Music and Colonialism

Posted on September 22, 2015
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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 photo for Pitch Perfect 2 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, photo for Mister Johnson 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.”)

‘Birdman’ of ‘The Sixties’

Posted on February 17, 2015
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“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 photo for Birdman 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 photo for The Sixties 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 manphoto for No Tears for the Dead 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

The Pleasures of Nat Hentoff

Posted on January 8, 2015
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“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 photo for The Pleasures of Being Out of Step: Notes on the Life of Nat Hentoffstretches 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

In the ‘Basement’ With Eclipse

Posted on December 15, 2014
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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, photo for Don't Look in the Basement (The Forgotten)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).

Spend the Holidays With ‘Guardians,’ Nazi Zombies, More

Posted on December 8, 2014
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“Guardians of the Galaxy”: Surprise smash hit of the summer has an unlikely new Marvel team shooting for laughs and defending the universe from itself: Peter Quill, a brash, immoral human space adventurer; Rocket, a gun-toting genetically modified raccoon; Groot, a tree-like humanoid; the deadly assassin Gamora; and the revenge-driven Drax. The absorbing space opera — harking back to the tomngue-in-check days of early TV and movie serials — kicks off when Quill steals a photo for Guardians of the Galaxycoveted orb and becomes the object of a relentless intergalactic bounty hunt. To evade his enemies, he forges an uneasy truce with the other misfits to form The Guardians of the Galaxy. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb, he must rally his ragtag band for a desperate battle that will decide the fate of the universe. The ensemble cast work great together and it shows on the screen; it’s great fun to watch. Stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro. Extras include deleted scenew, making-of featurettes, gag reel, commentary. From Disney.

“Calvary”:Brendan Gleeson delivers a tour-de-force performance in this darkly comic tale of murder and morality from acclaimed writer-director John Michael McDonagh (“The Guard”). Father James (Gleeson) is a good priest who feels sinister forces closing in after being threatened by a mysterious parishioner. As he continues to comfort the troubled members of his windswept, small-town community, including his own fragile daughter (Kelly Reilly), Father James begins to wonder if he will have the courage to face his own personal Calvary. Chris O’Dowd turns in a sensational performance as a suspicious townsman with ulterior motives. Not to be missed. From Fox.

“Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead” (2014 — Norway) is the unbelievably fabulous sequel to the 2009 cult zombie hit about a ski vacation that turns horrific when a group of medical students resurrect an army of Nazi Zombies led by one Oberst Herzog; before that film was over, only one man, Martin, was left alive; his friends were devoured, he accidentally killed his girlfriend with photo for Dead Snow 2: Red vs Deadan axe, and then cut his own arm off with a chainsaw. This sequel, which outperforms the original in every way, picks up the following morning when Martin wakes up in a hospital bed with a new arm — but it’s a super-powered Zombie arm that wants to kill him and anything else it can reach. Martin escapes, meets up with a trio of zombie killers from the U.S., called the Zombie Squad, and figures out a way to deliver some payback to Colonel Herzog — by raising an undead army of his own. Funny, clever, intelligent, self-referential and with some great special effects, this has to be one of the best zombie films ever made. There’s a refreshingly original storyline, fine acting and solid direction; helmer Tommy Wirkola knows his stuff (and has a great sense of humor — he not only pokes fun at zombie films in general but at his own zombie film). Warning: “Dead Snow 2” has an ending like no other zombie film — strike that, like no other film — ever. You will not believe your eyes. Stars Vegar Hoel, Orjan Gamst, Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer, Ingrid Haas. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc. Highly recommended. From Well Go USA.

From The Criterion Collection this week: “The Night Porter” (1974), an unsettling drama from Italian filmmaker Liliana Cavani about a concentration camp survivor (Charlotte Rampling) who discovers her former photo for Safe torturer and lover (Dirk Bogarde) working as a porter at a hotel in postwar Vienna. When the couple attempt to re-create their sadomasochistic relationship, his former SS comrades begin to stalk them. … In “Safe” (1995), Julianne Moore gives a breakthrough performance as Carol White, a Los Angeles housewife in the late 1980s who comes down with a debilitating illness. After the doctors she sees can give her no clear diagnosis, she comes to believe that she has frighteningly extreme environmental allergies. A profoundly unsettling work from director Todd Haynes … and “Time Bandits”(1981), Terry Gilliam’s fantastic voyage through time and space about a boy who escapes his gadget-obsessed parents to join a band of time-traveling dwarves. Armed with a map stolen from the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson), they plunder treasure from Napoleon (Ian Holm) and Agamemnon (Sean Connery) — but Evil (David Warner) is watching their every move. All three releases are available in Blu-ray and DVD versions.

