From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets
“Lonely Are the Brave” (1962) is a contemporary Western based on a novel by Edward Abbey (“Fire on the Mountain”) and adapted for the screen by the great Dalton Trumbo. Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas ignites the screen in his personal favorite role as a cowboy on a collision course with the modern world. After landing himself in jail trying to break out his friend, Jack Burns (Douglas) finds himself alone and on the run from the law. Leading the manhunt is Sheriff Morey Johnson (Walter Matthau), who must bring Burns to justice despite his own sympathy for the fugitive. Co-starring Gena Rowlands, George Kennedy and Carroll O’Connor and featuring top-notch cinematography by Philip H. Lathrop (“Experiment in Terror”) with a rousing score by Jerry Goldsmith, “Lonely Are the Brave” is an unforgettable portrait of a man defying life in an orderly world. On Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics … Dorothy Arzner, the sole woman to work as a director in the Hollywood studio system of the 1930s and early 40s, brings a subversive feminist sensibility to the juicily entertaining backstage melodrama “Dance, Girl, Dance” (1940). A behind-the-footlights look at friendship, jealousy, and ambition in the ruthless world of show business, “Dance, Girl, Dance” follows the intertwining fates of two chorus girls: a starry-eyed dancer (Maureen O’Hara) who dreams of making it as a ballerina and the brassy gold digger (a scene-stealing Lucille Ball) who becomes her rival both on the stage and in love. The rare Hollywood film of the era to deal seriously with issues of female artistic struggle and self-actualization, Arzner’s film is a rich, fascinating statement from an auteur decades ahead of her time. On DVD, Blu-ray, with new, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection.
From TV to Disc:
“The Brokenwood Mysteries, Series 6” (2019)features four episodes of this New Zealand detective drama that features quirky, complex characters, piquant wit, as well as mystifying crimes and compelling whodunnit investigations. After transferring from a big city to the little town of Brokenwood, DSS Mike Shepherd (Neill Rea) and Detective Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland) investigate the macabre. In Series 6, the detectives investigate a death at a steampunk event, a novelist’s killing modeled on a murder in his new book, the shooting of an animal rights activist, and a suspicious suicide at a women’s prison. In a four-disc DVD, two-disc Blu-ray. From Acorn Media … “Fear the Walking Dead”: Season 5” (2019) is a four-disc set with all 16 episodes. Heading into Season 5 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” the group’s mission is clear: locate survivors and help make what’s left of the world a slightly better place. With dogged determination, Morgan Jones leads the group with a philosophy rooted in benevolence, community, and hope. Each character believes that helping others will allow them to make up for the wrongs of their pasts. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate … “The Good Place: The Complete Series (Collector’s Edition)” (2016-2020) is a nine-disc set with all 53 episodes. What happens when we die? It’s a question everyone has asked, since the beginning of time. But when Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) dies tragically, she finds out that the afterlife is amazing: full of frozen yogurt, soulmates, and wonderful people who have done incredible things with their lives. It is absolutely perfect. The only problem is Eleanor herself. She isn’t supposed to be in The Good Place. In fact, her life decisions wouldn’t have gotten her even close. But due to a clerical error, she’s been given someone else’s reward and now has to struggle with being good in order to make sure her secret isn’t discovered. On Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
