Stephen Schaefer’s Hollywood & Mine

‘Silence of the Lambs’ is that rare movie, alongside ‘Casablanca,’ that people never get tired of rewatching.  One of the truly rare pictures to win all 5 top Oscars: Best Picture, Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Actress (Jodie Foster), Director (Jonathan Demme), Screenplay Adaptation (Ted Tally, based on Thomas Harris’ novel), it defied so-called Academy Award ‘rules’ that insisted any film that opened in the dog days of February would be overlooked at awards time a year later. I’ll always remember when ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray, KL Studio Classics, R) opened in early 1991 and Stuart Byron, the Village Voice Hollywood analyst, predicted, ‘This will be Jonathan Demme’s most popular picture. And least personal.’

Director Jonathan Demme, left, stands with actress Jodie Foster and actor Anthony Hopkins Jodie Foster and actor Anthony Hopkins Monday night , May 31, 1992 in Los Angeles at the Academy Awards. All three won top honors for “Silence of the Lambs,” which took best picture award. Demme won an Oscar for Best Director, Foster for Best Actress and Hopkins Best Actor. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

In this 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray, the Special Features are many: Audio commentary by film historian Tim Lucas, a documentary on making the film, another on the adaptation.  There’s a featurette on ‘Understanding the Madness,’ one on Howard Shore’s score, deleted scenes and outtakes, a phone message from Hopkins, an original 1991 Making of featurette.  Plus vintage interviews with Foster and Demme, who was 73 when he died in 2017.  Demme was never again Oscar-nominated yet Tom Hanks (Actor) and Bruce Springsteen (Song) won Oscars for his 1994 AIDS drama ‘Philadelphia,’ a movie Demme made to correct the horribly false impression that transvestites like ‘Silence’ villain, a serial killer nicknamed Buffalo Bill (played by Ted Levine), were commonplace and the damage that did to the gay community.  Must-see Demmes:  ‘Something Wild’ (’86), ‘Married to the Mob’ (‘88), ‘Rachel Getting Married’ (2008).




TIP TOP STEPHEN KING                   Rob Reiner’s had several homeruns in his varied career as director and ‘Misery’ (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray, KL Studio Classics, R) is surely among them.  His 1990 adaptation of Stephen King’s horror story of a famous writer held captive by his ‘biggest fan’ continues to be rightly regarded among the greatest of King adaptations.  Certainly Kathy Bates’ Oscar winning Annie Wilkes remains iconic. This 4K Ultra HD has 7 featurettes, Reiner’s audio commentary AND screenwriter William Goldman’s audio commentary as well. The ‘All the President’s Men’ and ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ scribe was 87 when he died in 2018.

As star of the 1990 movie “Misery,” Kathy Bates won the Best Actress Oscar. 




SEVENTIES’ CLASSIC                One of the sparkling jewels of American 1970s Cinema, Ulu Grosbard’s ‘Straight Time’ (Blu-ray, WB Archive, R) remains a riveting portrait of released prisoner (Dustin Hoffman in one of his career-defining performances alongside ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ and ‘Rain Man’) felled by, as so much was in the ‘70s, the System.  To prepare for this 1978 release Hoffman ‘apprenticed himself’ to ex-con Edward Bunker whose book ‘No Beast So Fierce’ inspired the film.  Initially Hoffman was to direct as well but after one day, that idea was abandoned and Grosbard was paged.  Grosbard deserves special mention for his inspired supporting cast: Harry Dean Stanton, Theresa Russell, Kathy Bates and Gary Busey. Special Features: A vintage Hoffman and Grosbard commentary (the Belgian born filmmaker was 83 when he died in 2012) and a vintage featurette: ‘Straight Time: He Wrote It for Criminals.’



CAINE STILL RULES                            It’s called ‘Twist’ (Blu-ray, Lionsgate, R) for a reason – as in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Martin Owen’s British crime drama nods specifically to its 18th century roots. Fagin is now played by Michael Caine, Sikes the murderous thug is Lena Headey and Rita Ora is now not the Artful Dodger but Dodge.  There is an original soundtrack for a film that more than nods to Guy Ritchie’s foul-talking gangsters.



STUNNING ISRAELI DOC                        Is peace in the Middle East between Israel and its Arab neighbors possible?  The engrossing Israeli-American documentary ‘The Human Factor’ (Blu-ray, Sony, PG-13) recounts a 30-year effort to secure that peace, told from the American mediators who were on the frontlines, negotiating, arguing, urging. First screened at Telluride in 2019, it was released in January following a pandemic postponement.