In “Jingle Bell Rocks!” (2014), director Mitchell Kezin delves into the minds of some of the world’s most legendary Christmas music fanatics in a quest for the best, underappreciated photo for Jingle Bell Rocks! Christmas songs ever recorded. Kezin’s obsession with offbeat Christmas music — “Why, when Christmas rolls around, are we still stuck cozying up with Bing Crosby under a blanket of snow?” — takes him around the country to search the dusty shelves of obscure record stores and meet some other holiday music fanatics and collectors, including hip-hop legend Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons of RUN-D.M.C., The Flaming Lips’ frontman Wayne Coyne, filmmaker John Waters, bebopper Bob Dorough, L.A. DJ and musicologist Dr. Demento, and Calypso legend The Mighty Sparrow. As long as Kezin sticks with the hunt for rare records, the film runs smoothly; when he starts to plumb the deeper, psychological depths of the obsession, the film bogs down into a quagmire of touchy-feely emotions. Still, it’s a fun outing and, heck, it turned me on to a bunch of alternative Christmas musical offerings. From Oscilloscope.

Check out other December 9-15 DVD releases and reviews at OnVideo.

A ‘Journey’ With Bing, Mr. Smith and Stanley

Posted on December 1, 2014
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“The Hundred-Foot Journey” is a by-the-book feel-good movie from master of the melodrama Lasse Hallstrom (“The Cider House Rules,” “Chocolat”). Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) is a young culinary genius who moves with his family to a quaint village in the south of France and opens an Indian restaurant, the Maison Mumbai, right across the street from Le Saule Pleureur, a Michelin starred, classical French restaurant run by the chilly Madame Mallory (an always delightful Helen photo for The Hundred-Foot JourneyMirren). Naturally she won’t stand for a “crass” Indian restaurant only a hundred feet from her own restaurant, and she begins a war with her new rivals that escalates beyond control … until Hassan’s passion for French haute cuisine and for Mme. Mallory’s enchanting sous chef wins the day. Extras include “The Recipe, The Ingredients, The Journey” featurette and a “Coconut Chicken” featurette that teaches viewers how to make the coconut chicken dish that’s featured prominently in the film. From DreamWorks/Disney.

“American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered” (2014) Narrated by Stanley Tucci, the film — which airs day and date on PBS channels — explores Crosby’s life and legend with unprecedented access to his archives, including never-before-seen photo for American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscoveredfootage, and reveals a man far more complex than his public persona. Thirty-seven years after his death, Crosby remains the most recorded performer in history with nearly 400 hit singles, an achievement no one — not Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley or The Beatles — has come close to matching. A brilliant entrepreneur, Crosby played an important role in the development of the postwar recording industry. As one of Hollywood’s most popular actors, he won the Oscar for 1944’s “Going My Way” and starred in the iconic “Road” films with Bob Hope. American Masters received unprecedented access to the entertainer’s personal and professional archives, including never-before-seen home movies, Dictabelt recordings, photos and more. The film features new interviews with all surviving members of Crosby’s immediate family: wife Kathryn, daughter Mary and sons Harry and Nathaniel. The film reveals Crosby’s struggles with his first wife, Dixie Lee, and their sons Gary, Dennis, Phillip and Lindsay. Mary addresses accusations of abuse first published in Gary’s 1983 memoir, which tarnished their father’s legacy. Gary speaks candidly about both his and his mother’s alcoholism as well as his difficulties with his father in a never-before-seen 1987 interview. Other new interviews include singers Tony Bennett and Michael Feinstein, record producer Ken Barnes, biographer Gary Giddins, and writers Buz Kohan and Larry Grossman, who both share the story behind Crosby’s Christmas special duet with David Bowie. A must see for anyone interested in music, pop culture and American history.

