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More DVD News: April 2013
April 30's Releases:
From the Big Screen:
"Silver Linings Playbook," "Not Fade Away," "The Guilt Trip" and "Broken City." For more releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
This Week's Best Bets (4/30):
"Funny Girl" (1968): After conquering the music world in 1963 with her first album and after dominating Broadway in 1964 with the musical "Funny Girl," Barbra Streisand made the transition to the big screen in William Wyler's 1968 adaptation of the Bob Merrill-Jule Styne stage production, making an incredible splash and paving the way for an illustrious career that has come to encompass all aspects of the entertainment world, as an actress, singer, director, writer, composer, producer, designer, activist and philanthropist. Here she stars as Fannie Brice -- a singer and comedienne who moved from the Jewish slums of New York's Lower East Side in the early part of the 20th century to forge a career on stage with the Ziegfeld Follies, on record with such hits as "My Man" and "Second Hand Rose," on radio as Baby Snooks, and briefly in the movies in the 30s and 40s. Streisand more than amply filled Brice's shoes, portraying the "ugly-duckling" as she rose from obscurity all the way through the height of her career, including her marriage to and divorce from her first husband, Nick Arnstein (Omar Shariff). And, of course, Streisand -- who won an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress -- belts out "People," "Don't Rain on My Parade" and "My Man." Sony's Blu-ray transfer -- just in time for the DVD release of Streisand's "The Guilt Trip" -- includes two vintage featurettes: "Barbra in Movieland" and "This Is Streisand."
Another Blu-ray tie-in of sorts this week is the release of Baz Luhrmann's 1992 "Strictly Ballroom," a kind of "Dirty Dancing" meets "Shall We Dance" about a young dancer (Paul Mercurio) who decides to shake up the staid world of Australian ballroom dancing with new routines, co-starring Gia Carides as his new partner and with great supporting roles by Tara Morice, Bill Hunter and Pat Thomson. Extras include "Strictly Ballroom: From Stage to Screen" featurette, "Samba to Slow Fox Dance" featurette, a deleted scene, a design gallery with narration, and commentary with director Luhrmann, production designer Catherine Martin and choreographer John "Cha Cha" O'Connell. Jut in time for the theatrical release of Luhrmann's rendition (May 10) of "The Great Gatsby." From Lionsgate ... Other Blu-ray debuts this week: "Friends: The Complete First Season" (1994-95) in a two-disc set with 24 episodes, $25.98; "Friends: The Complete Second Season" (1995-96) in a two-disc set with 24 episodes, $25.98. Both from Warner; ... "Star Trek: The Next Generation -- The Third Season" (1989-90) in a six-disc set with 26 episodes, $130.00; and "Star Trek: The Next Generation -- The Best of Both Worlds" (1990), a seamlessly edited, one-part, feature-length presentation of the classic two-part cliffhanger, featuring "Regeneration: Engaging the Borg," an in-depth exploration into the creation of "The Next Generation's" most iconic villains, a gag reel, and commentary. Both from CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount ... and "The Vampire Lovers"
(1970), starring Ingrid Pitt, George Cole, Kate O'Mara and Peter Cushing, an erotic Hammer Films horror outing in which a female vampire with lesbian tendencies ravages the young girls and townsfolk of a peaceful hamlet in 18th century Europe. Extras include commentary with director Roy Ward Baker, writer Tudor Gates and star Ingrid Pitt; excerpts from the novella "Carmilla" that inspired the film, more. From Scream Factory/Shout! Factory.
And, last but not least, Warner has put together an impressive ultimate collector's Blu-ray edition gift set of the perennial fan favorite and much beloved tearjerker "The Notebook"
(2004), directed by Nick Cassavetes and starring Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands, James Marsden, Kevin Connolly, Sam Shepard and Joan Allen in the Nicholas Sparks' story that traverses six decades in the lives of two lovers, a rich woman and a poor man. This set includes DVD and Blu-ray copies with Digital and UltraViolet (cloud) versions; a collectible antique golden locket; a postcard set with scenes from the film; and a vintage leather-style blank journal with gold edging and ribbon marker with pages designed with watermarked letters and images from the film; $49.99 from Warner. This release also paves the way for next week's DVD release of another adaptation of a Sparks work, "Safe Haven."
From TV to DVD (4/30):
"Ben Hur" (2010) stars Joseph Morgan, Stephen Campbell Moore, Emily VanCamp and Kristin Kreuk in the three-hour UK-German-Spanish-Canadian miniseries. From Sony ... "The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries: Complete Collection" includes five BBC adaptations of the Dorothy L. Sayers crime thrillers about the ever aristocratic and always urbane Lord Peter Wimsey. The five mysteries: "Clouds of Witness," "The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club," "Murder Must Advertise," "Five Red Herrings" and "The Nine Tailors." $59.99 from Acorn Media ... "The Scarlet Pimpernel" (1982 -- TV), starring Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour and Ian McKellen, is an adaptation of the swashbuckling tale about the dashing young Englishman who masks his identity to save French aristocrats during the chaotic days of the French Revolution. $29.99 from Acorn Media ... "The Syndicate, Series 1" (2012) is a two-disc set with five episodes of the BBC series that follows five cash-strapped supermarket employees bracing for their store's imminent shutdown as their lottery pool wins big. As the unlikely millionaires walk the tightrope between ruin and reward, the narrative follows each character in turn. $39.99 from Acorn Media.
Buzzin' the 'B's (4/30):
A soldier, brought back to life as a cyborg, fights alongside a band of adventurers against demon hordes in a dystopian future in "Manborg" (2011), starring Matthew Kennedy, Conor Sweeney, Meredith Sweeney, Kyle Herbert and Adam Brooks. From Dark Sky ... In "Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection" (2012) -- set in 2012 but based on the original -- the deceased have risen again from their graves with only one instinct -- to feed on the living. As the cities are overrun and civilization crumbles, a family takes refuge from the undead army in an isolated farmhouse in West Wales. Stars Sabrina Dickens, Sarah Louise Madison, Richard Goss and Sule Rimi. From Lionsgate ... A group of curious teenagers decide to seek out their town's local legend and go on the hunt for a child-eating witch, not realizing they could be her next meal in "The Wicked" (2013), starring Devon Werkheiser, Justin Deeley, Nicole Forester and Cassie Keller. From RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment ... In "If You Really Love Me" (2012), starring Reagan Gomez, Mel Jackson, Caryn Ward, Eva Marcille, Keith Robinson, DeEtta West and Anthony Edwards, three attractive, sophisticated sisters seem to have it all, but their faith in God, love and family is profoundly shaken when each of them is confronted with life-shattering challenges: Successful lawyer Fran is shocked to discover her equally successful husband has chosen to become a minister; Christine is obsessively planning her dream wedding, but a stunning infidelity threatens her happiness; and half-sister Tonia has a shameful secret of her own. Dove approved. On DVD and Blu-ray from RLJ Entertainment/One Village Entertainment ... In "K-11" (2012) a record producer, after binging on drink and drugs, wakes up in a section of the Los Angeles County Jail reserved for LGBT inmates and firmly under the heel of Mousey, a malicious transgendered inmate. The man has no idea how he got there; all he knows is he needs to find a way out. Stars Goran Visnjic, Kate Del Castillo, DB Sweeney, Jason Mewes, Portia Doubleday and Tommy "Tiny" Lister. On DVD and Blu-ray from Breaking Glass Pictures.
In "Young & Wild" (2012 -- Chile), starring Alicia Rodriguez, Maria Gracia Omegna and Felipe Pinto, 17-year-old Daniela is obsessed with sex but her self-proclaimed passion is in direct conflict with her well-to-do, strict evangelical family in Santiago, Chile. Finding an outlet by explicitly detailing her erotic ruminations and exploits on her blog "Young and Wild" to her eager online followers, Daniela soon finds kindred spirits -- but also learns that having it all -- sex, love and eternal salvation -- is more complicated than she ever imagined. From IFC Films ... "Empire of Silver" (2009 -- China), starring Aaron Kwok, Tie Lin Zhang, Hao Lei and Jennifer Tilly, is a story of greed, deception, love, idealism, jealousy, succession, money, and, of course, power, set in China in 1899, in which a carefree young man must prepare to take over his family's Chinese banking empire, reluctantly submitting to pressure from his father -- all the while hiding his undying love for his beautiful young stepmother. On DVD and Blu-ray from NeoClassics Home Entertainment.
