Today's DVDs & Blu-rays: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Coppola's New Collection and More
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is controversial, talented and irreverent. He's also the embodiment of the cultural conflict currently happening in China as artists both curry the favor of and distance themselves from the government. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, a documentary film by Alison Klayman, the first feature-legnth work on the artist, shows him from the time of the closing of the 2008 Beijing Olympics (he helped to design the Games' showpiece Bird's Nest stadium and later denounced the government for spending time and resources on impressing the world with the Games' splendor while living conditions around the country remained dismal) to his arrest and detention in 2011 for tax evasion.
Special features on the DVD edition include commentary by the filmmaker, deleted scenes, interviews and the trailer.
Francis Ford Coppola: 5-Film Collection (Apocalypse Now/Apocalypse Now Redux/One From the Heart/Tetro/The Conversation) features a wide variety of films, and no doubt many fans will focus on Apocalypse Now Redux, the reedited and remastered version with almost 50 minutes of additional footage, but our favorite is the 1974 The Conversation with Gene Hackman as a surveillance expert who lives a life of secrecy and paranoia. Filmed between The Godfather and Godfather II , The Conversation is a subtle character study that requires multiple viewings to fully appreciate its layers.
Frank Sinatra's performance in the psychological thriller Suddenly was called a "tour de force" at the time by The New York Times. Sinatra stars as a killer who holds a family hostage so as to use their home as a base for his assassination attempt on the President of the United States who will be stopping nearby for an appearance. Sinatra fans will notice a few similarities between Suddenly, which is the name of the small town the family lives in, and another Sinatra vehicle, The Manchurian Candidate. Both films deal with the attempted assassination of a political figure. And both are made all the more chilling because of the extreme lengths to which the killers will go. In Suddenly, it's Sinatra as a psychopath; in Candidate it's Angela Lansbury as the ambitious wife of a malleable puppet politician.
This release, in black-and-white, is transferred from the original 35mm studio master print, a vast improvement over previous releases of the public domain film (one poorly done colorized version turned Sinatra's famous blue eyes brown).
Extras on the Blu-ray release of Frank Sinatra: Suddenly include new commentary by Frank Sinatra, Jr., the 1957 short film N.Y., N.Y., A Day in New York by Francis Thompson and an image gallery.
Two more DVD/Blu-ray releases get our attention this week, both of which feature Hugh Jackman. There's Butter, which follows a woman (Jennifer Garner) through a cutthroat butter carving competition in Iowa. Jackman plays her over-the-top ex-boyfriend and co-conspirator. There are just a few extras for Butter, a gag reel and deleted/extended scenes. There's also Oklahoma!, a recording of Jackman's live performance as good-guy Curly Jackman in the wildly successful 1999 London revival of the musical.