From the Big Screen:
“Enemy,” “Winter’s Tale” and “300: Rise of an Empire.” For more information on these and other releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
This Week’s Highlights:
Ah, 1964. We were so young and naive … and when The Beatles — and “A Hard Day’s Night” — stormed the cultural bulwarks in the U.S., we were bowled over by the energy and excitement and spontaneity of this seemingly full-grown-at-birth phenomenon. It’s 50 years later and we now know, of course, that The Beatles had spent six long years developing their music and style before they hit it big in the states; and that the wild shenanigans and “free-form” scenario of “A Hard Day’s Night” owed as much to director Richard Lester and his years in the spontaneous and anything-goes world of British TV and “The Goon Show” as to The Beatles. Still, “A Hard Day’s Night” was ground-breaking and unconventional, innovative and bold for its time — Lester used hand-held cameras and experimental editing and cuts (wild swoosh pans, blurred shots), and blended together cinematic riffs from Buster Keaton, the Marx brothers, Bunuelian surrealism and the new language of the French New Wave to create a “fictionalized documentary” (in Lester’s words) that helped change the landscape of pop culture and movie-making. And though much of the script was based on the real-life interplay of the four lads from Liverpool, there’s not as many ad-libs or improvisations as we had thought back in the day — the bulk of the action and dialogue was scripted by Lester and screenwriter Alun Owen (the only totally unscripted sequence is when the boys escape the TV studio to romp in a field from a helicopter’s eye point of view, creating the grandfather of all music videos).
It was a “perfect marriage of film expression and subject matter. Style was content in the most perfect way. The inventiveness (of the film) mirrors The Beatles themselves. It was a time where we were ready as a generation to liberate ourselves and they were the perfect vehicle for that,” says film editor Bobbie O’Steen in “Anatomy of a Style,” one of the many superb extras on The Criterion Collection’s splendid remastering and new 4K digital film restoration of “A Hard Day’s Night” (in a Blu-ray/DVD Dual Format Edition). The edition, approved by director Lester, with two audio options — a monaural soundtrack and a new 5.1 surround soundtrack made by Apple Records presented in uncompressed monaural and DTS-HD Master Audio — contains a wealth of supplements that just boggle the imagination — and will tantalize Beatles’ and film fans: Commentary featuring various members of the film’s cast and crew; “In Their Own Voices,” a new piece combining interviews with the Beatles from 1964 with behind-the-scenes footage and photos; “You Can’t Do That: The Making of A Hard Day’s Night,” a 1994 documentary program by producer Walter Shenson; “Things They Said Today,” a 2002 documentary about the film featuring Lester, music producer George Martin, writer Alun Owen, cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, and others; “Picturewise,” a new piece about Lester’s film work and influence, narrated by Rita Tushingham and featuring a new audio interview with the director; “The Running Jumping and Standing Still Film” (1959), Lester’s Oscar-nominated short featuring Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan; a new interview with Mark Lewisohn, author of “Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years — Volume One,” about the Beatles’ career from 1958 to 1964; and a booklet featuring an essay by critic Howard Hampton. This is the must buy of the week, of the month … of the year.
Also due this week is the film noir fan-favorite “The Black Book” (1949), directed by noir and Western great Anthony Mann and starring Richard Basehart, Robert Cummings and Arlene Dahl. Set in the French Revolution, “The Black Book” blends history and fiction into a shadowy, suspenseful tale. Available for the first time in full HD restoration from the original 35mm film elements. From Film Chest Media Group.
