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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Biopic > TV Mini-Series > Melodrama > Comedy > Gay > RomCom > Mental Health > Western > Blonde: The Marilyn Stories (1976 - 1991/Film Chest DVD Set)/Bros. (2022/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/Enormity Of Life (2022/Bayview Blu-ray)/The Power Of The Dog 4K (2021/Netflix/Criterion 4K Ultra HD Bl

Blonde: The Marilyn Stories (1976 - 1991/Film Chest DVD Set)/Bros. (2022/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/Enormity Of Life (2022/Bayview Blu-ray)/The Power Of The Dog 4K (2021/Netflix/Criterion 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: C/B & C/B/B Sound: C/B & C+/C+/B+ Extras: C+/C/C/B- Main Programs: C+/C/C+/B-

The following dramas may have some comedy, but not always in the usual way...

With the controversial, new NC-17 about Marilyn Monroe out for awards season, we have a new compilation DVD set, Blonde: The Marilyn Stories (1976 - 1991) featuring three dramatized attempts to portray the legend and some interesting extras.

Joyce Chopra's Blonde mini-series (2001) is based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel with Poppy Montgomery as the adult Marilyn and at 165 minutes, it is the longest program here. It has its moments, but is mixed overall. The actress playing her is good, but some of this is admittedly fictionalized and you can tell. It plays that way at times and gets too melodramatic for its own good. Still, its shot well and the cast also includes Ann-Margaret, Kristie Alley, Eric Bogosian and Patrick Dempsey, so it is a curio indeed.

John Patterson's Marilyn & Me (1991) claims it is the tale of the only man Marilyn ever loved, which is silly, but the premise just the same, with Susan Griffiths as Marilyn, Jesse Dabson as writer Robert ''Bobbie'' Slatzer and Joel Grey leading a cast of somewhat unknowns in another mixed program that also runs about as long as the other mini-series. This may be pushing the truth much more and has a tendency to run on, but a few moments still work.

And finally, we get Larry Buchanan's Goodbye, Norma Jean (1976) and it is a full-length theatrical film with Misty Rowe as Marilyn in the rawest of biopics, somewhat exploitive, yet somehow still manages to have as many good moments (by accident?) as the other programs. Rowe is more fearless and the scope frame just lends itself to this tale. If it looked or played any cheaper, it could be a XXX film, but it is just a serious R-rated one. Despite its flaws, it5 is worth a look too.

Extras include the real Marilyn's first TV appearance on a 1953 episode of The Jack Benny Program, trivia. Photo Gallery, 1967 Legend Of Marilyn Monroe documentary, 1986 Marilyn documentary and thin-but-high-quality illustrated booklet on the programming in this set.

Nicholas Stoller's Bros. (2022) is a Judd Apatow-produced film about a gay male couple (Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane) developing into a couple in love and the like, in a film that runs almost two hours, but feels longer. The film did not do well upon original release with one of the participants complaining about people not going to see it. Besides very little promotion (unless Universal did some selectively targeted ones) the problem here is it has all kinds of cliches and is a few decades after dozens of such films were made and distributed to the gay movie community at large via companies (like Wolfe and Water Bearer, et al) that successfully reached their audience.

There is also nothing new or special here, even with the actors giving it their best, character development is limited and we get the same few jokes (can one of them ever get to join a group sex moment) and it all lacks energy in some odd way, though the director also helmed
Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I thought that was pretty overrated too.

Of course, I did not expect it to be political or revolutionary, which Dear Evan Hansen was not, on top of being a poor musical, showing that representation alone is not sufficient in breaking ground or leaving an impact. Compare to the classic A Very Natural Thing (1972, reviewed elsewhere on this site) for instance and the limits become obvious. A small landmark at best, it will only become a curio when all is said and done, but with room for improvement, we'll see if the limits of this current cycle of mainstream gay films are snapped out of. Until then, this is only for the most curious.

Extras include (per the press release):

  • Deleted Scenes

    • Alt First Date

    • Nipple Plumpers

    • Calling Peter, Paul and Marty

    • Pride Fight

    • Steroid Workout

    • Bro Workout

    • Senior Center

  • Gag Reel

  • Representation Matters: Representation matters, especially in a genre such as romantic comedies which has traditionally been a space for heteronormative on-screen couples. We sit down with our cast and key crew members and ask them to tell us why they think this movie is important, why it's important to be making it now, what it means to them personally to see representation in this genre, and what scenes or moments from the film spoke to them.

  • From Start to Finish: Get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the entire process of bringing BROS to life.

  • Introducing Bobby and Aaron: Director Nick Stoller and actors Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane introduce us to their characters, the process of playing them and discuss their on-screen chemistry.

  • The Cast and the Cameos: This film features an incredible ensemble cast, especially those making up the museum board. Through sit-down interviews and informal stand ups, we hear how they came to be a part of the project, their thoughts when they first read the script, their characters, their favorite scenes, and what the process of filming was like.

  • The Art of the Rom-Com with Billy and Nick: What makes a good rom-com? Using sit-down interview footage with co-writers Billy and Nick (separately), we dive into what they think makes a good romantic comedy, and all the ways in which they stuck to, or subverted classic rom-com tropes for BROS.

