"The movie business is macabre. Grotesque.
It is a combination of a football game
and a brothel."
-- Federico Fellini


Sep 032013

 photo for Warner Archives Monsterpiece Theater

 As the coals of Labor Day cool, and the children lick the last of the summer mustard off their lips, they know that the words “Back to School” are no longer a far off gossamer dream, but a dull hard truth. But fear not, seekers of wisdom! This school sampler sized selection of films and TV are guaranteed to make your school days a sight better than ol’e Tom Brown’s. And if you need any more sweeteners, we direct your attention to our now-extended annual Labor Day sale – details found below! And so, let us bid you a Q.E.D.

 PENROD AND SAM (1931) The first talkie version of the Booth Tarkington classic is replete with pitch perfect schoolroom and schoolyard scenes that will have you looking for your very own gang of rascals. Leon Janney has the lead but Cameo the dog steals your heart.

 ANDY HARDY COLLECTION VOLUME 1 and 2 (1937-58) Many of America’s favorite teen’s misadventures center around simply going to school – and dealing with it’s consequences. Mickey Rooney’s impersonation of a high school thespian in Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever is a masterwork of comic acting, while his size-ism bashing collegial jitterbugging in Love Laughs at Andy Hardy is astonishment.

 EVERYBODY SING (1938) This cautionary tale is a requisite warning to any juvenile musicians who may dare risk expulsion by introducing the plague of “swing music” to their schools. Thankfully Judy Garland has a dysfunctional family of performers waiting for her at home. With Allan Jones, Fanny Brice, Reginald Owen and Fanny Brice.

 HELL’S KITCHEN (1939) Although Stanley Fields makes a more comical “Mayor of Hell” than ever Cagney did, this take on the gangster-turned-reform-school-reformer tale climaxes with a “youth in revolt” sequence featuring Leo Gorcey as a chilling Dead End Kid with murder on his mind. Also stars Ronald Reagan.

 GALLANT SONS (1940) Jackie Cooper leads a squad of schoolyard sleuths (including Bonita Granville and Leo Gorcey) tasked with unfitting a parent – for murder. And if they fail, one of their chums might have to live … “with a goil!”

 BRIGHT ROAD (1953) Dorothy Dandridge’s extraordinary gift for dramatics is on ample display in this inspirational tale of an idealistic school teacher’s first year. Harry Belafonte lends support as the school’s principal. Thanks to its large, enlightened heart, this poignant and insightful picture was a generation ahead of its time.

 COURTSHIP OF EDDIE’S FATHER THE COMPLETE SEASONS 1 and 2 (1969 – 1971) The first two seasons of this sit-com classic feature a memorable schoolyard character – Eddie’s best frenemy, Joey Kelly. But Joey isn’t just any run-of-the-mill bully, she’s a tomboy played by Ms. Jodie Foster!

 SUPERBOY SEASON 2 (1989-90) All Hail to Thee, Shuster U! Superboy’s sophomore season would prove to be his last at the campus’ hallowed halls before he graduates to become a government intern. Before that happens, collegiate complications abound – including new dormmate Andy McAllister (Ilan Mitchell-Smith)! Although shot in Orlando, the fictional Shuster University was set in Siegelville, Florida – both named after Superman’s creators, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel!

NOTE: These DVDs are Manufactured on Demand (MOD); to order, fans must visit The Warner Archive Collection or WB Shop.com

 Posted by on September 3, 2013 No Responses »
Sep 022013

From the Big Screen:

“Stories We Tell,” “Now You See Me,” “From Up on Poppy Hill” and “The Iceman.” For more releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.