For the Family (4/30):
"My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic -- Princess Twilight Sparkle" (2013) includes five episodes from "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic," focusing on Twilight's adventures and the grand coronation event from Season 3. Since arriving in Ponyville, Twilight has learned the meaning of true friendship and after completing an important challenge, she's earned her princess wings and has all new adventures and responsibilities as a princess. The five episodes: "Games Ponies Play," "Magical Mystery Cure," "MMMystery of the Friendship Express," "Magic Duel" and "Lesson Zero." From Shout! Factory Kids ... "Tom and Jerry Kids Show: The Complete Season 1" (1990) is a two-disc set with 13 episodes, $19.97 from Warner ... In "Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters" (2012), young Ray, recruited by the mysterious Duel Masters and joined by his best friends Gabe and Allie, must use the powerful art of Kaijudo to defend his home dimension from the sinister mastermind known as the Choten, whose own skills in "The Way of the Creature" allow him to summon vicious beasts from a parallel dimension to wreak havoc across Earth. Five animated episodes, from Shout! Factory ... "Nickelodeon Favorites: Once Upon a Rhyme" (2013) features preschoolers' favorite characters from "Bubble Guppies," "Team Umizoomi," "Dora the Explorer," "The Fresh Beat Band," "The Wonder Pets!" and "Blue's Clues" in this all-new two-hour DVD of recast nursery rhymes and fairy tales ("The Three Little Piggies," "Save the Cow Who Jumped Over the Moon," "Little Red Riding Blue.") $14.99 from Nickelodeon/Paramount.
Special Interest (4/30):
April 23's Releases
- "Dangerous Edge: A Life of Graham Greene" (2013) is a documentary portrait of the British author who wrote such critically acclaimed best-sellers as "The Quiet American," "The End of the Affair," "Brighton Rock" and "The Third Man," all adapted for film, TV and theater. Greene's 50 books spanned seven decades and sold tens of millions of copies. The story of his life reveals an extraordinary man who traveled the globe to escape the boredom of ordinary existence: As a journalist for 60 years, Greene covered the most dangerous events of the past century: Kenya's Mau Mau Rebellion, the Vietnam War, Haiti's "nightmare republic," the rise of Castro, and the fall of the Soviet Union. Narrated by Derek Jacobi with Bill Nighy as the voice of Greene. $24.99 from PBS Distribution.
- "G-Dog" (2012) is the inspiring story of Jesuit priest Father Greg Boyle, who has spent 25 years in the toughest part of East L.A. offering "jobs not jail" to tough former gang members. G-Dog's Homeboy Industries is now the most successful gang intervention program in the U.S. and a global model for social reform. From New Video/Cinedigm.
- "NOVA: Earth From Space" (2013): This ground breaking two-hour program reveals a spectacular new space-based vision of our planet, taking data from Earth-observing satellites and transforming it into dazzling visual sequences. Each sequence exposes the intricate and surprising web of forces that sustains life on Earth. See how dust blown from the Sahara fertilizes the Amazon; how a vast submarine waterfall off Antarctica helps drive ocean currents around the world; and how On DVD and Blu-ray from PBS Distribution.
- "Nurses: If Florence Could See Us Now" (2012) is a documentary that offers a rare look into the complex, exciting and challenging world of being a nurse. It explores what it means to be a nurse, the many different roles that nurses play, from the bedside to the board room, and the realities of nursing -- its joys and sorrows and the many ways that nurses impact the lives of others. $24.95 from First Run Features.
- "Only the Young/Tchoupitoulas" (2012) is a fascinating two-disc set that takes a close-up look at today's kids and youth culture. "Only the Young" follows three teenagers living in a small desert town in Southern California, a town dominated by foreclosed homes and underpasses, empty swimming pools and skate parks. The innocent yet rebellious kids must find things to do in a place that offers nothing, yet in the course of observing their day-to-day lives, the film shows them navigating friendship, first love and heartbreak. "Tchoupitoulas" is a lyrical documentary that follows three adolescent brothers as they journey through one night in New Orleans, encountering a vibrant kaleidoscope of dancers, musicians, hustlers, and revelers parading through the lamplit streets. From Oscilloscope Laboratories.
- "Shelter Me" (2012): Every year, 3 million to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized in America's animal shelters. But this sad fate is being reduced through the heroic efforts of various groups to train abandoned animals to help people with a variety of needs. Their stories are told in this hit PBS two-part documentary. Hosted by Katherine Heigl and sponsored by Ellen DeGeneres' company Halo, Purely for Pets, the film celebrates the human-animal bond with positive stories about shelter pets and their new homes. $14.99 from Virgil Films.
- "Vito" (2011) is a documentary on Vito Russo, an early Gay Rights activist who wrote the seminal book "The Celluloid Closet," which explored the ways in which gays and lesbians were portrayed on film, what lessons those characters taught gay and straight audiences, and how those negative images were at the root of society's homophobia. $27.95 from First Run Features.
- "Wagner & Me" (2010): Can we (and should we) salvage Richard Wagner's spectacular music from its embrace by Adolf Hitler? English actor and raconteur Stephen Fry attempts to answer this question while exploring his own passion for history's most controversial composer. With the witty and charming Fry as our guide, this surprising film is a provocative yet enjoyable look at Wagner's life -- and his "stained" legacy. $27.95 from First Run Features.
- "Walk Away Renee" (2011) is Jonathan Caouette's documentary about his cross-country road trip with his mentally ill mother. Caouette embarks on a road trip to move his mother Renee from Texas to New York, a journey that both tightens and tests their familial bond. As they tackle the numerous roadblocks along their way (chiefly the loss of Renee's mood-stabilizing medications), we get glimpses into moments from their past, lending insight into their anything-but-ordinary mother/son relationship. While Renee fights to maintain a grip on reality, Jonathan is faced with impossible decisions that pit sanity against mortality, familial devotion and personal survival. Through candid home movies, split-screen verite musical montage, hallucinatory psychedelia and dramas both actual and imagined, "Walk Away Renee" raises questions about love, sacrifice and the slippery instability of consciousness. From IFC Films.
From the Big Screen:
"Gangster Squad," "The Impossible," "Promised Land" and "A Haunted House." For more releases this week, see the "Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases."
Re:Past: Re-evaluations of Recent
Ivan's Childhood (1962 -- Russia)
The debut feature by Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky ("Andrei Rublev"), "Ivan's Childhood" stands as one of the great anti-war films of all time, right up there with "Paths of Glory," "All Quiet on the Western Front" and "La Grande Illusion" -- even though there is very little war action in the film. Through off-kilter camera angles, moody panoramic shots, shadowy lighting, and poetic flashbacks and dream sequences, the film charts a young Russian boy's determination to help his fellow soldiers infiltrate the Nazi lines as an advance scout. The present -- gritty, dirty WWII sequences infused with dread but also with a comradeship and love among the protagonists that stabs into your heart -- and the past -- young Ivan's idyllic pre-war life with his mother -- co-exist in an involving scenario that is a monument to honor, responsibility, love -- and the horrors of war. This is grand filmmaking from a director whose cinematic life was all too short (he died at 56 after only a handful of films). The January 22 Criterion Collection Blu-ray boasts a handsome B&W transfer, an illuminating appreciation of Tarkovsky and "Ivan's Childhood" featuring Vida T. Johnson, co-author of "The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue"; interviews with cinematographer Vadim Yusov and actor Nikolai Burlyaev; and a booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Dina Iordanova; "Between Two Films," Tarkovsky's essay on "Ivan's Childhood," and "Ivan's Willow," a poem by the director's father, Arseny Tarkovsky.
