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"The movie business is macabre. Grotesque.
It is a combination of a football game
and a brothel."
-- Federico Fellini
Jun 302015
 

From the Big Screen:

“Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter,” “While We’re Young,” “Danny Collins,” “The Gunman” and “Get Hard.” For more information on these and other releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.

This Week’s Best Bets:

“The Decline of Western Civilization Collection”: This is the one rock fans (and cultural critics) have been waiting for: remastered editions of Penelope Spheeris’ critically acclaimed rock films “The Decline of Western Civilization,” “The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years” and “The Decline of Western Civilization: Part III.” Each film in the four-disc set has a new 2K high-definition scan, supervised by Spheeris. The set includes a 40-page book containing an essay written by rock historian Domenic Priore (“Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood”) and rare stills. Spheeris, who also directed “Suburbia,” “Black Sheep” and “Wayne’s World,” regards the “Decline” films as her most personally rewarding work. “I am so grateful to the fans of these films, and the bands that appeared in them, for their loyalty and patience. This is my life’s work, and I like to think that when I go to my grave, “The Decline” is what I’ll be remembered for.” In 1981 Spheeris was able to book only one midnight screening for the Los Angeles premiere of photo for The Decline of Western Civilization Collection “The Decline of Western Civilization.” Even though mainstream Hollywood didn’t get it, thousands of fans showed up, spilling onto Hollywood Boulevard, and over 300 policemen arrived on scene. Police Chief Darryl Gates wrote the filmmakers a letter banning further screenings in the city. However, times change, and in 2014 the three “Decline” films were restored by The Academy Film Archive, and screened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Part of the appeal of “The Decline of Western Civilization” was its appearance in the midst of a backlash against disco, and slick, mainstream music films. The film garnered rave reviews from press, becoming one of the most written about movies of 1980. Perceived as shocking and outrageous, the film captured the essence of the punk scene, and provided a front row seat to the mosh pits, violence, humor and anti-establishment view of the world, as well as unparalleled access to some of the most influential and innovative musicians and groups of the time, including X, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Fear, and Germs. Largely unknown at the time, many of the punk bands first seen here have become legendary.

The second in Spheeris’ music documentary trilogy, “The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years” (1988) takes a fast-paced look at the outrageous heavy metal scene of the late 80s. Set in Los Angeles, the film explores fascinating portraits of struggling musicians, fans and star-struck groupies. Featuring Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Poison, members of Aerosmith, Kiss, Motorhead, and performances by Megadeth, Faster Pussycat, Lizzy Borden, London, Odin and Seduce, this raucous and uproarious chapter also chronicles the lonely naivete of the striving bands, and the endless flow of alcohol and drugs.

In 1998, the last in the series, “The Decline Of Western Civilization Part III”, hit select theaters but was never released in any home video format. A disturbing social commentary on homeless youth who have often left home due to abuse or neglect, the film has themes of alienation and alcoholism. Spheeris personally financed the film, bringing to the screen the real-life squatter lifestyle and angry rejection of mainstream society two decades after she wrote and directed the cult classic Suburbia. Sadly there are plenty of tragic endings in this story: overdoses, a squat fire, and the murder of a kid named Squid, who was thrilled to be included in the film because he thought it might turn his life around. A fitting last chapter in the Decline trilogy, this film includes performances by Final Conflict, Litmus Green, Naked Aggression and The Resistance and won the Freedom of Expression award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival.

On DVD: $39.98, Blu-ray Disc: $59.98. Extras: include commentary by Dave Grohl; Penelope Spheeris interview with Tawn Mastrey of KNAC; never-before-seen original footage, performances and interviews; Mark Toscano of the Academy Film Archive interviews Penelope Spheeris; theatrical trailers. From Shout! Factory. Thank you, guys.

