‘Contraband,’ ‘Cinema Verite’ among new DVD and Blu-ray releases

by Rich Heldenfels

Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

23 April 2012


It’s another packed week for releases on DVD and Blu-ray, from a look back at an influential TV series to a grimy action movie.

The look back is “Cinema Verite” (HBO, $19.97 DVD, $5 more for Blu-ray), a dramatization of the making of “An American Family,” the 1973 public-TV documentary that is considered one of the most important examples of reality television. Tim Robbins and Diane Lane play Bill and Pat Loud, a couple with five children whose lives were chronicled in the series; James Gandolfini plays TV producer Craig Gilbert, who shepherded the series.

You may want to watch this in conjunction with “An American Family,” which is also on DVD (and not to be confused with the drama series “American Family”). As I said when it first aired, “Cinema Verite” does deal with questions that still haunt reality TV, including what is genuine and what contrived. But it yields at times to a Hollywood impulse, too, for example by making the children far better-looking than their real-life counterparts.

Extras include an audio commentary with directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, and a making-of piece.

The action movie is “Contraband” (Universal, $29.98 DVD, $5 more for a Blu-ray/ DVD/ digital combo). Mark Wahlberg plays a former smuggler who has to take up his old trade; the cast also includes Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster and a thoroughly creepy Giovanni Ribisi.

I liked the grubbiness of it, and the selective use of action (while promos for the movie suggested something faster and slicker) — although it still manages to get in gunplay, chases, fights and explosions. But it falters at the end, which seems to come from a much different kind of movie.

Extras include a making-of piece, deleted scenes and an audio commentary by producers Baltasar Kormakur (who also directed) and Evan Hayes.

Other items of note:

—When writing about the big-screen “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” I tried always to remind you of the fine miniseries, also based on John le Carre’s novel, which starred Alec Guinness as the spy George Smiley. It is already available on DVD but here’s another reminder: On Tuesday, it will also be on Blu-ray (Acorn, six episodes, $59.99). The Blu-ray contains the same extras as the DVD version, with one addition: a half-hour interview with director John Irvin.

—The entire 1960-65 TV series “Route 66” has not been on an authorized DVD until now. Shout! Factory is offering “Route 66: The Complete Series,” which contains 116 episodes spanning three seasons starring George Maharis and Martin Milner and a fourth starring Milner and Glenn Corbett. The DVD set will be widely available on May 22, with a suggested retail price of $129.99, but can be purchased now from www.shoutfactory.com for $30 less.

—Writer Julian Fellowes has an Oscar (for his screenplay for “Gosford Park”) and Emmys (for “Downton Abbey”) but that was not apparently impressive to ABC, which buried the Fellowes-scripted miniseries “Titanic” on a recent weekend. Ratings were, as expected, low. But you have another chance to see it on Tuesday when Entertainment One releases it in a Blu-ray/ DVD combo pack (four episodes, $39.99). Like much of Fellowes’ previous work, “Titanic” deals with a large group of characters and class distinctions, with a solid cast onscreen. Extras include six making-of featurettes.

—You can ponder the career arc of Halle Berry with “Dark Tide” (Lionsgate, $27.98 on DVD, $2 more on Blu-ray), a tired little thriller that never got any traction in theaters — and is getting a Spartan release on video. It is notable mainly as the production where Berry and current fiance Olivier Martinez met.

—Already on video, and worth your attention, is “Shame” (Fox, $39.99 in a Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo). Michael Fassbender stars as a man with a sex addiction whose quietly sordid life is disrupted by the arrival of his sister (Carey Mulligan). It’s an unsettling — and uneven — film, rated NC-17 for its somewhat graphic content, but Fassbender and Mulligan are superb. Extras include looks at Fassbender and director/co-writer Steve McQueen.

—Finally, just because I like the title, there’s the drama “Young Goethe in Love” (Music Box, $29.95). I also like this line from one review: “This biopic has little to teach us about the great German writer but sure makes him look adorable.”

Down video road: “Down by Law,” the acclaimed film from Jim Jarmusch, will be on Blu-ray in a Criterion edition on July 17. The following Tuesday will see the Blu-ray release of a couple of my favorites from director Whit Stillman: “Metropolitan” and “The Last Days of Disco.” The recent “American Masters” documentary “Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel” will be on DVD, with extras, on May 15. Time Life has set several DVD releases of “The Carol Burnett Show,” including a 20-disc “ultimate edition,” for September.

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