Editor’s Notes: Bob Hope Salutes the Troops, Tunnel, Saving Banksy, Gold, A Dog’s Purpose, The Salesman, & 3:10 to Yuma are out on their respective home video formats May 2nd.
Bob Hope Salutes the Troops
Bob Hope Salutes the Troops (Time Life) is a collection of Bob Hope’s TV specials across five decades. Hope spent nearly half of his 100 Christmases heading up USO shows with loads of jokes and lots of stars to entertain the troops. He performed on battleships and battlefields, and the missions were often dangerous and their schedules strenuous. The comedian’s NBC-TV comedy and Christmas specials spanned ten Presidential administrations, from Truman to Clinton.
This set contains seven classic shows from the 1960s to the 1990s, remastered from original broadcast elements. The shows include Bob Hope’s Christmas Cheer in Saudi Arabia, originally aired on January 12, 1991 during Operation Desert Shield, and featuring guests Marie Osmond, Ann Jillian, and the Pointer Sisters.
Around the World with the USO (January 16, 1969) features Hope and company in Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Midway, and aboard the USS Hancock and the USS New Jersey in the South China Sea.
The Bob Hope Christmas Special (January 17, 1973) includes Hope’s monologues and guest stars Redd Foxx and Miss World Belinda Green.
Memories of World War II features Hope, wife Dolores and colleagues sharing recollections about the period, including the shift from shipping audio recordings of radio shows from the U.S. to actually traveling overseas to perform for troops stationed abroad. Footage includes archive clips of Hope, Jerry Colonna, and Frances Langford doing a show for the Armed Forces Network, Hope onstage with Bing Crosby, and a celebrity road trip to sell war bonds.
Other shows in the collection feature guest stars Ann-Margret, Jill St. John, Anita Bryant, Lana Turner, Don Ho, astronaut Alan Shepard, football player Rosey Grier, and the Golddiggers.
There are no bonus features on the unrated 3-disc DVD set.
Tunnel (Well Go USA) is a disaster film that focuses on automobile salesman Jung-soo (Ha Jung-woo), who becomes trapped in a traffic tunnel when the structure collapses on top of him. Over the course of 35 days, Jung-soo struggles to survive with only a fading cellphone, two small water bottles, and his daughter’s birthday cake in the claustrophobic rubble. In the meantime, rescue crews, led by a determined task force chief (Oh Dal-su), work around the clock to extract him.
During the rescue attempt, Jung-soo’s wife (Doona Bae) awaits word outside the tunnel, the media exploit the tragedy, and government officials jockey for photo ops. There are obstacles, setbacks and effectively staged action sequences, but the focus stays on the main character’s efforts to do what he can to stay alive until he’s rescued. We see Jung-soo selflessly assist a young woman and her dog, who are buried in the debris.
The movie harks back to the disaster films of the 1970s, such as Airport, The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, and The Towering Inferno,” by combining a cataclysmic event with the efforts of a small group to survive. As far as I know, a tunnel disaster has never been the specific focus of an entire movie, but Tunnel succeeds in illustrating the horror and hopelessness of trapped human beings.
There are no bonus features on the unrated widescreen DVD release. The film is in Korean, with English subtitles.
Saving Banksy (Candy Factory Films) is a documentary that traces the struggle of art consultant Brian Greif to preserve a single painting by street artist Banksy — one of the artist’s trademark Che Guevara rats. The film chronicles how Banksy’s work is dismissed by many museums, regarded as graffiti by municipalities like San Francisco, and stolen by art collectors from their sites and sold for millions at auction.
Greif spent months negotiating with the owners of the vandalized Red Victorian Bed & Breakfast to carefully remove ten redwood siding planks, with the intention of preserving Banksy’s work for the public. However, years pass before he is able to show the work because no major museum will display it without proper authentication. Collectors simply want to sell or own it, for up to $750,000.
The film features many talking heads debating the artistic value of street art, including art critics and top graffiti artists. Grief’s preservationist intentions are also examined, since the works were originally intended as an alternative to paintings hanging in a museum — art for the masses to experience as they went about their daily lives.
As the street artists explain why they execute art on buildings, viewers will be confronted with whether free artistic expression includes defacing public property. This kind of art, after all, is still not completely embraced by the artistic community, though several critics trumpet its value as an expression of social commentary. In any case, Saving Banksy is a fast-paced film about one man’s dedication to project to present the artist in a setting worthy of his talent and impact.
Bonus footage on the DVD release includes behind-the-scenes interviews with top international artists and additional scenes.
Gold (Lionsgate) stars Matthew McConaughey as beer-bellied, balding Kenny Wells, a prospector desperate for a lucky break. It’s the 1980s and, after the death of his father (Craig T. Nelson), Kenny is stuck in the failing family mining business, drinking heavily and making business calls from a bar. He teams up with equally eager geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), and they set off on an odyssey to find gold in the uncharted jungle of Indonesia.
The film’s first part, when Kenny sets out on the difficult task of trying to find gold in the mountainous jungle, is interesting, though the plot follows familiar territory of the central character determined to achieve his goal, no matter how difficult or how skeptical others may be. Later, the film shifts to Kenny navigating the unfamiliar territory of dealing with entrepreneurs, banks, and individuals eager to get a significant piece of the treasure find.