Here’s a bang-em up you have to see: “Pit Stop” (1969). The most dangerous game ever devised, to pit man against man, flesh against steel — is the figure-8 race. Jack Hill (“Coffy,” “Foxy Brown”) follows up “Spider Baby,” once again teaming up with Sid Haig (“House of 1000 Corpses”). Richard Davalos (“East of Eden”) stars as Rick Bowman, a street punk who winds photo for Pit Stop up in jail after a street race goes wrong. Bailed out by race promoter Grant Willard, Davalos is put in the deadly track where he comes up against Haig’s maniacal winner Hawk Sidney. Featuring an outstanding supporting cast including Brian Donlevy in his last film appearance, Ellen Burstyn, billed as Ellen McRae, and Beverly Washburn, “Pit Stop” is one of Hill’s lesser known films but arguably one of his greatest. Filmed on a real figure-8 track, Hill and his crew were able to capture gripping real-life car wreck scenes lending the film a brilliant sense of realism. New high-definition digital transfer supervised and approved by director Jack Hill. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo with high-definition Blu-ray (1080p) and standard definition DVD presentation. With original mono 1.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray). From Arrow Video/MVD.

From The Criterion Collection comes “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders” (1970): A girl on the verge of womanhood finds herself in a sensual fantasyland of vampires, witchcraft and other threats in this eerie and mystical movie daydream. “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders” serves up an endlessly looping, nonlinear fairy tale, set in a quasi-medieval landscape. Ravishingly shot, enchantingly scored, and spilling over with surreal fancies, this enticing phantasmagoria from director Jaromil Jires is among the most beautiful oddities of the Czechoslovak New Wave. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, with a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.

From TV to DVD:

There’s two international TV series due this week from MHz Home Entertainment: “Annika Bengtzon Crime Reporter: Episodes 7 & 8” (2001, 2003): Helena Bergstrom stars as crime reporter Annika Bengtzon in two feature films which launched Liza Marklund’s bestselling photo for Annika Bengtzon Crime Reporter: Episodes 7 & 8literary character on-screen. Fearless in her search for the truth, journalist Annika Bengtzon won’t take no for an answer from anyone: not from prestigious academicians or drug dealers or from colleagues. Her passion for getting the story brings her into dangerous situations, but also allows her to peer into the heart of every crime. … “Maria Wern: Episodes 8 & 9” (2010 — Sweden) Two-disc set: Eva Rose returns as police inspector Maria Wern in two new movies based on the bestselling crime novels by Swedish author Anna Jansson. After the death of her husband, Maria moves to the picturesque Swedish island of Gotland with her two children to start over. While struggling to raise the children on her own and still mourning her husband’s death, Maria manages to sustain her female perspective and approach to life in a harsh and male-dominated environment — while solving bizarre crimes.

Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:

In “Last Knights” (2015), starring Clive Owen and Morgan Freeman, a fallen warrior rises against a corrupt and sadistic ruler to avenge his dishonored master. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from photo for Last Knights Lionsgate … “Still” (2014), starring Aidan Gillen, Jonathan Slinger, Elodie Yung, Amanda Mealing and Sonny Green, is a gritty and atmospheric thriller about the traumatic disintegration of a man and father. Film follows Tom Carver, a man stumbling blindly towards a crossroads in his life and recently thrown out of focus following the unexpected, tragic death of his teenage son in a car crash. After a seemingly harmless encounter with a neighborhood kid, he finds himself involved in a feud with a teenage gang that quickly intensifies to more disturbing and horrifying heights. With Tom’s personal life unraveling before his eyes, and the threat of gang violence escalating out of control, the world he is so desperately trying to rebuild may collapse all together. From Omnibus Entertainment/Film Movement.

Foreign Films:

“Soldate Jeannette (Soldier Jane)” (2013 — Austria), starring Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg photo for Soldate Jeannette (Soldier Jane) and Christina Reichsthaler, is a provocative, atmospheric comedic deadpan takedown of materialism — a portrait of two women from very different ends of the social spectrum. The film follows heroine Fanni (Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg), a member of the Viennese bourgeois who tires of her life of leisure and, on the eve of her eviction, sets off for an alpine expedition where she camps in the mountains and burns her money. Soon, she finds herself on a livestock farm where she takes up residence and befriends Anna (Christina Reichsthaler), a rebellious farm girl ready to move on from her agrarian life. After stealing the farmer’s jeep and emboldened by their newfound liberty, they journey together in search of their dreams. From IndiPix Films.

