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That Time of The Season – The DVD BLUs Jump into Autumn

So, here we are. It’s been far too long since this column has run, missing most of the spring and the summer. I’m not going to make excuses, but will provide an explanation. Since the last time this column appeared, my mother’s had cancer surgery twice. She’s okay, fortunately, but days quickly became weeks, which became months.

So here we are school is starting, every retailer is hawking Pumpkin laced food and drink and we’re at the cusp of the new tv season.

But hold on, below you’ll find our latest and pretty comprehensive take on the latest DVDs and Blu-rays available now. So, as always, fire up that queue and prep that shopping cart and watch away.

See you very soon. Promise!

 

Guardians of The Galaxy Vol 2

Picking up a few months after the events of the first film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 begins with the Guardians battling a multi-dimensional being assaulting the planet of Sovereign.

However, after Rocket (Bradley Cooper) makes an ill-advised and selfish decision, the space fleet of the Sovereign people is soon on our heroes’ heels.

After a narrow escape, the team crash lands on the planet of Berhert. As tensions grow and arguments ensue, Peter (Chris Pratt) is joined by Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) in his search for answers about his true parentage, leaving Rocket to fix their spaceship.

But many are on the hunt for the Guardians for various reasons, forcing our heroes to be mindful not only of their internal struggles as a team of contrasting personalities, but also of their bond as Guardians, as they will soon have to band together once more to confront a new threat.

The first Guardians of the Galaxy was a surprise hit, which would not only end up being considered one of the biggest critical and financial cinematic successes of 2014, but also one of the best installments of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. As such, the expectations to James Gunn’s sequel are of course high, as it was his unique blend of comedy, wit, storytelling and inspired soundtrack choices that became the cornerstone for the success of the first installment.

Forgoing the usual formula of the MCU by not having any elements that are predominantly present to set up future installments of the MCU, Gunn continues in the same vein as the first film, but instead focuses on character development this time around. This leads to a welcome diversion from the standard structure of Marvel films, as taking the time to focus on the characters makes the film a multifaceted extension of the first film rather than a tired rehash of something we have already seen. The theme of familial bonds, in particular in terms of fatherhood, is executed so well that going into this film without a decent supply of tissues will likely result in tear-soaked sleeves for many a viewer.

As welcome as this departure from the standard Marvel formula is, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does have its problems. Due to the increased emphasis on character development and self-discovery, the pacing does at times struggle in the first half of the film. Another negative side effect of the unwavering focus on the characters from the first film is that it largely sidelines the Sovereign, resulting in them being underused as villains until the final act, where the true villain is revealed.

Additionally, in order to create a contrast to the more serious elements of the character development and the fantastical nature of the film’s setting, the humor is cranked up significantly for the more lighthearted sequences. This does at times lead to an abundance of jokes being crammed into some sequences, which unfortunately results in some of the jokes falling flat.

Although there are issues with pacing and structure, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 not only looks and sounds great, it also establishes itself as a clever connecting joint between the first film and whatever awaits in the third film about the ragtag team of anti-heroes. As such, the film does to some extent take an Empire Strikes Back-like approach, which may not be as well-executed as the Star Wars epic, but it nonetheless results in Gunn’s latest effort working well in terms of rewatchability. While the the first film is the better of the two in many ways, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an good second installment in this particular Marvel property, and even if Gunn’s in-jokes about Howard the Duck has me nervously pondering what will happen next, I look forward to pressing play on Awesome Mix Vol. 3. Extras include intro, making of, music video, commentary, deleted scenes and gag reel (– Leyla Mikkelsen, Disney/Released 8/22/17)

 

Miss Sloane

Academy Award nominated director, John Madden teams with screenwriter, Jonathan Perera to tell the riveting story about a career lobbyist who will sacrifice anything to to win against her most powerful opponent that also happens to be for former employer.

Her goal? To push through important legislature that will effect millions of people and more personally, her friends and colleges.

Jessica Chastain delivers an Oscar worthy performance as the driven, take no prisoners lobbyist, Elizabeth Sloane. Out to play the “long game” in what becomes more of a “con film” take on the political system, Miss Sloane had me guessing, and ultimately, cheering in the end.

In this tumultuous political climate many will see this as just another liberal propaganda film about Second Amendment gun rights, but this film is so much more. It is not only a wonderful character piece about going to far in one’s pursuit of a goal, but also an amazing look at the type of person one has to be to truly be willing to sacrifice their humanity to do what is right. Surrounded by a phenomenal supporting cast led by the ever wonderful Mark Strong, Chastain shines as the painfully flawed, tough as nails Sloane who’s fast talking, cold blooded exterior is painstakingly held together to keep her fragile, broken humanity safe barely intact. I loved it.

Well written, acted, and directed, Miss Sloane combines a whodunnit, a caper and a heist story all wrapped up in a brilliant film. Extras include featurette and trailer. (– Benn Robbins, 20th Century Fox/Released 3/21/17)

 

Elle

Paul Verhoeven has never been one for tiptoeing around violence in his movies, and Elle is no exception. The film opens with its main character, successful businesswoman Michèle LeBlanc (Isabelle Huppert), being raped in her home by an intruder. Once the rapist has left, she draws herself a bath and discards her clothes. As she sits silently in the tub, blood emerges through the foam of the bubble bath, and she nonchalantly rearranges the bubbles to hide the evidence of the ordeal she has just endured. Taking no time to recover, Michèle carries on with her life as usual; however, she is determined to fight back against her attacker. She not only fantasizes about how the attack could have played out differently, she also buys various items for self-defense, and even commissions an employee to do some snooping for her.

Thus, the game of cat and mouse begins, and her obsession soon develops into a perversion.

This being the first film Verhoeven has made since the acclaimed Black Book a decade ago, Elle has a lot of expectations riding on it. With his focus seemingly narrowing and intensifying as he gets older, his first French language film is beautifully executed and immensely enjoyable. Having taken French lessons prior to filming to better communicate with the French cast and crew, Verhoeven shows his dedication in every scene, not only in the directorial polish of the whole but also in his grasp of the often overworked tropes of French cinema. And the tropes in Elle are many; Michèle is a brusque business woman; she is sleeping with her best friend’s husband; she cannot stand her obnoxious daughter-in-law; and her oversexed mother is driving her mad with her young gigolo of a boyfriend – and that is just the tip of the iceberg! At several points in the film, these tropes are taken to the extreme, giving the film Verhoeven’s trademark tinge of satire, and the result is delightful in all its absurdity. The acting is also exceptional, with Isabelle Huppert’s portrayal of Michèle being mesmerizingly nuanced with regard to both the character itself, as well as the various types of acting she has to master by being physical, compelling and dryly funny all at once.

Whenever a film deals with the subject of rape there is a justifiable concern as to whether the subject is handled with sensationalism or respect. While chilling, the rape sequence is handled in a manner that translates as unpleasantly realistic without becoming distastefully exploitative. Additionally, the main character processes the ordeal in a relentlessly determined manner, which mirrors her general approach to life; she not only remains true to herself, she is also anything but helpless when dealing with the aftermath of the assault. What is fascinating is the way this very determination to stay true to herself leads Michèle into a highly taboo perversion. While I will not reveal how that perversion develops and plays out, I will say that it is masterfully handled and should be recognized for the uncompromisingly artful piece of storytelling that it is.

It may sound paradoxical that a thriller about a woman looking to avenge her sexual assault is at the same time a satire on French cinema, but this is typical Verhoeven. His satire may have become less blatant over the years, but it still saturates the film, and its subtle, yet consistent presence in Elle is what elevates the film from a well-crafted thriller to a truly memorable movie. By balancing darkly humorous moments with an intense story of perversion and taboo, Paul the Provocateur delivers a film that is as bold as it is entertaining, thus further verifying his status as a competent yet mischievous director. Extras include a featurette, a talent interview, and a trailer. (– Leyla Mikkelsen, Sony/Released 3/14/17)

 

Cinema Paradiso

A winner of awards across the world including Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, five BAFTA Awards including Best Actor, Original Screenplay and Score, the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival and many more.

Giuseppe Tornatore’s loving homage to the cinema tells the story of Salvatore, a successful film director, returning home for the funeral of Alfredo, his old friend who was the projectionist at the local cinema throughout his childhood. Soon memories of his first love affair with the beautiful Elena and all the high and lows that shaped his life come flooding back, as Salvatore reconnects with the community he left 30 years earlier.

Presented in both the original award-winning cut and the expanded Director’s Cut incorporating more of Salvatore’s backstory, newly restored from original negative materials. Extras include commentary, documentary on director Giuseppe Tornatore, documentary on the film, featurette and trailers. (Arrow/Released 3/21/17)

 

RoboCop 2

RoboCop returns to fight his toughest opponent yet: his replacement!

RoboCop 2 pits two unstoppable cyborgs against each other in a battle to the death!

When Detroit’s descent into chaos is further compounded by a police department strike and a new designer drug called “Nuke,” only RoboCop can stop the mayhem. But in his way are an evil corporation that profits from Motor City crime and a bigger and tougher cyborg with a deadly directive: Take out RoboCop.

Containing the latest gadgetry and weaponry as well as the mind of the madman who designed “Nuke,” this new cyborg isn’t just more sophisticated than his predecessor… he’s psychotic and out of control! And it’s going to take everything RoboCop has – maybe even his life – to save Detroit from complete and utter anarchy. Extras include two commentary tracks, making of, featurettes, interviews, trailers, galleries and TV spots. (Shout! Factory/Released 3/21/17)

 

RoboCop 3

He’s Back… To Lay Down the Law! It’s Megacop vs. Megacorp when Detroit’s cyborg crime-fighter hits the streets to protect the innocent – this time from corporate greed!

When the ruthless corporation that runs Motor City begins kicking families out of their homes to clear space for a profitable new real estate project, RoboCop (Robert John Burke, 2 Guns, Limitless) joins with a renegade band of freedom fighters to save them. But RoboCop must face some deadly foes, including a lethally efficient android and a dangerous gang of thugs.

RoboCop’s latest arsenal of high-tech weaponry only somewhat evens the battlefield, as this lone superhero takes on the entire army of corporate militia in an all-out war to control Detroit! This last film in the trilogy is directed by cult filmmaker Fred Dekker (The Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps).

Extras include two commentary tracks, making of, featurettes, interviews, trailer and still gallery. (Shout! Factory/Released 3/21/17)

 

Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The Complete Third Season

My favorite animated incarnation of the Caped Crusader, Batman teams up with a wealth of DC’s finest to battle injustice in the third and final season of this cutting-edge series.

Evil never sleeps in these diabolical schemes plotted by the world’s most infamous criminals including the Joker, Lex Luthor, Equinox and Ra’s Al Ghul!

Thankfully, Batman and his many allies, including Superman, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Wonder Woman, are always up for the challenge.

Highest recommendation. (Warner Archive/Released 3/21/17)

Includes the episodes:

 

  • Battle of the Superheroes!: When Superman is affected by Red Kryptonite he becomes a super jerk. Batman must stop him from destroying his reputation and more.
  • Joker: The Vile and the Villainous!: The Joker teams up with his criminal hero and inspiration, The Weeper, to take down their arch-nemesis Batman in this Jokerized episode where the roles are reversed.
  • Shadow of the Bat!: Bat-Ape rescues Batman and Robin from Catwoman. Later, Batman is bitten by a vampire and turns on his friends in the Justice League International.
  • Night of the Batmen!: Batman and Vigilante have a run in with some villains. Later Aquaman, Captain Marvel, Plastic Man, and Green Arrow try to fill in when Batmen is injured.
  • The Scorn of the Star Sapphire!: Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern, comes to Batman for help in defeating his nemesis, the beautiful supervillain Star Sapphire.
  • Time Out for Vengeance!: The Creeper cheers on and helps Batman when he’s fighting Hellgrammite. Then, the Justice League International travels to the past to stop the minions of Equinox from wiping out all the incarnations of Batman throughout time.
  • Sword of the Atom!: Searching the Amazon jungle for the missing Ray Palmer, the scientist who was at one time The Atom, Batman disappears. Now Aquaman recruits the new Atom, Ryan Choi, to help shrink him down to microscopic size…
  • Triumvirate of Terror!: After the world’s greatest baseball game against the Legion of Doom, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman face off against their arch-enemies Joker, Lex Luthor and Cheetah, who gain the upper hand by switching their respective opponents.
  • Bold Beginnings!: After a team up with Space Ghost and his companions, Batman must come to the aid of three of his fellow superheroes who have fallen into the icy clutches of Mr. Freeze.
  • Powerless!: Captain Atom joins the Justice League, but has to learn how to continue being a super hero even after losing his powers to his old enemy Major Force.
  • Crisis: 22,300 Miles Above Earth!: While the Justice Society is visiting the Justice League for the first time, Batman is in Asia infiltrating a secret fortress where Ra’s Al Ghul is plotting a new scheme for world domination.
  • Four-Star Spectacular!: Batman teams up with DC characters Adam Strange, the Flash, ‘Mazing Man and the Creature Commandos in four separate teaser vignettes.
  • Mitefall!: Bat-Mite tries to make the show so horrible it has to be cancelled. Starting with the thwarting of President Lincoln’s assassination, this final episode ends with the a blow out wrap party featuring all of the series guest stars reuniting as storyboard artists erase the sets as The Music Meister plays them off.

 

Lifeboat

Legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock directed this suspenseful World War II thriller, a remarkable story of human survival.

After their ship is sunk in the Atlantic by Germans, eight people are stranded in a lifeboat, among them a glamorous journalist, a tough seaman, a nurse and an injured sailor.

Their problems are further compounded when they pick up a ninth passenger – the Nazi captain from the U-boat that torpedoed them.

With its powerful interplay of suspense and emotion, this breathtaking classic is a microcosm of humanity, revealing the subtleties of man’s strengths and frailties under extraordinary duress.

The stellar cast features the great character actors Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, John Hodiak, Heather Angel, Hume Cronyn, Henry Hull and Canada Lee. Lifeboat received three Academy Award nominations for Director (Hitchcock), Best Writing – Original Story (John Steinbeck) and Cinematography, Black-and-White (Glen MacWilliams). Extras include Hitchcock/Truffaut interviews (Audio recording with animated image gallery and scenes), two audio commentaries, making of featurette, animated montage of images. (Kino-Lorber/Released 3/21/17)

 

Teen Witch

Romance is the most powerful spell of all…or so one teenager learns in this fun teen fantasy starring Robyn Lively (Chicago Hope), Zelda Rubinstein (the Poltergeist trilogy), Dan Gauthier (Beverly Hills 90210) and Dick Sargent (Bewitched). Filled with sweet-natured comedy and supernatural appeal, Teen Witch will work its magic on you!

Louise (Lively) is a shy misfit with a huge crush on – and no chance of dating – Brad (Gauthier), the hunky star of the high school football team. And when Louise discovers on her 16th birthday that she’s descended from Salem witches, she uses her newfound powers to become the most popular girl on campus!

But when sparks fly between her and Brad, how can she be sure it’s true love-and that he’s not simply spellbound?

Extras include cast interviews and trailer. (Kino-Lorber/Released 3/21/17)

 

Julieta

Julieta lives in Madrid with her daughter Antía. They both suffer in silence over the loss of Xoan, Antía’s father and Julieta’s husband. But at times grief doesn’t bring people closer, it drives them apart.

When Antía turns eighteen she abandons her mother, without a word of explanation. Julieta looks for her in every possible way, but all she discovers is how little she knows of her daughter.

Julieta is about the mother’s struggle to survive uncertainty.

It also about fate, about guilt complexes and about that unfathomable mystery that leads us to abandon the people we love, erasing them from our lives as if they had never meant anything, as if they had never existed.

Evoking such earlier Almodóvar films as High Heels and All About My Mother, Julieta reflects on the magic of chance encounters and the fragility of relationships in the face of long-buried secrets.

Written and Directed by Pedro Almodóvar, Julieta is based on the short stories “Chance,” “Soon” and “Silence” by Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Munro. Agustín Almodóvar and Esther García produced the film. Extras include featurettes. (Sony/Released 3/21/17)

 

Evolution

This eerily seductive mind-bender is a dark, dreamlike descent into the depths of the unknown.

Ten-year-old Nicolas (Max Brebant) lives in a remote seaside village populated only by boys his age and adult women. But when he makes a disturbing discovery beneath the ocean waves—a dead boy with a red starfish on his stomach—Nicolas begins to question everything about his existence.

What are the half-remembered images he recalls, as if from another life? If the woman he lives with is not his mother, then who is she? And what awaits the boys when they are all suddenly confined to a hospital? The long-awaited new film from the acclaimed director of Innocence is awash in the haunting, otherworldly images of a nightmare. (Shout! Factory/Released 3/21/17)

 

Tower

On August 1, 1966, a crazed man climbed to the top of the University of Texas Tower with a small arsenal and began shooting whomever he felt needed to die.

