THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“The World’s End”: If you’re familiar with the work of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz”), you can jump right in and enjoy “The World’s End” without any doubts as to its pedigree. If you’re new to the trio, you may have to sit back and be patient as the outrageous comedy unfolds and builds up to a delightful level of absurdity that is just out of this world (literally). The premise: Simon Pegg stars as Gary King, an alcoholic loser who never outgrew his adolescence, who cons his estranged four middle-aged friends to relive a night 20 years earlier in which they undertook — and failed — at an epic pub crawl through 12 bars. He literally Shanghais his friends back to their home town for the undertaking — a mile-long trek that’s to end at a pub called The World’s End — but once the quest begins, they find there’s something very wrong in Newton Haven — the town has been taken over by beings from another world. There’s plenty of bathroom and scatological humor, drunken dirty jokes, nasty repartee, and very, very, very funny sequences you just aren’t ready for. A masterful stroke of British humor that everyone can (and should) enjoy. This is the third and final film in the trio’s “The Ultimate Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy,” which includes the aforementioned hits “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” and which is being released to Blu-ray this week. Co-stars Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike. Extras include commentaries; several behind-the-scenes featurettes; “Signs & Omens,” a film clip montage highlighting all the hidden clues and hints throughout the film; “Edgar & Simon’s Flip Chart,” in which writers Wright and Pegg bring back the trusty flip chart to reveal their step-by-step process of creating the story; deleted scene, outtakes, alternate edits and more. From Universal.
“We’re the Millers” takes an interesting idea and ruins it: David Burke (former “Saturday Night Live” star Jason Sudeikis) is a small-time pot dealer who runs afoul of his supplier and has to smuggle a gigantic load of dope into the States from Mexico — in an RV. His plan: to create an all-American family to cross the border without suspicion. He recruits his neighbors — cynical stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston), wannabe customer Kenny (Will Poulter), and tattooed-and-pierced streetwise teen Casey (Emma Roberts) — to become the Millers, and sets off on a Fourth of July weekend jaunt south of the border. There’s a couple clever set-ups but the ensuing trip strings together so many bad jokes and sequences that no amount of cleverness can save it. It’s kinda like a bunch of “SNL” sketches gone wrong. Co-stars Ed Helms, Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn. Extras include several behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, gags and outtakes. From Warner.
“2 Guns”: Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg star in this lackluster action-thriller about a pair of undercover agents — DEA agent Bobby Trench and U.S. naval intelligence officer Marcus Stigman, respectively — who have been serendipitously teamed up to take down a drug cartel … though neither knows that the other is a federal agent. When their scheme backfires and they discover each other’s true identity, they’re suddenly disavowed by their superiors and they go on the run together. It’s far-fetched — especially when the body count mounts, the escapes get more ridiculous, and the back-stabbing gets more and more complex. For those who like big blasts, smashed-up car chases and shoot-em ups, this film works — though in a very predictable way. Washington and Wahlberg try really hard to make a comedic buddy-picture team, but only end-up throwing wisecracks willy-nilly into the air. Unsatisfying to say the least. Co-stars Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, Fred Ward, James Marsden and Edward James Olmos. Extras include a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes and deleted and extended scenes. From Universal.
“Paranoia”: This run-of-the-mill and clichéd thriller takes place in the high-stakes, high-tech world of industrial spying — but you don’t need a smartphone to communicate how lame it is. When a savvy high-tech worker and his project team get fired for insubordination, Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) strikes back by using his expense account to treat his friends to a night on the town. The next morning he’s charged with fraud by company CEO Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman), and forced to infiltrate Wyatt’s longtime rival’s (Harrison Ford) company to steal trade secrets. There’s the obligatory double-crossing, easesdropping, surveillance cameras, wire-tapping, and sex (with an Ivy League beauty, played by Amber Heard, who just happens to work for the company he’s infiltrated), and some physical threats, but none of it adds up in any meaningful way to give this unoriginal production any punch. As for the acting: Hemsworth is strictly a pretty face, Oldman and Ford telephone in their wooden performances, and Heard comes off as an imitation Scarlett Johansson. Skip it. Extras include a couple behind-the-scenes featurettes and deleted scenes. From Fox.
“The To Do List”: Billed as a reverse teen coming-of-age comedy — with a high-school girl trying to lose her virginity — this raunchy sex-fest falls at the bottom of this week’s “to-watch” list. The film is set in 1993 and follows high school nerd and class valedictorian Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) who decides to shed her uptight image before going off to college and, to that end, she assembles a to-do list of all the risque extra-curricular activities she missed out on in high school. It’s rude, crude and just this side of soft-core porn — but without any redeeming qualities. The jokes fall flat, the bits — full of bodily fluids of one kind or another — are disgusting, and there’s a father-daughter repartee just short of incest. A flop at the boxoffice — and for good reason. Co-stars Andy Samberg, Clark Gregg, Connie Britton, Donald Glover, Rachel Bilson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Extras include several behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel. From Sony.
Also due this week: “Planes,” which was unavailable for review.
This week’s best releases are things of the past, movies and TV shows that captured their time and place. First off is The Criterion Collection’s Blu-ray edition of “Tokyo Story” (1953), a profoundly stirring evocation of elemental humanity and universal heartbreak that is the crowning achievement of the unparalleled Yasujiro Ozu. The film, which follows an aging couple as they leave their rural village to visit their two married children in bustling postwar Tokyo, surveys the rich and complex world of family life with the director’s customary delicacy and incisive perspective on social mores. Featuring lovely performances from Ozu regulars Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara, “Tokyo Story” plumbs and deepens the director’s recurring themes of generational conflict, creating what is without question one of cinema’s mightiest masterpieces. New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. In Criterion’s new Blu-ray/DVD Dual Format Edition. Extras include commentary featuring Yasujiro Ozu scholar David Desser, editor of Ozu’s “Tokyo Story”; “I Lived, But …”, a two-hour documentary from 1953 about Ozu’s life and career, featuring interviews with critics and former cast and crew members; “Talking With Ozu,” a 40-minute tribute to the director from 1993, featuring the reflections of filmmakers Lindsay Anderson, Claire Denis, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Aki Kaurismaki, Stanley Kwan, Paul Schrader and Wim Wenders; trailer; and a booklet featuring an essay by critic David Bordwell.
“The Vivien Leigh Anniversary Collection” is a four-disc set that celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the Oscar winner’s birth with remastered editions of four classics — restored and digitally remastered in collaboration with the British Film Institute — made in England that helped lead David O. Selznick to reward her with the most coveted role in movie history: Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind.” The titles: “Fire Over England” (1937), “Dark Journey” (1937), “Storm in a Teacup” (1937) and “St. Martin’s Lane” (1938). On DVD and Blu-ray with a featurette with Leigh biographer Anne Edwards, a 16-page booklet with a new essay by Leigh biographer Kendra Bean, and original theatrical trailers. Not to be missed for fans of British cinema and Leigh lovers. From the Cohen Film Collection.
And now to TV for a spectacular DVD set that encapsulates the best of 1960s variety TV — that highlighted the pop and jazz greats of the era:
“Here’s Edie: The Edie Adams Television Collection.” More than 50 years after it premiered on the ABC network, the variety shows “Here’s Edie” and “The Edie Adams Show” hit DVD and digital formats. This is the first time either television show has been seen in any format since their original broadcasts in 1962-1964. Unlike any variety show before or since, “Here’s Edie” was a tour-de-force for a female entertainer in the early-1960s. After the sudden passing of husband Ernie Kovacs in January 1962, Adams forged ahead with her own headlining show, showcasing her many talents. Adams hosts, sings, dances, acts, does comedy, takes an uncredited role of costumer Enke and also produces her own show. While much has been said of Adams’ preservation efforts of the Ernie Kovacs archive, she also left behind a stunning body of her own work that survives due only to her indefatigable preservation efforts. The “wow” factor of this box set resides in the eclectic guest stars Adams was personally able to secure for the show. Jazz fans will be able to see rare performance footage of such giants as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Stan Getz, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman and Al Hirt, among others. Popular vocalists include Sammy Davis Jr., Bobby Darin, Johnny Mathis and more. Comedians include Bob Hope, Rowan & Martin, Soupy Sales along with Buddy Hackett, Dick Shawn and Terry-Thomas, who co-starred with Adams in the classic motion-picture “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963). Classical music fans can look forward to performances of Andrew Previn, Lauritz Melchoir and Laurindo Almeida. Additional guests include Allan Sherman, Spike Jones, Peter Falk, Sir Michael Redgrave, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Buddy Hackett and more. This 12-hour, four DVD set features a new digital transfer from original 2-inch videotapes of the entire 1962-64 run of 21 episodes (with her famed Muriel Cigar commercials intact), plus extensive bonus footage. Also included is a 16-page booklet packed with rare photos from the family archive, an essay from Edie’s son, Joshua Mills, and a show-by-show rundown from Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams curator and DVD co-producer Ben Model. A must-buy for $49.95 from MVD Entertainment.
“Night of the Comet” (1984) was an unexpected pleasure when it hit the screens, adding zombies and survivalists to its sci-fi apocalypse scenario well before either became fashionable, without any pretense to be anything more than it was — a light-hearted look at the end of the world. A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls to fight the evil types (killer zombies and blood-seeking scientists) who survive. But first they do what all good Valley Girls do … they go shopping. Directed by Thom E. Eberhardt and starring Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran, Sharon Farrell, Mary Wornov and Geoffrey Lewis. Extras include commentary with writer-director Thom Eberhardt, commentary with stars Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart; commentary with production designer John Muto; “Valley Girls at the End of the World” interviews with Maroney and Stewart; “The Last Man On Earth?” interview with Robert Beltran; “Curse of the Comet” interview with special make-up effects creator David B. Miller; still galleries (behind the scenes and official stills) and the theatrical trailer. From Scream Factory/Shout! Factory … “The Mod Squad: The Complete Collection” (1968-73) is a 39-disc set of the classic 1960s TV series. While most popular shows of the era focused on the ideal American family (moms wearing pearls and baking cookies) or society’s mainstream heroes (mostly White, macho men), ABC’s “The Mod Squad” broke the mold. While solving crimes, apprehending heinous criminals and addressing social injustice, the youthful investigators — Julie (Peggy Lipton), Pete (Michael Cole) and Linc (Clarence Williams III) — fairly oozed cool. Not only were they counter-culture, but a female and an African-American protagonist made for ground-breaking TV. “One White, One Black, One Blonde” was the network’s promo line, targeting a youthful audience. Offered work fighting crime as an alternative to being incarcerated themselves, The Mod Squad’s three cops utilized their youthful, hippie personas as a guise to get close to the criminals they investigated. Being of the flower-child era, they didn’t carry guns (or make the ultimate arrests), but instead wore beads and mod clothing, peppering their dialogue with slang of the day — like “groovy,” “keep the faith” and “solid” — all backed by a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. The show portrayed a multi-cultural society, dealing with such controversial issues as racial politics, drug culture, anti-war sentiment, soldiers returning from war, student unrest, abortion, spousal abuse, child neglect, illiteracy and slum lords … all radical subject matter for TV at the time. Produced by Aaron Spelling and Danny Thomas. $219.95 from Visual Entertainment.