Director Stephen Gaghan incorporates lots of impediments to Kenny realizing his dream of incredible riches in the form of malaria, unctuous Wall Street investors, the Indonesian militia, and double crosses. The film combines an Indiana Jones-type adventure with a drama about corporate greed and betrayal. The story is tied together with narration by McConaughey and flash-forwards. Like American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Founder, Gold shines a light on the ruthlessness of individuals aggressively pursuing the American Dream and discovering both its benefits and unforeseen perils.
Bonus features on the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include a deleted sequence, commentary with director Stephen Gaghan, a profile of Matthew McConaughey’s transformation into Kenny Wells, and the featurettes “The Origins of Gold” and “The Locations of Gold.” A digital HD copy is included.
A Dog’s Purpose
A Dog’s Purpose (Universal Home Entertainment), based on the bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, is the touching story of one devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who discovers the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love. The concept of the film is that dogs are constantly reincarnated in other breeds and with differing temperaments.
We follow the lives of a stray pup, a red retriever named Bailey in the 1960s and 70s, Ellie, a German Shepherd K-9 police dog, Tino, a small 80s corgi, and finally Buddy, a neglected St. Bernard with a long road home. What ever the shell, however, it’s always Bailey inside, retaining all the memories and experiences along the way. Bailey constantly ponders the meaning of life and the reason why he is where he is. Is it merely to have fun? To make humans happy? Finally, he settles on living for the moment, an appropriate code to live by if you’re a dog.
The movie paints a rosy picture of mid-20th-century America in the sequence with Bailey, even though it does have its darker edges with a father too dependent on alcohol to make up for frustrations at work and a chaotic dinner party. The other sequences deal with tales of canine heroism or dedication reminiscent of the vintage TV show, Lassie. Director Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules) incorporates lots of humor well as some sad moments but, overall, the film is a tribute to the simple animals we bring into our lives who love us unconditionally, but leave us too soon.
The human cast includes Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton, Bryce Gheisar, K.J. Apa and Juliet Rylance.
Bonus extras on the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include deleted scenes, outtakes, and the featurettes “Lights, Camera, Woof!” and “A Writer’s Purpose.” A digital HD copy is enclosed.
The Salesman (Sony Home Entertainment) is this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award winner. A young couple, Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), are left homeless when their apartment building is damaged by construction work. Amateur actors by night, the couple secures a top floor apartment from a theatre colleague. When they move in, they discover that the previous tenant has locked her belongings in a bedroom, and it doesn’t look as if she’s coming back to take them. One night, after moving in, Rana hears the apartment buzzer and, assuming it’s Emad, opens the door. Next thing, she awakens in a hospital with a head injury after being attacked by an intruder.
The film is about a middle class marriage on shaky ground, but it is also a tale of vengeance. As their relationship unravels, Rana and Emad deal with the situation differently. The play the couple are rehearsing — Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman — foreshadows their own relationship with its troubles and escalating trauma. Director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) explores moral questions as it transforms into a whodunit, with Emad investigating the crime, trying to discover clues that will lead him to the perpetrator.
The only bonus feature on the Blu-ray release is a conversation with writer-director Asghar Farhadi. The film is in Farsi, with English subtitles.
3:10 to Yuma
3:10 to Yuma (Lionsgate) takes place in Arizona in the late 1800s. Outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his vicious gang of thieves and murderers have plagued the Southern Railroad. When Wade is captured, Civil War veteran Dan Evans (Christian Bale), struggling to survive on his drought-stricken ranch, volunteers to deliver him alive to the “3:10 to Yuma”, a train that will take the killer to prison. During the grueling expedition. Evans and Wade, each from very different worlds, begin to earn each other’s respect. However, with Wade’s posse on their trail, the mission soon becomes a violent, impossible journey, shaping each man’s destiny.
Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, the tale was previously filmed in 1957 with Glenn Ford and Van Heflin. This version combines the requisite action of a big-budget Western with psychological conflict. The lead characters are pretty complex, which makes things very interesting. These are not the larger-than-life heroes played by John Wayne in his heyday. They’re flawed men who have gone down different paths in life. Evans is poor and bears a physical injury sustained during the Civil War. Wade is authoritative and always appears in command, even when being escorted to imprisonment. He is honorable, in his own special way, but nonetheless ruthless. The men admire each other precisely because they are such opposites. Evans sees in Wade a carefree man who doesn’t subscribe to the rules of civilization. And Wade sees in Evans a righteous man with better morals than any law officer he’s ever encountered.
Director James Mangold avoids many cliches of the screen Western, but presents an excitingly choreographed climactic gunfight. The film is elevated considerably by the presence of Crowe and Bale, actors who convey the inner complexity of their characters.
The 2-disc 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD release contains audio commentary with director James Mangold, ”A Conversation With Elmore Leonard,” a historical timeline of the West, the documentary “Outlaws, Gangs, and Posses,” deleted scenes, and several behind-the-scenes featurettes. The R-rated film is also available on single-disc Blu-ray and DVD editions.