The DVD Report #275

Who would have thought that the best film in general release in the U.S. during the first eight months of the year would be a heartfelt British comedy about a group of eccentric British retirees trying to cope with life in a run-down Indian hotel? Yet that’s exactly what we have in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel from John Madden, the director of Mrs. Brown and Shakespeare in Love.

Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel is the enterprising manager of his family’s hotel. Among the vacationing residents are Judi Dench as a recent widow striking out on her own after forty years of marriage; Tom Wilkinson as a recently retired high court judge searching for his male lover of more than forty years before; Bill Nighy as a retired civil servant and Penelope Wilton as his short-tempered wife; Celia Emrie as a still sexually active divorcee and Ronald Pickup as an old geezer insisting he’s in his early forties when what he means is he was born in the early forties. In a deceptively small role the incomparable Maggie Smith steals the show as a bigoted pensioner who slowly warms to her new environment and the people in it.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is now available in the U.S. and Canada on Blu-ray and standard DVD.

Another British comedy, albeit one not as widely popular, Tanya Wexler’s Hysteria stars Hugh Dancy a young doctor, the inventor of the vibrator and Maggie Gyllenhaal and Felicity Jones as the daughters of his boss, woman’s doctor Jonathan Pryce with Rupert Everett as his best friend. Nicely paced and often quite witty, the highlights of the film are the experiments on the doctor’s various patients, chief among them musical comedy star Kim Criswell as an overweight middle-aged Italian opera singer.

Hysteria is available on both Blu-ray and standard DVD.

The long sought release of Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures is finally upon us.

The first and best of the four films, 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark was fashioned in the style of 1930s serials with one cliff-hanging scene after another. It is also reminiscent of all those 1930s action adventure films set in Africa and South America. Light and breezy, with just the right touch of horror, the film still delivers edge-of-the-seat thrills under Steven Spielberg’s impressive direction and the performances of Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman and company.

The second film in the series, 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom suffers from a reliance of too many grotesque scenes and an extremely annoying female lead played by Kate Capshaw who would later become Mrs. Spielberg.

The third film, 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade restores the fun of the first film with Sean Connery providing much of the fun as Harrison Ford’s father. River Phoenix is also quite impressive as a younger version of Ford’s character seen in flashbacks.

The fourth film, 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, the only one of the films to have a previous Blu-ray release, is a bit disjointed. Some of the film, particularly the pairing of Ford and Shia LeBeouf as his young companion, works extremely well. On the other hand, Cate Blanshett and John Hurt as the film’s principal villains leave something to be desired.

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures is available on both Blu-ray and standard DVD.

The first film version of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play, Cyrano de Bergerac, was made in 1900 with the original stage star, Benoit Constant Coquelin. Filmed numerous times since, there are three versions that have remained popular over the years beginning with Stanley Kramer’s 1950 production featuring Jose Ferrer’s Oscar winning performance and extending to include the 1987 modernized version re-titled Roxanne with Steve Martin and the 1990 French interpretation of the original for which Gerard Depardieu received an Oscar nomination.

Olive Films’ newly released Blu-ray of the 1950 version allows us to thrill once again to Jose Ferrer’s superb performance, one he honed to perfection in the 1947 Broadway production.

The 1950 version of Cyrano de Bergerac is available on both Blu-ray and standard DVD.

Olive Films has also released A Double Life, the 1947 film for which veteran actor Ronald Colman received a long overdue Oscar for his portrayal of an actor who begins to think he really is the character he’s playing on stage – the mad Othello. The film is also well known for its Oscar nominated screenplay by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, the first of three the pair would receive together, the others being Adam’s Rib and Pat and Mike; the first of five Gordon would receive, having also been nominated for her acting in Inside Daisy Clover and Rosemary’s Baby, winning for the latter.

A Double Life is available on both Blu-ray and standard DVD.

Filmed under the watchful eyes of the Nazis and the French Vichy government, Marcel Carne’s Children of Paradise, released after the liberation of Paris, is a visually stunning masterpiece ostensibly about show business life of the previous century but actually a condemnation of the times. Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrult and Pierre Brasseur star in the film which Criterion has now released on Blu-ray with numerous extras.

Children in Paradise is also available on standard DVD.

This week’s new DVD releases include Marvel’s The Avengers and Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection.

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