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Video Files: ‘The Master’ reaffirms Phoenix’s brilliance

masterWhatever else one might think about Joaquin Phoenix and his penchant for odd (to put it mildly) behavior, his acting talent should not be questioned. Having missed its theatrical run, the DVD of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” was definitely on my list.

It will be available Tuesday (Starz/Anchor Bay, both Blu-ray and standard definition), and both Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are brilliant in this mix of psychological and religious fervor. Phoenix plays former World War II naval officer Freddie Quell, whose post-traumatic stress disorder has reached the point where he’s a walking time bomb. He’s unemployable due to problems with anger management (though that term wasn’t in vogue then), and he’s addicted to potions spiked with paint thinner.

master2Quell’s life changes dramatically when he meets Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), a highly persuasive and intelligent man who invites him to join the “Cause.” Dodd feels he can not only help Quell, but eliminate his PST problems through an exercise called “processing.” He doesn’t quite explain what it is or how it works, but it’s hard not see the parallels between it and what Scientology calls “auditing.”

Dodd invites Quell into his inner circle that includes a loyal, but at times woefully out-of-the-loop wife (Amy Adams), and far less inviting, cynical son (Jesse Plemons). The only somewhat unsatisfactory thing about “The Master” is Anderson deliberately leaves a lot unsaid and unresolved regarding the “Cause,” the relationship between Dodd and Quell, and what the entire dynamic says about the future.

But that notwithstanding, even the relative absence of any extra features shouldn’t discourage anyone from getting “The Master” on DVD. Seldom will you see more powerful performances in a film long on exposition and short on action.

TOP GUN“Top Gun” returns

Tom Cruise rocketed (both literally and figuratively) from the ranks of star to superstar on the strength of Jerry Bruckheimer’s 1986 blockbuster “Top Gun.” The newly reissued, restored two-disc Blu-ray version (Paramount), now available, offers plenty of reasons to get this latest version.

The first is “Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun,” a six-part documentary that provides lots of detail and insight into what it took to get the film done. Bruckheimer has a new commentary as well, plus director Tony Scott and Co-Screenwriter Jack Epps, Jr. Even the Naval experts they recruited as consultants get some exposure.

Some of the other items’ importance depends on whether you enjoy playing director (multi-angle storyboards with optional commentary from Scott for instance), like ’80s music (four videos) or are a military enthusiast (a featurette about the survival training the actors endured). There’s also the requisite Tom Cruise interview.

“Top Gun” elevates the careers of Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards, while cementing the status of Bruckheimer’s company in the business.

client“Client List” on DVD

Jennifer Love Hewitt lit up lots of TV screens when she switched gears from ghosts to massage parlors during the first season of Lifetime’s “The Client List.”  She played former Texas homecoming queen Samantha Horton, who finds herself facing both ruin and abandonment by her husband. She solves that dilemma by taking a job at a massage parlor that is really a front for a high-end call girl operation.

The project began as a 2010 TV film, but it attracted such an audience (nearly four million viewers) Lifetime decided it had to become a series. By the time the show debuted in 2012, some thematic changes were made.

Now, while Horton is still working at the massage parlor, when she discovers it’s a front for a call girl operation, she navigates a middle ground. She pretends to be approachable, but never consents to become a call girl.

“The Client List: The Complete First Season” (Sony) is a three-disc set with every uncut episode from the first year. Its release (Tuesday) is timed to precede the debut of Season 2, which gets underway March 10 at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.

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About Ron Wynn

Ron Wynn is a music critic, author and editor. His features, reviews and articles have run locally in the Nashville Scene, The City Paper (Nashville) and on ArtNowNashville.com among others. Wynn is currently sports editor for the Tennessee Tribune and a contributor to Jazz Times. He is former editor of the New Memphis Star and former chief jazz and pop music critic for the Bridgeport Post-Telegram and the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Wynn has contributed to such publications such as Billboard, The Village Voice, Creem, Rock & Roll Disc, Living Blues, The Boston Phoenix, and Rejoice. He was the editor of the first edition of The All Music Guide to Jazz (1994), and from 1993 to 1994 served as the jazz and rap editor of the All Music Guide. Wynn is the author of The Tina Turner Story. He has contributed liner notes for numerous albums; his liner notes for “The Soul of Country Music” received a 1998 Grammy nomination.