From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets:
Women come to the fore in this week’s pair of offerings from The Criterion Collection:
Melodrama casts noirish shadows in “Mildred Pierce” (1945), a portrait of maternal sacrifice from the Hollywood master Michael Curtiz. Its iconic performance by Joan Crawford as Mildred, a single mother hell-bent on freeing her children from the stigma of economic hardship, solidified Crawford’s career comeback and gave the actor her only Oscar. But as Mildred pulls herself up by the bootstraps, first as an unflappable waitress and eventually as the well-heeled owner of a successful restaurant chain, the ingratitude of her materialistic firstborn (a diabolical Ann Blyth) becomes a venomous serpent’s tooth, setting in motion an endless cycle of desperate overtures and heartless recriminations. Recasting James M. Cain’s rich psychological novel as a murder mystery, this bitter cocktail of blind parental love and all-American ambition is both unremittingly hard-boiled and sumptuously emotional. On DVD and Blu-ray, in a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray … Pedro Almodóvar makes telephones, a mambo taxi, and a burning mattress into delirious plot points and indelible images in his international breakthrough, “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (1988). Melding melodrama with screwball farce, this Academy Award–nominated black comedy secured the auteur’s place at the vanguard of modern Spanish cinema. Continuing Almodóvar’s exploration of the female psyche, the film tells the story of Pepa, an actor — played by the director’s frequent collaborator Carmen Maura — who resolves to kill herself with a batch of sleeping-pill-laced gazpacho after her lover leaves her. Fortunately, she is interrupted by a string of visitors, setting in motion a deliciously chaotic series of events. The filmmaker channeled inspiration by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Douglas Sirk into his own unique vision, arriving at the irreverent sense of humor and vibrant visual sense that define his work today. With a sensational ensemble cast of early Almodóvar regulars that also includes Antonio Banderas and Rossy de Palma, this film shows an artist in total control of his craft. On DVD and Blu-ray, in a new high-definition digital restoration, supervised by director Pedro Almodóvar and producer Agustín Almodóvar, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray.
From TV to DVD:
“Grace and Frankie: Season 2” (2016) is a three-disc set with 13 episodes. After learning their ex-husbands plan to marry one another, lifelong rivals Grace and Frankie have bonded in an uneasy friendship. The second season of this acclaimed comedy series has Grace and Frankie tackling the challenges of family and relationships — while driving each other crazy on a regular basis. Stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen. From Lionsgate … “The Level” (2016) is a two-disc set with all six episodes of the Acorn TV Original detective thriller series. Detective Sergeant Nancy Devlin is a good cop with a dark secret: she’s loyal to drug trafficker Frank Le Saux, who is like a father to her. But when their clandestine meeting turns violent, leaving Frank dead and Nancy with a bullet wound, Nancy fears her double life may soon be exposed. Assigned to Brighton to investigate the crime, Nancy must track down Frank’s killer while concealing her role — and her injury — from her enigmatic new partner, DS Gunner Martin, and her old friend, DS Kevin O’Dowd. Can Nancy stay one step ahead of her colleagues — and the real killer? On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Acorn Media.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
“Psychomania (aka The Death Wheelers)” (1973) is a tale of zombie bikers who run amok in southern England. The Living Dead are a delinquent biker gang, fond of causing havoc on British roadways and making out in graveyards. Gang leader Tom (Nicky Henson) also has a Satanist for a mother, and when he discovers the secret of immortality, the name of his motley crew takes on a more literal meaning. Directed by Hammer veteran Don Sharp (“The Kiss of the Vampire”) and co-starring Beryl Reid (“Dr. Phibes Rises Again”) and George Sanders (“Village of the Damned”), “Psychomania” is a wonderfully offbeat gem, outlandish and eccentric in equal measure. 2K restoration from … “Joe Bullet” (1973 – South Africa) is an all-African cast “Blaxploitation” film originally banned by the apartheid government. A local soccer team, the Eagles, is just a week from the championship final when it falls prey to the deadly demands of a mysterious gangster. Desperate, the team implores the one man who can help them fight this underworld corruption, the James Bond-esque Joe Bullet (Ken Gampu). To help the Eagles, Bullet goes up against everything from hired assassins to exploding booby traps. Fully restored from the original 35mm assets. From The Film Detective … In “Fatal Instinct” (2014), starring Ivan Sergei, Masiela Lusha and Dominique Swain, a police detective follows a trail of evidence in search of a serial killer in Los Angeles that eventually seems to lead to his trusted partner’s ex-con brother — who he helped put in prison years ago. From Monarch … In “Heaven Sent” (2016), starring Christian Kane, Marley Shelton, Mallory James Mahoney and Ernie Hudson, a young couple, on the eve of their painful divorce, receive a surprising houseguest — an 8-year-old runaway from Heaven. Cleverly guided by Divine intervention, she helps them rediscover their hope and faith in the power of love. Lifetime network faith-based family film. From Lionsgate … When an American woman takes an impromptu journey to Mumbai to get away from her overbearing mother, she befriends an Indian woman striving to balance her family’s culture with modern-day demands in “Tie the Knot” (2016), starring Parvesh Cheena, Tara Reid, Karishma Ahluwalia and Omi Vaidya. From Monarch.
