From the Big Screen:
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Coco,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Darkest Hour,” “Just Getting Started.” For more information on other releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
This Week’s Best Bets:
Two of my favorite films are being given special treatment this week, by the folks at Disney and The Criterion Collection, respectively. From Disney comes the Signature edition of “Lady and the Tramp” (1955), which has been locked up in the Disney Vault for a couple of years. As a kid I was knocked out by the love story between Lady and the Tramp and, as Disney puts it, it’s “one of the greatest love stories ever told … sure to melt the hearts of generations with its beloved characters, brilliant animation, memorable music and sweet sentiment.” The animated treasure tells the story of Lady, a lovingly pampered cocker spaniel, and Tramp, a freewheeling mutt with a heart of gold. Through the Signature Collection edition, viewers can relive the pair’s adventures, sing along with the film’s unforgettable songs, and swoon over one of the most memorable movie moments of all time — the iconic scene in which Lady and Tramp share a plate of spaghetti and an accidental kiss. And don’t forget the nasty Siamese cats! The Walt Disney Signature Collection edition offers three ways to view the film: the original theatrical edition; a Sing-Along Mode; and “Inside Walt’s Story Meetings”: As you view the film, you can hear reenactments of Walt’s story sessions with animators and see how their ideas were realized on-screen. In a Blu-ray/DVD combo … “Tom Jones” (1963) was instrumental in teaching a whole generation of kids that sex and sleaze could be fun. In the early 1960s, at the height of the British New Wave, a movement whose gritty realism they had helped establish, director Tony Richardson and playwright John Osborne set out for more fanciful narrative territory. Tom Jones brings a theatrical flair to Henry Fielding’s canonical 18th-century novel, boisterously chronicling the misadventures of the foundling of the title (Albert Finney, in a career-defining turn), whose easy charm seems to lead him astray at every turn from his beloved, the wellborn Sophie Western (Susannah York). This spirited picaresque, evocatively shot in England’s rambling countryside and featuring an extraordinary ensemble cast, went on to become a worldwide sensation, winning the Oscar for best picture on the way to securing its status as a classic of irreverent wit and playful cinematic expression. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc with new 4K digital restorations of the original theatrical version of the film and the 1989 director’s cut, both supervised by director of photography Walter Lassally, with uncompressed monaural and stereo soundtracks on the Blu-ray.
In a more serious vein, Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment has released “Jean-Luc Godard + Jean-Pierre Gorin: Five Films, 1968-1971.” After finishing “Weekend” in 1967, Jean-Luc Godard shifted gears to embark on engaging more directly with the radical political movements of the era, and thus create a new kind of film, or, as he eventually put it: “new ideas distributed in a new way.” This new method in part involved collaborating with the precocious young critic and journalist, Jean-Pierre Gorin. Both as a two-person unit, and as part of the loose collective known as the Groupe Dziga Vertov (named after the early 20th-century Russian filmmaker and theoretician), Godard and Gorin would realize “some political possibilities for the practice of cinema” and craft new frameworks for investigating the relationships between image and sound, spectator and subject, cinema and society. Included in this six-disc set are five films, all originally shot in 16mm celluloid, that serve as examples of Godard and Gorin’s revolutionary project: “Un film comme les autres [A Film Like Any Other],” “British Sounds, aka: See You at Mao,” “Vent d’est [Wind From the East],” “Lotte in Italia/Luttes en Italie [Struggles in Italy],” “Vladimir et Rosa [Vladimir and Rosa].” In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo. Extras include “A Conversation With JLG”: Interview with Jean-Luc Godard from 2010 by Dominique Maillet and Pierre-Henri Gibert; a 100-page full-color book containing English translations for the first time of writing by, and interviews with, Godard and Gorin, and more.
