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More DVD News: May 2013
May 28's Releases
From the Big Screen:
"Lore" and "Dark Skies." For more releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
DVD Collectibles (5/28):
"Life Is Sweet" (1990), from Mike Leigh, is an intimate, invigorating, and amusing portrait of a working-class family in a suburb just north of London -- an irrepressible mum and dad (Alison Steadman and Jim Broadbent) and their night-and-day twins, a bookish good girl and a sneering layabout (Claire Skinner and Jane Horrocks). In it, Leigh and his typically brilliant cast create, with extraordinary sensitivity and craft, a vivid, lived-in story of ordinary existence, in which even modest dreams (such as the father's desire to open a food truck) carry enormous weight. Perched on the line between humor and melancholy, "Life Is Sweet" is captivating, and it was Leigh's first international sensation. In a new high-definition digital restoration, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition. From The Criterion Collection.
"Cleopatra" (1963), directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Rex Harrison, Hume Cronyn, Cesare Danova, Martin Landau and Roddy McDowall, is a two-disc 50th Anniversary Blu-ray edition that features the 243-minute premiere version of the film -- meticulously restored -- with never-before-seen missing footage. A limited edition comes packed in a full-color book featuring rare images from the making of the film. The historical epic shot in 70mm was the highest grossing film of 1963, bringing in more than $24 million in its initial release ... but the film cost an unprecedented $42 million to make (equivalent to over $300 million today) and nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox. In addition to elaborate sets and costumes, production delays and the relocation of principal filming from London to Rome added to the skyrocketing budget. A very public love affair between Taylor and Burton that blossomed during the three-year production meant that there was as much romance and intrigue off-screen as on-screen. The film later won four Academy Awards, and was nominated for five more, including Best Picture.
From TV to DVD (5/28):
"Covert Affairs: Season Three" (2012) is a four-disc set with 16 episodes, from Universal ... "George Gently, Series 5" (2012) consists of four feature-length mysteries starring Martin Shaw as Inspector George Gently, an incorruptible cop transplanted from London to Northumberland in the mid-1960s. Available as a four-disc DVD, two-disc Blu-ray, $59.99 from Acorn Media ... Acorn Media also has an 11-disc DVD, six-disc Blu-ray set of the previous George Gently seasons, titled "George Gently Collection: Series 1-4" (2007-11), with 11 mysteries and behind-the-scenes featurette, text interviews, and a six-page insert, $99.99 ... "Longmire: The Complete First Season" (2011) is a two-disc set with 10 episodes of the A&E Western series, $39.98 from Warner ... "Suits: Season Two" (2012-13) is a four-disc set with 16 episodes with commentary on select episodes, "Suits Recruits" webisodes, deleted and extended scenes, gag reel, "Suits: Sophomore Success," "The Style of Suits," and a "Suits Punch" reel; from Universal.
Buzzin' the 'B's (5/28):
I'm a fan of John Cusack's work -- especially when he plays down-and-dirty -- and I'm also fascinated by the phenomenon of the shortwave numbers stations, used by the world's intelligence agencies to transmit secret messages (as popularized by Wilco's 2001 album "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"), so I was looking forward to "The Numbers Station" (2012), starring Cusack, Malin Akerman, Liam Cunningham and Lucy Griffiths. The plot: After his latest mission goes disastrously wrong, veteran CIA black ops agent Emerson Kent (Cusack) is given one last chance to prove he still has what it takes. His new assignment: guarding Katherine (Malin Akerman), a code operator at a top-secret remote CIA numbers station in Great Britain. When an elite team of heavily armed assailants lays siege to the station, Emerson and Katherine suddenly find themselves in a life-or-death struggle against an unknown enemy. While there's some interesting twists and turns, for the most part the scenario is pretty predictable -- though there are some thrilling action sequences. Cusack plays his character so close to the vest that one doesn't know if he's just walking through his lines or playing an extremely introverted agent. Fun but forgettable. On DVD and Blu-ray from Image Entertainment ... In "Rolling Thunder" (1977), starring William Devane, Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Haynes and Dabney Coleman, a Vietnam War POW -- who endured eight years of torture -- returns home to a hero's welcome and a cash reward, but finds that his wife has fallen in love with another man. To make matters worse, a group of thugs go after his reward, in the process killing his wife and son; he then teams up with another ex-POW to exact his revenge. From Shout! Factory ... In "Dead Mine" (2012), the legend of Yamashita's Gold lures a treasure hunter and his group deep into the Indonesian jungle where they become trapped in an abandoned World War II Japanese bunker and face the terrifying reality that the only way out is to go further in; stars Joe Taslim, Sam Hazeldine and Miki Mizuno. From XLrator Media ... In "Baby Mama's Club" (2010), starring Tommy Friend and Miko DeFoor, best friends James, a consummate womanizer who becomes a gather for the 17th time, and married Randall, who becomes a father for the first time, go to an unconventional counselor to help them with their problems: Rand to get the respect of his wife and James to control his sexual addiction. From Lionsgate ... After a family seeks refuge in a storm shelter during a tornado, they discover that someone -- or something not quite human -- is holding them captive in "Nailbiter" (2012), starring Erin McGrane, Meg Saricks, Emily Boresow, Sy Spurgeon and Michelle Davidson. From Lionsgate.
On the Indie Front (5/28):
In "Dorfman in Love" (2013), starring Sara Rue, Elliott Gould, Jonathan Chase, Johann Urb, Haaz Sleiman, Scott Wilson and Catherine Hicks, San Fernando Valley girl Deb Dorfman (Rue), who spends more time on her demanding widowed father and stingy married brother than on her own life, jumps at the chance to cat-sit at the cool downtown Los Angeles loft of the young journalist she has a secret crush on; while he's away, with the aid of his neighbors -- including a hunky artist who may not be exactly what he seems -- she gives the loft, and herself, a makeover. From DVD. (Virgil Films.
For the Family (5/28):
"Bubble Guppies: Sunny Days!" (2013) features six underwater adventures: "The Beach B!," "The Legend of Pinkfoot," "Bring on the Bugs," "The Sizzling Scampinis!," "Bubble Duckies!" and "Gup, Gup, and Away!" On DVD, $16.99, from Nickelodeon/Paramount ... "The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange: The Complete First Season" (2012) is a four-disc set with 30 episodes that follows YouTube sensation Annoying Orange along with his band of produce buddies -- Passion Fruit, Pear and Marshmallow -- as they navigate the time-space continuum in their magical fruit cart. From Prehistoric Era to Colonial Times, Orange and the rest of the crew are dropped into random adventures and forced to squeeze their way out. $29.93 from Gaiam Vivendi.
Special Interest (5/28):
Master storyteller Spalding Gray brought his tour-de-force one-man show "Swimming to Cambodia" (1978) to the big screen, brilliantly directed by Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme and featuring the music of Laurie Anderson. Grey spent eight weeks in Southeast Asia playing the role of the Ambassador's aide in the Academy Award-winning film "The Killing Fields." Inspired by his experiences there, Gray weaves a hilarious and hypnotic tale of the making of the film, from the "sixty-six takes" of his first scene to the jarring encounters with Thai marijuana, the history of Cambodia and the inhabitants of the Asian massage parlors and sex bars. It's reality with a wry twist from a fascinating pioneer of experimental theatre. With commentary by Demme. From Shout! Factory ... "The Ultimate Guide to the Presidents" (2013) is a three-disc set of the eight-hour History series that offers a fresh perspective on how the Oval Office has evolved over the past 200 years and looks at the 44 men who have served as Commander-in-Chief -- from George Washington to Barack Obama, concentrating on the ebbs and flows of presidential power and responsibilities as each of America's leaders deal with the events, expectations and challenges of his time. $24.98 from Lionsgate ... A growing body of scientific research is bringing us closer to understanding the complex web of circumstances that can conspire to produce a rampage killer: uncontrolled violent urges, depression, and perceived social isolation. In "NOVA: Mind of a Rampage Killer" (2012), NOVA correspondent Miles O'Brien explores how brain function, genetics, and early life experiences may prime the brain for each of these risk factors. From PBS Distribution.
