DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
“Best of Enemies”: In 1968 liberal pundit and novelist Gore Vidal and conservative commentator/publisher William F. Buckley Jr. were at the peak of their powers. Both were outspoken, egotistical and strongly opinionated — and the likelihood that the two would meet on the same stage was next to impossible. Until last-place ABC News came along. The 1968 presidential campaign was a minefield, pitting Richard M. Nixon and his Vietnam war hawks against Hubert Humphrey and his peaceniks (who can forget the horror of the Chicago Convention and riots). Looking to boost their ratings, ABC hired the two towering public intellectuals to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions — setting off explosions that have ricocheted 50 years to the present. News commentary was changed forever: the even-keeled discussions of the past gave way to explosive exchanges that devolved into vitriolic name-calling as Vidal and Buckley — who believed each other’s political ideologies were dangerous for America — pummeled out policy and personal insults. Ratings for ABC News skyrocketed, setting the stage for future political commentary culminating in the 21st century’s ascension of the hyperbole of Fox News and MSNBC. This riveting documentary takes a look at the rivalry between the two, focusing in on the unscripted debates. A must for students of politics and the media. From Magnolia Home Entertainment.
Notorious German serial killer Fritz Haarmann — aka the Butcher of Hanover and the Vampire of Hanover — was responsible for the murders of two dozen boys and young men between World War I and II. His case would partly inspire Fritz Lang’s “M” as well as this forgotten gem from 1973. “Tenderness of the Wolves” treats the viewer to a few weeks in the company of a killer. Baby-faced and shaven-headed, Haarmann is a fascinating, repulsive figure. Using his status as a police informant to procure his victims, he sexually assaulted, murdered, mutilated and dismembered a minimum of 24 boys and young men between 1918 and 1924 in Hanover, Germany — selling the flesh of some of his victims on the black market as food. This is truly a gruesome, uncomfortable, disturbing and harrowing film. But, like the proverbial witness to a car accident, you can’t turn your face away from the fascinating proceedings. The saving grace: Haarmann was caught and executed in 1925. Produced by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (who also supplies a shifty cameo), “Tenderness of the Wolves” provided two of his regular actors with a means of expanding their careers. Ulli Lommel — later responsible for the infamous video nasty “The Boogeyman” — made his directorial debut, while Kurt Raab wrote the screenplay as well as delivering an astonishing performance as Haarmann. In a new high definition digital transfer prepared by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation with uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM Audio; in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.
With “Crumbs” (2015 — Spanish-Ethiopean-Finnish), Spanish director Miguel Llanso made his feature-length debut with this festival favorite, an award-winner at 2015’s Los Angeles Film Festival and Fantasia International Film Festival. Set against the background of spectacular, wild and desolate Ethiopian landscapes, this post-apocalyptic, surrealist science-fiction romance revolves around a strange-looking scrap collector, Gagano (played by the charismatic Daniel Tadesse), collecting the priceless crumbs of decayed civilization — Teenage Mutant Ninja amulets, toy ray guns and Superman costumes — including the most valuable: merchandise from Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan. Hovering high in the sky is a spaceship — in the shape of a raised arm — that seems to be starting up, sending the diminutive Gagano on a quest to the “old city” to find out if he and his true love Birdy (Selam Tesfaye) can land seats on the ship. Gagano and Birdy live in a deserted bowling alley; one of the bowling machines offers a view to the “old city” where Santa Claus holds court. Gagano treks through train yards and deserted landscapes inhabited by a seer-like pawn broker, a witch, a Nazi, and assorted odd-ball human detritus. This surreal and unforgettable film is kind of what would happen if David Lynch met Luis Bunuel in Ousmane Sembene’s Africa. Extras include two weird short films by Llanso: “Night in the Wild Garden” and “Chigger Ale.” From IndiePix Films.
You may not know the name Julien Duvivier, but after you’ve seen the striking films in Criterion’s “Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties,” you’re unlikely to forget it. Though he is often overlooked today, he made some of the most influential films of the 1930s. The titles range from mystery to melodrama, their settings from night-cloaked cities to rural villages, and each one is a movie master class. Remembered primarily for directing the classic crime drama “Pepe le moko,” Duvivier was one of the finest filmmakers working in France in the 1930s. He made the transition from silents to talkies with ease, thanks to a formidable innate understanding of the cinematic medium, and he married his expressive camera work to a strikingly inventive use of sound with a singular dexterity. His deeply shadowed, fatalistic early sound films “David Golder” (1930) and “La tete d’un homme” (1933) anticipate the poetic realist style that would come to define the decade in French cinema, while the small-town family drama “Poil de Carotte” (1932) and the swooning tale of love and illusion “Un carnet de bal” (1937) showcase his stunning versatility. These four films — all featuring the great stage turned screen actor Harry Baur — are collected here, each evidence of an immense and often overlooked cinematic talent.
DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
This is quite a week for new Blu-ray releases and Blu-ray re-issues. First up is “Edgar Allan Poe’s Black Cats: Two Adaptations by Sergio Martino & Lucio Fulci.” Edgar Allan Poe’s celebrated story “The Black Cat” has been the inspiration for numerous films over the years. But few adaptations are as stylish as those offered up by the twin Italian titans of terror, Sergio Martino and Lucio Fulci. In Martino’s classic giallo “Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key” (1972), teacher Oliviero (Luigi Pistilli) finds himself under suspicion for murder when one of his students — and mistress — is found brutally murdered. As more bodies start to pile up, the arrival of Oliviero’s attractive niece (Edwige Fenech) brings with it complications of its own. In “The Black Cat” (1981), from that “other” Godfather of Gore, Lucio Fulci, Scotland Yard Inspector Gorley (David Warbeck) find himself summoned to a sleepy English village to investigate the recent murder of a young couple. With no obvious signs of entry at the murder scene, Gorley is forced to start considering the possibility that his suspect may not be human … . In new 2K restorations from the original camera negatives; with original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray). In a four-disc limited edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.
