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.