Recalling a not-so-distant time when the theater was a sweltering hotspot of political intrigue, crucial social satire and a potentially deadly activity, Independence Day director Roland Emmerich’s aesthetically sweeping take on Oxfordian theory, which posits that William Shakespeare didn’t actually write all those plays, is a sexy, complex historical drama so assured of its own ludicrousness that it’s infectious. Rhys Ifans gives one of his best performances as the tortured Edward de Vere, a wealthy nobleman bred for great things who’s “wasting his time” on poetic works. When the Tudor throne is in jeopardy, de Vere decides to use his dusty old manuscripts for the purpose of political action. To that end, he asks Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto) to take credit as the writer. Jonson, a playwright himself, scoffs, and in steps illiterate buffoon Shakespeare, happy to claim the glory and the gold. The film is at its best, however, when tracing the scandalous relationship of Queen Elizabeth I and the arts. (available now)
Special Features: Audio commentary, featurette
There was a time when Andrew Niccol was one of the most exciting sci-fi writers in the world. The late-’90s jab-uppercut of Gattaca and The Truman Show revealed a scribe with big ideas, tender humanism and a necessary paranoid streak that infused his work with a sense of prophecy. Then he made S1m0ne. (If you haven’t seen it, don’t. Trust us.) Since then, Niccol has seemed adrift. For his first film in six years, Niccol goes back to the Gattaca well with this minor work, about a society in which everyone lives according to the same biological timeline – one that can only be extended by purchasing more time – that could signal a return to form. Justin Timberlake mostly holds his own as a do-gooder who stumbles into a fortune of time, which immediately makes him a mark. In Time, though often silly, recaptures Niccol’s urgent paranoia, and it’s especially timely today, when the difference between life and death can actually be a matter of dollar signs. (available now)
Special Features: Deleted scenes, featurette
Will we ever tire of this good-girl-gone-bad Disney classic? Probably not, which is why the Mouse House can keep re-releasing them. There’s also the fact that movie-watching technology has changed in major ways since the 2006 Platinum Edition of this canine musical, and Disney has stayed on top of it like meatballs on pasta. In addition to holdovers from the Platinum release – including a wonderful hour-long making-of – this Diamond Edition features a never-before-recorded song (Tramp solo “I’m Free as the Breeze”), a few more deleted scenes from a wisely chopped subplot and a “Second Screen” app that unlocks even more material that can be viewed simultaneously on your laptop or iPad. The real star, though, is the transfer. Lady’s mane has never looked so posh. (available now)
Special Features: Deleted scenes, deleted song, featurettes, storyboards
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