From TV to DVD::
“Arne Dahl” (2012 — Sweden) is a rough, raw and real TV series based on the crime novels of Scandinavian writer Arne Dahl that revolves around cases taken on by the ‘A’ Unit, an elite force of officers recruited after a series of assassinations rocks Stockholm’s high society. In Swedish with English subtitles. Five DVD set, $49.95 from MHz Home Entertainment … “The Boondocks: The Complete Fourth Season” (2013) is a single disc with 10 episodes, $40.99 from Sony … “Comedy Bang! Bang!: The Complete Second Season” (2013) is a four-disc set with 20 episodes of the IFC’s twisted talk show that takes some of biggest names in show business on a journey into strange and unexpected places with an oddball mix of loopy characters, surreal sketches and nonstop silliness. Host Scott Aukerman engages his guests with unfiltered and improvisational lines of questioning, punctuated by banter and beats provided by Reggie Watts to reinvent the traditional celebrity interview $39.98 from Anchor Bay … “Duck Dynasty: Season 5” (2013) is a two-disc set with 10 episodes, $19.98 from Lionsgate … “Jack Taylor, Set 2” (2013), based on the bestselling crime fiction by Ken Bruen, is filmed on location against the rugged backdrop of western Ireland, and follows Jack Taylor — a former cop fighting his own demons — as he works cases in Galway as a private detective. Three-disc set includes three feature-length mysteries: “The Dramatist,” “Priest” and “Shot Down.” $49.99 from Acorn Media … “Mama’s Family: The Complete Fourth Season” (1987-88) is a four-disc set with 25 episodes. By the fourth season, the series had evolved into a solid weekly sitcom with a cast of well-developed characters and the occasional guest star to spice things up. In addition to the trademark sharp-witted dialogue and quick comebacks, the writers were also able to weave in some serious family issues without changing the overall mood of the show. Vint and Naomi (Ken Berry and Dorothy Lyman) are still married and living in the basement. Bubba (Allan Kayser) is maturing, going to school, dressing better, and becoming a young man. And, the irrepressible Thelma (Vicki Lawrence) is mellowing, having her touching grandmother moments along with the family squabbles and her beer drinking. 29.98 from StarVista Entertainment/Time Life … “Masters of Sex: Season One” (2013) is a four-disc set with 12 episodes; from Sony … Intentionally monochromatic photography, starkly filmed decomposing corpses, autopsies and intense interrogations set the tone for the gritty, realistic cop show “Spiral Season 4” (2012 — France). It’s a police thriller that reveals society’s ever-changing codes of law: a dark series with constant and increasing tension. Season 4 begins with an investigation by Captain Laure Berthaud into the accidental bombing death of a young left-wing extremist who was active with a group that offered support to illegal immigrants. With her usual zeal for subverting authority, defense lawyer Josephine Karlsson stands with the immigrants but finds that her anti-establishment choices this time could backfire, big time. Former public prosecutor Pierre Clement agrees to represent the organized crime boss Johnny Jorkal, while Judge Roban discovers that one of his magistrate colleagues has charged a man who had been previously acquitted of charges of serial rape. He’s eager to seize an opportunity to publicly denounce the dysfunction of the judiciary, but powerful forces will stop at nothing to silence him. In French with English subtitles. Four-disc DVD with 12 episodes, $49.95 from MHz Home Entertainment … “Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Sixth Season” (1992-93) makes its Blu-ray debut in a six-disc set with all 26 episodes of the penultimate season, remastered in high-definition. Fans can dive into the sixth season of the series with a brand new, three-part documentary “Beyond the Five Year Mission – The Evolution of Star Trek: The Next Generation,” featuring fascinating interviews with cast and crew. Plus, fans will enjoy never-before-released commentary on select episodes from Ronald D. Moore, James L. Conway, Jonathan West, and Mike and Denise Okuda, along with a gag reel. Includes classic episodes such as Brent Spiner’s dual performance as Data and his father Dr. Noonien Soong in “Birthright,” the critically acclaimed two-part episode “Chain of Command” (also available as a separate Blu-ray release), Riker (Jonathan Frakes) coping with a bizarre identity crisis that pits him quite literally against himself in “Second Chances,” and James Doohan reprising his Original Series role as Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott in “Relics.” $130.00 from CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount … “Star Trek: The Next Generation – Chain of Command” (1992) is a feature-length presentation of the two-part sixth season episode, making its Blu-ray debut this week. As a possible Cardassian attack looms, Captain Picard, Dr. Crusher and Worf embark on a secret mission to find and destroy suspected biological weapons, leaving the Enterprise under the leadership of the cold and demanding Captain Edward Jellico (Ronny Cox). Soon after, Picard is captured by the Cardassians and is brutally tortured for information. The crew’s dismay quickly turns to anger as Jellico’s plans exclude a rescue mission. With his options running out, Picard must fight to save his sanity and ultimately his life. $28.28 from CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount … “Unforgettable: The Second Season” (2013) is a four-disc set with all 13 episodes of the crime drama about an enigmatic former