Sometimes we don’t expect or even deserve a happy ending, and get one anyway. Frank Borzage was one of the most talented filmmakers working in Hollywood’s silent and early sound period, churning out an astonishing number of movies in the ‘20s and ‘30s.
But by 1948, when he made “Moonrise,” he was all but forgotten, dutifully churning out pictures for studios like B-movie house Republic Pictures for little acclaim. But “Moonrise,” now out in a new Blu-ray edition from the Criterion Collection, was an unexpected masterpiece, melding the romantic expressionism of Borzage’s silent films while setting film noir tropes on their head. Instead of following an innocent man trapped in a web of intrigue, we follow a guilty man, redeemed when he least expects it.
It’s fitting that, as we all settle in to celebrate Turkey Day, Shout! Factory has saved the best for last when it comes to its “Mystery Science Theater 3000” DVD sets. And also saved the last for last.
The new “Vol. XXXIX,” which came out this week, is the last scheduled of the four-disc sets to be released by Shout! Factory. They’ve now put all of the original “MST3K” episodes they have the rights to out on disc, ending with this set.
Most Americans couldn’t find Micronesia on a map. And yet young men from the island nation (located 2,000 miles west of Hawaii) serve and die in the U.S. military.
That unusual relationship is explored in “Island Soldier,” a new documentary by Nathan Fitch that plays at DOC NYC this year and is touring other film festivals in 2017.
If nothing else, “Maurice” has the British’s gift for not talking about what they’re talking about on full display. Being gay is referred to, famously, as “the unspeakable vice of the Greeks” by one character, and in other instances we hear a gay love affair referred to as a “muddle” or “messiness.” As Ben Kingsley, playing an American hypnotist, says in what may be E.M. Forster’s novel’s most quotable line, “England has always been discinclined to accept human nature.”
Sure, it would have been nice to have a lavish Criterion Collection Blu-ray edition of Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women.” Multiple commentary tracks, behind the scenes footage, maybe even some animated storyboards for the sequence when the Rancher (Lily Gladstone) cleans out the barn.
But that’s not really the way Reichardt, who makes crisp, economical and devastating indie drams like “Wendy & Lucy” and “Old Joy,” rolls. No shot, no line of dialogue exists in her films without a purpose. So, it’s perhaps fitting that for “Certain Women,” which adapts three short stories by author Maile Meloy, the Criterion disc only has a triptych of short interviews with Reichardt, Meloy and producer Todd Haynes.
How do you make a movie about a heart transplant and not make it a medical drama?
Katell Quillevere’s “Heal the Living,” out on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber, achieves this by giving equal weight to the donor and to the recipient as well as the doctors. The result is a humane triptych of a film which, although it lacks real suspense or drama, contains moments of stunning beauty and enveloping empathy.