“Star Trek” fans will live long with the Blu-ray debut of “Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 5 (1991-92), a s ix-disc set with 26 episodes, $129.99. Set in the 24th century, the exploits of the U.S.S. Enterprise continue with some of the most memorable episodes of the series, including Paul Winfield’s guest appearance as Dathon and Ashley Judd’s debut performance in the episode, “Darmok.” The set also includes the jaw-dropping opening scene portraying the destruction of the Enterprise in “Cause and Effect,” and “The Inner Light,” the critically acclaimed episode that garnered the series its first Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. In addition to all-new commentary tracks on select episodes with some of the franchise’s most notable names, deleted scenes and a gag reel, the high-definition collection includes the newly produced featurette, “Requiem: A Remembrance of Star Trek: The Next Generation.” This two-part documentary explores the making of the series’ fifth season and focuses on the effect the passing of creator Gene Roddenberry, which took place halfway through the season, had on the show as well as the production family. The tribute to the late creator includes key cast and crew members sharing their favorite memories of working with Roddenberry and bidding farewell to the Great Bird of the Galaxy. Also includes the epic two-part episode “Unification” (which has been spun off as a separate disc, see below) in which Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) pursues Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) into enemy Romulan territory on a heroic mission in an attempt to unify the Vulcans and the Romulans. Other extras include several “Archive Mission Logs,” commentaries, deleted scenes, a gag reel,and more. From CBS/Paramount … also for Trekkies is Blu-ray debut of “Star Trek: The Next Generation: Unification” (1992), the feature-length presentation of the fan-favorite, two-part epic adventure from the series’ fifth season. Over 25 million viewers tuned into the original airing of the episode, making it one of the most-watched of all seven seasons of the series. Extras include commentary, deleted scene, and a new behind-the-scenes featurette. $24.99 from CBS/Paramount.
And, last but not least, there’s “The Ultimate Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy,” a three-disc set with the three Simon Pegg-Nick Frost-Edgar Wright collaborations: “The World’s End,” “Hot Fuzz,” “Shaun of the Dead.” On DVD, $39.98 and Blu-ray Disc, $49.98. Extras include all the bonus features from all three films. The Blu-ray version adds interactive screenplays for all three films. From Universal … Scream factory/Shout! Factory offers up the Blu-ray debut of “Assault on Precinct 13″ (1976), directed by John Carpenter and starring Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston and Laurie Zimmer. Isolated and cut off from the city inside a soon-to-be-closed L.A. police station, a group of police officers and convicts must join forces to defend themselves against the gang called Street Thunder, who have taken a blood oath to kill someone trapped inside the precinct. Extras include commentary with writer-director John Carpenter and cast and crew interviews.
THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“Frances Ha”: Director Noah Baumbach has a knack for taking the mundane detritus of everyday life and weaving it into fascinating cinematic journeys, beginning with the all-too-talky “Kicking and Screaming” (1995) through the depressing but intensely honest and real “The Squid and the Whale” (2005) through “Greenberg” (2010) and now “Frances Ha,” the director’s ode to life and love in modern New York City. Developed with and starring Greta Gerwig, the director’s real-life girlfriend, this charming black and white tale follows a woman in her late twenties who’s trying to sort out her ambitions, her dreams, her finances, and, above all, her changing bond with her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner). As Frances, Gerwig is light and joyful and a pleasure to watch. But, therein lies the rub: the film is all too light and joyful, leaving the viewer hungering for more. Still, in a year that has brought us noisy and meaningless outings such as “After Earth,” “Bullet to the Head,” “A Good Day to Die Hard,” “R.I.P.D.” and “The Wolverine,” too light is a virtue. Extra include a conversation between Peter Bogdanovich and Baumbach; a conversation between actor and filmmaker Sarah Polley and Gerwig; conversation about the look of the film between Baumbach, director of photography Sam Levy, and creative director Pascal Dangin; trailer; and a booklet featuring an essay by playwright Annie Baker. In a DVD/Blu-ray combo from The Criterion Collection.
“The Attack”: Palestinian surgeon Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman) is fully assimilated into Tel Aviv society, has a loving wife, an exemplary career and many Jewish friends. But his picture-perfect life is turned upside down when a suicide bombing leaves 17 dead, and the Israeli police inform him that his wife Sihem (Reymonde Amsellem) not only died in the explosion, but was responsible for it. Initially interrogated — but cleared — as a possible accomplice, Amin is shaken further when he receives a posthumous letter from Sihem confirming her role in the carnage. Shattered by this revelation, Amin abandons the relative security of his adopted homeland to enter the Palestinian territories in pursuit of the zealots who recruited his wife. Based on Yasmina Khadra’s prize-winning and bestselling novel. It’s at once a fascinating mystery, thriller and cultural study of the forces tearing people and families apart in the Middle East — and it’s all the more powerful since the film doesn’t take any sides, preferring to key in on the personal rather than the political. In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles. Extras include an interview with director Ziad Doueiri. From Cohen Media Group.
“Blackfish”: You don’t have to be an animal activist to be moved by “Blackfish,” a documentary that explores the world of the “killer whales,” the 8,000-pound orcas that grace sea parks with their stunning beauty and ability to soar out of the water and fly through the air, as if in perfect harmony with their trainers. But behind this facade is a world of cruelty and mistreatment of the massive mammals by park operators exploiting them — and park workers — for dangerous profits. Using the story of notorious performing whale Tilikum, who — unlike any orca in the wild — has taken the lives of several people while in captivity — the film explores man’s inhumanity to these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals. Extras include “Recollections of a Former SeaWorld Trainer,” “The Truth About Wild Whales,” “Alternatives to Captivity,” more. From Magnolia Home Entertainment.
Also due this week: “Man of Steel” and “Turbo,” both of which were unavailable for review.
The Criterion Collection inaugurates their new strategy of packaging all releases as Blu-ray/DVD Combo sets with “City Lights” (1931). The most cherished film by Charlie Chaplin is also his ultimate Little Tramp chronicle. The writer-director-star achieved new levels of grace, in both physical comedy and dramatic poignancy, with this silent tale of a lovable vagrant falling for a young blind woman who sells flowers on the street (a magical Virginia Cherrill) and mistakes him for a millionaire. Though this Depression-era smash was made after the advent of sound, Chaplin remained steadfast in his love for the expressive beauty of the pre-talkie form. The result was the epitome of his art and the crowning achievement of silent comedy. In a new, restored 4K digital film transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include commentary by Charlie Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance; “Chaplin Today: City Lights,” a 2003 documentary on the film’s production, featuring Aardman Animations cofounder Peter Lord; excerpt from Chaplin’s short film “The Champion” (1915), along with footage of the director with boxing stars at Chaplin Studios in 1918; trailers; booklet featuring an essay by critic Gary Giddins and a 1966 interview with Chaplin, and more.
With the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Nov. 22, 1963), a day that forever changed American history, politics and culture, virtually every home video studio is putting out commemorative releases about the president, that fateful day, and the conspiracy surrounding his death (with most streeting next week). If you want a definitive collection of JFK films, then look no further than the “JFK 50th Commemorative Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray” from Warner. The set includes the Blu-ray edition of the 1991 Oliver Stone film, “JFK” (which explored the assassination and the possibility of a conspiracy behind it), starring Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon, Gary Oldman, Sissy Spacek, Jack Lemmon, Joe Pesci, Donald Sutherland, Laurie Metcalf, John Candy, Walter Matthau, Sally Kirkland and Edward Asner. The set also includes three captivating documentaries: Oliver Stone’s “JFK: To the Brink,” the insightful look at the JFK presidency that was included in his 2012 Showtime Series, “The Untold History of the United States”; the brand-new “JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later” from filmmaker Robert Kline (also available as a separate DVD release for $5.94); and “John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums” (1965) (also available as a separate DVD release for $11.97), a documentary produced by George Stevens Jr. and written and directed by Bruce Herschensohn, who also composed the music. In addition, the “JFK UCE” includes the feature film drama “PT 109″ (1963, starring Cliff Robertson), about Kennedy’s World War II experiences as a skipper in the South Pacific. The “JFK UCE” also contains commemorative items from the Kennedy Presidential Library: collectible reproductions of family and presidential photos, a campaign poster from the 1960 presidential campaign, and a copy of Kennedy’s historic inaugural address. Lastly, there’s a 32-page book of famous quotations, and a 44-page JFK movie photo book. “JFK” Extras: “Behind the Story,” commentary by director Oliver Stone, “Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy,” multimedia essays, “Assassination Update — The New Documents,” “Meet Mr. X: The Personality and Thoughts of Fletcher Prouty,” deleted/extended scenes, theatrical trailer. At $49.00, a bargain.
There’s two interesting sets of TV series coming to home video this week:
The ground-breaking “Combat!” (1962-67) offered a gritty, unflinching look at American soldiers battling on the front lines in Europe during World War II, confronting imposing odds and demonstrating remarkable levels of ingenuity and courage. Vic Morrow and Rick Jason headed a stellar cast in the long-running war drama featuring an incomparable list of guest stars (including Eddie Albert, James Caan, James Coburn, Lee Marvin, Leonard Nimoy, Mickey Rooney, Rip Torn, Robert Duvall, Roddy McDowall, Sal Mineo, Telly Savalas, Bill Bixby, Claude Akins, Dennis Hopper, Ricardo Montalban and Wayne Rogers) as well as top directorial talent. “Combat! The Complete Series” consists of all 152 episodes, including the final season in color. $229.98 from Image Entertainment … “Dexter: The Complete Series Collection” (2006-13) includes all eight seasons in a collectible recreation of the actual blood slide box used by Dexter Morgan to catalog his victims on the show. Also designed and included specifically for this collection is “Grafix: The Art of Dexter,” a collection of photography, fan artwork and iconography and images used in the series’ cutting edge promotional campaigns. Finally, fans will enjoy an all-new bonus disc with over three hours of behind-the-scene interviews, featurettes and more. This bonus material delves deep into the series and is highlighted by the new documentaries “The Evolution of Dexter Morgan” and “The Code.” In a 33-disc DVD, $352.99; 25-disc Blu-ray, $427.99 from Paramount.
Blu-ray debuts this week: “Nosferatu” (1922): F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror” is resurrected in an HD edition mastered from the acclaimed 35mm restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, backed by an orchestral performance of Hans Erdmann’s 1922 score. An unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” “Nosferatu” remains to many viewers the most unsettling vampire film ever made, and its bald, spidery vampire, personified by the diabolical Max Schreck, continues to spawn imitations in the realm of contemporary cinema. From Kino Lorber … “All the President’s Men 2-Disc Special Edition” (1976), directed by Alan J. Pakula and starring Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, Jason Robards, Jane Alexander, Meredith Baxter, Ned Beatty and Stephen Collins, in a new Blu-ray two-disc version that commemorates the 40th anniversary of Watergate. Extras include a new documentary “All the President’s Men Revisited,” plus vintage special features: “Telling the Truth About Lies: The Making of All the President’s Men”; “Woodward and Bernstein: Lighting the Fire”; “Out of the Shadows: The Man Who Was Deep Throat”; commentary by Redford; “Pressure and the Press: The Making of All the President’s Men”; Jason Robards Interview excerpt from Dinah!, hosted by Dinah Shore; trailer. From Warner … John Carpenter plays a creepy-looking coroner who introduces a trilogy of blood-curdling tales (directed by himself and Tobe Hooper) in “John Carpenter Presents Body Bags Collector’s Edition” (1993): “The Gas Station” (starring Robert Carradine and Alex Datcher), “Hair” (starring Stacy Keach), and “Eye” (directed by Tobe Hooper, and starring Mark Hamill). With special appearances by Deborah Harry, Sheena Easton, Twiggy, David Naughton, John Agar, David Warner and cameos by notable horror film legends Wes Craven, Hooper, Sam Raimi, Roger Corman and Greg Nicotero. From Scream factory/Shout! Factory … “The Lion of the Desert” (1981), starring Anthony Quinn, Rod Steiger, Oliver Reed, John Gielgud, Raf Vallone and Irene Papas, from Anchor Bay … “The Message” (1977), starring Anthony Quinn, Irene Papas and Michael Ansara. From Anchor Bay.
THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
Every once in awhile a high concept idea bubbles up in Hollywood that’s so good that, in the same year — sometimes only a few months apart — two “copycat” movies on the same or similar themes get made. Such was the case in 1998 with “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” and “Antz” and “A Bug’s Life,” and in 2006 with “The Illusionist” and “The Prestige.” This year the hot idea floating through Hollywood was “Die Hard in the White House,” and so in March we got Antoine Fuqua’s “Olympus Has Fallen,” in which an ex-Secret Service agent (Gerard Butler) single-handedly fights off North Korean terrorists who have taken over the White House, and then in June we got Roland Emmerich’s “White House Down,” in which a wannabe Secret Service agent (Channing Tatum) single-handedly fights off U.S. terrorists who have taken over the White House. Both films scored about the same with critics and audiences, with “Olympus” taking in about $25 million more than its counterpoint (probably because it was first out of the gate). Both films have likeable (if not overly talented) leads; both films sport strong support by their co-stars (Morgan Freeman in “Olympus” and Jamie Foxx in “White House”); both films have great special effects and destruction sequences (Emmerich is used to destroying things; he wiped out the White House once before, in “Independence Day,” and wiped out the world in “2012″)); both films have despicable villains you can root against; both films vindicate the hero and freedom-loving people everywhere (I added that last part in just for the heck of it). If you liked “”Olympus,” pop “White House” into your DVD player and enjoy the excitement. The synopsis: Capitol Policeman John Cale has just been denied his dream job with the Secret Service. Not wanting to let down his little girl with the news, he takes her on a tour of the White House, and, coincidentally, during their visit, the complex is overtaken by a heavily armed paramilitary group. Now, with the nation’s government falling into chaos and time running out, it’s up to Cale to save the president, his daughter … and the country. Extras include a host of behind-the-scenes featurettes and a gag reel. From Sony.
Who would have thought that a movie about a porn star — a movie about sex, drugs and the adult film industry — would be boring. Well, that’s just the case with “Lovelace,” a bio-drama about unlikely porn star Linda Lovelace and “Deep Throat,” the first scripted adult theatrical feature film (in 1972) that was a phenomenal success and pretty much legitimized adult films for the American middle class. Linda Susan Boreman (Amanda Seyfried) escaped a strict religious family and discovered freedom and the high-life when she fell for and married charismatic hustler Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), who coerced her into the biz as the “girl-next-door” with an impressive capacity for fellatio, then fell prey to his abuse, eventually leaving “Hollywood” for a mid-West, suburban life, where she fought violence against women. It’s really not much of a story; aside from the few sexual hijinks highlighted in the film, both Lovelace, Traynor and their friends and entourage are pretty uninteresting — which just goes to show that show biz can be just as dull as any other biz. Extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette. From Radius-TWC/Anchor Bay.
“Girl Most Likely” is a pretty dull outing for talented actress Kristen Wiig, who’s been trying to step out from her supporting roles as everyman’s wife and girlfriend and hold down a film by herself. Coming off 2011′s “Bridesmaids,” in which she almost lost the film to an overpowering Melissa McCarthy, Wiig took on the lead in this boxoffice flop about a failed New York playwright — dumped by her high-society boyfriend — who has to move back home with her younger brother, her gambling-addicted mother (Annette Bening), and her mom’s oddball new boyfriend (Matt Dillon). It’s a worked to death premise not made any better by lackluster direction, slow pacing, and laughs that are far and few between. Extras include a couple featurettes, a gag reel and deleted scenes. From Lionsgate.
Adam Sandler keeps making the same junky films over and over again — and keeps making tons of money. “Grown Ups 2″ is no exception. Here we have the same characters, the same stupid bits, the same sloppy jokes, the same bathroom humor — from “Grown Ups” and almost every previous Sandler film — with a different locale and slightly different situations. After reuniting with his high school classmates three summers before (in 2010′s “Grown Ups”), Lenny (Adam Sandler) decides he wants to move his family back to his hometown and have them grow up with his gang of childhood friends and their kids. It’s boring, disgusting and stupid. Nuff said. The should-be-ashamed co-stars include Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph and Maria Bello. Extras include a couple featurettes and deleted scenes. From Sony.
And the gift-set assault begins … With Hanukkah just three weeks away and Christmas following a month later, the studios are raising the ante on their box sets for gift-giving. This week there’s some pretty nifty offerings, headed up by “Naked City: The Complete Series” (1958-63), a 29-disc set with all 138 classic episodes of the acclaimed Emmy Award-winning police drama series filmed entirely in New York City and starring Paul Burke, Horace McMahon, Harry Bellaver, James Franciscus, John McIntire and Nancy Malone. “Naked City’s” first season featured half-hour episodes while the remainder of its four season run was comprised of hour-long episodes. The classic TV series — which focused on the lives of the detectives of New York’s 65th Precinct, but wasn’t shy on vivid chases and gun fights — was famous for the signature closing line of every episode, “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” The show featured an amazing list of guest stars including Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, William Shatner, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Rip Torn, Alan Alda, George C. Scott, Telly Savalas, Leslie Nielsen, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, James Caan, Jack Klugman, Jean Stapleton, Walter Matthau, Jon Voight, Gene Hackman, Christopher Walken, Carroll O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, Peter Falk, George Segal, Jack Warden, Ed Asner, Doris Roberts, Suzanne Pleshette, Diane Ladd, Vic Morrow, James Coburn, Mickey Rooney and Burgess Meredith, to name just a few. From Image Entertainment.
For Doctor Who fans there’s “Doctor Who: The Complete Series 1-7 Limited Edition Blu-Ray Gift Set,” a 29-disc set celebrating Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary. The set includes the complete adventures of the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), available in newly remastered Blu-ray versions at full 1080p resolution for the first time ever, sitting alongside those of the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith). Also includes fully remastered complete Tenth Doctor Specials as well as The Complete Fifth and Sixth Series (previously available on Blu-ray), to full 1080p resolution, and the new “Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series Blu-ray.” Extras include hours and hours of bonus features from the past collections plus 120 minutes of bonus material that has never previously been available on disc. Add in a Doctor Who Universal Remote Control Sonic Screwdriver, a gesture-based remote control replica of the Eleventh Doctor’s trusty tool, crafted from real metals and featuring sound effects from the show; now you can control your television with a wave of your hand and feel like a Time Lord yourself. There’s also three exclusive original art cards and an exclusive Doctor Who comic book. $349.98 from BBC Home Entertainment … The “James Dean Ultimate Collector’s Edition” is a beautifully designed and packaged limited and numbered seven-disc Blu-ray set celebrating James Dean. When he died in 1955 at the age of 24 in a car crash, Dean — a talented “method” actor, rebel and risk taker — was mourned by millions of fans throughout the world. Despite only making three films — all of them for Warner Bros. — Dean became one of Hollywood’s most spectacular stars, and 50 years later still remains an internationally compelling force, an iconic image, and a cult favorite of timeless fascination. The core of the set are his three films: “East of Eden,” “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant,” each in a 4k restoration from original camera negatives remastered at Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging. For “Rebel Without a Cause,” the stereo soundtrack was reconstructed from the magnetic soundtrack stripes of CinemaScope release prints. Also included are three full-length documentaries: “James Dean Forever Young,” narrated by Martin Sheen; “American Masters: James Dean — Sense Memories” and “George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey” (Stevens directed “Giant”). The collection also contains a 48-page photo book with behind-the-scene images and rare insight into each film, three mini reproductions of the original theatrical movie posters, and reproductions of production memos from “East of Eden” and “Rebel Without a Cause.” The “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” will sell for $99.98; each film will also be available as a stand-alone Blu-ray book for $27.98 each. Extras include a new featurette: “Dennis Hopper: Memories from the Warner Lot”; vintage documentaries: “James Dean Remembered,” “Forever James Dean,” “George Stevens: Filmmakers Who Knew Him,” “Return to Giant, “Memories of Giant,”" East of Eden: Art in Search of Life,” “Rebel Without a Cause: Defiant Innocents”; commentaries on all three films; premiere footage for “East of Eden” and “Giant”; wardrobe tests; screen tests; deleted scenes for “East of Eden” and “Rebel Without a Cause”; and much, much more. From Warner … Also from Warner, just ahead of the December 13 release of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” comes “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition” The set — available as a five-disc Blu-ray 3D set ($54.98), a three-disc Blu-ray set ($35.99) and a five-disc DVD set ($34.99) features a 13-minute longer cut and nine hours of new special features, including commentary with director-producer-screenwriter Peter Jackson and co-producer/screenwriter Philippa Boyens, and “The Appendices,” a multi-part documentary focusing on various aspects of the film and the Trilogy. From New Line.
“Farscape: Complete Series” (1999-2003) is a 15th Anniversary Edition with all 88 complete and unedited episodes from the four-season run. Includes a 16-page mini comic book created by the same team that made Jim Henson’s acclaimed graphic novel “Tale of Sand.” Based on the prequel “Peacekeeper Wars,” the comic includes select images from The Jim Henson Company’s archive and an exclusive interview with Brian Henson revealing never-before-shared facts about the Farscape Legacy. In 20-disc Blu-ray ($149.95) and 27-disc DVD ($129.95) sets. Extras include “Memories of Moya: An Epic Journey” documentary; “Farscape Undressed,” the home-video premiere of the rarely seen, long-sought-after never before released behind-the-scenes special; three archival documentaries: “In the Beginning: A Look Back With Brian Henson,” “Making of a Space Opera” and “Season Three: A Look Back With Executive Producer David Kemper”; three “Inside Farscape” featurettes: “Villains,” “Visual Effects” and “Inside Farscape: Save Farscape,” in which fans, cast and crew discuss the fate of the series; 31 audio commentaries; deleted scenes, director’s cut scenes, and an alternate version of the Season 2 premiere; behind-the-scenes interviews with the characters, cast, and creative team of “Farscape”; and more. From Cinedigm … “Twilight Forever: The Complete Saga”celebrates the 5th anniversary of the theatrical debut of the first “Twilight” film; this boxed set features all five films, more than two hours of brand new bonus content and every special feature ever produced for the blockbuster franchise. The deluxe packaging arrives in a double-sided box that highlights the iconic characters, one side featuring Edward and Bella and the other side featuring Jacob; and the discs are held in a commemorative photo album highlighting the most iconic moments from the entire saga. In a 12-disc DVD, $64.98; 10-disc Blu-ray, $74.99. From Summit/Lionsgate … “Dexter: The Complete Series Collection” (2006-13) includes all eight seasons in a collectible recreation of the actual blood slide box used by Dexter Morgan to catalog his victims on the show. Also designed and included specifically for this collection is “Grafix: The Art of Dexter,” a collection of photography, fan artwork and iconography and images used in the series’ cutting edge promotional campaigns. Finally, fans will enjoy an all-new bonus disc with over three hours of behind-the-scene interviews, featurettes and more. This bonus material delves deep into the series and is highlighted by the new documentaries “The Evolution of Dexter Morgan” and “The Code.” In a 33-disc DVD, $352.99; 25-disc Blu-ray, $427.99 from Paramount … “Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely All of It” is a 10-disc set that contains every episode and special from the award-winning five-season series, spanning over 20 years of misguided adventures with fashionista best friends Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) — all tucked away in a superr-luxe limited edition faux iguana skin clutch bag. $158.72 from BBC Home Entertainment.
D.W. Griffith changed the course of film history with his 1915 Civil War blockbuster “The Birth of a Nation,” and, spurred on by its colossal success, he went even bigger on his next epic, the ambitious and still awe-inspiring (1916) “Intolerance,” in which he masterfully links four centuries-apart stories of universal suffering — and which makes its Blu-ray debut this week. Stung by charges of glorifying racism in “The Birth of a Nation,” Griffith decided to make his next film a plea for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. An epic like nothing that came before , the monumental film remains as powerful today as it was almost a century ago; the major innovation in screen narrative tells four stories in parallel about social injustice and the effects of intolerance through the ages. “The Modern Story,” about a working man wrongly accused of a crime, was later issued as a separate film (“The Mother and the Law,” 1919). “The Judean Story” tells of Jesus’ conflicts with the Pharisees and Rome. “The Medieval Story” is about the effects of the massacre of 16th-century French Huguenots. “The Babylonian Story,” about the conquest of Babylon by Persia, also was issued later as a separate film (“The Fall of Babylon,” 1919). Skillful cross-cutting and linking shots of a figure representing Eternal Motherhood rocking a cradle, bring all four stories to a tense climax. With the profits from “The Birth of a Nation,” Griffith spared no expense on “Intolerance,” constructing huge sets and hiring thousands of extras for spectacular crowd scenes; the most iconic representation of this lavishness remains the sequence set at the immense walls of Babylon. Many of the leading stars of the silent screen appear in the film, including Griffith regular Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Elmo Lincoln, Robert Harron and Constance Talmadge. Remastered in 2K. The musical soundtrack is in mono for the DVD and 2.0 LPCM for the Blu-ray. Carl Davis’ orchestral score is in 5.1 Dolby Digital. Extras include the two full-length features drawn from “Intolerance”: “The Fall of Babylon” and “The Mother and the Law,” accompanied by new scores by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra; a 2013 featurette with film historian Kevin Brownlow; new essays by Cineaste magazine editor Richard Porton and historian William M. Drew; and a theatrical rerelease trailer. From Cohen Film Collection.