The Tin Drum (1979 -- Germany)
"The Tin Drum" is one of those films that mobilizes audiences into black and white contingents -- you either love the film or really, really hate it. Director Volker Schlondorff's film, based on Nobel laureate Gunter Grass's acclaimed 1959 novel, shared the Grand Prix at Cannes (with "Apocalypse Now") and won the Academy Award as best foreign film, and as been hailed as an indictment of fascism and an attack against the ease in which people can become indifferent -- or partake in -- the inhumanity of the world. The film revolved around Oskar, born in Germany in 1924 with an advanced intellect. On his third birthday, repulsed by the hypocrisy of adults and the irresponsibility of society, he refuses to grow older, and takes shelter behind his tin drum, which he pounds on incessantly as he encounters the madness and folly of humankind. Oskar, however, is no innocent, and becomes tainted by the world around him that he despises. It's a surreal amalgam of bizarre imagery, eroticism, female frontal nudity, incest, coprophagy and other perverse acts against a riveting story and breathtaking cinematography. When it was released in 1997 on video, the film became the center of a censorship storm in Oklahoma City when a Christian fundamentalist group got a judge to declare that the film contained child pornography (as defined by Oklahoma's obscenity laws). Local police seized copies of the film and threatened to arrest anyone possessing a copy. U.S. federal courts overruled the district judge but not until after much chest-beating on the part of conservatives. The January 15 Criterion Collection Blu-ray features a restored, longer version of the film with a new interview with Schlondorff; a German audio recording from 1987 of author Gunter Grass reading an excerpt from the novel with musical accompaniment, illustrated with the corresponding scene from the film; television interview excerpts featuring Schlondorff, Grass, actors David Bennent and Mario Adorf, and co-writer Jean-Claude Carriere reflecting on their experiences making the film; and a booklet featuring an essay by critic Michael Atkinson and 1978 statements by Grass about the adaptation of his novel.
The Hour (2011-2012)
For a series to make it on TV, you need four main ingredients: characters you can get involved with, interesting situations, linking arcs between episodes and characters, and love/romance (ever notice how love trumps work on TV?). BBC's "The Hour" had this in spades. Set behind the scenes of the BBC newsroom of a new investigative news program in 1956-1957, the series followed the reporters and newscasters as they struggled with crime, corruption, censorship, personal infidelities, long-simmering relationships, glamour and stardom -- all against the backdrop of a British MP sex scandal, the deployment of atomic weapons in England, the Suez crisis, the launching of Sputnik and the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary. The beauty of the series was it's juxtaposition of renegade, liberal journalists going up against the conservatism and bowdlerization of 1950s Britain with real events transpiring behind -- and motivating -- their actions. Throw in great writing and acting (Dominic West, Romola Garai, Ben Whishaw, Anton Lesser, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Burn Gorman, Anna Chancellor, Joshua McGuire, Lisa Greenwood and Oona Chaplin) and the BBC had a critically acclaimed hit. Unfortunately, ratings for the second year of the show dropped below what BBC2 required for a series to be continued, and "The Hour" was cancelled in February of this year. A shame -- but you can still see episodes courtesy of BBC Home Entertainment, which offers "The Hour" and "The Hour: Season 2" in two-disc sets in DVD and Blu-ray.
From TV to DVD (4/23):
"Angel: The Seventh Season" (2012) is a seven-disc set with all 25 episodes of the critically acclaimed series that brought a message of hope and faith to millions of viewers with the inspirational adventures of angels Monica (Roma Downey), Tess (Della Reese) and Andrew (John Dye). $61.99 form CBS/Paramount ... "Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti: Episodes 15-16, 17-18"
(2008-09 -- Germany) Venice provides the backdrop for the lush film versions of the bestselling Donna Leon crime novels, about the singular Commissario Guido Brunetti, which feature canal boat rides instead of car chases, fine cuisine and crime investigations in one of Europe's most beautiful locations. Uwe Kockisch stars as Brunetti, a police inspector with a keen mind, razor-sharp wit, and a touch of melancholy who strives to bring criminals to justice. Each DVD includes two episodes: Episode 15: "Through A Glass Darkly," Episode 16: "Suffer the Little Children," $29.95; Episode 17: "Looks Are Deceiving," Episode 18: "The Girl Of His Dreams," $29.95 from MHz Networks ... "Maverick: The Complete Second Season" (1958-59) is a six-disc set with 26 episodes, $39.98. This was one of our favorite TV series from the 1950s -- mainly because of the romance and mystique of the Wild West and the series' two charming leads, James Garner and Jack Kelly. Wisecracking ladies' man Bret Maverick (Garner) and his more serious brother Bart ( Kelly) were two handsome bachelors on the loose in the West, traveling with a sense of humor and a knack for getting into trouble -- usually over gambling and women. The two had more success at the game of poker than the game of love, yet they kept trying their luck in one frontier outpost after another. The show -- and its main characters -- offered a more comedic look at the West than any TV Western before. From Warner.
Buzzin' the 'B's (4/23):
In "Assassins Run" (2012), starring Christian Slater, Sofya Skya, Cole Hauser and Angus Macfadyen, a Russian ballerina who refuses to turn over her American businessman husband's financial documents after he is murdered is framed by corrupt cops and pursued by the Russian mob. When her daughter is kidnapped, she finally turns into a killing machine. From Lionsgate ... After 10 years of marriage, Jeff and Nealy Lang (Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Banks) have an idyllic suburban home and a relationship on the skids, but when a family of hungry raccoons ransacks their perfectly manicured backyard, Jeff becomes obsessed with eradicating the pests, leading to a battle of wits with a very meddlesome neighbor (Laura Linney) and an absurd mess of infidelity, extortion, organ donation and other assorted mayhem in "The Details." Co-stars Ray Liotta, Dennis Haysbert, Kerry Washington. On DVD and Blu-ray from Anchor Bay ... A petty robbery spirals into a tense hostage situation after three gunmen hold up a diner that's a front for the mob in the by-the-book thriller "Pawn" (2013), starring Forest Whitaker, Michael Chiklis, Common, Stephen Lang, Nikki Reed, Sean Faris, Martin Csokas, Jessica Szohr and Ray Liotta. On DVD and Blu-ray from Anchor Bay ... The sequel "Cold Prey II" (2008 -- Norway) picks up where the original left off: During the winter of 2006, four young people faced a brutal death in the Norwegian mountains of Jotunheimen. Only one woman survived: Frozen and weak, Jannicke is brought to the local hospital, along with the body of the vicious mountain man whom she'd killed. But when she wakes up in the hospital, the building is dark and deserted ... and she soon realizes that her nightmare is not yet over. From Shout! Factory ... "Cheech and Chong's Animated Movie" (2012) is an animated film based on Cheech and Chong's classic Grammy-award winning albums. Includes the original Ode recordings of "Dave's Not Here," "Let's Make a Dope Deal" and more. On DVD and Blu-ray from Fox ... When a father and son become stranded in the wild, they must confront the horrors of their past to escape with their lives in "It's in the Blood" (2012). But this wilderness is not what it seems and as they deteriorate, so too does reality. Horrifying creatures, ghostly apparitions -- are they all in their heads ... or could the truth be far more terrible? Stars Sean Elliot and Lance Henriksen. From Monarch Home Entertainment ... Two crime-scene cleaners discover a mythical, tailed female creature in a concealed cellar in "Thale" (2012 -- Norway), on DVD and Blu-ray from Xlrator Media ... When a high school party goes dangerously off the rails, one teenager finds that revenge is just a computer click away in "Wasted on the Young" (2010 -- Australia), starring Alex Russell, Adelaide Clemens and Oliver Ackland. From Indomina Releasing.
On the Indie Front (4/23):
"Wuthering Heights" (2011 -- U.K.) is a fresh and distinct take on the classic novel by Emily Bronte. In this version, Heathcliff is a poor boy of unknown origins, rescued from poverty and taken in by the Earnshaw family, where he develops an intense relationship with his foster sister, Cathy, and the envy and mistrust of his rough-hewn stepbrother. Stars Kaya Scodelario, James Howson, Solomon Glave and Shannon Beer. On DVD and Blu-ray from Oscilloscope Pictures ... Inspired by a remarkable true story, the passionate film "Any Day Now" (2012) chronicles a gay couple who take in a teenage boy with Down Syndrome -- abandoned by his drug-addicted mother -- only to then wage a battle against a biased legal system that wishes to end the unconventional living arrangement and tear the teenager from the only stable environment he has ever known. Stars Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt and Isaac Leyva. On DVD and Blu-ray from Music Box Films ... Beautiful and ambitious investment banker Meghan Doherty travels to the Mojave Desert to get the land rights for God's Country, an isolated Christian retreat in foreclosure, but the faithful minister who owns the property refuses to consider her offer until she agrees to spend six days learning about his ministry. Meghan trades her stilettos for hiking boots and slowly comes to realize the value of what the rural camp has to offer in "God's Country" (2012), starring Jenn Gotzon, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Gib Gerard and Michael Toland. From Slingshot Pictures/Image Entertainment.