Fifty years later, we are finally hearing from the survivors of the first school mass shooting in the USA.

Keith Maitland has made a passionate and beautiful documentary to tell their story using their own words and rotoscope animation to let the action unfold in front of us.

The best thing about this film is that it’s the story of the survivors, NOT the killer.

I think Charles Whitman’s name is mentioned maybe twice through the entire film. Maitland made the conscious decision to make this about the heroes of the day, not the villain. He’s gotten too much press over the last half century.

It’s a mostly non-political film, but it’s easy to see that many of the crew and the interviewees are very against the campus carry law that is going into effect in Texas on the 50th Anniversary of this tragedy. It’s said to be a coincidence. I don’t think anyone truly believes that. Extras include character profiles, deleted scenes, trailer (– Mark Wensel, Kino-Lorber/Released 3/21/17)

 

Live By Night

In the days of Waze and Google Maps, it is always a surprise to find yourself held up during what should have been a quick trip from A to B. Everything looked clear and straightforward when setting out, but suddenly the line on your GPS turns from green to red, the arrival time starts to creep up, and you find yourself crawling at a snail’s pace towards your destination.

The same interminable dragging plagues Live by Night, which languishes between shootouts due to a combination of slow pacing and safe choices that do nothing to push the story in a more dynamic direction.

The original novel, written by Daniel Lehane and adapted by Ben Affleck (who also produces, directs, and stars in the film) follows the life of reluctant mobster Joe Coughlin.

As he moves deeper and deeper into the Prohibition Era crime world, the price of his lifestyle becomes higher and higher.

The movie starts in Boston, with Coughlin (Affleck) aligned with neither of the major ruling parties (Irish and Italian). Staying above the fray can only last so long, and he is soon recruited by his kinfolk to work for the Irish mob. This gives less than favorable outcomes and a vengeful Coughlin pivots to the Italians, leading their takeover of the bootlegging market in Florida.

Affleck did not take any chances with this screenplay and treats it with kid gloves when the film would have benefited from heavier editing of several plots and more aggressive pacing. The sprawling multi-location storylines read more like individual chapters than seamless cinema, with what you’d imagine to be the last line on a page clearly emphasized as such.

The potential Live by Night had is constant, which may explain the heightened sense of disappointment. From the jump Ben Affleck has given us a beautiful film. The costuming and sets are rich with period details and establishing shots glide through appealing Floridian waterfront landscapes. The cinematography is nothing short of masterful. In many scenes the banter is clever and almost every sly joke lands perfectly. But there is simply too much of all of it, and a pervasive heaviness does nothing to help the time go by.

As a director he is able to get stirring performances from an already strong cast. Chris Messina, who gained 40 pounds for this role, is charmingly deplorable as sidekick Dion. His loud, greasy nature is a perfect foil to Coughlin’s cool charm and poise. Zoe Saldana is stunning as Graciela, the Afro-Cuban business partner turned love interest for Coughlin. She carries herself with a fierce sultry grace that draws the eye, but the softness in her intimate home life scenes show a lifestyle that could be, if only their gains had been through legal means.

Coming out of a relatively quiet year, Elle Fanning gives one of the most memorable performances of the movie. She has always had a strong presence, but in this role Fanning emanates a preternatural focus that haunts her scenes. Sienna Miller and Chris Cooper are also joys to watch in their supporting parts. Ben Affleck plays his part convincingly enough as to not detract from the movie (unless he is attempting a Boston accent), but seems striving to achieve rather than excel.

As dizzying as the many threads are that make up the film, for the most part they are cohesive and you can see why Affleck was hesitant to remove them. Standing alone, the movie would not hurt from losing a storyline or two (or four), but perhaps it would not reflect Lehane’s novel as faithfully as Affleck has clearly set out to do. If you have the time and do not mind a particularly scenic route on the way to an end you may already know, Live by Night will reward you with a few engaging stops along the way. (– Kristen Halbert, Warner Bros./Released 3/21/17)

 

A Great Wall

The first American movie shot in China, A Great Wall is a delightful comedy that was a “cross-cultural hit” (Los Angeles Times) when released in 1986. When San Francisco computer programmer Leo Fang (co-writer and director Peter Wang) is passed over for a promotion, he calls it quits and moves his family to stay with his sister in Peking.

Leo nostalgically searches for the traditional China he left behind, while his song Paul (Kelvin Han Yee) charms his cousins with his seemingly wild Western ways.

The culture clash develops in unexpected, hilarious directions, which all come to a head in a climactic ping pong battle.

Extras include trailer and booklet with essays by producer Shirley Sun and critic Oliver Wang. (Kino-Lorber/Released 3/21/17)

 

 

A Kind of Murder

Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel star in this Hitchcockian noir based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Carol).

It’s 1960 in Manhattan and Walter Stackhouse (Wilson) seems to have it all: status, money and a “happy” marriage. But he has become obsessed with Marty Kimmel (Eddie Marsan), a man suspected of killing his wife. This brutal murder unlocks Walter’s darkest fantasies – his desire to be free from his own wife, the beautiful but damaged Clara (Biel).

When she is found dead in suspicious circumstances the lines blur between innocence and intent.

Who, in fact, is the real killer? Extras include featurettes (Magnolia/Released 3/21/17)

 

Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Super Shredder

Featuring episodes from season four and five, Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Super Shredder puts all of the Turtles training skills to the test as they face their biggest enemy yet – the Super Shredder.

In 11 thrilling episodes, the Turtles prepare to battle Shredder, meet [mysterious new enemies with superhuman speed, face an old enemy Don Vizioso and protect the world from Kavaxas in this new collection.

Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo, along with April and Master Splinter, embark on epic adventures and more to protect their planet. (Paramount/Released 3/21/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • The Super Shredder – For the first time, the Turtles encounter something they cannot defeat – the Super Shredder!
  • Darkest Plight – The Turtle team hunts for their Sensei, but soon realize they are being hunted as well.
  • The Power Inside Her – A concerned Donnie tests April to discover her psychic abilities are rapidly growing in power.
  • Tokka vs. the World – Raph’s bonding with little Chompy is interrupted by the invasion of Tokka, who has come to Earth searching for him.
  • Tale of the Tiger Claw – A mysterious new enemy with superhuman speed is on the hunt for Tiger Claw, and will take out whoever stands in her way.
  • Requiem – Splinter must lead the Turtles and the Mighty Mutanimals on the hunt to defeat his old enemy.
  • Owari – The Turtles realize they must stop Shredder… and end this conflict once and for all.
  • Scroll of the Demodragon – The Turtles believe they have defeated their old enemies, but they soon discover a new evil is rising.
  • The Forgotten Swordsman – Karai searches for the Kuro Kabuto, claiming to be the rightful heir to the Foot Clan, when she encounters an old rival.
  • Heart of Evil – Donnie’s grudge against Don Vizioso threatens the Turtles’ mission.
  • End Times – The Turtles must defeat Kavaxas and prevent him from destroying the world.

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them finds Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling penning her first feature screenplay, teaming with director David Yates, who helmed the final four films in the franchise.

The film also found me, sitting, anticipating, eager to experience a new world.

This, I’m sure, will be the case with innumerable others in my generation—Millennials raised on Rowling’s words and the cinematic adaptations that followed.

Stemming from this history, the hardest thing about Fantastic Beasts (for this critic at least) was finding an inherent attachment to the characters on screen. There wasn’t any.

No, these characters had to earn it.

These weren’t personalities captured within the imaginative words and chapters and hundreds upon hundreds of hardcover-bound pages adding up to seven, adolescence-spanning novels. These were new faces, being brought to life through visual storytelling, rather than visual adaptation. This is a new story from the mind of Rowling, told in a wildly different way, and what comes to surface after 133 minutes of adventure, danger, fantasy and frolic is a simple fact … this woman knows how to spin a damn good yarn.
By the film’s finale, admirations were wholly earned in efforts that downright charm and enchant with each passing moment. Does the film earn the right to have four additional chapters follow in its footsteps? That fact is still to be determined, but if this opening undertaking is any indication, Rowling has plenty of tricks up her sleeve in capturing the wizarding world once more.

The film follows writer Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who penned the titular textbook, read by students at Hogwarts in Rowling’s original stories. This is Scamander’s own adventure, set nearly 70 years before Harry Potter was even a twinkle in his father’s eye—1920s New York. It’s an interesting shift to see the wizarding world brought to both a different era and country, with the magical mechanisms of this time period resembling a kind of steampunk sorcery. People gab like they’re in a black-and-white talkie, while the costumes and production design capture the atmosphere of prohibition, politics and the Jazz Age. If anything, the film’s attention to detail is fairly impeccable in its polished presentation. If director David Yates is good at anything, it’s making Harry Potter films.

Oh, there are also beasts … lots and lots of beasts, arguably fantastic and running amuck about the city after an incident of switched suitcases and slapstick. The visual effects run eye-popping havoc in Fantastic Beasts due to its plot nature, multitude of creatures and endlessly imaginative flow.

One could reason that the special effects in this film alone are more impressive than anything in all eight of the Harry Potter films combined. That being said, I did find myself imagining from time to time what a film of this nature would look like in the hands of 1980s Jim Henson using puppetry and practical effects. But, hey, CGI done right can be gold, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them proves to be a treasure trove of optical amusement.

But back to the characters. Along with Redmayne, we are introduced to sidekicks, love interests, villains and more played by an ensemble cast that includes Katherine Waterson, Dan Fogel, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller and Samantha Morton, just to name a few.

By the final credits, these characters left me craving more. Where Rowling once left readers on a book’s last page, only to open up the first page of another, she has now replaced the pages with scenes, credits and closing production cards.

Sometimes the magic of unadulterated and inspired storytelling is all you really need, and Rowling’s control of this craft is something fierce. Consider me spell struck.

Extras include featurettes, deleted scenes, and trailers. (– Greg Vallente, Warner Bros./Released 3/28/17)

 

Why Him?

While it would have been a stretch to have high expectations for Why Him? it would not have been unreasonable to believe that the 2 hours would be used in a cohesive way instead of on a string of hastily tied together gags.

The plot centers around Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston), a mid-50s paper company owner who is struggling to keep his business afloat amid changing times. When his beloved daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) asks for the family to fly out to LA for Christmas to meet her boyfriend Laird (James Franco), Ned is thrown for a loop at the foul-mouthed, eccentric tech whiz kid that his smart and kind little girl has fallen for.

As Laird attempts to make inroads with his girlfriend’s dad, Ned’s Christmas holiday turns into a battle to defend his way of life (or so he thinks).

It is not as if Why Him? is devoid of a couple (albeit hard won) laughs throughout the movie. Bryan Cranston is a great actor, and he originally found comedy fame playing the dad on Malcolm in the Middle. His ability to still bring out a giggle in predictable setups like “father gets accidentally caught in room that daughter is having sex in” is a testament to his acting chops. If there is one thing that saves this movie it is its on-the-money casting.

James Franco turns in a performance that is as equally off-putting as it is endearing as Laird. Given the result, the prep for this role might have been as simple as Franco internalizing Kanye West’s manic Twitter persona while intensifying a few of his own well-documented “quirks”. For example, during a morning walk with Ned, Laird is seemingly attacked by house manager Gustav (Keegan-Michael Key with creepy facial hair and an unplaceable accent) but he quickly explains that due to the combination of wealth and a disdain for security, it seemed completely reasonable to have Gustav sporadically attack him to train his reflexes and fighting abilities.

And why not? It is just one of the many reminders that his money makes him free to live the most ridiculous life possible in juxtaposition to Ned’s Michigan-bred nuclear family. From the chickens, llamas, and buffalo roaming his sleek compound (playing into a dining concept he calls “lawn to table”) to the 2018 model Japanese toilet that has no instruction manuals in English yet, Laird is the one-note embodiment of the wealthy tech millennial that is putting Ned’s printing company out of business.

This tension is of course completely one-sided in the typical “dad versus potential upstart son-in-law” trope that so many comedic male actors over 50 find themselves playing eventually. Megan Mullally also finds her wittiness and charm relegated to the “wife that urges husband to loosen up”, though she does manage to pull out some laughs during a failed post-holiday party seduction scene.

Poor Zoey Deutch gets the shortest stick as far as opportunities to shine. She exists completely as a prop for either Laird or Ned. But the entire movie is really just props and gags; a sketch that goes on a little too long until you are beaten over the head with the message of “change is ok, and so is moving forward”. A plot like this should wrap up in 90 minutes, max.

At nearly 2 hours long this movie drags out what could have been a kind of fun throwaway comedy. It is unfortunate that it’s well-deserved R-Rating keeps Why Him? out of the hands of the 13-16 year old age group that would surely enjoy this movie the most. Extras include commentary, featurettes, gag reel, deleted scenes, gallery and trailer. ( – Kristen Halbert, 20th Century Fox/Released 3/28/17)

 

Silence

Silence is based on the award-winning 1966 novel by Shusaku Endo and is the story of two 17th Century Jesuit Priests who travel to Japan on a mission to search for their mentor, Jesuit Superior, Father Ferreira, whom is said to have lost his faith and apostatized.

Set during the era of Kakase Kirishitan or “hidden Christians” any Japanese found to be Christian by the Inquisitor of Japan would be tortured and killed.

This long awaited film adaptation by Academy Award winning director, Martin Scorsese is a triumph of filmmaking.

Beautiful, and harrowing, both the story of the two priests looking for answers and questioning their own faith, as well as the story of the Japanese peasants who are trying to find solace and peace in a religion that is expressly forbidden, are equally hard to watch and riveting.

I found myself having a hard time relating to the Jesuits, deftly played by Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) and Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Their mission is to find their mentor Father Ferreira subtly played by Liam Neeson (Taken), but also to keep converting Buddhist Japanese Peasants to Christianity. This is a sore sticking point for me. Once a Baptist myself, I find myself both understanding where they are coming from but not wanting to abide it.

What Scorsese has created in Silence is almost too perfect a film about the pros and cons of religion. I could spend a year talking about all the crap it brought up for me while watching it and never touch the surface of the films making at all. So suffice it to say it will definitely make you think. No matter what side of the religion debate you stand on.

As a film, Scorsese has dipped into his deep, dark well of film knowledge and made one of the best Kurosawa film since the master himself passed in 1998. Mixed two parts Kurasowa one part Bergman, Silence is 100% Scorsese and he is right back on top of his game. It is nice to see him change gears from the kinetic and frenzied style of The Wolf Of Wall Street (which I also reviewed almost exactly 3 years ago) to the methodical and almost zen-like film making of Silence.

Bringing Endo’s novel to screen, Scorsese and frequent writing partner, Jay Cocks have written an equally spiritual and tense film that does its source material justice. Scorsese also brought in long time collaborators, Academy Award Winning Dante Ferretti as both production and costume designer and his The Wolf Of Wall Street cinematographer, the Oscar nominated Rodrigo Prieto.

Scorsese has also cast a plethora of truly amazing supporting rolls with some of Japan’s best actors, actresses and directors. Stand out performances include but are not limited to, Issey Ogata (The Sun) as the elderly yet feared, Inquisitor, Inoue. Tadanobu Asano (Thor, Ichi The Killer) as the sly yet forceful Interpreter. Up and coming actor, Yosuke Kubozuka as the weak willed, Kichijiro. Even highly respected actor/director Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo: Iron Man) was cast as Mokichi, as the devout village leader.

Silence will not be for everyone. Whether it be it’s daunting length of just under 3 hours, it’s very poignant yet controversial subject matter, or its methodical and slowly paced story, one thing is sure, who it IS for is the lover of amazing cinema. It may not be a film I will want to revisit in the near or even distant future but I am glad to have seen it and Martin Scorsese continues to be my favorite living director. Extras include featurette. (– Benn Robbins, Paramount/Released 3/28/17)

 

The Wanderers

Meet the Wanderers, the Coolest Guys in Town! Tully High School seniors Richie, Joey and Perry run with a gang called The Wanderers in the Bronx.

The year is 1963 but their experiences are universal: falling in love, surviving in school and defending their turf against rivals like the Fordham Baldies, the Del Bombers and the Ducky Boys.

From the acclaimed first novel by Richard Price (Clockers), The Wanderers is a rich fabric of comedy and tragedy, fantasy and farce.

Director Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff) mixes dynamic talents that include Ken Wahl (The Soldier), Karen Allen (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Toni Kalem (The Sopranos) and Linda Manz (Days of Heaven) with a jukebox full of golden oldies to generate a heady atmosphere. Like American Graffiti and Saturday Night Fever, this cult-classic is a nostalgic window to a vanished world. Beautifully shot by the great Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull). This special edition includes both the original theatrical version and the very rarely seen Preview Cut. Extras incude 124 Minute “Preview Cut”, two audio commentaries, featurrette, three screening Q & As, introduction from cast members, trailers and tv spots. (Kino-Lorber/Released 3/28/17)

 

Arsenal

A powerful action thriller, Arsenal tells the intertwining stories of the Lindel brothers, Mikey (Johnathon Schaech) and JP (Adrian Grenier), who had only each other to rely on growing up.

