News Column

'Liz & Dick,' 'Cloud Atlas' Among New DVD and Blu-ray Releases

May 13, 2013

Rich Heldenfels

Public fascination with Elizabeth Taylor endures. "Cleopatra," famous as much for launching her romance with Richard Burton as for any cinematic virtue, will get a 50th-anniversary release on DVD and Blu-ray on May 28. And it will be back on the big screen in select Cinemark theaters on May 22 and 26.

Lindsay Lohan, too, remains an object of interest, as much for her many personal and legal struggles as for her occasional demonstrations of acting ability. So from a publicity standpoint alone, the casting of Lohan as Taylor in the TV movie "Liz & Dick" must have seemed like a good idea.

But, as you can see Tuesday on DVD (Entertainment One, $19.98), the movie did little help Lohan's reputation or to demonstrate what it was about Taylor that so mesmerized the public.

As the movie title suggests, it focuses on the Taylor-Burton relationship from Cleopatra through marriage and divorce, and remarriage and re-divorce, and on until Burton's death in 1984. (Taylor died in 2011.) As I said when the movie aired on Lifetime in November, it is a story of two people who seemed ill-matched _ she a child of the movies, he a once-poor Welshman acclaimed for stage work including Shakespeare _ but who were besotted with each other, embarking on adventures that were very costly, both financially and emotionally. Taylor's mantra is "I want more" _ more of Burton, more diamonds _ but Burton is shown as wanting a lot of what Taylor has, including not only real stardom, but an Academy Award to go with her two. (He never won.)

The movie was widely mocked, but I think a lot of that had to do with the ill will Lohan has accumulated with her tabloid exploits. Grant Bowler, who plays Burton, acts well enough, and Lohan makes some moments work. But the movie overall is flat, and Lohan is miscast _ wrong for Taylor in terms of voice and physicality, no matter how much eye makeup she wears. And the DVD is rather shabby, the extras consisting of brief "interview" segments with the stars and production people; Lohan's and Bowler's seem to have been shot hastily, and poorly miked, with their voices echoing in the room.

A far more ambitious bit of cinema is "Cloud Atlas" (Fox, $28.98 DVD / digital combo, $35.99 Blu-ray/DVD/digital set). From the Matrix team of Andy and Lana Wachowski, and based on the novel by David Mitchell, it's a time-leaping story of how lives are interconnected. Actors, including Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, play multiple characters in different times and situations to show the connections _ as well as to remind everyone how very good these actors can be.

Unfortunately, even with the performances and some beautiful scenes, the movie did not draw in audiences. Its 172-minute running time includes some dull stretches. And the conclusion was less than thrilling, the offering of a rather obvious message that the movie had already been pounding home.

The DVD release adds a making-of segment, the Blu-ray combo half a dozen other pieces, including ones on adapting the novel and the acting challenges.

By the way, Berry's more recent films, "The Call" and the ensemble piece "Movie 43," will be on home video on June 25 and 18 respectively.

Also on Tuesday is "The Bletchley Circle: Cracking a Killer's Code" (PBS Video, $24.99 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray), the recent three-episode public-TV drama (which was just called "The Bletchley Circle" in the telecasts).

Set in 1952, it follows four women who worked as code-breakers for the English government during World War II _ and who begin to draw on their old skills to solve a series of murders. It's more than a mystery, looking closely at how women's place in society changed after the war, and what that meant to the women. The fine cast is headed by Anna Maxwell Martin. The violence can be unsettling.

Extras include interviews with the cast and crew.

Down video road: "Political Animals: The Complete Series," the recent USA Network drama starring Sigourney Weaver, will be on DVD on Aug. 6. Ishtar, often cited as a filmmaking disaster even though the early portions are very funny, will make its Blu-ray debut that same date.

Cinemax series "Banshee" will have its first season on DVD and Blu-ray on July 30, while Cinemax's "Strike Back" will have a second-season set in both formats on Aug. 6. "Damages: The Final Season" will be on DVD on July 16.

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(c)2013 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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