For collectors of old TV series, the folks over at StarVista Entertainment/Time Life have just released “Mama’s Family: The Complete Series.” From the first time the wildly-popular sketch “The Family” aired on “The Carol Burnett Show” in 1974, Vicki Lawrence has been followed by a buxom, blue-haired, purse-lipped, 65-year-old widow. This is, of course, Thelma Mae Crowley Harper, Lawrence’s indelible, abrasive and smart alecky alter ego who would eventually be spun-off into her own delightfully offbeat sitcom “Mama’s Family,” which debuted on NBC on January 22, 1983 and ran for six seasons (until 1990). Set in the fictional city of Raytown, “Mama’s Family” revolves around the eye-opening escapades of the Harper clan, headed by formidable photo for Mama's Family: The Complete Series matriarch, Mama Harper, a fiery-tempered no-nonsense woman who does not suffer fools gladly. In fact, she makes everybody suffer a little with her patented snappy retorts that truly put the “diss” in dysfunction. Across 130 30-minute episodes spanning six seasons, viewers were treated to hilarious — and sometimes heart-warming — family comedy. Adding to the mix were Mama’s journalist sister, Fran (Rue McClanahan), who lives with her; her youngest son, Vint (Ken Berry), who moves in with his two teenagers after he’s evicted; and Naomi (Dorothy Lyman), who marries Vint by Episode 4. Mama’s extended family includes her two daughters, highfalutin’ Ellen (Betty White) and high-strung Eunice (Carol Burnett), as well as Eunice’s husband, Ed (Harvey Korman). The set is comprised of 130 episodes across 24 DVDs in a collector’s set with an introductory note from Vicki Lawrence. On DVD for $199.95. The set includes a collectible “Mama’s Family” album featuring character bios, a “Mama’s Family” tree, and interviews and anecdotes from cast members; 10 hours of specially-created bonus material including interviews, featurettes and much, much more.

For cult horror fans the name Larry Cohen conjures up images of horror films “It’s Alive” (1974), but the prolific writer-director-producer has been writing for a wide variety of genres, from episodes of TV’s “Kraft Theatre” (when he was only 17!!), “The Fugitive,” “The Defenders,” “Branded,” “The Rat Patrol,” “”The Invaders” and “Columbo” to such big screen outings as “Maniac Cop,” “Phone Booth” and “Cellular.” His directorial debut was in 1972 with the little-seen, off-kilter home-invasion thriller “Bone” (in which Yaphet Kotto breaks into the home of the wealthy, seemingly happily married Beverly Hills couple of Andrew Duggan and Joyce Van Patten), followed up by “Hell Up in Harlem” (1973) and “Black Caesar” (1973) and the also little-seen “God Told Me To” (1976), a weird, disjointed tale about a New York detective (Tony LoBianco) who investigates a series of murders committed by random New Yorkers who claim that “God told them to.” For me, the peak of Cohen’s writing and directing skills is evident in “Q The Winged Serpent” photo (1982), which Scream Factory/Shout! Factory is bringing to Blu-ray this week. The film, produced by horror-exploitation genius Samuel Z. Arkoff, stars Michael Moriarty, Richard Roundtree, David Carradine, Candy Clark and James Dixon in a wild, almost cheesy saga revolving around Quetzalcoatl, a dragon-like Aztec god that is summoned to modern-day Manhattan by a mysterious cult and which roosts at the top of the Chrysler Building, feasting on window washers, construction workers and rooftop sunbathers. Moriarty — in a great, method-acting performance — is a small-time thief who finds the nest of the creature and blackmails the city, and Roundtree and Carradine are New York’s finest, hot on the serpentine tail of the bloodthirsty flying serpent. It’s a bizarre masterpiece that has influenced generations of filmmkers since. Extras include a new commentary with writer-producer-director Cohen, the theatrical trailer and a teaser trailer.

Criterion this week titillates filmlovers with two Teutonic-leaning offerings: the Blu-ray debut of Ernst Lubitsch’s wartime comedy “To Be or Not to Be” (1942) and an impressive set of the early work of the great German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder. “To Be or Not to Be” may not be Lubitsch’s best screwball comedy but it is his most daring. The film stars Jack Benny and, in her final screen appearance (before dying in an airplane crash while returning from a World War II Bond tour), photo for Carole Lombard, as husband-and-wife thespians in Nazi-occupied Warsaw who become caught up in a dangerous spy plot. Benny is here at his best as the self-absorbed “Shakespearean-actor-wannabe” who impersonates a German spy, and Lombard is forever radiant as his loving but roaming wife. There’s a great cast of Lubitsch regulars in supporting roles, a convoluted plot, and all manner of misunderstandings and misidentifications. “To Be or Not to Be” is not nearly as sophisticated as Lubitsch’s previous outings, but the director managed to brilliantly balance political satire, romance, slapstick and wartime suspense in a comic high-wire act that’s just plain fun. Among the many extras here are “Lubitsch le patron,” a 2010 French documentary on Lubitsch’s career; “Pinkus’s Shoe Palace,” a 1916 German silent film directed by and starring Lubitsch; and a booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien.

