“Wolverine,” “Hartman” and Chet Baker documentary among new DVDs

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Logan (Hugh Jackman) fights his greatest battle in The Wolverine. (Ben Rothstein/Twentieth Century Fox )

The excitement has long been building for the next X-Men movie, Days of Future Past, which will combine the actors playing the younger and older versions of the mutants in previous movies. But Marvel, never one to leave wallets untapped, filled the gap before that movie with another solo turn by one of the men: The Wolverine.

Starring Hugh Jackman, the movie was an improvement over 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And it had a distinct style, one that recalled the novels of Raymond Chandler before collapsing under the weight of the sort of big, noisy ending that superhero movies too often require. As I said when it was in theaters, it put Wolverine in a world with a billionaire, an endangered damsel, a deadly dame and trouble aplenty — in short, one where he could easily be wearing a hand-painted tie and hat while talking tough on the mean streets. Too bad it settled for that ending.

In addition to digital downloads, the movie arrives Tuesday in a standard DVD (Fox, $29.99), a Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo ($39.99) and an “unleashed extended edition” set that includes the 3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray/DVD/digital bundle ($49.99). Extras, which vary depending on which version you get, can include an alternate ending and a Days of Future Past set tour.

You may also want to look for an “Adamantium Collection” on Blu-ray with The Wolverine, the previous Wolverine, the four X-Men movies and a sleeve to hold Days of Future Past after it is on disc, plus a 55-minute documentary — all in a packet that also includes a Wolverine claw. That’s selling for $199.

All in the Family creator Norman Lear often sought ways to make people look at television differently, and one of those ways was Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. The serialized comedy, which originally aired from 1976 to 1977, was designed to look like a soap opera (and aired five times a week like a daytime soap) while following the life of Mary (Louise Lasser) and other denizens of fictional Fernwood, Ohio. But the series took soap conventions to remarkable extremes in its plotting, and poked constant fun at suburban culture in the process. It was famously so outrageous that, even though Lear was an established hitmaker, no network would buy it; he sold it in syndication instead.

Shout!Factory has now released a big box with the entire series (325 episodes, $249.95). It also includes a booklet with comments by Lear, who recalls the troubles the controversial show ran into when airing in Cleveland. There are episode synopses and an essay by TV critic Tom Shales. There are also video extras, among them Lear, Lasser and co-star Mary Kay Place discussing the series, and a piece about the episode where Mary had a breakdown, from the end of the first season. But my real favorite among extras is a 10-episode selection from Fernwood 2 Night, the talk-show parody spun off Hartman, which co-starred Northeast Ohioans Martin Mull and Fred Willard. Splendid stuff.

One of the most mesmerizing music documentaries ever is Let’s Get Lost, Bruce Weber’s 1988 film about jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, which will be available on Tuesday. Weber interviewed Baker before the musician’s death, as well as many of the people who were close to him at various times; Baker left a trail of estrangement. Weber then blended those comments with vintage images of Baker, live performances and a soundtrack laced with his music.

Baker’s problems with drugs were well known, and one of the starker elements of the film is the contrast between the pictures of the young, very handsome Baker — whom one headline called “the James Dean of jazz” — and the ravaged face of the older man. And there are lovely little spirals in the stories told — the contradictions between Baker and others, the conflicts between Baker’s women. It’s such a tour de force that I have been carrying around a VHS tape of Let’s Get Lost for years, waiting for an authorized American DVD.

It comes to DVD and digital services in two different packages on Tuesday: a single disc (Docurama, $29.99 DVD) and a four-disc Bruce Weber: The Film Collection ($59.99 DVD), which has Let’s Get Lost, Chop Suey (2000), A Letter to True (2003) and Broken Noses (1987). The collection includes a booklet of photos from the filming of the movies, along with brief notes about each; the Baker stand-alone has a 40-page booklet of photos and comments about Baker.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, with Chris Pine as the character created by Tom Clancy, will be in theaters in 2014. And Paramount is offering a refresher package of four previous Ryan movies on Tuesday. The Jack Ryan Collection ($29.99 DVD, $5.99 Blu-ray) has The Hunt for Red October (with Alec Baldwin as Ryan), Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger (Harrison Ford) and The Sum of All Fears (Ben Affleck). All four movies have been released previously on DVD and Blu-ray; extras in the new pack are from previous releases.

Along video road: Fox Cinema Archives has announced a new set of DVD titles, including six films starring Sonja Henie, the three-time Olympic figure-skating champion and major movie star. Available now are Thin Ice (1937) and Wintertime (1943); Iceland (1942) arrives on Tuesday, followed by My Lucky Star (1938) on Dec. 10, and One in a Million (1937) and Happy Landing (1938) on Dec. 17.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996=-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.


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