[17 February 2009]
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)
Two Academy Award Best Picture winners, “Kramer vs. Kramer” (Sony, 1979, $28.95) and “Gandhi” (Sony, 1982, $28.95), lead a short but rather stellar list of movies released on Blu-ray this week.
“Kramer vs. Kramer,” which won five Oscars and received four other nominations, focuses on a husband and wife whose marriage is crumbling. Dustin Hoffman plays Ted Kramer, a man so absorbed in his work that he hardly notices that he is spending less and less time at home.
One day, after spending many hours at work, his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) tells him she has had enough and is walking out. Ted soon discovers that she means it and finds himself left to take care of their son Billy. During the ensuing weeks, Ted and Billy get to know each other and soon form a bond. Billy’s father has come to realize that there really is more to life than his job.
Then, just as suddenly as she left, Joanna returns with the intention of making off with Billy. Ted, now adjusted and happy with his new life, says no way. That leads to a court battle, giving us an opportunity to further study the characters of Ted and Joanna. Both Hoffman and Streep won Oscars while Robert Benton won for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Highly recommended.
“Gandhi” walked off with eight Oscars, including Best Actor for Ben Kingsley, who plays Mahatma Gandhi, the legendary political and spiritual leader of India. The film begins in the early part of the 20th century when Gandhi, a native of India, has become a lawyer in South Africa. There he encounters the prejudice that exists against Indians and uses peaceful means to fight such discrimination.
Eventually, he returns home to India which is then under British rule. Gandhi believes Indians should be in charge of their own fate and begins a series of peaceful demonstrations. They often end up with him being thrown in prison, but his crusade makes world headlines. When World War II ends, the British finally grant India its independence.
Kingsley is simply magnificent in what is an epic production. Richard Attenborough won an Oscar as Best Director. Highly recommended.
Other Blu-ray release:
“Changeling” (Uinversal, 2008, $39.98): Clint Eastwood excellently directs this emotional film set in 1928. Angelina Jolie plays single mother Christine Collins, who works at a telephone office and lives with her 9-year-old son Walter. One day, she is called into office to work overtime. That means she must leave Walter at home by himself. When she returns Walter is missing. A frantic Christine goes to the police for help. After a supposedly exhaustive search, the police find what they think is her son. Christine tells them it isn’t Walter, but they don’t believe her and think she is suffering from stress. Only with the help of the Rev. Briegleb (terrifically played by John Malkovich) do the police agree to look farther into the case. A fine film based on a true story. Highly recommended.
“Capopte/In Cold Blood” (Sony, 2005/1067, $54.95): The first film features Phillip Seymour Hoffman in his Oscar-winning role as writer Truman Capote working on his unforgettable book “In Cold Blood,” which chronicles the shocking 1959 murder of a Kansas family. Capote spends a lot of time interviewing the jailed killers, especially Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.), who seemingly finds something of an ally in the author. Anyone who has ever seen the real Capote in taped interviews knows Hoffman perfectly captures his personality and mannerisms. “In Cold Blood” is the movie based on the book. Robert Blake plays Smith and Scott Wilson plays his partner-in-crime, Richard “Dick” Hickock. Shot in black-and-white, the film vividly captures the terror experienced by the four members of the Kansas family before they were murdered. Both “Capote” and “In Cold Blood” are recommended.
“The Passion of the Christ” (20th Century Fox, 2004, $34.98): If director Mel Gibson’s intent in making this film was to make us squirm by showing the brutal torture and pain Jesus suffered before being nailed to the cross, he succeeded. Forget all those past benign Hollywood images of a suffering Christ. This Jesus (as portrayed by James Caviezel) is of human flesh and bleeds in agony when the whip cuts his body over and over. It is excruciating to watch the relentless beatings. Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God and that his mission on earth was to suffer and die for all of our sins. That is what Gibson’s focuses on. There is little, if any, of Jesus’ messages of love and the resurrection is barely touched on. But it is a memorable piece of filmmaking and a sobering viewing experience. Recommended.
“Body of Lies” (Warner, 2008, $35.99): From director Ridley Scott comes this spy thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Roger Ferris, a CIA agent trying to bring down an Islamic-led terrorist organization which operates out of the Middle East. Although he answers to his boss Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), Ferris is given leeway to ad-lib many of his actions on the job. Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), chief of Jordanian Intelligence, assists Ferris in his efforts in what is an uneasy alliance. Recommended.
“Quarantine” (Sony, 2008, $39.95): Another horror film about a strange virus that turns human beings into bloodthirsty creatures. This time a television reporter (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman come face-to-face with the terror.