After his girlfriend Georgia is murdered by European mobsters, Sam flees to Paris to hide out in “Last Moment of Clarity” (2020), starring Samara Weaving, Carly Chaikin, Zach Avery and Brian Cox. Years later, he sees a woman in a Hollywood film who he’s certain is Georgia. In LA to investigate, he encounters enigmatic Kat (Chaikin), who impulsively decides to help him on his quest. But when Sam meets the mystery actress face-to-face, his life spins out of control. From Lionsgate … “Point Defiance” (2020), starring Derek Phillips, Josh Crotty, Lauren Elaine, Sarah Butler and Steven Swadling, is a suspenseful film that focuses on stockbroker Peter Allen (Phillips), whose world is turned upside down when his troubled younger brother Alex (Crotty) returns from military duty in Afghanistan while Peter is under house arrest, forcing the elder brother to dig into a dark and secret past that he’d sooner remain hidden. From Bayview Films … In “The Postcard Killings” (2020), starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Famke Janssen, Cush Jumbo, Joachim Król, Steven Mackintos and Denis O’Hare, NY Detective Jacob Kanon’s (Morgan) world is destroyed when his daughter and son-in-law are brutally murdered in London. Unable to sit idly by and do nothing, Jacob travels to London to get the answers he needs. As he learns of similar heinous murders happening across Europe — each preceded by a postcard sent to a local journalist — Jacob is in a race against time to stop the killings and find justice for his little girl. Based on the James Patterson and Liza Marklund #1 New York Times bestselling novel. On DVD, Blu-ray, from RLJE Films … In b>”Buffaloed” (2020), starring Zoey Deutch, Judy Greer, Jai Courtney and Jermaine Fowler, Peg Dahl (Deuth) is obsessed with making enough money to get out of her blue-collar existence. She’s betting on her sharp mind to get her into an Ivy League university, but quickly realizes the impossibility of paying tuition. One scalping scheme, a stint in prison and chance phone conversation with a debt collector changes everything. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Magnolia Home Entertainment … In “Waterlily Jaguar” (2020), starring James Le Gros, Mira Sorvino, Stacey Oristano, Dominic Monaghan, Christopher Backus and Steven Swadling, a famous novelist known for his “airport” best-sellers seeks to pen a more serious novel inspired by the ancient remains of the only human ever found in the La Brea Tar Pits, and finds himself tumbling down a spiral of obsession that may leave his most important relationship in shambles: his marriage. From Bayview Films … “The Warrior Queen of Jhansi” (2019 — UK), starring Devika Bhise, Rupert Everett, Nathaniel Parker, Ben Lamb, Jodhi Ma and Derek Jacobi, is the epic true story of the legendary Rani (translation: Queen) of Jhansi, the fearless freedom fighter who became a feminist icon in India. In 1857 India, this 24-year-old general led her people into furious battle against the British Empire, shifting the balance of power in the region — and setting in motion the demise of the notorious British East India Company and the beginning of the British Raj under Queen Victoria. From Lionsgate … Horror great Peter Cushing stars in this fantastic tale as the monster’s creator, Baron von Frankenstein, determined to bring the creature back to life, in “The Evil of Frankenstein (Collector’s Edition)” (1964). Long thought destroyed, Dr. Frankenstein’s creation is discovered frozen alive and is resurrected in his laboratory. Unfortunately, the creature’s mind is dormant and, much to the Baron’s horror, he finds that only a hypnotist can order the creature to do his unfathomable bidding now. New 4K scan of the interpositive. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
On the Indie Front:
Set against the splendor of the Winter Olympic Games, an intimate and unexpected love story develops between two lonely hearts, each at their own crossroads in life, in “Olympic Dreams” (2019), starring Alexi Pappas and Nick Kroll. Penelope is a first time Olympian and introverted cross-country skier, who, after finishing her event early on in the games, finds herself spending time in Athletes Village with the gregarious and outgoing volunteer dentist, Ezra. While both are eager to form connections at the Olympic Games, they’re held back by the very thing that has propelled them to this point; what do you do once your lifelong dream has come true, and you’re faced with taking the next step? Filmed on location in the actual Olympic Village at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. From IFC Films … “Union Bridge” (2019), starring Scott Friend, Emma Duncan, Alex Breaux and Elisabeth Noone, follows Will Shipe, the scion of a powerful family living near the Mason Dixon line, as he moves back home after years in the city. His old friend Nick, who still lives in town, is feverishly digging in the land because of a vision he can’t escape. What’s buried in this small town and the events around it has repercussions that affect the past and future of Shipe’s legacy. From Breaking Glass Pictures.
