This Week’s Best Bets
In the early 1970s, a kung-fu dynamo named Bruce Lee side-kicked his way onto the screen and straight into pop-culture immortality. With his magnetic screen presence, tightly coiled intensity, and superhuman martial-arts prowess, Lee was an icon who conquered both Hong Kong and Hollywood cinema, and transformed the art of the action film in the process. “Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits” brings together the five films that define the Lee legend: furiously exciting fist-fliers propelled by his innovative choreography, unique martial-arts philosophy, and whirlwind fighting style. Though he completed only a handful of films while at the peak of his stardom before his untimely death at age 32, Lee left behind a monumental legacy as both a consummate entertainer and a supremely disciplined artist who made Hong Kong action cinema a sensation the world over. Seven-disc Blu-ray set includes high-defintion restorations of “The Big Boss” (1971), “Fist of Fury” (1972), “The Way of the Dragon:” (1972), “Enter the dragon” (1973), “Game of Death” (1978), a high-definition presentation of “Game of Death II,” the 1981 sequel to “Game of Death,” “Blood and Steel,” a 2004 documentary about the making of “Enter the Dragon,” multiple programs and documentaries about Lee’s life and philosophies, interviews, commentaries, an essay by critic Jeff Chang. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection … A vital landmark in the history of queer cinema, “Mädchen in Uniform” (1931 — Germany) is a remarkably brave and honest film about nascent love between women at a boarding school for girls. Vulnerable and quiet, Manuela von Meinhardis (Hertha Thiele) struggles to adjust to the stern discipline of the heavily-regimented institution. In time, she gains confidence through a friendship with one of her teachers (Dorothea Wieck). But no relationship between women, no matter how chaste, is to be permitted, and under the constant threat of punishment or expulsion, Manuela desperately tries to keep hope and love alive. Beyond its acclaim as a groundbreaking work in LGBTQ culture, “Mädchen in Uniform” has also been hailed as a timeless fable of the struggle of the innocent against the totalitarian forces of oppression-especially poignant since it was produced in Germany amidst the rise of the Nazi Party. On Blu-ray from Kino Lorber … “Hiroshima” (1953– Japan) is a powerful evocation of the devastation wrought by the world’s first deployment of the atomic bomb and its aftermath, based on the written eye-witness accounts of its child survivors compiled by Dr. Arata Osada for the 1951 book “Children of the A Bomb: Testament of the Boys And Girls Of Hiroshima.” Adapted for the screen by independent director Hideo Sekigawa and screenwriter Yasutaro Yagi, “Hiroshima” combines a harrowing documentary realism with moving human drama, in a tale of the suffering, endurance and survival of a group of teachers, their students and their families. It boasts a rousing score composed by Akira Ifukube (“Godzilla”) and an all-star cast including Yumeji Tsukioka (“Late Spring”), Isuzu Yamada (“Throne of Blood,” “Yojimbo”) and Eiji Okada (“Hiroshima Mon Amour,” “Woman in the Dunes”), appearing alongside an estimated 90,000 residents from the city as extras, including many survivors from that fateful day on 6th August 1945. “Hiroshima” was produced and distributed outside of the studio system by the Japan Teachers’ Union following the mixed critical reception to “Children of Hiroshima” (1952), directed by Kaneto Shindo the previous year, the first dramatic feature to deal directly with the atomic bombing. Although sequences from the film were used in Alain Resnais’ classic of French New Wave cinema, “Hiroshima Mon Amour” (1959), it has been effectively out of circulation in Japan and the rest of the world since its original release in 1953 due to the force and political sensitivity of its message. This new high definition presentation is the complete version, restoring the footage from the international edit that was released in the United States in 1955. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment … Barbara Stanwyck sizzles, Henry Fonda bumbles, and Preston Sturges runs riot in “The Lady Eve” (1941), one of the all-time great screwballs, a pitch-perfect blend of comic zing and swoonworthy romance. Aboard a cruise liner sailing up the coast of South America, Stanwyck’s conniving card sharp sets her sights on Fonda’s nerdy snake researcher, who happens to be the heir to a brewery fortune. But when the con artist falls for her mark, her grift becomes a game of hearts — and she is determined to win it all. One in a string of matchless comedic marvels that Sturges wrote, directed, and produced as part of a dazzling 1940s run, this gender-flipped battle-of-wits farce is perhaps his most emotionally satisfying work, tempering its sparkling wit with a streak of tender poignancy supplied by the sensational Stanwyck at her peak. On DVD, Blu-ray, with New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection.
