From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets:
Premiering at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival,“Smash Palace” (1981 — New Zealand) was Roger Donaldson’s second feature following the success of “Sleeping Dogs,” a film which had heralded the arrival of the New Zealand New Wave. “Smash Palace” — one of the best films from the 1980s, a film that has more in common with the nihilism of US new wave directors than Donaldson’s Down Under counterparts — concerns itself with the marriage of former racing driver Al (Bruno Lawrence) and French-born Jacqui (Anna Jemison). The pair had met when she nursed him back to health following a career-ending injury. They married, returned to Al’s native New Zealand to take over his late father’s wrecking yard business — the Smash Palace of the title — and had a child. But over time stagnation has set in, Jacqui’s resentment of Al has grown, and things are threatening to spill over. Playing out as a darker, more haunting New Zealand variation on such US separation movies as “Kramer vs. Kramer” or “Shoot the Moon,” “Smash Palace” offers a brilliant, vivid messy portrait of masculinity in crisis, driven by Lawrence’s immense central performance — once again confirming his status as one of New Zealand’s finest actors. With original mono audio (uncompressed LPCM). On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … One of the British New Wave’s most versatile directors, John Schlesinger came to New York in the late-1960s to make “Midnight Cowboy” (1969), a picaresque story of friendship that captured a city in crisis and sparked a new era of Hollywood movies. Jon Voight delivers a career-making performance as Joe Buck, a wide-eyed hustler from Texas hoping to score big with wealthy city women; he finds a companion in Enrico “Ratso” Rizzo, an ailing swindler with a bum leg and a quixotic fantasy of escaping to Florida, played by Dustin Hoffman in a radical departure from his breakthrough in “The Graduate.” A critical and commercial success despite controversy over what the MPAA termed its “homosexual frame of reference,” “Midnight Cowboy” became the first X-rated film to receive the best picture Oscar, and decades on, its influence still reverberates through cinema. On DVD and Blu-ray, with new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray and an alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … A profound masterpiece from one of the most revered filmmakers in the history of cinema, “Au hasard Balthazar” (1966 — France), directed by Robert Bresson, follows the donkey Balthazar as he is passed from owner to owner, some kind and some cruel but all with motivations outside of his understanding. Balthazar, whose life parallels that of his first keeper, Marie, is truly a beast of burden, suffering the sins of humankind. But despite his powerlessness, he accepts his fate nobly. Through Bresson’s unconventional approach to composition, sound, and narrative, this simple story becomes a moving parable about purity and transcendence. On DVD and Blu-ray, with new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … A comically bittersweet tale, Oscar winner Claude Berri’s “The Two of Us” (1967 — France) is also a poignant drama of identity and heritage. When an 8-year-old Jewish boy (Alain Cohen) living in Nazi-occupied France is sent by his parents to live in the country with the Catholic parents of their friends, he is faced with a culture clash both religious and generational. As the grandfatherly (and flagrantly anti-Semitic) Pepe (Michel Simon) infuses the role with a gruff tenderness, his growing relationship with the boy a touching portrayal of connection in a broken world. A beautiful new 4K restoration of the black-and-white world cinema classic, which was the debut of acclaimed director-producer Berri (“Jean de Florette,” “Manon of the Spring,” “Tess,” “The Lover”).On DVD, Blu-ray, from Cohen Film Collection.
From TV to Disc:
“East West 101, Series 2” (2009 — Australia) is a two-disc set with seven episodes. Set around the Major Crime Squad in metropolitan Sydney, Australia, this thrilling series is based upon the experiences of actual detectives in a crime unit in Sydney’s western suburbs and deals with the clashes of culture, socio-economic statuses, and religious tension in Australia. This season features new perils for Detective Zane Malik, a Muslim Arab living in post-9/11 Australia. After a deadly car bomb goes off in a Sydney suburb, fear and suspicion thrive as the community blames it on Islamic extremists. However, Malik is not convinced it was a terrorist attack, and he joins a joint task force led by Agent Richard Skerritt. The investigation throws Malik into a high-stakes undercover mission targeting a suspected arms-dealer, but the job takes him away from his family and even threatens their safety. From Acorn Media … “I’m Dying Up Here: Season One” (2017) is a three-disc set with all 10 episodes. Set in the celebrated and infamous L.A. stand-up comedy scene of the ’70s, where the careers of most comedy superstars began, “I’m Dying Up Here” delves into the inspired and damaged psyches that inhabit the hilarious, but complex business of making an audience laugh. The series is based on William Knoedelseder’s book of the same name. Before the internet and viral videos made it easy for aspiring comics to get their material seen, they had to travel and perform at comedy clubs to rise through the ranks of stand-up comedy and make a name for themselves. Oscar winner Melissa Leo leads the ensemble cast as Goldie, a comedy-club owner who mentors a competitive but close-knit group of comics. She leads her business with an iron fist but nurtures the comics with tough love because she knows that there’s no such thing as an easy laugh in their chosen profession. From Showtime/CBS/Paramount.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
Based on the 2010 short story, “-30-” by award-winning author Laird Barron, “They Remain” (2018) explores the evolving relationship between Keith and Jessica, two scientists who are employed by a vast, impersonal corporation to investigate an unspeakable horror that took place at the remote encampment of a mysterious cult. Working and living in a state-of-the-art, high tech environment that is completely at odds with their surroundings, they spend their days gathering physical evidence, analyzing it, and reporting on their findings. The intensity of their work, and their extreme isolation, bring the pair closer. But, when Jessica discovers a mysterious artifact of unknown origin, the dynamic between them changes: secrets are kept, sexual tensions arise, and paranoia sets in. Keith begins to have visions and is unable to distinguish whether they are nightmares or hauntings. Having lost all sense of what is real and what is imagined, all he knows is that the horror he and Jessica have been sent to uncover — a horror that could be biological, psychological, or supernatural — now threatens his very survival. Stars William Jackson Harper and Rebecca Henderson. On Blu-ray from Giant Interactive.
For the Family:
“Paws P.I.” (2018), starring Jon Lovitz, Selah Atwood and Christian Brunetti, is a Dove Foundation approved family adventure. Peter Williams and his dog, Jackson (voice by Lovitz), are best friends and enjoy hanging out and skateboarding around town. But when Peter’s father Connor, a private investigator, is hired by veterinarian Katherine Worthington to help prove that her aunt’s will was stolen by her corrupt uncle, Peter, Jackson and a gaggle of animal friends decide to do some investigating of their own. From Lionsgate.
“Frontline: Weinstein” (2017): Harvey Weinstein was once one of the most successful producers in Hollywood. But beneath the glitz and glamour, there was a pattern of sexual misconduct going back to the very start of his career. This program investigates the disgraced mogul’s spectacular downfall, the efforts to silence his accusers, and what Hollywood itself knew. Drawing on exclusive insider accounts, this program examines how Weinstein used lawyers and private detectives to help him suppress sexual harassment allegations. The film shines new light on what those around Weinstein knew about his behavior, and when. From PBS Distribution.
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.