"The movie business is macabre. Grotesque.
It is a combination of a football game
and a brothel."
-- Federico Fellini
Jan 222018

From the Big Screen:

“Geostorm,” “Thank You for Your Service,” “Goodbye Christopher Robin,” “Jigsaw” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” For more information on other releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.

This Week’s Best Bets:

From the sublime to the ridiculous this week:
“Eclipse Series 45: Claude Autant-Lara — Four Romantic Escapes from Occupied France”: Too often overlooked after his work was spurned by the New Wave iconoclasts as being part of the “tradition of quality,” Claude Autant-Lara was one of France’s leading directors of the 1940s and 50s. He began as a set and costume designer and went on to direct French-language versions of comedies in Hollywood, photo for Eclipse Series 45: Claude Autant-Lara -- Four Romantic Escapes from Occupied Francebut it was back in his home country that Autant-Lara came into his own as a filmmaker. He found his sophisticated and slyly subversive voice with these four romances, produced during the dark days of the German occupation. Sumptuously appointed even while being critical of class hierarchy, these films — all made with the same corps of collaborators, including the charmingly impetuous star Odette Joyeux — endure as a testament to the quick wit and exquisite visual sense of the director whose name they established. “Le mariage de Chiffon” (1942): This delightful comedy brought Claude Autant-Lara his first popular success as a director. Chiffon is being pushed by her mother to wed a dashing military officer but finds herself drawn to her stepfather’s penniless brother. “Lettres d’amour” (1942): A transporting period piece with ornate costumes by Christian Dior, “Lettres d’amour” paints a blithely pointed portrait of life in a highly stratified society. “Douce” (1943): Elegantly shot, “Douce” is a dizzying romantic roundelay that contains a biting critique of France’s rigid social order. This film, which ultimately takes a tragic turn, found Claude Autant-Lara in full command of his craft. “Sylvie et le fantôme” (1946): With this film, conceived during the occupation and released after the war, Claude Autant-Lara entered the realm of pure fantasy, marrying a playful script, artful special effects, and wistful performances. From The Criterion Collection.

“Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” (1978) is a splat of a cult classic. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the supermarket, you’re face to face with terror so bold, so frightening it has never been seen on-screen before or since (not until the sequel, anyway). After a series of bizarre and increasingly horrific attacks from pulpy, red, seeded fruit, Mason Dixon (David Miller) finds himself leading a “crack” team of specialists to save the planet. photo for But will they be quick enough to save everyone? In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo, with original 2.0 Mono Audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray). Extras include audio commentary from writer-director John DeBello, writer/co-star Steve Peace and “creator” Costa Dillon; deleted scenes; six exclusive featurettes: “Legacy of a Legend,” a collection of interviews, including comments from John DeBello, Costa Dillon, film critic Kevin Thomas, fans Kevin Sharp and Bruce Vilanch, future “Tomatoes” mainstay John Astin and actors Steve Peace, Jack Riley, and D.J. Sullivan, “Crash and Burn,” a discussion about the famous helicopter crash that could have killed everyone because the pilot was late on his cue, “Famous Foul,” about the San Diego Chicken and his role in the climatic tomato stomping ending, “Killer Tomatomania,” a smattering of interviews with random people on the streets of Hollywood about the movie, “Where Are They Now?” fills viewers in on what the cast and crew have been up to over the past couple of decades, “We Told You So!” takes a hard-hitting look at the conspiracy of silence surrounding the real-life horror of killer tomatoes; “Do They Accept Traveler’s Checks in Babusuland” (the original 8mm short that inspired “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”); original theatrical trailer; radio spots; collectible poster. From MVD Rewind Collection.

Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:

