Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs
Green Book (Entertainment One). Thoroughly enjoyable though it is, many were surprised when it won the Oscar for Best Picture. An Italian-American nightclub bouncer, Tony Vallelonga, turns chauffeur bodyguard and drives African-American jazz musician Dr Don Shirley, a virtuoso pianist, to the Deep segregated South for a concert tour in the early 1960s. There are racist incidents all along the way but never between them. Their divide is one of class and culture. The black man educates the white man. They become good friends. Peter Farrelly directs. He won an Oscar for best original screenplay. Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali have an instant rapport and they also won Oscars. (The Green Book was a guide used by black motorists to check hotels, restaurants, venues which accepted blacks.)
All is True (Sony). In 1613 the Globe Theatre burned down and Shakespeare returned to his wife and children in Stratford-upon-Avon after a 17-year absence never to write again. He grieves for the death of his 11-year-old son and determines to build a memorial garden to his memory. The script is by Ben Elton who (vide Upstart Crow on TV starring David Mitchell) knows his Shakespeare well. Kenneth Branagh doesn’t look like Kenneth Branagh at all. He looks like the Chandos portrait of the bard. (I very nearly said he looked like David Mitchell.) There is an excellent scene when the Earl of Southampton (Ian McKellen) calls. The former patron, he had loved as a young man and to whom he had dedicated his sonnets, has grown old. Judi Dench plays Shakespeare’s illiterate wife.
I Was Monty’s Double (StudioCanal). In World War II in order to divert attention away from D-Day in Europe, Monty went on inspection tour of North Africa in 1944 – only it wasn’t Monty at all but an obscure Pay Corps officer impersonating him. Clifton E. James recreated the wartime role, he had accepted with the greatest reluctance, feeling acutely his lack of self-confidence to sustain it. However, his likeness to Monty was so uncanny he fooled everybody. It is a great pity the producers felt obliged to add a totally fictional and totally unconvincing Nazi kidnap operation for an absurd climax. John Mills and Cecil Parker are cast as the intelligence officers who mastermind the hoax.
The Instant Family (Paramount). A childless middle-aged couple (Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne) decide to adopt three Latino children but first they have to pass a foster parent test. The director Sean Anders and his wife had gone through the experience in real life. The film, billed as a feel-good movie for everyone, is a mixture of sit com, reality and cliché, and is clearly meant to inspire others to adopt children. There are a lot of children out there in need of a home. How well do you think you would you cope with the chaos, the mood swings, the tantrums, the outright rebellion and the lies? The heart-warming courtroom finale is cringe-making sentimentality.