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May '16 Digital Week II

Blu-rays of the Week 
The Choice
Author Nicholas Sparks strikes again, and unlike lightning, he continues to hit the same places again and again—yet another young and attractive couple’s relationship is put in perilous danger by something that’s been contrived more tortuously than this sentence.
This, his umpteenth version which takes meeting cute to its extreme, is made serviceable by leads Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer, along with the charming Maggie Grace as our hero’s sister; still, the formula is so well-worn that it ultimately becomes easy to resist. The film looks fine on Blu; extras include a commentary, featurettes and deleted scenes.

John Milius’s crude 1973 shoot ‘em up has more gunfire than seems possible: this is one gangster flick where so many bullets are sprayed that it’s amazing everybody isn’t dead in the first half-hour.
Still, it’s fun in its typically trashy Milius way—and there are solid performances by Ben Johnson as FBI man Melvin Purvis and Warren Oates as John Dillinger himself; there’s also colorful support by Richard Dreyfuss as a particularly lunatic Pretty Boy Floyd and Michelle Phillips as Dillinger’s gorgeous moll. The restored hi-def transfer is authentically grainy; extras comprise several interviews and a commentary.
Melody Gardot—Live at the Olympia Paris 
(Eagle Rock)
American singer-songwriter Melody Gardot’s Gallic surname and fluent French in her songs and lively onstage patter endear her to the cheering crowd at Paris’s famed Olympia concert hall for this 2015 show that showcases Gardot’s distinctively sultry vocals, intimate lyrics and bluesy, jazzy tunes.
Her beast of a band—seven players strong—brilliantly backs Gardot on everything from the opener “Don’t Misunderstand” to the transcendent improvisations that give the extended closer “It Gonna Come” its flavor. The image and sound are top-notch.
(Cohen Media)
Turkish-French director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s beautifully observed, deeply personal drama about five young sisters whose lives are upended by the adults in their family as they get older, more mature and more interested in boys and sexuality: a no-no in their conservative Muslim family living in rural Turkey.
Not only does director-writer Erguven insightfully place her heroines in the intersection of religion and family—parents still make their children’s choices for marriage—but she also gets incredibly real, joyously alive portrayals by the splendid young actresses playing the sisters. The film (one of the best debut features in recent years) looks luminous in hi-def; extras comprise interviews with the five actresses and Erguven’s short, A Drop of Water.
Pride and Joy—Alligator Records 
The history of Alligator Records, the blues-based record label begun by Bruce Iglauer in Chicago in 1971, is recounted in director Robert Mugge’s lively and informative 1992 documentary in which Iglauer and associates discuss Alligator’s fascinating history, along with showing several of the label’s singers doing what they best.
Much of the running time is smartly given over to live performances by such Alligator staples as Koko Taylor, Lonnie Brooks and Elvin Bishop during a marathon concert that was part of its 20th anniversary tour. The film looks decent on Blu; extras comprise 10 additional audio performances from the tour.

Susan Slept Here
(Warner Archive)
This mild 1954 comedy is definitely a relic of its era: Dick Powell plays a bachelor screenwriter in Hollywood who, after he has a 17-year-old girl foisted on him, marries the girl for convenience—eventually, however, there’s something more to their relationship.
Director Frank Tashlin adds needed color (figuratively and literally) to this ungainly contrivance, which even includes silly musical sequences; Powell and Debbie Reynolds have an offbeat chemistry as the couple, while Anne Francis is typecast as Powell’s glamorous girlfriend. The movie looks terrific in this new color hi-def transfer.
War & Peace 
(Anchor Bay/Weinstein Co)
Although Leo Tolstoy’s massive historical novel is near-impossible to adapt—aside from two flawed big-screen versions, there’s also a superb but patchy Prokofiev opera based on it—this British TV mini-series is an intelligent attempt to give a sense of the breadth, if not the depth, of the book. The locales, sets and costumes provide the sumptuous trappings for the characters whose travails are dramatized throughout this mini-series’ eight hours.
The cast is generally competent—Lily James, James Norton and Stephen Rea are quite good, while Paul Dano and Gillian Anderson are less so—and the entire enterprise is, ultimately, an absorbing soap opera. The hi-def transfer is excellent; extras are several short featurettes.

DVD of the Week
Forbidden Hollywood—Volume 10
(Warner Archive)
For its tenth—and, it has been announced, final—volume of studio films made before the Hays Code decided, once and for all, what could and could not be shown on American movie screens, Warner Archive has collected this strong quintet of crime dramas and dark character studies.
Among the five rough-hewn gems, most notable are Lionel Barrymore as a district attorney hoping to get away with murder in 1931’s Guilty Hands and Barbara Stanwyck torn between two lovers in 1933’s Ever in My Heart.

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