As adults, JP found success as the owner of a construction company, while Mikey became a small-time mobster, mired in a life of petty crime.

When Mikey is kidnapped and held for a ransom by ruthless crime boss Eddie King (Nicolas Cage), JP turns to the brothers’ old pal Sal (John Cusack), a plain clothes detective for help.

In order to rescue his brother, JP must risk everything and unleash his vengeance against King’s relentless army of gangsters. Extras include commentary, featurette and cast & crew interviews. (Lionsgate/Released 3/28/17)

 

Wolf Creek: Season One

After her family is brutally murdered in the Australian outback, American college student Eve Thorogood vows to bring serial killer Mick Taylor to justice – or die in the attempt. Mick Taylor returns to wreak havoc in the long-form drama series, Wolf Creek.

Except this time, things are different: this time, the victim fights back!

At first the pattern is familiar: Mick chooses an American family on vacation in northern Australia to terrorize and destroy…but that is merely the inciting incident in a much larger story.

Seriously injured, 19-year-old Eve survives the massacre of her parents and little brother, recovers, and sets out to bring the killer to justice. Across the six episodes we chart her complex and extraordinary journey, traveling every step of the way with her as she evolves from child to adult, from prey to predator. But can she triumph over Mick Taylor, evil incarnate?

Extras include featurettes (Lionsgate/Released 3/21/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Billabong: American teenager Eve narrowly escapes outback serial killer Mick Taylor when he slaughters her family at their billabong campsite in Australia’s Northern Territory. Shot and left for dead, she is found by two birdwatchers and taken to hospital in Darwin. Police detective Sullivan Hill looks into her case, with her family’s disappearance resembling a number of other missing persons cases over many years. However instead of returning to the United States, Eve steals Hill’s case file, buys a van and heads into the outback seeking revenge.
  • Kutyukutyu: In Kutyukutyu, Western Australia, Eve runs afoul of the local police when she crashes into their car and they find a bag of marijuana left in the van by the previous owners. She manages to escape from her cell, and locates Hill who has arrived in town looking for her. Escaping the police as they arrive at Hill’s motel, she heads to the house of her former cellmate, a bikie named Kane, to steal money and a gun from an armed robbery he had committed. Taylor hears that an American girl has been looking for him.
  • Salt Lake: At Salt Lake, South Australia, Eve is attacked by Kevin, who had previously assaulted her in WA. She shoots him in the leg and leaves him on the road, where Taylor picks him up, then kills and mutilates him. At the Face of the Madonna Roadhouse, Hill, Taylor and the bikies turn up at different times looking for Eve. Stuck with a broken wheel, Eve helps a convict who has escaped from a crashed prison van. Kane finds her and says that he wants her to have his children, but Eve shoots and kills him as he advances towards her. Eve drives to Opalville, where she hears Taylor is headed, but he is waiting for her.
  • Opalville: Eve arrives at the mining town of Opalville, but Taylor isn’t there, although he killed two tourists driving the same type of van as she. Posing as a journalist, Eve follows up the case of a missing girl from the town, Holly Welles. Speaking to Holly’s parents, she discovers that the girl was killed by her own father, and as Eve tries to escape from him, one of his venomous snakes bites her. She is saved by an Aboriginal man, who teaches her to use a woomera spear-thrower. Sergeant Hill tracks Eve to Opalville, but she escapes and heads to the town of Rome, where she deduces Taylor will turn up.
  • Rome: Eve takes a job as a waitress in the town of Rome, and waits for Taylor to arrive. Hill finds her again, and they resolve to work together to kill Taylor as they agree he would walk free if arrested. As Eve goes to talk to Ben, aka “Jesus”, one of Taylor’s escaped victims, Taylor turns up in Rome and stabs Hill, abducting him. Eve arranges to ambush Taylor at a graveyard, but she is attacked by the bikies from Kutyukutyu seeking revenge for Kane’s death. As she is about to be killed, she is saved by Johnny, the convict she helped earlier. The two share a kiss, but Eve sends him away. She wakes to find her guns gone, and Johnny beheaded by Taylor.
  • Wolf Creek: Eve convinces Ben to tell her the location of the meteorite crater in Wolf Creek National Park near to where he was abducted by Taylor. In the crater she finds Johnny’s head and a scrapbook of news clippings about Taylor’s troubled childhood, including his abusive father and the disappearance of his sister (who Taylor accidentally killed). At Wolf Creek township, Eve makes her way to the Taylor property, where she finds Hill tied up in the barn. Taylor attacks them, and Hill brings the roof down on them, killing himself in the process. Badly wounded, Eve confronts Taylor in the house where she manages to impale him with a fire poker, presumably killing him. She burns the house down and puts Hill’s body under a tree, later finding that Taylor’s body is gone. She is picked up by Ruth the truckie and her dog and they head to Perth. A mid-credits scene shows a blue truck speeding down the road.

 

Insecure: Season One

Creator/writer/star Issa Rae brings her fresh voice to HBO with this painfully funny new comedy series, which follows best friends Issa (Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji) as they navigate the tricky professional and personal terrain of Los Angeles, while facing the challenges of being two black women who defy all stereotypes.

Insecure explores the black female experience in a subtle, witty and authentic way, as Issa and Molly stumble their way towards pulling their lives together, while trying their hardest to never settle for less. Extras include featurettes and interviews. (HBO/Released 3/21/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Insecure as F**k: Two black women who are best friends navigate the pitfalls of their personal and professional lives in south Los Angeles in this comedy, which begins with Issa wondering if her relationship with her boyfriend is still worth the effort, while Molly’s success as an attorney barely masks her dissatisfaction with her romantic prospects.
  • Messy as F**k: Molly lines up a date with a promising prospect after treating herself to a day at the salon. Meanwhile, Issa isn’t sure how she feels about Lawrence, who tries to make amends for forgetting her birthday.
  • Racist as F**k: Jared meets Molly’s friends; Issa confronts her coworkers’ lack of confidence in her; Lawrence is taken aback by a headhunter’s remarks; Molly’s pep talk to a new summer associate at work fails to connect.
  • Thirsty as F**k: Issa seeks Daniel’s help for Career Day even though she and Lawrence are getting along just fine. Meanwhile, a partner puts Molly in an awkward position with another employee; and Lawrence finds a way to deal with his downer of a new job.
  • Shady as F**k: Issa is mortified when a video of her profanity-laced rap at an open-mike night goes viral.
  • Guilty as F**k: Issa tries to hide her guilt from Lawrence, who reiterates his love for her.Meanwhile, Molly dives into a new romance, but has second thoughts about the future after learning unsavory details about her new boyfriend’s past.
  • Real as F**k: Issa preps for a fund-raiser, but has trouble staying focused. Meanwhile, Lawrence mulls a job opportunity; and Molly learns something new from an old friend.
  • Broken as F**k: Molly and Issa’s trip could be undone by lingering tension between them; and Lawrence catches up with his friends.

 

Blast-Off

Inspired by the writings of Jules Verne, Blast-Off (aka Those Fantastic Flying Fools) brings together a host of American and British entertainment icons in a comedy-adventure that pays homage to the inventive slapstick mashups The Great Race and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.

Burl Ives (The Big Country, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) stars as P. T. Barnum, the blustering showman who at first balks at, then embraces the idea of a projectile which could travel to the moon. And if anyone is going to make sure that America reaches the moon first, it’s Phineas T. Barnum!

The eccentric cast of characters that populate Blast-Off include the nefarious Sir Harry Washington-Smythe (Terry-Thomas, How to Murder Your Wife), his equally devious brother-in-law Sir Charles Dillworthy (Lionel Jeffries, Camelot), the dashing young American Gaylord Sullivan (Troy Donahue, A Summer Place) and Madelaine (Daliah Lavi, Casino Royale), Gaylord’s voluptuous paramour.

Blast-Off, directed by Don Sharp (The Kiss of the Vampire) from a screenplay by Dave Freeman (based on an original story by Peter Welbeck) and produced by Harry Alan Towers, features supporting performances by Gert Frobe (Goldfinger), Hermione Gingold (Gigi), Dennis Price (Kind Hearts and Coronets), Stratford Johns (The Professionals) and Graham Stark (A Shot in the Dark). (Olive Films/Released 3/21/17)

 

Won Ton Ton: Dog Who Saved Hollywood

Set in Hollywood circa 1923, Won Ton Ton: Dog Who Saved Hollywood is a light-hearted spoof that tells the tale of a multi-talented mutt who, in the tradition of Rin Tin Tin, wags his way out of the kennel and onto the silver screen thanks to Estie Del Ruth (Madeline Kahn, Paper Moon), a starlet in search of a break, and studio bus driver and would-be director, Grayson Potchuck (Bruce Dern, The Trip).

In no time flat, Won Ton Ton becomes the toast of the town and the reigning star of New Era Studios under the watchful eye of studio head J.J. Fromberg (Art Carney, Harry & Tonto). It’s full-throttle comic hijinks when Rudy Montague (Ron Leibman, Zorro: The Gay Blade), the studio’s leading matinee idol, is dethroned by the canine star.

Won Ton Ton: Dog Who Saved Hollywood features a Who’s Who of stars of yesteryear in cameos including Phil Silvers, Dorothy Lamour, Joan Blondell, Yvonne De Carlo, Jackie Coogan, Stepin Fetchit, Ann Miller, Victor Mature, Fernando Lamas, Cyd Charisse, Ricardo Montalban, Aldo Ray, Andy Devine, Broderick Crawford, Nancy Walker, Gloria De Haven, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Johnny Weissmuller and Huntz Hall.

Directed by Michael Winner (Death Wish), from a screenplay by Arnold Schulman and Cy Howard, Won Ton Ton: Dog Who Saved Hollywood also features Billy Barty (Foul Play), Shecky Greene (The History of the World: Part I), Dennis Morgan (Christmas in Connecticut), Sterling Holloway (The Jungle Book), William Demarest (The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek) and Henny Youngman (Silent Movie). (Olive Films/Released 3/21/17)

 

(Dis)honesty

(Dis)honesty emphasizes the importance of principles, virtue and honesty, and the value of integrity in our national political discourse.

Director Yael Melamede builds on the work of noted behavioral economist Dan Ariely, bringing together personal experiences, expert insights, case studies, and archival footage to investigate the reasons why people lie, and the impact of those lies on individuals and society. The film explores topics that are especially relevant concerning the insidious nature of dishonesty in politics, and the harmful consequences such lies have on civil life.

Extras include interviews with convicted felon and former CEO of Crazy Eddie Sam Antar, US Attorney for the Southern District of NY Preet Bharara, CEO of Ashley Madison Noel Biderman, Former NFL Player Rashod Kent, Transgender author and Professor Joy Ladin, Filmmaker Albert Maysles, U.S. Senator from Arizona John McCain and Former DC police detective Jim Trainum. (Kino-Lorber/Released 1/24/17)

 

Zero Days

Alex Gibney’s Zero Days is a documentary thriller about warfare in a world without rules— the world of cyberwar.

The film tells the story of Stuxnet, self-replicating computer malware (known as a “worm” for its ability to burrow from computer to computer on its own) that the U.S. and Israel unleashed to destroy a key part of an Iranian nuclear facility, and which ultimately spread beyond its intended target.

It’s the most comprehensive accounting to date of how a clandestine mission hatched by two allies with clashing agendas opened forever the Pandora’s Box of cyberwarfare.

Zero Days is a cautionary tale of technology, power, unintended consequences, morality, and the dangers of secrecy. The film tracks the Stuxnet story from the moment when the malware is first discovered. As Stuxnet spreads across the globe, a small group of cyber-detectives, along with journalists, and even the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, race to decipher the most complex virus they have ever encountered, discover its target, and find out who is behind it.

As it turns out, the Stuxnet worm would mark the first known attack in which computer malware leaves the realm of cyberspace and causes physical destruction. Stuxnet is so tightly classified that not one official representative of the U.S. or Israeli government has ever publicly admitted it even happened, let alone taken responsibility for it. Gibney tells the unvarnished story of the program, called “Olympic Games”: How it was developed, executed, and came very close to causing an international crisis.

Through accounts from high echelon players in the U.S. and Israeli secret services, journalists, analysts, and whistleblowers, Zero Days uncovers new information about the operations and U.S. cyber weapons programs, and demonstrates the profound risks this Brave New World of digital warfare poses to the safety of the planet. In milliseconds, these weapons have the capacity to shut down or destroy infrastructure – including power grids, hospitals, transportation systems, water treatment plants – from any distance and without the target being able to find out who was responsible. While we have international agreements governing conventional warfare, as well as pacts covering biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, no protocols are in place for cyber weapons, likely because the U.S. government doesn’t want to acknowledge its own offensive cyber capabilities.

By bursting through the secrecy, Zero Days hopes to signal the importance of this issue and break ground on the debate. Extras include interview and trailer (Magnolia/Released 1/17/17 )

 

800 Words, Season 2, Part 1

After relocating from the whirlwind of Sydney, newspaper columnist George Turner (Erik Thomson) is slowly learning what it means to be a local in the quirky New Zealand town of Weld. He wanted his kids, Shay (Melinda Vidler) and Arlo (Benson Jack Anthony), to have a fresh start after the death of his wife, but all did not go according to plan. Now George must reunite his family by bringing Shay home from her self-appointed exile in Australia.

And if George is to become a fully functioning town resident, he must actually start anew – including finding a job with a steady income and revamping his love life. With the many attractive, eligible women living in Weld, who will receive George’s affections?

Extras include interviews. (Acorn Media, Released 4/18/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Episode #2.1: George and Arlo implement a cunning plan to bring Shay back from Sydney. George and Jan’s new relationship lurches towards the rocks. And the Weld locals brace themselves for the carnage of Guy Fawkes Night.
  • Episode #2.2: The whole of Weld comes out to farewell Jan, and George almost destroys his friendship with Woody over a rather large invoice and a lawn that needs mowing.
  • Episode #2.3: George lands a scoop on the first day of his new job at the newspaper, but why is he under orders not to write about an eight year old mystery that’s gripping Weld?
  • Episode #2.4: George’s house is bursting with teenagers and he gets another chance to buy his dream house in Weld after all. But is it serendipity or just a bad idea?
  • Episode #2.5: George’s first date with Katie is the only news in Weld, while Constable Tom and Big Mac clash over the invasion of the freedom campers.
  • Episode #2.6: After a jet-ski injures a local, George is appalled that you don’t need a license to drive a jet-ski in New Zealand and wants them all banned. He discovers Twitter and opens fire on jet-skiers.
  • Episode #2.7: Laura’s one year anniversary approaches. George and the family prepare to leave for Sydney.
  • Episode #2.8: George is recruited into the Weld cricket team in a high stakes match and fears a character flaw may reveal itself. Shay gets the blame for Ike staying in Weld and Arlo gets serious with Emma.

 

Suspects: Series 5

DS Jack Weston (Damien Molony) and DC Charlie Steele (Clare-Hope Ashitey) are shocked when their boss, DI Martha Bellamy, is shot dead in her home. DCI Daniel Drummond (James Murray) joins Jack and Charlie to lead the investigation into Martha’s murder, also bringing in detectives Alisha Brooks (Lenora Crichlow) and Gary Roscoe (Perry Fitzpatrick).

The new team soon realizes that Martha’s murder could be connected to a cold case she was investigating. Could one of those suspects have killed her?