On Blu-ray this week: Heading up the list this week is the gorgeous Blu-ray debut of “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946), directed by William Wyler with an all-star cast of Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Cathy O’Donnell, Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Russell, Gladys George, Roman Bohnen and Ray Collins. One of the greatest films of all time encapsulates the dreams, desires and realities of mid-20th century America. The Academy Award-winning film (seven Oscars, including Best Film and Best Director) follows three WWII veterans who return home to small-town America to discover that they and their families have been irreparably changed. Capt. Fred Derry (Andrews), a soda jerk before the war, returns to a loveless marriage; Sgt. Al Stephenson (March), a banker, returns a stranger to a family that’s grown up without him; and sailor Homer Parrish, a machinist, returns home, tormented by the loss of his hands, to his loving and understanding girlfriend. Extras include an introduction by Virginia Mayo, interview with Mayo and Teresa Wright, theatrical trailer … also from warner comes “The Right Stuff “ (1983), directed by Philip Kaufman and starring Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Barbara Hershey, Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward and Jeff Goldblum. The 30th Anniversary Blu-ray Book includes rare photos, production notes and more; extras include “The Journey and the Mission” scene specific commentary, “John Glenn: American Hero” [1998 PBS Documentary], “Realizing the Right Stuff,” “T-20 Years and Counting,” “The Real Men With The Right Stuff” … “The Three Faces of Eve” (1957), starring Joanne Woodward, who won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a woman with multiple personality disorder — Eve White, a troubled housewife who begins seeing a psychiatrist and, under hypnosis, reveals her additional personalities: a vamp and an independent sophisticate. From Fox … and “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947), directed by Henry Koster and starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Monty Woolley, James Gleason, Gladys Cooper and Elsa Lanchester. From Warner.
THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“Monsters University”: Ever since the release of “Toy Story” (1995), the folks over at Pixar have striven to equal (or surpass) the breathtaking excitement of that ground-breaking film. Although they’ve rarely fallen on their faces, it’s been pretty hard to match the humor, kindness, warmth, love and sense of adventure of the three “Toy Storys.” They’ve never really had a flop, but some of their outings have failed to stir the imagination and have fallen somewhere between the redundancy of “Cars 2″ and the creativity of “Finding Nemo.” “Monsters University” lands somewhere in the lower portion of that continuum, a weak prequel to 2001′s “Monsters, Inc.” Where that film came up with the brilliant story of Monsters, Inc., a company that sends “Scarers” into bedrooms to generate their city’s power by frightening children, “Monsters University” breaks no new ground but instead comes off as a bland animated buddy film created to cash in on and take advantage of Disney’s merchandising juggernaut. (That being said, of course, I have to note that even a lackluster Pixar outing is still more entertaining than 90 percent of what passes for family product on the big — and little — screen). The story here revolves around college-bound monster Mike Wazowski (voice of Billy Crystal), who’s dreamed of becoming a Scarer since a little kid. Knowing that the best Scarers come from Monsters University, he enrolls in the school, but his plans go awry when he meets natural-born scarer James P. Sullivan, “Sulley” (voice of John Goodman). The two begin to compete with each other, and their outrageous shenanigans get them kicked out of the university’s elite Scare Program. It’s then that they realize they’ll have to work together, along with an odd bunch of misfit monsters, if they ever hope to make things right. There’s a wealth of extras on both the DVD and Blu-ray versions, including commentary; “The Blue Umbrella,” an animated short film from Pixar Animation Studios about two umbrellas who fall in love during a rain storm; a variety of behind-the-scenes featurettes; deleted scenes; set flythroughs; an art gallery; and more. Also features the voices of Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Julia Sweeney, John Krasinski, Aubrey Plaza, Bonnie Hunt, Frank Oz, Steve Buscemi and Charlie Day.
I really wanted to like “R.I.P.D.” It had gotten such bad buzz before it opened, and then such a lukewarm reception by the critics, that I wanted to give the film the benefit of the doubt and be generous with what — in concept — sounded like a great idea: A police force made up of dead cowboys and deceased cops whose mission was to return to the “other side” monstrous spirits still roaming the Earth (the screenplay was based on the Dark Horse graphic novel). Unfortunately, however, the whole affair came off as a re-purposed “Men in Black,” right down to the use of secret entrances to the agents’ headquarters, the pairing of a grizzled veteran (Jeff Bridges as a long-dead old West gunslinger) and a newbie (Ryan Reynolds as a recently dead cop), and outlandish bodies for the evil spirits once their human facades are stripped off. The plot: Reynolds, on the verge of becoming a dirty cop, is killed in the line of duty and in order to redeem himself, he’s forced to join the Rest in Peace Department and, with veteran dead sheriff Roy Pulsifer (Bridges), has to track down criminals trying to escape final judgment. They soon uncover a plot to open a tunnel between Earth and the afterlife that would begin sending angry souls the wrong way, an action that could end life as we know it. Despite sporadic spectacular special effects, the film drags, especially in lengthy “talky” scenes between Bridges — here making a mockery of his “True Grit” persona — and Reynolds. And the one original bit — both men have avatars that represent them when they’re seen by the living, a Chinese man for Reynolds, a sexy woman for Bridges — falls flat because of stilted acting and pacing. Co-stars Kevin Bacon and Mary-Louise Parker. Extras include deleted and alternate scenes, a gag reel, and several making-of and behind-the-scenes featurettes. From Universal.
From the opening shots of “La Notte” (1961), you know you’re in the hands of a master filmmaker. The stark black-and-white images contrast old and new Milan from a street-level camera view of a pre-war building and a modern skyscraper, them moves to the top of a newly constructed high-rise, finally descending to earth as an outdoor elevator moves to the ground floor. The contrasts between the values of the old and the new, between love and lust, and between ennui and happiness continues in this psychologically acute, visually striking modernist work — director Michelangelo Antonioni’s follow-up to the epochal “L’avventura.” Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau star as a novelist and his frustrated wife who, over the course of one night, confront their alienation from each other and the achingly empty bourgeois Milan circles in which they travel. Antonioni’s muse Monica Vitti smolders as an industrialist’s tempting daughter. “La notte” is an indelible illustration of romantic and social deterioration. In a gorgeous looking new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition. From where else — The Criterion Collection … “The Beauty of the Devil” (1950), directed by master filmmaker Rene Clair (“Under the Roofs of Paris,” “A Nous la Liberte,” “I Married a Witch,” “And Then There Were None”), is a retelling of the Faust legend. An aging professor of alchemy makes a bargain with the Devil that will give him youth, fame and riches in exchange for his soul. Clair creates an allegorical fantasy that is both whimsical and tragicomic in this rarely seen masterpiece. Stars Michel Simon and Gerard Philipe. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc, newly remastered by Cohen Media Group.
THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“The Heat”: Even in this enlightened era, female buddy movies are far and few in between — so it’s a pleasure to have two top comediennes join forces to tear up the big screen with outrageous bits and wild shtick. It’s a great concept picture: Take sassy, foul-mouthed Melissa McCarthy and slapstick-savvy Sandra Bullock and cast them as a boundary-busting Boston cop (McCarthy) and a straight-laced FBI agent (Bullock), throw them on a typical crime case (they join forces to bring down a ruthless drug lord), and watch the sparks — and laughs — fly. Needless to say, Bullock’s by-the-book procedures clash with McCarthy’s nasty and violent style of police work, but the pair eventually learn to work together and bring down the bad guys. Think “Rush Hour” with women. This is one funny movie. Sequel anyone? (Actually, there are rumors of a “Heat 2″ in the works). Extras include commentary, bloopers, alternate scenes and behind-the-scenes featurettes. From Fox.
“Pacific Rim”: Guillermo del Toro has come a long way since “Mimic” (1997) and “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001). His horror instinct led him to direct “Hellboy” (2004) and the award-winning “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006) and write “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” as well as the “Hobbit” outings (and produce a host of horror and dark dramas). He’s certainly produced and written more films than he’s helmed. So fans who have been eagerly awaiting a new directorial effort on his part (it’s been five years since “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”) won’t be disappointed with “Pacific Rim,” a solid modern CGI-driven monster flick that can only be described as Godzilla meets the Transformers. The plot is simple — Legions of gigantic, monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, rise from another “world” through a breech in the Pacific Ocean, bent on destroying mankind and consuming the Earth’s resources. To combat them, the world’s armies cooperate to build massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. But it’s a losing battle until a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi) are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past. Though the story line is a bit silly and full of holes, one easily suspends disbelief to savor del Toro’s style and flourish and his fantastic images. It’s a slam-bam action-adventure that doesn’t ask you to think too much — you just need to crank up the volume and allow the images to wash over you. Extras include commentary by del Toro; a trio of behind-the-scenes documentaries, “Drift Space,” “The Digital Artistry of Pacific Rim” and “The Shatterdome”; a series of “Focus Points” featurettes that go further behind the scenes (pointing out, for example, that even though the film used a lot of CGI, del Toro had the actors interact with real-size mock-ups of the Jaegers — muscle-breaking work — to heighten verisimilitude); deleted scenes and a blooper reel. From Warner.
Topping the list of must-viewing this week is “Eyes Without a Face” (1960), making its Blu-ray debut from The Criterion Collection. At his secluded chateau in the French countryside, a brilliant, obsessive doctor (“Children of Paradise’s” Pierre Brasseur) attempts a radical plastic surgery to restore the beauty of his daughter’s disfigured countenance — at a horrifying price. “Eyes Without a Face,” directed by the supremely talented Georges Franju, is rare in horror cinema for its odd mixture of the ghastly and the lyrical, and it has been a major influence on the genre in the decades since its release. There are images here — of terror, of gore, of inexplicable beauty — that once seen are never forgotten. In French with English subtitles, in a new high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack.
“Wild Style” (1983) is the landmark New York film that introduced hip-hop, break dancing, freestyle rapping and graffitti art to the world. Legendary New York graffitti artist Lee Quinones stars in the role of Zoro, the city’s hottest and most elusive graffitti writer as he makes his way from the bombed-out streets of the Bronx to the lively art world of downtown Manhattan, all the while working through his complicated feelings for fellow graffitti artist Rose (Sandra Fabara). Along his journey, Zoro encounters a number of other New York denizens on the streets, in subway trains and out in the nightclubs, who revel in the passion and innovation of the burgeoning hip-hop culture. In a special 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition two-disc set with a 48-page booklet written by director Charlie Ahearn, $29.95 from Music Box Films … “Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle” (2013) is a well-made and fairly comprehensive three-part PBS documentary that examines the comic book genre and its powerful legacy in America, beginning some 75 years ago when these “disposable diversions” were created in large part by the children of immigrants whose fierce loyalty to a new homeland laid the foundation for a multi-billion-dollar industry. The first part, “Truth, Justice, and the American Way (1938-1958)” chronicles the origins of superheroes — from Superman and Batman to Wonder Woman and Captain America. In the next section, “Great Power, Great Responsibility (1959-1977),” the next generation of comic books were subject to intense government scrutiny for their influence on American children (vis-a-vis the infamous Comic’s Code Authority), and the comics grew up. In the final section, “A Hero Can Be Anyone (1978-Present),” superheroes (and mere mortal heroes) became an influential part of our national identity, and reflected the darker side of late-20th and early 21st century culture and politics. Among the notable on-camera talents in the film are Stan Lee, Adam West, Lynda Carter, Pulitzer Prize-winners Michael Chabon and Jules Feiffer, and interviews with the late greats Joe Simon (co-creator of Captain America) and Jerry Robinson (who helped create the Joker). Airs on PBS Tuesday Nights, October 8–October 22. On DVD $24.99; Blu-ray $29.99. From PBS Distribution.
