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M-O-D DVD Archive Sites Offer a Cinematic Feast for Movie Buffs


Manufactured on Demand (MOD) discs are a cinephile’s dream. They offer a new way to satisfy movie buffs burning desires. There’re treasure chests of classic chestnuts and films of all manner: sound and silent, classic and cult, musicals/comedy/drama, made-for-TV movies, TV series, and documentaries. These are DVDs, many remastered, some in HD, and many debuting in Blu-ray that you’ll only find at studio archive sites. For the most part, these DVD-R discs burned to order are quite reasonably-priced. More often than not you can hit upon a sale. Items often ship within three days. 

Library Journal estimates there are 2,000-plus M-O-D titles available, with new titles released weekly. There’s original package art, but don’t expect booklets or bonus material. There can be trailers and cartoons as bonus materials. Widescreen movies are shown in their proper aspect ratio and formatted for 16X9 TV screens. Closed-captions are rare except on films recently released. 

Some resurfacing titles were thought to be “lost” forever. Initially, the offerings were outdated “off-the-shelf” items or titles studios didn’t deem economically sound for mass distribution.

Since Warner Bros. pioneered M-O-D eight years ago, more or less to do something with the huge hunk of the MGM library they purchased when that once invincible studio ceased to exist, their claims Metro’s old boast of having more stars there are in the heavens.

MODWBArchive8-17The WB archive covers a vast array of tastes. There’re lots of titles you may wonder “Why” about, but for every one of those there is film noir galore [such as The Big Sleep and Out of the Past], the film noir musical 42nd Street, and other musical gems [such as KismetCole Porter’s Silk Stockings, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, starring Oscar nominee Debbie Reynolds in a rousing performance.

There’s animation, cult favs, and Metro’s extraordinarily popular singing lovers, who had a massive cult following [despite the fact that they despised each other and played revenge tricks during shooting], Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in a two volume/eight film collection [which includes Rose Marie and Naughty Marietta).

There’s a helpful Search option. In addition to the above, here are some finds that might be of interest: 

Cinema Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood (2009; 90 minutes) – This Turner documentary spotlights the 1933 and 1939, over 800 Jewish members of the German film industry who fled the Nazis for the U.S. and Hollywood, from 1933-1939. Many had a massive impact on American cinema in comedy, drama, horror, and, especially, film noir. Told through film clips, interviews, photographs, and rare archival footage including home movies, it explores directors Fritz LangErnst LubitschBilly Wilder, and Fred Zinnemann, stars such as Garbo and Peter Lorre, and composers Rozsa, Steiner, Tiomkin, and Waxman. Once in Hollywood, they raised money so others could escape. Numerous clips. Actors recreate some voices, but those heard as themselves are Dietrich, Deanna Durbin, Charles Laughton, Heddy Lamarr, Lorre, Lubitsch, Ann Sheridan, and Wilder. Narrated by Sigourney Weaver.

Six by Sondheim (2013; 86 minutes) – This HBO documentary takes quite a candid look at Sondheim, as revealed through the performance of six of his songs, and by the man whose ground-breaking work redefined musical theater  – one that leads to a deeper understanding of him. “Everybody has problems,” he says. “Nobody goes through life unscathed. If you write about those things, you’re going to touch people.” Directed by James Lapine, the film weaves Sondheim interviews with those of Yvonne de Carlo, Dean Jones, Larry Kert, Ethel Merman, Mandy Patinkin, and Bernadette Peters. Darren Criss, America Ferrera, and Audra McDonald sing classic tunes, including “Being Alive,”I’m Still Here,” “Opening Doors,” “Send in the Clowns,” and “Something’s Coming.” 

Bogie & Bacall Films:

MODBogieBacallTo Have and Have Not (1943; 100 minutes; remastered; Blu-ray debut) – Howard Hawks’ masterpiece, loosely adapted from Hemingway novel with an assist from Faulkner, captures the pair’s size in their first pairing. Bacall, still in her teens, as lounge singer and French resistance sympathizer, sets off sirens with famed “whistle” line; but Bogie matches bravado scene after scene as she wraps him around her little finger. He segues from pickpocket in WWII Vichy France to smuggler to hero as he transports a fugitive on the run from Nazis. Walter Brennan, Hoagy Carmichael, and Dolores Moran co-star. The uncredited score is by legendary Franz Waxman.