“Army of Darkness Collector’s Edition”(1992) is a special three-Disc Blu-ray set that features four versions of the film: the Theatrical Cut of the film, the Director’s Cut (with 15 minutes of extra footage), the International Cut and the TV version (in standard definition). Extras: DISC ONE Theatrical Version – 81 min., 1080p high-definition widescreen (1.78:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0: New “Medieval Times: The Making of Army Of Darkness” featuring interviews with star & co-producer Bruce Campbell, actors Marcus Gilbert, Ted Raimi, Timothy Quill, Richard Grove, Bill Moseley, Patricia Tallman and Angela Featherstone, director of photography Bill Pope, editor Bob Murawski, production designer Anthony Tremblay, composer Joseph Lo Duca, costume designer Ida Gearon, special make-up effects artists Howard Berger, Tony Gardner, Robert Kurtzman and Greg Nicotero, “Pit Bitch” performer and effects artist William Bryan, mechanical effects artist Gary Jones, first assistant director John Cameron, visual effects supervisor William Mesa, and stunt coordinator Christopher Doyle; original ending; original opening; deleted scenes; theatrical trailer; TV spots; home video promo. DISC TWO Director’s Cut – 96 min., 1080p high-definition widescreen (1.78:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0: Audio commentary with director Sam Raimi, actor Bruce Campbell and co-writer Ivan Raimi; new additional behind-the-scenes footage from KNB Effects; vintage “Creating the Deadites” featurette; vintage “Making Of” featurette; extended interview clips with Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert. DISC THREE International Cut – 88 min., 1080p high-definition widescreen (1.78:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0: New 4K scan of the international inter-positive. Television version with additional footage – 90 min., standard definition (1.33:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Theatrical trailer, new still galleries with rare behind-the-scenes photos from production designer Anthony Tremblay, visual effects supervisor William Mesa, and special make-up effects artists Tony Gardner and KNB EFX, Inc. (Over 200 Stills); new still gallery of props and rare photos from the collection of super fan Dennis Carter Jr.; new storyboards for deleted or alternate scenes; vintage “The Men Behind The Army Featurette.” From Scream Factory.
Sony, meanwhile, has on hand three Blu-ray upgrades: “The Fifth Element Limited Edition Supreme Cinema Series”(1997), directed by Luc Besson and starring Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker. The collectible edition showcases a 4k restoration, Dolby Atmos Audio upgrade and features a limited edition acrylic “clear case” with 24-page behind-the-scenes booklet. Also available as a standalone without the Clear case and booklet. Extras include an eight-part behind-the-scenes featurette available on Blu-ray for the first time: “The Visual Element,” “The Digital Element,” “The Star Element,” “The Alien Element,” “The Fashion Element,” “The Diva,” “Imagining The Fifth Element,” “The Elements of Style.” … “Leon the Professional Limited Edition Supreme Cinema Series”(1994), directed by Luc Besson and starring Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman, Danny Aiello. The collectible edition showcases a 4k restoration, Dolby Atmos Audio upgrade and features a limited edition acrylic “clear case” with 24-page behind-the-scenes booklet. Also available as a standalone without the Clear case and booklet. Extras include both the theatrical and extended versions of the film (both remastered in 4K and with Dolby Atmos); three featurettes: “Cast and Crew Look Back,” “Jean Reno: The Road to Leon,” “Natalie Portman: Starting Young”; original theatrical trailer … “Monty Python and the Holy Grail: 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray” (1975) includes all-new artwork from Terry Gilliam and the all-new 30-minute “Monty Python and the Holy Grail at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival,” a Q&A with Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, John Cleese and Eric Idle, hosted by John Oliver and recorded live at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. A Limited Edition Gift Set, a must-own for any Python fan, features collectible castle packaging with real catapult action and rubber farm animals, plus all-new exclusive introductory letters from Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. Additional extras for both the Blu-ray and Limited Edition: Outtakes and extended scenes with introduction by Terry Jones, Lost Animations with introduction by Terry Gilliam, Scintillating Commentary by Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones and Even More Revealing Commentary by John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin, “Quest for the Holy Grail” locations with Michael Palin & Terry Jones, “Lego Knights: The Knights of the Round Table in LEGO,” “Special Japanese Version,” “How To Use Your Coconuts (An Educational Film),” “BBC Film Night on Location,” “Three Songs to Sing-Along,” photo gallery, original theatrical trailer.
Paramount will release this week the “My Fair Lady: 50th Anniversary Edition”(1964), directed by George Cukor and starring Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Gladys Cooper, Jeremy Brett, Theodore Bikel. The iconic American film has just received a $1 million makeover in time for a limited theatrical re-release with more than 800 screenings nationwide that began October 18. Acclaimed film historian and preservationist Robert A. Harris painstakingly restored the film to its original beauty. The 4K restoration comes from an 8K scan of the original negative and other surviving 65mm elements. Harris has previously restored such film classics as “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Spartacus,” “Vertigo,” “Rear Window” and “The Godfather.” The Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack comes in collectible packaging with an entire Blu-ray disc dedicated to 90 minutes of special features including a variety of original trailers and featurettes that were used in theaters to promote the film, as well as footage from the film’s Los Angeles and British premieres in 1964.
