From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Highlights:
Due this week from The Criterion Collection is one of the greatest films of all time, the Stanley Kubrick classic that helped launch the new American Cinema of the 1960s by seamlessly mixing satire, sex, violence, drama and irony in one delightful package: “Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964). Kubrick’s painfully funny take on Cold War anxiety is without a doubt one of the fiercest satires of human folly ever to come out of Hollywood. The matchless shape-shifter Peter Sellers plays three wildly different roles: Air Force Captain Lionel Mandrake, timidly trying to stop a nuclear attack on the USSR ordered by an unbalanced general (Sterling Hayden); the ineffectual and perpetually dumbfounded President Merkin Muffley, who must deliver the very bad news to the Soviet premier; and the titular Strangelove himself, a wheelchair-bound presidential adviser with a Nazi past. Finding improbable hilarity in nearly every unimaginable scenario, “Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” is a genuinely subversive masterpiece that officially announced Kubrick as an unparalleled stylist and pitch-black ironist. Co-stars George C. Scott, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, Peter Bull, James Earl Jones, Tracy Reed. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, in a restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. The release is packed with plenty of extras, including new interviews with Stanley Kubrick scholars Mick Broderick and Rodney Hill, archivist Richard Daniels, cinematographer and camera innovator Joe Dunton, camera operator Kelvin Pike,and David George, son of Peter George, on whose novel “Red Alert” the film is based; excerpts from a 1965 audio interview with Kubrick, conducted by Jeremy Bernstein; four short documentaries from 2000, about the making of the film, the sociopolitical climate of the period, the work of actor Peter Sellers, and the artistry of Kubrick; interviews from 1963 with Sellers and actor George C. Scott; excerpt from a 1980 interview with Sellers from NBC’s “Today” show; and a 1962 article by screenwriter Terry Southern on the making of the film.
Criterion will also release this week “Clouds of Sils Maria” (2014 — France, Germany, Switzerland), a multilayered, immensely entertaining drama from the great contemporary French director Olivier Assayas. The always extraordinary Juliette Binoche is stirring as Maria, a stage and screen icon who is being courted to star in a new production of the play that made her famous — only this time she must assume the role of the older woman. Kristen Stewart matches her punch for punch as her beleaguered assistant, called upon to provide support both professional and emotional for her mercurial boss. And Chloë Grace Moretz is Maria’s arrogant new castmate, a starlet waiting in the wings. An amorphous, soul-searching tale, filled with ethereal images of its Swiss Alps setting, “Clouds of Sils Maria” brilliantly dramatizes one woman’s reckoning with herself and the world. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc in a new 2K digital master, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray.
“Francofoniad” (2015 — France/Germany/Netherlands) is a spectacularly designed and implemented film that presents a portrait of the real-life events that saved Paris’s Louvre Museum during the Nazi Occupation in World War II, while also offering a powerfully relevant mediation on art, power, history and virtue — and humankind’s place among them. It’s both an historical documentary and a stylized drama — a work that takes the form of an extended cinematic essay as it blends fictionalized re-enactments of past events with excursions into scholarship and fantasy. Set against the backdrop of the Louvre Museum’s history and artworks, acclaimed Russian director Alexander Sokurov (“Russian Ark,” “Alexandra”) applies his uniquely personal vision to staged re-enactments and archival research for a fascinating portrait of real-life characters Jacques Jaujard (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), director of the Louvre in the 1930s and 40s, and Count Franz Wolff-Metternich (Benjamin Utzerath), Hitler’s designated connoisseur and conservator of French art. Though many of the Louvre’s great paintings had been hidden in chateaus in the countryside, Jaujard and Wolff-Metternich — enemies and then collaborators — worked to keep the museum open during the occupation and to protect its collection. The negotiations between Jaujard and Wolff-Metternich are interspersed with both Sokurov’s reflections on art and history and a twilight tour of the museum’s galleries. The guides on the tour are Marianne (Johanna Korthals), the symbol of liberty, equality and fraternity in Republican France, and Napoleon Bonaparte (Vincent Nemeth), the embodiment of the nation’s imperial ambitions. Together, they represent the notion of French universalism while proposing that the Louvre is a living example of civilization. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Music Box Films.