Think you know your American (or world) history? Unless you’ve read Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” or made a heroic effort to dig down deeper into historical sources, past what we’ve been taught in high school and most colleges, there’s a myopia that prevents many Americans from seeing the wider picture of the world around us. Here’s an antidote: “The Untold History of the United States” (2013), a 10-part Showtime Original Series from three-time Academy Award-winning writer and director Oliver Stone. The in-depth, surprising, and totally riveting series, co-written by Stone with Peter Kuznick and Matt Graham, was directed and narrated by Stone. Stone and Kuznick, esteemed American University Associate Professor of History, and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute, co-authored the companion book (Gallery Books) to the series, which presents our country’s unlearned history, drawing on archival findings from around the world and recently declassified material. The documentary looks back at human events that at the time went under-reported, but that crucially shaped America’s unique and complex history throughout the 20th century, covering the time period from the atomic bombing of Japan to the Cold War, through the fall of Communism to the events of today. Beside the 10 chapters, this release will boast more than three and a half hours of bonus material, including two unaired chapters and a new companion documentary featuring Stone and Tariq Ali — author, philosopher, activist, writer, socialist leader, editor — who worked with Stone on the documentary “South of the Border.” Right now the project is only available as four-disc Blu-ray set for $49.99; from Warner.
Other notable releases this week: The Blu-ray debut of “High Plains Drifter” (1973), directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Eastwood, Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill, Mitch Ryan, Jack Ging, Morgan Allen and Stefan Gierasch. One of Eastwood’s signature Westerns, and his second film as a director, it’s a variation on the “man with no name” theme. Eastwood stars as the drifter known only as “the Stranger,” who mysteriously appears out of the heat waves of the desert and rides into the lawless, sin-ridden town of Lago. After making a name for himself with a string of blazing gun battles, The Stranger is hired by the townspeople to provide protection from three ruthless gunmen. A prime example of Eastwood’s emphasis on justice, redemption, revenge and morality. From Universal … Universal has released “Love Actually — 10th Anniversary Edition” (2003), a delightful romantic comedy — and perennial holiday season favorite — that follows eight couples whose lives intersect shortly before Christmas. Stars Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Sienna Guillory, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Laura Linney, Keira Knightley, Martin Freeman, Andrew Lincoln, January Jones, Thomas Sangster, Kris Marshall, Heike Makatsch, Gregor Fisher, Joanna Page and Chiwetel Ejiofor. On DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo, with such extras as deleted scenes, “The Music of Love Actually,” “The Storytellers,” Kelly Clarkson “The Trouble With Love Is” music video, Billy Mack “Christmas is All Around” music video and commentary.
THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“The Purge” combines the best of several thriller genres all in one fairly tightly directed and acted outing: there’s the near-futuristic “Clockwork Orange” violence-for-violence’s- sake scenario, a home-invasion-by-strangers attack, and a “Straw Dogs’s” fight-back retaliation. In the near future, in order to reduce crime in America, the government has sanctioned an annual 12-hour period in which any and all criminal activity — including murder — is legal. Supposedly this quells bad behavior the other 364 days of the year. Ethan Hawke’s family — wife (Lena Headey), daughter and son — hunker down in their secure home in a gated community to wait out the night. But when they allow a homeless man to find safety in their house, a gang of yuppie murderers mount an all-out assault on them — and the family has to learn to defend themselves. It’s all very exciting and edge-of-your seat, with several neat twists and a predictable ending that you wait for since it’s been foreshadowed about 30 minutes into the film. “The Purge” didn’t fare well at the box office or with the critics but it definitely deserves a better chance on DVD — it’s much better than you suspect. Co-stars Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane and Edwin Hodge. The only bonus feature is a behind-the-scenes featurette, “Surviving the Night: The Making of The Purge.” From Universal.
For “The Hangover Part III,” director Todd Phillips and stars Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha and Ken Jeong reunited for a little “hair of the dog” to pad their checking accounts one last time. In this nasty sequel, the guys of the Wolfpack are happily married and content with their lives — except for Alan (Galifianakis), who’s rudderless and off his meds. The boys decide to stage an intervention and take him to a retreat in Arizona — but get waylaid and double-crossed by murderers, thieves, drug dealers, and their old Bangkok buddy, Leslie Chow (Jeong). The first “Hangover” was lewd and rude and a surprise hit; No. 2 upped the ante by transporting the first’s Las Vegas shenanigans into Thailand, amping up the violence and stupidity. For No. 3, the only way to outdo the previous editions was by killing people — which they do. Without the shock of the new, this “Hangover” just flounders around, gasping for air. And, to make matters worse, the film ends a full 12 minutes before the credits roll. I needed a stiff drink after this one. Extras include “Replacing Zach: The Secret Auditions,” outtakes, “The Wolfpack’s Wildest Stunts,” “Zach Galifianakis in His Own Words,” an action mash-up, “Inside Focus: The Real Chow,” extended scenes. From Warner.
In “After Earth,” Jaden Smith stars as Kitai Raige, the failed cadet son of the zen-like general of the United Ranger Corps (Will Smith in a god-like role as Cypher Raige), the military arm of a human race transplanted onto a new world after destroying the Earth 1,000 years earlier. But the kid gets a chance to prove his mettle when the space ship he’s traveling on — with his dad — crash lands on, of all places, Earth, and he must travel 100km over rough land to retrieve a beacon to signal for help. The movie starts off with some weak narration to introduce the action, then segues into a contrived storyline with weak acting by the young Smith (the kid just can’t take command of a scene, though he plays scared really well). It’s goofy and ludicrous and a vanity project for kid Smith by pop Smith’s production company. The best part of the film is one of its extras: “The Nature of the Future” featurette that explores the beautiful landscapes in which the film was shot (Costa Rica, Utah and Northern California), set to lush music. Other extras: “A Father’s Legacy” featurette with Will and Jaden Smith on- and off-screen; “1,000 Years in 300 Seconds” on-location featurette; an alternate opening sequence; “Building a World” featurette; “Pre-Visualizing the Future” featurette; “The Animatics of After Earth” featurette. From Sony.
Speaking of vanity projects, here’s one that works: director Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” a delightful Shakespearean romp gussied up in 21st century garb and surroundings with 21st century sensuality and looks. The film was shot in just 12 days (using the original text), in secret, while Whedon was working on “Marvel’s The Avengers,” at Whedon’s Santa Monica home. It’s amazing that after seven centuries, ol’ William’s words and insights about relationships, lust, revenge and the game of love — here epitomized by sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick — still hold true. Lighthearted and thoroughly entertaining, mostly because the actors here strut their stuff, working with a director whose passion for the project drove him to forgo a vacation for his 20th wedding anniversary (suggested by his wife, Kai Cole.) Extras include a pair of light-hearted behind-the-scenes featurettes and commentary. From Lionsgate.
“Europa Report” (2013) is one of the new breed of thrillers (using any combination of “documentary” story-telling, video camera footage, talking heads and real-time action) that has brought us “The Blair Witch Project,” the “Paranormal Activity” outings, “Cloverfield,” “Apollo 18″ and “Troll Hunter.” Though this science fiction actioner puts a lot of emphasis on science fact, it never shortchanges the fiction, stylishly delivering its thrills and chills, much like Danny Boyle’s highly underrated “Sunshine,” to which “Europa Report” has a striking kinship. When unmanned probes suggest that a hidden ocean could exist underneath Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa Ventures, a privately funded space exploration company, sends six of the best astronauts from around the world to confirm the data and explore the revolutionary possibility that life may exist there. It’s a doomed mission, and we’re given privy to the failures of the venture: the loss of communications, equipment breakdowns, the tragic death of a crew member, the psychological and physical toll of deep space travel and, after arriving on Europa, a discovery more frightening than the crew could ever have imagined. It’s well-acted, directed, and the CGI is incredible — with utmost detail to scientific realities. Sci-fi fans need to put this on their short list. Helmed by up-and-coming Ecuadorian director Sebastian Cordero and starring Christian Camargo, Embeth Davidtz, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra and Sharlto Copley. Extras include a pair of enlightening featurettes, “Exploring the Visual Effects of Europa Report” and “The Musical Journey of Europa Report.” From Magnolia Home Entertainment.
At the top of the list this week is the great French director Rene Clair’s second American film, the fantasy romantic comedy “I Married a Witch” (1942). Here Veronica Lake casts a seductive spell as a charmingly vengeful sorceress in this supernatural screwball classic. Many centuries after cursing the male descendants of the Salem Puritan who sent her to the stake, this blonde bombshell with a broomstick finds herself drawn to one of them — a prospective governor (Fredric March) about to marry a spoiled socialite (Susan Hayward). This most delightful of the films the innovative French director made in Hollywood is a comic confection bursting with playful special effects and sparkling witticisms. In a new 2K digital restoration, on Blu-ray and DVD. Extras include an audio interview with Clair, the trailer, and a booklet featuring an essay by filmmaker Guy Maddin and a 1970 interview with Clair. From the Criterion Collection.
FROM OUT OF THE VAULTS: “The Avengers — The Complete Emma Peel Megaset” (1965-1968) is a 16-disc set, including all three seasons and 51 episodes that featured Emma Peel’s (Diana Rigg) undercover roles, from her unforgettable debut in her famous leather cat suit, to her thrilling last spy adventure. Available on DVD for the first time in four years, the collection spans all of Peel’s time on the hit series with star Patrick Macnee. $49.98 from Lionsgate … The Star Wars trilogies are back, this time in combo Blu-ray/DVD sets: “Star Wars Trilogy Episodes IV-VI” contains the original “Star Wars” trilogy: “A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.” “Star Wars Trilogy Episodes I-III” contains the “Star Wars” prequels: “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace”, “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones” and “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.” Each set goes for $59.99 … “Night Train to Terror” (1985) makes its Blu-ray debut this week. It’s a trio of stories that takes place aboard a fast moving train bound for Hell, during which God and Satan decide the fates of three unfortunate mortals: Harry, a fiendish killer who keeps the horribly mutilated body parts of his countless victims in a diabolical torture chamber; Gretta, a young woman, obsessed with death, who takes part in an unspeakable ritual of Russian roulette; and Claire, a young woman and a Holocaust survivor who is terrorized by the son of Satan. Stars Cameron Mitchell, John Phillip Law, Merideth Haze and Richard Moll. From Vinegar Syndrome.
FOR HALLOWEEN THRILLS: Universal has “Chucky: The Complete Collection — Limited Edition” so you can set a play date with Chucky with all six movies together for the first time in a chilling collection: “Child’s Play,” “Child’s Play 2,” “Child’s Play 3,” “Bride of Chucky,” “Seed of Chucky” and “Curse of Chucky” (see below). On Blu-ray and DVD.
BLU-RAY DEBUTS: “On the Riviera “ (1951), starring Danny Kaye, Gene Tierney and Corinne Calvet. Danny Kaye stars in dual performances in this musical farce about a womanizing French financier-aviator (Kaye) who, faced with a scheduling conflict, hires a nightclub performer (also Kaye) to temporarily impersonate him … and romance two beautiful women who both think he’s their lover. Released to celebrate Kaye’s centennial … “Fantastic Voyage” (1966), directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Stephen Boyd, Donald Pleasence, Raquel Welch, Edmond O’Brien, Arthur O’Connell and Arthur Kennedy … and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (1961), directed by Irwin Allen and starring Walter Pidgeon, Barbara Eden, Peter Lorre, Joan Fontaine, Robert Sterling, Michael Ansara, Frankie Avalon and Regis Toomey. All three from Fox.