May 21's Releases
From the Big Screen:
"Side Effects," "The Last Stand," "Beautiful Creatures" and "Parker." For more releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
DVD Collectibles (5/21):
"Medium Cool" (1969) is famed cinematographer Haskell Wexler's take on the counter-cultural and political revolutions of the 1960s. It's 1968, and with the whole world watching the social upheaval in the U.S., Wexler decided to make a film about what the hell was going on. His debut feature, "Medium Cool," plunges us into that moment. With its mix of scripted fiction and seat-of-the-pants documentary technique, this story of the working world and romantic life of a television cameraman (Robert Forster) is a visceral, lasting cinematic snapshot of the era, climaxing with an extended sequence shot right in the middle of the riots surrounding the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. An inventive commentary on the pleasures and dangers of wielding a camera, "Medium Cool" is as prescient a political film as Hollywood has ever produced. In a new 4K digital restoration, approved by Wexler, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition. Extras include two audio commentaries, one featuring Wexler, actor Marianna Hill, and editor Paul Golding, the other featuring historian Paul Cronin; a new interview with Wexler; "Look Out Haskell, It's Real!" a 55-minute documentary about the making of "Medium Cool," produced by Cronin and featuring interviews with Wexler, Golding, actors Verna Bloom, Peter Bonerz and Robert Forster, Chicago historian Studs Terkel, and others; excerpts from "Sooner or Later," a documentary by Cronin about Harold Blankenship, who plays the adolescent Harold in the film; original theatrical trailer; a booklet featuring an essay by film critic and programmer Thomas Beard. From The Criterion Collection.
On the lighter side we have everyone's favorite vacation comedy, "National Lampoon's Vacation" (1983) in a 30th anniversasry Blu-ray edition. Relive the crazy adventures of the Griswald family as they head west to visit the "Walley World" amusement park in Los Angeles, along the way encountering crude relatives, a sexy temptress, a dead aunt, and much, much more. Stars Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Imogene Coca, Randy Quaid, Anthony Michael Hall, Dana Barron, Eddie Bracken, Brian Doyle-Murray, James Keach, Eugene Levy, John Candy, Christie Brinkley and Jane Krakowski. Extras include a new A&E Special: "Inside Story: National Lampoon's Vacation"; an introduction by Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid and Matty Simmons; commentary by Harold Ramis, Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Anthony Michael Hall, Dana Barron and Matty Simmons. From Warner. The studio will back that release up with the sequel, "Vegas Vacation" (1997), done 14 years later, older but not wiser (and a lot less funnier that the original. Stars Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Marisol Nichols, Ethan Embry and Randy Quaid. And for kitsch buffs, there's the Blu-ray debut of "Captain America: Collector's Edition " (1990), starring Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin, Michael Nouri and Scott Paulin, from Shout! Factory.
And here's the 800-pound gorilla for the week: Warner Home Video is releasing to Blu-ray the "Ultimate Gangster Collection: Classic," a five-disc set with four of the greatest gangster films ever, remastered for their Blu-ray debuts. They include "The Public Enemy" and "White Heat" with the legendary performances of James Cagney; "Little Caesar" with Edward G. Robinson as hoodlum Rico Bandello; and "The Petrified Forest" starring Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis and Leslie Howard. The collection includes a feature-length documentary "Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Drama" which explores the development of the crime genre and the rise of Warner stars like Cagney, Bogart and Robinson. Also discussed are directors such as Walsh, Wellman and Curtiz; the films themselves; their influence on filmmakers worldwide; and Warner’s impact in establishing the genre. Includes a 32-page booklet with images and additional information about each film. $49.99. The titles in the Classic Collection will be available individually as well for $19.98. Warner is backing that up with the Blu-ray collection "Ultimate Gangster Collection: Contemporary,"
a five-disc set with five modern crime films that include Martin Scorsese's "GoodFellas," "The Departed" and "Mean Streets"; Michael Mann's "Heat," starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Val Kilmer; and Paramount's "The Untouchables" (directed by Brian De Palma) with Kevin Costner, De Niro and Sean Connery. Also includes a 32-page booklet with images and additional information about each film. $49.99.
From TV to DVD (5/21):
Here's a series to raise a toast to: "Blood of the Vine Seasons 1 & 2" (2011), a very refreshing show from France. After an internationally renowned wine expert is enlisted by the local police to help solve the case of a serial killer who combines murders with Grand Crus, he gets bitten by the investigative bug and seeks out new mysteries to solve in the heart of the Bordeaux vineyards and in the regions of Cognac and Champagne. Season One is a two-disc set with three episodes, Season Two is a two-disc set with four episodes; $39.95 each from MHz Networks ... From Italy comes "Detective De Luca" (2008), featuring another against-the-grain investigator. Against the backdrop of Italy's political upheaval, Fascism, and chaos during the tumultuous post-war period between 1938 and 1948, Detective De Luca does the one thing he knows how to do: be a cop. De Luca investigates and solves crimes in the war-torn city of Bologna and along the Adriatic coast with little or no regard for those in power, whoever they happen to be. His solitary and uncompromising character, his magnetic effect on women, and the fact that he's simply too skilled and too honest a policeman not to uncover the truth, all conspire to land him in trouble from time to time. Based on the best-selling crime novels by Carlo Lucarelli. Two-disc set with four episodes, $39.95. Also from MHz Networks ... It was only 25 years after the end of the 50s that TV began its nostalgia craze for that decade, epitomized by "Happy Days" (1974) and its spin-off, "Laverne and Shirley" (1975). CBS/Paramount has just released "Laverne and Shirley: The Sixth Season" (1980-81), a three-disc set with 22 episodes of the 1950s-set comedy revolving around the friendship between bright-eyed, naive and demure Shirley Feeney and brassy, tough-talking, street smart Laverne De Fazio; this season the duo -- with friends and family -- move to Burbank, signaling a change not only in the show's locale but time-frame -- it was now the mid-1960s; $39.98 ... "Perception: The Complete First Season " (2012) is a two-disc set with 10 episodes, $29.99 from Disney ... "Saving Hope" (2012) is a four-disc set with 13 episodes of the supernatural medical drama, $39.98 from Entertainment One ... "Teen Wolf Season 2" (2011) is a three-disc set with 12 episodes, $39.98 from Fox ... "True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season" (2012); the 12-episode season mixes romance, suspense, mystery and humor, adds a host of new characters, and goes deeper into the battle between the Vampire Authority and “vampire fundamentalists” -- a political power play whose outcome could decide not only the fate of Sookie and her Bon Temps friends, but of all human existence. In a five-disc DVD set, $59.99; in a Blu-ray set with five BD discs, 2 DVD discs, $79.98. Extras include back stories on each episode; commentaries, previews and recaps; the Blu-ray set adds interactive character bios, vampire histories and hints/FYIs, flashback/flash forwards, True Blood Lines. From HBO.