Before “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show,” before “The Groove Tube” and “Kentucky Fried Movie” came “The Great American Dream Machine,” an irreverent, satirical weekly variety show that aired on PBS for two seasons from 1971-1972. Unlike anything ever seen on public television, the eclectic, often controversial series combined humorous skits, drama, musical performances and political commentary in an “experimental” format and was considered Channel Thirteen’s first primetime hit, setting new records for attracting younger adult viewers to public broadcasting. Dubbed “the intellectual Laugh-In,” the show immediately struck a countercultural chord in the ’70s, poking fun at politics, commercialized mass culture, advertising, and television with eclectic vignettes and uproarious sketches. With no host, no narration and no set format, the imaginative, thought-provoking series gave free, creative reign to an astounding cast of actors, comedians and contributors who’d go on to far greater fame, including Chevy Chase (making his TV debut), Albert Brooks, Charles Grodin, Penny Marshall, Henry Winkler, Marshall Efron, Andy Rooney, writer Studs Terkel, David Steinberg, Carly Simon, Tiny Tim and many others. And though it drew the ire of conservative critics who had it cancelled after two seasons, “The Great American Dream Machine” is a heralded cultural time capsule ready to be unveiled after a 40+ year absence for a new generation to discover. The four-disc set includes nearly every hilarious, unforgettable and trenchant moment from the show’s two season run — nearly 13 hours of peerless and thoughtful comedy and opinion. $39.98 from Entertainment One.
The Criterion Collection has on hand new Blu-ray and DVD editions of the much-in-demand “Mulholland Dr.” (2001), David Lynch’s seductive and scary vision of Los Angeles’s dream factory that is one of the true masterpieces of the new millennium, a tale of love, jealousy, and revenge like no other. Blonde Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) has only just arrived in Hollywood to become a movie star when she meets an enigmatic brunette with amnesia (Laura Harring). As the two set off to solve the second woman’s identity, filmmaker Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) runs into ominous trouble while casting his latest project. In a new, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by Lynch and director of photography Peter Deming, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include new interviews with Lynch, Deming, actors Naomi Watts and Laura Harring, composer Angelo Badalamenti, and casting director Johanna Ray; interviews with Lynch and cast members, along with other footage from the film’s set; trailer; a booklet featuring an interview with Lynch from filmmaker and writer Chris Rodley’s 2005 edition of the book “Lynch on Lynch”; more.
And, lastly, PBS Distribution will release a box set of “Downton Abbey Seasons 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5” on DVD ($99.99) and Blu-ray Disc ($109.99. Led by Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, and Maggie Smith, the acclaimed ensemble cast brings to life all the drama and intrigue of the inhabitants of Downton Abbey, the lavish English country manor, home to the Earl of Grantham. This limited edition box set, available just in time for the holidays, includes every episode of the first five seasons of this Golden Globe and multi-Emmy Award-winning series, following the Crawley family and their servants from pre-war England through the storms of World War I, and into the social, political and technological upheaval of England in the 1920s. The lives of Downton’s inhabitants are shaped by romance, heartbreak, scandals, rumors, blackmail, and betrayal.
DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
Good filmmaking, like all good storytelling, revolves around a set of themes as old as time: Among them the loss of innocence, revenge, triumph over adversity, love conquers all, good wins out over evil and humans vs. nature. If you add to the latter entry “dinosaurs eating humans,” you’ve got the reason that “Jurassic World” crushed opening-weekend boxoffice records, scoring the highest domestic, international and worldwide openings of all time. The film has taken in more than $1.6 billion globally to become the third-highest grossing U.S. and fourth-highest grossing worldwide film in history. The story is simple and predictable: 22 years after the abortive opening of Jurassic Park, an even bigger and enormously popular attraction has taken its place: Jurassic World. But there’s trouble afoot. To keep attendance high, a new dinosaur –a genetically modified hybrid, the Indominus Rex — is introduced to the park. Little do the operators know that the military has a hand in the new species, and soon Indominus Rex gets out of its paddock to wreck havoc on the island. There’s the regular cast of stereotypes to move the plot along — a pair of oblivious kids on vacation (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson); the park’s ethical ex-military expert in animal behavior, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt); Jurassic World’s driven careerist, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who famously runs from the leapin’ lizards in high heel shoes; the nasty ex-military head of security, Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), who has an ulterior motive for hunting down Indominus Rex; and Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong), an evil scientist who created the monster. And there’s all the usual set pieces: dinos chasing cars, dinos on human killing sprees, dinos killing dinos, dinos eating the military, etc, etc. But it works. “Jurassic World” is a great fun thrill ride that — despite the fact you know who’s gonna live and who’s gonna die — keeps you on the edge of your seat. My heart was pumping. Enjoy.
“Z for Zachariah” (2015) is a post-apocalyptic tale set in a rural valley in West Virginia untouched by an un-named nuclear war that has destroyed virtually the entire world. A young woman (Margot Robbie) survives on her own in a surprisingly clean and pristine environment (without electricity), fearing she may actually be the proverbial last woman on Earth — until a middle-aged, distraught scientist (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who’s nearly been driven mad by radiation exposure and his desperate search for others, enters the valley. Together they build a tenuous relationship, almost ready to be a new Adam and Eve, until another, younger man enters their paradise, causing things to slowly go awry. Director Craig Zobel (2012’s “Compliance”) slowly but surely builds up this moody character study that ends, not surprisingly, as muted as the rest of the film. It’s compelling and moving and gives its three talented stars plenty of room to fill out their characters. The source material for the film — Robert C. O’Brien’s posthumous 1974 novel — had only two characters, and Zobel’s addition of a third brought to mind 1959’s “The World, the Flesh and the Devil,” which starred Harry Belafonte, Inger Stevens and Mel Ferrer, and which “Zachariah” resembles in too many ways — if this was a song, you’d call it a remix. Still, if you’re in a contemplative mood and want good storytelling and acting, check it out. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate.