Guest stars include Alexa Davies, Karen Hassan, Lucy Carless, Paul Copley, Philip Martin Brown, Jason Done, Neil Stuke, and Mark Monero. Extras include gallery. (Acorn Media / Released 3/7/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • The Enemy Within: Part 1: The unit is stunned when DI Martha Bellamy is murdered in her own home. DCI Daniel Drummond leads the investigation, bringing in officers from Major Crimes to help – but someone knows more than they are letting on.
  • The Enemy Within: Part 2: A new murder victim is linked to the Bellamy blackmail case forcing Jack to pressure his old flame into testifying against her boyfriend, who Jack thinks is responsible for the blackmail and Martha’s murder.
  • The Enemy Within: Part 3: Alisha and TDC Gary Roscoe are called out when 16 year old Kia Hopkins reports that she was raped after being at a party with Rose Harris’s daughter Lucy though Charlie is shocked when Jack admits he has been putting up the girl he believes to be his daughter at his flat. Kia tells Alisha that she was drugged and cannot recall events but evidence points to the rape taking place in a car belonging to her father Archie and the culprit being a boy known as CJ. Matters are complicated when Kia’s foster brother Nico is also involved and when Lucy is implicated in an attack…
  • The Enemy Within: Part 4: Investigating Lucy’s disappearance the team learn that the blood stains at the flat are those of Gus Adebayo, the bouncer at Mo Jones’ club but when arrested he claims to have no knowledge of Lucy’s whereabouts. Following an appeal schoolboy Jimmy arrives at the police station, stating that he is Lucy’s boyfriend and, after Gary’s sensitive interview, admits to being sexually abused by Stan, a fact that he told Lucy. The girl is found but Mo takes a terrible revenge on his brother and Drummond helps him hush it up, swearing Jack to secrecy though Gary suspects that …
  • The Enemy Within: Part 5: The body of Sarah Kramer, who went missing eight years earlier is found and Jack interviews her widowed father Joseph, who tells him that Martha had been investigating the disappearance. Retired officer Ed Goddard, no friend of Drummond, reports to Gary that Sarah was an informant and Drummond her handler and secret lover whilst Jack also lets Gary in on Drummond’s confession regarding Stan’s death. Drummond covers himself to the team, throwing suspicion on Mo as the object of Sarah’s investigation and her killer, to which he admits but adds that Drummond buried her …
  • The Enemy Within: Part 6: Alisha obtains evidence to incriminate Drummond from his wife Chrissy and, after she is attacked and it is stolen, its recovery proves that Drummond’s son Luke was the attacker. Realizing that the game could be up for him Drummond goes to see Joseph and asks him to keep a secret. The connection between Joseph, Mo Jones and Drummond will eventually solve the mystery as to who killed Sarah, and Martha and her husband and bring Drummond down.

 

Z.P.G. (Zero Population Growth)

In the tradition of Logan’s Run and Soylent Green – Oliver Reed and Geraldine Chaplin star in this dystopian vision of things to come. Under the weight of overpopulation, human society has begun to self-destruct. A policy of Zero Population Growth is upon citizens in hopes that twenty years without new births will right the sinking ship that is our planet.

Couples are issued dolls to take the place of children, and neighbors are encouraged to speak out about any illicit breeding.

Reed and Chaplin play a couple that decides to subvert the will of the government and have a child of their own, but need to hide their crime from big brother, baby-snatchers and even those they had trusted most.

Co-written by Frank De Felitta and Max Ehrlich, directed by Michael Campus and co-starring Don Gordon and Diane Cilento. Extras include commentary. (Kino-Lorber/Released 3/28/17)

 

Romanzo Criminale Season One
Romanzo Criminale Season Two

A criminal known as “The Lebanese” (Franceso Monanari) has a dream: to conquer the underworld of Rome. To carry out this feat without precedent he puts together a ruthless and highly organized gang. Their progress and changes in leadership take place over twenty-five years, from the 1970s into the ’90s, and are inseparably intertwined with the dark history of modern Italy. (Kino-Lorber/Released 3/14/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Episode #1.1: Three childhood friends make plans to take over Rome by getting involved in organized crime. As their power grows, police inspector Scialoja struggles to bring a halt to their schemes and finds his efforts hamstrung by his own colleagues.
  • Episode #1.2: Ice decides to reinvest the ransom money, but a bungled burial threatens to exposes the gang’s plans and the future looks even bleaker when Lebanese storms out of a meeting with a criminal kingpin.
  • Episode #1.3: The gang launches a bloody bid to take over Rome’s drug trade, but encounters stiff resistance from an intimidating underworld kingpin. Scialoja tries to get a new lead on the criminals’ plans by tracking down Dandy’s mistress Patrizia – only for his investigation to take an unexpected turn.
  • Episode #1.4: Lebano throws a wild party as the gang’s confidence continues to grow, and Dandy decides to expand further into Terrible’s territory – but his plan has harrowing consequences for two of his cohorts. Meanwhile, Freddo is drawn to his brother’s girlfriend Roberta.
  • Episode #1.5: Lebano leads his associates on a brutal campaign to wipe out their rivals in Rome – but after forming an alliance with the Sicilian mafia, they become entangled in a terrorist plot to kidnap one of Italy’s most senior politicians. Meanwhile, Scialoja grows dangerously close to Patrizia and Ice continues his romance with Roberta.
  • Episode #1.6: The gang members are thrown in jail after the police find evidence linking them to the Baron’s murder, and rumors begin to spread of a traitor in their midst. However, they soon face a more immediate problem when they are confronted by a vengeful inmate.
  • Episode #1.7: Lebano and the gang are freed from prison and set about taking down rival gangster Terrible, who proves to be a difficult opponent. Dandi goes into hiding following his brutal beating of a man he found in bed with Patricia, and the prostitute finds herself given an offer she cannot refuse.
  • Episode #1.8: The gang tries to take advantage of chaos on the streets of Rome, where police are struggling to deal with protesters and the Red Brigades. However, as Lebano and his colleagues ruthlessly set about eliminating their rivals, they inadvertently leave more trails for the dogged Scialoja to follow. Italian crime drama, starring Francesco Montanari and Marco Bocci.
  • Episode #1.9: A rift forms between Lebano and Dandi over a plan to blackmail a cop into helping them with a drugs raid, while Inspector Scialoja falls deeper in love with Patrizia.
  • Episode #1.10: Lebano, Dandi and Fierolocchio are imprisoned, but are offered their freedom – if they agree to work for the special agents they encountered in the brothel. Meanwhile, Ice tries to quell rumors in the Roman underworld following the trio’s arrest.
  • Episode #1.11: The nephew of the gang’s former associate Puma is murdered, and Lebano grows increasingly paranoid when he learns that members of his group have been operating a loans racket and selling drugs without his consent.
  • Episode #1.12: Lebano’s paranoia spirals out of control, as Ice turns his back on the criminal underworld and makes a fresh start with his girlfriend Roberta.
  • Episode #2.1: The Rome crew are in hysterical disarray. It’s 1981: Libanese is in the morgue, full of holes, which means a race to find the killers and exact revenge before the police can make an arrest and spoil the party. It also means a power vacuum. Should sensible Freddo or hotheaded Dandi be the new boss?
  • Episode #2.2: Roberta and Ice’s relationship runs into trouble, while the gang wages a bloody battle to keep a rival cartel from gaining control of Rome’s drug trade. In Italian.
  • Episode #2.3: Internal tensions threaten to tear the gang apart as Bufalo and Dandi’s mutual hatred grows stronger, while Scialoja investigates hefty financial transactions.
  • Episode #2.4: The gang continues its bloody battle with the Sardinians, but the killing of a key player changes the direction of the conflict – and Ice decides to pay his rivals a visit. Meanwhile, Scialoja returns to the brothel for another meeting with Patrizia.
  • Episode #2.5: As Italy celebrates victory in the 1982 World Cup, Scialoja discovers a vital clue in the search for Libano’s killer. Meanwhile, the gang receives a tempting offer from Don Mimmo that could help tie up the drugs trade in Rome – but it becomes clear his services carry a heavy cost.
  • Episode #2.6: Bufalo tries to plead insanity when he is charged with murder, and his plan looks set to succeed when he is sent to a crooked psychiatrist – until fate intervenes. Dandi discovers Patrizia has found a new career in an unexpected location, while Scrocchiazeppi cooks up a desperate plan to stave off his creditors.
  • Episode #2.7: Freddo discovers the gun that killed Libano belonged to his own gang and realizes Bufalo and Ricotta killed the wrong person in revenge, prompting him to hunt down the traitor. He also finds out there is a rival drug ring in Rome after his brother overdoses on heroin and winds up in the hospital, while Commissioner Scialoja desperately tries to persuade Patrizia not to marry Dandi.
  • Episode #2.8: Battling his demons in prison, Bufalo violently assaults a priest in the hope that he will be deemed insane and have his sentence reduced. Freddo joins him and Ricotta in jail following the attempted murder of Sorcio and Buffoni approaches them with a plan to get rid of all the traitors. Meanwhile, Dandi and Patrizia’s relationship reaches rock bottom when he forbids her from seeing her friend Ranocchia, who she later discovers is dying in hospital.
  • Episode #2.9: Sorcio gives up the names of Dandi, Freddo, Buffoni, Fierolochio and Scrocchiazeppi to the police and they all land in jail. Scialoja is worried at the trial as it all hangs on the testimony of a known heroin addict, while Dandi and Freddo each hatch a plan to ensure they will not spend their lives behind bars.
  • Episode #2.10: It is now 1989 and Buffoni and Scrocchiazeppi are released from prison, but the realities of life back home hit them hard and they set about settling some old scores. Freddo leaves his hideout in Morocco and heads back to Rome after Buffoni kills his brother Gigio, while Scrocchiazeppi demands two billion lira from Dandi.

 

Patriots Day

April 15, 2013 is a day that will live in infamy for Bostonians and runners the world over.
On this day, three people lost their lives and 264 others were injured at the finish line of the world’s oldest marathon.

Days later, an MIT police officer by the name of Sean A. Collier was shot and killed in the line of duty as the bombers tried to steal his gun.

Nearly a year later, Dennis Simmonds, a Boston Police Department officer died of complications from an ensuing firefight with the terrorists.

These cowardly acts continue to have an affect on the Boston community, and on the other side of it, the chant of “Boston Strong” made it to the lexicon as a symbol of resilience, strength, pride and inspiration in the face of adversity.

Director Peter Berg’s Patriots Day captures the city’s reaction to the bombing that spurred an unprecedented ‘shelter-in-place’ declaration as the murderers made more sinister plans and plotted their way to New York City for more destruction. Spliced in with real surveillance footage from the blast site on Boylston Street and other sources such as ATM cameras, Whole Food’s Market and the gas stations after the carjacking, the film does an amazing job with storytelling. Local CBS affiliate WBZ’s broadcasts were also used to great effect. For those not living in Boston at the time, or for those that still cannot grasp the timeline of what happened that day, Patriots Day fills in the gaps.

Starring Mark Wahlberg as Boston Police Officer and homicide detective Sgt. Tommy Saunders with supporting roles from Hollywood’s A-List (who, to no fault of their own can’t control their Boston accents for a Large Extra-Extra regular from Dunks) including J. K. Simmons as Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese, John Goodman as Commissioner Ed Davis and Kevin Bacon as Longmeadow, Massachusetts native Richard DesLauriers, the Special Agent in Charge for the FBI. An underused Michelle Monaghan plays Wahberg’s wife Carol Saunders. New talent of note in the movie is Jake Picking’s depiction of MIT Officer Collier, Alex Wolff as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and an unexpected appearance of Melissa Benoist as Katherine Russell, the older Tsarnaev brother’s wife. Elijah Guo plays UMASS Dartmouth student Dias Kadyrbayev.

As a person who was sheltered-in-place only 2.5 miles away from where Dzhokhar was captured inside of a boat in Watertown, and was working less than two miles away from the bomb blasts, these days are still very real to me. In a way that could sound like a backhanded compliment (it isn’t), I couldn’t wait for this movie to be over.

Watching the movie, I felt every emotion and relived those days. I experienced deep sadness, fear and all the way to elation when the suspect was captured. I’m filled with pride when I see and hear of the real-life accomplishments of the survivors Jessica Kensky (Rachel Brosnahan) and Patrick Downes (Christopher O’Shea). I hope that people across the world are empathetic toward what happened in my beloved city and can be inspired similarly. This movie was sometimes tough for me to watch because of the great acting and story based on true events.

Sure, here were famous actors playing the roles of Boston’s Finest to the best of their ability, but Patriots Day truly had me lost in it. This is a dramatization, but with the documentary footage I was put right back to those days in April of 2013, trying to download police scanner apps on my phone and streaming news online. I was in Cambridge the night Officer Collier was slain, picking up an order at FedEx. On our way home, barreling towards Cambridge in opposite lane were patrol cars speeding faster than I’ve ever seen a cop car move, even on the highway, responding to the call. Everything was so surreal.

Jimmy O. Yang portrays one of the most sympathetic characters and true heroes of the film, Dun Meng. Dun bravely escaped his carjacked SUV and urged the gas station clerk to call 911. There were some tensions between the interdepartmental law enforcement agencies that were later criticized, but Patriots Day reveals some information not known to the public at the time of the investigation, such as a command center called Black Falcon Terminal by the Seaport District. Bacon commands his investigative team, recreating the blast with real evidence as his team steadfastly analyzed every bit of video, cell phone info and eventually identifies the suspects. A scene where Russell (Benoist) is interrogated by unidentified agents is terrifying.

Patriots Day achieves what it sets out to do. Bostonians may complain about the accents (they always do) but they cannot deny this tribute to those that died, that sacrificed limbs, and a city that won’t let you mess with them on a day of celebration and accomplishment.

Extras include featurettes: The Boston Strong: Stories of Courage, The Boston Bond: Recounting the Tale, The Real Patriots: The Local Heroes’ Stories, The Cast Remembers, Actors Meet Their Real Life Counterparts and Researching the Day. (Clay N. Ferno, Lionsgate/Released 3/28/17)

 

Archer: Season 7

Following their disastrous turn as government agents-turned-drug dealers, the team reinvents themselves as a Los Angeles-based P.I. firm. Their first case? Protecting a vampy actress from blackmail – and Archer’s libido.

They also grapple with a terminator mummy who wants his mommy, spinning robot legs, Archer’s desperate voice mail message, gunmen clowns, and life as hostages, all leading to a cliff-hanger featuring a body floating in a swimming pool — like you’d see in a classy noir film or something.

Also, shut up! They still insult each other, and Archer and Lana are still hot for each other. Extras include featurette and live table read. (20th Century Fox/Released 3/28/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • The Figgis Agency: Secret agent – turned private investigator Archer and the group are working on the West Coast, and Archer’s newest case involves breaking and entering a mansion in order to bring back honour to one of Hollywood’s leading ladies.
  • The Handoff: Archer and Lana make a tricky handoff while the rest of the gang hears the best voicemail ever.
  • Deadly Prep: A business opportunity arises at a prep school reunion.
  • Motherless Child: An important member of the team is kidnapped and all leads point towards the infamous disc. Meanwhile Krieger is up to no good and Lana gets a new pet.
  • Bel Panto: Part I: Party crashers turn a fundraiser into no laughing matter.
  • Bel Panto: Part II: A hostage negotiation spirals out of control when Archer and Lana go missing.
  • Double Indecency: Who’s sexier, Cyril or Krieger? Pam or Cheryl? Only one way to find out… Bar fight!
  • Liquid Lunch: The on-again, off-again relationship of Archer and Slater causes a rift in the on-again, off-again relationship of Archer and Lana.
  • Deadly Velvet: Part 1: The Deadly Velvet production is beset with chaos and destruction so the film’s producer hires the Figgis Agency to discover what’s behind the suspicious activity. The team’s romances and jealousy complicates the investigation, and puts Archer in a difficult situation with Lana and Ms. Deane.
  • Deadly Velvet: Part 2: Things get even deadlier on the set of Deadly Velvet when someone turns up, you guessed it, dead.

 

Star Wars: Rogue One

Rogue One has emotionally compromised me.

Though I was prepared to love this movie, nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming emotion and feelings that swelled up within me from a depth I did not know existed in myself.

This will not be an objective or even remotely critical review of the film. You will have to go elsewhere for such a thing.

It is NOT perfect.

What it is, however, is a return to a time when I sat in an oversized movie seat, Junior Mints in hand, my feet not even touching the floor as I madly flipped through the Kenner toy catalog of space ships, characters, and toys for a film I hadn’t even seen, but which knew I wanted every single one of.

I watch Rogue One and I am four years old again.

Although the familiar drums and horns of Alfred Newman’s 20th Century Fox Cinemascope fanfare aren’t there anymore, and like Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, it begins simply with the Lucasfilm LTD logo before displaying those familiar expositional words, I am equally transported in time and space. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. And it begins anew.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, for those of you who don’t live and breathe Star Wars, is the pulse-pounding story of the attempt, by a small band of Rebel spies, to steal the secret blueprints of a battle station so powerful it can destroy an entire planet. I’ll go so far as to say the movie centers around a woman, Jyn Erso, whose father is the chief architect of the weapons system for this station. She stages a suicide mission to rescue him and retrieve the plans in hope of stopping the evil Empire from continuing its strangle hold reign on the galaxy. Though similar, this film has many departures from the Saga as told so far.

Flashbacks, a prologue, and non-linear editing refresh the straightforward storytelling style we are so familiar with. I love it. This is a film within the known established universe but apart from it as well. This frees it from the shackles of the previous storytelling dynamic and allows the writers and director, Gareth Edwards to tell what is the best Star Wars story so far. And he does.

