- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2020

Here’s a look at a pair of home theater screen-filling films available in the Blu-ray format.

The Addams Family (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Rated PG, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 87 minutes, $34.98) — Cartoonist Charles Addams’ favorite creepy and kooky family returned to theaters in an animated film late last year packed with celebrity voice-over talent.

Home theaters owners can now check out directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan colorful effort in full-screen, high definition glory to learn about life with Morticia and Gomez Addams, their children Wednesday and Pugsley and butlers Lurch and Thing.

The story humorously covers the couple’s marriage, the origins of Lurch’s service, the celebration of Mazurka (Pugsley’s right-of-passage ritual), Wednesday flexing her independence and the challenges of living with normal neighbors in New Jersey’s modern makeover suburb Assimilation.

Viewers will delight in style choices such Wednesday’s hangman’s nooses for hair braids, Morticia using a wrench to tighten her corset, the Addams’ mansion’s raw-meat-eating gate, and Lurch playing “Green Onions” on the piano with help from Thing.

That acting firepower included Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Charlize Theron as Morticia, Chloë Grace Moretz as Wednesday, Bette Midler as Grandmama Addams, Nick Kroll as Uncle Fester, Finn Wolfhard as Pugsley and Snoop Dogg as Cousin Itt.

Also, pop culture aficionados should pay close attention to the hilarious verbal stylings of Grandpa and Grandma Frump (Morticia’s parents) as performed by SCTV alums Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara.

Yes, overall, a perfect cast revels in the macabre while the animation style works reverently to Addams’ original illustrative vision while seamlessly conveying the ghoulish shenanigans.

However, I’m still even more smitten with not only the original TV show from the 1960s, led by John Astin as Gomez and Carolyn Jones as Morticia, but the live-action movies from the 1990s that starred the perfectly cast Angelica Huston and Raul Julia as the parents.

Best extras: Viewers can access two short featurettes with one about the cast discussing the story and the other only devoting a maddening minute to the Charles Addams legacy. Surely, a much longer documentary could have been available to highlight the life of the master cartoonist.

Next, budding animators can watch a four-step process of creating an animated scene (Morticia feeding the mansion its morning coffee), or gamers can take part in a five-round version of charades with help from Thing (a narrator also offers hints).

Finally, the disc includes six minutes of deleted or extended scenes in an unfinished format and a pair of music video singalongs.

Motherless Brooklyn (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated R, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 144 minutes, $35.99) — Actor Edward Norton starred in, wrote and directed last year a loosely adapted cinematic interpretation of Jonathan Lethem’s detective novel, moving it’s setting from the 1990s to a noir-drenched 1950s.

Now available in a screen-filling, high definition format, the story offers junior New York City gumshoe Lionel Essrog (Mr. Norton) trying to uncover the circumstances surrounding the murder of his mentor, lifesaver and boss, private investigator Frank Minna (Bruce Willis).

Lionel, suffering from both Tourette’s Syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder, goes undercover as a reporter to find witnesses and proof that could help shed light on his idol’s demise that is ultimately tied to the gentrification of the Big Apple.

Mr. Norton has a nearly stellar cast to work with including Willem Dafoe as an engineer with a big secret, Paul Randolph; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a damsel-in-distress, Laura Rose; Bobby Cannavale as Lionel’s‘ occasional partner, Tony Vermonte; and Alec Baldwin as a power-hungry city commissioner, Moses Randolph.

It’s worth noting that Mr. Baldwin plays, yet again, another permutation of his arrogant jerk role that he has finely crafted, even in real life, over the last roughly 30 years.

Ignore Mr. Baldwin’s mediocrity and instead appreciate Mr. Norton’s slowly simmering hard-boiled period piece (clocking in even longer than the slog of the latest “Star Wars” film) highlighted by detailed production design and enhanced for home theaters with 1080p visuals.

Best extras: A most welcomed optional commentary track with Mr. Norton offers a measured and somber, like talking in a library, analysis of his effort.

He revels in his passion for noir movies, the minutiae and star power of the musical score (Thom Yorke and Winton Marsalis), the technical details of Dick Polk’s cinematographic choices, the motivations of characters, the challenges to shooting in iconic New York locations, and offers just a pinch of political opinion.

Also available is a 19-minute featurette briefly covering the production that has some overlap from the director commentary but features plenty of admiration for Mr. Norton delivered by cast and crew.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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