BLU-RAY ANNIVERSARY EDITIONS: Warner has released a 40th anniversary edition of what has to be one of the scariest movies of all time (due to great writing, directing, acting and verisimilitude): “The Exorcist 40th Anniversary Extended Director’s Cut” (1973), directed by William Friedkin and starring Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran, Jason Miller, Linda Blair and Mercedes McCambridge (as the voice of the devil). The set includes the extended director’s cut and the theatrical version. Extras include a new featurette, “Beyond Comprehension: William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist,” in which author Blatty returns to some of the locations that figure in the novel and film; “Talk of the Devil,” in which Blatty talks with Father Eugene Gallagher about the true story behind the exorcism; two commentaries by Friedkin; commentary by Blatty; introduction by Friedkin; 1998 BBC documentary “The Fear of God: 25 Years of the Exorcist”; “Raising Hell: Filming the Exorcist” set footage; “The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now”; “Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of The Exorcist,” with Friedkin and Blatty discussing the different versions of the film and featuring outtakes from the film; original ending; interviews; sketches and storyboards; radio spots; TV spots; and trailers … Universal has released “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life — 30th Anniversary Edition” (1983), starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. Celebrate the 30th anniversary by re-living every side-splitting comedic moment, every outrageous vignette and every tasteless joke, as Monty Python commands your attention once again following their breakthrough “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “Life of Brian.” “The Meaning of Life” brought all the loyal Pythonites back together, sharing writing responsibilities as they returned to their much loved sketch show format, with Terry Jones directing and John Goldstone producing, the group bringing to life roles ranging from The Grim Reaper to the legendary Mr. Creosote. Segments included “The Miracle of Birth,” “Live Organ Transplants” and “The Autumn Years.” Extras include “The Meaning of Monty Python: 30th Anniversary Reunion,” in which the Pythons takes a funny, enlightening trip down memory lane. Thirty years after making “The Meaning of Life,” Cleese, Gilliam, Idle, Jones and Palin reunite for a new hour-long conversation about the last movie they made together. From the beach in Jamaica where it was written to the hilarious ideas that didn’t make the cut, the Pythons provoke laughter and thought with a wide-ranging discussion about comedy, society, the universe and the biggest mystery of all: “why are fish funny?” And there’s a sing-along version of the film.
THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
Every once in a while a comedy comes along that pushes the boundaries of what one expects in a movie. “Pink Flamingos,” “The Life of Brian,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “Borat” and “The Hangover” come to mind. Now add to the list “This Is the End,” an outrageous, raunchy comedy directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and starring a bevy of Hollywood stars playing themselves as petty, selfish, lascivious Hollywood stars attending a party at James Franco’s house in the Hollywood Hills. In attendance are Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Aziz Ansari, Paul Rudd, Mindy Kaling, Jason Segel, Michael Cera, Rihanna, Emma Watson, Martin Starr, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and many, many others — all having a wild time until a series of strange and catastrophic events — the apocalypse — devastate Los Angeles. Five of the partygoers, all friends — Franco, Hill, Rogen, Baruchel and Robinson — soon joined by Danny McBride — are trapped in the house and, as the world outside burns in the heat of damnation, dwindling supplies and cabin fever inside threaten to tear the friendships apart. There’s some very, very nasty, almost pornographic scenes and crazy special effects that, in conjunction with the actors poking fun at themselves and their lifestyles, makes for a very funny ride. I was shocked, titillated and fell off my chair with laugher. But beware — this is rated a very hard “R.” DVD extras include commentary with Rogen and Goldberg and several self-referential featurettes, including “Directing Your Friends,” “This Is the Marketing” marketing outtakes, a redband sizzle trailer, and more, The Blu-ray adds deleted scenes; “This Is the Gag Reel,” a line-o-ramas blooper reel with back-to-back shots of the actors’ different delivery of certain lines from the film; and six more featurettes. From Sony.
Also due this week: “The Croods,” which was unavailable for review.
It’s another great week for filmlovers, with restored versions of “The Littler Mermaid,” “The Big Parade,” “From Here to Eternity” and “House of Wax,” as well as a new edition of “The Wizard of Oz.”
Kids today may not have heard of King Vidor, but he was one of the early geniuses of Hollywood filmmaking, beginning in silent films in the 1910s and working his magic right through the 1950s. Along the way he made such classics as “The Crowd” (1928), “The Champ” (1931), “Stella Dallas” (1937), worked on the Kansas scenes in “The Wizard of Oz,” “Northwest Passage” (1940), “Duel in the Sun” (1946), “The Fountainhead” (1949) and “Solomon and Sheba” (1959). “The Big Parade,” making its DVD and Blu-ray debut this week, is his monumental masterpiece, a 140-minute opus that tells the harrowing story of a young man’s (John Gilbert) front-line experiences in World War I. It was the highest-grossing silent film of all time, as well as the first realistic war drama, and stands the test of time as a stunning work of art. The Blu-ray is packed with a 64-page book with comprehensive notes by film historian Kevin Brownlow, with original art, photos and advertising material. Other extras include commentary by historian Jeffrey Vance with King Vidor, “The Men Who Made the Movies: King Vidor” documentary, and a vintage 1925 studio tour short. Co-stars Renee Adoree, Hobart Bosworth and Claire McDowell. A must-have for every cinephile. From Warner.
Disney has brought one of their most-in-demand DVDs out of the vault and plied their magic with it in a Diamond Edition Blu-ray and DVD with digital image restoration and high-definition sound: We’re talking about none other than “The Little Mermaid” (1989), which ushered in a renaissance of Disney animated films that set the stage for “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King.” Though this is not one of my favorites — that has to go to the aforementioned two titles — “The Little Mermaid” is still a wonderful tale about a headstrong young mermaid, Ariel, who falls for a human and trades her beautiful singing voice to the evil Sea Witch Ursula for human legs. The Blu-ray transfer is fabulous with colors ever-so bolder and clearer than the DVD; the new soundtrack improvements will only be noticed if you have a surround sound set-up. The film features the voices of Jodi Benson, Samuel E. Wright, Jason Marin, Pat Carroll, Buddy Hackett, Christopher Daniel and Kenneth Mars, with the fabulous lyrics and music by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. “The Little mermaid” is available in a variety of packages, including a 3D version: A three-disc Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Music Download), $49.99; two-disc Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray + DVD/Digital Copy), $44.99; two-disc Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray + DVD), $39.99. Extras a new music video, “Part of Your World”; “@ Disney Animation” behind-the-scenes; a deleted character, Harold the Merman; “The Real Little Mermaid: Live Action Reference Model”; “Part of Her World: Jodi Benson’s Voyage to New Fantasyland”; and classic DVD bonus features.
“From Here to Eternity” (1953) was the film that reinvigorated Frank Sinatra’s flagging film career and featured incredibly nuanced performances by a bevy of Hollywood luminaries, including Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed and Ernest Borgnine. Director Fred Zinnemann’s adaptation of the racy James Jones novel incensed both the film censors and the U.S. Army for it’s hot love scenes and depiction of army life; the film went on to win eight Academy Awards and become one of the highest grossing films of all time. Sony has meticulously restored the film from a 4k scan for its Blu-ray debut — and it’s scrumptious. Extras include commentary with Tim Zinnemann (the director’s son) and screenwriter Alvin Sargent; a vintage “The Making of From Here to Eternity” documentary; vintage “Fred Zinnemann: As I See It”; and a new “Eternal History” graphics in picture track that explores the story of how 1953′s Best Picture winner came to be told, with new interviews, exclusive photos and other rare material. Another must-have.
Warner has a new, restored and remastered high-definition release for the Blu-ray debut of director Andre de Toth’s creepy 1953 horror film “House of Wax,” the first color 3D feature released by a major studio and the first 3-D film with stereophonic sound to be presented in a regular movie theater. The film, starring Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones, Paul Picerni and Charles Buchinsky (aka Charles Bronson), become a huge hit (If adjusted to today’s gross, it would have brought in more than $401 million, placing it among the top 100 highest grossing films ever). It also marked Vincent Price’s first major starring horror role and changed the course of his career. Originally designed to lure audiences away from their TV sets, 3D utilized a “left-eye/right-eye” dual projection process and polarized glasses, the basis for what is seen today. Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging group’s work on “House of Wax” included a 4K scan, and a full restoration of the two “eyes,” as well as perfect 3D image alignment. Extras on the 3D Blu-ray/ 2D release include a new featurette, “House of Wax: Unlike Anything You’ve Seen Before”; “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” the original 1933 film on which “House of Wax” was based; commentary; “Round-the-Clock Premiere: Coast Hails House of Wax”; and the original trailer.
It seems like only yesterday that Warner gave us a souped up Blu-ray version of the wonderful
“The Wizard of Oz” — and, in fact, it was only four years ago, in 2009, that they releases a now-out-of-print collector’s edition of the classic. With “Wizard” turning 75, the company has put together yet another edition of the 1939 film, here in a “The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Collector’s Edition” five-disc set that includes Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD and UltraViolet versions of the film; a new documentary, “The Making of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”; bonus features from previous editions; premium collectibles (a collectible 75th Anniversary journal, Sparkle Ruby Slippers Globe, Noble Collection 3-piece enamel pin set, a map of Oz and a 48-page hardcover book); all for $105.43. Three more editions will be available separately: a two-disc 3D/Blu-ray ($35.99), a one-disc Blu-ray ($19.98) and a two-disc DVD ($16.95), all with the new documentary and extra content.
Also due this week: “Downton Abbey Seasons 1, 2 & 3″ is a limited edition set that includes Season 1, Season 2 and Season 3 in special collectable gift-set packaging, with more than three hours of previously released bonus video, including “Downton Abbey: The Making of,” “Downton Abbey: Behind the Drama” and more; the set includes the bonus disc “Secrets of Highclere Castle,” a one-hour documentary that steps inside the castle featured in “Downton Abbey.” On DVD, $89.99, and Blu-ray Disc, $99.99, from PBS Distribution … In the mid-1960s the often rigid and colorless British way of life was irrevocably transformed by the emergence of a cultural underground movement. Led by a loose collective of young radicals, they introduced new social, sexual and aesthetic perspectives. Operating out of the heart of London, their various activities, from The International Times — a bi-weekly journal that no hipster could be seen without — to the psychedelic nightclub UFO, promoted alternative lifestyles and values, and sparked a social revolution. “Paul McCartney — Going Underground: McCartney, The Beatles and the UK Counter-Culture” (2013) not only traces the history of this underground scene, but also explores its impact on the pre-eminent British group of the era, The Beatles. Although they were well established by the time the movement emerged, The Beatles, and Paul McCartney in particular, were closely linked with several of its key players, and through their exposure to cutting edge concepts, brought ideas directly from the avant-garde into the mainstream. Features new interviews with key players from the time, including Barry Miles of the IT, Pink Floyd producer Joe Boyd, Robert Wyatt, and many more, as well as rare footage, archive photographs, and music from The Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Soft machine, and others. On DVD from MVD Visual.
THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“Iron Man 3″: I was no fan of the first two “Iron Man” movies; I found snarky wealthy industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his tin-man-without-a-heart persona rather annoying and the action all too metallic and overwhelming; there just wasn’t enough reality to the films. Of course I was in the minority. But that’s been rectified by this outing, which, by stripping Stark of his safety net and putting him out into the world sans his armor, serves to humanizee the character and actually make me root for him (instead of wanting to run out and get a can opener). The plot: A foreign radical named The Mandarin masterminds a series of terrorist attacks, including one on Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre and one that totally destroys Stark’s house and all its weaponry, forcing Stark and one remaining suit into hiding in, of all places, Tennessee. There he finds out about a super-secret DNA altering program called Extremis that gives people super-human strength and the ability to recover from crippling injuries. That discovery leads him to Miami, where he finds that the real brains behind The Mandarin is someone from his past who not only has a grudge to settle with Stark, but who also wants to take down the president of the United States and install a puppet government. Only Stark — basically stripped of his powers and relying on his intellect and wits — stands in the way of this dastardly scenario. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: Does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man? Jon Favreau handed over the directorial duties on “3″ to Shane Black, who wrote the “Lethal Weapon” franchise films, “The Long Kiss Goodnight” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” and who, along with Drew Pearce, wrote this definitely more humanistic story line. Co-stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Paul Bettany, William Sadler, James Badge Dale and Yvonne Zima. Extras include a very cool “Marvel One Shot: Agent Carter” short film starring Hayley Atwell as British agent Peggy Carter from “Captain America,” flexing her muscles as a hot secret agent for S.H.I.E.L.D; a couple behind-the-scenes featurettes; a gag reel and deleted & extended scenes; and commentary with Pearce and Black. From Disney.