For the Family:

“My Little Pony – Friendship Is Magic: Cutie Mark Quests” (2015) consists of five episodes of everyone’s favorite ponies. In Equestria, being true to yourself is the key to earning your cutie mark. Join Twilig’s favorite Cutie Mark Crusaders, Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, photo for My Little Pony – Friendship Is Magic: Cutie Mark Quests and Apple Bloom — as they journey to find their own Cutie Marks, take on the spirit of chaos and disharmony and visit a village where … every pony has given up their Cutie Marks? From Shout! Kids … In the DOVE Family Approved animated “Frog Kingdom” (2015), with the voices of Bella Thorne, Cameron Dallas, Drake Bell, Keith David, Gregg Sulkin and Rob Schneider, when The Frog King announces that the winner of the Froglympics will win his daughter’s hand in marriage, Princess Froglegs runs away instead. Disguised as a commoner, the Princess befriends street vendor Freddie and begins training with him for the games — determined that she will win and thwart her father’s plans of marriage. Meanwhile, the villainous serpent has ideas of his own to ruin the Froglympics and take over the kingdom. From Lionsgate.

Special Interest:

“Downtown 81 Collector’s Edition” (1981, 2000): The desolate streets of Manhattan’s lower east side in the early 1980s were permeated with abandoned buildings, drug lords and vagabonds — but the underground scene was bubbling with an electrifying fusion of art and music. At the beginning of this newfound energy was Swiss photographer Edo Bertoglio, poised to capture the imaginative, fantastical drama, “Downtown 81.” The film, a documentary-style narrative, features then-obscure artists on the brink of fame, such as a 19-year-old Jean-Michel Basquiat, Debbie photo for Harry, Fab Five Freddy and Lee Quinones. Originally titled “New York Beat Movie,” “Downtown 81,” which took nearly 20 years to complete, is both a post-modernist fairytale and a vivid depiction of the downtown New York art and music scene in the early 1980s. Starring legendary American painter, graffiti artist, poet and musician Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), the film chronicles a day in the life of a 19-year-old starving artist who must raise money to reclaim the apartment from which he has been evicted. Hoping to sell a painting to earn the rent, he wanders the downtown streets, painting in hand, encountering painters, models, junkies, graffiti artists, rappers and rockers whose lives and performances provide a glimpse into one of the most exciting periods in American culture. “Downtown 81” features an eclectic soundtrack with music by Blondie, DNA, Tuxedomoon, The Plastics, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, James White and the Blacks, Gray, Liquid Liquid, Walter Steding, John Lurie, Marvin Pontiac, Lydia Lunch, Suicide and Melle Mel. Although the film was shot in 1981, it was not actually completed until 2000, 12 years after Basquiat’s untimely death. Now, 15 years after its NYC debut, “Downtown 81” is available on DVD, digitally remastered and restored. Extras include archival footage, interviews, audio commentary, a special 32-page collector’s booklet, photo gallery, more. From Music Box Films … “I Am Evel Knievel” (2014): Evel Knievel’s rise to superstardom was built on nerves of steel and the ability to get up and do it again no matter the severity of the fall. He lived life like every day was his last, which led to a tumultuous life filled with stunts no man would ever dream of, encompassing meteoric success, wild hubris, egomaniacal photo for I Am Evel Knievelmistakes, and ultimately redemption. Sporting flashy leather jumpsuits and a determined grin in the face of death, Knievel became a national hero whose outrageous feats were broadcast on live TV. This documentary is the untold story of this legendary figure who gave birth to the culture and the meaning of the word “extreme”. The film also showcases Knievel’s rise from a small town rebel in Butte, Montana, to a cultural icon. The enduring legacy of Knievel is his unforgettable death-defying jumps. The film features footage of Knievel’s greatest jumps, including his first major attempt, over the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, the Snake River Canyon jump in Idaho and London’s Wembley Stadium jump. A cast — featuring those who knew him best and were inspired to achieve greatness of their own, including Matthew McConaughey, Kid Rock, Michelle Rodriguez, Guy Fieri, Robbie Maddison, daredevils Spanky Spangler and Mike Vallely, Willie G. Davidson of Harley-Davidson, funnyman Bob Einstein (known as Super Dave Osborne), Chris and J.C. Agajanian, and family members including sons Kelly and Robbie, and former wives Linda Knievel and Krystal Kennedy-Knievel — pay tribute to the man and the legend. From Virgil Films.

 Posted by on June 30, 2015  Add comments

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