In “Chasing the Dragon” (2017 — Hong Kong), starring Donnie Yen, Andy Lau, Kent Cheng, Philip Keung, Wilfred Lau, Yu Kang, Michelle Hu and Raquel Xu, Yen plays an illegal immigrant from Mainland China who sneaks into corrupt British-colonized Hong Kong in 1963 and transforms himself into a ruthless drug lord. Lau reprises the role of the corrupt cop Lee Rock (from the famous “Lee Rock” trilogy) seeking money and power. Based on a true story. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Well Go USA … photo for The Sword and the Claw They took his money. They took his family. And now, they’ve taken his hands. But they can never take his revenge! Exploding from the same hallucinogenic netherworld as “Turkish Star Wars,” “The Sword and the Claw” (1975 — Turkey) stars Turkish genre legend Cuneyt Arkin in his most iconic role. It’s “Conan the Barbarian” meets The Three Stooges meets “Dolemite” with more lo-fi bloodshed, pop-art visuals, and bizarro dubbing than the boundaries of reality can handle. In a new 4K transfer from the only 35mm theatrical print in existence. Bonus features include the movie “Brawl Busters” (1981), a new 2K scan from an original theatrical print; reversible cover art with illustration by Alexis Ziritt (“Space Riders”). From AGFA … In “Jawbone” (2017), starring Ian McShane, Ray Winstone and Johnny Harris, retired prizefighter Jimmy McCabe (Harris) steps back into the ring decades after his stardom as a boxing teen have faded. Jimmy tries to regain his magic by training hard and fighting tough. But to earn real money, he must take part in a savage, unlicensed match that could end his career — and his life. From Lionsgate … And, last but not least, Doppelgänger photo for Opera BLU-RAY DEBUT Releasing/Scorpion Releasing brings out this week the Blu-ray debut of “Opera” (1987 — Italy), Italian filmmaker Dario Argento’s (best known for his work in the horror and thriller genres and regarded as one of the most influential artists of the past half-century) 1987 cult classic, arriving for the first time in a remastered/restored, high definition version, with over 45 hours of color correction,and a brand new 5.1 soundtrack. When young opera singer Betty (Cristina Marsillach) takes over the leading role in an avant-garde presentation of Verdi’s Macbeth, she triggers the madness of a crazed fan who repeatedly forces her to watch the brutal murders of her friends. Will her recurring childhood nightmare hold the key to the identity of this psychopath, or does an even more horrific evil lay waiting in the wings? Also stars Ian Charlston, Umberto Barberini, Daria Nicolodi and William McNamara. Extras include a rare interview with Argento, never-before released to U.S. audiences; a new interview with star McNamara; original trailer.

On the Indie Front:

The coming-of-age adventure “In Search of Fellini” (2017), starring Ksenia Solo, Maria Bello and Mary Lynn Rajskub, follows 20-year-old Lucy (Solo), a small-town girl from Ohio — who has never kissed a boy, never had a job and never really photo for In Search of Fellinihad friends — who discovers the delightfully bizarre films of the legendary Italian filmmaker and sets off on a journey across Italy to find him. The film is inspired by the experiences of Emmy Award-winning star Nancy Cartwright, who before creating the voice of Bart Simpson went off hunting the auteur of “La Strada.” From Ambi Films/Samuel Goldwyn … In “The Revival” (2017), starring Zachary Booth, David Rysdahl, Raymond McAnally, Lucy Faust and Stephen Ellis, Eli (Rysdahl) begins preaching at his father’s old church in an effort to open the minds of the fire-and-brimstone congregation. His plans are quickly derailed when he strikes up a relationship with fascinating drifter Daniel (Booth). Tensions soon come to a head, with simmering resentments and repressed emotions all leading to a revival that will shake this sleepy Arkansas town to its core. Based on Samuel Brett Williams’ 2010 hit play. From Breaking Glass Pictures.

Foreign Films:

“Félicité” (2017 — Senegal) is a proud, free-willed woman working as a singer in a bar in the Congo’s capital Kinshasa. Her life is thrown into turmoil when her 14-year-old son gets into a terrible car accident. To raise the money to save him, she sets out on a breakneck race through the streets of electric Kinshasa — a world of music and dreams. Grand Jury Prize winner at the Berlin International Film Festival, “Félicité” is also an official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival, and will be this year’s official entry for Senegal for Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards. From Strand Releasing.

For the Family:

