This Week’s Best Bets:
The folks at The Criterion Collection have two remarkable films on hand this week:
“The Bridge” (1959) and “The Fisher King” (1991). The astonishing “The Bridge,” by Bernhard Wicki, was the first major antiwar film to come out of Germany after World War II, as well as the nation’s first postwar film to be widely shown internationally, even securing an Oscar nomination. Set near the end of the war, it follows a group of teenage boys in a small town as they contend with everyday matters like school, girls, and parents, before enlisting as soldiers and being forced to defend their home turf in a confused, terrifying battle. This expressively shot, emotionally bruising drama dared to humanize young German soldiers at a historically tender moment, and proved influential for the coming generation of New German Cinema auteurs.On DVD, Blu-ray Disc. New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. A fairy tale grounded in poignant reality, the magnificent, Manhattan-set “The Fisher King,” by Terry Gilliam, features Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams in two of their most brilliant roles. Bridges plays a former radio shock jock reconstructing his life after a scandal, and Williams is a homeless man on a quest for the Holy Grail — which he believes to be hidden somewhere on the Upper West Side. Unknowingly linked by their pasts, the two men aid each other on a fanciful journey to redemption. This singular American odyssey features a witty script by Richard La Gravenese (“The Bridges of Madison County”), evocative cinematography by Roger Pratt (“12 Monkeys”), and superb supporting performances by Amanda Plummer and an Oscar-winning Mercedes Ruehl, all harnessed by Gilliam into a humane, funny modern-day myth. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc. New, restored 2K digital transfer, approved by director Terry Gilliam, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray.
From TV to DVD:
“That Show With Joan Rivers” (1968-69) is a four-disc set with 29 episodes from the first season of Joan River’s syndicated daytime talk show, $11.99 from Film Chest Media Group … In “When Calls the Heart: Heart And Soul” (2014), Elizabeth Thatcher, a young school teacher from a wealthy Eastern family, migrates from the big city to teach school in a small coal mining town in the west. Hallmark movie 2 of Season 2. Based on the books by Janette Oke (“The Love Comes Softly” series) From Shout! Factory … “Workaholics: Season 5 “ (2015) is a two-disc set with 13 episodes.On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Paramount.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
In “The Forger” (2015), starring John Travolta, Christopher Plummer, Tye Sheridan, Jennifer Ehle, Abigail Spencer and Anson Mount, the world’s best art forger (John Travolta) makes a deal with a crime syndicate to get an early release from prison, but in return he must pull of an impossible heist — he must forge a painting by Claude Monet, steal the original from a museum and replace it with a replica so perfect that no one will notice. He enlists the help of his father (Christopher Plummer) and son (Tye Sheridan) and together they plan the heist of their lives. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate … After being mysteriously framed for a terrorist bombing, a Foreign Service Officer (Milla Jovovich) must evade government capture and death by a ruthless assassin (Pierce Brosnan) in order to stop the real perpetrators’ master — and much deadlier — plan in “Survivor” (2015), starring Pierce Brosnan, Milla Jovovich, Dylan McDermott, Emma Thompson, Angela Bassett, Antonia Thomas and James D’Arcy. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Alchemy … Devastated by his wife’s suicide, which according to his beliefs condemns her to hell, Lee Leung (Simon Yam) decides to save as many souls as he can by killing suicidal people before they do it themselves. After surrendering himself to the police, he realizes that someone may have been pulling his strings all along in “Cross” (2014 — Hong Kong), co-starring Jason Chang, Kenny Wong, Morning Mo, Kageyama Yukihiko, Liu Kai Chi, Nick Cheung. From Well Go USA … Based on V.C. Andrews’s bestselling “Dollanganger” series of books, “If There Be Thorns” (2015) is the third installment, following “Petals on the Wind” and the highest-rated made-for-cable movie in 2014, “Flowers in the Attic,” shadowing the tragically dysfunctional Dollanganger family as they try to escape their past, only to find out there are some things you can never leave behind. Stars Heather Graham, Jason Lewis, Mason Cook, Emily Tennant, Rachel Carpani. From Lionsgate … In “Teen Beach 2” (2015), modern day teens Mack and Brady get a real world visit from Lela, Tanner, Butchy, and other surfer and biker pals from the beach party film within a film, “Wet Side Story.” Stars Ross Lynch, Maia Mitchell, Grace Phipps, Garrett Clayton. Due June 26 from Disney.
On the Indie Front:
Michelle Williams and Anna Friel star as best friends growing up in the London suburbs in the 1970s in “Me Without You” (2002). Spanning three decades, the film begins when Marina (Friel) and Holly (Williams) form an unlikely bond as teenagers: free-spirited and wild, Marina is vastly different in temperament from the serious, bookish Holly. Their disparate personalities complement each other, allowing the girls to build a defense against the boring suburbs while leading them to define themselves in relation to each other. Over the ensuing decades, Marina and Holly’s friendship endures hard drugs, random sex, manipulation, betrayal, and lots of other saucy stuff, including Kyle MacLachlan as a very influential professor. From First Run Features … After Franny’s (Anne Hathaway) estranged musician brother Henry is injured and hospitalized in a coma following a car accident in “Song One” (2014), she returns home and begins to use his notebook as a guide to how his life has evolved in her absence. Franny seeks out the musicians and artists Henry loved, in the course of her journey meeting James Forester, his musical idol, whose success and fame belie a shy and private man — and strong romantic connection develops between the two. Set against the backdrop of Brooklyn’s vibrant modern-folk music scene. Co-stars Mary Steenburgen, Johnny Flynn, Ben Rosenfield, Gideon Glick. On Blu-ray Disc from Cinedigm … “Spike Island” (2012), starring Emilia Clarke, Elliott Tittensor, Lesley Manville, Rob James-Collier and Kaya Scodelario, is a coming-of-age story about a wannabe rock band in Manchester, England, who hatch a plan to hand-deliver their demo tape to their idols, The Stone Roses, at the band’s impending gig at Spike Island. But when their tickets fail to materialize, the gang embarks on a road trip to the concert and is forced to take extreme measures to sneak their way in. Along the way, friendships are tested and their futures are shaped — together or apart. From Level 33 Entertainment.