“In the House”: French master filmmaker Francois Ozon (“Young & Beautiful”, “Potiche,” “Hideaway,” “Angel,” “Swimming Pool,” “Under the Sand”) again pushes the boundaries of storytelling with this genre-busting mystery-thriller-romance about the intrigues created by a 16-year-old student, Claude (Ernst Umhauer), who comes to the fore in a writing class taught by a bored, middle-aged, failed writer, Germain (Fabrice Luchini). When Claude comes up with a short story written about how he has schemed his way into the house of a schoolmate and seen things not meant for outsiders’ eyes, he seduces German and his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) into what becomes an ongoing tale, creating a multi-layered saga that pushes at imagination, reality and fantasy, threatening to suck the pair into the saga as characters in Claude’s own story. It’s suspenseful, disturbing and a heck of a lot of fun. In French with English subtitles. Co-stars Emmanuelle Seigner, Denis Menochet and Bastien Ughetto. Extras include a making-of documentary and deleted scenes. From Cohen Media Group.
“Room 237″: Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Shining” was released in May 1980 to mixed reviews and a slow but steady boxoffice (topping out at a very respectable $44 million by year’s end). As with all of Kubrick’s work, it was a multilayered affair, ripe with allusions and meanings. But unlike other Kubrick films, a cult of interpreters sprang up around “The Shining,” fans who claimed to have decoded the film’s “secret messages” addressing everything from the genocide of Native Americans to a range of government conspiracies. This documentary takes a look at some of the complex theories that attempt to deconstruct the film and create a new meaning out of “the hidden symbols and messages” embedded in Kubrick’s scenario. We hear from some of the people who have reworked the film to match their own ideas; “The Shining” is examined inside and out, backwards and forwards (and, as one theorist urges, the film is literally played forward and backwards simultaneously to note overlapping images and symbols), intercutting it with layers of dreamlike imagery to illustrate their streams of consciousness. It’s a bit too much at times, kind of reminiscent of the “Paul Is Dead” conspiracy; if nothing else, it’s a fun endeavor. (In case you forgot, Room 237 is where some rather nasty stuff takes place in the film). Extras include featurettes and deleted scenes. From IFC films
Also due this week: “Unfinished Song,” which was unavailable for review.
It’s beginning to smell a lot like holiday gift-giving time — in late September? Yep. This week marks the beginning of an onslaught of box sets, collectors’ editions, remasters from the vaults, and all sorts of merchandising gambits to loosen our grip on our wallets. And I couldn’t be happier. Here’s this week’s majestic releases, in order of age-appropriateness:
Warner Home Video is unleashing “The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray,” a six-disc set with “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” with the existing extra content for each film. “Batman Begins” and its special features reside on one disc; “The Dark Knight” and its special features take up two discs; “The Dark Knight Rises” also takes up two discs; a sixth disc is devoted to new special features, which include two new featurettes — “The Fire Rises: The Creation and Impact of The Dark Knight Trilogy” (with never- before-seen footage, rare moments, and exclusive interviews with Guillermo Del Toro, Damon Lindelof, Michael Mann, Richard Roeper, Zack Snyder and others) and “Christopher Nolan & Richard Donner: A Conversation” (Nolan and Richard Donner ["Superman"] sit down to discuss the trials and triumphs involved in bringing the two most iconic superheroes of all time to the big screen, and how “Superman” influenced Nolan when developing” Batman Begins”); IMAX sequences: Scenes from “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises” in the original IMAX aspect ratio; exclusive new collectible memorabilia: Premium Mattel Hot Wheels Vehicles: Batmobile, Batpod and Tumbler, newly commissioned collectible art cards by Mondo featuring Scarecrow, Joker, Bane, Harvey Dent, and Ra’s al Ghul, 48-page hardcover book featuring production stills and behind the scenes images from all three movies. Whew! The set, which carries a $99.97 price tag (but is much lower via Amazon), is also available as a download and via UltraViolet.
Next up is Anchor Bay’s “Halloween 35th Anniversary Blu-ray” (1978), in an all-new HD transfer personally supervised by the film’s original cinematographer, Dean Cundey, with a new 7.1 audio mix (as well as the original mono audio), a brand-new feature length audio commentary by writer-director John Carpenter and star Jamie Lee Curtis, an all-new bonus feature with Curtis, as well as selected legacy bonus features from previous releases. Available in a collectible limited-edition book-style package (available only for the first printing) with 20 pages featuring archival photos, an essay by “Halloween” historian Stef Hutchinson and specially commissioned cover art by Jay Shaw. $34.99. Other extras include “The Night She Came Home” new featurette with Jamie Lee Curtis, “On Location,” trailers, TV and radio spots, additional scenes from TV version. The film co-stars Donald Pleasence, P.J. Soles, Kyle Richards, Nancy Loomis, Charles Cyphers and Brian Andrews.
Let’s move to the early 1970s now for a stay with one of the true kings of cool, Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack second in command, Dean Martin. Martin’s career as a singer and actor, and as an entertainer, in movies and Las Vegas, spanned the 1950s and 1960s; he was a king of primetime TV from 1965 to 1974 with his “Dean Martin Variety Show”. He next segued to “The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast,” a series of television specials that ran from 1974 to 1984 in which Martin and friends would periodically “roast” a celebrity. “The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Complete Collection” is the ultimate Roasters DVD set, featuring all 54 roasts with such roastees as Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Benny, Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, George Burns, Don Rickles, Hank Aaron, Wilt Chamberlin, Joe Namath, Muhammad Ali, Ronald Reagan, Martin himself, and many, many more. The 25-Disc set includes over 40 hours of incomparable comedy, along with more than 15 hours of bonus features highlighted by comedy sketches from “The Dean Martin Show,” exclusive interviews (with 34 former Roast participants, production personnel, critics and fans including: Don Rickles, Carol Burnett, Ruth Buzzi, Tony Danza, Abe Vigoda, Angie Dickinson, Dan Haggerty, Ed Asner, Fred Willard, Jimmie Walker, Rich Little, Rip Taylor, Shirley Jones, Tim Conway, Florence Henderson and many more), rare home movies, 11 featurettes and a 44-page collector’s book with archival production materials and more. Available exclusively online at deanroasts.com, $249.95. Ships this week from StarVista Entertainment/Time Life.
In the late 1940s, the incandescent Hollywood star Ingrid Bergman found herself so moved by the revolutionary neorealist films of Roberto Rossellini that she sent the director a letter, introducing herself and offering her talents. The resulting collaboration produced a series of films that are works of both sociopolitical concern and metaphysical melodrama, each starring Bergman as a woman experiencing physical dislocation and psychic torment in postwar Italy. It also famously led to a scandalous affair and eventual marriage between the filmmaker and star, and the focus on their personal lives in the press unfortunately overshadowed the extraordinary films they made together. Criterion’s “3 Films By Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman” brings together “Stromboli” (1950), “Europe ’51″ (1952) and “Journey to Italy” (1954) in a five-disc DVD set and a four-disc Blu-ray set. The films are intensely personal portraits that reveal the director at his most emotional and the glamorous actor at her most anguished, and that capture them and the world around them in transition. There are new digital film restorations of the English- and Italian-language versions of “Stromboli” and “Europe ’51″ and the English-language version of “Journey to Italy”, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray editions. A partial list of the extras includes archival television introductions by Rossellini to all three films; audio commentary for “Journey to Italy” featuring scholar Laura Mulvey; “Rossellini Through His Own Eyes,” a 1992 documentary on the filmmaker’s approach to cinema, featuring archival interviews with Rossellini and Bergman; new visual essays about Rossellini by scholars Tag Gallagher and James Quandt; “Rossellini Under the Volcano,” a 1998 documentary that returns to the island of Stromboli 50 years after the making of “Stromboli”; new interview with film historian Elena Degrada about the different versions of “Europe ’51″; new interviews with Isabella Rossellini and Ingrid Rossellini, daughters of Rossellini and Bergman; “Ingrid Bergman Remembered,” a 1996 documentary on the actor’s life, narrated by her daughter Pia Lindstrom; “My Dad Is 100 Years Old,” a 2005 short film, directed by Guy Maddin and starring Isabella Rossellini; a booklet featuring essays by critics Richard Brody, Fred Camper, Dina Iordanova, and Paul Thomas; letters exchanged by Rossellini and Bergman; “Why I Directed Stromboli,” a 1950 article by Rossellini; a 1954 interview with Rossellini conducted by Eric Rohmer and Francois Truffaut for “Cahiers du cinema”; and excerpts from a 1965 interview with Rossellini conducted by Apa and Maurizio Ponzi for “Filmcritica.”
Blu-ray debuts this week: “Prince of Darkness (Collector’s Edition)” (1987), directed by John Carpenter and starring Donald Pleasence, Jameson Parker, Victor Wong, Lisa Blount, Alice Cooper and Dennis Dun. Extras include commentary with Carpenter, “Sympathy for the Devil”: new interview with Carpenter, “Alice at the Apocalypse”: new interview with actor and rock legend Alice Cooper, alternate opening from the TV version, more. From Shout! Factory/Scream Factory …“Psycho II (Collector’s Edition)” (1983), directed by Richard Franklin and starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Meg Tilly, Robert Loggia and Dennis Franz; and “Psycho III (Collector’s Edition)” (1986), directed by Anthony Perkins starring Perkins, Diana Scarwid, Jeff Fahey, Roberta Maxwell and Hugh Gillin. Both sequels hail from Shout! Factory/Scream Factory.
BUZZIN’ THE ‘B’s:
Jason Statham must be one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood, bouncing from action film to action film with aplomb (he’s been in 17 films since 2008). His choice of films may not be perfect, but his characters are: the world weary, emotionally damaged soldier-ex-criminal-detective-etc. who must right wrongs and set things straight with the world (read: the bad guys). Statham’s characters always seem real: they’re flawed and disturbed and they know it. In “Redemption” (2013), he again chooses this type of character — an ex-British Special Ops soldier who flips out in Afghanistan when the crew of his Humvee is slaughtered. Now content to hide out in London with a lady friend in homeless camps, Statham gets sucked into London’s criminal underworld when he’s attacked by a pair of vicious “taxmen” (low-level scum who operate a protection racket on the indigent), and, in the process of running from them, gets an opportunity to remake himself and his life. He ends up taking a job as an enforcer for a Chinese criminal overlord, doing work no-one else will do — extortion, money collection, strong-arming, immigrant smuggling, all the time seeking redemption some how. He finds that in a nun who runs a homeless soup kitchen, and between his involvement with her and his search for the killer(s) of his ex-girlfriend (who was murdered shortly after they split up), his search for absolution drives the latter part of the film. This is not a traditional smack-em up actioner — there’s a noir feel about it, courtesy of writer-director Steven Knight and cinematographer Chris Menges — and bits and pieces of the plot are really offbeat, mostly in Statham’s relationship with the nun. A very interesting “B” effort. From Lionsgate.
THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“Behind the Candelabra” has to be one of the best films of the year — and it wasn’t even released by any of the Hollywood studios. The film — about the life and love of Liberace, a whacked-out entertainer who appealed to a whole generation of middle-class Americans and their grandparents, little knowing that he was gay — was conceived by Steven Soderbergh but rejected by the Hollywood studios; Soderbergh went to HBO, a division of Time Warner, to raise the $5 million (really, really low by today’s standards) to make the film, which premiered at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival to rave reviews. Before Elvis, before Elton John, Madonna and Lady Gaga, there was Liberace: virtuoso pianist, outrageous entertainer and flamboyant star of stage and television. A name synonymous with showmanship, extravagance and candelabras, he was a world-renowned performer with a flair that endeared him to his audiences and created a loyal fan base spanning his 40-year career. Liberace lived lavishly and embraced a lifestyle of excess both on and off stage. In summer 1977, handsome young stranger Scott Thorson walked into his dressing room and, despite their age difference and seemingly different worlds, the two embarked on a secretive five-year love affair. Based on Thorson’s tell-all memoir “Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace,” Soderbergh’s film features electrifying performances by Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as Thorson in what has to be two of the most difficult roles of their careers. During its premiere, the film became one of HBO’s most watched original films in nearly 10 years … and has come in for deservedly high praise from critics everywhere. Co-stars Scott Bakula, Rob Lowe, Debbie Reynolds, Dan Aykroyd and Paul Reiser. Extras include “The Making of Behind the Candelabra” featurette.