“The Wolfpack” is a fascinating documentary about a family who — out of fear — homeschooled and raised their seven children in the confinement of their apartment in the Lower East Side of New York City. The film, directed by Crystal Moselle, premiered on January 25, 2015 at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize. Locked away from society for 14 years — with only infrequent outings outside — the Angulo brothers learn about the world through movies on TV and DVD. To escape their isolation and loneliness, the brothers act out their favorite films by creating word-for-word and scene-for scene scripts, using elaborate homemade props and costumes. The movies give meaning to their lives — and prepare them for the eventual day when they leave their isolation. Director Crystal Moselle — who encountered the boys, known as The Wolfpack on the streets of the Lower East Side — was allowed unprecedented access into their world and their vast archive of home movies. She’s created a fascinating — if flawed — portrait of an extraordinary family, capturing the thrill of the Wolfpack’s discoveries without skirting the darker questions of emotional abuse and confinement. The film is a wonder because it shows how movies saved these boys’ lives — and flawed because of its repetition and disorganization. And, at times, we weren’t quite sure whether Moselle was using her camera as verite — or if the boys were playing to her camera. Still, an amazing journey. On DVD and Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since Robert Zemeckis unleashed Marty McFly, Doc Brown and a time-traveling DeLorean on an unsuspecting movie-going public — but the folks at Universal haven’t lost track of time. To celebrate the anniversary, the studio has released the “Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy” that includes all three movies (“Back to the Future,” the innovative “Back to the Future Part II” and the humdrum “Back to the Future Part III”) plus a new bonus disc with more than two hours of content, on both DVD and Blu-ray. There’s plenty of great extras: New original shorts including “Doc Brown Saves the World!” starring Christopher Lloyd; “OUTATIME: Restoring the DeLorean,” an inside look at the 2012 restoration of one of the most iconic cars in film history; “Looking Back to the Future,” a nine-part retrospective documentary from 2009 on the trilogy’s legacy; “Back to the Future: The Animated Series,” two episodes (“Brothers” and “Mac the Black”) from the 1991 series featuring live action segments with Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown’ “Tales from the Future” six-part documentary; “The Physics of Back to the Future”; deleted scenes; Michael J. Fox Q&A; eight archival featurettes; behind the scenes footage; music videos; audio commentaries; “Back to the Future: The Ride.” By the way, Wednesday is the famed October 21, 2015 from “Back to the Future Part II.”
From The Criterion Collection comes DVD and Blu-ray editions of “Kwaidan” (1965), director Masaki Kobayashi’s rapturously stylized quartet of ghost stories. Featuring colorfully surreal sets and luminous cinematography, these haunting tales of demonic comeuppance and spiritual trials, adapted from writer Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folklore, are existentially frightening and meticulously crafted. Kobayashi, known for his political dramas, earned a Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar nomination. This version of “Kwaidan” is the original three-hour cut, never before released in the United States, in a new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include an interview from 1993 with Kobayashi, conducted by filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda; a new piece about author Lafcadio Hearn; an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien, and more.
More classics: “A Bucket of Blood,” Roger Corman’s 1959 hip tour-de-force, makes its Blu-ray debut this week. “Like wow, Man,” Corman’s “Bucket of Blood” is a darkly comic satire with a beatnik culture backdrop. The film — produced on a $50,000 budget, shot in five days and sharing many of the low-budget filmmaking aesthetics for which Corman’s work is known – stars Corman staple Dick Miller as a dimwitted, impressionable young busboy at a Bohemian café in southern California who is inspired by a beatnik artist’s performance to try his hand at sculpture. While working, he accidentally kills his landlady’s cat and, in desperation, covers its body in clay to hide the evidence. When the suspiciously life-like figure earns him a reputation as a brilliant sculptor, he is pressured to create similar works … and his muse becomes murder. An under-rated classic. From The Film Detective … also from (The Film Detective is the Blu-ray debut of “The Bat” (1959), starring Agnes Moorehead, Vincent Price, John Sutton, Lenita Lane. Mystery writer Cornelia van Gorder (Moorehead) resides in a town terrorized by a mysterious murderer known only as “The Bat,” said to be a man with no face who kills women at night by ripping out their throats with steel claws. Breaking into Cornelia’s countryside home one night, he releases an actual bat, which bites her maid Lizzy, sending her into a panic that she has caught “the rabies.” Cornelia calls her doctor, Malcolm Wells (Price), who happens to be conducting research on bats. Little does Cornelia know that the good doctor has an ulterior motive for coming to her assistance — a thief who has stolen $1 million in bank securities has confided in Wells, leading him to believe the stash is hidden within Cornelia’s home. After dispatching with the thief, Wells plots to claim the missing treasure. But then “The Bat” returns to terrorize the household. Digitally restored from original 35mm film elements.