This 4K remastering of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) for its Blu-ray debut celebrates the film’s 75th anniversary. Jean Arthur, James Stewart and Claude Rains star in Frank Capra’s award-winning 1939 classic about an idealistic, small town senator who heads to Washington and suddenly finds himself single-handedly battling ruthless politicians out to destroy him. When Capra decided to film the novel “The Gentleman From Montana”, photo for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington BLU-RAY DEBUT he ran into an obstacle: Director Rouben Mamoulian owned the rights to the story. Unwilling to sell, Mamoulian eventually traded the material to Columbia on the condition that he be allowed to direct “Golden Boy.” As Capra began working on the film, it was suggested that Gary Copper, the star of “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” take the lead. Capra selected Jimmy Stewart instead and the film solidified Stewart’s movie career, garnering him his first Academy Award nomination. Receiving a total of eleven 1939 Oscar nominations (including Best Picture and Best Director), and winning one (Best Motion Picture Story), “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is considered one of Capra’s, Stewart’s and Columbia’s finest films. It also marked the end of an era: It was Capra’s final film for the studio. Presented in Digibook packaging with rare photos and a new essay by film historian Jeremy Arnold. A beautiful job.From Sony.

The 10-disc “Stanley Kubrick: The Masterpiece Collection Blu-Ray” ($199.99 SRP) includes eight Kubrick classics as well as the newly-produced documentary “Kubrick Remembered,” which captures intimate moments in Kubrick’s very personal life, two new-to-Blu-ray documentaries: “Stanley Kubrick In Focus” and “Once Upon a Time … A Clockwork Orange,” plus two additional documentaries: “Stanley Kubrick: A Life in photo forStanley Kubrick: The Masterpiece Collection Blu-Ray Pictures,” and O’ Lucky Malcolm! Also included will be a new 78-page hardcover photo book using film archive photographs. Films in the collection are “Lolita” (1962), “Dr. Strangelove” (1964), “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), “A Clockwork Orange” (1971), “Barry Lyndon” (1975), “The Shining” (1980), “Full Metal Jacket” (1987) and “Eyes Wide Shut” (1999). “Kubrick Remembered” offers a new look into the Kubrick archives, with special appearances by the director’s wife, Christiane Kubrick, as well as never-seen footage of Kubrick’s works, his house and his film production facilities. “Stanley Kubrick In Focus” presents such directors as Steven Spielberg, Steven Soderbergh, Oliver Stone, William Friedkin and Martin Scorsese relating how Kubrick’s directorial style influenced them. From Warner.

‘L’avventura’ With The Expendables

Posted on November 24, 2014
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“The Expendables 3”: Say what you will about “over-the-hill” action heroes, but these “past-their-prime” stars can still kick some big screen action butt. In this second sequel, the Expendables leader, Barney (Sylvester Stallone), augments his team with new blood for a personal battle: to take down Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), the Expendables co-founder and notorious arms photo for The Expendables 3trader who is hell bent on wiping out Barney and every single one of his associates. When Barney decides its time to keep his old buddies safe from the superior firepower of Stonebanks and his eastern European allies, the fearless leader recruits individuals who are younger, faster and more tech-savvy, making the latest mission a clash of classic old-school style versus high-tech expertise. Until it’s time to call in the reserves. Senseless but fun. And loud. Stars Jason Statham, Jet Li, Antonio Banderas, Kelsey Grammer, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Robert Davi, Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Blu-ray extras include “The Expendables 3” documentary, “New Blood: Stacked and Jacked” featurette, “The Total Action Package” featurette, and a gag reel. From Lionsgate.

The Criterion Collection ends November with three important releases on Blu-ray and DVD, headed up by one of the great classics of cinema: One of the first truly modern films, Michelangelo Antonioni’s “L’avventura” (1960) on the surface revolves around the enigmatic disappearance of a young woman (Anna) during a yachting trip off the coast of Sicily, and the search taken up by photo for L'avventuraher disaffected lover, Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti), and best friend, Claudia (Monica Vitti). The first 30 minutes of the film revolves around young, spoiled, wealthy Anna — she’s the protagonist of the film. But her disappearance disrupts and dissolves the film’s plot and its meaning; the rest of the film becomes that of characters in search of meaning, seeking something that escapes them. This loss of meaning is at the heart of modernity — and Antonioni invented a new film grammar to translate this to the cinema. It’ a gorgeously shot tale of modern ennui and spiritual isolation. This set the stage for Antonioni’s unequaled string of masterpieces: “La Notte,” “L’eclisse,” “The Red Desert” and “Blow-Up.” In a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include audio commentary featuring film historian Gene Youngblood; selected-scene commentary by filmmaker Olivier Assayas; “Antonioni: Documents and Testimonials,” a 58-minute 1966 documentary by Gianfranco Mingozzi; writings by Antonioni, read by Jack Nicholson, plus Nicholson’s personal recollections of the director; and an essay by critic Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, along with the statement Antonioni made about the film and the letter that circulated in support of it after its 1960 Cannes premiere (the film was not well-received by audiences at the fest but went on to become a success).