Living in Los Angeles in the 1970s spoiled me: It seemed like every neighborhood theatre was hosting one international film series after another (many of them from Janus Films, which works closely with Criterion). Among the many, many directors I was introduced to was Rainer Werner Fassbinder, an iconoclastic German filmmaker who was a master of social melodramas and a rebellious champion of nonconformity. In 16 short years (he died in 1982, at 37, of a drug overdose) he directed 44 movies and TV shows, creating at least a half-dozen amazing masterpieces, photo forincluding “The Merchant of Four Seasons” (1971), “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” (1972), “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” (1974), “Fox and His Friends” (1975), “Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven” (1975) and “The Marriage of Maria Braun” (1979). Criterion has just released a set of Fassbinder’s early films, “Eclipse Series 39: Early Fassbinder.” I just got the set, so haven’t had time to screen them yet; here’s what Criterion has to say: “From the very beginning of his incandescent career, the New German Cinema enfant terrible Rainer Werner Fassbinder refused to play by the rules. His politically charged, experimental first films, made at an astonishingly rapid rate between 1969 and 1971, were influenced by the work of the antiteater, an avant-garde stage troupe that he had helped found in Munich. Collected here are five of those fascinating and confrontational works; whether a self-conscious meditation on American crime movies (“Love Is Colder Than Death,” 1969), a scathing indictment of xenophobia in contemporary Germany (“Katzelmacher,” 1969), or an off-the-wall look at the dysfunctional relationships on film sets (“Beware of a Holy Whore,” 1971), each is a startling glimpse into the mind of a twentysomething man who would become one of cinema’s most madly prolific artists.” The other two titles: the crime drama “Gods of the Plague” (1969) and “The American Soldier” (1970), about the German-born Ricky who returns to Munich from Vietnam and is promptly hired as a contract killer. On DVD.

From TV to DVD:

“Ancient Aliens: Season 5 — Volume 1” (2012) is a three-disc set with 12 episodes, $19.98 from Lionsgate … “Criminal Minds — The Eighth Season” (2012) is a six-disc set with 23 episodes of the series that revolves around an elite team of FBI profilers who analyze the photo for country’s most twisted criminal minds, anticipating their next moves before they strike again. The Behavioral Analysis Unit’s most prominent agent is David Rossi (Joe Mantegna), a founding member of the BAU, who returns to help the team solve new cases, while pursuing some unfinished business of his own. Each member brings his or her own area of expertise to the table as they pinpoint predators’ motivations and identify their emotional triggers in the attempt to stop them. $64.99 from CBS/Paramount … “Da Vinci’s Demons — The Complete First Season” (2013) is a three-disc set with all eight episodes of the Starz Original series that follows the “untold” story of Leonardo Da Vinci during his early years in Renaissance Florence, using only his genius to fight against those who use history, religion and politics to suppress the truth. On DVD, $44.98; Blu-ray Disc, $54.99; from Anchor Bay … Stephen Tompkinson and Andrea Lowe star as the tenacious and stubborn Chief Inspector Alan Banks and the feisty and headstrong Detective Sergeant Annie Cabbot in “DCI Banks: Aftermath” (2010), a chilling crime story photo for based on the hugely successful novel from award-winning international crime writer Peter Robinson. A young woman is unconscious, bleeding from a head wound. Her husband is hiding in the cellar, ready to wield a knife at anyone who tries to enter and desperate to protect his secret. What happens next leaves one of the officers dead, the other fighting for her career and Banks with a chilling murder investigation that will test him to the limit. $19.98 from BBC Home Entertainment … “Haven: The Complete Third Season” (2012) is a four-disc set with 13 episodes. When FBI Agent Audrey Parker arrives in Haven, Maine on a routine case, she quickly finds herself involved in the return of the Troubles, a series of supernatural afflictions that have long cursed the seaside town and its residents. Joining the Haven Police Department, Audrey began to realize that it was fate — not luck — that brought her to this place and that she is inexplicably linked to the mysteries of Haven. This season picks up immediately after the end of Season 2, with Audrey having been brutally kidnapped, Nathan warned photo for against pursuing a relationship with Audrey, and Duke seemingly engaged in a fight to death with Nathan after he discover his family lineage is to kill Haven citizens with Troubles. On DVD and Blu-ray from Entertainment Ones … “The Jesse Stone Collection” is an eight-disc set with all the installments of the Tom Selleck-starring crime drama, packed in a box with a collectable Paradise Police Department baseball hat. $95.99 from Sony … “The Office Season Nine” (2012-13) is a five-disc set with 23 episodes. Join the Scranton gang for the ninth and final season of the groundbreaking Emmy Award-winning hit series. Andy’s back in charge as regional manager at Dunder Mifflin, but a journey of self-discovery leads to unexpected consequences. Jim lands the job of his dreams, but he and Pam must now adjust to a long-distance relationship. Meanwhile, Dwight steps up on the family farm; Darrel looks at new career opportunities; and Erin struggles with matters of the heart. And … everyone is excited to finally see the long awaited documentary about their lives in the office, an event nine years in the making. On DVD, $49.99; Blu-ray Disc, $59.98; from photo for Universal … “Parks and Recreation: Season Five” (2012-13) is a three-disc set with 22 episodes, $39.98. from Universal … “Person of Interest: The Complete Second Season” (2012-13) contains all 22 episodes of the series about investigators who save potential criminal targets and prevent violent crimes before they happen. On Five-disc DVD, $59.98; Blu-ray/DVD Combo with five DVDs, five Blu-rays, $69.97; from Warner … “Regular Show: Fright Pack” (2013) features 14 scary stories from Cartoon Network’s Emmy Award-winning hit animated comedy series. $19.82 from Warner … “Revolution: The Complete First Season” (2012-13) is a five-disc set with 20 episodes, $59.98. Also available as a nine-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo with UltraViolet digital copies, $69.97; from Warner … “Scandal: The Complete Second Season” (2012-13) is a five-disc set with 22 episodes, $45.99 from Disney … photo for “Sinbad: The Complete First Season” (2012) is a three-disc set with 12 episodes of the SyFy series. On DVD, $29.98; Blu-ray Disc, $34.98; from BBC Home Entertainment … “Spartacus: War of the Damned — The Complete Third Season” (2013) Three- disc set with all 10 episodes. Following the defeat of Roman commander Gaius Claudius Glaber, Spartacus and his men have amassed major victories against the Romans after the battle of Vesuvius. These victories have not only forged the legend of Spartacus, they have greatly increased the ranks of the rebellion slaves to more than 30,000. The Roman Senate turns to Marcus Crassus, a wealthy, strategic politician, for aid. He respects his opponent and refuses to make the same mistakes Glaber and his predecessors have. With a young and fiercely competitive Julius Caesar as an ally, Crassus is determined to crush Spartacus and his rebellion. On DVD, $49.98; Blu-ray Disc, $59.99; from Anchor Bay … “The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fourth Season” (2012-13) photo for (2012-13) is a five-disc set with 23 episodes, $59.98. This season starts off with everything in transition. Senior year is finally here, and Elena should be having the time of her life. Instead, she faces her worst nightmare, struggling with the painful transformation from human to vampire. As Damon mentors Elena into a supernatural life, their repressed passions explode, causing Stefan to undertake a desperate quest to restore humanity to the girl he adores. But as Elena ruthlessly quenches her newfound thirst for blood, and her friends race to find a vampire cure based on clues inked onto Jeremy’s flesh, the world around them falls prey to a host of sinister forces. Also available as a nine-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo with UltraViolet digital copies, $69.97. From Warner.

Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:

In “Stranded” (2012), starring Christian Slater, Brendan Fehr, Amy Matysio and Michael Therriault, an isolated U.S. military moonbase is bombarded by a rogue meteor storm harboring alien spores … and they’re replicating. Now a vicious, shape-shifting predatory life form is loose inside the crippled facility, picking off victims one by one. On DVD, Blu-ray from Image Entertainment … In “A Company Man” (2012 — South Korea), Hyeong-do wears a suit and tie like any other rank-and-file white collar worker … except his profession is murder. Seemingly a section chief in the sales division of a metal fabrication company that is actually a front for an organization of hit men, Hyeong-do is regarded as one of the best contract killers in the business … until he falls in love, quits his job, and is targeted and hunted down by his former employers. photo An exciting, straight ahead actioner with plenty of stylized violence — especially when Hyeong-do goes up against his former employers. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Well Go USA) … A group of friends get together for an ’80s-themed murder mystery party, but things take a dark turn when someone from their past out for blood hijacks the evening in “Among Friends” (2012), starring Danielle Harris, Christopher Backus, Jennifer Blanc and AJ Bowen. From Lionsgate … Four upscale Manhattanites run for their lives in the Brooklyn subway tunnels after a botched drug deal in “NYC Underground” (2010), starring Clayne Crawford, Sean Faris, Arielle Kebbel, Rob Mayes, Dania Ramirez, Evan Ross and Matt Servitto. From Lionsgate … When an unidentified object is shot down by the military and crashes into Seattle’s Puget Sound, it sets off a series of strange weather phenomena: earthquakes, tornados and lightning storms that begin to spread, threatening the city and the entire planet in “Seattle Superstorm” (2012), starring Esai Morales, Ona Grauer, Jared Abrahamson and MacKenzie Porter. From Arc Entertainment … When a bounty hunter kills an outlaw gang member, the gang retaliates, killing the soon-to-be-famous Billy the Kid’s mother, and the Kid and the bounty hunter team up to avenge her death in “Billy the Kid” (2013), starring Cody McCarver, Jerry Chesser, Christopher Bowman, Billy Joe Royal and Jason Harbour. From Lionsgate … A group of friends go deep inside the woods in search of the legendary big foot monster, a “silent killer” eliminating people in the dark in “Fear the Forest” (2009), starring Anna Kendrick, Matthew Bora and Don Evans. From MVD Entertainment … A group of strangers are forced to take shelter in an outback roadhouse while a flood rages around them, but the danger lurking within is far greater than the threat from outside in “Savages Crossing” (2011 — Australia), starring John Jarratt, Craig McLachlan and Chris Haywood. From MVD Entertainment.

