From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets:
This week kicks off with two offbeat Westerns on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics:
“Day of the Outlaw” (1959), directed by Andre De Toth and starring Robert Ryan, Burl Ives, Tina Louise, Nehemiah Persoff, Elisha Cook Jr., Venetia Stevenson, David Nelson, Jack Lambert, Frank DeKova, Lance Fuller and Dabbs Greer. Screen legend Robert Ryan stars alongside Burl Ives and Tina Louise in this bleak and wintry western from cult director André De Toth. Tough-as-nails Blaise Starrett (Ryan) is about to face a showdown with a fellow rancher — whose wife is the object of Starrett’s love. But this small-town conflict is nothing compared to what’s on the horizon when outlaw Jack Bruhn (Ives) and his vicious gang ride into town. On the lam after a brutal robbery, the outlaws terrorize the townspeople and hold them captive, even as Bruhn lies dying from a bullet wound to his chest. When Starrett eventually leads the homesteaders on a trail out of harm’s way, the tension explodes to an unforgettable climax … “Man Without a Star” (1955), directed by King Vidor and starring Kirk Douglas, Jeanne Crain, Claire Trevor, Richard Boone, William Campbell, Jay C. Flippen, Mara Corday, Eddy Waller, Sheb Wooley and George Wallace. Screen legend Kirk Douglas stars in this exciting King Vidor (“Duel in the Sun”) Western about a rugged loner who becomes caught up in a bloody range war when he falls in love with two beautiful women. Dempsey Rae (Douglas) is a wandering cowboy who doesn’t like the fact that his open spaces are being fenced in by greedy ranchers and decides to help a town fight back against ranch owner Reed Bowman (Crain) after he meets the town’s sexy madam (Trevor). Loved by Western buffs for its offbeat humor and Douglas’s witty performance … The long unavailable “Skateboard” (1978), stars Allen Garfield, Kathleen Lloyd, Gordon Jump, Leif Garrett and Craig Chaquico. A sleazy Hollywood agent (Garfield) with gambling debts has to come up with cash fast. He organizes a team of exceptionally talented skateboarders to enter them in a major skateboarding competition, in spite of opposition from a dangerous gangster. If they win, they get $20,000 and the bookie leaves him alone. Making up the team are a collection of skilled skateboarders including teen star Leif Garrett, who did all his own stunts on this, plus a number of boarders from the famous Z-Boys skate crew, including Tony Alva. The footage includes highlights cutting edge tricks, ramps and barrel jumping, all supplying the inspiration to the young folks of the day for what they would have liked to fill up their time doing as the skateboard craze really took hold. On DVD from Liberation Hall … “The Vanishing Shadow” (1934) is a classic cliffhanger from Universal Pictures that has never had an official video release on any format, now available for the first time on Blu-ray and produced from the original studio film elements. A 12-episode serial in which a son avenges the death of his father at the hands of corrupt politicians. He develops a wide variety of complex devices in his crusade … ray guns, robots and a “vanishing belt.” Note: The serial features what is believed to be the first appearance of a hand held ray gun in film. On Blu-ray from VCI Entertainment … Abbas Kiarostami first came to international attention for this wondrous, slyly self-referential series of films set in the rural northern-Iranian town of Koker. Poised delicately between fiction and documentary, comedy and tragedy, the lyrical fables in “The Koker Trilogy” exemplify both the gentle humanism and playful sleight of hand that define the director’s sensibility. With each successive film, Kiarostami takes us deeper into the behind-the-scenes “reality” of the film that preceded it, heightening our understanding of the complex network of human relationships that sustain both a movie set and a village. The result is a gradual outward zoom that reveals the cosmic majesty and mystery of ordinary life. “Where Is the Friend’s House?” (1987): The first film in Abbas Kiarostami’s sublime, interlacing Koker Trilogy takes a simple premise — a boy searches for the home of his classmate, whose school notebook he has accidentally taken-and transforms it into a miraculous, child’s-eye adventure of the everyday. As our young hero zigzags determinedly across two towns, aided (and sometimes misdirected) by those he encounters, his quest becomes both a revealing portrait of rural Iranian society in all its richness and complexity and a touching parable about the meaning of personal responsibility. Sensitive and profound, Where Is the Friend’s House? is shot through with all the beauty, tension, and wonder a single day can contain. “And Life Goes On” (1992): In the aftermath of a 1990 earthquake that left at least thirty thousand dead, Abbas Kiarostami returned to Koker, where his camera surveys not only devastation but also the teeming life in its wake. Blending fiction and reality into a playful, poignant road movie, “And Life Goes On” follows a film director who, along with his son, makes the trek to the region in hopes