“World War Z” is a breathtaking, edge-of-your-seats horror-thriller based on the best-selling book by Max Brooks. Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, an ex-United Nations researcher who’s called back to work by the organization to track down the cause of the Zombie pandemic that plagues the world and threatens to bring down civilization. He must travel the globe — from Philadelphia to South Korea to Jerusalem to Cardiff, Wales — to uncover the cause of the fast-moving disease. And we mean fast-moving. Forget the image of lumbering zombies of the past — these flesheaters move faster than cheetahs and destroy their victims in the wink of an eye. It’s non-stop action from beginning to end with splendid special effects. Directed by Marc Forster and co-starring Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Elyes Gabel, Fana Mokoena, Matthew Fox, Ludi Boeken, David Morse. Blu-ray extras include the unrated cut of the film as well as several behind-the-scenes featurettes and a “Looking to Science” featurette that explores the scientific realities of Zombie behavior in nature and Zombies in literature and film. From Paramount.
Also due this week: “The Bling Ring,” “The East” and “Disconnect,” all unavailable for review.
The highlight of the week is Shout! Factory’s “The Bruce Lee Legacy Collection,” an
11 Blu-ray/DVD box set in book-style packaging marking the 40th anniversary of the release of
“Enter the Dragon” and the 40th anniversary of Lee’s death). The set offers the first-ever Blu-ray presentations (as well as the DVD versions) of “The Big Boss,” “Fist of Fury,” “Way of the Dragon” and “Game of Death” and includes three documentaries on two discs, “Bruce Lee: The Legend” (and the original version “Bruce Lee: The Man, The Legend”), the critically acclaimed “I Am Bruce Lee” and “The Grandmaster and the Dragon: William Cheung and Bruce Lee”; and a bonus disc with hours of extra content. The book includes 68 pages of archival materials, rare and never-before-released photos, a new essay on Lee’s amazing career, and much more. $119.99.
“Two Men in Manhattan” (1959) is a rediscovered gem from master filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville. Melville’s moody dramas, including “Bob le Flambeur,” “Le Doulos,” “Le Samourai” and “Army of Shadows,” were deeply influenced by classic Hollywood crime pictures, making iconic use of cigarette-smoking, world-weary gangsters and detectives in trenchcoats and fedora hats. His minimalist style, including shooting on real locations, was a major influence on the next generation of filmmakers that would create the New Wave. The dark shadows of New York come to life here in this tale about a French UN delegate who disappears into thin air, sending reporter Moreau (Melville himself) and hard-drinking photographer Delmas (Pierre Grasse) on a mission to find him. Their only lead: pictures of three women that could indicate a scandal. Though not the best of Melville’s outings (it was a major flop at the boxoffice and was never released in the states), the film nevertheless is a shining example of Melville’s existential filmmaking: the protagonists (one a hero, the other an antihero) must grapple with ethical dilemmas throughout the course of their Odyssey and decide whether they should cash in on their discovery or squash their finding for the sake of the greater good. The location shots of New York are gorgeous; the interiors (shot in a studio in France) no so. The story line is corny at times and requires leaps of faith by the viewer because of plot inconsistencies — but the film has more to do with the appearances of reality than realism for its own sake. Extras include a conversation between film critics Jonathan Rosenbaum and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky and a new essay by Melville scholar Ginette Vincendeau. On Blu-ray and DVD from Cohen Film Collection.
The Criterion Collection this week offers the Blu-ray debut of Richard Linklater’s “Slacker” (1991), a prime example of American independent film that presents a day in the life of a loose-knit Austin, Texas, subculture populated by eccentric and overeducated young people. Linklater and his crew threw out any idea of a traditional plot, choosing instead to create a tapestry of over 100 characters, each participant “handing off” the movie to the next character he or she meets in the loose-knit structure (ala Luis Bunuel’s “The Phantom of Liberty”). Also from Criterion comes “Autumn Sonata” (1978) on DVD and Blu-ray. The film was the only collaboration between cinema’s two great Bergmans — Ingmar, the iconic director of “The Seventh Seal,” and Ingrid, the monumental star of “Casablanca.” The grand dame, playing an icy concert pianist, is matched beat for beat in ferocity by the filmmaker’s recurring lead Liv Ullmann as her eldest daughter. Over the course of a long, painful night that the two spend together after an extended separation, they finally confront the bitter discord of their relationship. Both releases come loaded with extras.
“A Letter to Three Wives” (1949), directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (almost as a precursor to “All About Eve”) and starring Ann Sothern, Linda Darnell, Jeanne Crain, Kirk Douglas and Paul Douglas, arrives on Blu-ray from Fox. In this award-winning melodrama, a letter is addressed to three wives from their “best friend,” Addie Ross, announcing that she is running away with one of their husbands — but she doesn’t say which one, forcing the women to reminisce about the ups and downs of their marriages — giving the viewer a glimpse into their lives and loves. A fabulous peek at mid-century culture and mores — with great acting and directing. Extras include commentary and “Biography: Linda Darnell: Hollywood’s Fallen Angel.” Other Blu-Ray releases this week: universal has broken up its “Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection” Blu-ray set and has released four of the horror classics separately on Blu-ray: “Frankenstein” (1931), “Dracula” (1931), “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935) and “The Wolf Man” (1941), $26.98 each.
THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“Star Trek Into Darkness”
Having grown up with so many of the TV series from the 1960s and 70s that have been rebooted into movie franchises (many with little success), it was a pleasure to see what director J.J. Abrams did with one of my favorites, “Star Trek.” The original big-screen adaptations — though fun — lacked the excitement and sizzle that the TV series offered (except one: “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”). Abrams pumped the excitement back into the old warhorse with 2009′s “Star Trek” and — for me — upped the ante with this sequel. The plot is complicated — suffice it to say that Captain Kirk gets demoted for interfering with a primitive race on a distant planet, Starfleet comes under attack by a super-powerful-humanoid (named — ummm — Khan) who threatens the Earth, the Enterprise must travel into “the forbidden zone” near the Klingon empire, and there’s a traitor of sorts manipulating everyone into a war. The action is fast-paced and coherent, the story line never obtuse, the twists not too outrageous, and the special effects worthy of “Star Trek.” A real pleasure. Stars John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Peter Weller and Anton Yelchin. Blu-ray extras (at most retailers) include “Creating the Red Planet” featurette, “Attack on Starfleet” behind-the-scenes featurette, “The Klingon Home World” featurette, “The Enemy of My Enemy” featurette, “Ship to Ship” visual effects featurette and “Brawl by the Bay” preparation for the film’s climax. Some Blu-ray versions for some retailers (such as Best Buy and Target) have different extras. From Paramount.
Also due this week: “Chasing Ice,” a documentary about photographer James Balog’s trips to the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers using revolutionary time-lapse cameras; from New Video. “Love Is All You Need,” a romantic comedy about a hairdresser — who has lost her hair to cancer and then finds out her husband is having an affair — who travels to Italy for her daughter’s wedding and meets a widower who still blames the world for the loss of his wife. Stars Pierce Brosnan, Trine Dyrholm, Sebastian Jessen and Molly Blixt Egelind; from Sony. “Peeples” is the latest Tyler Perry film, a romantic comedy about what happens when a “fish-out-of-water” crashes the Peeples annual reunion in the Hamptons to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Stars Craig Robinson, Kerry Washington, David Alan Grier, Tyler James Williams, Kali Hawk, Malcolm Barrett, S. Epatha Merkerson, Melvin Van Peebles, Diahann Carroll and Kimrie Lewis-Davis. From Lionsgate.
We loved Mike Nichols’ 1996 “The Birdcage,” starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as
a gay cabaret owner and his drag queen companion whose lives are thrown topsy-turvy when they agree to put up a false straight front for their son who’s set to marry the daughter of a right-wing moralistic U.S. Senator. But 18 years earlier we fell in love with the original, Edouard Molinaro’s “La Cage aux Folles” (1978), which is making its Blu-ray debut this week via The criterion Collection. How can you go wrong here: Toss in great acting and direction and a groundbreaking story line (in a less tolerant era), all set in the breathtaking environs of St. Tropez. Renato (Ugo Tognazzi) and Albin (Michel Serrault) — a middle-aged gay couple who are the manager and star performer at a glitzy drag club — agree to hide their sexual identities, along with their flamboyant personalities and home decor, when the ultraconservative parents of Renato’s son’s fiancee come for a visit. This elegant French farce about the importance of nonconformity and the beauty of being true to oneself was a breakout art-house smash in America and, of course, spawned “The Birdcage” and a major Broadway musical. In a new 2K digital film restoration, with a new interview with director Edouard Molinaro; archival footage featuring actor Michel Serrault and Jean Poiret, writer and star of the original stage production of “La Cage aux Folles”; a booklet featuring an essay by critic David Ehrenstein; and more.
The mid-1960s was a great time for spy films, with such dashing spymasters as James Bond (Sean Connery), Derek Flint (James Coburn), Matt Helm (Dean Martin), Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) and Quiller (George Segal). Each had their light-hearted moments amongst the spying, mayhem and killing (and a couple, of course, were too light-hearted), but none of them were as bleak as “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” (1965), based on the best-selling novel by John le Carre, about a Cold War spy on one final dangerous mission in East Germany. Richard Burton is superb as Alec Leamas, whose relationship with a beautiful librarian, played by Claire Bloom, puts his assignment in jeopardy. It’s very hard-edged and depressing, but a perfect paradigm for the frightening Cold War atmosphere of the mid century. In a new high-definition digital film restoration from Criterion, with an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with author John le Carre; “The Secret Centre: John le Carre,” a 2000 BBC documentary on the author’s life and work; a booklet featuring an essay by critic Michael Sragow; and more.
Paramount has tied in two Blu-ray releases to “Star Trek Into Darkness”: “Star Trek: Stardate Collection: contains all 10 original “Star Trek” films together on Blu-ray in a premium, collectible package with 12 discs and 25 hours of bonus content: interviews with the cast and crew, commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes and much more. The “Star Trek: The Original Series — Origins” collection showcases the origins episodes of the most significant characters from “Star Trek: The Original Series.” Introduced by Rod Roddenberry, son of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, and starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig and Ricardo Montalban, this collection includes: “The Cage,” thr original pilot episode of the epic series that introduced the iconic characters Captain Pike and Spock; “Where No Man Has Gone Before” second pilot episode in which Captain James T. Kirk is first seen at the helm of the Enterprise; “Space Seed” debut of the unforgettable super villain, Khan; “Errand of Mercy” introduces the legendary alien race the Klingons; “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Other Blu-ray releases this week: “The Fly” (1958), starring David Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall, from Fox … and, on Friday, September 13, Warner will spring “Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection” with all 12 films from Warner Bros. and Paramount in one “Horrific” collection: a 10-Disc set with seven Blu-ray debuts and 11 hours of extra content in collectible tin packaging; includes a 40-page book with behind-the-scenes photos, a Camp Crystal Lake counselor patch, more. $129.95.
And speaking of Friday the 13, the folks over at 1428 Films have put together “Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th” that takes viewers behind the mask on a journey into the making of the landmark horror franchise — from its humble beginnings in 1980 at a New Jersey summer camp to the blockbuster release of its 2009 “reboot.” Combining hundreds of rare and never-before-seen photographs, film clips, outtakes, archival documents, conceptual art and behind-the-scenes footage, and featuring interviews with more than 150 cast and crew members spanning all twelve films and the television series, this is the ultimate tribute to one of horror’s most iconic and enduring franchises. $29.95 in a two Blu-ray/two DVD Combo.keep looking »