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More DVD News: April 2012

Warner Bros. Launches 'Inside the
Script' E-Book Publishing Initiative

photo (April 30) Warner Bros. Digital Distribution announced today the launch of "Inside the Script," a digital publishing initiative that gives movie fans an innovative new way to go deep inside their favorite films. Available now for iBookstore, Kindle and NOOK by Barnes & Noble, "Inside the Script" is a series of highly illustrated eBooks that contain the film’s actual shooting script, rare materials from the Warner Bros. Corporate Archive and much more. The first series of "Inside the Script" titles are based on timeless, cinematic treasures including "Casablanca," "Ben-Hur," "An American in Paris" and "North by Northwest" -- and sell for $9.99 each. Read more here.

April 24 Releases
From the Big Screen:

"Contraband." For more releases this week, see the "Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases."

DVD Collectibles: (4/24)

photo Of all the cinematic New Waves that broke over the world in the 1960s, the one in Czechoslovakia was among the most fruitful, fascinating, and radical. With a wicked sense of humor and a healthy streak of surrealism, a group of fearless directors -- ­including eventual Oscar winners Milos Forman and Jan Kadar -- ­began to use film to speak out about the hypocrisy and absurdity of the Communist state. A defining work was the 1966 omnibus five-part anthology film "Pearls of the Deep," which introduced five of the movement's greatest voices: Vera Chytilova, Jaromil Jires, Jiri Menzel, Jan Nemec and Evald Schorm. Criterion's "Eclipse Series 32: Pearls of the Czech New Wave" presents that title, along with five other crucial works that followed close on its heels, one from each of those filmmakers: Chytilova's "Daisies" (1966), Jires' "The Joke," (1969), (Menzel's "Capricious Summer" (1968), (Nemec's "A Report on the Party and Guests" (1966), (Schorm's "Return of the Prodigal Son" (1967) -- ­some dazzlingly experimental, some arrestingly realistic, all singular expressions from a remarkable time and place.

There's two other classics this week:
A restored version of "The Red House," (1947), directed by Delmer Daves and starring Edward G. Robinson, Lon McCallister, Judith Anderson, Rory Calhoun, Allene Roberts and Julie London. Based on the popular 1943 novel serialized in the Saturday Evening Post. Disabled farmer Pete (Robinson) and his sister Ellen (Anderson) have raised young Meg (Roberts) from infancy on their reclusive homestead. Now a teen, Meg persuades her friend photo Nath (McCallister) to come by each day to help with her chores. When Nath insists on using a backwoods shortcut home one day, Pete cautions him against doing so, speaking of ominous screams in the night and terrors that lie within a mysterious, abandoned red house on the outskirts of his property. Curious, Nath and Meg -- who has growing feelings for Nath much to the chagrin of his girlfriend, Tibby (London) -- ignore Pete's warning and explore the dark secret of the red house. Features an eerie original score by Miklo Rozsa. From Film Chest/HD Cinema Classics label ... Criterion also offers "The Organizer" (1963): In turn-of-the-20th-century Turin, an accident in a textile factory incites workers to stage a walkout. But it's not until they receive unexpected aid from a traveling professor (Marcello Mastroianni) that they find a voice, unite, and stand up for themselves. This historical drama by Mario Monicelli ("Big Deal on Madonna Street") is a beautiful and moving ode to the power of the people, brimming with humor and honesty. "The Organizer (I compagni)" features engaging, naturalistic performances; cinematography by the great Giuseppe Rotunno; and a multilayered, Oscar-nominated screenplay, by Monicelli, Agenore Incrocci ("The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly)", and Furio Scarpelli ("Il postino"). In a new high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition.

"Stony Island" (1977), starring Richie Davis, Edward "Stoney" Robinson and Gene "Daddy G" Barge, was director Andrew ("The Fugitive," "Under Siege") Davis' first film. Shot on the gritty streets of Chicago's south side, the film tells the story of Richie Bloom, the only white kid on the block, as he forms an R&B band with his best friend, Kevin. With the help of their mentor, aging sax legend Percy, they pull together a funky supergroup, stealing practice time at night in the local funeral home. Despite few resources and heavy losses, the resilient group of dedicated musicians -- armed only with wit, sleight of hand and outrageous Chicago bravado -- come together to finally make their smash debut. A tribute to Chicago's South Side with: saxophone legend Gene Barge, George Englund, Ronnie Barron, Rae Dawn Chong, Oscar Brown Jr. and many more of Chicago's finest musicians and actors. Original score by David Matthews featuring David Sanborn. From Cinema Libre Studio.

From TV to Video: (4/24)

"Billy the Exterminator: The Complete Season Four" (2011) is a two-disc set with 12 episodes, $19.95 from A&E ... "Cinema Verite" (2011), starring Diane Lane, Tim Robbins and James Gandolfini, is the compelling behind-the-scenes story of the revolutionary 1973 PBS documentary series "An American Family," which photo catapulted an ordinary family to notoriety and captivated audiences with the launch of a new television genre - reality TV. Believing that the lives of an everyday family would be relatable to Americans in a way that existing TV shows were not, filmmakers set out to chronicle the life of the Louds, a seemingly "perfect family." Once filming began though, the strain in the Loud's marriage, the ups and downs of raising five children, as well as the criticism Pat Loud received for asking for a divorce and openly supporting her gay son, came sharply into focus. A complete departure from television shows of the time, "An American Family" gripped the nation, making the Louds a television sensation while leaving them unprepared for the consequences. From HBO ... In "Masterpiece Classic: Birdsong" (2011), Eddie Redmayne and Clemence Poesy star as two lovers whose fiery affair precedes World War I in this adaptation by screenwriter Abi Morgan of Sebastian Faulks' impassioned novel. Dreamlike, the film weaves together the stories of the past and present -- each tempestuous in its own way and fated to intersect. From PBS Distribution.