The Big Sleep (1946; 114 minutes) – Raymond Chandler gumshoe Philip Marlowe tackles blackmail, following a film noir trail of murderers, pornographers, rogues, spoiled rich, and other denizens. Director Howard Hawks serves it up in brisk, hard-boiled style – screenplay is co-written by Nobel Laureate William Faulkner. There’re snappy characters, none more so than Bogie and Bacall. The Blu-ray doubles your pleasure with two versions: the 1946 theatrical version, with additional scenes of incendiary Bogie/Bacall chemistry, and the 1945 pre-release version. Dorothy Malone, Martha Vickers, Regis Toomey, Western legend Bob Steele [in his tough guy period], and a standout Elisha Cook Jr. are featured. Great Max Steiner score. 

Dark Passage (1947; 106 minutes; remastered in 1080p HD) – Sparks fly in the duo’s third pairing is a bold and surreal noir fable about a prison escapee trying to prove he was framed and the mysterious dame who aids him. Director Delmer Daves lends a surreal air by keeping the con‘s face unseen for film’s first half, only revealing it post plastic surgery. Agnes Moorehead, cheated out of an Oscar nod, nearly steals the show as a flighty femme fatale. Bonus material: making-of feature and cartoon, Slick Hare, starring Elmer Fudd and Bugs, which has Bogie ordering rabbit, but Fudd has a tough time getting Bugs in the pot.

Classic Westerns:

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949; 103 minutes: 1080p HD Blu-ray Technicolor and sound remaster) –– Western master director John Ford captains the middle film of his acclaimed “Cavalry Trilogy,” based on stories by James Warner Bellah. John Wayne (40, playing 60) is a widowed captain , on final assignment before being mustered out,  escorting commander’s wife and niece through hostile Indian territory (Monument Valley, Utah) as he makes a bid for peace between warring tribes. Joanne Dru, Mildred Natwick, Harry Carey Jr., John Agar, Ben Johnson, and Victor McLaglen (The Quiet Man) co-star. Duke was cheated out of an Oscar nod. Oscar-winning cinematography by Winton Hoch

Stage to Screen:

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf(1966; 131 minutes; Blu-ray debut) – Albee’s bitter tale of an alcohol-fueled aging couple, on the rocks in more ways than one, who use a young couple to fuel emotional pain against each other. Not for the faint of heart. Directed by Oscar-nominated Mike Nichols. Stars Oscar-winner Elizabeth Taylor in a daring performance not-to-be missed; and the Oscar-nominated co-stars: Richard Burton, giving as good as he gets, George Segal, and Oscar-winner Sandy Dennis in her shining hour.

Astounding Animation:

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993; 76 minutes; remastered, Blue-ray debut) – While celebrating the 25th anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, how about a nostalgic look back with this animated theatrical release? Superhero animation guru and executive producer Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, legendary Batman voice Kevin Conroy, co-screenwriter Alan Burnett, and Warner Archive Podcasts will offer a glimpse at the remastered footage and a making-of discussion. Other voices: Dana Delany, Hart Bochner, Stacy Keach (Phantasm/Carl Beaumont), Abe Vigoda, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Arthur), and Mark Hamill (The Joker).

Cult Craziness:

The Green Slime (1968; 90 minutes; remastered; wide-screen)– Even judged against low standards, it doesn’t get any cheesier than this romp from Japan, Italy, and the U.S. – but it’s so bad, it’s good. Directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who inspired Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s schlockiness, it’s a campy Sci-Fi story of astronauts disembarking from space station to nip a giant asteroid in the bud. They return with gooey green mess that has mind of its own. Robert Horton and Richard Jaeckel headline.

Stunning Conclusion to Mostly Mozart Fest

Louis Langrée and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra. Photo by Richard Termine

The concluding Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra concert of the season—presented at Lincoln Center's David Geffen Hall on the evening of Saturday, August 19th, and conducted enthusiastically by Music Director Louis Langrée—was an unusually memorable one and a superb finale.

Before the main performance, a worthwhile pre-concert recital featured star soloist Gil Shaham, along with Adele Anthony, in Sergei Prokofiev's intriguing Sonata for Two Violins.

The concert proper opened magnificently with a sterling account of Prokofiev's brilliant, enormously popular "Classical" Symphony, a work perfectly suited to this festival. 

A gripping reading of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's dark, amazingly precocious Symphony No. 25 conjured the Classical atmosphere evoked by the Prokofiev work,  satisfyingly closing the first half of the program.

For the second half, Shaham took the stage for a wonderful rendition of the exhilarating, unforgettable Violin Concerto of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky—a work with a debt to Mozart's majesty—providing a marvelous capstone to a fine festival.