Buzzin' the 'B's (5/21):
"The ABCs of Death" (2013) is a very interesting experiment in programming filmmaking: Twenty-six directors were each assigned a letter of the alphabet and then given free reign in choosing a word to create a story involving death. The result: Twenty-six provocative, funny, shocking and great ways to die (A is for Apocalypse, E is for Exterminate, H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion, K is for Klutz, N is for Nuptials, P is for Pressure, S is for Speed, U is for Unearthed, Z is for Zetsumetsu, etc.) Sone are gruesome and horrible, some are funny and satirical; their brevity makes each one interesting since none are long enough to get bored and, though there are a lot more misses than hits, its all very watchable. On DVD and Blu-ray form Magnolia Home Entertainment ... "Nightfall" (2012 -- Hong Kong), starring Simon Yam and Nick Cheung, is a grisly thriller that pits a bitter, aging detective against a recently released murderer in a mystery surrounding the killing of a popular opera singer who, it turns out, was a brutal misogynist. What starts out as a clear-cut case of revenge gets murkier and convoluted with the truth becoming harder and harder to uncover as the case progresses. Who is really guilty in the murder? A fast-paced, enjoyable procedural highlighted by swooping visuals and colors. A promising second outing for young director Chow Hin Yeung Roy. On DVD and Blu-ray from Well Go USA ... In "Mold" (2012), a classified government project to create a new weapon to combat the drug cartels -- a fast-growing, genetically engineered strain of mold designed to wipe out coca fields that turns out to prefer feeding on human flesh -- is released in a secret lab, where a group of unsuspecting scientists and military officials are forced to fight their way to safety while trying to contain it before it's unleashed on the world. Stars Edward X. Young, Ardis Campbell, Robert Fattorini, Chris Gentile, Lawrence George and Rick Haymes. From MVD Entertainment ... In "This Girl Is Badass" (2011 -- Thailand), Kick-ass Jeeja Yanin (of "Chocolate" fame) takes her skills to the next level as a bike messenger who is hired by competing mob bosses to smuggle goods. Caught in the middle and given an ultimatum, the only way out is a confrontation erupting into a battle of bullets, face kicks and blows. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia Home Entertainment ... In "A Common Man" (2012), starring Ben Kingsley and Ben Cross, a seemingly average citizen plants five powerful bombs in different locations around a major international city and threatens to detonate them unless his sole unconditional demand is met: The simultaneous release of four of the most deadly international terrorists from government prisons. On DVD and Blu-ray from Anchor Bay ... In "Open Road" (2013) Angie (Camilla Belle), a young Brazilian artist, abandons her old life and embarks on a journey around the country, living on her own terms and occasionally waitressing to make money. But when she makes connections with a drifter (Garcia), a handsome cop (Egglesfield), and his sister (Lewis), she finds herself torn between her life of absolute freedom and being tied to people who care about her. Also stars Juliette Lewis, Andy Garcia, Colin Egglesfield and John Savage. On DVD and Blu-ray from Universal ... In "The Burning" (1981), starring Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer, Larry Joshua, Fisher Stevens, Jason Alexander and Holly Hunter, a group of summer camp pranksters get the scare of their lives when they target the camp's creepy caretaker ... and he takes bloody revenge. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Shout! Factory.
"The Town That Dreaded Sundown" (1977) is cult-director Charles B. Pierce's thriller about a "Phantom Killer" terrorizing young lovers in Texarkana, starring Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, Dawn Wells, paired with Pierce's "The Evictors" (1979), about a young couple tormented by the previous owners of an eerie house located in a small Louisiana town; stars Vic Morrow, Michael Parks and Jessica Harper. From Shout! Factory ... In "Last Kind Words" (2012), starring Brad Dourif, Spencer Daniels, Alexia Fast and Marianne Hagan, a young teen who moves to a secluded rural farm learns that the surrounding woods have flesh-crawling stories to tell -- in particular those surrounding decaying bodies hanging from the trees. From Image Entertainment ... "The Dark Dealer" (1995)is a three-film horror anthology about three hell-bound characters gambling with their lives and souls in a game of blackjack with the devil. The first story in this thriller, the creepy, satanic, "Cellar Space," won the Silver Scroll award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror: A vicious killer invades the cellar apartment of a seemingly defenseless old hermit, but the hoodlum soon finds out that something more than human lives there. From Whacked Movies/MVD Entertainment ... A New York businessman's one-night stand turns deadly when he is teamed with a psychotic serial romantic in this boy meets girl thriller that propels the term "love hurts" to a whole new level in "Love Sick Love" (2013), starring Matthew Settle, Katia Winter, Charlotte Rae, M. Emmet Walsh and Jim Gaffigan. From Monarch Home Entertainment ... Sleep-deprived parents begin to see strange things in their new house in "Dark Circles" (2013), starring Pell James, Johnathon Schaech, Jennifer Foreman and Philippe Brenninkmeyer. From Lionsgate ... A young man rents a room in a rundown mansion somewhere in the isolated mountains above Malibu, where he's inspired to write the "great American Screenplay" but, instead, has a heart attack and comes under the care of the mansion's recluse, a strangely preserved female doctor who draws the man into a nightmarish world of insane experiments and murder in "H.P. Lovecraft's Cool Air" (2006), starring Morgan Weisser, Crystal Laws Green, Norbert Weisser and Lauren Sutherland. From Lionsgate ... After serving several prison sentences, Bobby Baldano returns to the streets, craving a life of inescapable crime, but desperate to honor his family; he must decide whether to make his family proud or destroy what generations of Baldanos have built before him in "Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn" (2013), starring William DeMeo, Ice-T, Wass Stevens, Ja Rule, Armand Assante and Cathy Moriarty. From Lionsgate.
On the Indie Front (5/21):
In "Apartment 4E (aka Small of Her Back)" (2012), starring Nicole Beharie and Christopher Domig, a beautiful, intelligent young woman with everything to live for is trapped in a dark world of her own making: Deeply troubled, desperate and clutching a handgun, she has not left her apartment in a long time, and when there’s a knock on the door, she will face a choice that will make the difference between life and death. From One Village Entertainment/RLJ Entertainment ...
A rebellious teenager forced to repeat her last year of high school is caught between adolescence and adulthood -- and between two very different male admirers in "Picture Day"
(2012), starring Tatiana Maslany, Spencer Van Wyck, Steven McCarthy, Mark DeBonis and Susan Coyne. From Ketchup Entertainment.
For the Family (5/21):
One of the nation's top touring family artists, Roger Day has a knack for creating songs that make complex ideas simple and fun. In the full-length "Marsh Mud Madness" (2013) -- filmed live at the Savannah Music Festival and on location at the University of Georgia Marine Institute on Sapelo Island -- Roger introduces children to the plants and animals that live in and around the salt water marshes and beaches of barrier islands and how each one has an important role to play in a healthy coastal ecosystem. Even sneaky ghost crabs and regurgitating vultures! On DVD via Bigkids.com, CDBaby.com and Rogerday.com ... In "Barney: Dance With Barney" (2013), everyone's favorite purple dinosaur and his dino friends share their favorite dance moves, build confidence by learning new steps and have fun dancing dino-style. Includes three episodes, $14.98 from HIT/Lionsgate ... In "LEGO Batman: The Movie -- DC Super Heroes Unite" (2013), Batman enlists the aid of Superman to help end Lex Luthor's latest crime spree. On DVD and Blu-ray from Warner ... "The Aquabats! Super Show! Season One" (2012) is a two-disc set with all 13 Season One episodes of wacky crime-fighting, music videos and outlandish villains. The blend of live-action and animation follows the amazingly wild comic antics of The Aquabats, the galaxy's first group of musical, crime-fighting superheroes. From Shout! Factory ... "Gaiking: The Movie Collection" (1976) is a two-disc set with three feature-length movies edited from the original series, plus a brand-new English language track. An iconic classic from the golden age of Japanese animation, Gaiking-the-transforming-super- robot is back in a trio of feature-length adventures loaded with high-impact action and mind-expanding science fiction. From Shout! Factory ... "The Adventures of Bailey: A Night in Cowtown" (2013) is the third installment of the live-action adventures of Bailey, everyone's favorite golden retriever; here he develops a crush on a neighbor's dog and must rescue her brother from dog snatchers to win her heart. From Entertainment One.
