FilmJerk Favorites

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

||| Joseph L. Mankiewicz |||
Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Mankiewicz directed 20 films in a 26-year period, and was very successful at every kind of film, from Shakespeare to western, drama to musical, epics to two-character pictures, and regardless of the genre, he was known as a witty dialogist, a master in the use of flashback and a talented actors' director.

The 1950 Oscar for Best Picture and Screenplay brought Mankiewicz wide recognition as a writer and a director, with his sardonic look at show business glamour and the empty lives behind it. This well orchestrated cast of brilliant and catty character actors is built around veteran actress Bette Davis and Anne Baxter as her understudy desperate for stardom.

One of Mankiewicz’ more intimate films, this highly regarded and major artistic achievement is a spirited romantic comedy set in England of the 1880’s about a widow who moves into a haunted seashore house and resists the attempts of a sea captain specter to scare her away. This is a pleasing and poignant romance that is equally satisfying as a good old ghost story.

Mankiewicz wrote and directed this witty dissection of matrimony that has three women review the ups and downs of their marriages (with all its romance, fears and foibles) after receiving a letter telling them that one of their husbands has been unfaithful. Once again Mankiewicz deftly utilizes the skills of a well-chosen ensemble, which includes a young Kirk Douglas at his dreamiest.

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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