King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis (Kino Classics, 1/15) represents monumental filmmaking. Taking the subject of Martin Luther King, his words and actions from 1955 through 1968, King: A Filmed Record has been restored to its original three-hour length by the Library of Congress. This documentary pulls out the most amazing news clips of the civil rights movement, and to top that off many of King’s speeches are included. Everybody has heard the “I have a dream” speech but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. King was a powerful orator and these moments show just how persuasive and eloquent his words were. Included is news related footage of events like church bombings, the Vietnam War, President LBJ actually ordering the US Army to stand along the road in support of one protest march in the South. Other highlights are segments directed by Sidney Lumet and Joseph Mankiewicz where thesps Paul Newman, James Earl Jones, Joanne Woodward, Ruby Dee, Charlton Heston, Clarence Williams III, Harry Belafonte, Ben Gazzara, Burt Lancaster, and Anthony Quinn recite poetic remembrances of greatness.
An amazing 15-hour history of cinema The Story of Film: An Odyssey (Music Box, 12/11/12) hosted by film historian Mark Cousins in his unmistakable Ulster accent provides, well, hours of movie maven entertainment. The entire last-century-and-a-decade of the filmed image gets epic treatment with particular emphasis on classic films and directors.
On the comedian front, check out Harland Williams: A Force of Nature (Image Entertainment, 1/15) as he performs his stand-up routine all by himself in the middle of the Mohave Desert. This unique take on stand-up allows the titular comedian to incorporate vultures and turtles into his act. Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis (Anchor Bay, 1/22), an originally made for cable doc, gives a comprehensive overview of his career. Plenty of testimonies from noted comics (everyone from Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, to even Tarantino), and lots of exemplary clips of Lewis being funny both on stage and in movies.
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (Shout! Factory, 1/22) in a DVD + Blu-ray combo, matches the wits of Sherlock Holmes (Nicol Williamson) with Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin). Robert Duvall plays Dr. Watson, with Laurence Olivier briefly appearing as Dr. Moriarity. This is a great Holmes adventure even as it fictionalizes real and fictional characters in a blend that seems set in an alternative universe of Doyle’s text. Watson tricks Holmes into coming to Vienna in order to get Freud to treat his friend for his cocaine addiction. If you like Arkin in his current grumpy old man persona (Little Miss Sunshine, Argo) you’ll love him in full action adventure mode. Farewell, My Queen (Cohen Media Group, 1/15) offers sumptuous period drama as a lady-in-waiting (Léa Seydoux) gains first-hand access to the rapidly crumbling rule of Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger). The last days of royal reign are accentuated by location shooting at the Palace of Versailles.
Pina (Criterion, 1/22) comes in a Blu-ray 3D and 2D version that includes a comprehensive doc on the making of that’s also presented in 3D. Frankly, this is one of the best 3D films made due to director Wim Wenders’ use of different 3D rigs and their subsequent exploration of the space between objects. The choreography of Pina Bausch takes on new meaning under the gaze of Wenders, sometimes becoming miniature, sometimes presented surrounded by a proscenium, and other times moving outside with clever background action. I had seen Pina a few times in 3D during its theatrical release but seeing it fresh the effects are as stunningly beautiful as ever.
- Michael Bergeron