Film Movement has two Eric Rohmer films on tap this week. “Full Moon in Paris”
(1984 — France) stars Pascale Ogier, Tcheky Karyo, Fabrice Luchini and Virginia Thevenet. It’s the story of Louise (Ogier), a young interior designer bored with her existence in the sleepy suburbs with her architect boyfriend Remi (Tcheky Karyo). Eager to lead the life of an independent socialite in the city, Louise arranges to move back to her Paris apartment during the week. Further complicating matters are her best friend, Octave (Fabrice Luchini), who makes plain his interest in her, and a bad boy musician who catches her eye at a party. Eventually, even the sophisticated and aloof Louise cannot untangle herself from the emotional realities of her romantic encounters. In a high definition digital restoration, on DVD and Blu-ray … “The Marquise of O … “ (1976 — Germany/France) stars Edith Clever, Bruno Ganz, Edda Seippel and Peter Luhr in an epic tale of virtue and mistaken identity. Set in 1799 during the Russian invasion of Italy, a young widow, The Marquise (Clever), lives with her parents in the fort her father commands. In the midst of battle, the Marquise is abducted by a group of rowdy soldiers and is nearly raped before the Russian commander Count F (Ganz) rescues her. Later, after she realizes she is pregnant, the Marquise pens a letter to the newspaper announcing she will marry the father, if only he presents himself. In a high definition digital restoration, on DVD and Blu-ray.
Leave it to Scream Factory to bring out the Halloween chills early: The studio has Blu-ray debuts this week of “Tales From The Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood Collector’s Edition” (1996), in which wisecracking private eye Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller) investigates some strange happenings at a titillating bordello on the edge of town where, it seems, owner Madam Lilith (Angie Everhart) and her luscious cohorts want more than money — they want blood! … and “Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight Collector’s Edition” (1995), in which a mysterious drifter known as Brayker (William Sadler) possesses the last of seven ancient keys that hold the power to stop the forces of darkness and protect all humanity from ultimate evil. But the human race is safe only so long as Brayker can evade the demonic Collector (Billy Zane) who has gathered the other six keys. In his obsessive quest for the key, the Collector rallies an army of ghastly cadavers against Brayker and the inhabitants of a run-down hotel. Armed with automatic weapons, sacred blood and sadistic humor, Brayker and the strong-willed Jeryline (Jada Pinkett-Smith) must lead the other guests in a gruesome battle against the Collector and his evil horde of ghouls.
DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
Fans of gore, horror and David Cronenberg will appreciate The Criterion Collection’s release of the director’s “The Brood” (1979), starring Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar and Art Hindle. As in most of Cronenberg’s early and middle films, his scenario revolves around body horror (bodily transformation and infection, generally created by the efforts of scientists to modify the body for either evil or misguided reasons) and the failings of psychologists to heal fragile minds. In “The Brood,” a disturbed woman (Eggar) is receiving a radical form of psychotherapy by an egotistical psychiatrist (Reed) at a remote, mysterious institute: his method is to force patients to let go of their suppressed anger through physiological changes to their bodies. When her mother, father and 5-year-old daughter — under the care of her estranged husband — are attacked by a group of demonic beings, all the evidence points to the doctor and his strange practice. “The Brood” and Cronenberg’s previous two outings (“Shivers,” 1975 and “Rabid,” 1977) laid the strong foundation for a skein of horror films that play upon the mind/body connection: “Scanners” (1981), “Videodrome” (1983), “The Fly” (1986), “Dead Ringers” (1988), “Naked Lunch” (1991), “Crash” (1996) and “eXistenZ” (1999). On DVD and Blu-ray in a new, restored 2K digital transfer, supervised by Cronenberg, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new documentary about the making of the film and Cronenberg’s early work, featuring actor Samantha Eggar, producer Pierre David, cinematographer Mark Irwin, assistant director John Board, and special makeup effects artists Rick Baker (“Videodrome”) and Joe Blasco (“Shivers” and “Rabid”); a new, restored 2K digital transfer of” Crimes of the Future,” a 1970 feature by Cronenberg, supervised by the director, plus a 2011 interview in which the director discusses his early films with Fangoria editor Chris Alexander; and an essay by critic Carrie Rickey.
One of our favorite TV series from the 1960s (along with “Danger Man” and “The Avengers”) was “The Saint” — aka Simon Templar — a debonair rogue and wealthy man of mystery who was a kind of a combination modern day Robin Hood and Equalizer, who could outwit both the police and the villains while winning the heart of every pretty woman who crossed his path. Since his creation by Leslie Charteris in 1928, The Saint has thrilled adventure aficionados with his exploits in a variety of media, including novels, movies, and radio: but nowhere was the dashing Templar more indelibly realized than in his 1960s television series, starring the perfectly cast Roger Moore in the title role. “The Saint: Seasons 1 & 2” (1962-64) set the stage for what would become a six season run on television, and paved the way for the dashing Roger Moore to take on the role of an even more famous man of action later in his career. With guest starring appearances by such notables as Oliver Reed, Academy Award-winning actress Julie Christie and a pair of beauties from the spy classic “Goldfinger” (Honor Blackman and Shirley Eaton), these B&W episodes of “The Saint” have a freshness that latter color episodes, when the series took itself a bit too seriously, lack. In a 10-disc set with all 39 heavenly episodes. From Shout! Factory/Timeless Media.
Disney has pulled another one of its modern classic animated features from the vault and it’s one that has truly weathered the test of time: “Aladdin.” The film joins “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid” and “The Lion King” from the Disney Renaissance in getting the Diamond treatment, meaning Blu-ray release. The last home theater release of the long-out-of-print “Aladdin” was a Platinum DVD way back on Oct. 5 2004, so this one has been a long-time coming. The release is configured as a DVD + Digital Copy + Blu-Ray + Disney Movies Anywhere edition. According to the Disney Wiki, “Aladdin” is the 31st animated feature in the Disney Animated Canon, and the fourth entry in the Disney Renaissance, made and produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation, and released on November 11, 1992 by Walt Disney Pictures and distributed by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution. It was released at the peak stretch of the Disney renaissance era beginning with “The Little Mermaid” and was the most successful film of 1992, with more than $217 million in domestic revenue and over $534 million worldwide. It was produced and directed by Ron Clements & John Musker. The original songs were written by Alan Menken & Howard Ashman and Menken & Tim Rice after Ashman’s death. Menken received the 1992 Academy Award for Original Music Score and Rice and Menken got an Oscar for the now-classic song “A Whole New World.” Watching the film today was even more enjoyable than we remember back in 1992 — it’s a fun ride that reminds me of “The Thief of Bagdad” (1924) in its joyfulness and playfulness; the Blu-ray has crisper color and a more immersive soundtrack than the Platinum DVD. Get this now since one never knows when the Disney animations will go out of print — as have “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King.”
DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
“Bram Stoker’s Dracula Supreme Cinema Series” (1992), directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Billy Campbell, Sadie Fros, Tom Waits and Monica Bellucci, is the first release under the new Sony Supreme Cinema Series banner. According to the studio, “The Supreme Cinema Series is a premium, limited edition collection befitting beloved cinematic favorites and modern classics. Each film is presented with pristine high definition picture, enhanced sound and a collection of new and/or archival special features, creating an ultimate edition for first-time viewers and fans alike. Complete with unique Clear Case packaging, the Supreme Cinema Series is the optimal way to celebrate these unforgettable cinematic experiences.” The film is presented with an all-new 4K restoration and exclusive Dolby Atmos sound, remixed specifically for the home theater environment, that is said to deliver “captivating sound that places and moves audio anywhere in the room, including overhead.” The film is available both as a standalone Blu-ray and in the limited edition Blu-ray Supreme Cinema Series which also includes 24-pages of rare photos, behind-the-scenes detail and an all-new personalized written introduction from Coppola. Extras include “Reflections in Blood: Francis Ford Coppola and Bram Stoker’s Dracula”: (Coppola, along with his son, second unit/visual effects director, Roman Coppola, participated in a new, on-camera retrospective, reflecting on how the film has impacted their lives and careers); “Practical Magicians: A Collaboration Between Father and Son”; rare 1993 commentary with Coppola, Roman Coppola and Greg Cannom; deleted scenes; audio commentary and film introduction by Coppola; and four legacy featurettes. Originally released in 1992, the film follows the devastatingly seductive Transylvanian prince, Dracula (Gary Oldman), who travels from Eastern Europe to 19th century London in search of human love. After centuries alone, the charismatic Dracula meets Mina (Winona Ryder), a young woman who appears as the reincarnation of his lost love, and the two embark on a journey of romantic passion and horror. It’s a weird, bizarre and luscious trip down the Dracula rabbit hole with more blood and sex than most of the campy vampire epics that preceded it. Plus it’s got Monica Bellucci as one of Dracula’s brides and Tom Waits as bug-eating Renfield. Great viewing.
“Alleluia” (2014 — Belgium) is a modern-day take on “The Lonely Hearts Killers” — Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck — forever immortalized in the gruesome and quirky 1969 “The Honeymoon Killers.” It’s a smart and gory shocker that sucks you into the story with claustrophobic close ups of the good-looking but not beautiful leads (Laurent Lucas, Lola Duenas), a pair who could be your easygoing next door neighbors until their bloodlust is unleashed. Michel is a born womanizer and professional hustler who woos lonely, vulnerable widows and divorcees and takes their money. He meets up with introverted single mom Gloria and fleeces her — but she fixates on him, tracking him down and vowing to help his scam while masquerading as his sister. Despite his suave powers, Michel needs to be controlled, and the two team as toxically co-dependent lovers on an odyssey of wild sex, unbridled jealousy, and horrific murders heightened by the black arts and white-hot anger. It’s nasty and mean and lyrical all at once, with washed out, almost impressionistic colors that contrast with the gore and violence. Winner of four Fantastic Features awards at Fantastic Fest, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Actor. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Doppelganger Releasing.
DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
Composer and first-time filmmaker Leonard Kastle was tapped by friend and roommate Warren Steibel to write and direct a low-budget film in 1969 about “The Lonely Hearts Killers,” Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, a pair of serial killers who murdered as many as 20 women between 1947 and 1949 … after fleecing them of their money, jewels and other possessions. The resulting low-budget black and white film, “The Honeymoon Killers,” has gained cult status since its release some five decades ago, notably for its documentary style, kinetic, stylistic camerawork, ghoulish story line, over-the-edge acting by stage actors Shirley Stoler and Tony Lo Bianco, an anxiously erotic subtext and a fine-tuned mixture of shocks and laughs. Beck (Stoler) was a sullen, overweight, and lonely nurse who, desperate for affection, joined Aunt Carrie’s Friendship Club and struck up a correspondence with Ray Fernandez (Lo Bianco), a charismatic smooth talker and degenerate con artist. The two fell in love and posed as brother and sister in a series of cons in which Fernandez would answer personal ads posted by lonely women, wine and dine them, then steal their money and possessions — sometimes marrying them and almost always killing them. The Criterion Collection has released a new DVD and Blu-ray of the film, in a new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. The very interesting extras include a new interview program featuring actors Tony Lo Bianco and Marilyn Chris (who played one of the victims) and editor Stan Warnow; an interview with writer-director Leonard Kastle from 2003; “Dear Martha,” a new video essay by writer Scott Christianson, author of “Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House”; and a booklet featuring an essay by critic Gary Giddins. A must have.
