THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“The Purge: Anarchy”: Writer-director-producer James DeMonaco’s sequel to his summer 2013’s sleeper hit takes place in a near-future Los Angeles as citizens once again get ready to prepare for the country’s yearly night of anarchy — The Purge — in which murder and mayhem is legalized for 12 hours in an effort to lower the crime rate for the rest of the year. This chapter follows a couple driving home whose car breaks down, stranding them just before The Purge commences; a police sergeant who goes out into the streets to get revenge on the man who killed his son; and a mother and daughter who run from their home after assailants destroy it. The armed-to-the-teeth sergeant takes the four under his wing as they attempt to survive the night, going up against petty criminals, murderers and a black ops operation. This outing takes the action out of the confines of the original (set in an upper-middle-class house) and broadens the scenario, bringing the story our into the streets where there’s plenty of excitement, twists and surprise. It’s bloody good fun with slick direction and solid acting. Extras include deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette. From Universal.
“Snowpiercer”: This masterful action spectacular by South Korean horror-specialist director Bong Joon Ho (“The Host,” “Mother”) takes place entirely on a train and follows a revolt pitting passenger against passenger as the cars hurtle around the world. After a failed global-warming experiment kills off most life on the planet, a group of wealthy elites builds a train powered by a perpetual-motion engine; while they live in luxury in the front cars, the unwashed lower-class workers — subjugated to death and brutality — are relegated to the back. After more than a decade of subservience, the workers are rallied by one man to revolt, and they work their way — car by car — to the front. Brutal, violent and extremely exciting, it’s an interesting visual diatribe on rich vs. poor, science vs. humanity and the nature of revolution. Outstanding performances by Chris Evans, Namgoong Minsoo, John Hurt and especially Tilda Swinton. Based on a graphic novel. Extras include several interesting behind-the-scenes featurettes. From Anchor Bay.
“Sex Tape”: Very dumb movie about a married couple — played by Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz — whose private video of their sex life, in which they try out every position in “The Joy of Sex,” inadvertently goes viral on the Internet. Nuff said. Extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette, bloopers, deleted & extended scenes. From Sony.
THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS:
“La dolce vita” (1960) was the biggest hit from the most popular Italian filmmaker of all time, rocketing Federico Fellini to international mainstream success. It also was a watershed film in world cinema as Fellini totally abandoned neorealism for an episodic, subjective look at 1960s Italy and Rome and the upper-middle class that was rising to power. Not only did he cast a critical eye at the shallow “good life,” he also offered a strong critique of the culture of stardom and the rise of the new, events-driven media. A look at the darkness beneath the seductive lifestyles of Rome’s rich and glamorous, the film follows a notorious celebrity journalist — played by a sublimely cool Marcello Mastroianni — during a hectic week spent on the peripheries of the spotlight. The picture — gorgeously shot on location in Rome with splendid widescreen interiors and sets — is an incisive look at the empty lives of the bourgeoise and the claustrophobia of celebrityhood and fame. In a stunning new 4K digital restoration by the Film Foundation, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new visual essay by kogonada on the cryptic closing shot; a new interview with filmmaker Lina Wertmüller, who worked as assistant director on the film; a featurette with scholar David Forgacs, who discusses the period in Italy’s history when the film was made; and a new interview with Italian film journalist Antonello Sarno about the outlandish fashions seen in the film; and an essay by critic Gary Giddins. From The Criterion Collection.
If you grew up in the 1950s, you gotta remember the Western classic “Annie Oakley,” starring Gail Davis as the legendary sharpshooter. At a time when TV was dominated by male space heroes, private eyes and cowpokes, a female action hero was an anomaly. But what a heroine: Set in the frontier town of Diablo, Az., the series followed the adventures of Annie and her sidekick, deputy sheriff Lofty, as well as her mischievous little brother Tagg, as they clean up the streets of their quiet city by rescuing law-abiding neighbors and arresting outlaws. Cinedigm has brought out an 11-disc “Annie Oakley Complete TV Collection” (1954-57), with all 81 episodes of the sharpshooting series, $99.99. Extras include a cool new 2014 documentary about Gail Davis; seven photo galleries, including hundreds of photos from Gail Davis’ personal collection; the original TV pilot starring Billy Gray as Tagg; and an eight-page episode guide.
Winner of an amazing 22 Emmy Awards, “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” is a cultural touchstone for a generation, and its visually dynamic design and offbeat sense of humor were a genuine phenomenon. All 45 wacky episodes on eight discs, plus the Pee-wee’s Playhouse “Christmas Special,” have been meticulously remastered from the original film elements — Paul Reubens personally supervised the restoration of the series frame by frame — in Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray debut of “Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series.” “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” was an educational, artistic and entertaining show that taught kids strong “life lessons.” With its innovative production design and Reubens’ rich original characters and humor, “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” was a magical place that sparked creativity and imagination and brought joy to children and adults alike. Parents and grown-ups have always enjoyed the show’s many double entendres. The series features beloved regulars Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne), Reba the Mail Lady (S. Epatha Merkerson), Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart), Captain Carl (Phil Hartman), The King of Cartoons (William Marshall), Jambi the Genie (John Paragon), Ricardo (Vic Trevino) and Mrs. Rene (Suzanne Kent). And of course, Chairry, Pterri, Conky, Magic Screen, Clocky, Cool Cat, Dirty Dog, Chicky Baby, Penny, the Dinosaur family, and the rest of the gang. $149.99.
Shout! Factory is beefing up its Vincent Price film offerings with the Blu-ray debut of “The Vincent Price Collection II” a four-disc set with “The House on Haunted Hill” (1959), “The Return of the Fly” (1959), “The Comedy of Terrors” (1963), “The Raven” (1963), “The Last Man on Earth” (1964), “The Tomb of Ligeia” (1964) and “Dr. Phibes Rises Again” (1972). Extras include commentaries with producer/director Roger Corman, actor Brett Halsey, film historians; original theatrical trailers; rare photos and archival materials; a 32-page collector’s book featuring an essay by author and film historian David Del Valle; all for $79.97.
Also due from The Criterion Collection this week is the Blu-ray debut of “F for Fake” (1975), Orson Welles’ free-form documentary that looks at the tenuous line between illusion and truth, art and lies. Beginning with portraits of the world-renowned art forger Elmyr de Hory and his equally devious biographer, Clifford Irving, Welles embarks on a dizzying journey that simultaneously exposes and revels in fakery and fakers of all stripes — not the least of whom is Welles himself.