From TV to DVD:
Murder, betrayal, office politics, temptation are all in a day’s work for Detective Salvo Montalbano who, with intuition and a cadre of police officers, solves crimes in the fictional small city of Vigata in “Detective Montalbano: Episodes 27 & 28” (2016). The work brings him across the paths of unforgettable characters who could only come from Sicily; he also wages a personal war with his own demons, which fight against his professional ideals and personal commitment to beautiful long-distance girlfriend, Livia. Yet there’s always time to indulge a long-standing flirtation with his ultimate temptress, Italian cuisine. Three-disc set with two feature-length episodes from MHz Home Entertainment … “Two Guys and a Girl: The Complete Series” (1998-2001) is an 11-disc set with all 81 episodes from the four seasons of the series about three twentysomethings share a Boston apartment and hang around (and work) at a pizza place. Stars Ryan Reynolds, Traylor Howard, Richard Ruccolo, Nathan Fillion, Jennifer Westfeldt, Suzanne Crye, Jillian Bach. Includes the series’ alternate finale. From Shout! Factory … Award-winning actress Brenda Blethyn stars as Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope in “Vera, Set 6 “ (2015), the fan-favorite mystery series inspired by the novels of Ann Cleeves. Amidst the sweeping landscapes of rural Northumberland, Vera and her assistant, Detective Sergeant Aiden Healy (Kenny Doughty), confront brutal crimes that challenge even Vera’s genius for solving cases. This season Vera and Aiden investigate the deaths of a woman found on the moors, a young man who worked at a traveling fairground, a fisherman pulled from the sea, and a mysterious double murder. Four-disc set with four episodes. From Acorn Media … “The Young Montalbano: Episodes 7-9 and The Young Montalbano: Episodes 10-12” (2015) is the prequel series to “Detective Montalbano,” featuring the genesis of the friendships, the rivalries and the romances set in the beautiful Sicilian town of Vigata. Each three-disc set contains three episodes. From MHz Home Entertainment.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
“Return of the Killer Tomatoes”: The killer tomatoes are back! But this time around, they’re going to have to contend with late 80s George Clooney and his wicked mullet. Ten years on from the Great Tomato War, mankind lives in fear of another uprising by the waxy red menace. Meanwhile, professor Gangreen — played with gusto by John Astin from TV’s “The Addams Family” — sets out to pursue his own evil ends by creating a burgeoning army of tomato militia men (who, somewhat conveniently, look just like regular men). Following on from the 1978 cult classic Attack of the “Killer Tomatoes,” “Return of the Killer Tomatoes” came armed with a healthy sense of its own ridiculousness and would expand upon a franchise that now comprises four films, two TV series and a video game. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … In “Precious Cargo” (2016), starring Bruce Willis, Claire Forlani and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, afer a botched heist, thieves and ex-lovers Jack and Karen (Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Claire Forlani) are targeted by Eddie (Bruce Willis), a murderous crime boss. To escape with their lives, Jack and Karen must steal a cargo of precious gems. But when that job goes down, allegiances are betrayed and lines are crossed as Jack, Karen, and Eddie face off in a fateful showdown. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray Disc. From Lionsgate.
There’s three original, offbeat films due this week. “Rams”
(2015 — Iceland): In a remote Icelandic farming valley, two brothers who haven’t spoken in 40 years have to come together in order to save what’s dearest to them — their sheep. In a secluded valley, Gummi and Kiddi live side by side, tending to their sheep. Their ancestral sheep-stock is considered one of the country’s best and the two brothers are repeatedly awarded for their prized rams who carry an ancient lineage. Although they share the land and a way of life, Gummi and Kiddi have not spoken to each other in four decades. When a lethal disease suddenly infects Kiddi’s sheep, the entire valley comes under threat, and when the authorities decide to cull all the animals in the area to contain the outbreak, each brother tries to stave off the disaster in his own fashion: Kiddi by using his rifle and Gummi by using his wits. As the authorities close in the brothers will need to come together to save the special breed passed down for generations, and themselves, from extinction. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Cohen Media Group … “Cemetery of Splendor” (2015 — Thailand): Soldiers with a mysterious sleeping sickness are transferred to a temporary clinic in a former school where the memory-filled space becomes a revelatory world for housewife and volunteer Jenjira, as she watches over Itt, a handsome soldier with no family visitors. Jen befriends young medium Keng who uses her psychic powers to help loved ones communicate with the comatose men. Doctors explore ways, including colored light therapy, to ease the mens’ troubled dreams. Jen discovers Itt’s cryptic notebook of strange writings and blueprint sketches. There may be a connection between the soldiers’ enigmatic syndrome and the mythic ancient site that lies beneath the clinic. Magic, healing, romance and dreams are all part of Jen’s path to a deeper awareness of herself and the world around her. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Strand Releasing … “Gorilla Bathes at Noon” (1993 — Germany): et in Berlin, the film follows the wanderings of a Russian army officer left behind by his unit, after the collapse of The Wall. With nowhere to stay and nothing to do, he wanders around town in his major’s uniform, scrounging food and making acquaintances along the way. Writer-director Dusan Makavejev (“Sweet Movie,” “WR: Mysteries of the Organism,” “Montenegro,” “The Coca-Cola Kid”) interweaves surreal vignettes with documentary scenes to whimsy effect. Makavejev began work on “Gorilla Bathes at Noon” in October 1991 as a response to East German communist leader Erich Honecker’s claim that The Berlin Wall would stay as it is for 50 or even a hundred years. Ultimately, “Gorilla Bathes at Noon” examines the Soviet Union’s collapse through the absurd misadventures of this Russian soldier. Unconventional, brilliant and playful, the film won the Critic’s Prize at the 1993 Berlin Film Festival. The Serbian filmmaker, who rose to cinematic fame in Communist Yugoslavia in the sixties and early seventies, believed in breaking all the rules. Through collage and juxtaposition, Buñuelian absurdity and sexual confrontation, Makavejev freed narrative cinema from all oppressive norms. Influenced as much by Mickey Mouse cartoons and Laurel and Hardy as he was by Russian silent films and 1930s British documentaries, Makavejev constructed unpredictable, genre-defying works that opposed the bureaucracy and dogmatic teachings of the socialist state. “Man Is Not a Bird” (1965), his startling debut, sets a fictional character drama in a real mining complex, and is filmed with gritty realism. His subsequent films are fiction-documentary hybrids as well, and include” Love Affair, or The Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator” (1967); the whimsical found-footage farce “Innocence Unprotected” (1968); and the astonishing “WR: Mysteries of the Organism” (1971), his international breakthrough, which ultimately resulted in his indictment for being a “dissident Marxist” and his 1973 exile from his home country.From Facets … “Margarita With a Straw” (2014 — India): Indian writer-director Shonali Bose (director of the internationally renowned film “Amu”) beautifully portrays the story of a luminous Indian teenager with cerebral palsy who leaves her homeland to study in New York, falls in love with a young blind woman, and begins a remarkable journey to self-discovery and independence. Bose was inspired to write this humane story by her cousin’s experience with cerebral palsy. From Wolfe Video.
For the Family:
“Adventures in Babysitting” (2015), starring Sabrina Carpenter, Sofia Carson, Nikki Hahn, Mallory James Mahoney, Max Gecowets, Jet Jurgensmeyer, Madison Horcher, is the 100th Disney Channel Original Movie. It’s the re-imagined tale of the popular 1980s film of the same name.From Disney … “LEGO Friends: Always Together” (2016) features three 22-minute episodes of the popular Disney Channel series that follows best friends Andrea, Stephanie, Olivia, Emma and Mia through a diverse array of expeditions in their hometown of Heartlake City. From entering a talent contest, to going camping — and even assisting in running a hotel — the girls combine their eclectic skill sets and unique interests to seize the day. In each adventure, they’re faced with adversity but quickly learn that anything is possible when you work together. From Warner.
“Elstree 1976” (2016) is a documentary that explores the lives of the actors and extras behind one of the most celebrated science fiction films in cinematic history, “Star Wars.” From the man behind film’s most iconic villain, to the actor whose character was completely cut from the final film, the documentary delves into the eccentric community these individuals have formed and how the “Star Wars” franchise — which spans five decades — continues to impact their lives decades later. Many of the minor characters were merely part of the set design, but eventually gained recognition as the “Star Wars” universe expanded into books, comics, etc. Fans learned the history of masked characters like Boba Fett and Greedo, but the sci-fi blockbuster also had a lasting impact on the people inside the costumes. Not all of the interviewees had minor roles in the series however. For example, David Prowse, whose six-foot-eight bulk filled out Darth Vader’s suit and provided the menacing movements of film’s most iconic villain, wouldn’t be recognized on the street by all but the most ardent “Star Wars” fans. In the final cut of the movie, his face and voice were replaced by Sebastian Shaw and James Earl Jones, respectively. Others got to work on what would become the biggest movie of all time, but saw their characters cut entirely from the finished film. Given all that, the documentary is a bit flat and needed restructuring and re-editing; the beginning of the film keys in on the many “extras” in the film before we get to know the impact of their roles. First comes the characters, then the people behind the masks, so to speak. Still, its a fascinating behind the scenes look at an alternate filmic universe. FYI: Elstree Studios is where “Star Wars” was shot. From MVD Entertainment.
The remarkable career of the movie industry’s most admired and influential special-effects auteur, the legendary Ray Harryhausen, is the subject of Gilles Penso’s definitive documentary, “Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan” (2016). Leaving no doubt as to Harryhausen’s seminal influence on modern-day special effects, the documentary features enlightening and entertaining interviews with the man himself, Randy Cook, Peter Jackson, Nick Park, Phil Tippet, Terry Gilliam, Dennis Muren, John Landis, Guillermo del Toro, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and many more. These filmmakers, who today push the boundaries of special effects movie-making, pay tribute to the Father of Stop Motion Animation and films such as “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” “It Came from Beneath the Sea,” “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,” “Mysterious Island,” “Jason and the Argonauts” and “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad” — the films that enthralled them as children and inspired them to become filmmakers in their own right. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group.