DVD reviews: Time for a song

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As Maria, Julie Andrews brings music to the hills of Austria in “The Sound of Music.” The 1965 Oscar-winning film is now available as part of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection.
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Classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical collection now on Blu-ray

This week, we begin with Richard and Oscar:

The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection

Now available on Blu-ray (previously available on DVD)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has sagely packaged six of most successful, and beloved, movie musicals from premier composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection, now available on Blu-ray, includes:

*The Sound of Music (1965, rated G, 174 minutes);

*Carousel (1956, not rated, 128 minutes);

*State Fair (1945, not rated, 100 minutes);

*Oklahoma! (1955, not rated, 145 minutes), in both Todd-AO and Cinemascope film format versions;

*The King and I (1956, rated G, 133 minutes); and

*South Pacific (1958, not rated, 157 minutes), in both the theatrical and road show versions.

Two of the entries receive double the attention, making this a collection of eight discs. South Pacific arrives on two discs, including the extended road show version. Likewise, Oklahoma!, the quintessential American musical, has both the Todd-AO version and the Cinemascope versions.

The collection includes some of the best-known songs of the 20th century, a Best Director and Best Picture Oscar winner (The Sound of Music, directed by Robert Wise), a Best Actor winner (Yul Brynner in The King and I) and acclaimed performances from a distinguished roster of musical stars: Shirley Jones, Mary Martin and many others.

Gordon MacRae sings the title song in both Oklahoma!, and Carousel. Julie Andrews does likewise for The Sound of Music. And the great tenor Rossano Brazzi belts out “Some Enchanted Evening” in South Pacific. In The King and I, Deborah Kerr — whose voice was dubbed by an uncredited Marni Nixon — sings “Hello, Young Lovers,” “Getting to Know You,” “Shall We Dance?” and others.

The King and I and Carousel have been digitally restored from the original CinemaScope 55, bringing their vibrant colors to life. Each disc includes separate supplements, such as commentaries and “making of” featurettes. Few collections contain such an abundance of entertainment.

*

The First World War: The Complete Series This three-disc set contains 10 episodes of around 50 minutes each, comprehensively covering the war as it approaches the 100-year anniversary of its outbreak.

The series covers the entirety of the conflict, from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, in Sarajevo, Bosnia, to the peace treaty signed in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. In addition to covering the major battles (Ypres, the Somme, Passchendaele and many others), the series looks at some of the lesser-known conflicts, such as Germany’s foray into Africa.

The series also covers some of the then-unknown participants in the war: Adolf Hitler, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Charles de Gaulle, Douglas MacArthur, and others. The series, based on Hew Strachan’s book and narrated by Jonathan Lewis, uses interviews, existing footage, archival still photos, narrated diaries and newspaper articles. The filmmakers have also recovered previously unseen footage from the war.

Not rated, 8 hours, 20 minutes.

*

3 Days to Kill (2 1/2 stars) Kevin Costner finds his inner Liam Neeson in this derivative action-thriller set mostly in Paris. Costner plays Ethan, a CIA agent about to retire when he learns he has terminal cancer. But he’s asked by a mysterious, alluring agent (Amber Heard) to help track down “The Albino,” and then international crime mastermind “The Wolf.”

In return, she promises him access to an experimental wonder drug. But first, Ethan must go see his ex-wife, Christine (Connie Nielsen), and their now-teenaged daughter, Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld), whom he has neglected.

Director McG valiantly attempts to juggle all these elements from Luc Besson’s story along with some black humor. When Zooey lands in trouble, Neeson — oops, Costner! — jumps to her rescue, chasing down the bad guys and barreling through Paris shooting off his guns just like he was, well, Liam Neeson.

The film comes in two versions: unrated (122 minutes) and PG-13 (117 minutes).

DVD extras: a 10-minute “making of” featurette, a five-minute featurette on the director’s action style, “McG’s Method,” and the five-minute “Covert Operation” segment, featuring terrorism analysis by former CIA agent Bob Baer.

*

Decline and Fall … of a Birdwatcher (2 stars) 20th Century Fox Cinema Archives has reissued this 1968 satire based on Evelyn Waugh’s debut novel.

Director John Krish dilutes the author’s hilarious skewering of academic life by taking odd diversions as well as letting his talented cast mug it up unmercifully. The film stars Robin Phillips as Paul Pennyfeather, but the supporting cast includes a wide range of accomplished midcentury British actors.

When first seen, Pennyfeather is busy being wrongfully expelled from Oxford. Once sent down, he lands a teaching job at a mediocre boys’ school in Wales run by the pompous Dr. Augustus Fagan (the great ham Donald Wolfit).

Pennyfeather’s colleagues make up a roster of pederasts, thieves, kidnappers and loafers. Pennyfeather becomes involved with a student’s mother, Margo Beste-Chetwynde, played by luminous Genevieve Page. Eventually, the naive Pennyfeather has his trust in everyone betrayed, as he finds himself accused of various felonies.

The film turns absurdist but remains frustratingly entertaining, funny enough, but lacking Waugh’s early wit. With Colin Blakely, Patrick Magee, Donald Sinden, Paul Rogers and Leo McKern.

Not rated, 113 minutes.

*

Raze (2 1/2 stars) Josh C. Waller directed this flavorful blend of horror and action that strikes some Saw chords. Rachel Nichols stars as Jamie, a young woman who wakes to find herself imprisoned in a concrete bunker with Sabrina (stuntwoman Zoe Bell). Before long, they become involved in a deadly competitive face-off in a pit. Mayhem ensues. With Sherilyn Fenn and Doug Jones.

Rated R, 95 minutes.

DVD extras: commentary, seven cast and crew interviews, a 12-minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette, 36 minutes of deleted scenes, a five-minute gag reel, extended fight scenes, a 20-minute short film and more.

*

And, finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:

Call the Midwife: Season Three The recent season’s eight episodes arrive already from BBC Home Entertainment on three discs (or two on Blu-ray). Based on Jennifer Worth’s memoirs, and narrated by Vanessa Redgrave, the show takes place in 1959, still at soon-to-be-razed Nonnatus House, where nuns and young midwives tend to the unfortunate living in London’s East End slums.

Jessica Raine stars as Jenny, who by now can tend to problematic births on her own. But this season sees an abundance of personal problems for her. The eventful season sees a polio outbreak in the area, more scorned unwed mothers, shock treatments, drug addiction, budget problems and man trouble, all contributing to the season’s constant dramas.

Jenny Agutter again plays the head nun, Sister Julienne, and Judy Parfitt returns as constantly befuddled Sister Monica Joan.

Not rated, 9 hours, 15 minutes.

DVD extras: 13 minutes of cast and crew interviews.

*

Also available Tuesday on DVD: God Loves Uganda, Grand Piano, In Secret and Pompeii.

 


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