police detective (Poppy Montgomery) with a rare condition in which she cannot forget anything. $59.99 from CBS Entertainment/Paramount … In the series “Unni Lindell: The Cato Isaksen Mysteries – Set 1 and Set 2” (2013 — Norway), based on the popular crime novels by prolific Norwegian author Unni Lindell, middle-aged detective Cato Isaksen performs superbly at work while his personal life, on a good day, resembles barely-managed chaos. Careening between significant others and keeping up with three young sons by two different mothers, Cato tries his best to do right by all the players. It’s a tug between family obligations and his all-consuming job as a homicide detective for the city of Oslo. Investigations take him the length and breadth of Oslo: from the magnificent fjords and spectacular mountains surrounding the city, to the darkest backstreets of the capital. In Norwegian with English subtitles. Each three-DVD set with three episodes, $39.95 from MHz Home Entertainment.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
“Blood Ties” (2014), is a family crime thriller starring Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, Matthias Schoenaerts, Noah Emmerich, Lili Taylor, Domenick Lombardozzi, John Ventimiglia, Griffin Dunne, Jamie Hector, Yul Vazquez and James Caan. When Chris (Owen) is released from prison in 1970s Brooklyn, reluctantly waiting for him on the outside is his younger brother Frank (Crudup), a cop with an aspiring future. After trying to stay on the straight path without any success, Chris inevitably descends back into a life of crime and puts Frank in a tough predicament. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate … In “Repentance” (2014), starring Forest Whitaker, Mackie, Mike Epps, Nicole Ari Parker and Sanaa Lathan, an earnest life-coach/author, Thomas Carter (Mackie), is mysteriously abducted by a deranged client, Angel Sanchez (Whitaker), who delves into Thomas’ teachings and uses his spiritual messages of Karma — action and reaction — against him to terrorize him and his family for their past sins. From Lionsgate … In “Wolf Creek 2” (2013), starring John Jarratt, Shannon Ashlyn, Ryan Corr and Philippe Klaus, the outback once more becomes a place of horror as another unwitting tourist becomes the prey for crazed, serial-killing pig-hunter Mick Taylor. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Image Entertainment … The world of a newly engaged couple falls apart when the woman finds that her fiance’s jealousy may have lead to the mysterious disappearance of his high school sweetheart in “Deadly Revenge” (2013), starring Alicia Ziegler, Mark Hapka, Donna Mills, Constance Wu and Patrick Muldoon. From Monarch Home Entertainment … A team of conservationists sets out to explore the dense Indonesian rainforest in search of the legendary javan leopard and ends up being stalked by an unseen predator: one that has no fear of humans in “The Jungle” (2013 — Australia), starring Rupert Reid and Agoes Widjaya Soedjarwo. From Entertainment One.
On the Indie Front:
“The Odd Way Home”(2013), starring Chris Marquette and Rumer Willis, is a road picture –featuring a very odd couple — with an interesting premise that ends up degenerating into a series of cliched set pieces. Maya (Willis) hits the road in Los Angeles, hoping to break a long cycle of domestic abuse and start a new life. When her car breaks down in a middle-of-nowhere town in New Mexico, she meets Duncan (Marquette), a reclusive man with autism who is obsessed with pattern and routine and is a master of map-making and directions. Their journey through the vistas of the Southwest at first offers some enjoyable moments but as the screen fills with predictable characters and scenes, it bogs down and wanders off into the desert. Like with so many indie films, director Rajeev Nirmalakhandan just doesn’t know when to say “cut.” From Breaking Glass Pictures (release postponed from June 10) … When Fred (Stanley Tucci) arrives at the doorstep of his beautiful young mistress Velvet (Alice Eve) after four years apart, claiming to have finally left his wife, she rejects his attempts to rekindle their romance, and his persistence evolves into obsession — and a dark history between the former lovers comes into focus in director Neil LaBute’s “Some Velvet Morning” (2013), from Tribeca Film/Cinedigm … A top college basketball star — tempted by his ex-con brother to become a drug dealer — falls for his beautiful tutor … who turns out to be the sister of the drug lord who is his brother’s main rival in “Basketball Girlfriend” (2014), starring Miguel Nunez, Ernest Thomas, Nicole Alexander and Eurika Pratts. From Entertainment One.
During the Second Sino-Japanese War, China is suffering from a cholera outbreak because the Japanese are using the disease as a biological weapon. Four Chinese agents capture a Japanese scientist and his bodyguard and interrogate them by subjecting them to a fake Chinese opera in order to get the vaccine formula in the action-comedy “The Chef, the Actor and the Scoundrel” (2013 — China), starring Liu Ye, Zhang Han Yu, Huang Bo, Chie Tanaka and Liang Jing. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Well Go USA … As the Berlin Wall crumbles in 1990, Katrine, the daughter of a Norwegian woman and a WWII German occupation soldier — raised in East Germany but now living in Norway for the last 20 years — finds her idyllic life disrupted as she refuses to testify at a trial against the Norwegian state on behalf of her fellow “war children” in “Two Lives” (2014 — Germany/Norway), starring Juliane Kohler, Liv Ullmann, Sven Nordin and Ken Duken. From IFC Films.
