FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Frank Capra |||
Frank Capra

It goes without saying that Capra is one of the greatest and most beloved directors of all time, especially renowned for his madcap romantic comedies. He is one of the few directors who ever managed to balance whimsy with meaningfulness without loosing the ability to entertain.

Only Frank Capra, with his light hand and good sense of allowing the actors to be their roles, could carry off this tale of a naive average American used by an unscrupulous politician through a nationwide goodwill drive. No one was ever better at having strong yet vulnerable women not only aid, but often come to the rescue, of the leading man.

Frank Capra's final film is a hilarious translation of a Damon Runyon tale set in 1930s New York, as gangster Glenn Ford repays street peddler Bette Davis for her "good luck" apples by passing her off as a well-to-do society lady for her visiting daughter (Ann-Margret in her film debut). This excellent and thoroughly enjoyable remake of his own 1933 "Lady for a Day" is a beautiful swan song to a master storyteller. Widescreen!

In this black comedy about two sweet old ladies whose basement holds a murderously funny secret, Capra utilizes star Cary Grant to his zany, patented “double take” best. Capra’s brilliance in comic casting is demonstrated with such reliable character actors as Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and Jack Carson who manage to play their parts to the hilt without chewing up the scenery.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Up (DVD)

By EdwardHavens

November 20th, 2009

When you think about it, it's a brilliant gambit. Release one of the best movies of the year in a package that combines a two Blu-Ray discs chock full of goodies one would normally get in a two disc DVD set with a single DVD that only has a few choice bonus features, and hope the consumer will jump for the new format once and for all.

Up (DVD)

I have to admit, it’s got me seriously thinking about making the switch to Blu-Ray, and I’m one of those people still stubbornly holding on to their HD-DVD player and titles. I see the back of the package and see all those Blu-Ray exclusive bonus features, and I see Blu-Ray machines with built-in Netflix streaming priced under $200 and I’m tempted to pull the trigger even before Black Friday. But alas, this is a review of the DVD, since I haven’t pulled the trigger on Blu-Ray just yet.

”Up” tells the story of recently widowed Carl Fredricksen, a former balloon salesman who has an amazing adventure with a Wilderness Scout in the wilds of South America, as he tries to live up to a promise made to his late wife many years before. By now, with the movie becoming one of the company’s greatest successes, many of us are familiar with the story, and how it continues Pixar’s incredible streak of great movie experiences. Whether watched on a computer screen or widescreen television, the computer-animated movie has a wealth of vibrant colors, textured grays and blacks and absolutely no noticeable artifacting. Both the Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 sound mixes are rich in tone, making even the deliberately scratchy soundtrack for the film’s early newsreel footage sound fresh and energetic. The picture also looked and sounded good on an older U2 iPod, transferred as part of the set’s fourth disc, but much of the movie’s exquisite detail is lost on its two and a half inch screen. Personally, I lament this new trend of getting a new generation of moviegoers accepting watching in this fashion, and I hope this craze quickly fades away.

Like all Disney discs, we start off with a number of trailers and commercials. This time, we are treated to “Toy Story 3” and “The Princess and the Frog” theatrical teaser trailers, and a trailer for the direct-to-video “Santa Buddies.” Special features on the DVD include the “Partly Cloudy” short that played with “Up” in theatres, the fascinating “Adventure is Out There,” a twenty-two minute journey by the filmmakers to the real Paradise Falls, a five-minute discussion from director Pete Docter describing the many endings of Muntz pondered before the one that ended up in the movie, an exhaustively detailed feature commentary by director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Petersen, a one-minute how-to video showing people how they can use the enclosed digital copy to load the movie on to their portable media devices, and a new short for the DVD featuring the movie’s “talking” canines. “Dug’s Special Mission” is part of a new Pixar trend of creating a side short that dovetails into the original film, following Dug during his day leading up to his meeting Carl and Russell. It’s mildly amusing as we watch Dug inadvertently foil Alpha’s attempts to catch the bird, but it’s far below the high bar set by Pixar with previous shorts. Additionally, the DVD features a plethora of commercials for other Disney items, including “Ponyo,” the 70th Anniversary Release of “Dumbo,” and their Disney Movie Rewards program, which offers consumers the chance to get Disney items for buying Disney DVDs and going to see their movies in theatres.

Knowing how to cover all the bases, Disney is also releasing “Up” as a single DVD with the film and the two shorts, and a two-disc DVD set with some of the bonus features. But if you are thinking about switching to Blu-Ray someday, the Blu-Ray/DVD combo set might be the best bet, since you can enjoy the movie now and not have to buy the disk again when you eventually convert.

Final ratings:
The Movie: A
Picture Quality: A
Sound Quality: A
Bonus Features: A for all DVD bonus features, except “Dug’s Special Mission” (B-)
Overall Value: A-

My rating: A