On the Indie Front:

A former tennis pro forced to work at a public recreation center must regain his self-respect and lead his team of oddball amateurs to victory in a prestigious, annual tournament showdown in “2nd Serve” (2012), starring Josh Hopkins, Cameron Monaghan, Kevin Sussman and Guillermo Diaz. From Green Apple Entertainment … “Online” (2012), starring Morgan Ayers, Kelsey Sanders and Esseri Holmes, is a romantic drama of faith and forgiveness: A happily married man logs into a social networking site and re-connects with his old high school flame; what begins as a harmless “Hello” rapidly escalates into a rekindling of their past romance, and he must face the consequences of his decisions. From Slingshot Pictures … A deeply troubled boy and an apathetic investment advisor get paired together at a summer camp for foster kids and discover the meaning of unconditional love in “Camp” (2013), starring Miles Elliot and Michael Mattera. From Word Films.

For the Family:

“The Painting” (2011 — France) is a feast for the eyes as well as the imagination, a wry parable from animator-director Jean-Francois Laguionie that centers on a kingdom in a painting that is divided into three castes: The impeccably painted Alldunns, who reside in a majestic palace; the Halfies, who the Painter has left incomplete; and the untouchable Sketchies, simple charcoal outlines who are banished to the cursed forest. The story follows the adventures of Lola, a rebel Halfir, Ramo, an Alldunn, and Quill, a Sketchie, as they break through the canvas of their painting into the Painter’s studio in search of him and the reasons he left the painting unfinished. The abandoned workspace is strewn with paintings, each containing its own animated world, and they explore first one picture and then another, attempting to discover just what the Painter has in mind for all his creations. It’s a brilliant concept, not too sophisticated for kids but abstract enough for adults. It’s clever, delightful and involving. Why can’t American animators create such simple, yet wonderful worlds? In French with English subtitles and an optional English audio track. photo On DVD, Blu-ray from GKIDS/Cinedigm … “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late … And More Stories by Mo Willems” (2013) contains three animated adaptations of stories by the New York Times best-selling author: “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late,” “Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion” and “Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct.” Narrators for the stories include Cher Willems, John Scieszka and Mo Willems himself. From Scholastic Storybook Treasures … “Children Make Terrible Pets … And More Stories About Family” (2013): In the title animated tale based on Peter Brown’s children’s book, Lucy, a young bear, meets a charming young boy in the forest and brings him home. Her mother, however, has other ideas and cautions her that, “children make terrible pets.” Other stories include “All the World” (by Liz Garton Scanlon, narrated by Joanne Woodward), “Crow Call” (by Lois Lowry, narrated by Julia Fein) and “Elizabeti’s Doll” (by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, narrated by Lynn Whitfield). From Scholastic Storybook Treasures … In “Barbie Mariposa & the Fairy Princess” (2013), Mariposa becomes the royal Ambassador of Flutterfield and is sent to bring peace between her fairy land and their rivals, the Crystal Fairies of Shimmervale. On DVD, Blu-ray from Universal … “Super Buddies” (2013) is the latest in the popular Buddies franchise. Budderball, Mudbud, B-Dawg, Buddha and Rosebud discover mysterious rings that grant them each a unique super power, and the pups unleash their amazing abilities and race to the rescue when a shape-shifting bully from outer space threatens the planet. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Disney … And, finally, take me out to the Hundred Acre Wood in hi-def: Disney is bringing “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” (1977) to Blu-ray in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo with such extras as the new mini-“Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” short: “Geniuses,” as well as the Disney Intermission function: Press “pause” during the movie and younger viewers can play along with the Hundred Acre Wood friends in a variety of engaging activities.