Buzzin' the 'B's: (4/24)

In "11-11-11: The Prophecy" (2011), starring Timothy Gibbs, Michael Landes and Wendy Glenn, American author Joseph Crone travels from the United States to Barcelona, Spain, to reunite with his estranged brother, and dying father, but fate has a different plan for Joseph as his life becomes plagued with strange happenings and the constant sightings of the number 11 -- a that number holds a horrific meaning not only to himself but photo possibly to all of religion. From Big Air Studios ... "The Wicker Tree" (2011), starring Graham McTavish, Brittania Nicol and Henry Garrett, is a sequel of sorts to 1973's "The Wicker Man," directed by Robin Hardy, who also helmed this outing (And the original's Christopher Lee makes a cameo appearance). Charmed by the residents of Tressock, Scotland, two young born-again Christian missionaries accept the invitation to participate in a local festival, fully unaware of the consequences of their decision. From Anchor Bay ... In "Dark Tide" (2012), starring Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez, a professional diver -- nine years after a near fatal encounter with a shark -- confronts her fears when she takes a thrill-seeking millionaire on a journey to the dangerous South African waters known as Shark Alley. From Lionsgate ... There's six stories of ancient evil, love, obsession, addiction, gluttony, sexual nightmares, pain, brutality and of course, death in "The Theatre Bizarre" (2012). A young woman enters a seedy theater in which an odd marionette-like man introduces her to six tales of the bizarre. From Image Entertainment ... In "The Fields" (2011), starring Cloris Leachman, Tara Reid, Joshua Ormond and Faust Checho, a young boy -- fascinated with the notorious Manson Family and their gruesome killing spree -- discovers a terrifying secret lurking in the fields outside his Pennsylvania countryside home. From Fabrication Films ... photo In "Let the Bullets Fly" (2010 -- China), starring Chow Yun-Fan, Ge You and Jiang Wen, notorious bandit chief Zhang (Jiang Wen) descends on a remote 1920s town in China, posing as its new mayor, an identity that he hijacked. Hell-bent on making a fast buck, he soon meets his match, the tyrannical crazy local Huang (Chow Yun-Fat) as a deadly battle of wit and brutality ensues. From Well Go USA ... In "Death and Cremation" (2011), starring Brad Dourif, Jeremy Sumpter, Scott Elrod and Debbon Ayer, a 59-year-old recluse who offers cremation services from the basement of his funeral home is in fact a deranged sociopath who eliminates anyone he perceives to be a bully. When he takes a fatherless, 17-year-old high school outcast under his wing, thee pair develop a demented relationship. From Green Apple Entertainment ... A Brooklyn teenager juggles conflicting identities and risks friendship, heartbreak, and family in a desperate search for sexual expression in "Pariah" (2011), starring Kim Wayans, Adepero Oduye, Aasha Davis and Charles Parnell. From Universal ... During the final days at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, two employees determined to reveal the hotel's haunted past begin to experience disturbing events as old guests check in for a "last" stay in "The Innkeepers" (2011), starring Sara Paxton and Pat Healy. From Dark Sky Films/MPI Media Group ... On a long-postponed trip back home, a young woman's family is visited by a terrifying creature in "Night Wolf" (2012), starring Isabella Calthorp, Tom Felton, Joshua Bowman and Gemma Atkinson. From Lionsgate.

On the Indie Front: (4/24)

"Chasing Happiness" (2011), starring Elisa Donovan, Claude Duhamel, Kashmera Shah and Cerina Vincent, follows the decidedly deceptive lives of four young people trying desperately to make a living in Southern California -- all revolving around sex -- including a skilled sex surrogate, a sultry dancer who's making a living in disguise as a no-nonsense guru/yoga instructor and a poker hustler whose beauty can only take her so far, depending on how the cards are played. From Stonelock Media Group/Tripod Entertainment ... "Some Days Are Better Than Others" (2010) Carrie Brownstein, James Mercer, Renee Roman Nose. A sad valentine to the forgotten discards of a throwaway society, set in rainy Portland, Oregon, following several people as they deal with despair: Katrina is a twentysomething reality TV enthusiast, video diarist and animal shelter worker whose world falls apart when she finds that those important to her are often not what she hopes they photo would be. Eli is a mid-30s slacker trying to get over a recent heartbreak. And Camille is a socially handicapped thrift store attendant. From Palisades Tartan ... "A Mother's Love" (2011), starring Rolonda Watts and Vanessa A. Williams, is an inspirational drama about a strong, independent woman whose taste for the good life doesn't necessarily include her husband or her daughter, until "a mother's love" prays her down to earth. From Magnolia Home Entertainment ... When a bartender and a party girl, a group of girlfriends out on the town, and four buddies all end up at the same nightclub, their interwoven stories unfold, setting them on a collision course that changes their relationships forever in "Contradictions of the Heart" (2011), starring Vanessa Williams, Wendy Raquel Robinson, LisaRaye, Michael DeLorenzo and Cedric the Entertainer. From Entertainment One ... A devout young woman learns about faith, living, and love from a surprising source when she takes a job at the local health food store and her beliefs collide with her more bohemian co-workers' views in "Paradise Recovered" (2010), starring Heather Wallis, Dane Seth Hurlburt and Oliver Luke. From Monarch Home Entertainment ... In "Albatross" (2011), starring Jessica Brown Findlay, Felicity Jones, Julia Ormond and Sebastian Koch, Emelia Conan-Doyle, the 17-year-old heir to the legacy of Arthur Conan Doyle, pursues a writing career while working at a stuffy seaside hotel run by blocked novelist Jonathan, his bitter wife and their daughter. Emilia first befriends the bookish daughter and then begins an affair with her father, pulling the family apart. From IFC ... "Young Goethe In Love" (2010 -- Germany), starring Alexander Fehling, Miriam Stein, Moritz Bleibtreu, Volker Bruch, Burghart Klaussner, Henry Hubchen, is a beautifully innocent yet achingly insightful romantic drama about the 23-year-old Johann Goethe, his summer of self-discovery and unrequited love, and the birth of the first-ever literary superstar. From Music Box Films.