Special Interest (5/21):
- "American Masters Mel Brooks: Make a Noise" (2013) After 60 years in show business, Mel Brooks has earned more major awards than any other living entertainer; he is one of 14 EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) winners. Yet, the comedy giant has energetically avoided a documentary profile from being made, even issuing an informal gag order on his friends -- until now. Brooks agreed to throw himself into a new documentary about his storied career, and gave American Masters exclusive interviews and complete access to his film archives. Features never-before-heard stories and new interviews with Brooks, Cloris Leachman, Carl Reiner, Matthew Broderick, Nathan lane, Joan Rivers, Tracey Ullman and others. Aired Monday, May 20, on PBS. From Shout! Factory.
- "Jim Jefferies: Fully Functional," (2013): Politically incorrect Australian comedian Jim Jefferies puts everything out there in this raunchy EPIX comedy special and shows off his skill for skewering sacred cows and virtually everything else with brutal honesty. From Inception Media Group.
- "The Royal Collection" (2013): Four-disc set featuring four royal titles, each presenting perspectives on the British Monarchy: "The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II," a behind-the-scenes look at the Queen's 1953 Coronation; "King George and Queen Mary: The Royals Who Rescued the Monarchy," a two-part portrait of Elizabeth II's grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary, which examines the lasting legacy of the couple who rescued the monarchy from potential disaster; "Queen Victoria's Children," a three-part series exploring the reign of Victoria through her personal relationships with her husband and her nine children; and "How to Be a Prince," a program centered on Prince William from 2003. Also includes a replica of a booklet for Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation, featuring original photography from the ceremony. $24.99. "The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II" and "Queen Victoria's Children" are available separately for $19.98 each. From BBC Home Entertainment.
- "Soldiers of Paint" (2012): Follows a dramatic battle involving 5,000 people who restage D-Day, the 6th of June 1944 invasion of Normandy. Instead of bullets, it's paintball; instead of the French coast, it's Oklahoma. And, every year, it's any man's game, which means the Germans could win. Staged on a 700-acre battlefield owned by the grand-son of a veteran of Omaha Beach, this yearly battle of paint is fought as a tribute to all veterans. These paintball soldiers take "gung ho" to an all-time high, utilizing real tanks and airplanes for this epic fight. $24.95 from First Run Features.
- "Wine, Women & Friends" (2012): While many people have the fantasy of moving to a lovely village in the South of France, maybe to find a vineyard, to create wonderful wines, to sell it and share it with friends, lesbian couple Carole LeBlanc and Jo Befort did just that. They started their wine adventure six years ago in Collias, France, with no experience, just their passion -- and friends. Winemaking is a complex and labor intensive process, and still a very macho affair in France, but as this film reveals, it's possible for two women who are willing to work hard to achieve their dream and live the life they choose -- as well as bring an entire village and community into their world. $19.95 from First Run Features.
Fox, Warner, Criterion Dig Deep
It's been a great week for announcements for classic film releases. The Folks at The Criterion Collection have announced an August slate consisting of a new Blu-ray version of Max Ophuls' "The Earrings of Madame De ..." (Aug. 16); new DVD and Blu-ray versions of John Frankenheimer's "Seconds" (Aug. 13), Satyajit Ray's "The Big City " and "Charulata" (Aug. 20), Ernst Lubitsch's "To Be or Not to Be" (Aug. 20); and an "Eclipse Series" box set of early Fassbinder films ("Love Is Colder Than Death," "Katzelmacher," "Gods of the Plague," "The American Soldier" and "Beware of a Holy Whore") on Aug. 27. More. Warner Archives' latest manufacture-on-demand titles are highlighted by Liberace's "Sincerely Yours" (1955) and a set of Monogram Cowboy Westerns. More. And the Fox Cinema Archives' latest includes "The Gambler from Natchez" (1954), "White Witch Doctor" (1953), "Western Union" (1941) and "Paris After Dark (1943). More.
MPAA's New Site Helps You Find Movies and TV Shows ... Legally
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the trade organization for the Hollywood studios and an ardent anti-piracy group, has launched WheretoWatch, a new website that serves as a resource for audiences to access movies and TV shows seamlessly and legally. Basically, WheretoWatch is a portal listing all the legal streaming and download sites on the Internet where viewers can access movies and TV shows. The site is divided into four graphic sections: Search Tools (Flixster, TVGuide, more), Where to Watch TV/Movies (with 26 of the usual suspects, from Amazon through Hulu to Netflix and Xbox Video), Movies Only (Film Fresh, MUBI, Vudu and eight others) and Where to Watch TV Only (from ABC.com to YouTube and 22 others). A nice aggregation to keep things legal. Check it out here.
May 14's Releases
From the Big Screen:
"Cloud Atlas" and "Texas Chainsaw 3D." For more releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
DVD Collectibles (5/14):
A pair of Delmer Daves' Westerns arrive this week (on DVD and Blu-ray) courtesy of The Criterion Collection. In "Jubal" (1956), a trio of exceptional performances from Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine and Rod Steiger form the center of the film, an overlooked Hollywood treasure from the eclectic genre master (also responsible for "Destination Tokyo," "Dark Passage," "Demetrius and the Gladiators" and "A Summer Place"). In this Shakespearean tale of jealousy and betrayal, Ford is an honorable itinerant cattleman, befriended and hired by Borgnine's bighearted ranch owner despite his unwillingness to talk about his past. When the new hand becomes the target of the flirtatious attentions of the owner's bored wife (Valerie French) and is entrusted by the boss with a foreman's responsibilities, his presence at the ranch starts to rankle his shifty fellow cowhand, played by Steiger. The resulting emotional showdown imparts unparalleled psychology intensity to this Western, a vivid melodrama featuring expressive location photography in Technicolor and CinemaScope. In the beautifully shot and acted, psychologically complex western "3:10 to Yuma" (1957), Van Heflin plays a mild-mannered cattle rancher who takes on the task of shepherding a captured outlaw, played with cucumber-cool charisma by Glenn Ford, to the train that will take him to prison. This apparently simple plan turns into a nerve-racking cat-and-mouse game that will test each man's particular brand of honor. Based on a story by Elmore Leonard. Both films get Criterion's lovingly perfect high-definition digital restorations, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray editions.
