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"The movie business is macabre. Grotesque.
It is a combination of a football game
and a brothel."
-- Federico Fellini
Dec 102013
 

From the Big Screen:

"Fast & Furious 6," "Despicable Me 2," "Battle of the Year" and "Adore." For more releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.

Collectibles:

If you like Spaghetti Westerns, then you just have to get a copy of "The Big Gundown," probably the greatest Italian Western after the Sergio Leone "Man With No Name" trilogy. The legendary Lee Van Cleef, who was the "bad" of "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly," stars as Jonathan Corbett, a relentless bounty hunter hired to track down Manuel "Cuchillo" Sanchez (Euro-film superstar Tomas Milian), a Mexican outlaw accused of the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl. Cuchillo's trail takes Corbett south of the border and his trip brings him in contact with prostitutes, a wagon train of Mormons, ex-gunslinger priests, corrupt Mexican photo for The Big Gundown BLU-RAY DEBUT federales and innocent peasants. Along the way he gets to know his prey, and begins to doubt the man's guilt. The film has a strong political subtext, about a wealthy, unscrupulous landowner with political aspirations who has no qualms about rising to power on the backs of the powerless. Director Sergio Sollima's epic boasts stylish and beautiful widescreen photography, dripping with space and color, and a great Ennio Morricone score, and was written by "Once Upon a Time in the West" screenwriter Sergio Donati. Grindhouse Releasing has put together the first-ever U.S. home video release of the "The Big Gundown" in a four-disc deluxe limited edition combo pack (two Blu-rays, one DVD and one bonus CD) that offers a new 2K digital restoration of the original uncensored English-language version of the film; "La Resa Dei Conti," the complete, 110-minute director's cut presented in Italian with optional English subtitles and special musical subtitles; a DVD of the U.S. version; and the original soundtrack by Morricone. Extras include in-depth interviews with director Sergio Sollima, star Tomas Milian and screenwriter Sergio Donati; commentary by Western film experts C. Courtney Joyner and Henry C. Parke; extensive still galleries; trailers and TV spots; and a 24-page booklet with "Sergio Sollima's Political Gundown," an article on the history of the film by C. Courtney Joyner, "Cutting to the Chase: The Tale of the Two Gundowns," an article about the cuts made to the original version for U.S. distribution, by Gergely Hubai; and an article on the Morricone soundtrack, also by Hubai. Highly recommended.

The Criterion Collection has two strong releases this week; the Blu-ray debut of "Grey Gardens," the 1976 documentary by Albert and David Maysles about Big and Little Edie Beale: mother and daughter, high-society dropouts, and reclusive cousins of Jackie Onassis, who manage to thrive together amid the decay and disorder of their East Hampton, New York, mansion, making photo for for an eerily ramshackle echo of the American Camelot. The cult classic established Little Edie as a fashion icon and philosopher queen. This special edition also features the 2006 follow-up to the film, "The Beales of Grey Gardens," constructed from hours of extra footage in the filmmakers' vaults. In a new 2K digital film restoration, approved by co-director Albert Maysles, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack … Established by Martin Scorsese in 2007, the World Cinema Project expands the horizons of moviegoers everywhere by preserving and presenting marginalized and infrequently screened films from regions of the world ill equipped to provide funding for major restorations. "Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project" collector's set brings together six films from various countries, including Bangladesh/India ("A River Called Titas"), Mexico ("Redes"), Morocco ("Trances"), Senegal ("Touki bouki"), South Korea ("The Housemaid") and Turkey ("Dry Summer"); each is a cinematic revelation, depicting a culture not often seen by outsiders. In a three Blu-ray/six-DVD combo set for $124.95.

