Very loose remake of James Thurber's classic story about a day-dreamer who escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. Ben Stiller directs and stars in this mixed-bag of a film that juxtaposes gorgeous cinematography with a story line and dialogue that can't decide whether it wants to be clever and rich or mundane and flaccid, though it tends to lean to the latter. Stiller plays Mitty, a timid photo manager at LIFE just at the time the print magazine was being retired in favor of an online version; when an important negative for the very last cover goes missing, Mitty has to give up his daydreams and embark on a global mission to find the film. Stiller composes the first half of the movie in squares and rectangles, kind of a cinema version of Mondrian's grid-based paintings — and Stiller's images are striking and beautiful. Later, when Mitty travels to Iceland, Greenland and Afghanistan, the vistas open up and the gorgeous scenery fills the screen. Too bad the dialogue and acting aren't as bold as the images; they're cramped and awkward. Supporting actors Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, Shirley MacLaine and Kathryn Hahn are totally wasted. Extras: Behind the scenes featurettes "The Look of Life," "The Music of Walter Mitty," "Sights and Sounds of Production: Skateboarding Through Iceland"; gallery of reference photography. Blu-ray adds deleted scenes; extended and alternate scenes; additional featurettes "The History of Walter Mitty"; "That's A Shark," "Icelandic Adventure," "Nordic Casting," "Titles of Walter Mitty," "Sights and Sounds of Production: Ted-Walter Flight"; "Stay Alive" music video by Jose Gonzalez; theatrical trailer. Also included is a special gift with purchase redeemable until August 31, 2014: a Shutterfly 20-page 8×8 hard cover photo book valued at $29.99. Consumers will be able to redeem their photo book by entering a unique promo code at checkout on Shutterfly.com. Vitals: Director: Ben Stiller. Stars: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, Shirley MacLaine, Kathryn Hahn. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 114 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $56.887 million, Fox.
The wild antics of comedian Kevin Hart rescues this cop-buddy-comedy from the mundane and predictable; he stars as a video game junkie and high school security guard who not only wants to become an Atlanta cop but also wants to marry the sister of the city's toughest detective, James Payton (Ice Cube). To persuade him otherwise, James invites him on a ride-along designed to scare the hell out of him and show him he doesn't have what it takes to take care of his sister. It's all pretty silly — especially when Shakespearean actor Laurence Fishburne shows up as the underworld's top bad guy — and fairly innocuous. It's kind of a downtown version of "Rush Hour" — and has taken in almost as much as that smash hit. "Ride Along 2" is scheduled for 2016. Extras: Gag reel; "It Was a Good Day: On the Set of Ride Along" backstage visit; "Atlanta — The Character" location tour; commentary with director Tim Story. Blu-ray adds alternate ending; deleted scenes; alternate take; "Kev & Cube's Wild Ride"; "An Explosive Ride" stunt double featurette; "You Gonna Learn Today" look at the film's many off-script moments including b-roll, dailies and alternate takes; "Anatomy of the Big Blast" behind the scenes of the movie's most explosive sequence. Vitals: Director: Tim Story. Stars: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, John Leguizamo, Bruce McGill, Tika Sumpter, Bryan Callen, Laurence Fishburne. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 100 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $133.941 million, Warner.
From the Big Screen:
"Ride Along," "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," "Philomena"and "The Nut Job." For more information on these and other releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
This Week's Best Bets:
It doesn't get any better than this: Director: Billy Wilder. Stars: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. Screenplay adapted by Wilder and Raymond Chandler from a book by James M. Cain. Music by Miklós Rózsa. And costumes by Edith Head. The film: "Double Indemnity" (1944), arguably one of the first — and certainly the most influential — example of film noir, about an insurance agent who teams up with a femme fatale to murder her husband to collect on the latter's accidental life insurance policy. Universal has digitally restored the film from 35mm film elements for its "Double Indemnity Limited Edition" Blu-Ray debut on the occasion of its 70 anniversary and its big-screen restoration screening at the 2014 TCM Classic Film festival in Hollywood. In addition to gorgeous images (deeper, clearer and purer than the previous DVD version) and a DTS-HD soundtrack, the Blu-ray contains an introduction by Robert Osborne; a fascinating "Shadows of Suspense" featurette that plots out the history of film noir; a made-for-TV movie version from 1973 starring Richard Crenna and Samantha Eggar; the theatrical trailer; and commentaries with film historian Richard Schickel, film historian/screenwriter Lem Dobbs and film historian Nick Redman. Don't miss this one.