From TV to DVD (5/14):
"The Bletchley Circle" (2013) follows the exploits of four ordinary women with the extraordinary ability to break codes, a skill honed during World War II when they worked undercover at Bletchley Park, site of the United Kingdom's main decryption establishment. Now, in 1952, the four have returned to civilian life, keeping their intelligence work secret from all, including family and friends. A series of ghastly murders targeting women, however, reunites the team as they set out to decode the pattern behind the crimes. On DVD and Blu-ray from PBS Distribution ... "Dance Academy" (2010/2011 -- Australia) is Teen Nick's tween series about the dance and drama that takes place at At Sydney's National Dance Academy, in two-disc sets with 13 episodes each, $19.95: "Dance Academy: Season 1, Volume 1," "Dance Academy: Season 1, Volume 2," "Dance Academy: Season 2, Volume 1," "Dance Academy: Season 2, Volume 2." From Flatiron Film Company ... "Dexter: The Seventh Season" (2012) is a four-disc set with 12 episodes of the Showtime favorite. Dexter is finally forced to confront his greatest fear: Debra witnesses his insatiable, ritualistic slaying of a killer. Now she knows the secret of his Dark Passenger, his undeniable thirst for blood, and the Code that their father Harry instilled in him as a young boy. But as Debra tries to reconcile the unfathomable idea that her beloved, mild-mannered brother is Miami's most notorious serial killer, Dexter is still pulled by his natural impulses to seek out the guilty and exact his brand of vigilante justice.On DVD and Blu-ray from Showtime/Paramount ... "Liz & Dick" (2012) is a melodrama that explores the volatile relationship between Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. For nearly a quarter of a century, Taylor (Lindsay Lohan) and Burton (Grant Bowler) were Hollywood royalty, and their fiery relationship was the most notorious and publicized celebrity affair of its day. Despite the controversy and scandal surrounding their tumultuous romance, Liz and Dick shared an undeniable love greater than most people could ever imagine. From Entertainment One.
Buzzin' the 'B's (5/14):
In "Frankie Go Boom (aka 3, 2, 1... Frankie Go Boom)" (2012) When an amateur filmmaker (Chris O'Dowd,) uploads a video of a disastrous one-night stand involving the inebriated daughter of a loose-cannon ex-movie star with his brother (Charlie Hunnam), the siblings enlist the help of their transsexual computer-hacker buddy (Ron Perlman) to try to undo the damage. Co-stars, Lizzy Caplan, Chris Noth and Whitney Cummings. On DVD and Blu-ray from Universal ... In "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III" (2013), starring Charlie Sheen, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette, Aubrey Plaza, Katheryn Winnick and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, a Los Angeles graphic designer's enviable life slides into despair when his girlfriend breaks up with him. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate ... In "Crimewave" (1985), a comedy/noir written by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen and Sam Raimi and directed by Raimi, the head of a security systems company is bumped off by two gonzo exterminators who have gone from stomping out pesky varmints to stomping out human targets. The exterminators go after the partner who hired them and his blatantly obnoxious wife and, in the meantime, frame a poor security guard for the murder of the company boss. Stars Bruce Campbell, Louise Lasser, Paul L. Smit, Brion James, Sheree J. Wilson, Reed Birney and Edward R. Pressman. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Shout! Factory ... A recent ex-con must commit a murder for his mentor but when the hit goes wrong, he heads out on the road with an ethereal hooker who reminds him of a past love in "Tomorrow You're Gone" (2012), starring Stephen Dorff, Michelle Monaghan and Willem Dafoe. On DVD and Blu-ray from Image Entertainment ... In "The Locker" (2009), a young woman -- institutionalized for insisting that she's the lone escapee and survivor from a masked maniac that kidnaps and tortures beautiful women -- pulls her life together until she receives a book that details her frightening story, but no one believes her -- not even the police, trapping her between what is real, and what may be real. Stars Natalie Dickinson, Stacy Cunningham, Farah White and Joey Greco. From Entertainment One.
"Back to 1942" (2012 -- China), starring Adrien Brody, Tim Robbins, Daoming Chen, Zhang Guoli and Zhang Hanyu, is the tragic retelling of historical events based on Zhenyun Liu's best selling novel "Remembering 1942," about the Henan province disaster in China, where 3 million people died of starvation, a humanitarian crisis first sparked by drought, then compounded by a combination of windstorms, government corruption and the war with Japan. From Well Go USA ... In 1363, 10 years after the Black Death has ravaged the population and turned the world into a merciless killing field, a pack of killers murders a family, only sparing the life of the 19-year-old Signe. When she learns that she faces a fate worse than death and manages to escape, setting up a chase -- and retribution in "Escape" (2012 -- Norway), starring Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Kristian Espedal and Isabel Christine Andreasen. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Entertainment One.
For the Family (5/14):
"Bink & Gollie ... And More Stories About Friendship" (2013) is an all-new compilation headlined by "Bink & Gollie", from Kate DiCamillo, the Newbery Medal-winning author of "Because of Winn Dixie" and "The Tale of Despereaux" and Alison McGhee. Three other stories about friendship are also included: "A Sick Day for Amos Mcgee," "The Other Side" and "Cat and Canary." From Scholastic Storybook Treasure ... "Fraggle Rock: 30th Anniversary Collection" (1983-87) contains all four seasons of the celebrated series, $129.99. Extras include behind-the-scenes interviews recently discovered in the archives of The Jim Henson Company, a collectible Red plush keychain, and a new exclusive Fraggle Rock graphic novel featuring a parent-friendly activity guide. From The Jim Henson Company/Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment ... "Fraggle Rock: Meet The Fraggles" features the pilot, as well as five episodes highlighting each of the beloved main characters, $14.93 from The Jim Henson Company/Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment ... "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic -- Season Two" (2011-12) is a two-disc set with 26 episodes, with sing-alongs and printable coloring sheets, $34.99 from Shout! Kids ... In "Power Rangers Samurai: The Sixth Ranger -- Volume 4" (2011), Antonio, the Gold Ranger, tries to prove he has the necessary skills to become a Samurai and joins the Power Rangers as they battle the Nighlok monsters. Four episodes, $14.98 from Lionsgate ... "Taz-Mania: Taz on the Loose Season 1 Part 1" (1991) is a two-disc set with 13 episodes of the Saturday morning cartoon, $19.97 from Warner ... "Team Umizoomi: Animal Heroes" (2012) features four episodes of Team Umizoomi -- a tiny team of superheroes, Milli, Geo and Bot, who use their mighty math powers to help little kids solve big problems. The Team gets Purple Monkey to his new Monkey Jungle home at the zoo, rescues Buster the dog at a construction site, fixes the Cuckoo Bear' clock, and finds all of Farmer Dan's missing animals. $14.99 from Nickelodeon/Paramount ... "WordGirl vs. the Energy Monster" (2013) is the critically acclaimed and award winning animated series from Scholastic Media that follows the life and super hero adventures of WordGirl as she fights crime and enriches vocabulary usage. Includes three fun-filled learning adventures in which WordGirl and her sidekick, Captain Huggy Face, fight the good fight against dastardly villains and bad vocabulary. $9.99 from PBS Distribution.
Special Interest (5/14):
In "Face 2 Face" (2012), "Loving Annabelle" filmmaker Katherine Brooks answers the question: “How can you have 5,000 friends on Facebook and still feel alone?" Struggling with depression, addiction and years of suppressed trauma, Brooks comes to grips with her need for true human interaction and impulsively posts on her Facebook wall a vow to visit the first 50 people who respond. An enthusiastic and hearty response comes immediately, and Kat quickly hops in a van and embarks on a journey around America, meeting complete strangers, re-igniting relationships with long lost acquaintances, and exploring a past that continues to rear its ugly head in the present. From Wolfe Video ... "JFK -- A New World Order -- Commemorative Documentary Series" is a three-disc set with eight programs that introduces a new generation of Americans to the compelling story of President John F. Kennedy and the political dynasty that he left behind, a legacy that continues to capture the hearts and minds of the nation. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo, $14.98 from Mill Creek Entertainment ... "Secrets of War -- Vietnam -- A War Unwanted" is a documentary on the daring covert operations, ingenious spy gadgets and cunning military deceptions used by the American and Vietnamese military leaders during the Vietnam War, from the Viet Cong's secret methods to hidden supply highways, underground cities, covert camps and double agents. Narrated by Charlton Heston. $9.98 from Mill Creek Entertainment.