From TV to Disc:
“Murdoch Mysteries, Season 13” (2019): Armed with gadgets and gizmos a plenty, Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) and his associates solve 18 cases across the many stratums and evolving manners of Victorian society. Set in the late 19th century in Toronto, the methodical and dashing Detective Murdoch enlists radical new forensic techniques like fingerprinting, ultraviolet light, and trace evidence to solve some of the city’s most gruesome murders. Season 13 follows Murdoch as he continues his deft detective work with new innovations, including a “searchizer” device that measures facial features and matches them with existing police files. On vive-disc DVD, four-disc Blu-ray, from Acorn Media.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
In “Homewrecker” (2019), starring Alex Essoe and Precious Chong, Michelle is an interior designer and newlywed to Robert. Linda lives alone and fills her days with painting and exercise classes. Seeking a new friend, Linda coerces the reserved, deferential Michelle into visiting her home for a spontaneous interior design consultation. Once inside, it quickly becomes clear that Linda has something far more sinister on her mind than throw pillows. From Uncork’d Entertainment … The action comedy “Enter the Fat Dragon” (2020 — Hong Kong), starring Donnie Yen, Teresa Mo, Niki Chow and Wong Jing, chronicles the events that transformed super-fit super-cop Fallon Zhu (Yen) into a records clerk with a major snack cake habit. After a desperate request from an old colleague, Zhu teams up with a wily, wok-wielding restaurateur to solve a mysterious murder — and take his one last shot at regaining both his job and his fiancée. A parody of Bruce Lee’s 1972 “Way of the Dragon” and a reimagining of the popular 1978 comedy martial arts film starring Sammo Hung. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Well Go USA … In “Mr. No Legs” (1974), starring Richard Jaeckel, John Agar, Rance Howard and Ted Vollrath, double amputee Mr. No Legs may not seem much of a threat at first, but cross him and you’ll see why he’s Florida’s ruthless drug kingpin D’Angelo’s deadliest enforcer. With his unique martial arts mastery and shotgun-wielding wheelchair, Mr. No Legs is virtually unstoppable. But when a henchman kills the sister of a straight-shooting cop, D’Angelo’s whole enterprise may come undone and threaten to bring No Legs down with it. New 2k Restoration from EXTREMELY RARE French 35mm Print. On Blu-ray from Massacre Video … “The Specials” (2000), starring Rob Lowe, Thomas Hayden Church, Jamie Kennedy, Paget Brewster, Judy Greer and Jordan Ladd, makes its Blu-ray debut this week. They’re the sixth (okay, maybe the seventh) greatest superhero team in the entire world. At their modest suburban headquarters, The Strobe (Haden Church), The Weevil (Lowe), foul-mouthed Amok (Kennedy), Ms. Indestructible (Brewster), Deadly Girl (Greer), new member Nightbird (Ladd) and the rest all spend their time bickering, having extramarital affairs, and preparing for the grand unveiling of their own action figure line. But when a furious Strobe suddenly disbands the group, who will be there for the oddballs, rebels, outcasts and geeks? Before they save the world, can they save themselves? Brand new 2K scan and restoration from the film’s interpositive. From La-La Land Entertainment … In “Coven” (2020), starring Lizze Gordon, Jennifer Cipolla, Margot Major, Adam Horner and Terri Ivens, five undergrad witches come together in order to perform a ritual to invoke the ancient powers of the witch Ashura. The leader of the coven gets carried away and accidentally kills one of the witches during the ritual. Since she needs the strength of a complete coven to invoke Ashura’s powers, she sends them out to find a final witch. As she absorbs power the surviving girls plot to take her down but she unleashes hell on campus with only one young witch left to stop her. From Uncork’d Entertainment … After losing their parents in a car accident, Ryan must raise his rebellious teenage sister, Zoe in “The Runners” (2019), starring Micah Lyons, Tom Sizemore and Glenn Morshower. One night, Zoe sneaks out to a party and is abducted by a charming older boy who intends to sell her to a cartel known for human trafficking. Now, Ryan and his best friend have just hours to track them down and save her before she is sold and dragged across the Mexican border, never to be seen again. From Uncork’d Entertainment … “The Kiss of the Vampire Collector’s Edition” (1963), starring Clifford Evans, Noel Willman, Edward De Souza, Jennifer Daniel and Barry Warren, is a highly sought-after Hammer Film cult classic, here in a new 2K scan of the interpositive in two aspect ratios (1.85:1 and 1.66:1). Lost on the way to their honeymoon, a young couple stumbles upon a mysterious family of vampires and their unspeakably evil leader. When a wrong turn leaves newlyweds Marianne and Gerald Harcourt stranded in a remote Bavarian forest, they have no choice but to accept the hospitality of the hypnotic Dr. Ravna, distinguished lord of a nearby castle. Ravna uses his “children” to lure the newlyweds to his lair, and soon they are plunged into a nightmare of horror and deception from which there may be no escape. Their only hope is Professor Zimmer, who calls upon an ancient ritual in a desperate attempt to destroy the vampires and free Marianne from Ravna’s power. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory … In “Starfish” (2018), starring Virginia Gardner, Christina Masterson, Eric Beecroft, Natalie Mitchell and Tanroh Ishida, when a mysterious signal from an unknown dimension summons the end of days, it appears as if only Aubrey (Gardner) is left on earth. Trapped in the apartment of her recently deceased best friend, the only clue she has is a single cassette left behind after her friend’s death, labeled, “THIS MIXTAPE WILL SAVE THE WORLD.” Thrust into a mystery orchestrated by her friend and stricken with grief, Aubrey begins to piece the clues together, uncovering a series of tapes, all with pieces of the mystery signal. Her progress is impeded when monstrous creatures begin to overrun the world and close in on her. Aubrey is forced to fight off the encroaching creatures and move beyond her own crippling grief in order to find the remaining tapes and possibly save the world. On Blu-ray from Altered Innocence.
“The Carer” (2016 — Hungary/UK), starring Brian Cox, Coco König, Emilia Fox, Anna Chancellor and Karl Johnson, is an odd-couple dramedy about an irascible, terminally ill acting legend and his plucky caregiver. Dorottya (König) is a young Hungarian actress with a burning desire: to make it on the English stage. Legendary actor Sir Michael Gifford (Cox) suffers from an incurable disease, and has one desire: be left alone. When Dorottya becomes his carer they both hope their wish will be fulfilled. On DVD from Corinth Films … Gabriele d’Annunzio’s passionate novel is brought to life in the final masterpiece from acclaimed director Luchino Visconti “L’innocente” (1976 — Italy), starring Giancarlo Giannini, Laura Antonelli and Jennifer O’Neill. In late-19th century Italy, Tullio (Giannini), an insatiable aristocrat, grows bored with his timid wife Giuliana (Antonelli) and neglects her for his mistress, the wealthy widow Countess Teresa Raffo (O’Neill). After learning that Giuliana is having a torrid affair of her own, he becomes tormented by her infidelity and descends into madness. New digital restoration. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Film Movement Classics.
For the Family:
“Berenstain Bears: Bear Family Vacation” (2020): It’s time to hit the road with the Bear Family. Join Mama, Papa, Sister, and Brother as they head out on vacation for some family fun. First, in “Too Much Vacation,” they arrive at a mountain cabin. Although Papa promises the best vacation ever, things at the cabin don’t go according to plan. Then, the family heads to an amusement park in “Visit Fun Park.” Brother boasts to his friends that he can ride the legendary thunderbolt roller coaster fearlessly, but a problem arises when his nerves take over as they get to the park and he sees the roller coaster for himself. The Bear Family also vacations in an old lighthouse, tours Bear Country’s National Parks, hosts a family reunion, and more. From PBS Kids.
Seven years in the making, “The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye” (2011) is an intimate, affecting portrait by celebrated filmmaker Marie Losier (“Cassandro, the Exotico!”) chronicling the life and work of pioneering musician and performance artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge — starting with the innovative industrial music group Throbbing Gristle in the ’70s to the underground video art outfit Psychic TV — and how h/er chance encounter with a dominatrix/performance artist in New York called Lady Jaye brought about a singular and enduring artistic collaboration and a brazen partnership that defied all perceptions of love. From Adopt Films … Southeast Asia, 1960’s. Flash point of the Cold War. The documentary “Dateline-Saigon” (2018) tells the inspiring story of a small group of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists — David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, Malcolm Browne, Peter Arnett, and the great photojournalist Horst Faas — who fought to report a truth that was vastly different from the rosy version put forth by the White House during the early years of the Vietnam War … even as their own government sought to discredit them. Narrated by Sam Waterston. From First Run Features.