Universal also comes in for kudos for their digital presentation of one of the grittiest, darkest and nastiest crime thrillers of all time, Orson Welles' unabashedly cynical take on morality, corruption, sex, drugs, murder and racism, "Touch of Evil" (1958). Starring Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, Joanna Moore, Ray Collins, Dennis Weaver and Marlene Dietrich, the complex and convoluted story line ostensibly follows the joint U.S.-Mexico investigation of the bombing murder of a wealthy American builder and his female companion on the border between the two countries … but there are so many other subplots going on that the murder gets pushed into the sidelines. Welles fills each scene with incredible detail, overlapping dialogue, and characters who wander in and out of the frame with abandon. The image (which reveals more detail than in any other edition) and sound (DTS-HD) are superb. Features three versions of the film: the original 1958 theatrical version, which the studio put together after Welles traveled to Mexico for a new project; the "Preview" version, which was discovered in the 1970s and which incorporated some changes that Welles wanted to make to the studio version; and the Reconstructed version, which was put together in 1998 based on Welles' original vision using a detailed 58-page memo Welles wrote to the studio when he first saw the theatrical version in 1958. Extras include "Bringing Evil to Life" featurette; "Evil Lost and Found" featurette; the theatrical trailer; commentary on all three versions; and a reproduction of Welles' 58-page memo.
Lars von Trier became an international sensation with "Breaking the Waves" (1996), a galvanizing realist fable about sex and spiritual transcendence. Emily Watson stuns in an Oscar-nominated performance, as Bess, a simple, pious newlywed in a tiny Scottish village who gives herself up to a shocking form of martyrdom after her husband (Stellan Skarsgard) is paralyzed in an oil-rig accident. "Breaking the Waves," both brazen and tender, profane and pure, is an examination of the expansiveness of faith and of its limits. In a new 4K digital restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. In a Blu-ray/two-DVD Dual Format Edition from The Criterion Collection.
From TV to DVD:
"Anger Management: Volume Three" (2013) contains all 24 episodes of the third season of the series starring Charlie Sheen as Charlie Goodman, a non-traditional therapist specializing in anger management. He has a successful private practice, holding sessions with his group of primary-patient regulars each week, as well as performing pro bono counseling for an inmate group at a state prison. His life is complicated by his relationships with his own therapist and best friend (Selma Blair), his ex-wife (Shawnee Smith), whose positive outlook but poor life-choices frustrate Charlie, their 15-year-old daughter who has OCD (Daniela Bobadilla) and, of course, his interfering and meddlesome father, Martin (Martin Sheen). On DVD, $34.97; Blu-ray Disc, $34.99; from Lionsgate … "The Beverly Hillbillies – The Official Fourth Season" (1965-66) is a four-disc set with 32 episodes, $29.98 from CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount … "The Bletchley Circle Season 2" (2014) is based on the lives of four extraordinary and brilliant women with the ability to break codes, a skill honed during World War II when they worked undercover at Bletchley Park, site of the United Kingdom's main decryption establishment; the women now use their code-breaking skills to solve crimes in post-war London. On Two-disc DVD, $29.99,; two-disc Blu-ray, $34.99; from PBS Distribution … "The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Crack Ups" (2013) is a six-disc set with 17 uncut episodes hand-picked by Burnett featuring regulars Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, Lyle