Today's DVDs & Blu-rays: Pierre Etaix, Any Day Now, Richard III and Pawn
Legal woes kept French director/actor Pierre Etaix's cache of comedies from being seen for years but happily those issues have been settled and Etaix's complete works are being released in a box set by Criterion Collection. New digital masters of the recently restored films, including his five features -- The Suitor (1963), Yoyo (1965), As Long As You've Got Your Health (1966), Le grand amour (1969) and Land of Milk and Honey (1971) -- and three shorts -- Rupture (1961), Feeling Good (1966) and the Oscar-winning Happy Anniversary (1962) -- make up the three-disc set. Extras include new English subtitles, new video introductions by Etaix and Pierre Etaix, un destin anime (a 2011 documentary about Etaix by his wife Odile Etaix).
Etaix worked as a circus acrobat and clown and reportedly loved silent era films. All of that shows on screen with his broad humor and physical comedy. He's been described as a French Jerry Lewis; actually we see more Buster Keaton in him. Witty, lighthearted and warm, Etaix's work went unseen for far too long. Catch up on France's funny man with this all-in-one collection.
Laurence Olivier was the greatest English language actor of the 20th century, period. His 1955 Richard III, in which Olivier acted as director, producer and lead actor, is a showcase of his brilliance. Made from a new digital master of the 2012 restoration, Richard III sings on screen. Olivier is deliciously devilish, making no effort to hide his vicious plan to take the throne of England from his brother. John Gielgud, Claire Bloom and Ralph Richardson co-star, but make no mistake, this is Olivier's show, from start to finish.
Extras for the DVD release include audio commentary, 12-minute trailer, original theatrical trailer, gallery of stills and posters and an essay by film critic Amy Taubin.
Alan Cumming has become one of our favorite actors and nuanced, layer performances like the one he turns in on Any Day Now are why. In Any Day Cumming plays one-half of a gay couple who adopt a teen (Isaac Leyva) with Down Syndrome after the boy is abandoned by his mother. When the authorities become aware of the situation they move to have the boy taken away from the two men. The film is based on a true life story from the 1970s. The issues it raises - what makes a family, who can be a parent and who should decide exactly what the best interests of the child are -- are still being figured out in family courts today.
Oscar winner Forest Whitaker leads a cast that includes Stephen Lang, Ray Liotta, Sean Faris, Nikki Reed, Max Beesley, Marton Csokas and Jessica Szohr in the thriller Pawn. It's a terrific cast that does a overall terrific job (there are a few flat notes, but nothing that takes away from the overall experience). A low-budget affair, the film is built on the twists and turns of the plot rather than any CGI magic or gorgeous location shots. Whitaker plays a cop who walks in to a diner late one night just as the diner is being robbed. From there everything -- and everyone it seems -- goes sideways. We can't tell you much more without revealing critical plot points. Keep one thing in mind as you watch Pawn: nobody is who they seem to be.