I love The Empire Strikes Back. The original Star Wars will always be most important in my heart. The Force Awakens was brilliant and a beautiful love letter and reintroduction to the universe. Rogue One, a tale we basically already know about in vague terms and story, is the best shot, acted, and directed film so far in the Star Wars franchise. I think it might be my favorite now. On a purely film making basis It is the best. To me, it is on equal ground with Empire emotionally. It is the first film since the original to make me feel like I did the first time I saw Star Wars. So yeah. I think it wins. Damn.

Here’s the thing, because we already know how it ends, it NEEDS to be a solid story. It has to have well developed characters that we are invested in. With such a short amount of time to get us to care about them, a riveting way of telling the story that is already known must be made in order to not fall into the trap that was the prequel trilogy. Rogue One builds on the universe it lives in. It fleshes out the world. You get a sense of the breadth and scope of the universe without having to rely on so much dialogue exposition as the prequels did because they are not reinventing the wheel. They are making it smarter, better, faster, and richer.

I spent the entire time of this film, literally, on the edge of my seat. I cried a lot. They were tears of overwhelming joy to see the Star Wars universe I grew up with again. There were nods for us original fans specifically. I would say they included the perfect amount because using too many, and it becomes pandering, but too little and we feel cheated; I definitely didn’t feel either. There were also so many wonderful Easter eggs for those who have read the books, played the video games, and watched the animated TV shows. Again, it’s nothing too much, but enough to make it feel like the world we once knew and loved.

The cast, led by Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, is brilliant. Not only do they live in this world, they are this world. It isn’t the settings and the technology that make it Star Wars; it is the people and the actors who embody them that make this the galaxy far, far away, for me. That is one of the biggest things that takes me out of the prequels. The actors just don’t feel and act like they are in a Star Wars film, at least not the ones I love and remember.

Closer in style to the old WWII films of Hollywood yore than to the more slick style of Abrams’ The Force Awakens, Rogue One has a grittier, lived in feel, much like its inevitable sequel, A New Hope does. The humor is perfectly timed. Alan Tudyk, as K-2SO steals every scene, and though Ben Mendelsohn’s Orson Krennic isn’t as menacing as I had hoped he would be, there is good reason, and that is all I will say. This is the Star Wars film I have been wanting for over 30 years, a true prequel to the original trilogy and one that wasn’t a reinventing of the universe I loved, but instead, a fleshing out and expanding of the Star Wars galaxy. It is a film as dramatic and funny as it is exciting, with characters I can love, hate, and feel heartbroken over when they are taken away from me. As much as I excitedly look forward to seeing the continuation of the trilogy from 40 years ago into Episodes VIII and IX, Rogue One is like a long overdue love letter that was lost in the mail for three decades, only to be finally delivered to me much like the stolen data plans.

Rogue One, your mission is complete. Your efforts have saved the galaxy for an old fan who was starting to get too old for this sort of thing. Thank you. End Transmission. (– Benn Robbins, Disney/Released 4/4/17)

 

Hidden Figures

“The untold tale of the 3 black women who helped calculate NASA’s way into space”

When given an uplifting period tale it can be easy to slip into a saccharine-sweet retelling of known events. But a strong ensemble cast, upbeat score courtesy of Pharrell Williams, and excellent pacing make this a thoroughly enjoyable film even with it straightforward story.

Hidden Figures, adapted from the book of the same title, is based on the true stories of three black women out of the many who were employed as human computers at NASA to provide the calculations for the space program in the 1960s.

Each woman’s story details the struggle of overcoming Civil Rights era societal roles in order to utilize their unique gifts in a rare industry where talent can provide an opportunity to escape station.

In the very first scenes the mathematical brilliance of Katherine Johnson is detailed. A childhood version of herself solves a quadratic equation on the blackboard in front of her classmates, all several years her senior. Clearly, this is a mind to be reckoned with. We then fast forward to adult Katherine (Taraji P. Henson), and her friends and Langley coworkers, Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), all gifted with numbers but each with different ideas about where it will take them.

Following the journey of the women, director and co-screenwriter Theodore Melfi gives us three distinctly different viewpoints regarding dealing with the racial politics of the 1960’s at NASA. The most ambitious in this line comes from singer turned actress Janelle Monae, who holds her own against her seasoned co-stars with grace. Mary Jackson’s ambition to be an engineer at NASA (a position that would require finding a way to take advanced classes at a whites-only night school) has Monae’s screen time crackling with the lightning of barely withheld anger and drive. Her stunning looks and precision in delivering pointed one-liners adds a sharpness to scenes that would otherwise lag.

Dorothy Vaughn has the goal of being promoted to manager, a position she is already doing for the black computer pool without title or recognition. Spencer shows her strength in this type of character with her expert code switching. The authoritative organizer to her black female coworkers quickly becomes overly polite and deferential in the presence of the manager of the white computers, a cool and dismissive Kirsten Dunst. Her thinly veiled exasperation at Vaughn’s inability to be happy with her station provides an illustration of how white attitudes played into the lives of black coworkers without being cartoonishly vilified. Although this role may immediately call to mind Spencer’s excellent showing in The Help, it is impossible to not enjoy her growth over the course of the movie even with its familiarity.

The film, however, centers around the transformative performance of Henson. Her shy but sturdy Katherine would be unrecognizable to those who only know her as the brash Cookie on Empire. Placed as the first computer of color with a team of exclusively white male engineers, her reliance on mathematical acumen for confidence and solace is palpable. Clever costuming choices, such as her jewel-toned dresses that stand out considerably in a sea of white shirts, black ties, and gray slacks, heighten her otherness but in a way that makes her standout like a flower amongst snow. It’s one of the many technical aspects that add to the experience.

The film also gives us a glimpse into the many roles she juggles, from a loving mother tucking her daughters into bed after a long day at work, to pious community member attending church on Sundays where she is courted by a dashing Mahershala Ali. While trying to charm her at the church picnic, he makes the mistake of downplaying her abilities. Though she must remain demure at NASA as a second-class citizen, Katherine steps up to the plate (or in this case, suitor) to upbraid him in a restrained but direct response that demonstrates Henson’s ability to dismantle a person without ever raising her voice.

The growth of the character is similar in composition; never a roar, but always a quiet power and pure intention that provides strength under the surface. Save for one terrific outburst in the second half of the movie, Katharine always displays certainty and strength rather than pride and disdain. The joy of the performance is watching the dance between ordinary and extraordinary, and Henson balances it perfectly.

Anyone walking to the theater knows that John Glenn successfully made it into space so there is little suspense in the movie, but the struggle of the women to create paths for themselves where there were none is enough to be engaged even when you know the ending. There is no denying that this is a “happy history” feel-good movie for the holiday season. But there’s also no reason that designation keeps it from being an excellent film. (– Kristen Halbert, 20th Century Fox/Released 4/11/17)

 

Little Nikita

A teenager’s life is on the line when he discovers his all-American parents are Soviet spies in this taut espionage thriller. River Phoenix stars as Jeff Grant, a typical California teen who’s recently applied to the Air Force Academy.

During a routine investigation, veteran FBI agent Roy Parmenter (Sidney Poitier) discovers that Jeff’s parents are deep-cover Russian spies planted in the U.S. for eventual call to duty.

After 20 years, the day of reckoning has arrived for the Grants, who have been enlisted by master KGB agent Karpov (Richard Bradford) to deal with a renegade Soviet spy.

Caught in a lethal crossfire between the FBI and KGB, Jeff is forced to choose between love for his parents, his country and his own survival.

With excellent performances from a top-notch cast, Little Nikita is a fast-paced suspense thriller in the tradition of classic Hitchcock. (Mill Creek/Released 4/4/17)

 

Punchline

Sally Field stars as Lilah Krytsick, a New Jersey housewife and mother who desperately wants to make it big as a comedienne. Hanks plays Steven Gold, a self-centered Lenny Bruce-type who’s been stealing the spotlight with his irrepressible, natural comedic talent.

Drawn to one another, Steven helps the stumbling Lilah turn her routine from flat to funny, while Lilah helps Steven keep his anguished life together.

Punchline also stars John Goodman, Mark Rydell, Kim Greist, Paul Mazursky, Taylor Negron, Damon Wayans, Barry Sobel, George Wallace, Bob Zmuda, Susie Essman, and George McGrath. (Mill Creek/Released 4/4/17)

 

 

 

Postcards From the Edge

Mike Nichols lends some comic structure to Carrie Fisher’s best-selling confessional novel concerning a woman’s struggles with drug addiction and mother-daughter rivalry (subjects Fisher admits to understanding all too well). Meryl Streep, in her most full-blown comic performance up to that point, plays Suzanne Vale, a popular movie actress well on her way to a Hollywood crack-up.

Suzanne suffers from blackouts and memory lapses, and awakens in the beds of men she doesn’t remember; she is a barely-functioning wreck on the set of her latest movie. When a coke dealer who delivers stops by her dressing room between takes, she swiftly finds herself being rushed to the hospital, suffering the effects of a narcotics bender.

While in detox, Suzanne attempts to piece her life and career back together, but her confidence is shattered when her mother arrives at the rehab clinic — Doris Mann, a famed film icon from the 1950s and 1960s (Shirley MacLaine). Doris is soon soaking up the adulation and applause of Suzanne’s fellow recovering drug addicts. Upon Suzanne’s release, she must compete with her mother for attention and fame as she tries to walk a thin line as a recovering drug abuser.

Ensemble includes Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss, Rob Reiner, Conrad Bain, Annette Bening, C. C. H. Pounder, Anthony Heald, and Oliver Platt. Extras include audio commentary. (Mill Creek/Released 2/7/17)

 

Three

When three disparate souls a doctor desperate to redeem her reputation (Vicki Zhao), a policeman who will go to any length to seek out justice (Louis Koo), and a criminal with a gunshot wound to the head (Wallace Chung) are thrown together in the hustle and bustle of an emergency room, a hospital descends from a pristine sanctuary to an explosive battleground.

Bullets fly in international award-winning director Johnnie To’s latest showdown between cops, robbers, and everyone else caught in the crossfire.

Extras include featurettes and trailer. (Well Go USA/Released 4/4/17)

 

 

Medium: The Complete Series

Inspired by the real-life story of research medium Allison Dubois, an extraordinary young wife and mother who, since childhood, has struggled to make sense of her dreams and visions of dead people.

Emmy Award winner Patricia Arquette stars as Dubois, a strong-willed, devoted young wife and mother of three girls who has gradually come to grips with her extraordinary ability to talk to dead people, see current events and the future through her dreams and read people’s thoughts.

Dubois works as a consultant to D.A. Manuel Devalos, using her psychic abilities to solve violent and horrifying crimes that baffle Phoenix police and others within the criminal justice system.

Notable guest stars include: Notable guest stars include Anjelica Huston, Kathy Baker, Arliss Howard, Kelly Preston, Joel David Moore, Dean Norris, Mitch Pileggi, Ryan Hurst, Kurtwood Smith, Neve Campbell, Mark Sheppard, Arye Gross, David Morse, Jason Priestley, Jennifer Lawrence, Rebecca Gayheart, Kelsey Grammer, Molly Ringwald, Adam Goldberg, Alan Ruck, Eric Stoltz, William Ragsdale, William Sadler, Kevin Corrigan, Oded Fehr, Jeffrey Tambor, Diedrich Bader, Clancy Brown, Jessica Hecht, Will McCormack, Danielle Panabaker, Laura Prepon, Pablo Schreiber, David Arquette, Elisabeth Moss, Miguel Ferrer, Joshua Malina, Morena Baccarin, Shea Whigham, Joe Manganiello, Rami Malek, Kyle Gallner, Willie Garson, James Urbaniak, Balthazar Getty, Bruce McGill, Fisher Stevens, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Tony Hale, William Schallert, Tracey Walter, Christopher McDonald, Larry Miller, Laura San Giacomo, John Glover, Octavia Spencer, James Van Der Beek, Ronny Cox, Joey King, Rosanna Arquette, and Thomas Jane. (Paramount/Released 4/4/17)

Season Summaries:

  • Season One: A crime-solving wife and mother of three has visions and sees dead people. Inspired by real-life medium Allison DuBois.
  • Season Two: Time plays tricks on Allison as she has many dreams involving the past, as well as dreams in which incidents from the past result in an altered present.
  • Season Three: Allison struggles in working as a supernatural detective within the conservative criminal justice system, but builds credibility as she uncovers clues to grisly crimes from victims beyond the grave.
  • Season Four: After a tumultuous previous season that saw her husband traumatized and her work with the Phoenix police department exposed, Allison returns to what she does best: sleuthing in the spiritual realm.
  • Season Five: Wife, mother and psychic Allison Dubois continues to adjust to her increasingly public crime-solving work while her daughters (Sofia Vassilieva and Maria Lark) wrestle with their newfound powers.
  • Season Six: This season, Allison and her family’s world is turned upside down after her abilities are publicly exposed, resulting in sweeping changes both professionally and personally.
  • Season Seven: While using her powerful psychic abilities to assist Det. Scanlon in solving perplexing police investigations, Allison confronts tough new challenges at home with her husband, Joe, and their three children. In the seventh season of this supernatural mystery series, Allison temporarily swaps personalities with her daughter Bridgette and starts seeing strange symbols above people’s heads.

 

We Don’t Belong Here

A family prone to mental illness stands at the brink of total disaster as they deal with all of the complications of modern life.

As the family matriarch Nancy Green (Catherine Keener) struggles to pick up the pieces and define a new normal, her children are spiraling wildly out of control.

When her bipolar son (Anton Yelchin) finds himself entrenched with drug dealers and other unsavory characters, it seems as if the entire situation may completely unravel and his mom may be powerless to stop the hands of fate.

The film co-stars Kaitlyn Dever, Maya Rudolph, Riley Keough, Annie Starke, Justin Chatwin, Molly Shannon and Cary Elwes. Written and directed by Peer Pederson, We Don’t Belong Here marks the last work by the late Yelchin. (Sony/Released 4/4/17)

 

The Founder

Is there a sight more associated with America then two golden arches glowing neon yellow by the roadside?

I would hazard that there is not. McDonald’s is a brand that has reached global domination over the years, and is a true American success story of entrepreneurship.

But what of the journey from simple walk-up hamburger stand to multinational corporation?

Well, for every bright idea and dreamer, there is a shrewd and calculating businessman ready to turn their idea into something faster, flashier, and more profitable.

John Lee Hancock’s The Founder not only entertains, but also shows the contentious story of how one of our most familiar meal destinations grew to take over the country.

Rather than the McDonald brothers, the film’s focuses on Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), the failing Illinois businessman who looked at the burger place and saw the future. While Mac and Dick McDonald (John Caroll Lynch and Nick Offerman) wished to focus on strict control and maintaining their high standards, Kroc was more ambitious and constantly pushed for the innovation and revenue streams that lead to the current McDonald’s model of business. His drive made the company what it is, while leaving behind the original owners of the concept.

The opening scene sets the audience up to understand Kroc right before he met the brothers: the quintessential down on his luck traveling salesman of the 50s. He attempts to sell a multi-milkshake maker to a drive-in owner using a pitch that may have read upbeat but is delivered with more than a tinge of desperation. Dejected and winless, he pours a drink back at the motel and listens to a motivational record about the unstoppable power of positivity and determination.

A call about a large order leads him from Illinois to San Bernardino California in order to see what is so special about this “McDonald’s” place. And here is where the movie briefly lays out the story of Mac and Dick MacDonald and the development of the “Speedee Service System” that allowed for quicker service and higher customer turnover, which the working model of a drive-in could not accomplish. You may imagine that the story of the automation of fast food prep would be less engaging, but the amount of ingenuity and troubleshooting that went into it is nothing short of remarkable.

To see it played out by Nick Offerman drawing and redrawing the most efficient kitchen layouts on a tennis court while choreographing a team of pantomiming fast food employees to find flaws and ways to increase productivity is biopic gold. And so is the hunger that Keaton displays so well in Kroc’s quest for dominance. The interactions between the two are some of the most charged moments of the movie.

Michael Keaton is one of the best actors out there and this film will be chalked in the success column. He deftly portrays a man that could be on the edge of greatness but carries a bit of that sad sack persona with him. You find yourself both rooting for him to succeed as well as cringing at the ferocity and manner in which he pursues it. The movement from tragically pathetic to calculating charmer completely draws you in.

On the opposite end of his quest are Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch who never waiver from being honest and salt-of-the-earth American small business owners. Offerman plays to his usual strengths of gruff and terse delivery, but seeing him use these in a dramatic role rather than comedic is refreshing and fits well. It provides a great balance to Lynch’s gentle “it’ll all work out in the end” persona. There is no point when the audience would not be enamored with the struggle of the brothers to standup to the steamrolling Kroc without stooping to his level.

The most interesting aspect of the film is not so much the story of franchising and how McDonald’s came about – which is a strong statement as the knowledge imparted is engrossing – as much as it plays out as a cautionary tale of capitalism swallowing the ideals of the small business man and greed masquerading as progress.