Waggoner, Tim Conway and later Dick Van Dyke. Includes classic sketches such as "The Family," "Carol and Sis," "Alice Portnoy," "The Charwoman" and "The Old Folks," along with parodies and favorite segments including "TV Commercials," "Terminal Hospital," "Rebecky" and "Raised to Be Rotten." With guest stars galore. $59.95 from StarVista Entertainment/Time Life … "Farscape: Season 4, 15th Anniversary Edition" (2002-03) features some of the most imaginative science fiction seen in the series so far, while always remaining true to the extraordinary characters, passionate chemistry and whip-crack dialogue that have become "Farscape" signatures. Six-disc DVD: $39.95, five-disc Blu-ray: $49.95; From Cinedigm … "Flowers in the Attic" (2013) stars Heather Graham, Ellen Burstyn, Kiernan Shipka, Mason Dye, Dylan Bruce in a Lifetime Original Movie version of the gothic story of four siblings who, after the death of their father, are torn from a peaceful life and subjected to abuse resulting from a dark, family secret. Abandoned by their mother and forced to endure unimaginable treatment living in the attic of their grandparents' mansion, the children form their own family unit and try to survive and escape the harsh living conditions. From Lionsgate … "The Gabby Doublas Story" (2014) stars Regina King, Imani Hakim, Sydney Mikayla and S. Epatha Merkerson in a Lifetime bio-drama that recounts how young black athlete Gabby Doublas overcame numerous obstacles to not only make the 2012 U.S. Women's Gymnastic team, but also go on to win two Olympic gold medals. From Sony … "Midsomer Murders: Village Case Files" (2004-2006) is an eight-disc collection that includes 16 feature-length, stand-alone mysteries (Series 8-9) in broadcast order from the best-selling U.K. mystery series in which the cozy villages of Midsomer County reveal their most sinister secrets. The mysteries: "Things that Go Bump in the Night," "Dead in the Water," "Orchis Fatalis," "Bantling Boy," "Second Sight," "Hidden Depths," "Sauce for the Goose," "Midsomer Rhapsody," "The House in the Woods," "Dead Letters," "Vixen's Run," "Down Among the Dead Men," "Four Funerals and a Wedding," "Country Matters," "Death in Chorus," "Last Year’s Model." $79.99 from Acorn Media … "Murder on the Home Front" (2014) follows a pathologist who uses forensics to solve murders during the London Blitz. Patrick Kennedy stars as Dr. Lennox Collins, a pathologist new to murder cases who works in a world where criminals can use the blackout and devastation to hide their darkest activities. As the Luftwaffe drop their bombs from above, below people are literally getting away with murder. From the makers of "Downton Abbey." On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from PBS Distribution … "Petticoat Junction – The Official Third Season" (1965-66) is a five-disc set with 34 episodes, $29.98 from CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount … "The Practice: The Final Season" (2003-04) is a six-disc set with all 22 episodes of David E. Kelley's Emmy Award-winning legal drama's eighth and final season (which paved the way for its critically acclaimed spin-off, "Boston Legal"). In the last episodes, major upheavals have left Ellenor (Camryn Manheim), Eugene (Steve Harris) and Jimmy (Michael Badalucco) in charge of the firm. In an attempt to rebuild their ranks, Ellenor hires an old friend: the enigmatic and ethically-challenged Alan Shore (James Spader). Shore's brilliant-yet-highly-unorthodox methods succeed in winning big cases, but will they also threaten the future of the firm? $29.93 from Shout! Factory … "Ripper Street: Season Two" (2014) contains eight episodes of the BBC series that provides a vivid, violent look at post-Jack the Ripper Victorian London as it staggers toward the 20th Century. DVD $29.98; Blu-ray $34.98 from BBC Home Entertainment.