“Black Coal, Thin Ice” (2014 — China) is a pleasant surprise, a stylishly frosty neo-noir detective thriller that forgoes the blood and gore of the genre and focuses on the psychology of its protagonists, here a cynical ex-cop and his bitter ex-partner who have a second chance to redeem themselves five years after an unsolved murder stymied them and changed their lives. Ex-cop Zhang Zili, seriously wounded while working on a gruesome coal-plant murder case in which body parts were scattered across the province, was forced to retire from the police force due to his injuries. Now, the killer strikes again, and Zhang, now a factory security guard — as well as a drunk — is determined to redeem himself and ex-partner and solve the case on his own. After his investigation, he discovers that all of the victims seem to be related to a mysterious woman who works in a dry cleaning shop. Full of dark and off-the-wall set pieces, this visually beautiful mystery offers enough menace and foreboding and twists and tuns to please fans of Chinese actioners as well as American police procedurals. Winner of the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Well Go USA.
“Cop Car” (2015), starring Kevin Bacon, James Freedson-Jackson, Hays Wellford, Shea Wigham and Camryn Manheim, is a surprisingly adept indie thriller from young and up-and-coming director Jon Watts (who has been tapped to direct the 2017 Untitled Spider-Man Reboot). The innocence of childhood comes unhinged when a pair of 10-year-olds find an abandoned cop car in a field and take it for a joyride — nothing can happen to them because they’re cops, right? But things go haywire when the corrupt small-town sheriff goes looking for his missing car — and the illicit cargo he left in the trunk — and the kids find themselves at the center of a deadly game of cat and mouse they don’t understand … and are ill-equipped to handle. There’s solid performances, a fascinating story line that takes “Stand By Me” into the 21st century, and some wild twists and turns that you just don’t see coming. And then there’s Kevin Bacon whose very nasty, bad cop is worth the price of admission. On DVD and Blu-ray from Universal.
DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
It’s been three years since 2012’s early Fall sleeper hit “Pitch Perfect” stormed the boxoffice barricades, starting out with a sleepy $5 million in its first weekend and then building during the course of the next three months — via word of mouth and repeat viewings — to a respectable $64 million theatrical (U.S.) and, later, a whopping $117 million on DVD. The story of college freshman Beca (Anna Kendrick), who joins an a cappella girls singing group at Barden University and helps the conglomeration of mean girls, sweet girls and weird girls known as the Barden Bellas become the first all-female group to win a national title, was a different kind of musical — fresh, exciting and, well, uplifting. The highlights of the film included the delightful and infectious singing, Rebel Wilson’s antics and the off-the-wall Greek Chorus comments by a cappella commentators John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks (who also produced). “Pitch Perfect 2” picks up three years after the original, with the Barden Bellas — coming off three years as national winners — performing for the president and the first lady at Lincoln Center, a performance that is botched by an embarrassing Rebel Wilson wardrobe malfunction. Striped of their U.S. performing duties, the only way the group can redeem itself is to travel to Copenhagen to face off against Germany’s Das Music Machine for the world title. “Pitch Perfect 2” fine tunes all the tropes from the original, adding in more awkward situations, meaner opponents, more sexual innuendo and, of course, more frenzied singing. If you liked Kendrick’s pensive angst, Wilson’s scatological humor and (Bella leader) Brittany Snow’s unbridled enthusiasm, then you’ll love this sequel. The only shortcoming: the addition of Hailee Steinfeld (of “True Grit”) in a weak role as a legacy newbie who helps spur the group on to success. The best part: the continued bickering and wisecracking of (now) podcasting duo John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks (who not only produced this edition but deftly directed it to boot). A fun outing. Scheduled for 2017: “Pitch Perfect 3.” From Universal.
A decade after he broke through with “Breaker Morant” (1980) — and one year after his American hit “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989) — Australian director Bruce Beresford returned to the theme of colonialism and its effects on individuals with “Mister Johnson,” an acclaimed film starring Maynard Eziashi (“Bopha!”), Pierce Brosnan and Edward Woodward. Eziashi, who won the Berlin Film Festival’s Silver Bear for best actor for his role here, plays a Nigerian villager in 1923 British Colonial Nigeria desperate to take on British airs, please the authorities and, on the side, become upwardly mobile by making money and shunning his tribesmen. As a civil servant for a sympathetic district officer (Brosnan), Mister Johnson is at the intersection of the clash of two cultures, highlighting the ultimate folly of the “white man’s burden.” Bright and ambitious to a fault — and despite his endearing nature — Mister Johnson has a tragic downfall. Beresford captures both the humor and tragedy of the colonial situation, pointing out the foibles of both hoise who rule and those who are ruled. The cinematography is luscious, the acting superb, the story — based on a 1939 novel by Joyce Cary — imminently affecting. “Mister Johnson” ranks right up there with such great films about colonial Africa as Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “Black and White in Color” (1976) and Bertrand Tavernier’s “Coup de torchon” (1981). On DVD and Blu-ray, in a new 4K digital restoration, supervised and approved by Beresford with uncompressed stereo soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include new video interviews with Beresford, producer Michael Fitzgerald, and actors Maynard Eziashi and Pierce Brosnan. From The Criterion Collection. (PS: For a look at the wild and wooly Beresford before he became Americanized, check out the 1976 quirky Australian drama “Don’s Party.”)
DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
“Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance” is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) — famous for portraying an iconic superhero — as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. Riggan Thompson was Birdman, a crime-stopping superhero with a beak and a three-film franchise. Now, he’s a washed up actor trying to get his career and life back together by opening his own play on Broadway. On the eve of it’s opening, the play is close to falling apart and Riggan is forced to sign a younger, egotistical lead actor, whom he despises. What results over the next three days is strange and dark as, leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself. The film is nothing less than an examination of human existence, creativity and aspirations. A tour-de-force performance by Keaton, fabulous directing (by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), cinematography (by Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki) and an unforgettable score. Our pick for best film of the year. Nominated for nine Academy Awards, including best picture, best director, best actor (Michael Keaton), best supporting actor (Edward Norton), best supporting actress (Emma Stone). Winner of a SAG Award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture. Winner of two Golden Globes including best actor in a musical or comedy, best screenplay. Winner of the Darryl F. Zanuck PGA Award for best feature film. Co-stars Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Natalie Gold, Merritt Wever, Lindsay Duncan. From Fox.