Special Interest:

“The Substance: Albert Hofmann’s LSD” (2011 — Switzerland-Germany) is an informative and entertaining investigation into the history of a drug so potent that mere fractions of a milligram can alter a subject’s perception of reality. In 1943, at the Sandoz chemical-pharmaceutical photo laboratories in Basel, Switzerland, chemist Albert Hofmann, in search of a respiratory and circulatory stimulant, first synthesized LSD. Hofmann’s discovery quickly left the lab and moved into military experiments, clinicians’ offices, and then into the streets. The notoriety and sense of possibility surrounding LSD persist to this day; decades after it first began to appear on international drug blacklists, doctors and researchers have resumed exploring its potential medical and therapeutic applications. From Icarus Films Home Video … “Missions That Changed the War: Germany’s Last Ace” (2011) is a four-part Military Channel documentary that tells the story of three fighter pilots who played decisive roles in the aerial battles over Germany: Lt. Col. Hubert Zemke, Lt. Robert Rankin, and Luftwaffe squadron commander Gunther Rall. Through original footage, expert military analyses, and never-before-seen interviews with the participants, the docu revisits the events of May 12, 1944, which Nazi armaments minister Albert Speer considered the day that Germany lost the war. Two-disc DVD, $49.99 from Athena.

 Posted by on September 2, 2013 No Responses »
Sep 012013

Due November 5:

photo for White House Down Capitol Policeman John Cale has just been denied his dream job with the Secret Service to protect the President. Not wanting to let down his little girl with the news, he takes her on a tour of the White House, and, coincidentally, during their visit, the complex is overtaken by a heavily armed paramilitary group. Now, with the nation’s government falling into chaos and time running out, it’s up to Cale to save the president, his daughter … and the country. Extras: Four Featurettes: “A Dynamic Duo” a look at the chemistry between Tatum and Foxx and their dynamic on-screen presence; “Men of Action” featurette on Tatum’s willingness and desire to perform his own stunts, as well as the extensive training required; “Roland Emmerich — Upping The Ante” look at Emmerich’s vision for the film; “Meet the Insiders” on the supporting cast. Blu-ray adds a gag reel and nine more featurettes: “The Beast” A look at the film’s presidential limo; “The Full Arsenal: Guns, Grenades, Tanks and Choppers”; “VFX Boundaries Down”; “The Inside Story” about the film’s concept’s fast-moving rise to the big screen; “Presidential Treatment” look at the size and scope of the massive production; “Lights, Camera, Heart-Pumping Action”; “Crashing the Oval Office” look at how the filmmakers constructed a stunt set, then drove an SUV at full speed into the Oval Office; “Drowning the Beast” presidential limo escape; “Recreating the White House” about the meticulous detail that went into replicating the White House. . Vitals: Director: Roland Emmerich. Stars: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Richard Jenkins. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 131 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $72.425 million, Sony. 3 stars

 Posted by on September 1, 2013 No Responses »
Aug 252013

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 Posted by on August 25, 2013 No Responses »
Jul 302013

In the 1960s, Michelangelo Antonioni changed cinema with his brilliant psychological dramas about the state of the modern world. This October, Criterion is pleased to bring to the collection one of his most important films, “La Notte,” starring the breathtaking trio of Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, and Monica Vitti. Then, just in time for Halloween, come two supernatural Hollywood treats from the 1940s, never before on DVD or Blu-ray in the U.S.: the whimsical “I Married a Witch,” starring Veronica Lake, and the gothic haunted-house drama “The Uninvited,” with Oscar winner Ray Milland. Plus two Blu-ray upgrades of major Criterion titles: the supplement-jammed box set John Cassavetes: “Five Films,” featuring a quintet of staggering works by the ultimate American independent director, and the unforgettable French horror film “Eyes Without a Face,” another elegant selection for the most haunted of holidays.

