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ABBOTT (WITHOUT COSTELLO) MEETS MARTIN AND LEWIS!

The new DVD/Blu-ray release Abbott & Costello Rarities more than lives up to its title. Portions of this material have appeared on previous DVD releases of The Abbott and Costello Show, but not in their entirety or in high-definition transfers. Kodachrome home movies of Bud and Lou’s cross-country War Bond trip are interesting to see, as they make whistle-stop tours by train, greeted by gigantic crowds. Remember, this was at the peak of their popularity in 1942.     There are also outtakes which have only existed in inferior copies online, trailers, miscellany (like a Christmas seals promo with Charles Laughton) and a selection of audio rarities from their long radio career. But the piece de resistance is a long-unseen episode of the Colgate Comedy Hour from 1953 in which…

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SAVING LOST FILMS, SETTING TYPE, AND MORE

There is a bumper crop of interesting documentaries right now. Some of them play the festival circuit, others get theatrical release, and ultimately all are available for streaming or downloading as well as purchase on good ol’ DVD and Blu-ray discs. The beauty of new distribution channels is that smaller films covering offbeat topics have a chance to be seen by the precise audience for whom they were made.   Let’s start this mini-survey with Saving Brinton, a charming film about a colorful character named Mike Zahs who has the demeanor of a schoolteacher and sports a big, bushy beard. In the basement of a local farmhouse in Iowa he makes a great discovery: the 35mm prints, projection equipment, and papers of an early-20th century barnstorming showman named…

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INCREDIBLES 2: THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF A SEQUEL

Incredibles 2 is an entertaining, well-made movie that’s a model of family entertainment. Writer-director Brad Bird, who made his Pixar debut with The Incredibles in 2004, has come up with a fresh take on his ground-breaking story of a superhero clan. It emphasizes wife and mom Elastigirl and elicits big laughs from the smallest member of the family, explosive infant Jack-Jack. (I saw the movie with an enthusiastic audience last weekend and every gag involving Jack-Jack scored a crowd-pleasing bull’s-eye.) Like all sequels this one poses a challenge for the filmmaker: the surprise factor inherent in an origin story is gone. We’ve already met the family and know what they’re about. Bird meets this task head-on, armed with a fresh point of view, lots of gags and almost non-stop…

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WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? A RESOUNDING ‘YES!’

It shouldn’t be difficult to make a sweet movie about Fred Rogers, the gentle host of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on PBS. But Morgan Neville doesn’t make superficial documentaries, as evidenced by Twenty Feet from Stardom (which earned him an Oscar) and Best of Enemies: Buckley vs. Vidal. There is much more to this portrait of Mr. Rogers than I expected. It delves into his philosophy, his doubts, his lifelong fear that he wasn’t making a difference—when in fact we see ample evidence that he did. He was a man on a mission. He took children and their developmental challenges seriously, and didn’t shy away from tackling difficult subjects—right up to 9/11. Neville interviews his devoted wife, sister, and two sons who seem to have carved…

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JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM—MORE OF THE SAME

Dinosaurs are dangerous and people are greedy. Got that? It’s the foundation of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and if that mantra sounds way too familiar (and obvious), it’s the answer to why this film isn’t better. Kids who aren’t familiar with the series or overly jaded may find it fun, at least for a while. By the two-thirds mark I was bored. I actually enjoyed the last episode in the seemingly unstoppable series, in spite of its familiar tropes, but this time it’s all too obvious that the filmmakers are repeating themselves. How many times can we watch slimy entrepreneurs fool some wide-eyed heroes before revealing their not-so-hidden agenda to exploit these prehistoric creatures for profit? No one was bored when Steven Spielberg gave us…

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