“Zombi Child” (2019 — France), starring Mackenson Bijou, Louise Labèque and Wislanda Louimat, injects history and politics into an unconventional cross-genre film. Opening in 1962 Haiti, the horror-fantasy follows the real-life story of Clairvius Narcisse (Bijou), who falls dead on the street but is soon turned into a “zombi” when he is dug up from his grave and forced to work on a sugar-cane plantation. Shifting to present-day Paris at the Légion d’honneur boarding school, a rebellious teen named Fanny (Labèque) befriends Melissa (Louimat), who moved to France when her parents died in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. After recruiting her into a secret literary sorority, Fanny learns of Melissa’s connection to Clairvius, and becomes obsessed with her new friend’s past and culture, soon doing the unthinkable: seeking out her voodoo mambo aunt to solve her recent heartbreak. From Film Movement … In “Promare” (2019 — Japan), 30 years has passed since the appearance of the Burnish, a race of flame-wielding mutant beings who destroyed half of the world with fire. When a new group of aggressive mutants calling themselves Mad Burnish appears, the epic battle between Galo Thymos, a new member of the anti-Burnish rescue team Burning Rescue, and Lio Fotia, the leader of Mad Burnish, begins. The top-grossing original anime feature of 2019. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from GKIDS/Shout! Factory.
For the Family:
Join Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Sister and Brother for 28 fun-filled adventures in“The Berenstain Bears: Tree House Tales Volume 3” (2019). When Sister must write about a bear she admires the most for a school project in “The Giddy Grandma,” she quickly learns just how many awards and trophies Grizzly Gran won in her younger years. Then, in “Car Trip,” the cubs are excited about going on a family trip – until they find out the destination isn’t Grizzlyland, but instead a tour of Bear Country’s national parks. Finally, the cubs are sad when they hear that their friends down the street are moving away in “Moving Day.” Brother and Sister learn about the positive side of moving – new adventures and new friends. From PBS Kids … Culminating a six-year animated journey that began with the release of “Justice League War” in 2014, the feature-length “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War” (2020) finds Earth decimated after intergalactic tyrant Darkseid has devastated the Justice League in a poorly executed war by the DC Super Heroes. Now the remaining bastions of good – the Justice League, Teen Titans, Suicide Squad and assorted others – must regroup, strategize and take the war to Darkseid in order to save the planet and its surviving inhabitants. This is truly the war to end all wars, and only the victor will live to enjoy the spoils. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Warner.
“The Venerable W.” (2017 — Switzerland/France): Evil comes in many forms. In Myanmar, it manifests in the casual racism and Islamophobia of influential, charismatic Burmese Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu. Through interviews with international journalists and community leaders who protest against Wirathu’s views, shocking amateur footage of the persecution of the Rohingya, and through powerful storytelling, acclaimed director Barbet Schroeder (“Reversal of Fortune,” “Koko: A Talking Gorilla,” and “Barfly”) slowly, but inexorably, builds his case. Perhaps most damning of all are the interviews with the man himself; couching his nationalist fervor in life-affirming rhetoric. From Icarus Films … “Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate History” (2020): This four-hour documentary from executive producer Ken Burns and senior producer Barak Goodman is adapted from the bestselling book of the same name by award-winning author Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, about how genes impact heredity, disease, and behavior. It offers the hope that new science that can alter DNA with pinpoint precision could revolutionize the treatment of some of the world’s most complex diseases. The science of genetics holds at once the promise of eradicating disease but also the threat of altering the very essence of what it means to be human. From PBS Distribution … “NOVA: Mysteries of Sleep” (2020): Like virtually every other animal, humans need sleep to survive, but what do we gain from spending nearly a third of our lives in such a defenseless state? What’s at stake if we sleep poorly? The exact benefits of sleeping have long been something of a mystery, but now scientists are looking deep into the brain to see exactly what happens when we catch z’s. One study has revealed that well-timed bursts of pink noise can nudge a person’s brain waves to extend periods of slow-wave, aka deep, sleep. From PBS Distribution.
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.