Emmet, an ordinary rules-following, perfectly average Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied "Special," is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant — Lord Business — from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis. Chris Pratt is the voice of Emmet, an ordinary LEGO minifigure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder, and Will Ferrell is the voice of President Business, aka Lord Business, an uptight CEO who has a hard time balancing world domination with micro-managing his own life. Voicing the members of Emmet's rebel crew on this heroic mission are Morgan Freeman as the ancient mystic Vitruvius; Elizabeth Banks as tough-as-nails Wyldstyle, who mistakes Emmet for the savior of the world and guides him on his quest; Will Arnett as the mysterious Batman, a LEGO minifigure with whom Wyldstyle shares a history; Nick Offerman as the craggy, swaggering pirate Metal Beard, obsessed with revenge on Lord Business; Alison Brie as the sweet and loveable Unikitty and Charlie Day as Benny, the 1980-something Spaceman. Extras: Feature commentary, "Batman: A True Artist," "Michelangelo and Lincoln: History Cops," "Enter the Ninjago," "Bringing LEGO to Life," "Everything Is Awesome" sing-along, "See it! Build it!," "Stories From the Story Team," "Fan-Made Films: Top Secret Submissions," outtakes, additional promotional content, alleyway test, deleted scenes. Everything is Awesome Edition adds "Dream Job: Meet the LEGO Builders." Vitals: Director: Phil Lord, Chris Miller. Stars: Voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Will Ferrell, Alison Brie, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 100 min., Animated, Box office gross: $250.608 million, Warner.
Based on The New York Times best-selling true story of heroism, courage and survival, "Lone Survivor" tells the incredible tale of four Navy SEALs on Operation Red Wings, a covert mission to neutralize a high-level al-Qaeda operative deep in the mountains of Afghanistan. The four men must make an impossible moral decision in the mountains of Afghanistan that leads them into an enemy ambush. As the confront unthinkable odds, the SEALs must find reserves of strength and resilience to fight to the finish. Extras: "Bringing the Story to Light" behind-the-scenes featurette, "The Fallen Heroes of Operation Red Wings" profile of the real-life heroes. Blu-ray adds "Will of the Warrior" in-depth look at Marcus Luttrell, the real-life Navy SEAL who received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart for his actions in Operation Red Wings; "Recreating the Firefight" featurette; "Learning the Basics" SEAL training for the four leads; "The Pashtun Code of Life" featurette. Vitals: Director: Peter Berg. Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Eric Bana, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Ali Suliman, Alexander Ludwig, Yousuf Azami, Sammy Sheik. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: R, 122 min., Action-Drama-War, Box office gross: $125.069 million, Universal.
JONNY QUEST: THE COMPLETE EIGHTIES ADVENTURES (1986-87) Jonny Quest, Hadji, Bandit, Dr. Quest and Race Bannon return for an all-new suite of super-adventures in this originally syndicated sequel series from the heyday of the animation awesome age. In this 13-Episode go round, plucky pre-teen tomboy Jessie Bradshaw breaks into the band of bros along with a new stoneman ally, Hardrok. The Quest plane gets a too-cool makeover as well, now capable of splitting off a hi-speed shuttle for one-man missions. But the more things change© the more Jonny and company still square off against weird menaces from the very edge of science! Giant Viking apes, prehistoric reptile clones, animated clay warriors are just some of the fantastic foes faced in this funtastic new series – not to mention the implacable, fiendish Dr. Zin. 2-Disc, 13-Episode Collection.
Welcome Back, Warner Bros. (BACK IN PRINT)
TREASURE ISLAND (1934) Victor Fleming's classic adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson beloved adventure tale defines the gold standard of Long John Silvers with Wallace Beery's amazing performance as the one-legged pirate. Lionel Barrymore's Billy Bones raises the bar plenty high in the first act, and MGM's A-team of Lewis Stone, Otto Kruger, and Nigel Bruce are on hand to help young Jim Hawkins (Jackie Cooper) navigate the treacherous waters to treasure and maturity.
CAGED (1950) While working on the story that would give birth to "Caged," writer Virginia Kellogg ("White Heat") reportedly went undercover inside a women's prison in her quest for truth. What emerged was one of the most noted – and notorious – pictures of the women-behind-bars sub-genre. While its over-the-top mise-en-scene and sly Sapphic references may place the picture in "camp" territory," Eleanor Parker's and Hope Emerson's performances elevate "Caged" from a cinema curio to a movie must-see. When 19-year-old Marie Allen (Parker) arrives at a women's prison already pregnant, she finds herself at the center of a war for her soul waged between a reform minded warden (Agnes Moorehead) and a sadistic matron (Emerson).
BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1979) Michael Caine and Sally Field head a cast of all-stars in Irwin Allen's action-packed sequel that picks up where "The Poseidon Adventure" left off. Rival teams of salvage crew race through the capsized superliner to claim a secret fortune before the craft finally sinks to her watery grave. One crew finds a cluster of survivors, while another, headed by the sinister Dr. Stefan Svevo (Telly Savalas) hunts for a deadly secret. (Never trust Savalas aboard a cruise ship!) 16×9 Widescreen.
THE SOULER OPPOSITE (1998) Christopher Meloni stars in this indie romance of mismatched lovers, one a struggling stand-up (Meloni), the other a political idealist (Janel Moloney). He's an overgrown adolescent getting by on a glib, crass, and sexist routinge, while she's an old soul that's ten years younger and will tear his whole world apart. (But in a good way. Really.) A mature look love in its early bloom for a late bloomer. Written and directed by Bill Kalmenson, also starring Timothy Busfield. 16×9 Widescreen.
Re-Paramount Time (BACK IN PRINT)
LADY JANE (1986) Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes star in this historical epic detailing the events that led to Lady Jane Grey's infamous nine day reign. Carter's control and range astonishes, given her very apparent youth. 16×9 Widescreen.
BRAIN DONORS (1992) The comedic tropes and stylings of the Marx Brothers receive a nineties era makeover in this manic comedy. John Turturro, Bob Nelson and Mel Smith play a lawyer, a cabbie and a handyman who end up in charge of a ballet company. 16×9 Widescreen.
THE ADVENTURES OF SEBASTIAN COLE (1998) Adrian Grenier and Clark Gregg star in this art-house coming-of-age tale about an iconoclastic teen and his clash with unconvention. Clark Gregg's heartfelt and hysterical turn as the lad's transgender step-dad is one for the ages. 16×9 Widescreen.
ANGELA'S ASHES (1999) Frank McCourt's debasing memoir of life on the streets of New York and Limerick. Alan Parker directs Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle. 16×9 Widescreen.
BLOODY SUNDAY (2003) Director Paul Greengrass bring his dramatic verite style to bear on this look at one of the most tragic moments in the history of the troubles – one that led to the shooting of 26 civil rights marchers by police in Northern Ireland. James Nesbitt stars. 16×9 Widescreen.
Though it must have looked good on paper, the idea for this senior citizen's version of "The Fighter" — let's pit "Raging Bull's" Robert De Niro against "Rocky's" Sylvester Stallone in a boxing match 30 years down the road from their prime — gets bogged down with cliched plot lines, sentimental shtick, and the general unbelievability of seeing 70-year-old De Niro facing off against an almost-68 Stallone in the ring. Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (De Niro) and Henry "Razor" Sharp (Stallone) were two local Pittsburgh fighters with a fierce rivalry; each had scored a victory against the other. But, in 1983, on the eve of their decisive third match, Razor suddenly announced his retirement, ending their careers. Thirty years later, a wannabe boxing promoter (Kevin Hart) persuades them to re-enter the ring and settle the score once and for all — with a lot of money riding on the match. There's plenty of stale "old-man" jokes (many of the predictable punchlines are uttered by grumpy-old-man Alan Arkin, who's Stallone's trainer), a cardboard characterization by De Niro as a skirt-chasing senior, and lifeless directing by Peter Segal, whose portfolio includes "Tommy Boy," "My Fellow Americans," "Nutty Professor II – The Klumps," "Anger Management," "50 First Dates," the remake of "The Longest Yard" and "Get Smart." The stars of the film: a still-radiant Kim Basinger as Stallone's love interest, the de-aging technology used in the scenes with De Niro and Stallone as younger boxers, and Stallone's vintage white mustang. Extras: Deleted scenes. Blu-ray adds "The Bull & The Stallion," "In the Ring With Kevin Hart," "Ringside With Tyson & Holyfield," "Blow for Blow With Larry Holmes," "Kevin Hart Unedited," alternate opening, alternate endings with an introduction by Peter Segal. Vitals: Director: Peter Segal. Stars: Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 113 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $29.342 million, Warner.
