This week, we begin with a Dark Knight:
Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition
Batman Begins (2005, 140 minutes), The Dark Knight (2008, 152 minutes) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012, 165 minutes). Rated PG-13. Available Tuesday in a six-disc Blu-ray set.
Warner Home Video has assembled director Christopher Nolan’s three Batman movies onto Blu-ray, along with abundant supplements, both new and existing, to go along with some nifty memorabilia. And it all comes in suitable packaging that also includes a printed message from Nolan, a glossy 50-page booklet with production stills from the films, and five handsome prints, or “art cards,” from the films.
The six-disc collection includes the three films, all starring Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne, on three of the discs, with the special features from The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises on separate discs. The sixth bonus disc contains new materials, including a recorded conversation between Nolan and Superman director Richard Donner, IMAX sequences from the two Dark Knight films, and a new “making of” featurette: “The Creation and Impact of The Dark Knight Trilogy,” which includes interviews with directors Guillermo Del Toro, Michael Mann, Zack Snyder and others.
Snuggled away at the bottom of this treasure chest are three Hot Wheels vehicles from Mattel: the Tumbler, the Batpod and the Bat. Also included is an easily accessed UltraViolet download option for digital HD copies or streaming.
Iron Man 3 (**1/2) The biggest money-maker of the year arrives on home entertainment with Robert Downey Jr. again playing fast-talking billionaire industrialist Tony Stark and his alter ego, Iron Man.
Shane Black co-wrote and directed this rapid-paced confection that sees Stark face off against another industrialist-cum-inventor, the Mandarin (Guy Pearce), and his genetically enhanced superhuman army.
As usual, Stark faces danger and does the impossible, all while trading quips and being cuddly as only Downey can. Something about recoded genes provides the impetus for the relentless special-effects and oft-jumbled action sequences. Gwyneth Paltrow again plays Pepper Potts, and Ben Kingsley has great fun in toying with his supporting role of a villain wannabe.
Rated PG-13, 130 minutes. The DVD, in all formats and combo packs, offers commentary, 10 deleted and extended scenes, a five-minute gag reel, two behind-the-scenes featurettes around 10 minutes and 16 minutes long, and a separate seven-minute featurette on the upcoming Thor: The Dark World.
Fill the Void (***1/2) In her film debut, Rama Burshtein wrote and directed this remarkable work that takes place where cameras would be least expected.
In Tel Aviv, 18-year-old Shira (Hadas Yaron) has agreed to marry a young man suitably chosen by her Orthodox Jewish parents. But when her sister dies, her grandmother steps in and wants Shira to marry her sister’s widower, keeping him from remarrying a widow who lives in Belgium.
With hurt feelings all around, the family struggles to find a delicate balance. Burshtein conveys the agony faced by someone in Shira’s situation, one exacerbated by her community’s traditions and strict rules.
Rated PG, 90 minutes. The DVD includes commentary and a 17-minute Q-and-A with Burshtein.
In the House (***1/2) The esteemed Francois Ozon (The Swimming Pool) directed this French-language psychological drama about a high school writing student, Claude (Ernst Umhauer), who beguiles his teacher, Germain (Fabrice Luchini), with an ongoing story about how the student lies his way into a friend’s house to become infatuated with his friend’s mother (Emmanuelle Seigner).
Germain narrates Claude’s story to his wife (Kristen Scott Thomas) as the couple begin to suspect, and fear, Claude of telling psychopathic lies or, worse, telling the truth. Ozon craftily orchestrates his characters into tense, dread-filled situations.
Rated R, 105 minutes. The DVD offers a comprehensive 54-minute “making of” featurette as well as a brief segment on the costumes, seven minutes looking at the film’s premiere, 11 minutes of bloopers and 13 minutes of deleted scenes.
Unfinished Song (**) This well-meaning but transparent drama features a roster of quaintly eccentric seniors acting wacky. Terence Stamp plays Arthur, cantankerous and downright mean at times, and Vanessa Redgrave plays his wife, Marion, who is in the final stages of cancer.
In her illness, she finds some joy singing with a local group made up of others her age. Meanwhile, Arthur grouses. But when Marion shuffles off her mortal coil, Arthur grieves, then tepidly joins the singing group, hating himself all the while.
Gemma Arterton plays the saintly yet insufferably perky singing group leader, and Chris Eccleston is Arthur’s much put-upon son. Paul Andrew Williams wrote and directed, never going anywhere unexpected or surprising, but instead relying on a good cast acting artificially.
Rated PG-13, 94 minutes. The DVD includes 11 deleted scenes and three minutes of bloopers.
The Warner Archive Collection releases two notable but vastly different films, now available on manufactured-on-demand discs.
The Loved One (***) Shortly after World War II, British novelist Evelyn Waugh came to Hollywood to discuss the possible filming of his Brideshead Revisited (a project never realized until British TV’s 1981 miniseries). Waugh’s impressions while in this country helped form the basis of his 1948 novel The Loved One, which focused on, among many things, America’s odd and often elaborate burial practices, including pets.
Tony Richardson directed this 1965 film version of The Loved One, with screenplay by luminaries Terry Southern and Christopher Isherwood. Richardson takes it over-the-top, filling with Waugh’s grotesque characters, unlikely situations, and visual dollops of the author’s deadpan drollery. The movie sports an unbelievably bizarre cast: Liberace, Jonathan Winters, Milton Berle, John Gielgud, Tab Hunter.
Robert Morse, now Burt Cooper on Mad Men, plays Dennis, the hapless British expatriate who comes to America to arrange his uncle’s funeral only to be sidetracked by various pursuits, amorous and otherwise.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (***1/2) qualifies as a revered classic, a true archetype that has inspired the many “good teacher” films that have followed. In this hallowed Hollywood year of 1939, Robert Donat won a deserved Best Actor Oscar (winning against Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind, Laurence Olivier in Wuthering Heights, and Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington).
Chips, as he is called by his “boys,” comes off as a humorless taskmaster. But after he warms up to Katherine (Greer Garson, in her feature film debut), he becomes the affable Mr. Chips. Directed by Sam Wood, an often-overlooked Hollywood craftsman who turned out many fine films (King’s Row, A Night at the Opera, Our Town, Pride of the Yankees) but whose reputation may have suffered because of his personal dourness.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: I Spit on Your Grave 2, Modern Family: The Complete Fourth Season, Redemption and Room 237.