This Week’s Best Bets
Suffused with intoxicating romanticism, “History Is Made At Night” (1937) is a sublime paean to love from Frank Borzage, classic Hollywood’s supreme poet of carnal and spiritual desire. On the run through Europe from her wealthy, cruelly possessive husband, an American (Jean Arthur) is thrown together by fate with a suave stranger (Charles Boyer) — and soon the two are bound in a consuming, seemingly impossible affair that stretches across continents and brings them to the very edge of catastrophe. Lent a palpable erotic charge by the chemistry between its leads, this delirious vision of lovers beset by the world passes through a dizzying array of tonal shifts — from melodrama to romantic comedy to noir to disaster thriller — smoothly guided by Borzage’s unwavering allegiance to the power of love. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray, with new, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … Paola Mendoza made her remarkable debut as a writer-director-star in the poignant, heart-rending drama “Entre Nos” (2009). Mariana (Mendoza) is determined to keep her family together. Her children, Gabriel (Sebastian Villada Lopez), 10, and Andrea (Laura Montana Cortez), 6, have grown up in Colombia without their father, who immigrated to the U.S. years earlier to make a better life for his family. Finally, after years of separation, the family is reunited in New York City. However, one day, Antonio announces he has found work in Miami and will be moving there alone and will send for the family when he is settled. Days go by, and Mariana does not hear from him. Worried and desperate, she goes to her only friend’s home to find out that her husband will not be coming back. With no one to turn to, rent coming due and fifty dollars to her name, Mariana must find a way, in a strange city where she barely speaks the language, to provide for her family, financially and emotionally. In Spanish with English subtitles. From IndiePix Classics … “Green Dolphin Street” (1947) is an Academy Award winner about star-crossed love that spans the years – and the globe. After her triumph as the lunchroom temptress in the crime classic “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” Lana Turner expanded her range with “Green Dolphin Street.” Set in 19th century Europe and New Zealand, this sweeping romance tells the story of two beautiful sisters, one headstrong (Turner) and one gentle (Donna Reed), and of the man (Richard Hart) who marries one even though he loves the other. The film’s riptides of emotion are matched by breathtaking physical tumult: a fierce Maori uprising plus a catastrophic earthquake and tidal wave that earned the film a 1947 Oscar for special effects. With its dramatic story and spectacular visuals, “Green Dolphin Street” drew huge audiences for epic moviemaking, being one of the top-ten box office hits of the year. In a Blu-ray debut from Warner Archives … In “Broadway Melody of 1940” (1940), the job – a career breakthrough – is supposed to go to hoofer Johnny Brett, but a mix-up in names gives it to his partner. Another example of Broadway hopes dashed? Not when Johnny is played by Fred Astaire. Sparkling Cole Porter songs, clever comedy and dance legends Astaire and Eleanor Powell make the final” Broadway Melody” (co-starring George Murphy) a film to remember. Powell’s nautical “All Ashore” routine (a/k/a I Am the Captain”), Astaire’s blissful “I’ve Got My Eyes on You” and Fred & Eleanor’s elaborate routine to Cole Porter’s classic “I Concentrate On You” are more than enough to please any fan. But they’re just a warm-up for the leads to tap one finale number into immortality: “Begin the Beguine,” introduced by Frank Sinatra in “That’s Entertainment!” with, “You can wait around and hope, but you’ll never see the likes of this again.” In a Blu-ray debut from Warner Archive … Is there a (mad) doctor in the house? “Yes!” shrieks “Doctor X” (1932), filmed in rare two-strip Technicolor. An eminent scientist aims to solve a murder spree by re-creating the crimes in a lab filled with all the dials, gizmos, bubbling beakers and crackling electrostatic charges essential to the genre. Lionel Atwill is Doctor Xavier, pre-King Kong scream queen Fay Wray is a distressed damsel and Lee Tracy snaps newshound patter, all under the direction of renowned Michael Curtiz. The new two-color Technicolor master was restored by UCLA Film and Television Archive and The Film Foundation in association with Warner Bros. Entertainment, with funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Foundation. Also includes the separately filmed B&W version (which has been restored from its original nitrate camera negative) originally intended for small U.S. markets and international distribution, and which has been out of distribution for over 30 years. In a Blu-ray debut from Warner Archive.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
