Brief Reviews: The Latest DVDs
Catch up on some of the films you may have missed. Here’s what’s out on DVD.
It’s 80 years since Al Jolson broke the sound barrier in The Jazz Singer, the story about a cantor’s son who goes to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune. A commemorative three-disc set includes the digitally transferred film with commentaries and vintage shorts of Jolson; a documentary, The Dawn of Sound: How the Movies Learned to Talk; and more than three hours of restored historic early comedy and music shorts. The anniversary edition is a collaboration between Warner Bros. Pictures and The Vitaphone Corporation (warnervideo.com). —Zelda Shluker
The Ultimate Goldbergs
The pioneering achievements of writer-actor-producer Gertrude Berg have been brought together on a six-disc set that includes more than 32 hours of the The Goldbergs, the mostheimish television experience ever. There are 71 television episode, 12 radio shows and an excerpt from Aviva Kempner’s documentary Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg. Produced by UCLA Film & Television Archive and distributed by Shout! Factory (ShoutFactory.com). —Z.S.
The White Ribbon
Set in a German village in 1914 on the eve of World War I, the pastoral scene is soon disturbed by strange accidents, retributions and deaths. Scenes of brutal discipline in school, church and home, coupled with absolute obedience to authority, examine the dark side of the German character that came to full flower two decades later. The complex work by Michael Haneke was Germany’s 2009 Academy Awards. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (www.sonyclassics.com). —Tom Tugend
Edward Norton does a superb job playing identical twins—one a pot-growing thug in Oklahoma, the other a professor of classics at an East Coast university who gets pulled back to the world he escaped when he’s told his brother has died. In writer-director Tim Blake Nelson’s literary yet colorful film, violence mixes with laughs and a search for meaning. Richard Dreyfuss does a star turn as Pug Rothman, a pompous Jewish drug kingpin. Millennium Films & Langley Films (www.firstlookstudios.com). —Susan Adler
Waiting For Armageddon
Israel has no more ardent supporters than the 50 million American Evangelicals who believe that Jesus’ return depends on Jewish possession of every inch of the Holy Land and the rebuilding of Solomon’s Temple. The thorough, even-handed documentary also examines the flip side of the prophecy, namely that all Jews must eventually convert or perish. First Run Features (www.firstrunfeatures.com). —T.T.
Pizza in Auschwitz
Danny Chanoch takes his grown children on a tour of the concentration camp he survived. Sound familiar? But Moshe Zimerman’s film isn’t like any other documentary. For one thing, Danny is cheerful, almost nostalgic, about his experiences; for another, the kids are reluctant, with daughter Miri kvetching all the way. In the film’s climax, the family eats pizza, smokes and chats on their cell phones in a bunk in Auschwitz. The film’s message is that nobody, second and third generations included, survives Auschwitz, but these contentious, disrespectful characters are not good messengers. Trabelsi Productions (www.trabelsiproductions.com). —Renata Polt
Jeremy Davidson’s film features three generations of the dysfunctional Pikler family—including Eli Wallach, 93, as the grandfather blamed by his son for the death of his mother before they escaped Hungary during World War II on Reszo Kasztner’s controversial train (the incident is not explained). The grandson is visiting his father with his pregnant girlfriend for Yom Kippur; only the awareness of the father’s mental deterioration can help heal the isolation of the generations. Barn Door Pictures (www.barndoorpictures.com). —Z.S.
Herskovitz at the Heart of Blackness
How did the son of Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Europe come to define blacks? At a time when racial identity was determined by measurement of body parts, anthropologist Melvin J. Herskovitz studied the relationship between black African Americans and African culture and determined that one must understand a culture on its own terms. Although his research was apolitical, he was a human rights activist. His views became controversial, especially among blacks who sought integration, not a connection to their African past. Llewellyn Smith’s film is rich with the historical background of the times in which Herskovitz lived as well as interviews with those he influenced. (www.itvs.org). —S.A.
Eyes Wide Open
Haim Tabakman has produced a film that will shock some moviegoers. It portrays love between Hasidic men—black-coated, black-hatted, bearded—when a frum butcher gives a student a job in his shop as well as a room to stay. The realistic portrayals include a gracious, modest wife and zealously religious shul-goers who refuse to allow such perversion to continue in their neighborhood (https://eyeswideopenisrael.org). —S.A.
Pioneers for a Cure: Songs to Fight Cancer
The Am Yisrael Chai Collection
The Israel Sessions Volume I
The pioneer songs that created the classic folk music of early Israel are reinterpreted in these two collections; proceeds of sales benefit cancer treatment and research. The Am Yisrael Chai Collection offers a sultry, joyous fusion of Middle Eastern and European melodies and rhythms by contemporary New York-based artists including Pharaoh’s Daughter (“Hinei Achal’la Bachalili”), David Broza (“Vúlai”) and Neshama Carlebach (“Tapuach Zahav”). The second phase, The Israel Sessions, features Israeli musicians living in Israel, from the legendary Yehoram Gaon (“Shir Ha’avodah Vehamlacha”) to rising star Tsahi Halevi (“Al Neharot Bavel“), who give the classics a subdued lyrical quality as well as an updated rock beat. Download individual songs or the whole collection fromwww.pioneersforacure.org. —Rahel Musleah