For the Family (4/23):
"Inhumans" (2012) is a panel-by-panel graphic story based on the characters created by comics legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Inhumans have always been one of Marvel's most enduring oddities. A race of genetic outsiders, they live secluded in their island kingdom of Attilan, preferring not to mix with the outside world. Even stranger, their genetic mutations are self-endowed; each Inhuman, as a coming-of-age ritual, endures exposure to the Terrigen Mists, a strange substance that imparts unearthly powers — some extraordinary, some monstrous. But now the kingdom of Attilan is under attack from without and within. Can the Royal Family, led by Black Bolt, repel the foreign invaders who blast at their outer defense, as well as the internal threat of Black Bolt's insane brother, Maximus the Mad? $14.97 from Shout! Factory ... In "Car's Life 3: The Royal Heist" (2013), Sparky the high-spirited sports car gets involved in a turbocharged whodunit adventure when Queen Limousine's jewels go missing. Features lessons about teamwork, cooperation and honesty. $12.98 from Entertainment One ... "Looney Tunes Super Stars Sylvester and Hippety Hopper" features the best of the failure-prone feline and spring-loaded little marsupial in 18 classic cartoons re-mastered to all their Golden-Age-of-Animation glory -- for the first time on DVD. $19.98 from Warner ... A 16-year-old girl takes her parents hostage after they miss her big jump-roping competition in "Family Weekend"
(2013), starring Kristin Chenoweth, Olesya Rulin, Matthew Modine, Joey King and Chloe Bridges. From
Special Interest (4/23):
"Last Summer Won't Happen" (1968) is a critical, but sympathetic examination of the anti-war movement in New York City, shot in 1968, one year after the Summer of Love. The film traces the development of a group of activists on the Lower East Side as they grow from isolated, alienated individuals to a politically empowered community. Features Abbie Hoffman, Phil Ochs, Paul Krassner and other counterculture luminaries. Directed by Peter Gessner and Tom Hurwitz. As a bonus feature, the disc also includes "Time of the Locust," Gessner's landmark anti-Vietnam War film, culled from news footage deemed too graphic for the major networks. From Icarus Films Home Video ..."The Central Park Five" (2013) is the new film from award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns that tells the story of the five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City's Central Park in 1989. Directed and produced by Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns, the film chronicles the Central Park Jogger case, for the first time from the perspective of the five teenagers whose lives were upended by this miscarriage of justice. On April 20, 1989, the body of a woman barely clinging to life was discovered in Central Park. Within days, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise confessed to her rape and beating after many hours of aggressive interrogation at the hands of seasoned homicide detectives. The police announced to a press hungry for sensational crime stories that the young men had been part of a gang of teenagers who were out "wilding," assaulting joggers and bicyclists in Central Park that evening. The ensuing media frenzy was met with a public outcry for justice. The young men were tried as adults and convicted of rape, despite inconsistent and inaccurate confessions, DNA evidence that excluded them, and no eyewitness accounts that connected any of them to the victim. The five served their complete sentences, between 6 and 13 years, before another man, serial rapist Matias Reyes, admitted to the crime, and DNA testing supported his confession. Set against the backdrop of a city beset by violence and facing deepening rifts between races and classes, the documentary intertwines the stories of these five young men, the victim, police officers and prosecutors, and Matias Reyes, unraveling the forces behind the wrongful convictions. The film illuminates how law enforcement, social institutions and media undermined the very rights of the individuals they were designed to safeguard and protect. On DVD and Blu-ray from PBS Distribution ... "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" (2012), from renowned filmmaker Werner Herzog ("Grizzly Man," "Cave of Forgotten Dreams") and Dmitry Vasyukov, is a journey to the far ends of the world, a place where a remote culture thrives in some of the harshest conditions on Earth. Welcome to the tiny village of Bakhta in Siberia, one of the most beautiful yet severe places on the planet, where the culture of some 300 indigenous inhabitants is virtually untouched by modernity and the people live according to their own values and traditions. From Music Box Films ... Inspired by the book of the same name by Graham Jones, the documentary "Last Shop Standing: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Independent Record Shop" (2012) takes you behind the counter to discover why nearly 2000 record shops have disappeared across the U.K. The film charts the rapid rise of record shops in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the influence of the record chart, the underhanded deals, the demise of vinyl and rise of the CD, as well as new technologies. It also offers a tantalizing look into the future: who's succeeding and what's the passion driving those individuals who intend to sell records long after the supermarkets have given up and the last chain store has closed. $19.95 from MVD Entertainment.
April 16's Releases
From the Big Screen:
"Django Unchained." For more releases this week, see the "Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases."
DVD Collectibles (4/16):
There's something new, something old topping the releases this week. First off, there's "Repo Man" (1984), Alex Cox's quintessential sci-fi comedy cult film that stars the always captivating Harry Dean Stanton as a weathered repo man in desolate downtown Los Angeles, and Emilio Estevez as the nihilistic middle-class punk he takes under his wing. The job becomes more than either of them bargained for when they get involved in reclaiming a mysterious -- and otherworldly -- Chevy Malibu with a hefty reward attached to it. Featuring the ultimate early-eighties L.A. punk soundtrack, this grungily hilarious odyssey is a politically trenchant take on President Reagan's domestic and foreign policy -- with a wonderful, otherworldly ending. In a new high-definition digital restoration, approved by Cox, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition. The release includes the regular lineup of superb Criterion extras, including the complete "cleaned-up" television version of the film, prepared by Cox.
"A Monster in Paris" (2012) takes place in a whimsical animated world of Parisian adventure and fantasy, set in the 1910s, directed and written by Bibo Bergeron ("Shark Tale"). A wacky inventor, his camera-crazy best friend and a madcap monkey make a massive mistake when let loose in a mad scientist's laboratory. With lotions and potions spilling everywhere, the troublesome trio accidentally creates Franc, the product of a reaction between a common flea and one of the scientist's mystery concoctions. What they fail to realize, however, is that this "monster" is actually a soft-centered soul with an astounding talent for music. With the help of an enchanting nightclub singer, Lucille, Franc becomes the talk of the town, just as stories of Paris's newest monster attract the attention of the egotistical police commissioner, hell-bent on securing a big prize to help his battle to become mayor. The unwitting scientists and the singer must team up to protect Franc, a monster with more than a musical career to protect. With the voices of Vanessa Paradis, Sean Lennon, Catherine O'Hara, Adam Goldberg, Bob Balaban, Danny Huston, Jay Harrington. From Shout! Factory.
There's too nifty compilations this week: The Blu-ray debut of "Police Story/Police Story II" (1985/1988), a double feature with the two films that made Jackie Chan a household name among action film lovers in the United States (he was already directing and starring in martial arts films in China). Chan's combination of humor and action was something new in the martial arts world and it brought him worldwide accolades. Both films co-star Maggie Cheung. $19.97. A DVD set is also available for $12.99. From Shout! Factory ... and "Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Pictures Triple Feature," which consists of three exploitation films hand-picked by Tarantino: "The Mighty Peking Man" (1977), "Detroit 9000" (1973) and "Switchblade Sisters" (1975). $14.98 from Miramax/Lionsgate.
"China Beach: The Complete Series": The much-anticipated release of the ground-breaking and award-winning TV series finally comes to DVD as a 21-disc set featuring all 62 episodes and over 10 hours of exclusive, never-before-seen bonus features including a recent cast reunion; extensive interviews with Dana Delany, Marg Helgenberger, producers John Sacret Young and John Wells; original featurettes ("Life's a Beach -- A Look at the Real China Beach," a documentary about the real China Beach/My Khe Evac Hospital, "Hit the Beach -- How it All Began" about the origins of the program; as well as "Tales From the Five & Dime," a collectible memory book containing casting notes, rare, archival photos, emotional, heartfelt letters from Vietnam veterans and more. Packaged in a deluxe collector's box featuring metallic printing and original artwork and logo treatments from the series; included are keepsake China Beach dog tags. $199.95 from Time Life at ChinaBeachOnDVD.com.