In “The Boonies” (2021), starring Matt Schultz, James Quinn, Daniel Johnson and Brian Balog, a fun weekend excursion turns deadly when Aaron (Schultz) joins his brother, Jeremy (Quinn), and a group of his friends for a weekend in the Appalachian woods. Instead of a peaceful weekend getaway, the group soon discovers their itinerary includes more than a traditional outdoor adventure. When they unexpectedly meet a couple who report strange local occurrences, the group soon find themselves on a terrifying trek during their fight for survival. From Indican Pictures … “Fukushima 50” (2019): March 11, 2011 – 2:46 PM – Japan’s Tohoku Region: at a magnitude of 9.0, the strongest earthquake in the country’s history strikes, triggering a huge tsunami and carnage that would end up killing thousands of people and displacing many more. It mercilessly engulfs the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, causing a crippling station blackout. Unable to be cooled, the nuclear reactors quickly turn into hydrogen bombs at the brink of explosion. If the power plant is abandoned, Japan’s destruction is assured. Facing a life or death situation, the power plant workers known as the “Fukushima 50,” including shift supervisor Izaki and plant manager Yoshida, remain on the site until the bitter end. As the world holds its breath, the Fukushima 50 fight for their hometown, their families, and the future of Japan. On DVD, Blu-ray, from MPI. Read more here … In “The Penthouse” (2021), starring Michael Pare, Nicholas Turturro and Krista Grotte Saxon, takes place in sunny Carolina Beach, where Peter and Amanda’s new penthouse condo has a perfect view of the marina. One day, they notice a couple bickering aboard a docked sailboat, and Amanda befriends frightened Tess, who soon vanishes without a trace. After Peter confronts her boyfriend Charles, Charles vows to make the nosy couple’s life a living hell. From Lionsgate … In “Phobias” (2021), starring Leonardo Nam, Martina Garcia, Hana Mae Lee, Lauren Miller Rogen and Macy Gray, five dangerous patients, suffering from extreme phobias at a government testing facility, are put to the ultimate test under the supervision of a crazed doctor and his quest to weaponize fear. From Lionsgate … In “Willy’s Wonderland” (2021), starring Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Beth Grant, Ric Reitz, Chris Warner and Kai Kadlec, when his car breaks down, a quiet loner (Cage) agrees to clean an abandoned family fun center in exchange for repairs. He soon finds himself waging war against possessed animatronic mascots while trapped inside Willy’s Wonderland. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Screen Media Films … The epic sword-and-sandal adventure “Hercules and the Captive Women” (1963 — Italy), directed by Vittorio Cottafavi and starring Reg Park, Fay Spain and Laura Altan, was originally released in 1961 as “Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide” in Italy; “Hercules and the Captive Women” is the version edited for the U.S., released for audiences in 1963. Action-packed from the beginning, Hercules (Park) first encounters Ismene (Altan) when he must save her from a shape-shifting creature. Victorious, Ismene brings Hercules home to Atlantis where they come face to face with Ismene’s mother, the evil Queen Antinea (Spain), prepared for battle to end her pursuit of world conquest. The release was produced from rare 35mm archival elements beautifully restored from a 4K transfer in its original aspect ratio and features a showing of exclusive commentary and special features just as strong-if not stronger- than Hercules himself. Extras include the full “Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K)” version of the film, released in 1992; “Hercules and the Conquest of Cinema: A Swords and Sandals” documentary from Daniel Griffith at Ballyhoo Motion Pictures; “The Duel of the Titan,” a 12-page, full-color booklet insert with an essay from author and historian C. Courtney Joyner; more. On DVD, Blu-ray, from The Film Detective.
On the Indie Front:
“West Michigan” (2021), starring Chloe Ray Warmoth, Seth Lee, Berkley Bragg, Sydney Agudong and Riley Warmoth, is the story of a depressed 17-year-old who searches for meaning while driving up the coast of Western Michigan with her older brother. When siblings Charlie and Hannah receive the call that their grandfather has been hospitalized, they load up the car and drive north to visit him. Halfway to their destination, Hannah’s depression takes a serious hold on her. She abandons her brother and runs off into the woods and down the beach. Cold and exhausted, she happens upon three teenagers camping in the forest. She befriends them, and this gives her temporary fulfillment until she learns more about their intentions with her. Discouraged, Hannah runs off again to walk alone in the woods. When she reaches the top of a sand dune, she admires the expansive view of Lake Michigan. It’s extraordinary. This begins to bring Hannah the peace of mind she seeks, and she reconvenes with her worried brother to finish their journey together. From Freestyle Digital Media. Read more here.