- “American Experience: Freedom Summer” (2014): In the hot and deadly summer of 1964, the nation could not turn away from Mississippi. Over 10 memorable weeks known as Freedom Summer, more than 700 student volunteers joined with organizers and local blacks in a historic effort to shatter the foundations of white supremacy in one of the nation’s most segregated states. Working together, they canvassed for voter registration, created Freedom Schools and established the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party with the goal of challenging the segregationist state Democratic Party at the national convention in Atlantic City. Freedom Summer was marked by sustained and deadly violence, including the notorious murders of three civil rights workers, countless beatings, the burning of 35 churches and the bombing of 70 homes and community centers. The events of Freedom Summer have long been overshadowed by the more large-scale public events of the civil rights movement such as the events in Birmingham, Selma and the March on Washington. This American Experience documentary, told by the brave people who lived it, restores their story to its rightful place in America’s history. From PBS Distribution.
- “B.B. King: The Life of Riley” (2014): Much-lauded feature documentary film on the extraordinary life of the Blues legend, narrated by Morgan Freeman. King worked closely with director Jon Brewer for two years to create this powerful film. The heartfelt contributions from a plethora of music’s superstars were a vast indication that this was the time for his story to be told. At 88 years old, King, his family, friends and contemporaries unveil the true-life drama that was the springboard for the future “King of the Blues.” Battling unrelenting racism and the humiliation of segregation while working in the cotton fields as an orphaned child, King overcame the toughest critics in the entertainment industry and ultimately was hailed as one of the kingpins of the blues. The candid biopic is highlighted by rare archive footage and includes appearances and contributions from: Aaron Neville, Bill Cosby, Bill Szymczyk, Bill Wyman, Bono, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Willis, Buddy Guy, Carlos Santana, Carver Randle, Derek Trucks, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, George Benson, Joe Bonamassa, Joe Walsh, John Mayer, John Mayall, Johnny Winter, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Mick Taylor, Morgan Freeman, Paul Rodgers, Rev. David Matthews, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Wood, Slash,, Susan Tedeschi, Tina France, Walter Trout, and Wayne Cartledge. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from MVD Entertainment Group.
- “Driven: From Wheelchair to Racecar” (2014): Mike Bauer was born to be fast and lived to chase his dreams, from acting and singing to motor sports — until a tragic motorcycle accident left him paralyzed, in chronic pain, depressed, and on the verge of suicide. When he met Dr. Scott Falci, a rehabilitative neurosurgeon and an amateur race enthusiast, who recognized Mike s potential, they ventured into the uncharted territory of designing a race car with adaptive controls specifically designed for the paraplegic driver. Will climbing behind the wheel of this new race car be enough to rehabilitate his damaged psyche? Formats: DVD VOD, Digital. Extras: “The Car Build,” “Mike’s test Lap,” photo gallery, trailer. From Cinema Libre Studios.
- “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” (2014): A ferocious, funny and poignant portrait of the one-of-a-kind Broadway legend still belting out Stephen Sondheim numbers at age 87. This documentary tribute showcases the brash, uncompromising Tony and Emmy winner and cabaret star both onstage and off. The film captures the actress-singer’s immeasurable charm, acerbic wit and impressive accomplishments with candid footage and interviews with friends and collaborators, including Sondheim, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Nathan Lane, John Turturro and James Gandolfini. From IFC Films.
- “Escape From a Nazi Death Camp” (2013): Docu-drama about the insurrection at Sobibor, a Nazi death camp created solely for mass extermination. Using firsthand accounts and dramatic sequences, the film returns to Sobibor with the last remaining survivors to reveal their extraordinary story of courage, desperation and determination. From PBS Distribution.
- “Fracknation” (2013): During a time of globally heightened debate, journalist Phelim McAleer travels across the U.S. and Europe to speak with scientists and Americans living in fracking areas, in order to uncover the science behind the process and to determine its true consequences. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” refers to the process of drilling down into rock and using pressurized fluids to extract energy sources such as natural gas and petroleum. Supporters of fracking state the economic benefit to the U.S. is great and that the process has rigorous standards by which it operates. Opponents of fracking voice concerns about contamination to ground water and land surface, as well as other environmental issues. This Kickstarter funded investigation seeks the fracking truth. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia Home Entertainment.