New to Blu-ray/DVD: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe & Once Upon a Time: The Complete Fourth Season


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Editor’s Notes: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe and Once Upon a Time: The Complete Fourth Season are out on their respective formats August 18th.

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

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The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe (Lionsgate) is a Lifetime feature starring Kelli Garner as the famous actress. Based on the book by Randy Taraborelli, the film follows typical biopic format in chronicling the key events in Monroe’s life. Fictional psychiatrist Alan DeShields (Jack Noseworthy) serves as the latest doctor/hand holder to the insecure actress. Monroe’s mother, Gladys Mortensen (Susan Sarandon), is depicted as a religious zealot highly critical of her daughter and her choices. Monroe’s marriages to Joe DiMaggio (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and author Arthur Miller (Stephen Bogaert) are covered. The Monroe/JFK relationship also gets some screen time.

There are many movies out there about this iconic actress, but Ms. Garner’s relative unfamiliarity and resemblance to Monroe allow for a welcome suspension of disbelief as Garner immerses herself in the role. The picture traces Monroe’s growing popularity, her rise from supporting player to megastar, and her ongoing insecurity, which manifests itself in lateness to the set, countless takes, and a touching shyness despite her fame. Ms. Garner strikes the occasional familiar Monroe pose, but concentrates less on imitation, more on characterization. Stephen Kronish’s screenplay has a Dickensian feel with Monroe’s unhappy childhood and her mother’s mental illness acting as impediments to a fulfilling life.

Ms. Sarandon does a good job balancing her portrayal of Gladys, playing her in shades of grey. This is a woman who firmly believes that her often stifling decisions are made in the best interest of her impressionable daughter. By humanizing Gladys, we get to see that her own neuroses were likely passed on — in altered form — to Marilyn. The picture shows how Monroe struggles to maintain her career while battling her own inner demons and attempting to improve herself as an actress, please studio heads, and maintain her popularity.

At three hours, the mini-series has its bloated moments but, overall, is an entertaining look into the human being beneath the movie star. There are no bonus features on the DVD release.

Once Upon a Time: The Complete Fourth Season

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Once Upon a Time: The Complete Fourth Season (ABC Studios/Disney) has tapped into the goldmine that is Frozen by introducing the characters Anna (Elizabeth Lail) and Elsa (Georgina Haig). The death of their parents is shown and there’s an impressive sequence set in Arendelle. We also learn Elsa’s reason for being in the Enchanted Forest. The chemistry between Ms. Lail and Ms. Haig is strong, and they both manage to channel their animated counterparts successfully. Disney has milked the Frozen property endlessly to squeeze every possible dime out of audiences thrilled with the story and characters, but this prequel is engaging as it provides an interesting back story. More CGI than usual for the series is incorporated.

>The season focuses on the battle of the forces of good and evil. In other story lines, Regina has found true love with Robin Hood, but is thrown for a loop by an unfortunate twist of fate. A banished Rumpelstiltskin enlists the Queens of Darkness — Maleficent, Ursula, Cruella De Vil — in a dastardly scheme to rewrite their own stories and corrupt the Savior by turning her newly blissful heart pitch black.

The series manages to stay fresh with its ever intriguing reimagining of classic fairy tales, skewing them just enough to make them seem fresh and providing greater depth than the overly familiar originals. The show’s appeal is widespread, since the basic tales are known to practically everyone. Kids will enjoy seeing their favorite characters come to life while adults will enjoy the cleverness of the writing and the spirited, often tongue-in-cheek performances.

Bonus features on the Blu-ray release include three behind-the-scenes featurettes, bloopers, deleted scenes, and audio commentaries.


About Author

For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.