A hybrid of fiction and documentary filmmaking, “My Mexican Bretzel”
(2019 — Spain), the feature film debut of Nuria Giménez, uses silent home movies, fleeting snippets of sound, and diaristic narration to tell the story of Vivian Barrett, a wealthy Swiss woman, and her husband, Leon, a WWII pilot-turned-entrepreneur. Partial hearing loss doesn’t impede Leon from creating a pharmaceutical wonder drug that changes their lives, propelling the go-lucky couple into a world of adventure, romance, and mystical truth-seeking. From the 40s through 60s, from the Alps to Le Mans to Manhattan to Hawaii, vulnerability, belonging, truth, and mid-century opulence are explored in a way that only the magic of cinema allows … with a dazzling twist. The idea for the film originated in 2011, when Giménez came across a few home movies made by her grandparents, mid-way through the last century. Based on that rich material, which shows the couple travelling around the world (from Paris to New York, Majorca to Florence, between meetings with friends, excursions and lunches), the filmmaker set about planning a sophisticated and fascinating film structure: she wrote a diary on behalf of Barret, recounting specific moments of her existence, her worries and her innermost thought. She then illustrated those words with material selected from amongst her forebears’ 50 reels of 16mm film. In so doing, Giménez has crafted an impressive audiovisual trompe l’oeil, almost entirely lacking in sound, which involves the viewer reading the protagonist’s memories in text form on screen. From IndiePix Films … “Women Without Men” (2009 — Persian), loosely adapted from Shahrnush Parsipur’s magic realist novel of the same name, was Iranian artist Shirin Neshat’s feature film debut — for which she was nominated for the Best Director Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival (she took home the Silver Lion). The film chronicles the intertwining lives of four Iranian women during the summer of the 1953 coup d’tat. The 1953 Iranian Islamic revolution a cataclysmic moment in history when an American led, British backed mission led to the over throw of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, and reinstalled the Shah to power. Over the course of several days four disparate women in the Middle East from the Iranian culture are brought together against the backdrop of political and social chaos. As the political turmoil swells in the streets of Tehran, each woman seeks to be liberated from her predicament. It is only a matter of time before the world outside the walls of unrest seep into the lives of these four women as their country’s history takes a tragic turn. From IndiePix Classics … In “My Little Sister” (2020 — Switzerland), staring Nina Hoss, Lars Eidinger and Marthe Keller, Lisa (Hoss), once a brilliant playwright, no longer writes. She lives with her family in Switzerland, but her heart remains in Berlin, beating in time with that of her twin brother Sven (Eidinger), the famous theatre actor. Since Sven has been suffering from an aggressive type of leukemia, the relationship between them has become even closer. Lisa does not want to accept this blow of fate, and she does everything in her power to bring Sven back on stage. For her soulmate she neglects everything else and even risks losing her husband, but Lisa only has eyes for her brother, who reflects her deepest longings and awakens in her the desire to create again. Switzerland’s Oscar entry for best international film. From Film Movement.
“Ancient Aliens: Season 13” (2020) is a three-disc set with 12 episodes. Join Giorgio Tsoukalos and other ancient astronaut theorists as they continue their search for evidence of extraterrestrial contact in the distant past as well as the present. From Tibet, Chile, and the Mediterranean to the iconic UFO site of Roswell to the Pleiades star cluster, this season travels to the far reaches of the globe and beyond to delve into mankind’s origins, mysterious government organizations and the secrets of the universe. All in an effort to finally find out if we are in fact alone in the universe, or if extraterrestrial forces have been aiding and guiding us all along. From Lionsgate … “Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist” (2019) is a complete dissection and sweeping examination of the award-winning genre classic “The Exorcist.” Explore the uncharted depths of William Friedkin’s mind’s eye, the nuances of his filmmaking process, and the mysteries of faith and fate that helped shape his life and filmography, as told by the man himself. On Blu-ray from RLJE Films.
All DVDs and Blu-rays are screened on a reference system consisting of an Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player w/SACD & DVD-Audio, a Rotel RSX-972 Surround Sound Receiver, and Phase Technology 1.1 (front), 33.1 (center), and 50 (rear) speakers, and Power 10 subwoofer.