Just in time to for the Dec. 20 release of "Saving Mr. Banks," the Emma Thompson-Tom Hanks starrer about Walt Disney's efforts to persuade author P.L. Travers to let him make a movie of her beloved children's book, "Mary Poppins," Disney has remastered the 1964 hit and released photo for Mary Poppins BLU-RAY DEBUT "Mary Poppins" in 50th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD combo and DVD editions. Julie Andrews stars as the titular nanny, who magically appears to take care of the children of the stodgy Banks family at Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane in London and succeeds to upend the household by taking the kids on a variety of fantastic adventures — with the help of a carefree chimney sweep named Bert (Dick Van Dyke). Co-stars David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Karen Dotrice and Mathew Garber. Andrews won the Academy Award for Best Actress and the film won an additional four Oscars for Best Original Song ("Chim Chim Cher-ee"), Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best Original Score. New Blu-ray extras include "Mary-OKE's" sing-along, "Becoming Mr. Sherman" featurette with Jason Schwartzman as he sits down for a musical-filled afternoon with Richard Sherman, half of the famous composing team the Sherman Brothers, who wrote all the classic songs from "Mary Poppins," as well as many other favorites (Schwartzman portrays the Disney legend in "Saving Mr Banks").

Though Barbara Stanwyk's career was well under way by the time she signed on to director King Vidor's "Stella Dallas" (1937), her role as a mother from the wrong side of the tracks who gives up everything for the benefit of her beloved daughter certainly solidified her status photo for Stella Dallasas one of Hollywood's top actresses and top boxoffice draws; she received her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role. The devastatingly tear-jerker of an ending is one the greatest in all of cinema. Warner Home Video has remastered the Samuel Goldwyn classic and re-released it on DVD (but not Blu-ray for some reason) … With Ben Still's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" opening Christmas Day, it's time to take a look at the original Danny Kaye 1947 version, which Warner has also just released in a remastered DVD version. Based on James Thurber's story, the film stars Kaye as a pulp-fiction magazine proofreader whose dull life with his overprotective mother (Fay Bainter) is made livable by his daydreaming, in which he imagines himself a hero in fantastic adventures around the world. His dreams become real, however,when he meets a mysterious woman (Virginia Mayo) and embarks on a real-life adventure. Co-stars Boris Karloff, Ann Rutherford, Gordon Jones and Thurston Hall.

Fox this week has on offer a Blu-ray/DVD Combo 25th Anniversary Edition of "Big," the 1988 smash comedy directed by Penny Marshall and starring Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, John Heard, Jared Rushton, David Moscow, Jon Lovitz, Mercedes Ruehl and Josh Clark. In addition to a host of extras, including an extended cut, a "Big: Brainstorming" audio documentary by writers/co-producers Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg, deleted scenes, and a series of featurettes ("Big Beginnings," "Chemistry of a Classic," "The Work of Play," "Hollywood Backstories: Big" and "Carnival Party Newswrap"), the release boasts collectible packaging with a sound chip that plays "Heart and Soul" when opened.

Other notable releases:
"Unhung Hero" (2013) is a wild documentary that places its director, Brian Spitz, in league with the likes of Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock: he's taken on a verboten topic with humor and aplomb. When Patrick Moote's girlfriend rejects his marriage proposal broadcast on the photo for Unhung Hero jumbotron at a UCLA basketball game, it unfortunately goes viral and hits TV networks worldwide. Days after the heartbreaking debacle, she privately reveals why she can't be with him forever: Patrick's small penis size. "Unhung Hero" follows the real-life journey of Patrick as he boldly confronts ex-girlfriends, strangers on the street, doctors, anthropologists and even adult film stars (Dan Savage and Annie Sprinkle) to discover, alternately, whether size really matters and, if it does, how does an "underachieving" man lengthen his chances. His journey involves vacuum pump devices and male enhancer pills and takes him from sex expos to a Malaysian condom factory to witch doctors in Papua New Guinea and to a sex museum in South Korea. It's delightfully funny, at times nasty, always tongue-in-check — and scientific. From Breaking Glass Pictures.