Bill Murray has finally come into his own as one of this country’s best dramatic actors, and he comes to the fore in “St. Vincent,” a bittersweet comedy about a crumpy older man, his Russian prostitute girlfriend and his new neighbors. Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), a single mother, moves into a new home in Brooklyn with her 12-year old son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). Forced to work long hours, she has no choice but to leave Oliver in the care of their new neighbor, Vincent (Murray), a retired curmudgeon with a penchant for alcohol and gambling. An odd friendship soon blossoms between the improbable pair. Together with the pregnant Russian hooker Daka (Naomi Watts in a wonderful role), Vincent brings Oliver along on all the stops that make up his daily routine — the race track, a strip club and the local dive bar. Vincent helps Oliver grow to become a man, while Oliver begins to see in Vincent something that no one else is able to: a misunderstood man with a good heart. A thoroughly enjoyable — if predictable — outing. From The Weinstein Co.
The documentary “The Sixties” (2014) explores the most turbulent decade of the modern era in America. From the Cold War to the War in Vietnam, from the Space Race to the Long March to Freedom and Civil Rights, the events of the 1960s were both dramatic and transformative. The Beatles invaded America, Man landed on the Moon and the Women’s, Environmental, Conservative and Gay movements were all born. It was a decade of assassinations and urban riots but also of Woodstock and Haight Ashbury. Television sets were tuned to “The Twilight Zone,” “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” while record players spun the songs of Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys. In its examination and portrayal of this most consequential time, this CNN Original Series (which originally began airing in May on CNN) reveals why it was truly “The Decade that Changed the World.” Three three-disc set includes 10 episodes: “Television Comes of Age,” “The World on the Brink,” “The Assassination of President Kennedy,” “The War in Vietnam,” “A Long March to Freedom,” “The British Invasion,” “The Space Race,” “1968,” “The Times They are A-Changin’,” “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘N’ Roll.” $69.99 from PBS Distribution).
“An Autumn Afternoon” (1962), the final film from Yasujiro Ozu, was also his last masterpiece, a gently heartbreaking story about a man’s dignifed resignation to life’s shifting currents and society’s modernization. Though widower Shuhei (frequent Ozu leading man Chishu Ryu) has been living comfortably for years with his grown daughter, a series of events leads him to accept and encourage her marriage and departure from their home. As elegantly composed and achingly tender as any of the Japanese master’s films, “An Autumn Afternoon” is one of cinema’s fondest farewells. New, 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack. In it’s Blu-ray debut from The Criterion Collection.
In “No Tears for the Dead” (2014 — South Korea), Gon (Jang Dong-gun), abandoned by his mother shortly after immigrating to America, is raised by the mafia and grows up to become a cold-blooded hit man. Though usually flawless in taking out his targets, Gon makes a terrible mistake by killing an innocent young girl. A flood of guilt takes over his life and the situation becomes worse when his boss assigns him the job of killing the young girl’s mother — until he begins the fight to save her life. From the director of “The Man From Nowhere.” On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from CJ Entertainment
DREAMSVILLE’S DVD PICKS
“The Pleasures of Being Out of Step: Notes on the Life of Nat Hentoff” (2014): Nat Hentoff is one of the enduring voices of the last 65 years, a writer who championed jazz as an art form and was present at the creation of “alternative” journalism in America. This unique documentary wraps the themes of liberty, identity and free expression around a historical narrative that stretches from the Great Depression to the Patriot Act. At the core of the film are three extraordinary, intimate conversations with Hentoff, plus additional interviews with such luminaries as Amiri Baraka, Stanley Crouch, Floyd Abrams, Aryeh Neier and Dan Morgenstern. Interwoven through it all is the sublime music of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Bob Dylan, along with never-before-seen photographs and archival footage of these artists and other cultural figures at the height of their powers. From First Run Features
DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
In the B-movie, ’70s cult classic “Don’t Look in the Basement (The Forgotten)”
(1973), starring Rosie Holotik, Michael Harvey, Annabelle Weenick and Bill McGee, a young, psychiatric nurse, Charlotte Beale (Holotik, 1972 Playboy covergirl), goes to work at an isolated sanitarium only to learn the proprietor, Dr. Stephens, was murdered by one of the patients. Struggling under the horrendous conditions at the severely under-staffed asylum — and the torment heaped upon her by the patients — she’s puzzled by the resistance of Stephens’ successor, Dr. Geraldine Masters, to hiring new staff and by the woman’s efforts to keep outsiders at bay. Soon, the patients may truly be running the asylum. Digitally restored from Film Chest Media.
From Criterion this week comes “Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II”: Hugely popular in his home country of Japan, Keisuke Kinoshita worked tirelessly as a director for nearly half a century, making lyrical, sentimental films that often center on the inherent goodness of people, especially in times of distress. He began his directing career during a most challenging time for Japanese cinema: World War II, when the industry’s output was closely monitored by the state and often had to be purely propagandistic. This collection of Kinoshita’s first films — four made while the war was going on and one shortly after Japan’s surrender — demonstrates the way the filmmaker’s humanity and exquisite cinematic technique shone through, even in the darkest of times. The five-DVD box set includes: “Port of Flowers” 1943), “The Living Magoroku” (1943), “Jubilation Street” (1944), “Army” (1944) and “Morning for the Osone Family” (1946).« go back — keep looking »