DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: FEDORA (Olive Films)
Billy Wilder’s penultimate film and final collaboration with actor William Holden (who won an Oscar for Wilder’s 1953 adaptation of Stalag 17), this florid Hollywood melodrama was completely out of step with box-office trends when released in 1978 to critical and audience indifference.Yet there’s much to savor in this brittle, bittersweet (more bitter than sweet) and admittedly musty elegy to the faded glamor of vintage Hollywood. Wilder failed to entice Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich to come out of retirement to play the title role (ultimately undertaken by Marthe Keller), a legendary screen beauty who retired at the height of her fame, briefly returned to the limelight (more gorgeous than ever), then became a recluse on the Greek island of Corfu after an apparent breakdown.It is there that film producer Barry Detweiler (Holden), himself a fading product of show-biz yesteryear, seeks Fedora to interest her in a new project, only to become enmeshed in a bizarre mystery that no screenwriter could dream up.Like Detweiler, played by Holden with his trademark cynicism (seasoned with a dash of compassion), the viewer eventually comes to learn Fedora’s secrets, which are better kept secret so as to perpetuate her myth. Then as now “” and always “” the magic of movies is in the illusion.Adapted from a story in actor-turned-author Tom Tryon’s Crowned Heads, Wilder and long-time screenwriting partner I.A.L. Diamond pay homage to Hollywood while skewering it. Veteran composer Miklos Rosza provides an appropriately nostalgic score, and an intriguing cast includes Jose Ferrer, Hildegard Knef, Mario Adorf, Frances Sternhagen, Michael York (as himself) and Henry Fonda (as himself). The DVD retails for $24.95; the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated PG. ***
“10 MOVIE FAMILY & ROMANCE HOLIDAY COLLECTION” (Cinedigm): A self-explanatory DVD collection ($29.93 retail) of holiday-themed TV movies: Christmas in Canaan, Merry-In- Laws, 12 Days of Christmas, A Christmas Proposal, Holiday Baggage, Annie Claus, Holiday Engagement, Christmas Pageant, Moonlight & Mistletoe and Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
“ADVENTURE TIME”: THE COM- PLETE FOURTH SEASON (Cartoon Network/Warner Home Video): A selfexplanatory collection of all 26 episodes episodes (plus special features) from the 2012 season of the awardwinning Cartoon Network fantasy series created by Pendleton Ward, set in the mythical Land of Ooo, following the adventures of Finn (voiced by Jeremy Shada) and his talking dog Jake (voiced by John DiMaggio). Emmy nomination for Outstanding Short-Format Animation Program. The DVD retails for $26.95; the Blu-ray for $32.07.
A BELLE FOR CHRISTMAS (Anchor Bay): This PG-rated, family-friendly holiday comedy stars Dean Cain as a widower whose kids (Jet Jurgensmeyer and Meyrick Murphy) adopt a puppy “” much to the chagrin of his gold-digging girlfriend (Kristy Swanson). The DVD retails for $19.98.
“BEN 10 OMNIVERSE: GALACTIC MONSTERS” (Cartoon Network/Warner Home Video): A self-explanatory DVD compilation ($14.97 retail) of selected episodes from the awardwinning Cartoon Network fantasy series following the adventures of a young boy (voiced by Yuri Lowenthal) who can transform himself into alien beings at will.
“BETTY BOOP”: THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION, VOLUME 4 (Olive Films): The title tells all in this selection of 13 digitally-restored, vintage animated shorts featuring Mae Questel as the unmistakably squeaky-voiced cartoon heroine. Available on DVD ($24.95 retail) or Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
THE BIGAMIST (Film Chest): Traveling salesman Edmond O’Brien’s wed to both Joan Fontaine and director Ida Lupino in this sincerely acted, fairly credible 1953 soap opera that doesn’t take the easy way out. Edmund Gwenn, Kenneth Tobey and Jane Darwell co-star.
“CARTOON NETWORK HALL OF FAME: COURAGE THE COWARDLY DOG: SEASON TWO (Cartoon Network/ Warner Home Video): The title tells all in this DVD collection ($24.98 retail) of all 13 episodes from the 2000-01 season of the award-winning, animated comedy about a perennially petrified pooch (voiced by Marty Grabstein).
“CARTOON NETWORK HOLIDAY COLLECTION” (Cartoon Network/Warner Home Video): The title tells all in this DVD compilation ($14.98 retail) of holidaythemed episodes from such popular animated series’ as “Adventure Time,” “Regular Show,” “The Amazing World of Gumball,” “Clarence” and “Steven Universe.”
“CEDAR COVE”: SEASON ONE (Cinedigm): Executive producer Andie MacDowell stars as a judge trying to pick up the pieces of her life following a divorce and the death of her son, in all 13 episodes from the inaugural 2013 season of the Hallmark Channel series, based on Debbie Macomber’s best-selling series of novels. The DVD collection retails for $24.95.
CESAR CHAVEZ (LionsGate): Actorturned-producer/director Diego Luna’s well-intentioned but obvious bio-drama affords Michael PeÃ±a a well-deserved leading role as the noted labor activist. Rosario Dawson, America Ferrera, Julian Sands, Wes Bentley and executive producer John Malkovich round out the cast. Rated PG-13.
LE CHEF (Cohen Media Group): A fluffy, French-language confection (originally titled Comme un chef) with Jean Reno in fun form as a veteran chef who takes on MichaÃ«l Youn as his protege. This played the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem this spring. Rated PG- 13.
THE CHRISTMAS GIFT (CBS DVD/ Paramount): In this 1986 holiday TV movie, John Denver plays a lonely widower who discovers a small town in Colorado where the residents still believe in Santa Claus. Gennie James plays Denver’s daughter and Jane Kaczmarek provides romantic interest as the town’s postmistress. The DVD retails for $14.99.
“DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE” 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION” (Beyond Words): A self-explanatory three-DVD collection ($34.95 retail) including the award-winning 2004 feature film What the Bleep Do We Know?! (Down the Rabbit Hole), a box-office sleeper that examined the connections between science and spiritualism, as explored by a contemplative photographer (Marlee Matlin).
INTO THE STORM (Warner Home Video): CGI special effects are the whole show in this dull, latter-day disaster opus in which an unexplained rash of cataclysmic tornadoes touch down in a small town, ruining the high-school graduation ceremony for one thing. Twister (1995) did it better. The DVD retails for $28.98; the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $35.99. Rated PG-13.
MALEFICENT (Disney): Credit Disney’s inescapable promotional blitz for the box-office success of this lumbering, effects-laden “prequel” to Sleeping Beauty, with Angelina Jolie as the titular sorceress and Elle Fanning as the drowsy damsel in distress. First-time director Robert Stromberg is an Oscar-winning production designer, and that aspect of the film is the only one worthy of note. Otherwise, this is among the year’s biggest disappointments. The DVD retails for $29.99; the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $36.99. Rated PG.
“RESTAURANT: IMPOSSIBLE”: SEASON 3 (Cinedigm): A three-DVD collection ($29.93 retail) of all 13 episodes from the 2012 season of the popular Food Network reality series, in which chef Robert Irvine tries to turn failing restaurants around with $10,000 in two days’ time.
SOUTH OF ST. LOUIS (Olive Films): Good-looking 1949 horse opera set during the Civil War, with Joel McCrea, Zachary Scott and Douglas Kennedy as ranchers whose common pursuit of Union raider Victory Jory eventually fractures their friendship and loyalties. Alexis Smith and Dorothy Malone add glamor to the requisite fightin’ and shootin’. The DVD retails for $24.95; the Blu-ray for $29.95.!
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. ‘© 2014, Mark Burger.