzie, Kevin Alejandro, Shawn Hatosy, Clifton Collins Jr. and others.
Not rated, nearly 18 1/2 hours. The collection also offers a total of nine deleted scenes and one alternate scene, a 20-minute “Crime Tour” from season two, select scene commentary for season two, and the 16-minute featurette “Backing the Badge,” with cast and producers examining the series after the second season.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Alex Cross, Celeste and Jesse Forever, Deadfall, Flight.