Though only 30 minutes long, director Sage Stallone's impressive "Vic" (2006) held out the promise of more strong and involving work by a budding young filmmaker (the film won a Best New Filmmaker Award at the Boston Film Festival); unfortunately Stallone (yes, Sylvester's son) photo for icdied of coronary artery disease at age 21 in 2012. The film stars Clu Gulager, Tom Gulager, Carol Lynley, Gregory Sierra, John Phillip Law, John Lazar, Gary Frank, Miriam-Byrd Nethery and Peter Mark Richman and tracks a few days in the life of Vic Reeves (Gulager), once a Hollywood star respected for his award-winning roles in classic Westerns and television dramas but now way past his prime, overlooked and forgotten. A late-night phone call from a young director offers Vic an opportunity for a comeback, and he prepares himself for the toughest audition of his career. It's alternately uplifting, grueling and heart-breaking. From Grindhouse Releasing (which Sage Stallone co-founded and which has been responsible for restoring and releasing classic "grindhouse" and obscure films).

photo for Touchy Feely In "Touchy Feely" (2013), starring Rosemarie DeWitt, Allison Janey, Ron Livingston, Josh Pais, Ellen Page and Scoot McNairy, a free-spirited massage therapist is unable to do her job when stricken with a mysterious and sudden aversion to bodily contact while her uptight brother's floundering dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his "healing touch." The quirky indie film attempts to illustrate how minor crises can lead to transformation and change (the massage therapist loses control when she frets over her boyfriend's invitation to move in with him) but the plot and ideas begin to fall apart about two-thirds of the way through; there's some fine low-key acting but not enough to salvage the brave outing. From Magnolia Home Entertainment.

On the exploitation front, Vinegar Syndrome offers up "Fanny Hill + The Phantom Gunslinger," a pair of films from acclaimed producer Albert Zugsmith ("Touch of Evil," "The Incredible Shrinking Man"), who crafted some of the strangest and most unlikely exploitation films of the 60s. Here's two of his rarest works. Cult filmmaker Russ Meyer takes on directorial duties in Zugsmith's adaptation of the notorious erotic classic "Fanny Hill." A strange mix of Zugsmith's surreal slapstick and Meyer's trademark buxom beauties and thoughtful satire, "Fanny Hill" (1964) is an over-the-top saga of low-rent thrills in high-brow settings. Stars Leticia Roman, Miriam Hopkins and Ulli Lommel. Direcor Zugsmith's mind-numbing blend of surrealism and slapstick comedy, "The Phantom Gunslinger" (1967) done as a self-aware parody of Westerns, stars Troy Donohue as Phil P. Phillips, fresh out of divinity school and living in the frontier town of Tucca Flats. When a gang of seven criminals take the town hostage, it'­s up to Phil to save the village, or die trying, again and again … Co-stars Sabrina. Both films have been restored from their original negatives and are uncut for the first time.

From TV to DVD:

"The Best of Ancient Aliens: Greatest Mysteries" (2013) is a two-disc set with eight of the best episodes from the series, with six hours of fascinating footage investigating Earth's possible extra-terrestrial visitors; $14.98 photo for The Game: The Sixth Season Lionsgate … "The Best of the Universe: Stellar Stories" (2013) is a two-disc set of the fascinating series that explores scientific questions with a focus on the mystifying vastness of space; $14.98 rom Lionsgate … "Doc Martin, Series 6" (2013) is a two-disc set with eight episodes, $39.99; from Acorn Media … "Futurama Volume Eight" (2013) contains 13 episodes, on DVD and Blu-ray from Fox … "The Game: The Sixth Season" (2013) is a three-disc set with 19 episodes, $39.99. The sixth season revisits the "dysfunctional" football family that now features new faces. It's a roller coaster ride filled with twists and turns for the Sabers and Sunbeams, beginning with the excitement of the NFL's Premiere Draft Day that ends in the draft trade of longtime Saber Derwin Davis. From CBS/Paramount … "Teen Wolf: Season 3 Part 1" (2013) is a three-disc set with eight episodes of the MTV series, $29.98 from Fox.

