From the Big Screen:
“Wild Tales,” “Run All Night,” “Chappie,” “The Lazarus Effect” and “Unfinished Business.” For more information on these and other releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
This Week’s Best Bets:
Arrow Video/MVD has a pair of cult favorites hitting home entertainment shelves this week, and while they arrived too late for review, they both sound excruciatingly delightful. The credits dub “Spider Baby” (1967) “the maddest story ever told,” a promise that’s well on the way to being fulfilled in the opening scene alone, when Virginia traps and kills a hapless deliveryman in her makeshift web. She’s one of three siblings who suffer from a unique genetic disorder that causes them to regress back to childhood, while retaining the physical strength and sexual maturity of adults. Lon Chaney Jr. gave one of his most memorable late performances as Bruno, their guardian and protector, who has managed to cover up their crimes until two distant relatives lay claim to their house. When they insist on moving in, Bruno has to cross his fingers and hope that the “children” behave towards their new guests … . This was the first solo feature by Jack Hill (“Coffy,” “Foxy Brown”), whom Quentin Tarantino dubbed “the Howard Hawks of exploitation filmmaking,” and it remains one of his wildest and weirdest. Formats: Blu-ray/DVD Combo. High definition transfer of the feature supervised and approved by director Jack Hill with original 2.0 mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray) … From Takashi Miike, the prolific director of such shocking hits as “Audition” and “Ichi the Killer,” comes “Happiness of the Katakuris” (2001), kind of “The Sound of Music meets Dawn of the Dead”! The Katakuris are a family trying to run a peaceful country inn but with a lack of guests there is much excitement for their first visitor, until he winds up dead. As each new guest in turn dies under strange circumstances, the family agree to hide the bodies … but will the coverups come back to haunt them. In this horror-comedy-musical scenes of grotesque stop motion animation, surreal musical numbers and zombies combine to make one of the finest genre outings ever made. Formats: Blu-ray/DVD Combo. Original uncompressed Stereo PCM audio. Extras: Audio commentary by director Takashi Miike; “The Making of the Katakuris”: An original documentary from the film’s production featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes footage with the cast and crew; interviews with Katakuris cast members Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Tetsuro Tanba and Miike; “Animating the Katakuris”: A look at the creation of the film’s stop motion effects with animation director Hideki Kimura and Miike; trailer and TV spots; reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil; booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Johnny Mains and a re-printed interview with Miike conducted by Sean Axmaker, illustrated with original stills.
When Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn — theater directors, writers, actors, and longtime friends — sat down for a stimulating meal in 1981’s “My Dinner With Andre,” they not only ended up with one of cinema’s unlikeliest iconic scenarios but launched a film collaboration that would continue to pay creative dividends for decades. The subsequent projects they made together for the screen — 1994’s “Vanya on 42nd Street,” a passionate read-through of Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya,” and 2014’s striking Henrik Ibsen interpretation “A Master Builder” — are penetrating works that exist on the edge of theater and film, and that both emerged out of many years of rehearsals with loyal troupes of actors. Gregory and Shawn’s unique contributions to the cinematic landscape are shape-shifting, challenging, and entertaining works about the process of creation. This three-film set — “Andre Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films,” available in DVD and Blu-ray editions — contains “My Dinner With Andre,” “Vanya on 42nd Street” and “A Master Builder.” Features a high-definition digital restoration of “My Dinner with Andre”, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray; restored high-definition digital transfer of “Vanya on 42nd Street,” supervised by director of photography Declan Quinn, with uncompressed stereo soundtrack on the Blu-ray; and high-definition digital master of “A Master Builder,” supervised by Quinn, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from The Criterion Collection.
From The Beach Boys to The Byrds, Nancy Sinatra to The Monkees, the ensemble known as “The Wrecking Crew” — a loose group of from 20 to 30 hard core professional rock studio musicians — was responsible for the influential West Coast sound that echoes through some of the most enduring pop and rock hits of all time. Six years in a row in the 1960s and early 1970s, the Grammy for “Record of the Year” went to Wrecking Crew recordings. It didn’t matter if it was Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, The Monkees, The Byrds or The Beach Boys, these dedicated musicians brought flair and musicianship and a “West Coast Sound” to American music. “The Wrecking Crew” (2015) tells the story of the unsung musicians that provided the backbeat, the bottom and the swinging melody that drove many of the number one hits of the 1960s. Unfortunately, “The Wrecking Crew” deserve better, since this documentary is not nearly as smooth and strong as the music. Much like many recent music documentaries (“Jingle Bell Rocks!” and “Frank Zappa: Freak Jazz, Movie Madness & Another Mothers”) it lacks a coherent narrative text to keep the story on track. It’s great to see and hear “The Wrecking Crew” then and now, but director Denny Tedesco (the son of “Wrecking Crew” member Tommy Tedesco) has no voice for the proceedings: the film definitely needed a omnipotent narrator and better time line for the proceedings. I got lost. Still, the music is a killer. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia Home Entertainment.