On the Indie Front:
“The King of New Orleans” (2017), starring David Jensen and Richard Brien, is a slice-of-life drama following one genial cabbie’s experiences in one of the world’s most colorful cities. Larry Shirt (Jensen) is a United Cab driver whose passengers are the city’s hustlers, tourists, socialites, musicians, housekeepers, weirdos and reporters. Bobby Cohn (Brien), a Harvard student home from school and in the middle of a personal crisis, is one of those passengers. The circumstances that bring them together lead to a bond that is ultimately turned upside down by Hurricane Katrina, but instilled by the love of the city that they both call home. From Candy Factory Films … In “Fare” (2017), a ride-share driver finds himself transporting the man who is secretly sleeping with his wife. The movie was shot entirely inside a moving car, in just three days. Written by, directed and starring Thomas Torrey. From Random Media … In “The Great & the Small” (2016), starring Nick Fink, Ritchie Coster, Melanie Lynskey, Louisa Krause and Ann Dowd, 26-year-old Scott is living on the streets and trying to find his way back into society while on probation for petty crimes. He attempts to navigate his relationship with his two-bit criminal of a boss and an enigmatic detective, while at the same time winning back the heart of his ex-girlfriend, a working single mom. From Breaking Glass Pictures.
“3 Classic Films by Claude Chabrol” is the Blu-ray debut of a collection of films by Chabrol, one of the most prolific and widely respected of French film directors. As one of the prime instigators of the French New Wave, Chabrol directed lean narrative films whose keenly observed realism typically drew inspiration from the suspense film and psychological thriller. The films: “Betty” (1992), “Torment (L’enfer)” (1994) and “The Swindle” (1997). From Cohen Film Collection.
“Blood on the Mountain” (2016) is a shocking in-depth investigation of the coal mining industry that showcases the haunting and long term devastating impacts of coal mining on people and the planet. Shedding light on the economic and environmental injustices that have resulted from industrial control in West Virginia, the documentary examines the harsh conditions of the coal industry and the haunting effects on the American workers. Over the course of many years, the coal industry has transformed and impacted the development of coal. The need and appetite for coal and labor has placed a massive burden on many people including the workers and the land of Appalachia. The film delivers a striking portrait of a fractured population, exploited and besieged by corporate interests, and abandoned by the powers elected to represent them. This documentary details the struggles of a hard-working, misunderstood people, who have historically faced limited choices and have never benefited fairly from the rich, natural resources of their land. From Virgil Films … After traveling the world alongside migrating birds (“Winged Migration”) and diving the oceans with whales and manta rays (“Oceans”), filmmaker Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud return to more familiar ground in “Seasons” (2016): the lush green forests and megafauna that emerged across Europe following the last Ice Age. Following a winter that had gone on for 80,000 years, the ice retreated, the landscape metamorphosed, a cycle of seasons was established, and the beasts occupied their new kingdom. It was only later that man arrived to share this habitat, first tentatively as migratory hunter/gatherers, then as settled agriculturalists, and later via industry and warfare. Filled with exceptional footage of a variety of animals in the wild, “Seasons” offers an awe-inspiring and thought-provoking tale of the long and tumultuous shared history that inextricably binds humankind with the natural world. From Music Box Films.