Some may see this as a redemption story, but others will not be able to separate that the same redemption was built on the backs of others’ dreams. The Founder will be on your mind every time you pass one of those ubiquitous glowing beacons of our country, forcing us to think a bit more critically about both the American inventiveness and the equally American deviousness it took to serve those billions of burgers. (– Kristen Halbert, Starz/Anchor Bay / Released 4/18/17)

 

The Phantasm Collection

One of the most popular franchises in the history of horror, the Phantasm film series has terrified fans for generations.

In all five films of Don Coscarelli’s iconic series, Mike (Michael Baldwin) faces off against a mysterious grave robber known only as the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) and his lethal arsenal of terrible weapons.

Extras include commentary tracks, trailers, tv and spots, featurettes, interviews, still gallery, behind the scenes, deleted scenes, archival interviews, conceptual art, making of, short films, interview outtakes, home movies, conceptual art, bloopers and outtakes, convention panels, Q & A, feature length documentary, and 120 page softcover book The Phantasm Compendium. (Well Go USA/Released 4/11/17)

Includes:

Phantasm
There’s an old adage about how we fear what we don’t understand. Phantasm helps prove it. Pretty much anyone who has seen the film, will say the same thing: it doesn’t make sense, but this is what makes it frightening.

Some matters are purposefully left unexplained, but even those matters that ARE explained seem so outlandish as to become frightening once again. It feels like there is nowhere to hide, no safe spot from which to view this movie with knowing detachment. Halfway through, Reggie the ice cream man exclaims: “What the hell is going on?!?!” That’s likely to be your reaction as well. It’s a good reaction.

Many before me have noted that there is more here than mere shocks and gore; Mike’s adolescence is treated with seriousness and empathy. Brother Jody and friend Reggie are strong characters in their own right. As in Night of the Living Dead, the low-budget sheen works in the movie’s favor, adding a rawness that makes the story seem realistic. It lacks real logic but compensates with primal dream logic. Sprinkled through the film are short dreams and non-linear cross-cutting sequences.

Although most viewers remember the film as being gory, there is actually only one standout gore sequence. But Coscarelli makes the film feel gory by maintaining the continuous creepy atmosphere. Viewers also tend to remember the flying spiked sphere, although it only gets about a minute of screen time. As in Invaders from Mars, the science fiction elements are here to reinforce the horror. Also as in Invaders from Mars, much of the story unfolds through the eyes of a boy, although in Phantasm’s case the boy is a confused adolescent rather than a helpless grade-schooler. And as in Invaders, the conclusion blurs the border between reality and dreams. (– David E. Goldweber)

Phantasm II
Years after surviving his encounter with the sinister Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), Mike Pearson (James LeGros), now a mental patient, still has nightmares about the evil gaunt mortician. Upon being released from the institution, Mike and his friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) set out to track down the Tall Man and end his murderous and macabre practices. Also involved is Liz Reynolds (Paula Irvine), a pretty young woman who has a psychic connection to both Mike and the Tall Man.

Phantasm III: Lord of The Dead
The evil alien known as the Tall Man has infiltrated the minds of Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) and Reggie. The two friends embark on a journey to find and kill him, only to discover that he has destroyed town after town, leaving zombies in place of the living. Along the way, Mike and Reggie meet several characters who share their goal, including a murderous boy named Tim (Kevin Connors) and two young women who are excellent fighters.

Phantasm IV: Oblivion
With a hearse as his escape vehicle, Mike flees from the Tall Man, who wants to enslave him as an undead servant. Along the way, he investigates the origins of his enemy. Elsewhere, Mike’s friend Reggie searches for him in a variety of dimensions, all the while battling mysterious spheres, including the ones he’s discovered in the breasts of his beautiful undead companion. The friends must stop the Tall Man before he destroys them all.

Phantasm: Ravager
Small-town friends Reggie, Mike, and Jody (Bill Thornbury) continue in their quest to stop the evil, dimension-hopping schemes of The Tall Man and his armada of killer Sentinel Spheres. This time, the fight becomes a multi-dimensional battle across multiple timelines, alien planets and altered realities, where no less than the fate of Earth is on the line.

 

Split

What were they thinking? Is a question I often ask myself while watching films. Sometimes, the inquiry stems from sheer disbelief at what I’m witnessing on screen—Oh, god, how did they think this was a good idea? What were they thinking? Other times, it’s a more reflective process—Oh, that’s interesting. I wonder what they were thinking when they wrote and filmed that. Where are they coming from here?

I experienced a lot of the latter while watching M. Night Shyamalan’s latest thriller, Split, about the kidnapping of three teenage girls by a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

Of course, I certainly had my fair share of bewilderment as well. Played by James McAvoy, the villain of Split has 23 different personalities living within him.

The sinister personalities have taken over “the light” of Kevin’s consciousness, which leads to him snatching three teenage girls from a parking lot and locking them up in a basement to prepare for a mysterious ritual.

Does this film do much to amend for an all-too-familiar Hollywood horror trope of mentally ill people being dangerous psychopaths? Not at all. Did Split eventually surprise me, regardless of my reservations about this dangerous stigma? It did. Split is a deeply flawed but fascinating film, perhaps Shyamalan’s most interesting work to date. It has left me more to dwell on than anything he’s made in over a decade, and despite my many problems with it, the film has me itching to revisit it in order to unravel its many mysteries.

I hate the way certain personalities of Kevin’s DID are played for laughs. I’m torn about the many parallels and links that Shyamalan attempts to illustrate relating mental illness to mental trauma—I could see what he was getting it, but found that these juxtapositions never quite meshed the way I believe was intended. And yet, I found myself consistently captivated with what the writer/director was attempting to say with his latest film. And then there’s the twist, which finds Shyamalan pulling the carpet out from underneath us with about ten seconds left in the film. It’s a twist for which I could write a whole new piece about, and perhaps I will, because I’ve been thinking about it ever since it was revealed. The real twist, it seems, is that for the first time in ages, Shyamalan has actually left me wanting more. Extras include alternate ending, deleted scenes, and featurettes. (– Greg Vallente, Universal/Released 4/18/17)

 

Catfight

If nothing else, Catfight is outrageous. Writer/Director Onur Tukel introduces us to two former college nemeses who reunite as adults to pick up where they left off – being catty, presumptuous, arrogant and physically violent.

What exactly happened between them in college?

We may never know but it almost doesn’t matter — this movie is destined to be a “guilty pleasure” flick in the indie category.

The bitchfest is carried out by an artfully restrained Sandra Oh as entitled trophy wife Veronica, and Anne Heche as Ashley, a cranky lesbian artist looking for her big break. In SoHo, Veronica lives in luxury with her husband and son.

In contrast, Ashley is getting by with her partner, Lisa – played by the grossly underutilized Alicia Silverstone – in less frilly digs. Things kick into high gear when Ashley is mournfully making extra cash bartending at a ritzy party where a hammered Veronica is in attendance. Their tense reintroduction to one another leads to a balls-out, ass-kicking in a stairwell. The fight is vicious, long and directed grit. When it’s over, one woman walks out bloodied and one is left in a coma for two years.

Vengeance is in the air when the women do meet again and another fight ensues. It is even harder fought and more malevolent than the last one and again, one of the women lands comatose in the hospital. It soon becomes clear that at its core, Catfight is actually a satirical commentary on our current political climate disguised as dark, dark comedy. As each woman awakens from her coma, she finds out that her life is in total shambles. War and politics have left each with devastating aftermath and there are obvious hints on how Tukel feels about foreign affairs, domestic policy and America’s healthcare system. In these instances the film is a little farcical but then, one might say so is our current government.

Oh offers a strong performance as a woman who has to rebuild her life and learn hard lessons, playing well on the audience’s sympathy and becoming more likable (or maybe just more tolerable) as the film goes on. However it seems harder to separate Heche’s character from Heche’s own nutty, public persona and the way she talks through a clenched jaw for the whole movie puts her across as angry and utterly unlikable for the duration.

The supporting cast is sufficient and peppered with a few stand-outs. Dylan Baker, who plays the “coma doctor” (is that a thing?) makes his time on screen memorable with under-the-radar one-liners and a shockingly hilarious poop joke. Craig Bierko has a great cameo as a TV show host that opens each act of the film with political commentary in order to set up the current world order. Titus Burgess appears in a part forcing him to hold back a bit more than we’re used to from his Kimmy Schmidt role. In the end, any awkwardness or disdain for the characters aside, there’s still something hugely satisfying about watching a couple of bitches slug it out on screen. You can’t deny the originality of it – we don’t get to see the ladies throw down like this too often. And really, their petty fighting and drawn out grudge matches are rather metaphorical for these times we live in. (Marla Singer, MPI Media/Released 4/25/17)

 

Daredevils of the Red Circle

Considered by most to be one of the best, if not the best serials of all time. Three circus stuntmen track down a ruthless madman known as 39-0-13 (Charles Middleton, Emperor Ming of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe), bent on destroying the wealth and integrity of his former employer, multi-millionaire Horace Granville (Miles Mander, Murder, My Sweet).

39-0-13 kidnaps and imprisons Granville, impersonating him in order to facilitate his deeds of destruction. Cy Feur’s (Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc.) pulse-pounding score sharply accentuates the crisp direction of William Witney (Sunset in the West) and John English (Adventures of Captain Marvel). Chapter One’s cliffhanger – an underground tunnel flooded by a massive mountain of torrential water – is a classic! Starring serial star Charles Quigley (The Crimson Ghost), Bruce Bennett (Dark Passage) and the beautiful Carole Landis (I Wake Up Screaming). Extras include commentary. (Kino-Lorber/Released 4/25/17)

 

Get Out

Get Out has immense relatability for an audience usually bypassed by the horror genre: people of color.

The racially-charged fears touched upon in Jordan Peele’s directorial debut are commonplace to millions of people that find themselves trapped in another person’s world. Getting ready to go away to meet his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents for the weekend, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) wonders if she has shared that he is black. Assured of their liberal and accepting nature, Chris embarks on a trip to their idyllic suburban home. Missy and Dean (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) are pleasant enough and he settles in for the weekend.

During a party, he meets more of their similar-minded white friends and starts to wonder about their intense curiosity in him.

As the motives of their interest become clear, Chris is thrown into a sinister plot with a sharp social commentary twist.

The first third of the movie is light in its set up of the themes. There is the predictable Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner arc along with assurances that her family will not be a problem. This includes the fact her father “would have voted for Barack Obama a third time if he had the chance,” which drew audible moans from the crowd. Indeed, it is awkward fun to watch Rose and her family bend over backwards to hammer the idea of their accepting white liberalism into Chris’s head. Peele did an excellent job capturing the kind of mannerisms and statements that can be made in the clumsiest ways with the best intentions. At a party happening later that weekend the blunt comments and questions of the guests double down on the way that compliments on physique or qualities can easily stray into something more akin to property assessments.

Throughout all of this Chris never sees another face that looks like his outside of the quiet and eerily pleasant maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson) who each give off a half Stepford Wife, half Steppin’ Fetchit vibe.

When he finally meets another black man at the party, Chris feels relief for a brief moment before he realizes that something is terribly wrong with this man. Anyone simply reading the script may not understand the impact of the performances as so much is conveyed between tone and eye contact. From lilts and carefully measured pronunciation to protracted staredowns and fearful darting glances, there is a subtlety and familiarity to the underlying terror of acting in a polar opposite way to how you are feeling at that moment.

More than a Stepford situation, it brings to mind movies like Birth of a Nation and Django Unchained, where the haunted look in a slave’s eyes exists in tandem with a pleasant smile and manner. What is unsaid is a better hint at foreboding than many of the clever verbal hints the audience remembers with an “aha!” in the bloody but satisfying second half. Luckily, there is one person who exists to share what everyone wishes they could say. Peele is a comedy veteran and he brings a popular trope to life in the character of Chris’s best friend played by comedian Lil Rel Howery. He bluntly says what the audience is thinking and relentlessly asks why his friend has not left this questionable situation yet. Every phone call between the two garners roars of laughter from the audience, breaking some of the racial tension.

Daniel Kaluuya is excellent as Chris, cracking jokes as easily as he turns fearful and stone-faced while Allison Williams is almost a duplicate of her serviceable character on Girls. Standout as the Democratic and demonic parents, Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford command all of their scenes regardless of who else is onscreen. They are indistinguishable from any “coastal elite” mid-to-late 50s upper middle class that you may meet at yoga or on the golf course. Pitting this class as the villain, those who are best known to the underrepresented as allies, makes the chilling suggestion that there is no level of wealth, education, or love of Obama that would make it safe to engage with white people if you are black.

The movie works well as both social commentary and an addition to the horror shelves, but it is the first kind of fear that will stick with you when you leave the theater. Some of the greatest in the genre come from the idea that the scariest thing onscreen is what could happen in real life. Jaws plays off of the fear of what lurks beneath the waves. Silence of the Lambs is terrifying because it could be any of us abducted and thrown into the hole in the basement. What is merely awkwardness and discomfort to one population watching this movie is a well-known terror to the other.

The horror genre has always been sparse on diverse main characters that make it to the end of the movie. To fold in the tropes, the commentary, and the real fear that is constant to minorities told they are in a safe and “post-racial society” makes this a movie that will divide the theater in the ways it is enjoyed, and in the way it is discussed long after the lights come up. Extras include alternate ending, deleted scenes, a featurette, a Q&A, and a commentary track. ( – Kristen Halbert, Universal/Released 5/23/17)

 

Fifty Shades Darker

Fifty Shades Darker is a faithful adaptation of the second book in the Fifty Shades series written by E.L.James. Which means if you liked the books or the first movie you will probably enjoy Fifty Shades Darker.

If you you thought source material or the first film was trash, then get ready to not be surprised. Fifty Shades Darker is just more of the same.

This sequel picks up shortly after Fifty Shades of Grey ends. It is the continuation of the co-dependent fairy tale of the naive young girl who “fixes/saves” the cold, worldly man with nothing but herself and love.

If you were a Twilight fan, then this is probably your speed.

Dakota Johnson reprises her role as Anastasia “Ana” Steele, your girl-next-door that catches the fancy of handsome yet emotionally damaged billionaire Christian Grey played by Jamie Dornan. For a story that entirely revolves around passion and love healing old wounds and conquering all odds, this onscreen couple’s passion couldn’t ignite flash paper with a blowtorch. Johnson and Dornan have no chemistry whatsoever, which makes the sex scenes somewhat comical, but definitely not erotic. Johnson’s bland delivery of lines may have been an aesthetic choice by director James Foley to enhance Anastasia’s “vanilla” personality. However, the approach does not have a long shelf life. Halfway through the film I found myself bored with Ana and wondering how she could hold the attention of anyone beyond two hours.

Jamie Dornan has shown himself to be a complex actor with such rolls as Paul Spector on the tv series The Fall. Unfortunately there is little evidence of it in Fifty Shades Darker. His Christian Grey plays at one note the entire film. Even when he is supposed to be happy, the emotion never quite comes through. It’s a disappointing performance from an otherwise talented actor. The supporting cast is made up of some great actors who are wasted in short scenes with barely any screen time to make an impression. Marcia Gay Harden as Christian’s adoptive mother, Grace, makes the most of her meager role and lends some much needed depth and character development for Grey. Kim Basinger as Elena Lincoln, one of the the stories main antagonists, is barely a blip on the radar, so much so that when the climatic confrontation happens towards the end of the film, the audience barely has any basis for why the confrontation is a big deal in the first place. Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson, The Knick) who will play an important part in the third installment is given an estimated 6 minutes of screentime. I could have done with a little less awkward, cross eyed close-ups of the lovers looking at each other and a little more time with the rest of the cast. Having a firm story populated by more than ghost of other characters would have given Anastasia and Grey’s relationship more depth.

Let’s face it. No one watches Fifty Shades Darker for the writing, character development, or the plot twists. They are going for the “naughty bits’. But with the lack of chemistry between the actors, and the repetitive filming and editing of the love scenes, the parts of the film that are supposed to be titillating and risque are actually quite monotonous. Location and accoutrements may change, but it’s the same close-ups of Ana biting her lip and moaning with sprinkles of other body parts included. The same formula used over and over.

Even though I disliked the books and the first film, I still watched Fifty Shades Darker. Why? Because it’s the junk food of cinema. You know it’s not good, you’ll regret it after ingesting it, but you make the bad choice anyway because sometimes it’s just fun watch the trainwreck. I can see it joining the cult classics in the way that Showgirls has its ironic viewers. (– Elizabeth Robbins, Universal/Released 5/9/17)

 

Future Shock! The Story Of 2000AD

Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD documents the origin, history, and arc of the beloved and revered comic book series 2000AD. It begins with a beautiful opening animation of some of the panels of 2000AD and then launches into a fascinating segment on the culture of England in the late 70s. Sadly, these first two parts, totaling in 15 minutes of the 100 minute film, stand as the strongest parts.