photo for Nymphomaniac: Extended Director's Cut Vol. 1 & 2 To bring you back into the 21st century, the folks at Magnolia Home Entertainment have released “Nymphomaniac: Extended Director’s Cut Vol. 1 & 2” (2014) Director von Trier’s wild and poetic story — of a woman’s journey from birth to the age of 50 as told by the main character, the self-diagnosed nymphomaniac Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) — offers almost and hour and a half of extra footage, making for a five and one-half hour odyssey that leads from innocence to dark complications. Stars Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Shia LaBeouf, Stacy Martin, Willem Dafoe, Mia Goth, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Christian Slater, Jamie Bell, Uma Thurman, Michael Pas, Connie Nielsen and Ananya Berg. On DVD and Blu-ray.

‘Jump’ With ‘Ragnarock’

Posted on November 17, 2014
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“22 Jump Street”: Here’s a thoroughly silly movie that made close to $200 million at the boxoffice, out-performing the first in the franchise, 2012’s “21 Jump Street,” which took in $138 million, making it a rarety among sequels (which typically don’t outperform their prequels). Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return (as do directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) to further the adventures of undercover cops Schmidt and Jenko, this time sent by their Captain (an overly foul-photo for 22 Jump Streetmouthed Ice Cube) to enroll in a local college and break up a dope ring. The only dopes, of course, are Schmidt and Jenko, who blithely go their merry way through one predicament after another with inane dialogue and embarrassingly stupid skits. It’s sophomoric and moronic but, hey, dope pays well — just ask Hill and Tatum’s accountants. The only saving grace: the great end credits that feature “teasers” for the next films in the series: “23 Jump Street: Medical School,” “26 Jump Street: Art School,” “28 Jump Street: Veterinary School,” “29 Jump Street: Sunday School,” “38 Jump Street: Dance Academy,” “40 Jump Street: Retirement Home” leading up to “2121 Jump Street.”

“Ragnarock” (2013 — Norway) is a well-paced, well-acted straight-ahead thriller that relies on atmosphere and anticipation to create and sustain its chills. An archaeologist fascinated by a Viking ship found at the Oseberg burial mound believes that a runic inscription on the ship, which photo for Ragnarocktranslates to “man knows little,” holds the key to understanding the Norse myth of Ragnarok: the day when heaven and earth are destroyed. After finding similar inscriptions on a stone in Northern  Norway, the archaeologist, along with his kids and a colleague, begin an expedition to uncover the secret — which turns out to be of monstrous proportions. Stars Pal Sverre Hagen, Nicolai Cleve Broch, Bjorn Sundquist. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia Home Entertainment’s Magnet Label

Sing Along With Clint, Bing and Ornette

Posted on November 10, 2014
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This week’s top theatrical release is “Jersey Boys,” Clint Eastwood’s big-screen version of the Tony Award-winning musical that tells the story of the four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey who came together to form the iconic 1960s rock group The Four Seasons. The film keys in on the true stories of the trials and tribulation of the group but it’s the music photo for Jersey-Boysthat guides the narrative: “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Dawn,” “Rag Doll,” “Bye Bye Baby,” “Who Loves You,” and many more hits. From Warner.

Two American icons get special treatments this week: “Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection” is a 13-disc set with 24 of the movie, music, radio and television superstar’s iconic films: “College Humor,” We’re Not Dressing,” “Here is My Heart,” “Mississippi,” “Rhythm on the Range,” “Waikiki Wedding,” “Double or Nothing,” “Sing You Sinners,” “East Side of Heaven,” “If I Had My Way,” “Rhythm on the River,” “Birth of the Blues,” “Holiday Inn,” “Going photo for Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection My Way,” “Here Come the Waves,” “Blue Skies,” “Welcome Stranger,” “Variety Girl,” “The Emperor Waltz,” “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” “Road to Singapore,” “Road to Zanzibar,” “Road to Morocco,” “Road to Utopia.” Also includes “American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered.” $199.98 from Universal … Milestone Film & Video, the Academy Film Archive and the UCLA Film & Television Archive have restored a pair of works by dancer, bride, runaway wife, radical filmmaker and documentary pioneer Shirley Clarke. “Ornette: Made in America!” (1986) captures jazz master Ornette Coleman’s evolution over three decades, chronicling his boyhood in segregated Texas and his subsequent emergence as an American cultural pioneer and world-class icon. The film explores the rhythms, images and myths of America seen through the eyes of an artist’s ever-expanding imagination and experience. Clarke followed Ornette and his young son Denardo starting in the late 1960s and ending with a homecoming tribute in his hometown of Fort Worth in 1983 that featured a gala concert of his seminal jazz symphony “Skies of America” alongside performances with his Prime Time band.