Peter Jackson's second in his Hobbit film trilogy continues the adventure of the title character Bilbo Baggins as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf and 13 Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, on their quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. There's lots of action, great special effects and enough mystical goings-on to thrill J.R.R. Tolkien fans and aficionados of this genre. Like many other movie franchises taken from fantasy books, you need to be primed for the story line and can't jump in mid-stream, so if you're inclined to grab hold of this escapist entertainment, make sure you take a look at Jackson's previous "Ring" and "Hobbit" work. I understand that Jackson really loves this stuff, but I wish he would go back to making small films; his quest for the gold has all but obscured the fine directing hand that gave us the masterpieces "Dead Alive" (1992) and "Heavenly Creatures" (1994). Available as a Limited Collector's Edition Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack (includes two Gates of Erebor replica bookends from the Noble Collection; only 25,000 will be available in the U.S., $105.43), in a 3D Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack, a Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack and two-disc DVD. Extras: "Peter Jackson Invites You to the Set: In the Company of the Hobbit" and "Peter Jackson Invites You to the Set: All in a Day's Work" behind-the-scenes featurette; Peter Jackson production videos; "New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth, Part 2" locations featurette; Ed Sheeran "I See Fire" music video. Vitals: Director: Peter Jackson. Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Andy Serkis, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Orlando Bloom, Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving, Mikael Persbrandt, Sylvester McCoy, Aidan Turner, Dean O'Gorman, Graham McTavish, Adam Brown, Peter Hambleton, John Callen, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, William Kircher, Stephen Hunter, Ryan Gage, John Bell, Manu Bennett, Lawrence Makoare. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 161 min., Fantasy Adventure, Box office gross: $255.576 million, Warner.
From the Big Screen:
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," "Grudge Match" and "August: Osage County." For more information on these and other releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
This Week's Best Bets:
The Cohen Film Collection and the British Film Institute teamed up to restore "Black Jack" (1979), a little-seen classic from social-realist master Ken Loach and a real gem of a film. "Black Jack," based on Leon Garfield's novel for children, is a dark and complex adventure film set in brutal 18th century England — 1750 to be exact. After French thief and ruffian Black Jack (Jean Franval) escapes the hangman's noose after being convicted of murder, he kidnaps young Tolly (Stephen Hirst) and forces him to accompany him in his escape. Along the way they save a young girl, Belle (Louise Cooper), who is being transported by a pair of unscrupulous doctors to a madhouse because her wealthy parents don't want her to get in the way of their older daughter's marriage; join up with a traveling fair; get involved in murder and blackmail; and solve a nefarious crime. Shot primarily in 16mm and on a modest budget on location in Yorkshire by future Oscar-winning cinematographer Chris Menges with a young cast of non professionals — chosen by Loach for their authentic northern accents — the film is a naturalistic tour-de-force and, like most of Loach's later films, deals with ordinary people and their dilemmas. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc.
"The 400 Blows" (1959) is the unforgettable debut feature by Francois Truffaut; it's a wrenchingly personal coming-of-age story that introduced the character that would become the director's lifelong cinematic counterpart, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud, in one of the screen's great child performances). With the utmost sensitivity, "The 400 Blows" dramatizes the trials of Truffaut's own difficult childhood, characterized by aloof parents, oppressive teachers, and petty crime. The film marks its maker's official transition from influential critic to one of Europe's most brilliant auteurs. In a high-definition digital restoration, in a Blu-ray/DVD Dual Format Edition (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray) from The Criterion Collection.