From TV to DVD (4/16):
"Counting Cars: Season 1" (2012) is a two-disc set with 12 episodes of the History "Pawn Stars" spin-off series that follows Danny Koker, a Sin City legend, as he and his team restore, customize and sell cars in record-breaking time; from Lionsgate ... "Flash Gordon: The Complete Series" (2011) is a four-disc set with 22 episodes from the Syfy Channel series, $14.98 from Mill Creek Entertainment ... "Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 1998" (1998) -- the world's longest-running sitcom -- returns with more antics from everyone's favorite elder delinquents. Two-disc set with 10 episodes, $34.98 BBC Home Entertainment ... "Parade's End" (1964) stars Judi Dench, Ronald Hines and Jeanne Moody in the British telefilm adaptation of the classic novel by Ford Madox Ford. From BBC Home Entertainment ... "Secrets of War -- Espionage" and "Secrets of War -- Shadows of the Reich" each consist of 10 episodes culled from the 1998-2002 series narrated by Charlton Heston, $9.98 each from Mill Creek Entertainment ... "Spies of Warsaw" (2013) stars David Tennant and Janet Montgomery in a four-episode miniseries based on The New York Times Bestselling author Alan Furst's acclaimed novel that follows French and German intelligence operatives locked in a life-and-death struggle in the years leading up to the Second World War. On DVD and Blu-ray from BBC Home Entertainment ... "Sugartown" (2011) features three episodes of the BBC comedy set in the seaside hamlet of Sugartown, which has been kept afloat for years by the Burr candy factory, that pits the two Burr brothers against each other, one who wants to keep the factory open, the other who has plans to shutter the factory in favor of a trendy "entertainment complex." $29.99 from Acorn Media ... "Women in Love" (2011) stars Rosamund Pike, Rachael Stirling and Rory Kinnear in a new adaptation of D. H. Lawrence's shocking novel "The Rainbow" -- banned in the U.K. for 11 years -- and its sequel, "Women in Love." Combining elements of both novels, this telefilm focuses on the lives of two sisters, Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen, as they struggle with their desires for two friends, Rupert Birkin and Gerald Crich. From BBC Home Entertainment.
Buzzin' the 'B's (4/16):
The sequel "The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia" (2013) has a young family moving into an historic home in Georgia, only to learn they are not the house's only inhabitants: They find themselves in the presence of a secret rising from underground and threatening to bring down anyone in its path. Stars Abigail Spencer, Chad Michael Murray, Katee Sackhoff, Emily Alyn Lind and Cicely Tyson. On DVD and Blu-ray from Lionsgate ... A crazed serial killer escapes prison during a hurricane and chases after a young psychology student who visited him on a classroom observational trip in "Escapee" (2011), starring Dominic Purcell, Christine Evangelista, Faith Ford, Melissa Ordway and Carly Chaikin. On DVD and Blu-ray from Anchor Bay ... A sinful martial arts expert wants to start a new tranquil life, only to be hunted by a determined detective and his former master in "Dragon" (2011 -- Hong Kong), starring Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Wei Tang. On DVD and Blu-ray, from Anchor Bay ... Former cop Jack Hooks is framed by his corrupt partner and sentenced to jail for a drug crime he didn't commit. When the DEA offers an early release deal, he embarks on a do-or-die mission to bring down his former partner's drug trade in "The Colombian Connection" (2011), starring Robert Thorne and Tom Sizemore. From Inception Media Group ... Chaos consumes a small town when a chemical facility explodes releasing a deadly toxin, transforming the unsuspecting populace into a roaming army of flesh-eating zombies in "State of Emergency" (2010), starring Jay Hayden, Tori White and Andy Stahl; from RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment ... Life's a party for a trio of housemates enjoying their hedonistic twenties -- with weekly house parties unimpeded by adult responsibilities and long-term entanglements ... until Jonah is diagnosed with testicular cancer and, facing infertility, he becomes obsessed with having a child before it's too late in "Not Suitable for Children" (2012), starring Ryan Kwanten, Sarah Snook and Ryan Corr. On DVD and Blu-ray from Well Go USA.
When her single mom runs off to California and abandons her, 13-year-old Lauduree, a passionate environmentalist, clings to her rural home and a carbon sequestration experiment in "Future Weather" (2012), starring Perla Haney-Jardine, Marin Ireland, Amy Madigan, Lili Taylor and William Sadler. From Virgil Films ... An eccentric wife sets up an evening of games for her friends and their husbands, resulting in a comedic night pitting men against women, the revealing of deeply hidden secrets and the unleashing of boiling passions and tempers in "The Great Divide" (2012), starring Tosha Landry, Richard T. Jones, Darrin Dewitt Henson and Golden Brooks. From Entertainment One ... In "Save the Date" (2012), starring Lizzy Caplan, Geoffrey Arend, Alison Brie, Martin Starr and Mark Webber, an independent young woman begins to confront her shortcomings after she rejects her boyfriend's hasty proposal and soon finds herself in a rebound romance. From IFC Films.
In "Delhi Safari" (2012 -- India), with the voices of Jason Alexander, Carey Elwes, Bard Garrett, Christopher Lloyd, Jane Lynch and Vanessa Williams, a wacky pack of mismatched animals takes on the human race as they travel to the big city to protest the destruction of their jungle. On DVD and Blu-ray from ARC Entertainment ... in "4Some" (2012 -- Czech Republic), two ostensibly ordinary middle-aged couples, Marie and Vitek, and Dita and Ondra, are linked by more than just a lifelong friendship, a shared house in a small town and same-aged adolescent children: they are linked by love. Both men, Ondra and Vitek, who are work colleagues, sincerely love their wives, but they both also harbor a secret yearning for the other's wife. When, by a stroke of fortune, the foursome finds themselves on an almost uninhabited island in the Caribbean, it's just a matter of time before their long-suppressed feelings come out. From Strand Releasing ... "At the Gate of the Ghost (aka The Outrage)" (2011 -- Thailand) is an adaptation of the Japanese film "Rashomon," here about three different interpretations of the murder of a warlord, from the perspective of the bandit Singh Khan, the wife of the deceased warlord, and a shaman who conjures up the warlord's spirit. On DVD and Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment.
For the Family (4/16):
"The Magic School Bus: All About Earth" (2012) consists of three never-before-released episodes with three eco-friendly adventures to honor Earth Day (April 22): "The Magic School Bus Goes to Seed" (on gardening), "The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top" (on volcanoes) and "The Magic School Bus Goes on Air" (about the mysteries of air pressure). On DVD, $12.95 from Scholastic Storybook Treasures ... "Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens" (2012) is a feature-length CGI-animated movie that has 10-year-old Ben Tennyson returning from summer vacation to go to the Total Alien immersion training program -- but total immersion means he can never turn human again. Stuck in his alien form Ben becomes the target of a new evil alien engaging in a deadly cross-world battle where nothing is as it seems. On DVD, $12.97 from Cartoon Network/Warner ... "Iron Man: Rise of Technovore" (2012) is a new chapter in the animated Iron Man franchise featuring Marvel super heroes such as War Machine, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Hawkeye and The Punisher. On DVD and Blu-ray from Marvel Entertainment/Sony.
Special Interest (4/16):
"Disneynature: Wings of Life" (2013) is a spectacular, closer-than-close, high-definition look at the intricate world of butterflies, hummingbirds, bees and bats, and their life-sustaining collaboration with flowers. Narrated by Meryl Streep. On Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Disney ... "The French Chef: Julia Child's Dinner Party Favorites" is a collection of six original black-and-white episodes from the 1960s that brings Julia back into the kitchen to teach cooks of all abilities how to prepare French specialties. $19.99 from PBS Distribution ... "Makers: Women Who Make America" (2013) is a three-hour miniseries that chronicles unforgettable moments in history and shares the stories of exceptional women whose pioneering contributions in the Women's Movement of the last 50 years helped shape the world in which we live. Narrated by Meryl Streep, the film takes its cue from the movement's motto, "The personal is political," delving into the personal lives of Gloria Steinem, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Phyllis Schlafly, Oprah Winfrey, Katie Couric, Hillary Clinton, Linda Alvarado, and many "ordinary" women who confronted the dramatic social upheaval in their own lives. $29.99 from PBS Distribution ... Democracy begins to break out in five far-flung countries that have suffered for generations under dictatorship and authoritarianism -- and it's all recorded as it happened in the powerful and eye-opening documentary "A Whisper to a Roar" (2013). Focuses on the recent and ongoing struggles in Egypt (the Arab Spring), Malaysia, Ukraine (the Orange Revolution), Venezuela and Zimbabwe. Directed by Ben Moses (creator and co-producer of "Good Morning, Vietnam") and narrated by Alfred Molina. $19.99 from Virgil Films ... On 10/10/10 across the planet, documentary filmmakers, students and other inspired citizens recorded the human experience over a 24-hour period and contributed their voices to a global day of media creation called "One Day on Earth" (2012). It was the first-ever simultaneous filming event occurring in every country in the world and it became a showcase of the amazing diversity, conflict, tragedy and triumph that occur in one day. This event also inspired filming around the world on 11/11/11 and 12/12/12. From New Video/Cinedigm ... An escalating conflict between mountain bikers and the federal land managers charged with protecting public lands is highlighted in the feature documentary that has become a grassroots phenom, "Pedal-Driven" (2011). From New Video/Cinedigm ... "WWII Diaries: Volume 1 Sept. 1939-June 1942" is a nine-disc set that highlights the details and daily headlines of September 1939 through June 1942 showcasing the beginning conflicts between the Axis and the Allies. Includes bonus documentaries from the "Why We Fight" propaganda series used to garner support from soldiers and the public: "Prelude to War" (won an Oscar for Best Documentary) and "The Nazis Strike." $29.98 from Mill Creek Entertainment.