For the Family (4/24):

With the May 4 theatrical release of Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" (from Disney) fast approaching, Lionsgate is preparing fans with two DVD sets of animated Marvel heroes: "Ultimate Avengers Movie Collection 3-Movie Set" is a three-disc set with "Ultimate Avengers: The Movie," "Ultimate Avengers 2" and "Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow"; and "Marvel Animated Features 3-Movie Collection" is a three-disc set that includes "Planet Hulk," "The Invincible Iron Man" and "Doctor Strange"; $19.99 each ... In "Spot and His Grandparents Go to the Carnival" (2012), Spot, the star of Eric Hill's beloved children’s books, joins his grandparents on a trip to the carnival; $9.97 from BBC Home Entertainment.

Special Interest (4/24):

"Crime After Crime" (2011), the award-winning documentary that has inspired an upcoming feature-length film adaptation, chronicles the dramatic legal battle to free Debbie Peagler, a woman sentenced to life behind bars for her connection to the murder of her abuser. The inspiring film received critical acclaim nationwide, and more importantly, sparked global attention to the broken legal system between domestic violence and criminal justice. With a special introduction by Oprah Winfrey and Rosie O'Donnell, extended scenes, "Crime After Crime in Context" featurette, Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival, film crew bios, musician bios, Debbie's Campaign, OWN Doc Club "Sizzle reel." From Virgil Films & Entertainment.

April 17 Releases
From the Big Screen:

"Mission Impossible -- Ghost Protocol," "Shame" and "Born to Be Wild." For more releases this week, see the "Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases."

DVD Collectibles: (4/17)

Comedy comes to the fore this week with "Ernie Kovacs: The ABC Specials," a single-disc DVD featuring most of the prime time ABC Specials that helped cement Ernie Kovacs' legacy as a comic artist who broke the rules of television before they were made. photo "The ABC Specials" is broken out from the critically acclaimed six-DVD box set "Ernie Kovacs Collection," released by Shout! Factory in 2011. This new DVD is designed to appeal to a broader audience not already familiar with Kovacs’ work. Before his untimely death at the age of 42, television pioneer Kovacs left us with a sublime body of comedy work whose influence can be seen on everything from Monty Python to SNL and David Letterman. He made eight TV specials for ABC in 1961, the final year of his life, and these show Kovacs at the peak of his creative experimentation with the medium, featuring many of his comic masterpieces and iconic set pieces. Five of these programs are presented here in complete uncut form, along with many of his celebrated — and delightfully offbeat — commercials for Dutch Masters cigars.

Comedy legends Bud Abbott and Lou Costello cemented their place in film history with the hilarious wartime comedy classic "Buck Privates" (1941). After spending photo years on stage in burlesque and on radio perfecting classic routines such as "Who's on First?," the duo transitioned to motion pictures at Universal in 1940. In their first leading roles, Bud and Lou play con artists who accidentally enlist in the U.S. Army to avoid going to jail. Making matters worse, their no-nonsense drill sergeant turns out to be the cop who tried to arrest them. Featuring classic routines such as "Drill," "Dice Game" and "You’re Forty, She's Ten," the film also starred the popular singing group The Andrews Sisters performing the Academy Award-nominated song "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." Following the success of "Buck Privates," Bud and Lou made an astounding 26 more movies at Universal. This Blu-ray/DVD Combo is part of Universal 100th Anniversary Collector's Series.

One of the most powerful of the family portraits by Yasujiro Ozu ("Tokyo Story"), "Late Spring" (1949) tells the story of a widowed father who feels compelled to marry off his beloved only daughter. Eminent Ozu players Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara command this poignant tale of love and loss in postwar Japan, which remains as potent today as ever -- ­and as strong a justification for its maker's inclusion in the pantheon of cinema's greatest directors. The Criterion Collection releases the film in Blu-ray this week, in a high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack.