May 7's Releases
From the Big Screen:
"Jack Reacher," "Safe Haven" and "Mama." For more releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
DVD Collectibles (5/7):
One of the year's most talked about independent films since its award-winning premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, director Shane Carruth's "Upstream Color" (2012) has been described as baffling and enigmatic ... and that it is. But there's not enough unknown territory to prevent you from thoroughly enjoying this involving treatise on the search for love, communication and safety between people -- especially damaged people (and who isn't, in one way or another, come to think of it). The sci-fi-mystery-romance revolves around a woman (Amy Seimetz) who is abducted and hypnotized with a "psychedelic" worm by a crook who depletes her life savings and causes her to lose her job and way in life. When she falls for a man (Carruth), the two come to realize he may also have been subjected to the same process, and they search for a way to talk to each other about their wounds and look for safety in each other's arms. As the barriers between them break down, they uncover the plot that wrecked their lives, which also involves a pig farmer who makes music with found noise and who uses the pigs to keep track of the victims. It's a lovingly dreamy trip with gorgeous visuals, immersive music, a mesmerizing story line (just don't try too hard to figure it out) and on-the-edge acting. A must-see. Co-stars Andrew Sensenig and Thiago Martins. Available as a DVD and a Blu-ray/DVD combo in a beautiful package from Cinedigm.
Four years after "Breathless," Jean-Luc Godard reimagined the gangster film even more radically with "Band of Outsiders" (1964), about two restless young men (Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur) who enlist the object of both of their fancies (Anna Karina) to help them commit a robbery -- in her own home. This audacious and wildly entertaining French New Wave gem is at once sentimental and insouciant, effervescently romantic and melancholy (tropes Godard would soon abandon in his more political and experimental work), and it features some of Godard's most memorable set pieces, including a headlong race through the Louvre. The Criterion Collection has just released a Blu-ray version of the film from Gaumont's recent high-definition restoration, with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Extras include a visual glossary of references and wordplay found in "Band of Outsiders"; exclusive interviews with cinematographer Raoul Coutard and actor Anna Karina; excerpts from a 1964 interview with director Jean-Luc Godard, including rare behind-the-scenes footage from the film; a booklet featuring an essay by poet and critic Joshua Clover, Godard's character descriptions for the film's 1964 press book, and an interview with the director from the same year.
Though not a household name today (though his character appears in episodes of "Boardwalk Empire"), Eddie Cantor was the original renaissance man of the entertainment world in the early 20th century, conquering vaudeville, Broadway, records, Hollywood, radio and TV. Cantor began in vaudeville in 1907 in New York, moved to the Great White Way in the Ziegfeld Follies in 1917, then starred in such Broadway musical comedies as "Kid Boots" (1923) and "Whoopee!" (1928), as well as recording such hit records as "Makin' Whoopee," "If You Knew Susie," "Ma! He's Makin' Eyes at Me," "Margie" and "How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree?)." When Hollywood called, he ported over "Kid Boots" (1926) and "Whoopee!" (1930) and starred in "Roman Scandals" (1933) and "Kid Millions" (1934). He went on to have his own radio show in the 1930s and 1940s and had his own TV show in the 1950s. He was one of the participants in a 1919 strike that founded Actors Equity, helped develop The March of Dimes, and stood up against anti-semitism, segregation and censorship. Warner Home Video's Archive Collection has released two of Cantor's early films (via "manufacture on demand") from the Samuel Goldwyn library, each a perfect example of Cantor's singing, dancing and acting "shtick." "Whoopee" (1930) is a two-strip Technicolor musical comedy adapted from Cantor's smash Broadway show in which he plays a neuroses-laden hypochondriac on vacation in the West who becomes involved with a runaway bride and her warring suitors. The dance numbers are choreographed by a Hollywood newcomer -- Busby Berkeley -- and the bits include a modicum of risque words and actions (for its time). Be warned: there's some nasty stereotyping in the film, particularly in the portrayal of Native Americans and blacks (Cantor dons blackface -- an entertainment staple at the time that few thought anything about -- for a lengthy number). Unfortunately, "Whoopee" didn't play as well as the distributors had hoped for -- some of Cantor's bits were too Jewish or too risque for middle America -- and, in an effort to broaden distribution in the hinterlands, Goldwyn toned down Cantor for "Kid Millions" (1934). Here Cantor depicts a simple Brooklyn boy who finds himself on a collision course with charlatans, connivers, sheiks, and she-devils on the way to inheriting a fortune in Egypt. The film is notable for appearances by Ann Sothern, Ethel Merman, George Murphy, Paul Harvey and Edgar Kennedy --with a surprisingly weird three-strip Technicolor finish. (By the way, this "toning down" became Hollywood's model for reaching the masses in America). Both films can be ordered by pointing your browser to WBShop.com.
Also due this week: "Barrymore" (2012), starring Christopher Plummer in the screen version of the William Luce play about famed actor John Barrymore. Adapted by writer-director Erik Canuel from the 1996 Broadway production for which Plummer won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in 1997, the film follows Barrymore as he rents an old theater to rehearse for a backer's audition to raise money for a revival of his 1920 Broadway triumph in "Richard III." From Image Entertainment. And Fox has released a neat two-volume set of 10 of Henry Fonda's best films: "The Henry Fonda Film Collection" includes 10 discs with "Jesse James," "Drums Along the Mohawk," "The Grapes of Wrath," "The Return of Frank James," "Immortal Sergeant," "The Ox-Bow Incident," "My Darling Clementine," "Daisy Kenyon," "The Longest Day" and "The Boston Strangler"; $49.98.
Blu-ray debuts include "Brubaker" (1980), starring Robert Redford; a 50th anniversary edition of "The Great Escape" (1963), directed by John Sturges and starring Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence and James Coburn, and loaded with bonus features; "The Verdict" (1982), directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden, James Mason, Milo O'Shea, Lindsay Crouse, Edward Binns and Julie Bovasso, also loaded with extras; and "Viva Zapata!" (1952), directed by Elia Kazan and starring Marlon Brando, Jean Peters, Anthony Quinn and Joseph Wiseman; all from Fox.
From TV to DVD (5/7):
"Doc Martin: Special Collection -- Series 1-5 + The Movies" is a 13-disc collector's edition with 38 episodes and two movies, $124.99 from Acorn Media ... "Felicity: Season Three"
(2000-01) is a three-disc set with 17 episodes, $19.98 from Lionsgate ... "Felicity: Season Four" (2001-02) is a three-disc set with 22 episodes, $19.98 from Lionsgate ... "A Fine Romance: Complete Collection" (1981-84) stars real-life couple and legendary actors Judi Dench and her late husband Michael Williams as two middle-aged misfits embarking on an unlikely romance; in a four-disc DVD, $59.99 from Acorn Media ... "Flashpoint: The Fifth Season" (2012) is a three-disc set with 13 episodes of the series about a special tactical team that rescues hostages, busts gangs, defuses bombs, and takes on other tough cases, $39.98 from CBS/Paramount ... "Fringe: The Complete Fifth & Final Season" (2012) is a three-disc set with 13 episodes; on DVD, $39.98 and Blu-ray, $49.99, from BBC/Warner ... "Fringe: The Complete Series" (2012) includes all 109 episodes on 28 DVDs or 20 Blu-ray discs, $159.96 and $197.50, respectively, from BBC/Warner ... "Gunsmoke: The Eighth Season Volume One and Volume 2" (1962-62) are five-disc sets that each contain 19 episodes of the iconic (and longest-running) television Western starring James Arness as Marshal Matt Dillion, the only man responsible for keeping law in the Wild West of Dodge City; $49.99 each set from CBS/Paramount ... "Have Gun Will Travel: The Sixth and Final Season, Volume One and Two" (1962-63) is the classic Western starring Richard Boone as the suave, enigmatic, cultured gun-for-hire Paladin -- one of the fastest guns in the West -- who appreciates fine food, beautiful women, and the refined lifestyle of San Francisco's Carlton Hotel. But, at a moment's notice, this legendary gunslinger will hit the trail to fight injustice and track down evildoers --- for a price, of course. Each two-disc set contains 16 episodes; $29.98 each set from CBS/Paramount.