There’s several massive sets of classic TV series due out this week. Heading the list is “The Twilight Zone: The 5th Dimension Limited Edition Box Set.” For the first time ever, Rod Serling’s groundbreaking Original Series (1959-1964) and the classic 1980s Series (1985-1989) have been brought together in one box set. With only 7,500 sets created, this limited edition 41-DVD photo for Batman The Complete TV Seriesbox set is available for $349.98. In addition to the two series (225 episodes combined), and more than 20 hours of bonus features, the set contains one of four possible collectible 1960s “Twilight Zone” comic books. From Image Entertainment.

Next comes two sets of the original “Batman” TV series (1966-68): “Batman The Complete TV Series,” an 18-disc DVD set with all 120 original broadcast episodes, remastered, $199.70 and “Batman The Complete TV Series Limited Edition Blu-ray,” a 13-disc set, $269.97. Extras include “Hanging with Batman”: A true slice of life in the words of Adam West; “Holy Memorabilia Batman!”: A journey into the most sought after collectibles through the eyes of three extraordinary collectors; ” Batmania Born! – Building the World of Batman,” which explores the art and design behind the fiction; “Bats of the Round Table”: A candid conversation with Adam West and his celebrity friends, chatting all things Bat (1966); “Na Na Na Batman!: Hollywood favorites stars and producers recount their favorite Batman memories; 32-page complete episode guide. The Blu-ray set adds some collectible premiums: a Hot Wheels replica Batmobile, “The Adam West Scrapbook,” 44 vintage trading cards. Includes UltraViolet digital copy. From Warner.

From The Criterion Collection this week comes “The Shooting/Ride in the Whirlwind”: In the mid-sixties, the maverick American director Monte Hellman (“Two-Lane Blacktop”) conceived photo for The Shooting/Ride in the Whirlwindof two Westerns at the same time. Dreamlike and gritty by turns, the two films would prove their maker’s adeptness at brilliantly deconstructing genre. As shot back-to-back for famed producer Roger Corman, they feature overlapping casts and crews, including Jack Nicholson in two of his meatiest early roles. The films -— “The Shooting” (1966) about a motley assortment of loners following a mysterious wanted man through a desolate frontier, and “Ride in the Whirlwind” (1966), about a group of cowhands pursued by vigilantes for crimes they did not commit — are rigorous, artful, and wholly unconventional journeys into the American West. New 4K digital restorations of both films, supervised by Hellman, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray.


Wanted Women and Men

Posted on November 3, 2014
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“Maleficent”: Finally, a mean and nasty villain to yearn for. The folks at Disney have twisted around the 1959 classic “Sleeping Beauty” by putting the whole fairy tale — in which an evil fairy, Maleficent, slighted at not being welcome at the christening of princess Aurora, casts a spell on her — into a larger context of greed and exploitation. Angelina Jolie is sexy, serene and ultimately mean as Maleficent, a winged fairy savior who saves her peaceable animal forest kingdom from being invaded by a nearby human king intent on subjugating her land. However, a childhood human friend, Stefan, betrays her when the dying king offers his crown — and daughter’s hand — to whomever can kill Maleficent; he doesn’t kill her photo for Maleficentbut cuts off her wings as proof for the king. Later, when Stefan and the kimg’s daughter give birth to Aurora, Maleficent casts her evil sleeping spell. Without giving away any more of the surprisingly intelligent plot, suffice it to say that there’s more than a kiss of “true love” needed here to end the curse and bring happiness all around. Blu-ray extras include “From Fairy Tale to Feature Film”: Reimagining Maleficent for a new generation; “Building an Epic Battle”: Creating the clash between Maleficent and King Henry’s forces; “Classic Couture,” which examines Maleficent’s head wraps and jewelry; “Maleficent Revealed,” which explores the layers of special effects; and deleted scenes. Co-stars Elle Fanning, Juno Temple, Sharlto Copley, Peter Capaldi, Brenton Thwaites, Ella Purnell, Imelda Staunton and Sam Riley.