From TV to Video: (4/17)

"American Dad Volume 7 " (2010-11) is a three-disc set with 19 uncensored episodes, from Fox ... "Bob's Burgers Season One" (2011) is a two-disc set with 13 episodes, $19.99 from Fox ... "Eight Is Enough: The Complete First Season" (1980-81) is a two-disc set with nine episodes, $24.98 from Warner ... "Top Shot: The Gauntlet: The Complete Season Three" (2011) is a four-disc set with 12 episodes, $29.95 from A&E ... "Treme: The Complete Second Season" (2011) is a four-disc set with 11 episode, from HBO ... "Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns: Season 5" (2011) is a three-disc set with 20 episodes, $29.98 from Lionsgate.

Buzzin' the 'B's: (4/17)

There's plenty of horror retreads hitting the shelves this week, beginning with "Hell's Labyrinth (aka Carnivorous)" (2007), in which a group of 20 captives find themselves in a hellish chamber, hunted by demonic creatures; from MTI Home Video ... followed by "The Divide" (2011), where a sudden nuclear attack photo forces nine strangers into a small, decrepit apartment building basement for shelter, where the group begins to descend into madness. Stars Lauren German, Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia, Courtney B. Vance, Ivan Gonzalez, Michael Eklund, Ashton Holmes and Rosanna Arquette; from Anchor Bay ... The unveiling of a state-of-the-art city called New Town, fully serviced by robots fulfilling all of the functions previously held by humans, turns deadly when the robots revolt and attack the humans in "Robotropolis" (2011), starring Zoe Naylor and Graham Sibley, from Image Entertainment ... In "7 Below" (2011), starring Ving Rhames, Luke Goss, Rebecca Da Costa, Bonnie Somerville, Matt Barr, Val Kilmer, a group of people, stranded in nowhere when their tour bus breaks down, find themselves trapped in the same home where murders occurred 100 years before; from ARC Entertainment ... Lastly, there's "Suspicion" (2011), starring Brad Blaisdell, Suzanne May and Aidan Bristow, in which a retired member of the Mafia, dying of lung cancer, roams the city, frequenting his favorite cafe, where he meets a waitress/college girl and unwittingly puts her life in jeopardy; from Osiris Entertainment.

On the Indie Front: (4/17)

photo In "The Last Rites of Joe May" (2011), short-money hustler Joe May (Dennis Farina) returns from the hospital after a long battle with pneumonia to confront the harsh reality of his legacy: Everyone he knew had assumed he was dead, and life had gone on around him without missing a beat. Returning to his old Chicago neighborhood, he finds his car gone, all his worldly possessions pawned by his landlord, and the apartment he’s lived in his entire adult life rented out to a single mother named Jenny and her 8-year-old daughter. From TriBeca Film/New Video ... "The Man on the Train" (2011) stars Donald Sutherland and Larry Mullen Jr. in the English-language remake of Patrice Leconte's acclaimed French drama about a quiet professor who wants to trade places with the bank thief who has arrived in his small town; also from TriBeca Film/New Video

For the Family (4/17):

"Mo Willems' Pigeon and Pals: Complete Cartoon Collection, Vol. 1 & 2" (2012) is a two-disc set with six animated stories by Emmy Award-winner and Sesame Street veteran Mo Willems, who authored the family favorites "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!" and "The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!" included here. The set also includes "Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale" (in both English and Spanish) and "Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity," "Leonardo the Terrible Monster" and "Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed." From Scholastic Storybook Treasures ... "Conan the Adventurer: Season Two: Part 2" (1992) is a two-disc set with 13 episodes, $19.93 from Shout! Factory ... "Yo Gabba Gabba: Super Spies" (2012) contains four new episodes, and includes "Super Spies" guest-starring Jason Bateman, $16.99 from Nickelodeon/Paramount.

Special Interest (4/17):