"In the Hive" (2012) is an urban drama about a school for "discarded" boys, directed by Robert Townsend and starring Roger Guenveur Smith, Michael Clarke Duncan, Loretta Devine, Vivica A. Fox and Jonathan 'Lil J' McDaniel; from Entertainment One ... "Marley Africa Road Trip" (2011) follows three sons of music legend Bob Marley -- Ziggy, Rohan and Robbie -- as they travel back to Africa with hopes of reconnecting with their father's legacy of music, family and African Unity; from ARC Entertainment ... "Private Practice: The Complete Sixth Season" (2012-13) is a three-disc set with 13 episodes, $39.99 from Disney ... "Rookie Blue: The Complete Third Season" is a four-disc set with 13 episodes, $39.98 from Entertainment One ... "Royal Pains: Season Four" (2012) is a four-disc set with 16 episodes, $39.98 from Universal ... in "Somebody's Child" (2012), starring Lynn Whitfield, Michael Jai White, Byron Minns, Nadine Ellis and Clifton Powell, a divine twist of fate causes a woman and her so to open their hearts to an ex-convict; a Dove-approved inspirational drama from One Village Entertainment ... "Steel Magnolias" (2012) is a contemporary version of the stage play and classic film that chronicles the lives and friendship of six women in Louisiana, starring Queen Latifah, Phylicia Rashad, Adepero Oduye, Condola Rashad, Jill Scott and Alfre Woodard. From Sony ... the "Texas" (1994) miniseries tells the tale of the extraordinary men and women of the southwestern frontier in the tumultuous years leading up to the Texas Revolution and the famous battle of the Alamo. Stars Stacy Keach, Patrick Duffy, Chelsea Field, Benjamin Bratt, Maria Conchita Alonso, David Keith, Randy Travis, John Schneider and Ricky Schroder. From CBS/Paramount ... "30 Rock: Season 7" (2012-13) wraps up seven years of the acclaimed series with a 13-episode season full of network tanking, election meddling, upward spiraling, funeral weddings, Florida, reverse health scares, sacrificial bunions, symphonic "Sanford and Son" arrangements, last lunches and boat modeling. The two-disc DVD includes commentaries with Tina Fey, Jane Krakowski and writer-producer Tracey Wigfield; deleted scenes; "The Donaghy Files" animated webisode in which Jack auditions unlikely candidates for the Big Game half-time show; a series retrospective and an insider's tour of the "30 Rock" set with Fey. $44.98 from Universal.
Buzzin' the 'B's (5/7):
This must be exploitation week for the 'B's, highlighted by a bevy of older releases, including "The Telephone Book" (1971), starring Sarah Kennedy, Norman Rose and Jill Clayburgh. It's a major, though forgotten, work from New York's underground film scene of the late 60s and early 70s, about a sex-obsessed hippie who falls in love with the world's greatest obscene phone caller and embarks on a quest to find him. Her journey introduces her to an avant-garde stag filmmaker, a manipulative psychiatrist, a bored lesbian housewife, and more. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Vinegar Syndrome/CAV Distributing ... Also from Vinegar Syndrome/CAV Distributing comes "Drive-In Collection: The Dungeon of Harrow/Death By Invitation," the former (1962) a lurid Texas shot gem that follows two survivors of a shipwreck as they find themselves trapped on a remote island, run by a mad baron keen on torture, and the latter (1971) a gritty tale of 20th century witchery topped off with a pleasant touch of psychedelia ... "Mutantz, Nazis and Zombies" (2009) is a singe disc with three Troma B-minus grade films: "The Secret of the Magic Mushrooms," "Attack of the Tromaggot" and "Teen Ape Vs. The Monster Nazi Apocalypse"; $14.95 from CAV Distributing ... "The Condemned" (2012 -- Puerto Rico) is a psychological thriller about the dark and terrible secrets hidden in an old mansion that come back to life when a young woman transforms the abandoned family house into a museum detailing her father's scientific and humanitarian achievements; stars Cristina Rodlo, Renee Monclava and Axel Anderson, from Strand Releasing ... In "Cars III"
(2009), a Troma B-minus grade film, a used-car salesman must sell a Mercury Topaz within the hour -- or the devil gets his soul. To achieve his goal and save himself, he'll do whatever it takes -- even if it means pointing a gun at his customers' heads. Stars Travis Jones, Richard Bain and Tyler Jones; from CAV Distributing.
More traditional 'B' fare: "The Assassin's Blade (aka The Butterfly Lovers)" (2008 -- Hong Kong), based upon a famous Chinese legend, tells the story of Zhu Yanzhi, who disguises her female identity in order to be accepted into the country's most prestigious male-only martial arts academy, where she immediately finds herself at odds with -- and becomes attracted to -- her superior; after she reveals her true identity, and the pair express their desire for each other, she returns home to find out that her parents have betrothed her to another. Starring Charlene Choi, Chun Wu, Ge Hu, Xin Xin Xiong and Siu-Wong Fan; from Well Go USA ... In "Revenge for Jolly" (2012), a young man returns home from an all-night drinking binge with his cousin to discover that his little dog Jolly -- his one true love and the source of light in his dark, solitary life -- has been murdered; he vows to track down the dog's murderer and, armed with a stockpile of firepower in the trunk of his car, embarks on a frenzied, alcohol-fueled wild-goose chase, leaving a bloody path of destruction in his wake. Stars Brian Petsos, Oscar Isaac, Elijah Wood, Adam Brody, Gillian Jacobs, Garret Dillahunt, Ryan Phillippe and Kristen Wiig; from Sony ... Set in the 1970's, "Mighty Fine" (2012) is the story of Joe Fine, a charismatic, high-spirited man, who relocates his family from Brooklyn to New Orleans, in search of a better life. But his devotion to his family knows no bounds, providing them with the greatest life, from a palatial home to a steady string of extravagant gifts, in a spending spree that is wildly out of touch with reality, threatening the very fabric of the family. Stars Chazz Palminteri, Andie MacDowell, Jodelle Ferland and Rainey Qualley; from Lionsgate ... In "The Oranges" (2012), starring Leighton Meester, Hugh Laurie, Oliver Platt and Catherine Keener, the enduring friendship between the Walling and Ostroff families is tested when Nina, the prodigal Ostroff daughter, returns home for the holidays after a five-year absence and enters into an affair with David, head of the Walling family. From Fox.
On the Indie Front (5/7):
"Starlet" (2012), starring Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Stella Maeve, James Ransone and Karren Karagulian, explores the unlikely friendship between 21-year-old aspiring actress Jane (Dree Hemingway) and elderly widow Sadie after their worlds collide in California's San Fernando Valley. Jane spends her time getting high with her dysfunctional roommates and taking care of her chihuahua Starlet, while Sadie passes her days alone, tending to her garden. Drifting and driving contentedly around the sun-dappled San Fernando Valley, Jane one day finds a pile of cash stashed inside an old thermos she's purchased at a yard sale held by the elderly Sadie. After treating herself to a manicure and Starlet to a sparkly new halter, Jane returns to the house where she bought the thermos and, prompted by a growing sense of morality and guilt, begins a tentative friendship with Sadie. From Music Box Films.
