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by Nigel M Smith
March 22, 2011 3:53 AM
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Small Screen (Blu-ray/DVD): "The Times of Harvey Milk," A Royal Double Feature & More

Robert Epstein's "The Times of Harvey Milk." The Criterion Collection.

This week on DVD and Blu-ray a groundbreaking documentary gets the Criterion treatment, a Queen gets a royal double billing, a pianist comes out of the closet and Buster Keaton lives on.

This Week's Top Pick:

"The Times of Harvey Milk" Gets the Criterion Treatment

The Deal: Hailed by Leonard Maltin in 2004 as one of "the great documentaries of our time," Rob Epstein's Oscar-winning "The Times of Harvey Milk" gets a extras-packed release courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

Produced after Milk's death, the film - which inspired Gus Van Sant's movie "Milk" - uses original interviews, archival footage and news reports to create an incisive portrait of the twentieth-century gay U.S. politician and human rights activist.

Extras: Audio commentary featuring director Robert Epstein, coeditor Deborah Hoffmann, and photographer Daniel Nicoletta; interview clips not used in the film; a new interview with documentary filmmaker Jon Else; a new program about "The Times of Harvey Milk" and Gus Van Sant’s "Milk," featuring Epstein, Van Sant, actor James Franco, and Milk friends Cleve Jones, Anne Kronenberg, and Nicoletta; a rare collection of audio and video recordings of Milk; excerpts from Epstein’s research tapes, featuring Milk partner Scott Smith; footage from the film’s Castro Theatre premiere and the 1984 Academy Awardsl; a panel discussion on Supervisor Dan White’s trial; excerpts from the twenty-fifth anniversary commemoration of Milk’s and Mayor George Moscone’s assassinations; the original theatrical trailer; plus a booklet featuring an essay by film critic B. Ruby Rich, a tribute by Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk, and a piece on the film’s restoration by UCLA’s Ross Lipman. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Trailer:


Other Hot Picks:

"Our Hospitality" Never Looked Better

The Deal: This classic 1923 silent comedy, written, directed and produced and starring the legendary Buster Keaton, gets a major upgrade from its earlier DVD release (and hits Blu-ray for the first time) courtesy of Kino International. Set in the early-19th century, "Our Hospitality" features the fearless Keaton as Willie McKay, an optimistic gent who boards a locomotive to claim his family estate, only to learn his inheritance is a crumbling shack.

Extras: An original documentary on the making of the film, written by film historian Patricia Eliot Tobias with David B. Pearson; "Hospitality," a 49-minute alternate cut of the film, with an explanatory introduction, and an organ score by Lee Erwin; and two photo galleries. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

A scene from the film:


"Sasha" Comes Out

The Deal: This Germany-set drama from writer/director Dennis Todorovi follows Sasha Petrovic, a classically trained pianist struggling to come out to his ex-Yogoslav family. Well received at Outfest where it screened last year in their International Dramatic Features competition, "Sasha" tells a familiar story with a fresh perspective.

Available on DVD.

Trailer:


A Royal Double Feature on Blu-ray

The Deal: Shekhar Kapur's two films that chronicle the reign of Queen Elizabeth I - "Elizabeth" and "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" - hit Blu-ray for the first time together in one deluxe package. While "Elizabeth," which garnered Cate Blanchett her first Academy Award nomination (she lost to Gwyneth Paltrow for "Shakespeare in Love") is widely considered the stronger of the two, the sequel is still good fun and boasts a cast that includes Clive Owen, Abbie Cornish and Samantha Morton who nearly steals the picture from its star as Mary Stuart.

Extras: Each film comes on their own seperate disc. "Elizabeth" features a making-of-documentary, a featurette that goes behind the scenes and audio feature commentary with Kapur. "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" features deleted scenes, the documentary "The Reign Continues: Making "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," audio feature commentary with Kapur and a number of featurettes that delve into production design, costumes and more. Available on Blu-ray.

Trailer for "Elizabeth: The Golden Age":

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