 President Bill Clinton, center, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, left, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat walk on the grounds of Camp David, Md., at the start of the Mideast summit on July 11, 2000. The documentary “The Human Factor” shows the behind-the-scenes story of the U.S.’s effort to secure peace in the Middle East. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)



YOUNG KEANU SCORES                     In 2001 Keanu Reeves teamed with Diane Lane for ‘Hardball’ (Blu-ray, Paramount, PG-13), a drama that couldn’t be simpler – or more winning.  Taking a familiar set-up – Reeves’ gambling addict finds redemption coaching a losing youth baseball team – ‘Hardball’ scores with its modest goals.  These Black fifth grade kids from Chicago’s inner city for whom the notion of redemption is not an option, much less a goal.  ‘Hardball’ opened at number 1 the weekend after 9/11.  Special Features: Director Brian Robbins and writer John Gatins’ commentary, deleted scenes, a Making of and a music video featuring Lil’ Bow Wow among others.

Actor Keanu Reeves (as Conor O”Neill, R) and castmates act in a scene from “Hardball.” (Photo by Chuck Hodes/Paramount Pictures via Getty Images)




G-DAY, MATE:                         It’s hard to imagine how excited, obsessed, interested fans were in an earlier era.  Think of the Rudolf Valentino mania in the 1920s or Fess Parker’s Davy Crockett Disney series for Boomer tykes in the ‘50s.  Paul Hogan, who dreamed up the story and co-scripted as well as starred, generated that kind of attention with his sun-baked Aussie Mick Dundee — a classic ‘fish out of water’ when he follows a reporter (Linda Kozlowski) to the Big Apple.  ‘Crocodile Dundee Trilogy’ (Blu-ray, Paramount, PG-13) brings the original and 2 sequels into a package celebrating 35 years.






LOVE THE ORIGINAL?                             George Romero’s now-classic 1968 black-and-white zombie nightmare has been transformed visually as ‘Night of the Animated Dead’ (Blu-ray + Digital Code, WB, R). An imaginative new look at a cult classic, this ‘Animated Dead’ promises ‘terrifying new content not found in the original.’  Special Feature:  Making of: Animating the Dead.



FRENCH ARTHOUSE HIT                       Oh, those psychotherapists!  In this comic French thriller ‘Sibyl’ (DVD, Music Box Films, Not Rated) is a shrink who exits her practice to write – but can’t – and finds herself becoming enmeshed in a young actress’s complicated love life.  The actress ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ star Adele Exarchopoulos) is having an affair with her costar (Gaspard Ulliel) who is married to the film’s director (Sandra Huller).  Sibyl the shrink is becoming obsessed – as she finds inspiration.  Bonus: Interviews with cast and director, a photo gallery.






WHY JAMES SPADER RULES                          Yes, ‘The Blacklist: The Complete Eighth Season’ DVD, Not Rated) is entertaining, compelling – yet it rides along on the distinctive appeal of James Spader’s Red Reddington, a former Navy officer turned high profile criminal turned voluntary FBI informant.  Reddington’s blacklist is a compilation of the world’s worst criminals – evil-evildoers he plans to capture and eliminate from his list. For this season there’s a stand-off between Reddington and the series’ female lead Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). She is aligned with her notorious Russian spy mother and needs to finally figure out what Reddington’s endgame is.  Boone has now left the series.  Among the Bonus Features: ‘Liz’s Farewell,’ deleted scenes and bloopers.   A 9th season premieres Oct. 21.

James Spader, The Blacklist | Photo Credits: Virginia Sherwood/NBC



DC ON THE CW                                 There’s a new ‘Batwoman: The Complete Second Season’ (Blu-ray + Digital Code, 18 episodes, 3 discs, DC-WB, Not Rated) as the popular series entered S2.  Ex-con Ryan Wilder (Wallis Day) finds Kate Kane’s Batsuit in the wreckage of a plane crash, one that presumably killed Kane. Wilder is bent on revenging her foster mother’s death at the hands of evil Alice (Rachel Skarsten) and her Wonderland gang.  Special Features:  ‘Never Alone: Heroes and Allies,’ ‘Villains Analyzed,’ deleted scenes, gag reel.

Javicia Leslie plays Ryan Wilder, the new Batwoman, in the second and upcoming third seasons of “Batwoman.” (Nino Munoz/The CW/TNS)

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