There's a flood of interesting documentaries due this week; in alphabetical order:
  • "Bill Moyers: Capitol Crimes" (2012) Hard-hitting examination of the Abramoff lobbying scandal, as seen on PBS. Features more than three hours of bonus materials including 83-minute "Buying the War" bonus. A tale of politics, greed, and the buying and selling of influence at the highest levels of power. Moyers explores how "super lobbyist" Jack Abramoff rode a wave of corruption to enrich himself and promote his causes -- from Indian casinos in Louisiana to the Moscow offices of Russia's new oligarchs -- taking down other Washington heavyweights in the process. From Acorn Media.
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  • "The Flaw" (2011) Today, a question haunts America: what exactly caused the world's greatest economy to crash and burn in 2008? And why is it so slow to recover? From award-winning documentarian David Sington, this documentary tells the story of the credit bubble that caused the financial crash through interviews with some of the world's leading economists, including housing expert Robert Shiller, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, and economic historian Louis Hyman, as well as Wall Street insiders and victims of the crash. More topical than ever, the film presents an original and compelling account of the toxic combination of forces that nearly destroyed the world economy, demonstrating how excessive income inequality leads to economic instability. From Docurama.
  • "From the Other Side" (2002) This critically acclaimed documentary from legendary Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman -- referred to by J. Hoberman in the Village Voice as "Comparable in force and originality to Godard or Fassbinder, Chantal Akerman is arguably the most important European director of her generation" -- examines the risks taken by undocumented immigrants from Mexico crossing over to Arizona. Exploring Agua Prieta, Mexico, Douglas, Arizona, and the desert in between, she mixes beautiful and evocative landscapes with interviews with the families of immigrants, American sheriffs, fearful locals, and advocates. A bonus disc will include another film by Chantal Akerman, "South" (1999) a documentary that was originally planned as a meditation on the American south, inspired by Akerman's love of William Faulkner and James Baldwin; the focus of the film was dramatically altered following a brutal murder that took place during its development. In Jasper, Texas, James Byrd Jr., a black man, was severely beaten by three white men, then chained to their truck and dragged three miles through the county. Akerman situates this hate crime within the context of the surrounding community and landscape, exploring the reactions of the citizens in Jasper and allowing the story to unfold on its own in a pensive and respectful fashion. Two-disc set from Icarus Films Home Video.
  • "Frozen Planet" (2012) Astonishing and breathtaking seven-part series narrated by David Attenborough. A BBC/Discovery Channel co-production four years in the making," Frozen Planet" is ambitious photo and epic in scale and provides the ultimate portrait of our Earth's Polar Regions, capturing the power of natural elements and the fragile, jaw-dropping beauty of scenery unlike anywhere else in the world. This landmark high definition series brings to the screen the frozen wilderness of the polar region for what could be the last time before they change forever. Featuring the incredible wildlife cinematography that made "Planet Earth" a worldwide success, viewers encounter spectacles that few of us will ever witness first hand. Go deep under the sea-ice into a magical world of giants, plunge into the heart of an erupting polar volcano and fly to the South Pole across the Antarctic icecap -- the largest concentration of ice on earth -- retracing the steps of the great Polar explorers. Get closer than ever before to the lives of polar bears, penguins, wolves and orcas, and witness the most extraordinary examples of survival against the odds that can be found anywhere on the planet. Three-disc set from BBC Worldwide Americas.
  • "Garbo: The Spy" (2009) The Allies called him Garbo. The Nazis dubbed him Alaric. Both sides in World War II were sure Juan Pujol Garcia was their man. In reality, Pujol was a double agent -- and his final allegiance was to the Allies. From the comfort of Lisbon, Garbo fed false information to the Nazis and fabricated a network of phantom agents across Europe. Although he never fired a single shot, Garbo helped to save thousands of lives, most notably by misinforming the Germans about the timing and location of D-Day. In his inexhaustible imagination he even went so far as to secure death benefits from the Nazis for an imaginary agent's nonexistent widow. Documentary in English, Spanish & German w/English subtitles. Formats: DVD. Extras: Interview with intelligence & espionage expert Nigel West, "Sonic Deception" WWII Training Film. From First Run Features.
  • "The Hitler Chronicles" Four documentaries in a four-disc box set: "The Architecture of Doom," "Dear Uncle Adolf," "Hitler: A Career" and "The Top Secret Trial of the Third Reich." In English & German w/English subtitles. From First Run Features.
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  • "The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of My Father, CIA Spymaster William Colby" (2011) As powerful and riveting as a John Le Carre thriller, "The Man Nobody Knew" uncovers the hidden life of legendary CIA spymaster William Colby. The consummate American soldier-spy, Colby took on the government's dirtiest assignments without question -- until the day he defied presidential orders and revealed to Congress the CIA's "family jewels" -- their darkest, deepest secrets. Told by his son Carl Colby and featuring a who's who of the intelligence community as well as top journalists and writers, Colby's story unmasks the lies, myths, truths, sacrifices and casualties of a covert spy. From First Run Features.
  • "Planet Egypt" (2011) Fascinating, four-hour HISTORY miniseries explores the technology, culture, religion, wars and peace that unified Egypt for 3,000 years. Two-disc set from A&E.
  • "The Presidents" (2005) As the election year heats up, this best-selling series -- the most comprehensive ever filmed about the presidency -- provides a rare, inside look at the lives and legacies of every POTUS in a beautifully repackaged set including a bonus DVD. Four-disc set from A&E.
  • "Secret War" (2012) From the producers of "Churchill's Bodyguard" and "Hitler's Bodyguard," this riveting 13-part series tells the story of the spies who went behind enemy lines to conduct intelligence-gathering, sabotage, and assassination during World War II. The series premiered on Discovery's Military Channel in January 2012. "Secret War" includes a 20-page viewer’s guide with a chronology of World War II, articles on Winston Churchill, Fortress Europe, resistance movements, the SAS, and MI6. From Acorn Media.

Fight for 35mm

(April 15) Are the days of 35mm film numbered? Recent moves by the major Hollywood (and foreign) studios don't augur well for the format. While it takes thousands of dollars to duplicate a 35mm print and disseminate several thousand copies to movie theaters around the U.S., a digital copy of that 35mm print can be made for about $200 and then shipped on a hard drive (or, soon, by satellite or cable) to theaters, saving the studios millions of dollars every year. That's great for the studios' bottom lines, and they're pretty much forcing America's photo theater-owners to convert to digital projectors by threatening the elimination of film and by offering monetary incentives to defray the cost of conversion. The problem is that digital "prints" are great for DVD and home entertainment, but should never be used for big-screen, theatrical presentations. There is a warmth, fluidity and depth to 35mm film that digital can never replicate. (See Jerry Mander's "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television," which details the physical and psychological differences between watching a continuous image on film and an image broken up into dots and bits on digital). Worse, the change to digital will lock-out the few remaining small theater-owners and art-houses, who won't be able to get 35mm prints of classic films -- and, even if they wanted to, they couldn't afford the digital changeover. What to do? Check out the following sites (Fight for 35mm, Row Three, Movieline) that discuss the issue, then sign the "Fight for 35mm" Petition. Please. Now.

