From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets:
Women come to the fore in this week’s pair of offerings from The Criterion Collection:
Melodrama casts noirish shadows in “Mildred Pierce” (1945), a portrait of maternal sacrifice from the Hollywood master Michael Curtiz. Its iconic performance by Joan Crawford as Mildred, a single mother hell-bent on freeing her children from the stigma of economic hardship, solidified Crawford’s career comeback and gave the actor her only Oscar. But as Mildred pulls herself up by the bootstraps, first as an unflappable waitress and eventually as the well-heeled owner of a successful restaurant chain, the ingratitude of her materialistic firstborn (a diabolical Ann Blyth) becomes a venomous serpent’s tooth, setting in motion an endless cycle of desperate overtures and heartless recriminations. Recasting James M. Cain’s rich psychological novel as a murder mystery, this bitter cocktail of blind parental love and all-American ambition is both unremittingly hard-boiled and sumptuously emotional. On DVD and Blu-ray, in a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray … Pedro Almodóvar makes telephones, a mambo taxi, and a burning mattress into delirious plot points and indelible images in his international breakthrough, “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (1988). Melding melodrama with screwball farce, this Academy Award–nominated black comedy secured the auteur’s place at the vanguard of modern Spanish cinema. Continuing Almodóvar’s exploration of the female psyche, the film tells the story of Pepa, an actor — played by the director’s frequent collaborator Carmen Maura — who resolves to kill herself with a batch of sleeping-pill-laced gazpacho after her lover leaves her. Fortunately, she is interrupted by a string of visitors, setting in motion a deliciously chaotic series of events. The filmmaker channeled inspiration by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Douglas Sirk into his own unique vision, arriving at the irreverent sense of humor and vibrant visual sense that define his work today. With a sensational ensemble cast of early Almodóvar regulars that also includes Antonio Banderas and Rossy de Palma, this film shows an artist in total control of his craft. On DVD and Blu-ray, in a new high-definition digital restoration, supervised by director Pedro Almodóvar and producer Agustín Almodóvar, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray.
From TV to DVD:
“Grace and Frankie: Season 2” (2016) is a three-disc set with 13 episodes. After learning their ex-husbands plan to marry one another, lifelong rivals Grace and Frankie have bonded in an uneasy friendship. The second season of this acclaimed comedy series has Grace and Frankie tackling the challenges of family and relationships — while driving each other crazy on a regular basis. Stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen. From Lionsgate … “The Level” (2016) is a two-disc set with all six episodes of the Acorn TV Original detective thriller series. Detective Sergeant Nancy Devlin is a good cop with a dark secret: she’s loyal to drug trafficker Frank Le Saux, who is like a father to her. But when their clandestine meeting turns violent, leaving Frank dead and Nancy with a bullet wound, Nancy fears her double life may soon be exposed. Assigned to Brighton to investigate the crime, Nancy must track down Frank’s killer while concealing her role — and her injury — from her enigmatic new partner, DS Gunner Martin, and her old friend, DS Kevin O’Dowd. Can Nancy stay one step ahead of her colleagues — and the real killer? On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Acorn Media.