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BY Steven D. GreydanusFilm Critic
On the Waterfront (1954)
Schindler’s List (1993)
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Two Vatican film-list honorees in the "Values" category, both "Best Picture" winners, debuted on Blu-ray recently. Other home-video arrivals include a 2012 Oscar-nominated animated family film.
Marking its 20th anniversary — what took so long? — multiple Oscar winner and a Vatican film-list honoree Schindler’s List is newly available in a Blu-ray/DVD combo edition with a brand-new restoration of the film from the original negative, overseen by director Steven Spielberg.
Widely praised and criticized, the film’s power is undeniable. Following Thomas Keneally’s historical novel, the film’s account of an opportunistic German industrialist’s ambiguous transition from war profiteering to sheltering Jewish lives is a study, not of the Holocaust itself, but of the human reality of living through the Nazi era, both for Jews and for Germans.
Bonus features are oddly light. An engrossing feature-length documentary (about 75 minutes) featuring stories of surviving Schindler Jews from Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, interspersed with historical footage and still photographs, is the one substantial supplement. There’s also a short extra (under 5 minutes) on the work of the Shoah Foundation.
Debuting on Blu-ray from Criterion, Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront has been called "a Going My Way with substance" for its depiction of a tough-talking "waterfront priest" (Karl Malden, whose character is based on real-life Jesuit John M. Corridan) taking on the corruption and strong-arm tactics of mob bosses who control the lives of hardworking longshoremen. Father Barry’s famous crucifixion "homily" is one of the best movie speeches in history (overshadowed, alas, by Marlon Brando’s iconic "I coulda been a contenda" monologue).
The film has been completely restored for Blu-ray, and there’s a long, long list of bonus features, including a brand-new 45-minute retrospective documentary on the film’s production and Kazan’s life; a 2001 commentary track; a 17-minute discussion of the film by Martin Scorsese and film critic Kent Jones; and a new interview with female lead Eva Marie Saint.
New from Disney, Wreck-It Ralph is a little like Toy Story lite for video gamers, though it’s no Pixar-level classic. Cleverly written and plotted, with a cast of digital characters from video games that never existed but feel like they could have (with cameo appearances of "real" game characters like Q*Bert), it’s nostalgic and diverting, although somewhat emotionally lacking — perhaps because there’s no human heart, no Andy for the digital characters to care about. (I’m calling it a borderline "pass," but I wouldn’t discourage you from seeing it if you’re really interested.)
Content Advisory: On the Waterfront: Some street violence; recurring menace and intimidation. Teens and up. Schindler’s List: Depictions of the Holocaust; brief nudity (both non-sexual and sexual); some sexual immorality. Adults. Wreck-It Ralph: Lots of animated video-game rough stuff; some bathroom humor and a bit of crass language. Might be too much for sensitive youngsters.