“A Most Wanted Man,” the latest big-screen adaptation of a John Le Carre spy tale, is a complicated, involved, cerebral and at times confusing thriller redeemed by Anton Corbijn’s (of Depeche Mode, U2 and Metallica music video fame) dark and off-kilter direction and the agonizingly deep and moving second-to-last lead performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman (he starred in “God’s Pocket” and co-stars in the upcoming “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” films). The film revolves around German and U.S. secret agents who try to uncover the reason behind a Chechen Muslim’s illegal immigration to Hamburg; ostensably he’s there to repatriate money stolen from Chechnya by his rogue military father, but the Germans and Americans think he may be an extremist intent on destruction. Hoffman plays the head of the German covert operation, Robin Wright plays his American counterpart; also drawn into the intrigue is Willem Dafoe as a banker and Rachel McAdams as a young lawyer looking out for the Chechen man. Extras include a pair of featurettes: “The Making of A Most Wanted Man” and “Spymaster: John Le Carre in Hamburg.” From Lionsgate.

For almost 25 years, Merv Griffin held sway on TV as the host of “The Merv Griffin Show,” which ran on NBC, CBS and first-run syndication from 1962 to 1986. MPI Media Group has put together “The Merv Griffin Show 1962-1986,” a new collection of the greatest episodes from one of the premier talk shows in television history, hosted by the charming and intelligent photo for The Merv Griffin Show 1962-1986Griffin, who became one of the most beloved TV personalities of his time (winning 10 Emmy Awards). He was a savvy interviewer — his easygoing style allowed his guests to open up and, unlike other talk shows, his interviews went on for up to 30 minutes — and entrepreneur (he created the evergreen quiz shows “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” and owned the Beverly Hilton Hotel). This unprecedented retrospective covers 24 years of star-studded entertainment and provocative in-depth interviews, in a 12-disc collection containing 44 classic episodes and more than seven hours of bonus material, newly transferred from recently discovered master tapes. Features more than 200 guests from the worlds of entertainment, politics, music, sports, literature and art, most of which have not been seen for decades. Viewers will be entertained by the likes of Mel Brooks, Lucille Ball, the Everly Brothers, Willie Mays and Aretha Franklin; enlightened by Salvador Dali, Dr. Timothy Leary and Maya Angelou; and inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, President Ronald Reagan, and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Among the film and TV legends interviewed by Griffin in this collection are John Wayne, Bette Davis, Gene Wilder, Laurence Olivier, Ingrid Bergman, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Warren Beatty, the cast of The Golden Girls, Dennis Hopper, Jayne Mansfield, George Clooney, Jane Fonda and the final interview with Orson Welles, who died just a few hours after the show. The array of comedy greats includes a young Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin, Bill Maher and Jay Leno, as well as Richard Pryor and Jerry Lewis together, Joan Rivers, Steve Martin, Moms Mabley, Bill Cosby, Henny Youngman, Jack Benny, Redd Foxx, Carol Burnett, Andy Kaufman and Woody Allen. On DVD, $129.98.

At the other end of the “business” spectrum we have the Blu-ray debut of “The Sopranos: The Complete Series” (1999-2007) with 28 discs packaged in an elegant box set featuring iconic artwork from the series, $279.98; includes Digital HD copies of all 86 episodes. For six seasons, photo for The Sopranos: The Complete Series millions of viewers loyally tuned in to HBO to watch the drama unfold as modern-day mob boss Tony Soprano juggled responsibilities between his family and his other “family.” David Chase’s drama series stars three-time Emmy winners James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano and Edie Falco as Tony’s wife Carmela, plus Lorraine Bracco as therapist Dr. Jennifer Melfi, Emmy-winner Michael Imperioli as Tony’s nephew Christopher Moltisanti and Dominic Chianese as Uncle Junior. Other series regulars include Robert Iler as Anthony Soprano, Jr., Jamie-Lynn Sigler as Meadow Soprano, Tony Sirico as Paulie Walnuts, Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante, Aida Turturro as Tony’s sister Janice, Steven R. Schirripa as Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri, John Ventimiglia as Artie Bucco, Vincent Curatola as Johnny Sack, Frank Vincent as Phil Leotardo and Ray Abruzzo as Little Carmine. Extras include new and exclusive feature exploring how “The Sopranos” came to be and how it transformed the television landscape. “Defining a Television Landmark” features all-new interviews with cast, crew, celebrities, filmmakers and academics — including series creator David Chase, star James Gandolfini, director Steven Soderbergh, Jeff Daniels and Steve Buscemi — discussing the impact and influence of the groundbreaking series, with brand new archival footage. Additional bonus material includes lost scenes, two round table dinners with cast and crew, 25 audio commentaries and much more. From HBO.

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