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Cabaret: 40th Anniversary Blu-ray

In the year 1972, Cabaret was the movie that won Oscars for best director (Bob Fosse) and best supporting actor (Joel Grey). Bear in mind '72 was the year of The Godfather, and Fosse won the award over Francis Ford Coppola and Grey defeated Al Pacino. (Pacino was actually the lead in The Godfather, but the best actor Oscar went to Marlon Brando, though he had less screen time than Pacino. Yes, it is confusing.)

Cabaret hasn't held up as well as The Godfather has. It is especially surprising that it was the former that got the Oscars for editing, cinematography and production design. Incredibly, The Godfather wasn't even nominated in the latter two categories.

Fosse's screen version favours glam over substance, emphasizing the story of "divinely decadent" cabaret singer Sally Bowles (Liza Minelli) and her relationship with bisexual British language teacher Brian Roberts (Michael York) in Berlin in 1931 during the rise of the Nazis. To its detriment, the movie jettisons the stage version's subplot about the doomed relationship between Sally's landlady and a Jewish suitor.

Even so, it's a great movie and Minnelli holds the centre so vigorously, she made everyone forget Sally Bowles wasn't actually meant to be portrayed as a talented chanteuse.

The deluxe Blu-ray, which comes with a 40-page booklet of photos, includes loads of extras including a doc entitled Cabaret: The Musical That Changed Musicals, and reams of remembrances from actors Minnelli, York and Grey and writers Fred Ebb, John Kander and Jay Presson Allen. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

Flight

It's enough to make you reconsider ever going on a plane again.

The first we see of hard-living airline pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), he is waking up in a hotel after consuming prodigious amounts of drugs and alcohol with a similarly inclined flight attendant (Nadine Velazquez). How does he get in shape to pilot the morning flight from Orlando to Atlanta? A snort of coke does the trick.

Experienced at concealing his intoxication, Whip is already loaded as he guides the plane through heavy turbulence after takeoff. He even has the effrontery to sneak a couple of bottles of vodka into his orange juice while assuring his passengers that the worst is over.

It's not. The flight suddenly, inexplicably loses altitude and goes into an uncontrolled dive. While Whip's starched co-pilot (Brian Geraghty) goes into near hysterics, Whip calculates, turns the plane upside down to take it out of its death dive and rights it in time to crash land on a field. Of the 102 souls on board, only four are killed. Whitaker is credited with saving their lives with his quick thinking and unconventional piloting know-how.

From there, Flight proceeds with the momentum of a thriller but the gravitas of a gritty character drama, as friends and legal representatives are pushed into the role of enablers to hide Whip's addictions from public scrutiny.

Instead of approaching the material as a melodrama, Zemeckis turns it into a suspense tale with a riveting climax on the night before Whip's testimony on the accident at a hearing of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Zemeckis actually makes the audience feel complicit by getting us onside with Whip's deception, even if that means he loses his soul. Hence, the film is a fascinating look at addiction, but in its finale, it packs a provocative correlative punch: we are all enablers.

The extra documentaries on the Blu-ray discuss all aspects of the film, from the crackerjack execution of the flight disaster to the dramatic conclusion. It's Spoiler City, so refrain from watching before you've seen the movie. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Alex Cross

Tyler Perry throws off Madea's plus-sized frocks (as well as writer and director credits) for the sake of reinventing himself as an actor, here playing the title role of the savvy forensic psychologist more easily associated with Morgan Freeman (Kiss the Girls, Along Came a Spider).

But Perry doesn't make the transition gracefully, and it doesn't help that the movie, ham-handedly directed by Rob Cohen, glissandos through every cliché in the genius cop-vs.-creative psycho songbook.

Here, Cross goes up against an international psycho assassin known as "Picasso" for his tendency to draw sketches of his own crime scenes. Our bad guy (an especially twitchy Matthew Fox) is one of those bulge-eyed psycho supermen who can gain access to any high-security facility without breaking a sweat, yet is unable to resist a penchant for dropping clues as to when he'll strike next.

Cross duly anticipates his next move and shows up to a locked-down office building with his obligatory wisecracking partner Kane (Ed Burns). They prevent the assassination and wound the assassin. Cross thinks that since the killer is a professional, he won't seek revenge against the cops. But he is wrong, and his mistake endangers just about the entire supporting cast, including Cross's wife (Carmen Ejogo) and his inevitably sassy mother (Cicely Tyson).

Director Cohen employs dusty stylistic gimmicks, such as the inside-the-car POV of a car crash, and when required to stage a fight scene between the big, lumbering Perry and the skinny, frantic Fox, he just shoots lots of fight footage and lets the editor cut it into a fast-paced, incomprehensible mess.

Who thought we'd ever miss Madea? 'Ö1/2

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2013 C12

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