A cattle herder and his family living peacefully on the edge of the Sahara find their quiet lives disrupted by jihadist militants in the Oscar-nominated “Timbuktu” (2014 — France/Mauritania), the new stunningly rendered film from world cinema master Abderrahmane Sissako. Not far from the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu, proud cattle herder Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed dit Pino) lives quietly in the dunes with his wife Satima (Toulou Kiki), daughter Toya (Layla Walet
Mohamed) and Issan (Mehdi A.G. Mohamed), their 12-year-old shepherd. Their daily existence may be no different from the way their ancestors lived centuries earlier. But in town, the people are suffering, powerless and defenseless, from the reign of terror imposed by the jihadist militants who have taken over the city determined to control the faith and lives of all its inhabitants. Music, laughter, cigarettes, even soccer have been banned. Women and girls are particular targets of the religious fundamentalists, with whippings a common punishment for such infractions as singing or simply being in the same room as a man. Every day, the new improvised courts issue absurd and tragic sentences. Kidane and his family have been spared the frightening chaos that prevails in Timbuktu, but suddenly their destiny changes and Kidane must face the new incomprehensible rules of the foreign occupiers. The film has achieved a remarkable 99 percent rating on the film review site Rotten Tomatoes. In French, Arabic and English. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Cohen Media Group … In “Roman de gare” (2007 — France), directed by Claude Lelouch and starring Fanny Ardant, Dominique Pinon and Audrey Dana, Judith Ralitzer (Ardant), novelist and femme fatale, is seeking characters for her next best-seller. Meanwhile a serial killer has just escaped from a high security prison. Their paths are about to cross in Claude Lelouch’s tricky thriller, which features a number of characters and a timeline that skips back and forth, keeping the audience guessing.From First Run Features … Amidst the sweeping cityscape of cosmopolitan Hong Kong In “Lost for Words” (2013 — Hong Kong), an ex-Marine falls in love with a ballerina from China. Against mounting cultural and religious pressure, the two star-crossed lovers risk it all in pursuit of true love. Stars Sean Faris, Grace Huang, Will Yun Lee, Terence Yin and Joman Chiang. From Green Apple Entertainment.
For the Family:
“An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success” (2015), starring Virginia Madsen, Caitlin Carmichael, Olivia Rodrigo and Eloise Webb, is the latest American Girl adventure. Grace has a real talent for baking and a passion for making delicious dreams come true. When her mom announces a trip to visit relatives in Paris, Grace isn’t so sure about leaving her friends and their cupcake business. That is, until she discovers she’ll get to work with her uncle and cousin in a real French pastry shop. But nothing goes as planned and her attempts to help out end in disaster. With some help from her family and a pup named Bonbon, she turns her vacation around. But when Grace returns home, she discovers her grandparents’ bakery is in trouble. With their dreams on the line, can Grace find the winning recipe for success? Stars On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Universal … When Curious George is asked to take part in a very important space mission, a little monkeying around forces him to crash-land in Africa in “Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle” (2015). While a worried Man with the Yellow Hat searches for him, Curious George bravely explores the jungle and makes new animal friends along the way. With the voices of Angela Bassett, John Goodman, Frank Welker, Jeff Bennett, Alexander Polinsky, and the music by the Plain White T’s. From Universal.
“Children of Giant” (2015) is a PBS documentary that explores how the making of a classic Hollywood movie transformed the lives of the residents of a small Texas town. In the summer of 1955, it seemed as if all of Hollywood had descended on the dusty West Texas town of Marfa as production began on the highly anticipated movie “Giant.” The film starred a legendary trio — Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean — along with the young actor Earl Holliman and 16-year-old Elsa Cardenas, who portrayed Juana, the Mexican-American girl who marries into the powerful Benedict ranching dynasty. Based on Edna Ferber’s controversial novel, “Giant” was a different kind of western, one that took an unflinching look at feminism and class divisions and one of the first films to explore the racial divide between Anglos and Mexican Americans in the Southwest. Now, 60 years later, this documentary returns to Marfa to explore the dramatic story behind the making of the film and its enduring legacy. The program combines interviews with the surviving cast and crew of Giant — including George Stevens Jr., Earl Holliman and Elsa Cardenas — with the recollections of residents who participated in the production, many of whose lives mirrored the controversial themes of racism and segregation explored in the film. Featuring rare behind-the-scenes footage and never-before-seen photos, “Children of Giant” includes interviews with several noted film historians. From PBS Distribution.