April 10 Releases)
From the Big Screen:

"Iron Lady" and "The Darkest Hour." For more releases this week, see the "Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases."

DVD Collectibles: (4/10)

The Blu-ray highlight this week is "A Streetcar Named Desire: The Original Restored Version" (1951), directed by Elia Kazan and starring Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. This is Tennessee Williams' masterpiece, depicting a culture clash between Blanche DuBois (Leigh), a fading relic of the Old South (whose photo pretensions to virtue and culture only thinly mask her nymphomania and alcoholism), and Stanley Kowalski (Brando), a member of the industrial, inner-city immigrant class. When Blanche shows up at the house of her sister Stella Kowalski (Hunter), her arrival upsets the balance of Stella's relationship with her husband Stanley, a primal, rough-hewn, brutish and sensual force of nature. Stanley dominates Stella in every way, and she tolerates his offensive crudeness largely because of her sexual need for him. Stanley's friend and Blanche's would-be suitor Mitch (Malden) is similarly trampled along Blanche and Stanley's collision course; their final, inevitable confrontation results in Blanche's mental annihilation. "Streetcar" was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won four, including three for acting. This edition of the film is the motion picture moviegoers would have seen had not censorship by the Legion of Decency occurred at the last minute; it features three minutes of footage thought to be lost until its rediscovery in the early 1990s. The new footage underscores, among other things, the sexual tension between Blanche and Stanley, and Stella's passion for her husband. The Blu-ray Book contains 40-pages filled of photos, film history trivia and more; the Blu-ray includes five documentaries and a commentary. From Warner.

Also due this week is the Blu-ray debut of "Conversation Piece" (1974 -- Italy), Luchino Visconti's penultimate film, starring Burt Lancaster, Helmut Berger, Silvana Mangano, Claudia Marsani and Stefano Patrizi. The award-winning film examines the solitary life of a retired American professor (Lancaster) who lives alone in a luxurious palazzo in Rome and what happens when he's confronted by a vulgar Italian marchesa and her companions -- her lover, her daughter and daughter's boyfriend. From RaroVideo ... And, lastly, Warner is debuting "Don Juan DeMarco" (1994), starring Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando and Faye Dunaway.

From TV to Video: (4/10)

"Car 54, Where Are You? The Complete Second Season" (1962-63) is a four-disc set with 30 episodes, $39.98 from Shanachie Entertainment ... "Doctor Who: photo Carnival of Monsters Special Edition" is a two-disc set that follows the third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Jo (Katy Manning) on a test flight in the TARDIS, landing aboard the SS Bernice, a cargo ship that appears to be crossing the Indian Ocean in 1926. As events take a dangerous and unexpected twist, it seems that their fate lies in the hands of a traveling showman named Vorg and his assistant Shirna, who have just arrived on the distant planet of Inter Minor with an amazing intergalactic peepshow called the Miniscope. From BBC Home Entertainment ... "Doctor Who: The Daemons" is another two-disc set. In the peaceful village of Devil's End something very strange is happening. A professor is preparing to open a nearby burial mound, and a local white witch foresees death and disaster. Meanwhile, the new vicar looks suspiciously like the Master, and he is using black magic to conjure up an ancient Demon. Can the third Doctor (Jon Pertwee), Jo (Katy Manning) and UNIT stop their old enemy before he succeeds? From BBC Home Entertainment ... photo"Ice Road Truckers: Season Five" (2011) is a four-disc set with 16 episodes, $29.95 from A&E ... "Logan's Run: The Complete Series" (1977-78) is a three-disc set with 14 episodes, from Warner ... "Night Gallery: Season Three" (1972-73) is a two-disc set with 17 episodes, $29.98 from Universal ... "One Tree Hill: The Complete Ninth and Final Season" (2012) is a four-disc set with 13 episodes, $39.98 from Warner ... "The Witches of Oz" (2011), starring Paulie Rojas, Billy Boyd, Sean Astin, Lance Henriksen, Christopher Lloyd, Jeffrey Combs, Ethan Embry and Mia Sara, is kind of a sequel to "The Wizard of Oz": a modern Dorothy Gale discovers that her best selling novels are actually based on suppressed childhood memories of her time in Oz, and that she may be in danger of experiencing it all over again. From Image Entertainment.

Buzzin' the 'B's: (4/10)

"The Hidden" (2011) is an Italian thriller, starring Sean Clement, Simonetta Solder, Jordan Hayes and Jason Blicker, about a young man who inherits from his mother "The Sanctuary," a spooky building that served as a home to her controversial experimental addiction treatment center. But during a tour of the decrepit building, he soon realizes that something sinister lies beneath the surface; something so evil it is better left concealed. From Entertainment One ... "Sleeping Beauty" (2011), starring Emily Browning and Rachael Blake, is a haunting portrait of a young university student drawn into a mysterious hidden world of unspoken desires. From IFC.

