‘Marriage Story’ is filled with strong acting and grace
Amy Longsdorf Special to the Cherry Hill Courier-Post USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey
Marriage Story (2019, Criterion, unrated, $30) From filmmaker Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale”) comes a deeply moving look at the splintering relationship of a once-happy couple. Partly autobiographical, “Marriage Story” pivots on an actress (Scarlett Johansson) who has made the decision to divorce her director husband (Adam Driver). Baumbach spreads compassion all over the picture, refusing to demonize either character as they struggle to figure out what is best for their young son. Beautifully acted and filled with grace notes, the drama is at its best ruminating on the mystery at the heart of romantic relationships. Extras: featurettes.
Blood and Money (2020, Screen Media, unrated, $20) If you’re in the mood for a no-nonsense crime thriller set in the frigid backcountry of Northern Maine, you could do a lot worse than this entertaining outing. Tom Berenger stars as Jim Reed, a man dying of lung cancer who stumbles upon a sack full of cash. The final act of the film is nothing but a cat-and-mouse game filled with lots of action but “Blood and Money” works thanks to the filmmakers’ decision to make Jim a complicated character. Not only does he have a tragic backstory but his world weary demeanor and loner status make him easily relatable. Extras: featurettes.
Body Cam (2020, Paramount, R, $20) Here’s a timely suspenser about a black man victimized by the police. But it is no standard-issue cop-corruption thriller thanks to a strange, not entirely successful, supernatural element. Mary J. Blige stars as an officer who launches her own investigation into the murders of a number of her fellow cops. The ideas swirling around the movie are interesting but director Malik Vitthal seems to have watched “Seven” too many times. “Body Cam” is dark, murky and filled with characters who refuse to turn on the lights even when they enter pitch-black buildings. Extras: none.
The Advocate (2020, Film Movement, unrated, $20) If ever anyone deserved to have a documentary made about her, it is Lea Tsemel, a Jewish human rights attorney in Israel who routinely defends Palestinians. Directors Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche expertly blend together looks at Tsemel’s most famous cases with an exploration of her current caseload, which includes a 13-year-old Arab boy on trial for attempted murder. Compelling stuff. Extras: none.
Seadrift (2019, First Run, unrated, $20) A number of relevant themes – racism, immigration, reconciliation – are addressed in this documentary about the 1979 murder of a white crab fisherman by a Vietnamese refugee in Seadrift, Texas. When the KKK arrived on the scene, an already volatile situation involving boat burnings and other hostilities became even more incendiary. Amazingly, given the rifts between the fisherman and the refugees, the story has something of a happy ending. Worth a look. Extras: none.
The Carer (2016, Corinth, unrated, $20) Thanks to “Succession,” Brian Cox is just starting to receive the attention he deserves. This inspiring flick in which Cox plays an aging British thespian dealing with Parkinson’s Disease doubles as something of a tribute to the actor thanks to a handful of vintage clips dating back to the 1970s. “The Carer” maps the relationship between Sir Michael (Cox) and his caregiver (Coco Konig) but Cox so dominates the story that he wipes everyone else off the screen. Extras: featurettes.
The Prince (2020, Artsploitation, unrated, $20) From Chile comes a grim prison drama about Jaime (Juan Carlos Maldonado), a young man who, during a stint in jail for murder, seeks out the protection of an older prisoner named Potro (Alfredo Castro). The men develop a romance, with Potro helping to protect Jaime from other predators. The prison sequences are overly familiar – at times they feel like “Oz” outtakes – but the production design beautifully captures life in South America in the 1970s and the flashbacks depicting Jaime’s history are fascinating riffs on identity. Extras: deleted scenes and featurettes.
An Unmarried Woman (1978, Criterion, R, $30) Finally back in print, this ‘70s classic is an edgy comedy in which the darkness gives the punchlines plenty of emotional heft. Jill Clayburgh is luminous as Erica, an Upper West wife and mother who redefines herself after her stockbroker husband (Michael Murphy) dumps her for a younger woman. Writer/director Paul Mazursky gets everything right about Erica’s predicament including her efforts to liberate herself sexually and psychologically. “An Unmarried Woman” is one of those rare movies that is both of its time and timeless. Extras: commentaries and featurettes.
King Creole (1958, Paramount, PG, $25) Now on Blu-ray, Elvis Presley’s personal favorite among his films follows the adventures of Danny, a New Orleans high-schooler who, thanks to his father’s (Dean Jagger) inability to hold down a job, winds up mixed up with dangerous gangsters (Walter Matthau, Vic Morrow). The heart of the movie is Danny’s complicated relationship with two women: a teenaged waitress (Dolores Hart) and an older singer-turned-gangster’s moll (Carolyn Jones). Arguably Elvis’s best film, “King Creole” proves that, given the right material, Presley could be a first-rate actor. Extras: featurettes.
The Border (1982, Kino, R, $25) Directed by Tony Richardson, this engrossing thriller is about a border guard (Jack Nicholson) who discovers that most of his fellow officers (Warren Oates, Harvey Keitel) are corrupt. In a still-relevant plot twist, a Mexican woman (Elpida Carrilo) is separated from her baby, prompting Nicholson to defy the other guards in hopes of reuniting mother and son. “The Border” sags a bit in the middle but Richardson knows how to examine big themes with organic storytelling while also allowing Nicholson to create a portrait of a man fed up with putting his career over his conscience. Extras: commentary track.
The Films of Rita Hayworth: Platinum Collection
(1942-1953, ViaVision, unrated, $129) This exquisite set brings together a dozen of the actress’s best films from her tenure at Columbia Pictures. On tap are her three collaborations with Glenn Ford, including the stunning “Gilda” as well as “The Loves of Carmen” and “Affair In Trinidad.” But it is the musicals in which Hayworth really sizzles, particularly the delightful “Cover Girl” co-starring Gene Kelly; her two terrific team-ups with Fred Astaire - “You’ll Never Get Rich” and “You Were Never Lovelier;” – and the wartime “Tonight and Every Night,” which celebrates the British performers who kept their theater open during World War II. Extras: commentaries and featurettes.
Man Of A Thousand Faces (1957, Arrow, unrated, $35) Featuring a stunning new transfer, this biopic about silent screen star Lon Chaney (James Cagney) unreels his story from his early days in vaudeville through his screen triumphs in “Phantom of the Opera” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Some Chaney fans might be put off by the decision to focus more on his personal life rather than on his ability to transform into all different kinds of characters, from clowns to monsters. But as a man who learns about forgiveness and humility, Cagney sparkles. Extras: commentary and featurette.
Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (1971, Shout Factory, PG-13, $25) There are plenty of vampire movies which are more terrifying than this underrated shocker but there are few that are better looking or more slow-burn intense. Zohra Lampert stars as a woman recently recovered from a nervous breakdown who moves to upstate New York and comes to believe she’s surrounded by evil. Initially, the movie makes you believe that Jessica is either losing her marbles or that she’s a victim of gaslighting but director John Hancock has plenty of supernatural surprises – as well as stunning images up his sleeve. Extras: featurettes and commentary.
On Becoming A God In Central Florida: Season One (2019, ViaVision, unrated, $27) Kirsten Dunst has her best role in years as a minimum-wage water park employee in 1990s Florida who gets entangled with FAM, a cultish, multibillion-dollar pyramid scene run by a handful of shady characters (Ted Levine, Theodore Pellerin). Produced by George Clooney’s company, the Showtime series explodes the American Dream with perception and wit. And thanks to an almost surreal tone, the series is never less than unpredictable and startling. Extras: none.