August '17 Digital Week IV

Blu-rays of the Week 
The Golden Age
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
(Bel Air)
The Bolshoi Ballet’s thoroughly delightful Golden Age, based on ridiculously catchy music by Dmitri Shostakovich, displays the company at its best with spiffy costuming, clever sets and some effortlessly stupendous dancing. 
In choreographer Alexander Ekman’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, only the title is Shakespeare’s: the music isn’t Mendelssohn’s classic score but a lukewarm one by Mikael Karlsson that doesn’t seem to challenge the men and women of the Royal Swedish Ballet, who still do their damnedest to make it work. Both discs include first-rate hi-def video and audio. The lone Dream extra is an Ekman interview.
In Mike Leigh’s 1984 television film, a working-class family deals with the effects of Margaret Thatcher’s regime, including skyrocketing unemployment and a possible youthful alternative like skinheads. 
Although ragged around the edges, this biting comedy-drama from the always political Leigh is a fine lead-in to his two best films, 1988’s High Hopes and 1991’s Life Is Sweet—both of which deserve a Criterion release—and also a great showcase for an array of young acting talent, including Tim Roth and (in his debut) Gary Oldman. The Criterion hi-def transfer is decent enough (this is, after all, an early ‘80s British TV film); extras are new interviews with Leigh and actress Marion Bailey and a 2007 Roth interview.
La Poison 
In Sacha Guitry’s jet-black but precise comedy, French great Michel Simon and Germaine Reuver play long-wedded spouses who’ve grown to loathe each other so much that they discuss how they will off each other—until she ends up dead and he is taken to court charged with her murder. 
Guitry’s poison pen is as sharp as ever, notwithstanding a sentimental opening credit sequence unlike any you’ve seen (unless you know other Guitry movies). Simon is superbly expressive, unsurprisingly, as is Reuver as his unlucky wife. Criterion’s hi-def transfer of this 1951 B&W film is nothing short of dazzling; extras comprise an hour-long 2010 documentary, Life On-Screen: Miseries and Splendour of a Monarch, about Guitry and Simon’s collaborations; an hour-long episode of French television series Cineaste de Notre Temps from 1965 about Guitry (who died in 1957); and an interview with an unabashed Guitry fan, director Olivier Assayas.

Broadway Review—Michael Moore’s “The Terms of My Surrender”

The Terms of My Surrender
Written and performed by Michael Moore; directed by Michael Mayer
Performances through October 22, 2017
Michael Moore in The Terms of My Surrender (photo: Joan Marcus)
In the nearly 30 years since his muckraking documentary Roger and Me made him famous, Michael Moore has perfectly honed his style of man-on-the-street reportage and progressive advocacy, including books (Downsize This!, Stupid White Men), television (TV Nation, The Awful Truth) and more documentaries, including Oscar winner Bowling for Columbine and Cannes Palme d’Or winner Fahrenheit 9/11.
Now he’s taken his act to Broadway, where, to put it mildly, he preaches to the already converted. But he doesn’t care: The Terms of My Surrender has the same strengths and weaknesses of Moore’s other work. The formula is the same: the shambling, baseball-cap wearing everyman walks onto the stage and begins his shtick, which includes corny, obvious jokes—like a game show that pits two audience members against each other, a so-called dumb Canadian and a so-called smart American—that alternate with on-target political satire and analysis.
Sure, he can be self-aggrandizing, but when he discusses himself, it’s in the context of what he sees as the greater good. For instance, in high school, he was the youngest ever member of the local Flint school board at age 17, and he shamed the Elks Lodge by winning an Abe Lincoln essay contest decrying the Elks as a whites-only institution. 
His point—and he has one—is that, in the age of Trump, if people are angry or shocked by what happened in November and what’s been happening since January, then there are things everyone can do to help ensure that the House and even the Senate flip in 2018 and the White House flips in 2020.
Moore knows his audience includes many people upset and embarrassed by Trump’s victory who nevertheless won’t do much to affect any meaningful change, so he tells stories, makes jokes and insults Trump to prod them to take matters into their own hands by making calls to their Congress people or running for local office or doing anything to help the country heal (not heel, as Trump’s tweets would have it) and move forward.
Of course, Michael Moore appearing on Broadway isn’t for everyone, and those people know who they are. But in Michael Mayer’s slick staging, the slightly overlong The Terms of My Surrender (the Dancing with the Stars finale has got to go!) is a funny, thoughtful and even cathartic time in the theater for anyone still stunned by the results of November 8.
The Terms of My Surrender
Belasco Theatre, 111 West 44th Street, New York, NY

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