Studio Ghibli/Disney is bouncing out Blu-rays of two of their favorite films: “Spirited Away” (2001), with the voices of Daveigh Chase, Suzanne Pleshette, Jason Marsden, Susan Egan, David Ogden Stiers, Lauren Holly, Michael Chiklis, John Ratzenberger, Tara Strong and Bob Bergen; and “The Cat Returns” (2002), with the voices of Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Peter Boyle, Elliott Gould, Andy Richter, Rene Auberjonois, Tim Curry, Judy Greer, Andrew Bevis, Kristen Bell, Kristine Sutherland and Katia Coe. Extras include original Japanese storyboards, original Japanese trailers, TV spots, making-of and “Behind the Microphone” featurettes.
From TV to DVD:
“Laverne & Shirley: The Complete Series” (1976-1983) is a 28-disc set with all eight seasons, $79.99. Starting as a spin-off from TV’s “Happy Days,” Laverne De Fazio (Penny Marshall) and Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams), now joined by Lenny (Michael McKean), Squiggy (David L. Lander), Carmine (Eddie Mekka) and the rest of the Milwaukee gang, soon became a hit sitcom in its own right. The series revolved around the friendship between bright-eyed, naive and demure Shirley and brassy, tough-talking and street-smart Laverne. The duo date an array of questionable men, tolerate their looney neighbors and forever try to “make all their dreams come true.” From CBS/Paramount … The Newsroom: The Complete Third Season (2014) is a two-disc set with six episodes. The third and final season of “The Newsroom” finds Will, Mac (Emily Mortimer) and the staff of “News Night” facing two explosive situations: the possibility of a hostile takeover of the network, and leaked classified government documents that unleash a legal fire storm threatening to topple more than one professional career. Going beyond the headlines, the six-part season turns its attention inward, focusing on a series of internal events at ACN that rock the very foundation of the network, and tackles such topics as privacy issues, the influence of social media on traditional news gathering and corporate takeover. The men and women of “News Night” are faced with personal and professional dilemmas that will forever determine their futures. Set against the backdrop of the Boston Marathon bombing, “The Newsroom” kicks off the season with a highly charged look at the core issue of maintaining journalistic integrity in the era of 24-hour news cycles, while crowd-sourcing and “citizen journalism” result in the dissemination of misinformation. The all-star cast is headlined by Emmy Award winner Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer. Also starring are Academy Award nominee Sam Waterston; Tony Award Winner John Gallagher, Jr.; Alison Pill; Thomas Sadoski; Dev Patel and Olivia Munn. Returning guest stars include two-time Academy Award winner Jane Fonda, who won the 2013 Emmy Award for her role, Chris Messina, David Harbour and Marcia Gay Harden. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc from HBO … “The Odd Couple: The Complete Series” (2014) is a 20-disc set with all five seasons, $59.98. Based on the play by Neil Simon, this Emmy-nominated series features the antics of two divorced men living together in a New York City apartment. Felix Unger (Tony Randall) is an uptight photographer, continually at odds with his unkempt sportswriter roommate, Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman). This classic comedy series provides plenty of laughs and plenty of trouble when two unlikely friends share one small space. Also from CBS/Paramount … “Survivor’s Remorse: The Complete First Season” (2014) is a two-disc set with six episodes, $24.98. This Starz comedy series follows Cam Calloway, a basketball phenom in his early 20s who is suddenly thrust into the limelight after signing a multi-million dollar contract with a professional basketball team in Atlanta. Cam, along with his cousin and confidant, Reggie Vaughn, move to Georgia to start Cam’s journey to success. The two confront the challenges of opportunistic family members, heir strong ties to the impoverished community that they come from, and wrestle with the rewards and pitfalls of stardom, love and loyalty. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Anchor Bay … “Two and a Half Men: The Complete Twelfth and Final Season” (2014-15) is a two-disc set with all 12 episodes, $29.98 from Warner.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
In “Beyond the Reach” (2015), starring Michael Douglas, Jeremy Irvine and Ronny Cox, a cocky businessman (Douglas) spends his spare time big-game hunting. But when he hires an earnest young guide (Irvine) to take him deep into the Mojave Desert in search of prey, things quickly go awry when he shoots and kills an innocent man by mistake. When the guide refuses to be drawn into the dishonest cover-up, a deadly game of cat-and-mouse ensues across a barren and brutal desert pitting hunter against prey. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate … “Time Lapse” (2014), starring Danielle Panabaker, Matt O’Leary and George Finn, is a Sci-fi thriller that explores the possibilities of time travel via a camera that takes pictures 24 hours into the future. When three friends discover this mysterious machine, they conspire to use it for personal gain, until disturbing and dangerous images begin to develop and tear their relationship apart. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from XLrator Media … “Tentacles & Reptilicus” is a Blu-ray double feature from the friendly, spooky folks at Scream Factory. “Tentacles” (1977): It’s angry. It’s hungry. It’s extremely well-armed and it’s descending on a small seaside town to sample the local cuisine. John Huston, Shelley Winters, Bo Hopkins and Henry Fonda do all they can to keep a giant marine menace from turning their sleepy village into a one-stop snack-shop. “Reptilicus” (1961): Discover the true meaning of survival of the fittest as a terrifying 90-foot creature from the past brings the future to its knees. Directed by Sidney W. Pink (writer and producer of the cult films “The Angry Red Planet,” “Pyro”).