  • The BROS National LGBTQIA+ History Museum: We learn about where the idea to incorporate the first LGBTQ+ History Museum into the script came from, why Billy and Nick landed on certain exhibits, and how it all came together under the helm of the amazing Production Designer and her team.

  • The Making of a Deleted Scene

  • Pride Fight: The Making Of: We do a deep dive into this deleted scene, how it was made and why it ultimately ended up on the cutting room floor.

  • and Working Out: The Making Of: We talk to Nick and Billy about the workout scenes, the inspiration for them, what it was like to make the scenes, and again, the reasons why they didn't make it into the final cut of the movie.

Eric Swinderman's The Enormity Of Life (2022) has the underrated Brecklin Meyer, usually known for his comedy, as a man at the end of his rope literally, who wants to self-destruct, but he fails at an attempt to do this and finds out he has just very unexpectedly inherited a small fortune.

His mother is sick and he wants to use the money to help her too, but he then meets a down on her luck waitress (Emily Kinney) who can also use some help and is a single mother. He also starts finding that he likes her, while his mother is starting to act erratically. What will he do?

When I first heard of the film, it looked like Meyer might be doing his first drama, but this still manages to be a comedy with some moments even early on being really bad. He film never totally recovers and laughs away many missed opportunities to make a better film. The rest of the cast is not bad, but I was as unimpressed as I was disappointed and Meyer plays it safe staying in the comedy genre when it was time for him to take a risk. Oh well.

Extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette (when it was under its older title, Anhedonia) and a trailer.

Jane Campion's The Power Of The Dog 4K (2021) is a western at a time when they are very dead, either regressive (proto fascist and/or just phony or about phonies, by phonies, many of which who do not realize they arr or do not care if viewers know how phony they are in real life) or want to actually deal with the West (think Kevin Costner's Yellowstone series) or are revisionist/realist tales like this one.

Tough, obnoxious Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his brother George (Jesse Plemons) have been running the family ranch for decades, even though they are often opposites and have different ideas on how to do so. When he meets young Rose (Kristen Dunst) running a local eatery the brothers and company go to dine at, he becomes more interested than anyone sees and Phil eventually catches on and is unhappy, seeing this as a disruption and more.

Also, she has a son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who is not very ranch-wise, but book-wise and well-mannered, leading to instant rejection of him by the ranch workers (gay slurs included, though they have zero proof or knowledge of anything about him, par for the course in such situations) and no one helps him or defends him. Phil is not a fan and in increasing friction, is not keen on helping his brother greet the Governor (Keith Carradine) or his wife (Allison Bruce) in an important visit.

More twists and turns are at hand, but I'll stop there, but Campion is mostly interested in characters and to be honest, this could have taken place in any other time period, but she chose this one in 1925 Montana, isolation and masculinity are the only two reasons she did. The result is as much a melodrama as anything, but (without any spoilers) a little disappointing, despite taking some risks. The film can also be very brutal, especially in the way animals are treated, so be warned.

Frances Conroy also stars.

Extras include (per the press release) another high quality paper pullout on the film with illustrations, art, tech info and an essay by film critic Amy Taubin, while the disc adds an interview with Campion about the making of the film

  • Program featuring interviews with members of the cast and crew and behind-the-scenes footage captured on location in New Zealand

  • Interview with Campion and composer Jonny Greenwood about the film's score

  • Conversation among Campion, director of photography Ari Wegner, actor Kirsten Dunst, and producer Tanya Seghatchian, moderated by filmmaker Tamara Jenkins

  • New interview with novelist Annie Proulx

  • and a Trailer.

Now for playback quality. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 2.28 X 1 (yes, you read that correctly,) Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Dog is an all-Ultra HD shoot that looks good, has fine compositions and is the best performer on the list, but even in this superior presentation, it cannot compete with the classic images of the best film-shot Westerns. That is especially in the case of scope-produced films. Color is good, but can be limited and the 1080p Blu-ray also included is fairly good, but flatter by comparison. The lossless Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown for older systems) soundmix on both discs is also the best sonic presentation here and definitely has its moments when not dealing with dialogue-based scenes.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on the Bros. Blu-ray is an HD shoot that looks fine for that, but nothing special, while its DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is competent and always has a soundfield of some sort. This is well-recorded, but nothing more than that. The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on the included DVD is softer and flatter, while the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 fares a bit better, but is not as warm or clear as the Blu-ray's lossless DTS.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Life is also an HD shoot and also fares well enough, even with a few soft spots, but the sound for some reason is only lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 when it should have been a lossless format. Too bad, because that would have made this more involving.

The Marilyn set offers most of its programming in 1.33 X 1 framing, including the Blonde mini-series, while Marilyn & Me is here in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 framing and the Techniscope-shot Goodbye, Norma Jean is here in anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 aspect ratio that looks accurate enough. Unfortunately, they are all off of older video masters and are soft, second generation presentations, so their sound suffers as well being a little softer than it should be in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono in all cases. Be careful of volume switching and high volume playback on them and all the extras here.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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