Buzzin' the 'B's:

"The Angels' Share" (2012), directed by Ken Loach and starring Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw, Siobhan Reilly and Gary Maitland, is a comic fable about wasted talent and what happens when we're given a second chance. Robbie is not a man worthy of redemption: He's constantly watching out for a gang of thugs looking to settle a family grudge, his girlfriend is giving photo for Angels Sing birth to a baby while her father offers him money to leave Glasgow, and he's serving 300 hours of community service. But when he meets Harry, the gruff but benevolent man in charge of his sentence, he finds a hidden talent for Scotch whiskey — and a new chance at life. For distillers, the "angels' share" is the whiskey lost to evaporation each year, and that little fact makes a rare cask of whiskey the perfect target for a heist. From IFC Films … In "Angels Sing" (2013), starring Harry Connick Jr., Connie Britton, Chandler Canterbury, Fionnula Flanagan, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, a middle-aged man (Connick) — whose childhood Christmas spirit was crushed by a tragic accident — can't muster any joy for the holidays despite encouragement from his playful wife (Britton) and well-intentioned parents. When his young son faces a tragedy, a mysterious man named Nick (Nelson) gives him a gift that instills in him the courage to find the Christmas joy that he lost. On DVD and Blu-ray from Lionsgate … "The Ultimate Life" (2013), starring Peter Fonda, Bill Cobbs, Lee Meriwether, Ali Hillis and Logan Bartholomew, is the follow-up to the best-seller and 2006 film "The Ultimate Gift." Jason, who inherited his grandfather's billions only after performing 12 tasks (or "gifts") to prove him worthy, here faces more challenges and may lose it all … until he finds his grandfather's journal and journeys into the past to learn what it photo for American Bomber means to live. On DVD and Blu-ray from Fox … In "American Bomber" (2013), starring Michael C. Freeland, Rebekah Nelson, Brian Floyd, Pamela Tate and Kenny Wade Marshall, a disgraced ex-soldier travels to New York City to become the first American born and raised suicide bomber, but an unexpected relationship complicates his plan. From IndiePix Films … In "7E" (2013), starring Brendan Sexton III, Antonella Lentini, James Russo, Armando Riesco, Natasha Lyonne and John Savage, a young man struggles with unexplained events inside of a New York apartment building where tenants are not who they appear to be. Inside an old New York apartment, Clyde looks after his cousin following the death of her roommate. Clyde begins to suspect tenants were involved in the suspicious death, and as his exploration into the death continues, his perception of what is real and what is imagined becomes increasingly blurred. From Virgil Films … A sound engineer's work for an Italian horror studio — a tale of witchcraft and murder set inside an all-girl riding academy — becomes a terrifying case of life imitating art in "Berberian Sound Studio" (2012), starring Toby Jones, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Cosimo Fusco and Susanna Cappellaro. On DVD and Blu-ray from IFC Films … In "Silent Night, Bloody Night," (1972), starring John Carradine, Patrick O'Neal and Walter Abel, a young man inherits a mansion once used as an insane asylum, and in which his grandfather died in a fire. When he puts it up for sale, an axe-wielding madman — who has been hiding in the residence — threatens anyone who comes near. Restored version. The film gained notoriety in the mid-1980s when it was featured on "Elvira's Movie Macabre," gaining a dedicated cult following. From Film Chest … photo for The Seasoning House In "The Seasoning House" (2012), starring Rosie Day, Sean Pertwee, Kevin Howarth and Anna Walton, a deaf and mute girl is abducted and ditched in a grim Balkan brothel, where she's enslaved to care for young girls who have been prostituted to the military. She moves between the walls and crawlspaces, showing the little kindnesses when she can. But when fate brings the men that murdered her family to the house, she gets her opportunity to wreak revenge and free the girls still alive in the house. On DVD and Blu-ray from Well Go USA … The folks over at Shout! Factory have two "Cult Movie Marathons" in release this week: Volume One features four "B" films: "Unholy Rollers" (1972 — After being sexually harassed by her boss, a woman walks out of her job and tries out for the roller derby. She quickly wins a spot on the team and rises to the top, intent on ignoring the violence and grandstanding and concentrating on winning games), "Invasion of the Bee Girls" (1973 — A powerful cosmic force is turning Earth women into queen bees who kill men by wearing them out sexually), "Devil's Eight" (1969 — A federal agent rounds up eight convicts to help fight a vicious moonshine gang) and "Vicious Lips" (1986 — A band finally gets the opportunity for that breakthrough gig if they can make it to an "in" club on another planet in time. "Volume Two" has four more "B" films: "Savage Island" (1985 — Women who have been captured and sold as slave labor to a South American emerald mine hatch a plan for revolution and revenge), "The photo for The Snake God Naked Cage" (1986 — A young woman is falsely convicted of a bank robbery and sent to a maximum-security prison run by a corrupt warden where she's forced to suffer various indignities), "Chatterbox" (1977 — A young woman who works in a beauty parlor discovers that her vagina can talk, which causes her no end of trouble) and "Angels from Hell" (1968 — A destructive ex-motorcycle gang leader comes home from Vietnam to resume his life and his desire to form the ultimate motorcycle gang. $12.99 each … "The Snake God" (1970 — Italy), starring Nadia Cassini and Beryl Cunningham, is an Italian erotic sinema about a woman, abandoned by her rich industrialist husband on a remote Caribbean estate, who befriends a beautiful local girl who is an adept of a hidden voodoo cult and falls under the spell of Djamballa, the powerful snake god, from whose magic there is no escape. From Mondo Macabro/CAV Distributing … "TV Terrors" consists of two 1978 made-for-TV horror films new to DVD. In "The Initiation of Sarah," a withdrawn young girl joins an unpopular sorority in college. It turns out she has psychic and telekinetic powers and she uses them against a rival sorority. In "Are You in the House Alone?" a teenage girl is plagued by harassing phone calls. Her fear mounts when she's babysitting at a neighbor's home one evening and the caller rings her at that number. $14.97 from Shout! Factory.