Oct. 8: “I Married a Witch”
Oct. 15: “Eyes Without a Face”
Oct. 22: “John Cassavetes: Five Films”
Oct. 22: “The Uninvited”
Oct. 29: “La Notte”



 Posted by on July 30, 2013 No Responses »


Jul 262013

photo Writer-director Brian Helgeland has had a mixed career (writing “L.A. Confidential,” “A Knight’s Tale,” “The Postman” and “Mystic River,” and winning both an Oscar and a Razzie award in 1998 for Best Screenplay for “L.A. Confidential” and Worst Screenplay for “The Postman.” His best-known directorial outing previously was Mel Gibson’s “Payback” in 1999; with “42,” however, he has finally hit his stride. The film, a dramatization of the monumental events that surrounded the breaking of Major League Baseball’s color barrier by Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey and baseball great Jackie Robinson, is an almost perfect stylistic outing. In 1946, Rickey (Harrison Ford, here submerging himself into his role with an Oscar-worthy performance) put himself at the forefront of history when he signed Negro Leagues ballplayer Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to the team, putting both Robinson and Rickey in the firing line of the public, the press and other players. Facing unabashed racism from every side, Robinson was forced to demonstrate tremendous courage and restraint, knowing that any incident could destroy his and Rickey’s hopes to desegregate the game. Rickey’s decision was based on a combination of idealism and astute business sense: it made sense to hire the best ball players to win games and make money for the team, and the best players could be black or white (or later, Afro-Hispanic, such as Roberto Clemente). The story follows Rickey’s decision in 1945 to hire a black player, through the drafting of Robinson in ’46 for the Dodger’s farm team, and then his appearance on the Dodgers in ’47, which lead to a National League pennant win. “42,” which was Robinson’s number (and the only number retired by all MLB teams), is the story of a changing sport and a changing world. It’s an almost perfect film; the scenario, the dialogue, the editing, the framing — everything is pitch perfect. There’s never a dull inning, never a seventh-inning stretch. Yes, it’s predictable (first off, we know how it’s going to end; second off, we know that Jackie will stand up to the taunts as to his color by turning the other cheek); yes, some of the characters are stereotypical and archetypical, but heck, who cares. It’s fun and absorbing and, for a generation born way, way past the breaking of segregation in sports (or elsewhere, for that matter), it’s educational. It’s a textbook example of how to make a movie, one that can be studied in any film school. And one that made a lot of money. Vitals: Director: Brian Helgeland. Stars: Harrison Ford, Chadwick Boseman, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, Andre Holland, Lucas Black, Hamish Linklater. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 128 min., Drama, Box office gross: $91.513 million, Warner. 3 stars

 Posted by on July 26, 2013 No Responses »
Jul 262013

Due September 17:

photo for The Bling Ring In the fame-obsessed world of Los Angeles, a group of teenagers embark on a disturbing crime-spree in the Hollywood hills. Based on true events, the group, who were fixated on the glamorous life, tracked their celebrity targets online, and stole more than $3 million in luxury goods from their homes. Their victims included Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, and Rachel Bilson, and the gang became known in the media as “The Bling Ring.” Director Sofia Coppola takes us inside the world of these teens, where their youthful naivete and excitement is amplified by today’s culture of celebrity and luxury brand obsession. The members of the Bling Ring introduce us to temptations that any teenager would find hard to resist. And what starts out as youthful fun spins out of control, revealing a sobering view of our modern culture. Based on Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins.” Extras: “Behind the Bling” making-of featurette, “Scene of the Crime with Paris Hilton” featurette, “Tabloid Culture: A Master Class Featuring Nancy Jo Sales” (who wrote the Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins”) featurette, theatrical trailer. Vitals: Director: Sofia Coppola. Stars: Israel Broussard, Taissa Farmiga, Emma Watson, Leslie Mann, Katie Chang, Claire Julien, Georgia Rock, Gavin Rossdale, Paris Hilton. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: R, 90 min., Drama, Box office gross: $5.458 million, Lionsgate. 2 stars

 Posted by on July 26, 2013 No Responses »
Jul 262013

photo for Francis Ford Coppola's Twixt After a two-decade fallow period with dramas, Francis Ford Coppola returned to his horror roots (that began during his apprenticeship with Roger Corman) with “Twixt,” a vanity production (it had to follow three self-imposed mandates that Coppola requires in all of his new work: That it be his own original story and screenplay, have some personal element, and be self-financed) that failed to stir any appreciation by critics and lacked any theatrical release of note. Unfortunately, this lackluster film won’t rise to the top of the director’s list of memorial work, thought it does have its moments. Basically, there’s too much overacting, too much underacting, and too much silliness for the dreamlike plot to grab at the viewer. The story: A writer (a portly, underachieving Val Kilmer) with a declining career arrives in a small town as part of his book tour and gets caught up in a murder mystery involving a young girl, a story that could be source material for his next novel. That night in a dream he is approached by a mysterious young ghost named V (Elle Fanning). He’s unsure of her connection to the murder in the town, but is grateful for the story being handed to him. But as he investigates the killing, he uncovers more horrifying revelations, and is ultimately led to the truth of the story, finding that the ending has more to do with his own life than he could ever have anticipated. This particular story came to Coppola during a vivid dream he had while on a trip to Istanbul and is inspired by the writings of Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Also stars Bruce Dern (who chews the scenery), Ben Chaplin, Joanne Whalley and David Paymer. Extras include “Twixt — A Documentary by Gia Coppola,” an on-set featurette by the director’s granddaughter that offers an insightful look into the production, as well as allowing Coppola to wax poetic on the process of filmmaking — insights that turn out to be more interesting than the film he made. Vitals: Director: Francis Ford Coppola. Stars: Val Kilmer, Bruce Dern, Elle Fanning, Ben Chaplin, Joanne Whalley, David Paymer. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 88 min., Horror Thriller, Fox. 2 stars