From TV to Disc:
“Rebecka Martinsson” (2017) is a two-disc set with eight episodes. Ida Engvoll (“The Bridge”) stars as Rebecka Martinsson, an unconventional lawyer in Stockholm with a successful career and a handsome boyfriend. When a childhood friend suddenly dies, Rebecka returns to her remote hometown above the Arctic Circle for the funeral. Although the death had been ruled an accident, Rebecka finds evidence of murder and contacts her friend in the police force, Anna Maria Mella (Eva Melander). Together they hunt for a killer, but what they uncover might shake Rebecka to her core. With more cases to solve, and Rebecka proving herself an asset to Mella’s police team, Rebecka must decide whether to go back to her big-city life in Stockholm or stay in Kiruna and confront her past. Based on Asa Larsson’s award-winning crime novels. From Acorn Media.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
“Black Eagle” (1988) is an intriguing actioner that pits martial arts stars Jean-Claude Van Damme against Sho Kosugi. After an F-11 gets shot down over the Mediterranean Sea, the US government can’t afford to lose the top-secret laser tracking device that was on board. But unfortunately, the KGB team, lead by the infamous Andrei (Jean-Claude Van Damme), are beating the CIA in the race to find it. The CIA has no choice but to call in their best man, master martial-artist Ken Tani (Sho Kosugi, code name … BLACK EAGLE. In response, the KGB resorts to an all-out war, with powerful Andrei matching Ken blow for blow. In the original 2.0 Stereo Audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray) and Dolby Digital 5.1. Includes the 93-minute theatrical version and the 104-minute uncut extended version of the film. Co-stars Doran Clark, Bruce French, Kane Kosugi, Shane Kosugi, Dorota Puzio. Extras include “Sho Kosugi: Martial Arts Legend” (featuring new interviews with Sho Kosugi and Shane Kosugi and more); “The Making of Black Eagle” (featuring new interviews with director-producer Eric Karson, screenwriter Michael Gonzalez and stars Sho Kosugi, Doran Clark, Shane Kosugi and Dorota Puzio); “Tales of Jean-Claude Van Damme” (new interviews with cast and crew; deleted scenes; original theatrical trailer; collectible poster. From MVD Rewind … In “The Sect (aka The Devil’s Daughter” (1991 — Italy), starring Kelly Lee Curtis, Herbert Lom, Maria Angela Giordano, Michel Adatte, Carla Cassola, Angelika Maria Boeck and Tomas Arana, an American schoolteacher in Germany is terrorized by a murderous Satanic cult that is plotting to plunge the world into darkness. Miriam has been relocated to what appears to be a pleasant town in Germany. One afternoon, she accidentally hits an elderly pedestrian, Moebius with her car, prompting her to take him back to her house to recuperate. What Miriam doesn’t know is that their meeting was no accident and that Moebius is the elder of a dangerous Satanic sect. Co-produced and co-written by Dario Argento and directed by Argento protégé Michele Soavi. Remastered in 2K high definition from the original negative. From Doppelgänger Releasing/Scorpion Releasing … “Basket Case [Limited Edition Blu-ray]” (1982) was the feature debut of director Frank Henenlotter (“Brain Damage,” “Frankenhooker”), and is perhaps his most revered — a riotous and blood-spattered midnight movie experience, now immortalized in a lavish new 4K restoration by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Duane Bradley is a pretty ordinary guy. His formerly conjoined twin Belial, on the other hand, is a deformed, fleshy lump whom he carries around in a wicker basket. Arriving in the Big Apple and taking up a room at the seedy Hotel Broslin, the pair set about hunting down and butchering the surgeons responsible for their separation. But tensions flare up when Duane starts spending time with a pretty blonde secretary, and Belial’s homicidal tendencies reach bloody new extremes. Filmed on a shoestring budget against the backdrop of 1980s New York (where the movie would become a staple of the infamous 42nd Street grindhouse circuit), “Basket Case” has clawed its way from its humble origins to become one of the most celebrated cult movies of all time. On Blu-ray with 4K restoration with original uncompressed mono audio. From Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … In “Hangman” (2017), starring Al Pacino, Karl Urban and Brittany Snow, decorated homicide detective Ray Archer (Pacino) partners with criminal profiler Will Ruiney (Urban) to catch one of the city’s notoriously vicious serial killers, who is playing a twisted version of the child’s game Hangman, while journalist Christi Davies (Snow) reports on the crime spree, shadowing the detectives. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, from Lionsgate … US television staple Robert Lansing stars as a deranged surgeon in “Scalpel” (1977), a twisty-turny psychological thriller from “Blood Rage” director John Grissmer. Lansing plays Dr. Phillip Reynolds, a man whose daughter Heather (Judith Chapman) had run away from home a year prior following the suspicious death of her boyfriend. When he happens across a young woman one night, her face beaten beyond recognition, the unhinged Reynolds sees this as an opportunity to put his trusty scalpel to use — hatching a plan to “reconstruct” her face in the image of his missing daughter, and so claim her sizeable inheritance. Photographed by celebrated cinematographer Edward Lachman, who would go on to serve as DP on the likes of “Erin Brockovich” and “The Virgin Suicides,” “Scalpel” is an exemplary slice of Southern-fried gothic, finally rescued from VHS obscurity in this new Blu-ray edition from Arrow Video. On Blu-ray with new 2K restoration from original film elements, with original uncompressed mono audio. From Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … “Gate II” (1990) makes its Blu-ray debut this week. The horror thriller, which stars Louis Tripp, Pamela Segall, Simon Reynolds and James Villemaire, picks up again with Terry, the teenage sorcerer who summons beings from the other side and whose powers can be used to grant any wish. Unfortunately, before the Gate closes again, a “minion” — a tiny disciple of Satan himself — manages to slip through to our dimension. When the creature is kidnapped — all hell breaks loose. In a new 2K scan of the interpositive. From Scream Factory.