The rest of the documentary contains a skeleton of a plot which reveals the rise and fall and eventual rebirth of the series, but for the most part, this skeleton is fleshed with thick fat made of rosy-eyed reflections of nostalgia interrupted by a few jagged pieces of regret from the series’ creators.

As a result, the most alluring parts of the film beyond the opening are those of 2000AD’s star early creators, including Neil Gaiman, Pat Mills, and John Wagner, speaking about their role in the series, but unfortunately, even these moments lose their charm after the sixth interview with another comic book writer or illustrator ends up saying the same thing as the person before them: “2000AD was great because it was violent, subversive, and intelligently satirical.”

Sure, it is fine for the creators of a cultural work to bask in the golden days of their careers, but when every creator of 2000AD makes a similar statement as the other, their individual identities begin to get fuzzy as their comments and statements repeat. As a result, each character’s story and contribution fades out, and the documentary derails into a video of memories that you would expect to see at a high school reunion but with a few more facile political observations about the “Establishment.” Beyond the repetition, the lack of the actual comics from the series makes Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD even more difficult to stay engaged with.

For well over an hour, you hear from many talking heads about the greatness of 2000AD without ever seeing a full page of it. This makes all of the interviews and comments about 2000AD even less exciting and more trivial, for you never get a full sense of why the comic was so subversive or innovative, since you never get to see and interpret the work that everyone heralds. In addition, since you never see a page of the comics, you never understand how 2000AD‘s political commentary has changed over the course of the series, given the enormous significance but now obsoleteness of late 70s politics in late 70s England. Future Shock! assumes every person who will see the film has read and enjoyed the glory days of the series, and this is an imprudent assumption.

Okay, perhaps I would have enjoyed Future Shock! more as a fangirl; however, a documentary made just for fans and no one else is a bad idea. Why? I’ll explain. A film like Future Shock! and other documentaries made only for fans will not ask the hard questions required to allow a viewer to make his/her own judgment and interpretation on the topic. Future Shock! fails to offer any alternate perspectives on the series and on the major events of its rise and fall, leading to only a euphemistic, saccharine story of 2000AD and its creators.

By the end of this film aimed to only stir up warm memories and admiration for the series, you are only left with the same positive opinion (if you had it) of 2000AD before you sat down to watch, and what knowledge you did see and hear in the documentary did not vary too far off from a Wikipedia page about the the series. And, if you are a naive viewer and reader, you learn a few details about the 2000AD and know some of the faces attached to it.

Future Shock! does not promote a complex understanding and judgement of 2000AD; it just throws out the series at you and tells you about why it is great just like parents trying to convince a young child to eat veggies on a plate. All I was left with when I finished the film was, “Read this. It’s really good. Read it. It’s really smart. You do not need me to explain why you should, but you should read it. If you don’t read it and like it, then you’re a square most likely in line with the Establishment.” Future Shock! fails to complete a study on its own topic, and worst of all, fails to create an intelligent argument to why a naive reader should run to 2000AD after seeing the film.

Future Shock! would have seriously benefited from introducing people who objected 2000AD and slimming down the number of creators interviewed to focus specifically on a handful of the people to get a intimate and rich perspective on the iconic series. Wouldn’t you want to see an intimate day-to-day study of Pat Mills, an original creator of 2000AD, counterbalanced with a day-to-day study of the lawyer in charge of the copyright infringement case that resulted in banning issues of 2000AD in England? I know I would.

In summary, my experience with seeing Future Shock! left me with the same sentiment I had after seeing the highly disappointing Veronica Mars film (yes, of course I saw it): let’s stop making films created only for fans. They seem to abandon the strength of film to storytell and delve into a character or topic for the sake of substantiating and basking in fans’ admiration of the characters or the topics themselves. Extras include extended sequences, featurettes, trailers, behind the strips (Bad Company, Future Shocks, Rogue Trooper, Slaine and Stronium Dog),and extended interviews with Grant Morrison, Karen Berger, Pat Mills, Neil Gaiman and Dave Gibbons. (– Lily Fierro, Severin Films/ Released 5/30/17)

 

Where The Buffalo Roam

Comic star Bill Murray is at his wildest as America’s leading “Gonzo” journalist, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, the legendary underground reporter whose passion for writing was second only to his love of weird chemicals, alcohol, violence and insanity.

Along with best friend (Peter Boyle), Murray offers a manic look back at the Sixties and Seventies as an eyewitness to everything from a free-for-all San Francisco drug trial to a one-on-one bathroom interview with then Presidential candidate Richard Nixon.

This off-the-wall comedy also boasts a musical score by rock superstar Neil Young.

Co-stars include Bruno Kirby, Rene Auberjonois, R.G. Armstrong, Otis Day and Mark Metcalf.

Extras include interview, trailer and includes all of the original music. (Shout! Factory / Released 6/6/17)

 

House: Two Stories


In the original House, William Katt (Carrie) stars as Roger Cobb, a horror novelist struggling to pen his next bestseller. When he inherits his aunt’s creaky old mansion, Roger decides that he’s found the ideal place in which to get some writing done. Unfortunately, the house’s monstrous supernatural residents have other ideas…

Meanwhile, House II: The Second Story sees young Jesse (Arye Gross) moving into an old family mansion where his parents were mysteriously murdered years before. Plans for turning the place into a party pad are soon thwarted by the appearance of Jesse’s mummified great-great-grandfather, his mystical crystal skull and the zombie cowboy who’ll stop at nothing to lay his hands on it!

Casts include George Wendt, Richard Moll, Kay Lenz, Mary Stavin, Michael Ensign, Jonathan Stark, Royal Dano, Bill Maher, John Ratzenberger, Lar Park-Lincoln. Extras include commentaries, making of, still galleries and trailers. (Arrow/Released 3/21/17)

 

The Bye Bye Man

People commit unthinkable acts every day. Time and again, we grapple to understand what drives a person to do such terrible things.

But what if all of the questions we’re asking are wrong? What if the cause of all evil is not a matter of what…but who.

When three college friends stumble upon the horrific origins of the Bye Bye Man, they discover that there is only one way to avoid his curse: don’t think it, don’t say it. But once the Bye Bye Man gets inside your head, he takes control, making you see and do the most unspeakable acts committed by man. Is there a way to survive his possession?

Cast includes Doug Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Jenna Kanell, Carrie Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway, Doug Jones and Michael Trucco.

Extras include two cuts of the film. (Universal/Released 4/11/17)

 

 

Silicon Valley: The Complete Third Season

​From Mike Judge and Alec Berg comes a new season of the Emmy-nominated comedy that takes viewers inside Silicon Valley’s high-tech gold rush: a land of big ideas and bigger egos. After last season’s shocking ending, which found Pied Piper celebrating legal victory just as Richard (Thomas Middleditch) was ousted as CEO, Season 3 picks up where we left off, with Richard offered the diminished role of CTO and the rest of his team – Erlich (T.J. Miller), Jared (Zach Woods), Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) – facing the question of just how far their loyalty extends. With a new no-nonsense CEO hell-bent on transforming everything from Pied Piper’s offices to its business agenda, the guys must find a way to triumph in the war of Art vs. Commerce, maneuvering the many competing interests along the way.

Extras include deleted scenes. (HBO/Released 4/11/17).

Episodes include:

  • Founder Friendly: After being unceremoniously fired, an angry Richard faces a tough decision: accept the diminished role of CTO, or leave Pied Piper for good. Erlich takes a shine to Jack Barker, Laurie’s new choice of CEO, while Dinesh and Gilfoyle weigh their options in Richard’s absence. At Hooli, Gavin tries to improve his image by admitting failure, and Big Head gets wind of major changes.
  • Two in the Box: The new and improved Pied Piper impresses Dinesh and Gilfoyle, but worries Richard; Jared and Erlich face housing issues; Gavin suggests a controversial move.
  • Meinertzhagen’s Haversack: Richard searches for a way around Jack; Gilfoyle opens himself up to recruiters; Dinesh draws unwanted attention from a recent purchase.
  • Maleant Data Systems Solutions: The Pied Piper guys struggle to phone it in; Erlich faces competition; Monica takes a stand; Gavin makes a decision about Nucleus.
  • The Empty Chair: Richard lets his ego get in the way at an interview; Dinesh, Gilfoyle and Jared misplace hardware; Erlich pitches his plans to Big Head.
  • Bachmanity Insanity: Richard’s new relationship is threatened by neuroses; Big Head and Erlich’s launch party has snags; Dinesh falls for a foreign coworker.
  • To Build a Better Beta: Richard decides to test the Pied Pipper beta. Erlich finds himself in trouble.
  • Bachman’s Earning’s Over-Ride: Erlich tries to be honest with Richard, who has mixed emotions about their friendship and the future of Pied Piper. Meanwhile, Jared’s new company apparel turns heads but fuels yet another clash between Dinesh and Gilfoyle.
  • Daily Active Users: Shocking stats are revealed and prompt Richard to bridge the gap between Pied Piper and its users, but Jared must go to extremes to keep everything intact. Meanwhile, Gavin tries to recapture his former glory by bringing in new talent after discovering secrets about the competition.
  • The Uptick: Pied Piper’s future is hazy, but Erlich’s industry profile begins to rise, creating a moral dilemma for Richard as Dinesh’s new app starts to catch on. Meanwhile, Laurie makes plans for her exit; and Gavin’s pompous personality haunts his comeback at Hooli.

 

Dead Or Alive Trilogy

Beginning with an explosive, six-minute montage of sex, drugs and violence, and ending with a phallus-headed battle robot taking flight, Takashi Miike’s unforgettable Dead or Alive Trilogy features many of the director’s most outrageous moments set alongside some of his most dramatically moving scenes. Made between 1999 and 2002, the Dead or Alive films cemented Miike’s reputation overseas as one of the most provocative enfants terrible of Japanese cinema, yet also one of its most talented and innovative filmmakers.

In Dead or Alive, tough gangster Ryuichi (Riki Takeuchi) and his ethnically Chinese gang make a play to take over the drug trade in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district by massacring the competition.

But he meets his match in detective Jojima (Show Aikawa), who will do everything to stop them.

Dead or Alive 2: Birds casts Aikawa and Takeuchi together again, but as new characters, a pair of rival yakuza assassins who turn out to be childhood friends; after a botched hit, they flee together to the island where they grew up, and decide to devote their deadly skills to a more humanitarian cause.

And in Dead or Alive: Final, Takeuchi and Aikawa are catapulted into a future Yokohama ruled by multilingual gangs and cyborg soldiers, where they once again butt heads in the action-packed and cyberpunk-tinged finale to the trilogy.

Each of them unique in theme and tone, the Dead or Alive films showcase Miike at the peak of his strengths, creating three very distinct movies connected only by their two popular main actors, each film a separate yet superb example of crime drama, character study, and action film making. Extras include interviews, commentary, archive interviews and featurettes, and trailers. (Arrow/Released 3/21/17)

 

36 Hours

In 1944, while dealing with a Lisbon double agent, Maj. Jefferson Pike (James Garner) of U. S. Intelligence is abducted by Germans, drugged, and flown to Bavaria. He has been fully briefed on D-Day invasion operations in Normandy, and the Germans mean to pry this information from him through an elaborate trick. Pike awakens in what appears to be an American military hospital in occupied Germany: the staff speak English, newspapers are dated 1950, and the war is apparently over.

Maj. Walter Gerber (Rod Taylor), seemingly an American psychiatrist but actually a Nazi, tells Pike he is an amnesia victim but can be cured by recalling the events before, during, and after D-Day. (Gerber has only 36 hours to secure this information; thereafter, it will be forced out of Pike through torture.)

Pike discusses Normandy, but through a giveaway detail, he discovers the Nazi scheme. He confronts Gerber and Otto Schack (Werner Peters), a Gestapo agent, and tries to persuade them that he has been giving false information. He is dispatched for further questioning, however, accompanied by Anna Hedler (Eva Marie Saint), a German nurse pretending to be his wife. Schack doubts that Normandy is the landing site, and the three men play a cat-and-mouse game utilizing this skepticism.

The failure of the initial deception having put Gerber out of favor with the Gestapo, he entrusts valuable papers on his amnesia experiments to Pike, helps him and Anna escape to the Swiss frontier, and then commits suicide.

The Normandy landings begin and the enraged Schack pursues Pike and Anna to the border; but he is shot down by an anti-Nazi guard who has arranged for the escapees’ safe crossing. Once in Switzerland, Pike prepares to depart for London, knowing that he and Anna will meet at the end of the war. Extras include trailer. (Warner Archive/Released 4/11/17)

 

Never Too Young To Die

A once-in-a-lifetime cast rocks the silver screen in director Gil Bettman’s masterpiece of cult cinema, Never Too Young To Die.

When a top secret agent (George Lazenby, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) is murdered, his estranged gymnast son Lance Stargrove (John Stamos, Full House) teams up with his dad’s seductive and deadly associate, Danja Deering (Vanity, The Last Dragon) to face his father’s killer… the fiendish mastermind Velvet Von Ragner (Gene Simmons, the fiendish mastermind behind Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inductee KISS.)

The hermaphroditic heel is hell-bent on a scheme to poison the city’s water supply — and it’s up to Stargrove to crush Velvet once and for all!

Never Too Young To Die also features Peter Kwong (Big Trouble In Little China), Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street), and enough leather-clad, mohawked henchmen to fill a dozen Road Warrior knock-offs. You think you’ve seen it all? It’s never too late to see Never Too Young To Die! (Shout! Factory/Released 4/11/17)

 

Veep: The Complete Fifth Season

This season President Meyer is in the midst of a virtually unprecedented Electoral College tie, with her future as commander in chief coming down to just a few hundred votes.

While Amy and Dan work on a long shot to victory, Selina finds herself spinning her wheels in D.C., as her staff strives to make her seem presidential (even though she actually is president), at the same time fending off the ambitions of Tom James, her charismatic running mate, who in a twist of obscure constitutional procedure could end up becoming president.

The ensemble cast of the show also includes Emmy winner Tony Hale as Gary, her devoted bodyman; Emmy nominee Anna Chlumsky as Amy, her on-again, off-again right hand; Matt Walsh as Mike, her weathered spokesperson; Reid Scott as Dan, an ambitious aide; Timothy Simons as hanger-on Jonah; Sufe Bradshaw as Sue, President Meyer’s wry executive assistant; Kevin Dunn as Ben, her chief of staff; Emmy nominee Gary Cole as strategist Kent; and Sam Richardson as campaign worker Richard.

Recurring guest stars on the new season include John Slattery as billionaire banker Charlie Baird; Sarah Sutherland as Catherine, Selina’s daughter; and Hugh Laurie as Tom James, Selina’s running mate. Extras include commentaries and deleted scenes. (HBO/Released 4/11/17)

Episodes include:

  • Morning After: Post-election night: Selina discovers a possible road to victory. Meanwhile, Amy must figure out if she is back or not; Catherine kicks off a behind-the-scenes documentary project; and Dan considers a new career.
  • Nev-AD-a: Amy, Dan, Jonah and Richard try to win the Presidency for the President. Back in D.C., Selina brings in respected Washington fixture Bob Bradley, aka ‘The Eagle,’ and, nudges out Tom James on the newly created Banking Task Force.
  • The Eagle: Selina sends a tweet and Mike must deal with the consequences. Amy feels usurped by Bob, and begins to be troubled by his behavior. At a museum gala, Gary finds himself the belle of the ball.
  • Mother: Selina rushes to the hospital while attempting to win the presidency. Amy and Dan discover the O’Brien camp has staged a fake protest, and task Jonah and Richard with organizing their own pro-POTUS demonstration. Mike and Wendy meet a potential surrogate.
  • Thanksgiving: Selina celebrates Thanksgiving in her own special way. Meanwhile, Ben and Kent manage a Thanksgiving Day crisis, deploying Tom James and VP Doyle to make statements in Selina’s absence. Ben sends Dan to work for Tom James.
  • C**tgate: With the U.S. on the brink of a major financial meltdown, Selina must make an important decision. Jonah finds himself back in New Hampshire. Meanwhile, Amy investigates the staff, and Catherine tries to get time with Selina to share some major news.
  • Congressional Ball: At the White House Christmas party, Selina bargains for votes in hopes of breaking the election tie. Meanwhile, the staff is preoccupied with the annual ’50 Hottest D.C. Staffers’ list; Mike eyes a job outside politics; Dan helps Jonah with debate prep.
  • Camp David: Selina takes Catherine to a family pre-Christmas celebration at Camp David, where her team also plans to conduct secret negotiations. After a disastrous debate in New Hampshire, Amy and Dan try to make Jonah seem more human.
  • Kissing Your Sister: Catherine and Marjorie have a fight; Mike prepares for his babies; Selina is interviewed.
  • Inauguration: Selina and her staff get ready for inauguration day; Mike suffers exhaustion; Catherine gets a makeover.