April 9's Releases
From the Big Screen:
"Hyde Park on Hudson." For more releases this week, see the "Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases."
This Week's Top Releases (4/9):
David Cronenberg's penchant for the surreal and grotesque arguably reached its peak with 1991's
"Naked Lunch," the director's adaptation of William S. Burroughs's hallucinatory, once- thought unfilmable novel of the same name. A part-time exterminator and full-time drug addict named Bill Lee (Peter Weller) gets addicted to his bug poison, accidentally murders his wife, and then is plunged into the nightmarish Interzone, a North African netherworld of sinister cabals and typewriters that transform into giant talking bugs. Cronenberg was at his best here, merging aspects of Burroughs's novel with incidents from the writer's own life (Burroughs was implicated in the death of his second wife, was a heroin addict, and spent much time in Tangier in Morocco), resulting in a paranoid fantasy and a self-reflexive investigation into the mysteries of the creative process. The Criterion Collection has released the film to Blu-ray this week, in a new high-definition digital transfer, approved by Cronenberg, with a 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.
Also from Criterion this week is "Gate of Hell" (1953 -- Japan), a visually sumptuous, psychologically penetrating work from Teinosuke Kinugasa. In the midst of epic, violent intrigue in 12-century Japan, an imperial warrior falls for a lady-in-waiting; even after he discovers she is married, he goes to extreme lengths to win her love. Kinugasa's film is an unforgettable, tragic story of obsession and unrequited passion that was an early triumph of color cinematography in Japan. On DVD and Blu-ray, in Japanese with English subtitles and a new high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition.
At the other extreme this week is "Deadball" (2011 -- Japan), a crazy-quilt melange of horror, fantasy, blood, guts and gore by director Yudai Yamaguchi; it's a prime example of the splatter films made under the aegis of Sushi Typhoon, the genre film production company founded in 2010 and owned by media conglomerate Nikkatsu Corporation, Japan's oldest existing film studio. Totally nonsensical, disjointed and unbelievable, the film is a fun-house ride of absurdity. After accidentally killing his father with a supersonic baseball pitch, baseball prodigy Jubeh Yakyu, at 17, has become a juvenile delinquent; sent to reform school after killing over 50 people within a week, he's forced to join the reformatory baseball team, The Gauntlets, in the national tournament for juvenile inmates, or witness the death of his innocent cellmate. First up: a battle to the death against the sexy "psycho butcher girls" of St. Black Dahlia High School. And things get crazier -- and bloodier -- from there on. What can you say about a film in which the "hero" is a teenage mass-murderer who flies a mile into the sky to deliver a fastball; has a prison warden who's the Nazi-worshipping granddaughter of a German official; has an inmate with a baseball embedded in his eye; has victims and villains dying and coming back to life ... all being broadcast to an avid TV audience ala "Big Brother" and "Battle Royale." It's a wild, over-the-top epic of excess, billed as "more fun than a prison cavity search!" We concur. On DVD and Blu-ray from Well Go USA.
From TV to DVD (4/9):
"Boss: Season Two" (2012) includes all 10 episodes of Starz's saga about Chicago's powerful mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer). On DVD and Blu-ray from Lionsgate ... "Family Ties: The Sixth
Season" (1987-88) is a four-disc set with 28 episodes of the second-to-last season of the sitcom that followed the trials and tribulations of liberal parents trying to raise their family (including ultra-conservative son Alex Keaton, played by Michael J. Fox) in the Ronald Reagan-era of the 1980s. $46.99 from CBS/Paramount ... "Goodnight for Justice: Queen Of Hearts" (2013) stars Luke Perry, Katherine Isabelle and Rick Schroder in the third installment of the Hallmark Movie Channel Western saga; Judge Goodnight (Perry) rescues the beautiful Lucy Truffaut (Isabelle) from a stagecoach attack, but soon after begins to suspect that she's not who she seems to be. From Entertainment One ... "Merlin: The Complete Fifth Series" (2012) is a four-disc DVD ($49.98) and three-disc Blu-ray ($59.98) set of the final season, with all 13 episodes. From BBC Home Entertainment.
Buzzin' the 'B's (4/9):
In "Sexy Evil Genius" (2011), starring Katee Sackhoff, Seth Green, William Baldwin, Michelle Trachtenberg and Harold Perrineau, a group of guys are lured to the same bar in downtown Los Angeles by Nikki, an ex-girlfriend they all have in common. There, beautiful, conniving and downright insane Nikki has one last surprise in store for her ex-lovers. From Lionsgate ... In "Crush"
(2013), starring Lucas Till, Crystal Reed, Sarah Bolger, Reid Ewing and Leigh Whannell, a secret admirer's crush on a high school athlete takes a fatal turn. On DVD and Blu-ray from Millennium Entertainment ... A scientist enlists the help of the U.S. army to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her father in Belize, where her entourage of heavily-armed soldiers is besieged by murderous Guerrillas and a horde of murderous "Dragon Wasps," (2012) massive flying bugs that shoot flame from their abdomens. Stars Corin Nemec, Dominika Juillet, Benjamin Easterday and Nikollete Noel. From XLrator Media ... "The Four" (2012 -- China) is the first of a planned trilogy about four martial arts masters who dedicate their special skills to solving crimes and apprehending powerful criminals. In this big budget martial arts fantasy directed by Gordon Chan, the agents go on the hunt for whomever is behind the mysterious circulation of counterfeit currency -- and face an army of the undead, created to crush anything that stands in their way. Stars Deng Chao, Liu Yi Fei, Ronald Cheng and Collin Chou. From Well Go USA ... "The Sorcerer and the White Snake" (2011 -- Hong Kong), starring Jet Li, Eva Huang and Raymond Lam, is a special effects fantasy film based on a Chinese legend that centers around a man who falls in love with a 1,000-year-old white snake disguised as a woman. Discovering the white snake's true identity, the sorcerer goes to battle believing that, in so doing, he is restoring balance and order between man and the supernatural. On DVD and Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment ... The fantasy-action blockbuster "Woochi The Demon Slayer" (2009 -- South Korea), based on a Korean folktale, broke all boxoffice records in Korea in 2009. Jeon Woo-chi, an undisciplined, womanizing wizard unjustly accused of the death of his master, is trapped inside an ancient scroll until he is set free in 2009 by the wizards that imprisoned him to help fight against evil goblins that have taken over present-day Korea. The only problem is that Woo-chi is more interested in his new modern home -- and the women of Korea -- than becoming a hero. Stars Gang Dong-Won, Kim Yoon-Suk, Lim Soo-Jung and Yoo Hae-Jin. On DVD and Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.
And now for some vintage exploitation: "Sexcula" (1974), starring Debbie Collins, Jamie Orlando and John Alexander, is a Canadian erotic/horror hybrid shot in Vancouver, British Columbia; the film screened once before disappearing and then being sought after by cult aficionados for decades. Stars a Marilyn Chambers lookalike in dual roles as Countess Sexcula, a buxom cutie with no qualms about lying nude on a table for the entire movie, and a horny bride who can't wait for her ring. From Impulse Pictures ... A vicious serial killer is stalking the streets of New York City, murdering Times Square massage girls in a variety of brutal ways, so it's up to a rogue detective team to solve the case as the body count continues to rise in "Massage Parlor Murders" (1972), starring Sandra Peabody, Chris Jordan, Brother Theodore and Anne Gaybis. From Vinegar Syndrome ... Vinegar Syndrome also has a pair of exploitation double bills: "The Suckers/The Love Garden," both from 1971: Believed lost for decades, "The Suckers" is a sleazy sexploitation rendering of "The Most Dangerous Game" about a group of people caught up in a web of graphic sex and brutal violence as they fight for their lives while being hunted by a group of madmen. In "The Love Garden," a love triangle unfolds between a young writer, obsessed with his beautiful neighbor who, initially unbeknownst to him, is involved in a lesbian relationship. Stars Linda York, Jason Yukon and Barbara Mills. The second double bill is "Anatomy of a Psycho/The Lonely Sex," both from 1961: The brother of a convicted murderer set to be executed takes revenge against the people he believes were responsible for his brother's demise in "Anatomy of a Psycho," starring Ronnie Burns, Pamela Lincoln, Mary Gonzalez and Karl Light. In "Lonely Sex," a lonely outcast kidnaps a young woman and holds her hostage in a rural shack while a violent peeping-tom goes about his daily routine.