For the Family: (4/10)

photo In the original Marvel animated comic book feature "Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous" (2012), the tragic death of a student at the Xavier Institute reveals that a powerful enemy is working from inside the mansion to destroy the X-Men. From Shout! Factory ... "Dougie in Disguise" (2012) is the first title in a series of animated stories from Spain designed to encourage imaginative play: Dougie is a curious kid who loves to play with sticker albums and who loves to dress up in disguise and have various adventures; children help Dougie choose stickers that help him in his travels. Volume 1 includes 13 adventures, such as Dougie "as a cloud," "as a glassmaker," "as Peter Pan"; Volume 2 includes 14 episodes, such as "as a blacksmith," "as a film director," "as a toadstool." For ages 2 to 5; $19.95 each. From Organa Kids.)

Special Interest: (4/10)

Taking as his starting point an exploration of a triple homicide case in Conroe, Texas, master filmmaker Werner Herzog probes the human psyche to explore why people kill -- and why the state kills in return -- in "Into the Abyss" (2011). Through intimate conversations with those involved, including 28-year-old Death Row photo inmate Michael Perry, Herzog achieves what he describes as "a gaze into the abyss of the human soul." Herzog's inquiries also extend to the families of the victims and perpetrators as well as a state executioner and pastor who've been with Death Row prisoners as they've taken their final breaths. From IFC ... With the approach of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic (April 15, 1912), National Geographic pairs a new special, "Save the Titanic With Bob Ballard," which premiered Monday, April 9, on the National Geographic Channel, with the classic film "Secrets of the Titanic" in "Secrets of the Titanic Anniversary Collection" (2011), selling for $19.97 ... The documentary "Surviving Hitler: A Love Story" (2011) is a shocking true-life love story in the midst of humankind's darkest horror, a harrowing tale of war, resistance, and survival. As a teenager in Nazi Germany, Jutta is shocked to discover she is Jewish. She joins the German resistance and meets Helmuth, an injured soldier. The two become sweethearts and soon co-conspirators in the daring final plot to assassinate Hitler. At the center of the documentary is a love story for the ages, with riveting narration by Jutta herself, original 8mm footage (shot by Helmuth) and, miraculously, a happy ending. From photo Osiris Entertainment ... "The Conquest" (2011 -- France), starring Denis Podalydes, Florence Pernel and Bernard Le Coq, is a dramatized look at French president Nicolas Sarkozy's rise to power. The film examines the private life behind the public headlines, as it follows the thrilling journey of an ambitious political leader who discovers what happens when you get everything you ever wanted. From Music Box Films ... During construction at a Colorado ski resort, a bulldozer dug up something strange: a tooth so huge it had to be held in two hands. Racing to the scene, scientists from the local Denver museum could scarcely believe what they found: a vast trove of fossils from the depths of the Ice Age 100,000 years ago, when North America teemed with incredible beasts: massive mastodons, saber tooth cats and camels, giant bison with six-foot horns, and ground sloths as big as elephants with huge claws. "Nova: Ice Age Death Trap" (2012), $24.99 from PBS Distribution, documents the find.

'The Artist' Due June 26

photo (April 9) The Weinstein Co. and Sony have announced a June 26 release date for the Academy Award-winning Best Picture "The Artist." The film is a heartfelt valentine to classic American cinema. Set during the twilight of Hollywood's silent era and shot on location in Los Angeles, the film tells the story of a charismatic movie star unhappily confronting the new world of talking pictures. Mixing comedy, romance and melodrama, the film is an example of the form it celebrates: a black-and-white silent film that relies on actors, images and music to weave its spell. Read more here.

'The Hunger Games': It all began with the Romans ...

photo (April 7) The recent release of "The Hunger Games" movie has brought in $155 million during its box-office opening, making it the third highest opening-weekend earner ever (and grossing domestically $302 million to date). So what is it about this movie that has got people queuing up en masse to see it? Well, it's got something that quite a few other successful and not-so-successful movies have: A story line that has people hooked. It's one that centers around a dystopian future, where people are forced to set upon each other in violent and fatal battles for entertainment value. There was a time, of course, when this type of thing was actually part of a nation's culture: some 2000 years ago in the era of the Roman Gladiators and the infamous battles to the death in the amphitheaters spread across the Empire. Read more here.

April 3 Releases (April 3)
From the Big Screen:

"War Horse" and "We Bought a Zoo." For more releases this week, see the "Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases."

DVD Collectibles: (4/03)

The highlight this week is the Blu-ray debut of Roman Polanski's "Chinatown" (1974), starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, John Hillerman and Diane Ladd, in a new high definition transfer. The DVD includes a collectible booklet. Named by the AFI as one of the top 25 American films ever made, "Chinatown" has fabulous performances by Nicholson, Dunaway and Huston, and has an atmosphere that truly captures photo the era of 1930s Los Angeles. Private investigator Jake Gittes (Nicholson) unravels a mystery involving water rights that are critical to the development of Los Angeles after taking on what appears to be a simple adultery case. Along the way to the Chinatown denouement, Gittes uncovers corruption, murder, fraud, and unspeakable family secrets among the well-to-do ruling class in the city. There's always more than meets the eye in this thriller about people who aren't who they seem to be ("She's my daughter. She's my sister."). Extras include commentary by screenwriter Robert Towne and filmmaker David Fincher; five behind-the-scenes featurettes: "Water and Power," "The Aqueduct," "The Aftermath," "The River and Beyond" and "Chinatown: The Beginning and the End"; "Chinatown: An Appreciation," in which prominent filmmakers express their personal admiration for the film, including Steven Soderbergh, composer James Newton Howard, writer-director Kimberly Peirce and cinematographer Roger Deakins. From Paramount.