On the Indie Front:
In “Chokeslam” (2016), starring Mick Foley, Chris Marquette, Amada Crew, Michael Eklind and Niall Matter, a mild-mannered deli clerk finally gets a second chance to pursue his high school sweetheart, a notorious female professional wrestler, when she returns for their 10-year reunion. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, from MVD Entertainment … In “Let There Be Light” (2016) Sol Harkens, the world’s most famous atheist, is a lonely soul and a lousy part-time dad. After a near death experience challenges his simplest assumptions about the world, Sol finds his purpose and re-imagines his life. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, from Cinedigm.
For the Family:
In the animated “Hedgehogs” (2017), with the voices of Jen McAllister, Anthony Padilla, Ian Hecox, Jon Heder and Chevy Chase, a mischievous hedgehog named Bobby leaves his wilderness home and joins Hubert, a featherbrained pigeon, on a wild and unpredictable journey. They make their way to the big city, where stressed-out humans are losing their minds, and Bobby and Hubert must calm the nervous citizens by being their cute, cuddly selves. From Lionsgate.
“Copyright Criminials: The Funky Drummer Edition” (2017) examines the creative and commercial value of musical sampling, including the related debates over artistic expression, copyright law, and (of course) money. From director Benjamin Franzen, this acclaimed doc, which originally aired on PBS’ “Independent Lens,” traces the rise of hip-hop from the urban streets of New York to its current status as a multibillion-dollar industry. For more than 30 years, innovative hip-hop performers and producers have been re-using portions of previously recorded music in new, otherwise original compositions. When lawyers and record companies got involved, what was once referred to as a “borrowed melody” became a “copyright infringement.” Showcasing many of hip-hop music’s founding figures like Public Enemy, De La Soul, and Digital Underground — while also featuring emerging hip-hop artists from record labels Definitive Jux, Rhymesayers, Ninja Tune, and more, the film also provides an in-depth look at artists who have been sampled, such as Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown’s drummer and the world’s most sampled musician), as well as commentary by another highly sampled musician, funk legend George Clinton. The two-disc DVD also features “The Art of Sampling With Cee-Lo Green” featurette; “The Funky Drummer in the Studio with Chuck D” featurette; “Eclectic Method Uncut Audio-Visual Remixes (15 Videos); “Fair Use Explained: Four Featurettes by the Center for Social Media”; extended interviews with Chuck D, De La Soul, and Clyde Stubblefield; “Music Player Featuring 15+ Songs from Copyright Criminals Soundtrack” by El-P and RJD2; “Clyde Stubblefield’s Ultimate Breaks and Beats” (Hi-Res WAV files); “Copyright Criminals All Star Band Funky Drummer” remix video; “Copyright Criminals All Star Band Megamix” video. From Indipix … “Polluting Paradise” (2012 — Germany), from acclaimed filmmaker Fatih Akin (“The Edge of Heaven,” “Head-On,” “In the Fade”), is a powerful environmental documentary — an official selection at Cannes Film Festival — which chronicles the struggle of villagers in Turkey’s Black Sea village of Camburnu with the government’s decision to turn their community into a garbage dump. From Strand Releasing.
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.