For the Family (4/9):
"Best of Walden!" (2013) is the third installment of the "Best of" Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!" DVD series. In consists of seven episodes featuring the one and only Walden, Wubbzy's good friend and Wuzzleburg's top thinker; $14.98 from Anchor Bay ... "Rainforest Rescue" (2012) features two episodes of PBS Kids' popular "Wild Kratts" series: Animated versions of the brothers and wildlife explorers Martin and Chris Kratt embark on two creature-filled rainforest romps: "Rainforest Stew" and "Shadow: The Black Jaguar." $9.99 from PBS Distribution ... "Thomas & Friends: Railway Mischief" (2013) has five new episodes with the locomotive friends from the isle of Sodor: "Gordon Runs Dry," "Kevin's Cranky Friend," "Scruff's Makeover," "Wayward Winston" and "Steamie Stafford." $14.98 from HIT Entertainment/Lionsgate.
Special Interest (4/9):
- "Best of Latino Laugh Festival" (2012): Highlights of the world's top Latino comedians performing stand-up comedy, monologues and sketches at the Latino Laugh Festival, from the Lila Cockrell Theater in San Antonio, hosted by Cheech Marin. Includes performances by Culture Clash, Greg Giraldo, Felipe Esparza, John Mendoza, Rudy Moreno, Paul Rodriguez and others, along with appearances by Maria Conchita Alonso, Erik Estrada, Daisy Fuentes, Edward James Olmos, Geraldo Rivera. $14.99 from CBS/Paramount.
- "Erroll Garner: No One Can Hear You Read" (2012): In a triumphant career that lasted 40 years, Erroll Garner pushed the playability of the piano to its limits, developed an international reputation, and made an indelible mark on the jazz world. And yet, his story has never been told. This documentary explores Erroll's childhood in Pittsburgh; his meteoric rise in popularity while playing on 52nd street, New York's famed jazz epicenter; the origins of his most famous album ("Concert By the Sea") and his most famous composition ("Misty"); his singular, virtuosic piano style; and his dynamic personality, both on and off the stage. Features commentary from Woody Allen; Ahmad Jamal; "Tonight Show" host Steve Allen; Erroll's sister, Ruth Garner Moore; pianist and arranger Dick Hyman; Columbia Records executive George Avakian; Erroll's bass player Ernest McCarty; Erroll's biographer Jim Doran; jazz journalist John Murph; dancer/choreographer Maurice Hines; and Erroll's daughter Kim Garner, who goes on the record about her father for the first time. $24.95 from First Run Features.
- "Into the Cold" (2013): Documentary follows two world renowned explorers as they trek 400 miles on foot to the North Pole. Facing harsh temperatures to -50 degrees, the film is a bone-chilling story of true bravery, incredible courage and unrelenting determination as Sebastian Copeland and Keith Heger retrace and commemorate the centennial of Robert E. Peary's successful April 1909 expedition. The expedition was also done to raise awareness about global warming, in which treks like this will not be possible within the next 10–20 years as the Arctic landscape is changing. From Shelter Island.
- "The Last Flight of Petr Ginz" (2011): By 14 he had written five novels and penned a diary about the Nazi occupation of Prague. By 16 he had produced 170 drawings and paintings, edited an underground magazine in the Jewish ghetto, written short stories and walked to the gas chamber at Auschwitz. Filled with intellectual curiosity but prone to mischief, Petr Ginz read voraciously, wrote constantly, built exploding toy cannons to frighten his classmates, and drew and painted a world full of adventure and exotic locations. Through Ginz's art and writing, interwoven with fantastical animation, this unconventional documentary reveals a journey from precocious child to young adult, from gifted artist to prodigy, and of innocence lost. Although Ginz's life ended at Auschwitz, this is not a story of tragedy but rather a testament to how one boy's wonder and creative expression represent the best of what makes us human. From First Run Features.
- "Lincoln Chronicles" is a 10-disc set with more than 29 Hours of compelling Lincoln films and documentaries, $29.98 from Mill Creek Entertainment.
- "Love Free or Die" (2012): This uncompromising documentary challenges the long held belief, supported by most of the world's religions, that homosexuality is in direct conflict with faith. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay person to be elected bishop in Christendom (in New Hampshire), takes on the church's stance and claims a place for all people.From Wolfe Video.
- "Orchestra of Exiles" (2012): In the early 1930's Hitler began firing Jewish musicians across Europe. Overcoming extraordinary obstacles, violinist Bronislaw Huberman moved these great musicians to Palestine and formed a symphony that would become the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. With courage, resourcefulness and an entourage of allies including Arturo Toscanini and Albert Einstein, Huberman saved nearly 1000 Jews -- and guaranteed the survival of Europe's musical heritage. Features commentary by musical greats including Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta and Joshua Bell. $27.95 from First Run Features.
- "Planet Ocean" (2012): Filmed by directors Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Michael Pitiot, along with an outstanding team of international underwater cinematographers in partnership with OMEGA and with the scientific support of Tara Expeditions, the film aims to explain some of the planet's greatest natural mysteries, while reinforcing how essential it is that mankind learns to live in harmony with our oceans. DVD, $19.98; Blu-ray Disc, $26.98; from Universal.
- "Vietnam: The 10,000 Day War" (1980): Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and CNN correspondent Peter Arnett and narrated by actor Richard Basehart, this is the real story behind the longest, most controversial war in modern history. Featuring extensive, rarely-seen archival footage and first-hand interviews with combat veterans, politicians and players from both sides, this award-winning series re-examines, without blame or judgment, the rise and fall of America's 20-year commitment to the war in Vietnam, known as history's first "living room war." $39.95 from Time-Life.
- "We Are Egypt: The Story Behind the Revolution" (2013): Months before 2011's momentous uprising in Egypt, many talked of a revolution -- but no one knew when that day would come. Going behind the headlines, this story -- filmed in the 14 months leading up to the revolution -- highlights the years of mounting resentment against the ruling regime. Director Lillie Paquette -- deeply embedded inside the turmoil -- followed key opposition figures and young democracy activists as they struggled against extraordinary odds and at great personal risk to remove an uncompromising U.S -backed authoritarian regime determined to stay in power. From The Disinformation Company.
This Week's Top Releases: April 2
"American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked" (2013) is a fascinating film that explores the life of the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist, one of the greatest living American writers. The tenor for the 90-minute documentary is set by the 80-year-old Roth at the outset: "In the coming years I have two great calamities to face: death and a biography. Let's hope the first comes first." Roth first began writing fiction in 1958 and burst onto the literary scene with 1959's "Goodbye, Columbus" -- and he's never looked back, authoring some 30 books in his more than five decades of writing. The documentary revolves around candid interviews with the at-times wisecracking and cynical Roth as he discusses intimate aspects of his life and art: his unliterary upbringing in Newark, N.J., his writing process, the inspiration behind his most famous novels, and the many controversies he stirred throughout his career ("Shame isn't for writers," he asserts). Much of Roth's stories reflect his life; he draws upon and transforms what has happened to him in his everyday world -- a kind of journalistic side to writing novels -- to create his characters and situations. Roth writes to rouse the reader, to provoke, to deal with ideas and politics, history, human misunderstandings and emotions. "Philip Roth: Unmasked" is a far-reaching and important audio-visual (auto)biography. It's rare that we're so privileged to enter into the life of a great writer as we do in this endeavor. On DVD from PBS Distribution.
"The Sweeney" (2013), starring Ray Winstone, Damian Lewis, Hayley Atwell and Ben Drew and based on the popular 1970s U.K. television show of the same name, was a smash at the U.K. boxoffice but lasted only two weeks in the states. The story revolves around the Sweeney Flying Squad, London's elite crime-fighting force -- a branch of the Metropolitan Police specializing in tackling armed robbery and violent crime. Led by legendary Detective Jack Regan (Ray Winstone), the group is not afraid to use old school, bare-knuckle tactics to bring down the modern underworld -- offending both the police higher-ups and the public in their use of outrageous violence. Here the squad goes after a master criminal who not only pulls off a major bank heist but flummoxes the police and embarrasses Regan to boot -- the robbery is highlighted by an incredible shoot-out in London's Trafalgar Square (which also is the highlight of the film). Sadly, the proceedings are old hat by now and there's little excitement in the hunt for the criminals; there's an improbable love affair between Regan and one of his female detectives; there's too many predictable plot twists; and an overabundance of swear words that gets tiresome after awhile. Disappointing and hackneyed, even if it's kinda fun to see the now-rotund Winstone throw his weight around. On DVD and Blu-ray from Entertainment One.