Lionsgate has released this week three film collections from three of Hollywood's most enchanting leading ladies, at a reasonable price of $19.98 each: "The Gwyneth Paltrow: 4-Film Collection" with "Shakespeare in Love," "View From the Top," "Bounce" and "Emma"; "The Nicole Kidman: 4-Film Collection" with "Cold Mountain," "Rabbit Hole," "The Others" and "Dogville"; and "The Renee Zellweger: 4-Film Collection" with "Cold Mountain," "Chicago," "Bridget Jones's Diary" and "New in Town."

From TV to Video: (4/03)

photo "The Commander, Set 2" (2007-08) is a compelling new mystery from the creator of" Prime Suspect." Amanda Burton stars as the ambitious and exacting Commander Clare Blake in these four feature-length crime dramas from Lynda La Plante. Supported by an outstanding ensemble cast, Burton delivers a powerhouse performance as the complex and driven Blake. From Acorn Media ... In "Goodnight for Justice: Measure of a Man" (2012), the sequel to "Goodnight for Justice," the highest rated original production on the Hallmark Movie Channel, Luke Perry returns to the lawless frontier to once again star as honorable Circuit Judge John Goodnight. In a two-disc set, $19.98, from Entertainment One ... "Masterpiece Classic: Great Expectations" (2011) stars Gillian Anderson, David Suchet, Ray Winstone and Douglas Booth in a ne adaptation of the Dickins' classic. $24.99 from PBS Distribution ... In "Torchwood: Miracle Day" (2011), the Torchwood team heads to the U.S. for 10 episodes via Starz in this four-disc set, $49.99 from Warner.

Buzzin' the 'B's: (4/03)

photo "Alien Opponent Uncut Edition" (2011) stars Jeremy London, Roddy Piper, Cuyle Carvin, Adrienne LaValley, Ashley Bates, Hilma Falkowski, Tasia Jones and Kevin Shea in a wild and wooly sci-fi thriller with an off-the-wall premise: What do you do when you've just killed your redneck husband but your plans of collecting his junkyard estate are thwarted by the arrival of a spacecraft that crash lands into the barn where his body lies? Well, blame his death on the spaceman and then offer $100,000 cash reward to whoever can kill the uninvited, space-suited alien guest. Soon the farm is overrun with every weirdo imaginable armed with every weapon imaginable, all intent on killing the alien and winning the prize. From Shout! Factory ... "Sleeping Beauty" (2011) stars Emily Browning and Rachael Blake in a haunting portrait of a young university student drawn into a mysterious hidden world of unspoken desires. From IFC films ... In "Enter Nowhere" (2011), three strangers arrive one by one at a mysterious cabin in the middle of nowhere only to learn they've been brought together for nefarious reasons. Stars Sara Paxton, Scott Eastwood and Shaun Sipos. From Lionsgate.

On the Indie Front: (4/03)

In "Angels Crest" (2011), starring Jeremy Piven, Mira Sorvino, Elizabeth McGovern and Thomas Dekker, the disappearance of a 3-year-old boy divides a tightly knit community and culls out its secrets. From Magnolia Home Entertainment ... In "Dysfunctional Friends" (2011), starring Meagan Good, Stacey Dash, Terrell Owens, Reagan Gomez-Preston and Jason Weaver, the death of a larger-than-life friend reunites a group of now-estranged college friends who soon learn that their eccentric acquaintance has left behind an unconventional will: Each of the remaining friends will receive a large sum of money, but only if they can remain -- together -- in his mansion for one week, without leaving. From Image Entertainment ... "Tyrannosaur" (2011) stars Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman and Eddie Marsan in the story of two lonely, damaged people who are brought together by circumstance: Joseph, an unemployed widower, drinker, and a man crippled by his own volatile temperament and furious anger; and Hannah, a Christian worker at a charity shop, a respectable married woman who appears wholesome and happy, but whose relationship with husband James is violent and abusive. As events spiral out of control, Joseph becomes her source of succor and comfort. From Strand Releasing.

Foreign: (4/03)

In the dark drama "The Double Hour" (2009 -- Italy), starring Kseniya Rappoport and Filippo Timi, a Slovenian immigrant chambermaid and an Italian ex-cop meet at a speed dating event in Turin and a romance develops. But during a romantic getaway things suddenly take a vicious turn as the pair's murky past comes to the surface. From Flatiron Films/New Video.

Special Interest: (4/03)

photo "Chasing Madoff" (2012) is the suspenseful true story of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme and the financial executive who made it his mission to bring him down. Based on Boston-based securities analyst Harry Markopolos' New York Times best seller, "No One Would Listen," this is the compelling story of how Markopolos and his team of investigators pieced together a chain of white-collar predators and revealed some of the most frightening truths behind the infamous scandal. From Cohen Media Group ... Beloved by millions of children around the world, "Sesame Street's" Elmo is an international icon. However, few people know the soft-spoken man behind the furry red monster: Kevin Clash. Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey" (2011) follows Clash's remarkable career, while also offering a behind-the-scenes look at "Sesame Street" and the Jim Henson Workshop. From Docurama.

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May 1, 2012
OnVideo News (ISSN 1094-3676).