Blu-ray/DVD Picks & Passes 05.19.13

The Great Escape (1963) — PICK
In the Name of the Father (1993) — PICK
Strictly Ballroom (1992) — PICK

Daniel Day-Lewis is at his incandescent best in Jim Sheridan’s powerful In the Name of the Father, new on Blu-ray. A memorable true story about the pursuit of justice, the film is also a story of personal redemption that features one of the most admirable Catholic fathers in cinematic history. (Check for my list of top movie dads.)

Day-Lewis plays a ne’er-do-well Irish street thief named Gerry who is wrongly accused — along with his devout, upright father, Giuseppe (Pete Postlethwaite), and others — of involvement in a pair of IRA bombings. Coerced into confessing, the defendants were left in prison despite confessions from the real bombers. Worse, the government suppressed exculpatory evidence later accidentally discovered by a dedicated lawyer (Emma Thompson). More than a tale of justice miscarried, it is a father-son story. Giuseppe bears up heroically under crushing conditions, continually prodding his son to be better than he is. Watch for a key scene in which Gerry, high on drugs, returns to their cell as Giuseppe is praying the Rosary.

Also new on Blu-ray is The Great Escape, the highly fictionalized Hollywood adaptation of a non-fiction account of a mass escape from a Nazi POW officers’ camp. The film is elevated by the conspirators’ selflessness: Their plan is not for all of them to actually escape to freedom — highly unlikely — but to divert German resources from the war effort to recapturing the escapees. It’s a rousing story of commitment to a cause and teamwork, bolstered by a terrific cast (Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough) and fantastic action sequences.

Strictly Ballroom, new on Blu-ray, remains Baz Luhrmann’s best film in my book, a hilarious and heartwarming, if off-kilter, comedy-romance about a flashy young ballroom dancer and his inexperienced partner who make waves with unorthodox new dance steps. It subverts the Footloose formula of rebellious youth vs. hidebound establishment with an affirmation of tradition and the revelation that its hero has as much to learn as to teach.


Content Advisory: The Great Escape: Restrained wartime violence; a bit of cursing. Might be a bit much for youngsters. In the Name of the Father: Brutal violence, including a bombing and a horrific execution-style murder; drug use; much obscene and crude language. Mature viewing. Strictly Ballroom: Suggestive and crude humor; sexual content (nothing explicit); comic drunkenness; some profanity. Teens and up.