As part of their 90th Anniversary celebration, Warner Bros. will release another new DVD box set containing the studio's prize jewels. "The Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Romance" features some of the best melodramas and comedies the studio has released. The collection is divided into three chapters on 22 discs: Timeless Love (1938-1942); Unforgettable Affairs (1950-1965); and Modern Romance (1973-2008). Some of the titles: "Jezebel" (1938), "Gone With the Wind" (1939), "The Philadelphia Story" (1940), "Casablanca" (1942), "Now, Voyager" (1942) and "Doctor Zhivago" (1965).
Check out the complete list of films here. On DVD from Warner Home Video, $98.92.
From TV to DVD (4/2):
"The Bible" (2013) is the 10-hour History miniseries that features exotic locales and dazzling visual effects to breathe spectacular life into the dramatic tales of faith and courage from Genesis through Revelation. Narrated by Keith David with a score by composer Hans Zimmer. From Fox ... "Dirk Gently" (2010-12) is a four-part dramedy that follows the titular character, a perpetually insolvent yet uncommonly talented holistic detective. Based on the novels by Douglas Adams ("The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") and starring Stephen Mangan as the quirky but endearing detective. Broadcast on BBC in 2010 and 2012 and available to U.S. audiences for the first time in a two-disc DVD from Acorn Media ... "Hemingway & Gellhorn" (2012) stars Nicole Kidman, Clive Owen, David Strathairn, Rodrigo Santoro, Molly Parker, Parker Posey, Santiago Cabrera, Lars Ulrich, Saverio Guerra, Peter Coyote, Joan Chen and Tony Shalhoub in the HBO drama that recounts one of the greatest romances of the last century -- the passionate love affair and tumultuous marriage of literary master Ernest Hemingway and trailblazing war correspondent Martha Gellhorn, following the adventurous writers through the Spanish Civil War and beyond. On DVD and Blu-ray with such extras as a "Making Hemingway & Gellhorn" behind-the-scenes featurette, a "Behind the Visual Effects" featurette, and commentary with director Philip Kaufman and editor Walter Murch. From HBO ... "Route 66: The Complete Fourth Season" (1963-64) is a five-disc set with all 23 episodes of the final season, $29.93 from Shout! Factory.
Buzzin' the 'B's (4/2):
In "John Dies at the End" (2012), directed by cult helmer Don Coscarelli and starring Rob Mayes, Chase Williamson, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman and Doug Jones, a new street drug (dubbed Soy Sauce) that sends its users across time and dimensions has one drawback: some people return as no longer human. Can two college dropouts save humankind from this silent, otherworldly invasion? On DVD and Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment ... Years after a cruel kids prank during a birthday party for 8-year-old Tommy left hired clown Richard "Stitches" Grindle dead on the kitchen floor, the childhood friends gather to plan a birthday bash to end all bashes. But they haven't counted on the degenerate jester rising from the grave to seek vengeance on the children who mocked him and caused his grisly, untimely end in "Stitches" (2012), starring Tommy Knight,
Ross Noble, Gemma-Leah Devereux and Valerie Spelman. On DVD and Blu-ray from MPI/Dark Sky Films ... "Paranormal Movie" (2013), starring Kevin P. Farley, Carly Craig, Eric Roberts, Maria Menounos and William Katt, is a parody that takes potshots at the "Paranormal" franchise. A man, long haunted by the paranormal, captures on camera the horror and hilarity he and his beautiful girlfriend encounter after moving into a new home -- which is infested with freaky clowns, weed-smoking demons and uninvited celebrities. From RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment ... A young woman and her brother are tormented by a nightmare world of visions, highlighted by large rabbits and an amusement park gone crazy in Takashi Shimizu's ("The Grudge") "Tormented" (2011 -- Japan), starring Hikari Mitsushima, Takeru Shibuya, Tamaki Ogawa and Nao Omori. On DVD and Blu-ray from Well Go USA ... After dense matter from an imploded white hole hits Earth, a magnetospheric nightmare threatens the planet's rotation in "Earth's Final Hours" (2012), starring Hamza Adams, Julia Benson, Cameron Bright and Sage Brocklebank. From Anchor Bay ... The son of a prominent family of taekwondo masters must save them from a gang of ruthless thieves and criminals in "The Kick" (2011 -- Thailand/South Korea). starring Petchtai Wongkamlao, JeeJa Yanin and Jamruen Somboon. From Lionsgate ... Six FBI recruits are sent to a remote island for training but unbeknownst to everyone, the site was formerly used as an illegal biological testing ground for life-term criminals who were left for dead, and the zombie criminal convicts begin systematically hunting down the trainees in "13 Eerie" (2013), from Entertainment One.
On the Indie Front (4/2):
An up-and-coming attorney reaches a pivotal point in his life and career when he falls in love with the wife of his boss in "Forbidden Woman" (2013), starring Clifton Powell, Jackee Harry, Marla Gibbs, Keith Robinson and Erica Hubbard. From Entertainment One ... An 11-year-old boy gets a crash course in what it means to be a man when he spends a day with the ex-convict uncle he idolizes in "LUV" (2012), starring Common, Michael Rainey Jr., Dennis Haysbert, Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Meagan Good and Lonette McKee. On DVD and Blu-ray from Indomina.
For the Family (4/2):
"Charlie: A Toy Story" (2013), starring Randy Ochoa, Drew Waters and Rheagan Wallace, is a Dove-approved family film about 10-year-old Caden and his best friend, Charlie, a golden retriever, who set out to thwart the evil plans of the bumbling town bullies who are out to break into Caden's dad's toy shop to steal his new one-of-a-kind toy invention. From Entertainment One ... When Sammy and Ray find themselves trapped in The Tank, an underwater aquarium, they must hatch a plan to escape and reunite with their grandkids, Ricky and Ella, and protect them from the dangers of the ocean in "A Turtle's Tale 2: Sammy's Escape From Paradise" (2013), from Studio Canal/Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment.
Special Interest (4/2):
With baseball season opening, there's two new releases timed to coincide with the opening pitches:
"Knuckleball" (2012) The great baseball batting coach Charley Lau famously said, "There are two theories on hitting the knuckleball. Unfortunately, neither of them works." This heartfelt, funny and deeply engaging documentary delves into the legendary subculture of the knuckleball -- the most disrespected, mocked and frustrating pitch -- and the brotherhood of men who share the drive, imagination and humility to throw baseball's slowest, most disrespected and most mysterious pitch. Filmed throughout the 2011 season, "Knuckleball" follows 37 year-old all-star R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets and 18-year veteran Tim Wakefield, formerly the oldest player in the major leagues and an icon of the Boston Red Sox. The film details their personal and professional struggles and triumphs while exploring the bond between them and the few living retired knuckleballers, including Charlie Hough, Wilbur Wood, Jim Bouton, Tom Candiotti and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro. From FilmBuf.
"Jackie Robinson: My Story" (2003) "First person docudrama" blends historic footage with a powerful and dramatic portrayal of Robinson by actor Stephen Hill; chronicles the tragedy, triumph, dignity and great courage of a man who changed the course of American history. Features guest appearances by Robinson's Dodger teammates Don Newcombe, Clem Labine and Carl Erskine. From Shout! Factory. (This documentary is timed for the release of Brian Helgeland's "42," an April 12 theatrical release starring Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman).
And, lest you start enjoying yourself watching sports, here's another sobering documentary to jolt you back to reality, one that exposes America's second national pastime: Greed. "Frontline: The Untouchables: Money, Power and Wall Street" (2013) More than four years since the financial crisis, not one senior Wall Street executive has faced criminal prosecution for fraud. Are Wall Street executives "too big to jail?" Frontline investigates why the U.S. Department of Justice has failed to act on credible evidence that Wall Street knowingly packaged and sold toxic mortgage loans to investors, loans that brought the U.S. and world economies to the brink of collapse. From PBS Distribution.
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April 1, 2013
OnVideo News (ISSN 1094-3676).