 Posted by on July 26, 2013 No Responses »
Jul 262013

photo “Trance” is an all-out assault on the psychological thriller by master-of-every-genre Danny Boyle. Much like his assault on science fiction, “Sunshine,” audiences shied away from “Trance,” most likely because the meat of the film can’t be encapsulated in a few words or a 60-second trailer. “Trance” is nothing short of a visual mind game that blurs the lines between fiction and reality, heroes and villains, recalling the more monumental early works of David Cronenberg. It’s a convoluted crime caper-mystery-thriller roller-coaster ride in which the viewer — as well as the protagonists — never know what’s real and what’s fiction. The story: Simon (James McAvoy), a fine art auctioneer, teams up with a criminal gang to steal a $27 million Goya painting, but after suffering a blow to the head during the heist, he awakens to discover he has no memory of where he hid the painting. When physical threats and torture fail to produce answers, the gang’s leader, Frank (Vincent Cassel), hires hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to delve into the darkest recesses of Simon’s psyche. As Elizabeth begins to unravel Simon’s broken subconscious, the lines between truth, suggestion, and deceit begin to blur. Though it may take some extra viewing to unravel the truth (if that’s even possible), the film is well worth putting on your list — if nothing else than for the stunning performance by Dawson. Extras include deleted scenes, commentary and behind-the-scenes featurettes. Vitals: Director: Danny Boyle. Stars: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel, Tuppence Middleton, Sam Creed. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 101 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $2.310 million, Fox. 3 stars

 Posted by on July 26, 2013 No Responses »
Jul 262013

photo Sally Potter, director of the outlandish “Orlando” (1992) and “The Tango Lesson” (1997), continues her skein of interesting and quirky productions with “Ginger & Rosa,” a coming-of-age story set in London in 1962. The story: Two teenage girls — Ginger & Rosa — are inseparable. They skip school together, talk about love, religion and politics and dream of lives bigger than their mothers’ domesticity. As the Cold War meets the sexual revolution and the threat of nuclear holocaust escalates, the girls face the clash of desire and the determination to grow up. Ginger (Elle Fanning) is drawn to poetry and protest, while Rosa (Alice Englert) shows Ginger how to smoke cigarettes, kiss boys and pray. Both rebel against their mothers: Rosa’s single mum, Anoushka and Ginger’s frustrated painter mother, Natalie. Meanwhile, Ginger’s pacifist father, Roland, seems a romantic, bohemian figure to the girls. He encourages Ginger’s Ban-the-Bomb activism, while Rosa starts to take a very different interest in him. As Ginger’s parents fight and fall apart, Ginger finds emotional sanctuary with a gay couple, both named Mark, and their American friend, the poet Bella. Finally, as the Cuban Missile Crisis escalates — and it seems the world itself may come to an end — the lifelong friendship of the two girls is shattered. “Ginger & Rosa” takes the familiar teen-coming-of-age genre and subverts it into a sensitive look at the real joys and sorrows of growing up, presenting her characters with more predicaments than most kids have to face and merging the personal with the political. Potter ups the ante of coming-of-age tales set in the 60s — or any decade, for that matter — by adding in the anti-war sentiments and a love affair between one of the girls and the other’s dad. And, the icing on the cake: Elle Fanning is spectacular as Ginger. Extras include deleted scenes, cast interviews, an audio commentary with writer-director Potter and two featurettes going behind-the-scenes into the making of the film. Vitals: Director: Sally Potter. Stars: Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Annette Bening. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 90 min., Drama, Box office gross: $1.05 million, Lionsgate. 4 stars

 Posted by on July 26, 2013 1 Response »