"The Rabbi's Cat" (2011 -- France), based on the bestselling graphic novel by Joann Sfar -- award-winning filmmaker ("Gainsbourg") and one of France's most celebrated comic artists -- tells the story of a rabbi and his sharp-tongued feline philosopher brimming with scathing humor. Algeria in the 1930s is an intersection of Jewish, Arab and French culture. A cat belonging to a widowed rabbi and his beautiful daughter eats the family parrot and miraculously gains the ability to speak. Along with the power of speech comes unparalleled sardonic wit, and the cat -- and the filmmakers -- spare no group or individual as they skewer faith, tradition and authority in a provocative exploration of (among other things) God, lust, death, phrenology, religious intolerance, interspecies love, and the search for truth. On DVD and Blu-ray from Cinedigm.
For the Family (5/7):
"Elmo the Musical" (2012) features five episodes of Elmo's newest imaginative and math skill-enhancing lessons along with the home video classic, "Let's Make Music." Debuting in Sesame Street's 43rd season, "Elmo the Musical" is an extension of the show’s S-T-E-A-M curriculum (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). Each 11-minute episode is an interactive musical adventure created by Elmo and the child at home, focusing on imagination and math skills. $14.98 from Sesame Workshop/Warner ... "Doc McStuffins: Time for Your Check Up" (2013) is the second DVD compilation for Disney Junior's hit animated TV series for kids 2-5 about a nurturing 6-year-old girl who heals stuffed animals and broken toys out of her backyard playhouse clinic. Includes five episodes and a growth chart. $19.99 from Disney ... The DC Universe Animated Original Movie "Superman: Unbound" (2013) has the Man of Steel going up against Brainiac, who has crossed the universe, collecting cities from interesting planets, and who now has his sights fixed on Metropolis. In a Blu-ray Combo Pack ($24.98) and DVD ($19.98) from Warner.
Special Interest (5/7):
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- "Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy" (2013) Broadcast on PBS in January 2013 and narrated by Tony- and Academy Award-winner Joel Grey, the film examines the leading role of Jewish composers and lyricists in the creation of the modern American musical and showcases the work of legends such as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Alongside clips of standout performances (by the likes of Barbra Streisand, Kelli O'Hara, Zero Mostel, Dick Van Dyke, Ethel Merman, Kristin Chenoweth, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and others), and interviews with songwriters and Broadway luminaries including Harold Prince, Sondheim, Phyllis Newman, Marc Shaiman, David Shire and Mel Brooks, the film co-mingles cultural history with illuminating perspectives on the origins and meanings of some of Broadway's most beloved songs, stories, and shows. Packed with rare archival photos and clips, the film explores the amazing fact that most of America's classic musicals -- from "South Pacific" to "West Side Story" -- and most of the tunes that are part of "The Great American Songbook," were created almost exclusively by Jewish Americans (most of whom used their talents to assimilate into American culture). Includes a bonus disc with additional interviews and performances and a 16-page viewer's guide. A must-see. $39.99 from Athena.
- "Citizen Hearst" (2013) Documentary, narrated by William H. Macy, traces the 125-year history of the Hearst media empire, from William Randolph Hearst's pioneering and controversial days of headline-grabbing yellow journalism to the global impact of the company's many successful media brands. Provides a rare glimpse behind the glass walls of the Hearst Tower, interviewing legends in the media industry such as Oprah Winfrey, Dan Rather, Ralph Lauren, Heidi Klum, Donna Karan, Nina Garcia, Leonard Maltin and top Hearst magazine editors, among others, and gaining unprecedented access to the Hearst Castle and family members in San Simeon, California. $19.98 from Lionsgate.
- "Doctors of the Dark Side" (2011) Documentary about the pivotal role of physicians and psychologists in detainee torture. The stories of four detainees and the doctors involved in their abuse demonstrate how US Army and CIA doctors implemented the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and covered up signs of torture at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Narrated by Academy Award-winner Mercedes Ruehl. From Shelter Island.
- "The Exorcist in the 21st Century" (2012) Chilling documentary that examines the unknown world of exorcism in the Catholic Church. With unprecedented access granted by the Catholic Church, director Fredrik Horn Akselsen accompanies a Vatican-approved Catholic priest and exorcist Father Jose Antonio Fortea as he travels the world to enlighten the masses of demonic possession and help fellow exorcists. Also featured is Father Gabriel Amorth, Official Vatican Exorcist, who has been an exorcist for 25 years and estimates he has seen 70,000 cases. Extras include a 50 minute filming of a real life exorcism. (Disinformation Company).
- "The Great Gatsby: Midnight in Manhattan" (2000) Produced in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of "The Great Gatsby" (and coinciding with the May 10 theatrical release of Baz Luhrmann's version of "Gatsby") for the BBC's acclaimed art series Omnibus, this documentary explores the life and dark creative spirit of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It examines his disappointing college days at Princeton, his difficult relationship with fellow author Ernest Hemingway, and his turbulent last days in Hollywood. It dispels the age-old mythology surrounding Fitzgerald, largely created by himself, that tends to glamorize the Jazz-Age and his alcoholism. Includes commentary from Fitzgerald's granddaughter, Eleanor Lanaham, writers Hunter S. Thompson, George Plimpton and Jay McInerney, and literary critic Harold Bloom, with a wonderful in-depth analysis of "Gatsby" and its place in the American canon. Also included is the bonus feature "Private Affairs: A Dream of Living," a play that looks at the lives of F. Scott Fitzgerald, his wife Zelda, and Ernest Hemmingway in 1925 Paris. $14.98 from BBC Home Entertainment.
- "Nature: What Plants Talk About" (2013) When we think about plants, we don't often associate a term like "behavior" with them, but experimental plant ecologist JC Cahill is trying to correct that perception. The University of Alberta professor maintains that plants do behave and lead anything but solitary and sedentary lives. He builds the case that plants eavesdrop on each other, talk to their enemies, call in insect allies to fight those enemies, recognize their relatives, and nurture their young. Cahill documents the behavior of plants through the use of time-lapse photography and high-tech cameras. $19.99 from PBS Distribution.
- "WWII From Space" (2013) HISTORY special uses an all-seeing CGI eye that offers a satellite view of the battles of WWII, allowing you to experience it in a way that places key events and tipping points in a global perspective. By re-creating ground breaking moments that could never have been captured on camera and by illustrating the importance of simultaneity and the hidden effects of crucial incidents, this program puts the war's monumental moments in never-before-seen context. On DVD and Blu-ray from Lionsgate.
- "Witness: A World in Conflict Through a Lens" (2012) Four-part documentary series from award-winning filmmaker Michael Mann offers a look into present-day conflict zones in Mexico, Libya, South Sudan and Brazil, as shown through the lens of three war photographers. Follows three young combat photographers -- Eros Hoagland, who explores the gang-and-drug related violence in both Juarez, Mexico and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Michael Christopher Brown, who chronicles escalating ethnic tensions in the wake of Gaddafi's ouster last year in Libya; and Veronique de Viguerie, who follows the "Arrow Boys" and their struggle against Gen. Kony in South Sudan -- as they struggle to capture a small piece of the truth in the moment. $19.95 from HBO.
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May 1, 2013
OnVideo News (ISSN 1094-3676).