Once Upon a Time
The Princess Bride: 20th Anniversary Edition
As far as anniversary-edition DVDs go, The Princess Bride is crushingly disappointing: no Rob Reiner commentary track, no outtakes, no making-of doc, no nothing, save for a lousy game and a few short interviews with Robin Wright Penn, Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest, and a few others scattered throughout three mini-docs. (Alas, no Cary Elwes or Billy Crystal — or Reiner, anywhere.) The movie remains timeless, effervescent, and enchanting, absolutely — often aped but never quite copied, it’s satire at its sweetest: a fractured fairy tale that only gets more poignant and delightful with each viewing, as evidenced by its turning into a family favorite two decades on. Unlike Shrek, it’s absent the pop-culture references that would date it like a carton of milk; it’ll withstand another 20 years, easily. Only it’s already available on a special-edition disc that looks as good as this version and costs a few bucks less — and, surely, you already own it. No? Then this’ll do.
— Robert Wilonsky
Killer of Sheep: The Charles Burnett Collection
Better 30 years late than never, the theatrical release of Charles Burnett’s 1977 drama Killer of Sheep was the year’s art-house triumph: a stark, poetic, raggedly beautiful portrait of a Watts slaughterhouse worker fighting the toll of his soul-deadening job. As Armond White’s liner notes suggest, it’s too pertinent and tough-minded a movie to be filed away as a “masterpiece,” and this long-awaited two-disc collection surrounds it with similar wonders: Burnett’s lost 1983 feature My Brother’s Wedding, an earthy slice of life that starts close to comedy and ends close to tragedy; several short films, of which at least one (1995’s “When It Rains”) has the heft and humanity of a major work. Watch these, and you’ll come away convinced Burnett is America’s Renoir: a clear-eyed but loving humanist who understands that everyone has his reasons.
— Jim Ridley
Innocence is the French movie that your homophobic uncle pictures in his head when you tell him you like French movies. Set in a remote school for girls, the film features long takes of running brooks, ballet practice, and obscure conversations with hidden meaning and heavy symbolism. It also features long takes of prepubescent nudity that may bug you. But it also takes a movie about little girls jumping rope and learning to dance and turns it into something creepy — almost frightening, thanks to gorgeous cinematography and a few odd details such as, oh, how all of the girls arrive at the school in coffins. But mostly it’s just quiet and disquieting. Confused? Check out the special feature in which nine-year-old actress Zoé Auclair explains the film better than you could.
— Jordan Harper
La Vie en Rose
The drug use of others is boring to everyone but teenagers and biopic producers. Sure, it would be hard to tell a musician’s life story without a little snort and tipple, but what’s with all this factual accuracy anyway? Biopics always bullshit a little; why not throw in a subplot about the star solving a murder or something? In La Vie en Rose, legendary French singer Édith Piaf seems to spend one third of her life singing, one-third drunk, and one third sitting in dark rooms doing zilch. The filmmakers manage to make even her childhood — which she spent bouncing between the circus and a brothel — less than fascinating. The songs, using Piaf’s original recordings, will turn your heart to hamburger; the rest of the movie, not so much. Marion Cotillard is fantastic, but she and the music just can’t hold up over 140 minutes.
— Jordan Harper