“Best of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Neighborhood Friends Collection” (2018) features eight engaging stories from the hit PBS KIDS series, produced by The Fred Rogers Company. Daniel Tiger and his friends teach children all about cooperating, playing together, and helping out neighbors in the fun-filled stories. Young viewers can join Daniel as he uses his imagination to play “outer space” with Miss Elaina, celebrates Prince Wednesday’s birthday with his friends at the castle, helps Katerina Kittycat after she accidentally knocks her tea set on the floor, and more. From PBS Distribution … “My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea” (2017) is an animated film with the voice cast of Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, photo for My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, Susan Sarandon, Alex Karpovsky, John Cameron Mitchell. Dash (Schwartzman) and his best friend Assaf (Watts) are preparing for another year at Tides High School, muckraking on behalf of their widely-distributed but little-read school newspaper, edited by their friend Verti (Rudolph). But just when a blossoming relationship between Assaf and Verti threatens the boys’ friendship, Dash learns of an administration cover-up that puts all the students in danger. As disaster erupts and the friends race to escape through the roof of the school, they are joined by a popular know-it-all (Dunham) and a lunch lady (Sarandon) who is much more than meets the eye. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc. Extras include commentary by director and acclaimed graphic novelist Dash Shaw, short films, a spotlight on the film’s unique artwork. From GKIDS/Shout! Factory … “A Dog and Pony Show” (2017), starring Mae Whitman, Ralph Macchio and Mira Sorvino, is a family comedy that tells the story of Dede, a famous performing circus dog who gets left behind when her show leaves town. She’s discovered by Billy, a lonely city kid who’s just moved to a ranch nearby. Billy decides to adopt the vain and arrogant dog, but will she get along with the farm’s eccentric critters, including a sleep-deprived rooster, a gassy cow, and a hypochondriac horse? Can Dede outwit the bumbling thieves from a rival circus who are plotting to kidnap the priceless pooch? From Lionsgate.

Special Interest:

“Indiepix Festival Favorites, Volume 2” is a value-priced, three film set of music documentaries: “Icons Among Us: Jazz In the Present Tense,” about the modern jazz scene, with Terence Blanchard, Ravi Coltrane, Robert Glasper, Nicholas Payton, Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Donald Harrison Jr., Anat Cohen and Esperanza Spalding; “Echotone,” a lyrical documentary providing a telescopic view into the lives of Austin’s vibrant young musicians as they grapple with questions of artistic integrity, commercialism, experimentation, and the future of their beloved city; and “Roaring Abyss,” a stunning audiovisual poem, the product of filmmaker Quino Piñero’s two years of field recording traditional and modern music from around every corner of Ethiopia, a country of eighty different nationalities and cultures spread amongst mountains, deserts and forests. From IndiePix. Check out the “Roaring Abyss” trailer: … In “Red Trees” (2017), award-winning filmmaker Marina Willer creates an impressionistic visual essay as she traces her father’s journey as a member of one of only 12 Jewish families to survive the Nazi occupation of Prague during World War II. Photographed by Academy Award nominee Ce´sar Charlone (“City of God”), the documentary travels from war-torn Eastern Europe to the color and light of South America and is told through the voice of Willer’s father, Alfred (as narrated by Tim Piggot-Smith), who witnessed bureaucratic nightmares, transportations and suicides but survived to build a post-war life as an architect in Brazil.On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Cohen Media Group … Thirty years after he authored “The Art of the Deal,” Donald Trump used The Art of the Insult to brand political opponents and bash the media all the way to the White House. While critics insisted “The Donald” was merely a chaotic sideshow, Trump was dominating the 24-hour news cycle with a master plan of political incorrectness. Hurling insults like Low-Energy Jeb, Lyin’ Ted, Crooked Hillary, Little Marco, Pocahontas, and Fake News, Trump emerged in 2016 as an unstoppable political phenomenon who transformed the Presidential race into the greatest show on earth. The documentary “Trump: The Art of the Insult” (2017) photo for Unseentells the story of Trump’s improbable journey from Trump Tower to rallies across America to the debate stage, where he reveled in mocking and taunting rivals with targeted insults and nicknames, leaving them gasping for air. Not only did he push frontrunner Jeb Bush out of the presidential race early on, Trump proved him wrong when Bush lectured during a debate “Donald, you can’t insult your way to the Presidency.” From Highway 61 Entertainment/MVD Visual … For two years, women had been disappearing from Mount Pleasant — a poverty-stricken, African-American neighborhood in Cleveland — with little investigation from police and city officials. Then in 2009, a reported rape led Cleveland police to a grisly discovery— the bodies of eleven women decomposing in the house and yard of known sex offender Anthony Sowell. How was it that a serial killer was able to operate virtually in plain sight for two years? Told in riveting detail by the women who were able to escape Sowell’s deadly clutches, “Unseen” (2017) draws viewers into a world where marginalized women, plagued by drug use, shunned by society and dismissed by the police, became easy prey for a predatory monster. “Unseen” questions not only the police failures in this case but also why Sowell’s neighbors turned a blind eye to his bizarre activities. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, from FilmRise.

All DVDs and Blu-rays are screened on a reference system consisting of an Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player w/SACD & DVD-Audio, a Rotel RSX-972 Surround Sound Receiver, and Phase Technology 1.1 (front), 33.1 (center), and 50 (rear) speakers, and Power 10 subwoofer.

 Posted by on January 22, 2018  Add comments

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