The Shelf this week is decidedly more animated than usual, and that’s a-okay with us. It also features some truly excellent live-action performances from three different generations of Hollywood actors. A melange and a hodgepodge this week, but that seems to be the way of the world these days.
5 Disney Classics
Five different Disney films come to Blu-ray for the first time this week. I’ve spoken about them all in detail in a different post, so I won’t repeat myself, but The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is in a set with Fun & Fancy Free, both from the late-40s. Bedknobs and Broomsticks from 1971; Hercules from 1997; Tarzan from 1999; and The Three Musketeers starring Mickey, Donald, and Goofy from 2004 are all out on Blu-ray this week, and all really look gorgeous. When the Vault opens, the goodness pours out.
Tom Hardy stars as the titular character in this surprisingly tense and compelling film where he is the only character seen onscreen. We follow the lonely drive of Ivan Locke, a family man and build-site foreman, as he leaves his responsibilities in order to correct a mistake he made the year before. The film plays out with Locke in his car trying to make sure his family doesn’t fall apart by phone and that his work commitments are met by someone else in his stead. It’s a lot tougher than you’d think. Hardy is masterful in a surprisingly quiet and calm role, but nevertheless he boils with intensity below the surface as things begin to unravel around him. He utterly proves he can carry a movie.
The Blacklist Season One
Of all the new shows that premiered in the Fall of 2013, I was most interested in seeing if The Blacklist would live up to its own potential. When you have a show starring a great actor like James Spader, you hope that the material is there to support him. Spader plays Raymond “Red” Reddington, a notorious and wanted criminal with ties to all sorts of international illegal activities, not least of which murders for hire. Spader turns in probably one of his best performances here, with his trademark blase attitude mixed with an intensely dark and violent inner soul, and yet one who apparently has some kind of a conscience. It’s quite a thing to watch.
The series’ first season follows Reddington as he turns himself in to the FBI. Red says he’ll talk and give evidence, but only on his terms — he will only speak to Agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), a brand new analyst who’s barely worked on any cases. She’s tough, smart, and clearly has some kind of unknown connection with Reddington, even if Red is the only one who knows it. As the show progresses, Keen’s past and private life start to bleed over into her work life and Reddington becomes either the only person she can trust or the last person she should.
While the show started fairly formulaic — with Reddington snarkily helping divert terrorist activity while doing things to benefit his own mysterious plans — it eventually became much more complex and twisty. The two-parter in the middle of the season in which the FBI headquarters is under attack really set the wheels going toward a fantastic second half and eventual finale. The Blacklist is a really good show, I can’t wait for next season.
Out of the Past
One of the very finest Films Noir, Jacques Tourneur’s 1947 film Out of the Past has everything a good hard-boiled thriller needs: a tough-as-nails private dick, a past that catches up with him, and an ending so bleak you’ll need to watch seven episodes of The Muppet Show just to feel upbeat again. Robert Mitchum plays Jeff, a former P.I. who flees his LA-based problems to go to the middle of nowhere and run a gas station. It’s a peaceful, if tedious, existence that gets rocked when he’s lured back to the big city to see Whit (Kirk Douglas), a rich and powerful man who once hired Jeff to find his runaway girlfriend (Jane Greer) who shot Whit and absconded with $40,000. But Jeff and the girlfriend fell in love and the ensuing foibles led to Jeff skipping town. But Jeff knows he can’t run forever and his drive back to Whit’s house feels very much like a journey back into Hell. A truly brilliant film, not to be missed.
Batman: Assault on Arkham
Another in the long line of direct-to-home DC Animated features, Assault on Arkham continues the storyline set up in the Arkham universe of video games. Thankfully, actor Kevin Conroy reprises his 20+ year role as the voice of the Caped Crusader. The Suicide Squad joins Batman on a mission into the depths of the nefarious asylum and an encounter with none other than the Joker himself is right around the corner.
Looney Tunes: The Platinum Collection 3
If you can think of anything better than 50 Looney Tunes theatrical shorts in HD, several of which have never been available in any format before with over six hours of extras including commentaries and documentaries, then you’re just a person I don’t want to hang out with.