of finding out if the young star of “Where Is the Friend’s House?” is among the survivors, and discovers a resilient community pressing on in the face of tragedy. Finding beauty in the bleakest of circumstances, Kiarostami crafts a quietly majestic ode to the best of the human spirit. “Through the Olive Trees” (1994): Abbas Kiarostami takes meta-narrative gamesmanship to masterful new heights in the final installment of The Koker Trilogy. Unfolding “behind the scenes” of “And Life Goes On,” this film traces the complications that arise when the romantic misfortune of one of the actors — a young man who pines for the woman cast as his wife, even though, in real life, she will have nothing to do with him — creates turmoil on set and leaves the hapless director caught in the middle. An ineffably lovely, gentle human comedy steeped in the folkways of Iranian village life, “Through the Olive Trees” peels away layer after layer of artifice as it investigates the elusive, alchemical relationship between cinema and reality. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc with new 2K digital restorations of all three films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays. From The Criterion Collection … “The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice” (1952 — Japan) is one of the ineffably lovely domestic sagas made by Yasujiro Ozu at the height of his mastery that is a subtly piercing portrait of a marriage coming quietly undone. Secrets and deceptions strain the already tenuous relationship of a childless, middle-aged couple, as the wife’s city-bred sophistication bumps up against the husband’s small-town simplicity, and a generational sea change — in the form of their headstrong, modern niece — sweeps over their household. The director’s abiding concern with family dynamics receives one of its most spirited treatments, with a wry, tender humor and buoyant expansiveness that moves the action from the home into the baseball stadiums, pachinko parlors, and ramen shops of postwar Tokyo. On DVD and Blu-ray with New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection.
From TV to Disc:
“The Flash: The Complete Fifth Season” (2018-19) contains all 22 episodes. Shortly after defeating The Thinker, Barry Allen/The Flash and his wife, Iris, were stunned by the arrival of their already grown, speedster daughter from the future, Nora (Jessica Parker Kennedy). However, acclimating to their lives as parents won’t be the only challenge they face, as Season Five pits Team Flash against Central City’s latest scourge – the DC Super-Villain Cicada (Chris Klein). In five-disc DVD, four-disc Blu-ray sets from Warner … “NCIS: Los Angeles: The Tenth Season” (2018) is a six-disc set with all 24 episodes of one of the most-watched television series, averaging over 9 million viewers per week, about a team of special agents apprehending criminals that threaten the nation’s security. Leading the team are Special Agents “G” Callen (Chris O’Donnell), a chameleon-who -transforms-himself–into whomever -he needs to be to infiltrate the criminal underworld, and his partner Sam Hanna (LL COOL), a former U.S. Navy SEAL who has seen action in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Armed with the latest in high-tech gear and sent regularly into life-threatening situations, their tight-knit unit relies on each other to do what is necessary to protect national interests. From CBS/Paramount … “Straight Forward” (2019) is a two-disc set with eight episodes of the Danish/New Zealand crime drama. When her father is murdered in cold blood, Danish con-woman Sylvia Petersen (Cecilie Stenspil) has her life turned upside down. Reeling from his death, she plots revenge on crime kingpin Ravn (Mark Mitchinson). But when the job goes haywire, Sylvia is forced to flee, leaving her mother and daughter behind. A master of disguise and deception, Sylvia holes up in picturesque New Zealand, where she befriends a local café owner and his handsome son (Matthew Walker). But with Ravn and his henchmen targeting her loved ones back in Copenhagen, Sylvia’s hideout is as much a prison as a refuge. Can she save her family from the other side of the world? From Acorn Media.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
In “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” (2018), starring Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Danny Glover, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan and Mike Epps, Jimmie enlists his best friend Mont to help reclaim the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco, and they begin a search for belonging in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind. A wistful odyssey populated by skaters, squatters, street preachers, playwrights, and other locals on the margins. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate … In “Ladyworld” (2018), a first film from director Amanda Kramer and starring Ariela Barer, Annalise Basso, Ryan Simpkins, Odessa Adlon, Maya Hawke, Tatsumi Romano, Zoe Casbere and Atheena Frizzel, eight teenage girls become trapped in an endless birthday party after a massive (imaginary?) earthquake. The girls’ sanity and psyches dissolve as they run out of food and water. Eventually, they regress to their baser instincts, exploiting each other’s fears and insecurities. From Cleopatra Entertainment … One banana, two banana, three banana, GORE! The cult-favorite animal rock-band from Hanna-Barbera’s 1968 “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour” variety program is back with a blood-spattered vengeance when it offers a new take on the classic characters in “The Banana Splits Movie” (2019). The film follows a boy named Harley and his family as they go to a taping of “The Banana Splits” TV show, which is supposed to be a fun-filled birthday for young Harley. But things take an unexpected turn — and the body count quickly rises. Can Harley, his mom and their new pals safely escape? Stars Dani Kind as Beth, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong as Harley, Romeo Carere as Austin, Steve Lund as Mitch, and Sara Canning as Rebecca. The beloved Bingo, Fleegle, Snorky and Drooper are voiced by Eric Bauza. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Warner … What happens when a bunch of precocious kids get their hands on an atomic chemistry set? In “Child’s Play” (1954), starring Christopher Beeny, Ernest Scott, Patrick Wells, Mona Washbourne, Peter Martyn and Dorothy Alison they manage to split the atom and thereby create a new form of popcorn, of course. Mischief soon follows when their little enterprise goes global, despite the interference of a suspicious local detective in this family-friendly adventure from the U.K. From Juno Selects … Tensions mount at “Killers Anonymous” (2019), a support group for killers, as the members of the group try to unravel a mystery: Which one of them is responsible for the assassination attempt on a U.S. senator that has the police in the city on high alert? Stars Gary Oldman, Jessica Alba, Tommy Flanagan, Rhyon Nicole Brown and Suki Waterhouse. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate … In “Miss Arizona” (2018), starring Johanna Braddy, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Steve Guttenberg and Missi Pyle, Rose Raynes (Braddy) was crowned Miss Arizona — 15 years ago. Now a bored housewife trapped in a less-than-ideal marriage, she accepts an invitation to teach a life skills class at a women’s shelter. Digging out the relics of her pageant queen past, Rose attempts to share her platform speech with a room of four disinterested women dodging abusive exes. But when trouble shows up at the shelter, what the women really need is for Rose’s shiny SUV to keep them out of harm’s way, so they embark on a wild, all-night adventure through the streets of LA. All-woman soundtrack features hits by P!nk, Lorde, Shania Twain, Donna Summer, MILCK and Kacey Musgraves. From Cinedigm.
In “Ecstasy (aka A Thought of Ecstasy)” (2019 — Germany), starring Rolf Peter Kahl, Ava Verne, Lena Morris and Deborah Kara Unger, a kiss begins the hottest day on record in the US – and Frank embarks on a journey into the desert in search of a lost love after a recently published book triggers memories from 20 years past. Wandering a land paralyzed by heat and lost in suspicion and paranoia, like a mirage, illusion and truth blur together. Just as desire can create new realities, delusion can change truth in this sultry road trip into seduction. From Strand Releasing … In “Pixelia” (2018 — India), Kumar (Sanal Aman), a 30-year-old bachelor, leaves his corporate job in Kochi to pursue his dreams as an artist, and he embarks on a new life as an Uber driver while working on an original graphic novel titled “Pixelia”. One day, Mandakini (Gowri Savithri), a transgender woman, gets into his cab and changes Kumar’s life forever; they spend the whole day together, opening each other’s minds: Mandakini shares her desire to adopt a child, while Kumar narrates the story of his graphic novel. After a special bond quickly forms, Kumar realizes his own queer identity, and the couple start to make their way in a culture that is not always friendly to alternative ways of life. With a stylized blend of documentary and magical realism, and deriving inspirations from comic books and pop culture, the film speaks to the fragmentation of daily life. From IndiPix Films … The awe-inspiring “Vai” (2019 — New Zealand) is a film about female empowerment, telling the story of one woman’s life in eight separate moments from the perspective of eight different Pacific Island cultures. Beautifully shot, celebratory and epic, at times heartbreaking and uplifting, the film is a seamless portmanteau film directed by eight female Pacific directors, and starring eight actresses each playing the title role. The film was shot in such breathtaking locales as Fiji, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Kuki Airani (the Cook Islands), Samoa, Niue and Aotearoa (New Zealand). From MPI Media Group.
All DVDs and Blu-rays are screened on a reference system consisting of an Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player w/SACD & DVD-Audio, a Rotel RSX-972 Surround Sound Receiver, and Phase Technology 1.1 (front), 33.1 (center), and 50 (rear) speakers, and Power 10 subwoofer.