The DVD Report #580

Tully is the third collaboration of writer Diablo Cody and director Ivan Reitman. Their initial collaboration, 2007’s Juno earned Cody an Oscar and Reitman an Oscar nomination along with star Ellen Page and the film itself. Their second collaboration, 2011’s Young Adult earned star Charlize Theron a Golden Globe nomination. Theron is back as the star of their third collaboration.

Sold as a comedy, the humor in Tully is very biting. Far from being funny, it’s a razor-sharp examination of a middle-aged woman suffering from sleep deprivation and exhaustion after the birth of her third child. She is gifted with a “night nanny” by her brother (Mark Duplass), a young woman who takes care of the baby at night so that she can get some rest. Despite the help, Theron’s days are still filled with taking care of the needs of her three kids, a nine-year-old daughter and a handful of a six-year-old boy somewhere on the autistic spectrum, as well as the baby girl. Her husband (Ron Livingston) loves her but is hardly there even when he is. The “night nanny” (Mackenzie Davis) seems too good to be true.

Theron gained fifty pounds for the role and she’s terrific in it, but this is not a film that goes down particularly easy. The last half-hour is so harrowing that I had to re-watch it to figure out what was going on and then I still wasn’t sure of what I had seen until I read the spoilers in an online review on IMDb. The clue to unravelling the mystery is a matter-of-fact answer given by Livingston to an indecipherable question asked by a hospital emergency room clerk in the background with lots of noise in the foreground. I had assumed the question was something else since the response is an answer to a question that might have been asked about something else, a question that in hindsight made no sense in coming from that clerk whereas the question that was asked makes perfect sense given the setting. Bottom line, though, this is a film worth seeing, especially for exhausted young mothers and those who love them, and that should be all of us.

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

John Wyndham’s 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos was bought by MGM as a vehicle for Ronald Colman while still in galley proof from the author of The Day of the Triffids. The novel was about a village of children fathered by aliens on the women of childbearing age in the village while everyone in the village had fallen asleep in the middle of the day. Its title was comprised of the name of the village and name of the birds whose eggs were laid in the readymade nests of unsuspecting other birds, to be raised by the birds that built the nests.

MGM assigned the property in hopes of duplicating the success of Allied Artist’s 1956 sleeper Invasion of the Body Snatchers. They renamed it Village of the Damned and assigned it to Stirling Silliphant (In the Heat of the Night) to write the screenplay. Postponed due to Colman’s ill health, it was shelved upon his death in May 1958. By this time, they had lost faith in the project given censorship concerns over immaculate conceptions and virgin pregnancies. Given to MGM’s British studios, it was assigned to director Wolf Rilla who rewrote much of the script with his producer in mid-1959. The lead role of the scientist intended for Ronald Colman went to George Sanders, who in February 1959 had married Colman’s widow Benita Hume.

Sanders plays the role as if he were the world-weary Colman of A Tale of Two Cities or Random Harvest, not the cynical Sanders of The Picture of Dorian Gray or All About Eve. In many ways, it’s his most likeable performance.

Shelved as un-releasable by MGM, who didn’t like what Rilla had done with the film, it was nonetheless allowed to fill a one-week programming gap in one London theatre in November 1959. Despite poor reviews, the film was a smash hit. MGM brought it back to Hollywood, where they added a few special effects and released the film to worldwide success in 1960.

Today, of course, it ranks with The Day the Earth Stood Still and Invasion of the Body Snatchers as one of the three greatest science-fiction films of its era.

Warner Bros.’ black-and-white Blu-ray release is stunning as we might expect. Commentary from the previous DVD release and the original theatrical trailer are provided as extras.

Sony has issued a barebones Blu-ray of 1969’s Pendulum, the first of only three theatrical films directed by legendary TV director George Schaefer who won 7 Primetime Emmys out of 25 nominations from 1958-1986. Filmed on location in Washington, D.C. during the riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, the film stars George Peppard as a police captain accused of murdering his faithless wife (Jean Seberg) and her lover (Harry Lewis).

The supporting cast includes Richard Kiley as Peppard’s lawyer, Charles McGraw as his police department superior, Isabel Sanford as Peppard and Seberg’s maid, Robert F. Lyons as the likely real killer, and Madeleine Sherwood, straight from playing Sally Field’s mother superior in The Flying Nun, as Lyons’ boozy mother.

Although the film suffers in comparison to other cop films of the era, most notably Bullitt and Dirty Harry, it is memorable in its own right, earning its writer-producer Stanley Niss a posthumous Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination for Best Picture, losing to Costa-Gavras’ Z.

The film is nicely paced with strong performances by all, especially Lyons and Sherwood.

Acorn Media has released Murdoch Mysteries: Season 11 on both Blu-ray and standard DVD. The venerable Canadian series, in which it is now 1905, is still going strong with another Christmas special Blu-ray and DVD, Murdoch Mysteries: Home for the Holidays, due for imminent release. The series’ twelfth season is now filming.

Season 11 features veteran leads Yannick Bisson, Helene Joy, Thomas Craig, and Jonny Harris in fine fettle with Season 10 newbie Daniel Maslany back for more as the team’s quirky new detective and newcomer Charles Vandervaart as the station house’s latest recruit prominently featured. Guest characters include Helen Keller as the guest of honor at a dinner in which a murder is committed; U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt hunting moose incognito on the outskirts of Toronto; and rising star Al Jolson, a suspect in a backstage murder. Among the future inventions hinted at tongue-in-cheek this season are instant meals to be called TV dinners that people can enjoy while watching TV (Toronto vistas) outside their living room windows.

This week’s new releases include On Chesil Beach and the Blu-ray release of The Day After.

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