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April '19 Digital Week I

Blu-rays of the Week

The Mule 

(Warner Bros)

In Clint Eastwood’s most entertaining film in years, the octogenarian writer-director plays Earl Stone, a retiree with money problems who starts transporting drugs across state lines for a Chicago-based criminal cartel as a way to make some easy money.





Several of Eastwood’s recent films (Gran Torino, American Sniper, 15:17 to Paris) have been borderline jingoistic and crude, but there’s a bluntness to The Mule’s true story that’s refreshing; it also helps that good actors—Dianne Wiest, Bradley Cooper, Eastwood’s daughter Alison—take the onus off Clint in the lead, although he acquits himself charmingly. The hi-def transfer is excellent; extras are a music video and on-set featurette.


The Great Buster—A Celebration 

(Cohen Media)

Buster Keaton was one of our great screen comedians, and Peter Bogdanovich has created a decent overview of his life and career—including voluminous clips from many of his indelible films—but unfortunately places himself front and center as well.





He also peppers the film with interviews of people who have little of interest to say about Keaton (Cybill Shepherd, Bill Hader, Johnny Knoxville) and the self-indulgence makes this less than ideal: even the structure, first strictly chronological then backtracking to focus on his 1920s silent classics, is also wonky. There’s a great hi-def transfer; lone extra is a Bogdanovich Q&A.






Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase 

(Warner Bros)

(Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this blog post. The opinions I share are my own.)

In this guileless reboot of the teenage sleuth’s adventures, spunky Sophia Lillis plays Nancy, who investigates a curious case of a haunted house involving a classmate’s grandmother (Linda Lavin) and also involves herself with her father’s dealings with some unsavory types. It’s only 90 minutes, which helps, as does the energetic cast.




Whether we see any sequels out of this attempt to revive a franchise remains a question mark. There’s a crisp and clean hi-def transfer.


DVD of the Week

Jupiter’s Moon 

(Distrib US/Icarus)

After his stunning White God—featuring dozens of canines outacting the humans in a disturbingly gripping post-apocalyptic drama—Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó returns with a fantasia about a Syrian refugee who is shot after crossing the border into Hungary, and who begins to levitate, a condition a dissembling doctor tries to use to his own advantage with ultimately fatal results.




Mundruczó is unafraid to tackle bizarre but compelling subject matter to show the corrosive effects of xenophobia and fear, and even if there’s much too much, the dazzling effects and camerawork and Mundruczó’s keen eye for the truly weird make this a fascinating watch.






CDs of the Week

Lutosławski/Dutilleux—Cello Concertos 


Salonen—Cello Concerto 

(Sony Classical)

Two of the seminal cello concertos of the late 20th century on one recording, and a world premiere by a prominent 21st century composer on another: I guess I can’t complain about music labels not taking chances in 2019. Johannes Moser thrillingly plays touchstones of the modern repertoire, Witold Lutosławski’s and

Henri Dutilleux’s masterly concertos, superbly accompanied by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Søndergård. 




And none other than Yo-Yo Ma gives the world premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s cello concerto, a typically winding and moody work (including electronics), persuasively brought to life by Ma’s dramatic playing and Salonen himself leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

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