"I Am Divine" (2013) by award-winning filmmaker Jeffrey Schwartz ("Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story") is a superb documentary that chronicles the life and times of Divine, aka Harris Glenn Milstead, an overweight, teased Baltimore youth who rose to prominence as a "drag" superstar in a series of John Waters' films and on-stage performances in major cities around the world. Milstead — with the help of Waters and other friends — reinvented himself as Divine, using his plus-size to defy the status quo of body image, gender identity, sexuality, and preconceived notions of beauty. He took the world by storm in Waters' "Pink Flamingos," "Lust in the Dust" and "Hairspray" with a completely committed in-your-face style that blurred the line between performer and personality; he was the ultimate outsider turned underground royalty. In addition to its complete coverage of Divine's rise to fame, the film is also a cultural artifact that shines a light on the underground film and pop culture scene of the late-1960s and 1970s. Schwartz has compiled great clips from Divine's movies and stage appearances, as well as interviews with many key figures from Divine's life, including Waters, co-stars Ricki Lake, Tab Hunter and Mink Stole, and his mother. On DVD from Wolfe Video.
For sheer fun check out "Nurse" (2013), a blood-infused black comedy-thriller about a split-personality nurse, Abby Russell (Paz de la Huerta), who lovingly attends to the patients at All Saints Memorial Hospital during the day but, at night, prowls nightclubs to lure unfaithful married men into dangerous liaisons so she can kill them. Abby's two lives are kept separate until she meets and falls for Danni (Katrina Bowden), a young, sensitive nurse, who has just joined the hospital's staff. When Danni spurns her amorous advances, Abby becomes obsessed with the younger woman and she goes on a rampage of terror that unleashes a bloodbath in the hospital's wards. Great gore effects and a wonderfully off-kilter performance by de la Huerta. Co-stars Corbin Bleu and Judd Nelson. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo and 3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Lionsgate.
I was really looking forward to "Snake and Mongoo$e" (2013), a dramatization of the lives of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen, a pair of Southern California drag racers who, beginning in the 1960s and through the 1970s, helped legitimize the sport by merchandising their drag racing rivalry, primarily by swinging a sponsorship by Mattel Hot Wheels. Unfortunately the film, which intersperses real drag-racing footage with vignettes from the men's lives, comes off as a made-for-TV movie, with weak acting by the leads, sluggish and leaden scenes, and, at times, inane and cliche dialogue (in one scene, when McEwen tells his head mechanic that he wishes that his dad, who died as a test pilot when he was a baby, could see him racing, the mechanic replies: "That sure does explain … your craving for speed"). Still, for car buffs, it has enough fast cars, racing scenes and sense of history to make it an enjoyable ride. Stars Jesse Williams, Richard Blake, Ashley Hinshaw, Kim Shaw, Fred Dryer, Ian Ziering, Tim Blake Nelson and Noah Wyle. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc from Anchor Bay.
From TV to DVD:
"Holliston: The Complete Second Season" (2013) is a single disc set with 10 episodes of the FEARnet series about two down and out aspiring filmmakers who struggle with life, career, and the opposite sex as they attempt to make it out of their small New England town. $19.98 on Blu-ray Disc from Image Entertainment … "Lizzie Borden Took an Ax" (2014) is the tale of Lizzie Borden,a young American woman accused of murdering her father and stepmother with an ax in 1892, and whose subsequent trial fed into America's obsession with the scandalous and sordid. Stars Christina Ricci, Billy Campbell, Clea DuVall and Gregg Henry. From Sony … "Mayberry R.F.D.: The Complete First Season" (1968-69): The classic continuation of "The Andy Griffith Show" comes to DVD for the very first time in a four-disc set with 26 episodes, $29.98. Ken Berry stars as widowed farmer Sam Jones, who's raising his son Mike with the help of their outspoken, headstrong, and lovable housekeeper Aunt Bee. Add to the mix Sam's girlfriend Millie, good-natured Goober, County Clerk Howard and fix-it man Emmett, and you've got a slice of American small-town life. On DVD from Warner.
A modern reimagining of the classic romantic comedy from 1986, this version follows two couples as they discover new love and journey from the bar to the bedroom, testing their relationships in the real world. Extras: TBA. Vitals: Director: Steve Pink. Stars: Michael Ealy, Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Joy Bryant, Christopher McDonald, Paula Patton. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: R, 100 min., Romantic Comedy, Box office gross: $27.838 million, Sony.