Foreign:

In "The Hunt" (2012 — Denmark), starring Mads Mikkelsen and Thomas Bo Larsen, a teacher lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son's custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives photo for The Hunt good news from his son, but his new luck is brutally shattered by an innocent little lie that throws the small community into a collective state of hysteria, forcing him to fight for his life and dignity. On DVD and Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment … "Saving General Yang" (2013 — Hong Kong) takes place in Northeast China during the early Northern Song dynasty, AD 986. The Khitan army takes its revenge for a past massacre, abducting General Yang Ye and leaving his wife and seven sons to rescue him — and fall into their deadly trap. Led by the first son, the seven set out with a small band of fighters to face an army of thousands, brave the treacherous Wolf Mountain, face the nemesis of their shared history, and find the way back alive — all to bring their father home. Based on the ancient Chinese folklore. Stars Adam Cheng, Ekin Cheng, Yu Bo, Vic Chau, Li Chen, Raymond Lam and Wu Chun. On DVD and Blu-ray from Well Go USA … Taiwanese pop sensation Jay Chou, drawing on his years as an actor, director, and recording photo for star, creates a fantasy playground of music, moves, and magic as a backdrop to an action comedy romance that pays homage to the wondrous musicals of the past in "The Rooftop" (2013 — Taiwan/China/Hong Kong). Chou composed 11 original tunes for this story of Gao (Chou) and his friends, the happiest kids in the city of Galilee. Living on the rooftops of the bustling metropolis, sometimes life can be tough, but they still churn out songs all day, and dance under the stars at night. But when Gao meets his dream girl, a billboard beauty named Sian (Hsin Ai Lee), fate takes him on a wild ride through the high and low parts of the town he loves – where tales of friendship, romance, and gang rivalry are all told through melodies and dance numbers. On DVD and Blu-ray from Well Go USA.

Special Interest:

"Civil War Double Feature" includes two History Channel feature-length productions about the bloodiest war in American history. "Gettysburg," narrated by Sam Rockwell, features a re-enactment of the most famous battle fought on American soil; and "Lee & Grant," produced with the cooperation of leading Civil War historian Winston Groom, author of "Forrest Gump." Two-disc DVD, $14.98 from Lionsgate … "One Direction: Reaching for the Stars" (2013) is an unauthorized documentary and behind-the-scenes look — featuring exclusive footage and intimate interviews — that follows the boy band as they conquer America. Reveals what makes the pop idols tick, baring secrets behind each personality and detailing why their romances continue to make headlines worldwide. $12.98 from Inception Media Group.

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