 

Mars

Mars follows a crew of courageous international astronauts on its exhilarating maiden voyage to Mars and quest to colonize the fourth planet from the sun.

In a unique blend of scripted drama intermixed with documentary sequences and feature-film-caliber visual effects, the series presents what the greatest minds in space exploration are doing to make traveling to Mars a reality, featuring Big Thinkers like Elon Musk, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Petranek.

Extras, include prequel, Living on Mars, interviews and more. (20th Century Fox/Released 4/11/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Novo Mundo: The story is told in a documentary way, looking at the present day. The future mission is filmed as a movie. In this episode scenes are changing in these timeframes.
  • Grounded: The Daedalus crew battles across the harsh Martian terrain to reach their base camp.
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  • Pressure Drop: In 2033, the Daedalus crew struggles to find permanent shelter. Currently, the European Space Agency and Roscosmos partner to launch an orbiter.
  • Power: A new crew arrives on Mars four years after the Daedalus landed to help execute plans for expansion and search for life; McMurdo Station in Antarctica serves as a modern example of how humans will settle Mars.
  • Darkest Days: In 2037, the psychological pressures of life on Mars reveal themselves while the crew is trapped inside the habitat; in present-day, scientists study the effects of extreme isolation in various long-term analog missions.
  • Crossroads: In 2037, a devastating tragedy in the colony forces everyone to question the mission. In the present, SpaceX attempts another pioneering launch.

 

War On Everyone

Terry (Alexander Skarsgård) and Bob (Michael Peña) are two crooked cops who frame and blackmail criminals all over town. Looking for the ultimate pay-off, they try to extort a strip-club manager (Caleb Landry Jones) and his eccentric, junkie boss (Theo James), but get more than they bargained for when their hair-brained scheme uncovers a bigger, darker secret.

War On Everyone also stars Tessa Thompson, Paul Reiser, Stephanie Sigman and David Wilmot. A misfire from John Michael McDonagh, writer and director of The Guard and Calvary. Extras include featurette. (Lionsgate/Released 4/11/17)

 

 

Sword Master

A powerful swordsman is haunted by the destructive impact his deadly talents have on others.

Weary of the bloodshed and violence from the martial arts world, he banishes himself to the humble life of a vagrant, wandering the fringes of society.

But his violent past refuses to let him go quietly. The master swordsman must regain the ability to wield his sword and fight those disrupting the peace he so desperately craves.

This epic remake of 1977’s Death Duel, Sword Master stars Kenny Lin (The Taking of Tiger Mountain), Peter Ho (The Monkey King), 
Yiyan Jiang (Reign of Assassins) and Mengjie Jiangin (Kung Fu Hero).

Extras include featurette. (Well Go USA/Released 4/11/17)

 

Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir: It’s Ladybug

When Paris is threatened by supervillains, two amazing heroes are our only hope: Ladybug and Cat Noir! With the help of their magical pets, this incredible duo team up to outwit the forces of evil… but their biggest challenge might be getting through junior high school.

In their normal lives, Marinette and Adrien are just a pair of young students, but in reality, this terrific twosome must juggle schoolwork, friends, family and growing up in a world where every day is a high-flying adventure. (Shout! Factory/Released 4/11/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Gamer: Adrien and Max enter a tournament for the videogame, Ultimate Robot Strike. After losing a challenge, Max gets akumatized into Gamer and unleashes a giant robot on Paris. Ladybug & Cat Noir are faced with a real-life video game!
  • Antibug: After an argument with Ladybug, Chloe gets akumatized and turns into Antibug. For the first time ever, Ladybug must battle a villain with the same powers as her. Can she defeat her perfect opposite?
  • The Puppeteer: A misunderstanding while babysitting Manon leads to a young girl becoming akumatized as The Puppeteer. Now, she seeks to get doll versions of Ladybug & Cat Noir so that she may control them and take their Miraculous!
  • Reflekta: When Juleka’s picture day “curse” is made worse by being excluded from the class picture, Juleka is akumatized and turns into Reflekta. Ladybug must stop her before she turns everyone into a reflection of herself!
  • Princess Fragrance: The akumatized Princess Fragrance causes mayhem with her magic perfume, going as far as kidnapping a visiting Prince. When Marinette realizes Tikki is missing, she’s unable to transform and save the day. What will she do?
  • Volpina: Adrien bonds with a new student named Lila, who claims to know Ladybug. When Marinette exposes her lie, Lila gets akumatized into Volpina. She fakes an alliance with Ladybug & Cat Noir in order to divide and destroy them.

 

Frontline: Divided States of America

Drawing on extensive new interviews with White House and Congressional insiders from both parties, as well as Frontline’s vast body of reporting on the Obama era, Divided States digs into the causes of America’s intense polarization and questions how the next president and Congress can govern in an era of complex challenges.

This television event, led by veteran Frontline filmmaker Michael Kirk and his team, tells a revealing story that’s not just about Barack Obama’s presidency, but about America itself.

“When America elected its first black president eight years ago, many thought we were entering a new and hopeful era,” says Kirk. “But now, from race to guns to the economy, we’re living in a deeply polarized moment — in American politics and American life.

This film explores why we’ve reached this point, how Washington has reacted to the upheaval that is fast defining our times and what it means as we look to the tenure of the next president.”

“As Obama’s presidency ends and a new one begins, this is the time to take a deep look at where we stand – and why,” says Frontline executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath. “

Thoughtful, rigorous and time-intensive reporting provides a comprehensive yet nuanced exploration of a significant moment in American history.” (PBS/Released 4/11/17)

 

The Good Wife: The Complete Series

The Good Wife is a drama starring Emmy Award winner Julianna Margulies as a wife and mother who boldly assumes full responsibility for her family and re-enters the workforce after her husband’s very public sex and political corruption scandal lands him in jail.

Pushing aside the betrayal and crushing public humiliation caused by her husband, Peter, she starts over by pursuing her original career as a defense attorney.

Ensemble includes Matt Czuchry, Christine Baranski, Archie Panjabi, Alan Cumming, Josh Charles, Makenzie Vega and Chris Noth.

Notable guest stars include Matthew Goode, Michael J. Fox, Mike Colter, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Michael Boatman, Titus Welliver, Nathan Lane, Gary Cole, Scott Porter, Margo Martindale, Stockard Channing, Michael Ealy, Joe Morton, Anna Camp, David Paymer, David Hyde Pierce. Dylan Baker, Christopher McDonald, Maura Tierney, Elizabeth Reaser, David Krumholtz, Edward Herrmann, Rita Wilson, Martha Plimpton, Peter Riegert, Ana Gasteyer, Kyle MacLauchlan, Matthew Perry, Jeffrey Tambor, Taye Diggs, Parker Posey, Peter Gallagher, Wallace Shawn and Oliver Platt. Extras include featurettes, interviews, gag reels and deleted/extended scenes. (Paramount/Released 4/4/17)

Season summaries:

  • Season One: The Good Wife is a drama starring Emmy Award winner Julianna Margulies as a wife and mother who boldly assumes full responsibility for her family and re-enters the workforce after her husband’s very public sex and political corruption scandal lands him in jail.
  • Season Two: Pushing aside the betrayal and crushing public humiliation caused by her husband, Peter, Alicia Florrick starts over by pursuing her original career as a defense attorney. As a junior associate at a prestigious Chicago law firm, she joins her longtime friend, former law school classmate and firm partner Will Gardner, who is interested in rekindling their former relationship.
  • Season Three: Alicia is back with a new found confidence and a fresh start. Will and Alicia are working on a tough case the puts them both in unknown territory. Peter searches for a law firm to represent the county’s civil needs but he may not end up going with Lockhart/Gardner, leaving Diane questioning Alicia’s true loyalty.
  • Season Four: The fourth season finds most of its characters in hot water as Lockhart/Gardner attempts to avoid liquidation in bankruptcy court. Kalinda’s estranged husband becomes one of the firm’s newest clients, and starts to throw Kalinda off her game just as Will finally returns to work. Alicia must defend Zach in court after he videotapes a cop who pulls him over for a drug search.
  • Season Five: Alicia and Cary make plans to start their own firm. Once the decision is made, they begin battle with Lockhart/Gardner for clients and cases. Meanwhile, Peter makes waves as Governor while Eli works overtime to keep any hint of scandal at bay.
  • Season Six: Alicia is presented with several interesting options: run for State’s Attorney, or lure Diane to her new firm and continue to fight cases in the cutthroat world of Chicago law.
  • Season Seven: Alicia attempts to revive her struggling law career by once again starting her own law firm, this time with the assistance of Jason Crouse, a calm, experienced investigator whom she hires.

 

The Carol Burnett Show: Best of Tim Conway

During his frequent guest appearances on The Carol Burnett Show,Tim Conway, who had originally gotten his start on McHale’s Navy, was a one-man wrecking crew capable of leveling the audience and cast members alike with the slightest gesture.

With an unparalleled gift for improvisation and physical comedy, Conway became a permanent part of the cast in 1975 and would go on to create a gallery of oddball characters that blossomed in their own bumbling ineptitude, from the “Oldest Man” to the irascible boss, Mr. Tudball.

The Carol Burnett Show: Best of Tim Conway celebrates this inimitable and legendary comic with four complete episodes – three not seen in more than 40 years – featuring some of his most unforgettable characters and moments. (Time-Life/Released 4/4/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Episode 312 (airdate: December 8, 1969), Conway’s “Oldest Man” gives himself a slo-mo oil change playing the default head of a racetrack pit crew; and, as “The Virgin Prince,” he’s a “swishbuckling” tour de farce with an appetite for flies and destruction.
  • Episode 423 (airdate: April 19, 1971) features Conway as “The Lone Ranger” and acting like man’s best friend in “Dog’s Life” (blooper included!)
  • Episode 513 (airdate: December 1, 1971) includes the all-time Conway/Korman classic sketch, “The Dentist,” which remains the stuff of TV legend and one of the all-time-great moments of physical comedy.
  • Episode 0120 (airdate: February 26, 1978), Conway stars as Mr. Tudball, well-known for his strange accent and regimented work style, who takes leave of his senses while showing compassion for his dimwitted secretary, Mrs. Wiggins (Burnett).

 

Don’t Give Up the Ship

Comedy legend Jerry Lewis (The Nutty Professor) stars as a newlywed naval officer whisked away from his honeymoon by a senate investigating committee who would like to know what happened to WWII battleship had commanded – the crew arrived home safely, but the battleship has completely disappeared.

They don’t know that he suffers from a mental block concerning the mission, so they assign a beautiful psychiatrist (Dina Merrill, Butterfield 8) to probe his subconscious.

Oscar winner, Norman Taurog (Visit to a Small Planet) directed this hilarious comedy based on a true incident, Don’t Give Up the Ship is now considered to be one of Jerry Lewis’ best films. (Kino-Lorber/Released 4/25/17)

 

From Hell It Came

Contemporary critics made snappy comments like “not quite!” or “send it back!” Latter-day critics forgot the picture entirely. But fans of 50s camp gave it new life in the early 2000s.

Of course the thing is laden with stilted dialogue, simplistic characters, and wooden acting. But just you wait until “the Tabanga” (or Tabonga or Tabunga) starts growing from the grave at 35:00.

The American scientists scarcely notice the scowling old-man face on the growing stump. Before long, the thing animates and begins walking around the island like an automaton, crushing the natives or hoisting them into quicksand. “Tabanga come!!!” cries a frightened native. The Tabanga itself is stiff and slow, with flat feet and wiggly arms. It has mean-looking eyes that never move.

Perhaps the Giant Claw monster looks sillier, but it’s a close contest. The second half is filled with camp, including a theremin, a catfight, and more.

If I were to give any credit, I would have to admit that the story is unusually complicated, with several things happening at once (atomic fallout, a plague, rivalries, loves, betrayals, and Tabanga) and twice as many characters as the usual cheap sci-fi flicks of the time. Few things turn out as expected, with the doctor’s “formula” being the One Thing that animates the monster rather than the One Thing that destroys it. The actual way that Tabanga gets destroyed is patent nonsense, a capstone for the camp. Most of the “natives” are white people with obvious makeup. The only pretty native girl has radiation burns all over her face! Several scenes are surprisingly well shot, including the early execution scene and the late lab scene, right after Tabanga animates. Extras include a trailer. (– David E. Goldweber, Warner Archive/Released 4/25/17)

 

The Girl With All The Gifts

The striking imagery of the cover art — a little girl wearing a bloodied plastic mask — promises a refreshing original take on the zombie film, which this film delivers… until the third act.

Newcomer Sennia Nanua stars as Melanie, one of several children who are treated like prisoners and only let out of their cells under armed escort by very nervous soldiers. And yet Melanie is a bright, cheerful child who greets her escorts by name each morning and loves her idealistic teacher, Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton).

We learn that these children are the next generation of zombies who appear to be fully human, until they catch the scent of real humans and transform into wild-eyed, ravenous predators. (The non-infected humans use a gel scent-blocker, which Rick Grimes would surely love to have.)

Miss Justineau is the only one who believes there’s more humanity than monster in these children, especially her favorite, Melanie. She’s at odds with Glenn Close, who plays the scientist who wants to find a zombie vaccine and Paddy Considine, the tough sergeant who treats these zombie children with the same elaborate caution you would a pack of rabid dogs. The small group is forced to work together after their base falls to the zombie horde and Melanie proves surprisingly helpful — if they can just trust her not to eat them.

The film delivers some terrific zombie attack scenes and an interesting new cause for the outbreak: It’s a nasty fungus that’s making these people want to eat brains! The way the film plays with our ideas about what makes us human is smart. But some unfortunate choices cross the line into cheesy sci-fi clichés.

And it’s too bad the metaphor of Pandora’s Box becomes not just a recurring theme, but an unavoidable endpoint. The movie tries to have it both ways with an ending that’s apocalyptic and yet strangely upbeat.
The ending didn’t ruin the movie for me, but it did bring my rating down a few notches.

Extras include featurette. (– Sharon Knolle, Lionsgate/Released 4/25/17)

 

Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume Two

Determined to promote Chinese martial arts and make a name for himself in America, Bruce Lee (Danny Chan) establishes a small but increasingly popular kung fu school in Seattle, Washington, where he gains both admirers of his techniques and those who would like to see him fail.

As he encounters different opponents all martial arts masters in their own right and their various fighting styles, Bruce envisions a new way of kung fu capable of revolutionizing the world of martial arts forever.

With the support of his friends, pupils, and his great love, Linda (Michelle Lang), nothing can stop Bruce on his massive rise to stardom. Season Two also stars Mark Dacascos, Wang Luoyang, Tim Storms, Ray Park and Michael Jai White. (Well Go USA/Released 4/4/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Episode 11: Bruce challenges Yamamoto to a rematch, but he will have to defeat the “Iron Man” first.
  • Episode 12: Blair moves to the US and offers to introduce Bruce to the man who taught him boxing.
  • Episode 13: Bruce puts up a big sign on the front of his school, calling out all Martial Arts Masters, in order to learn more techniques for his unique style.
  • Episode 14: When Bruce meets Linda’s mother, she proves to be strongly against their relationship.
  • Episode 15: Bruce joins the esteemed California Karate Competition and meets his new rival, Mr. Hoffman.
  • Episode 16: Bruce wants to establish his Kung Fu School in Oakland as soon as possible, even if it means quitting school before he gets his diploma.
  • Episode 17: The President of the Chinese Kung Fu Association is offended when Bruce builds a school in his area without his consent.
  • Episode 18: When he receives news of his father, Bruce returns to China for the first time since he left.
  • Episode 19: Uncertain if he’ll be able to work again, Bruce decides to close down the Kung Fu School.
  • Episode 20: After having Brandon live with Linda’s mother for a while, Linda finally brings him back to live with her and Bruce.

 

Logan

After seventeen years and nine appearances onscreen as the character, Hugh Jackman ends his run portraying one of comics’ most beloved characters in Logan, directed by James Mangold. A virtual unknown before being cast as the character (replacing an injured Dougray Scott) in 2000’s X-Men, the role brought Jackman both international fame and a devoted fanbase. Jackman, in turn, protected the character’s integrity and portrayal, often being the best thing about many of the films he appeared in.

In Logan, Jackman once again delivers an effective and solid performance. The film is set in 2029 in a world where mutants have become all but extinct. Logan’s healing factor has become compromised, walking like a retired football player with a limp, covered in scar tissue and needing reading glasses.

Even his adamantium claws don’t work like they used to, occasionally jamming halfway out. He’s in pain most of the time, medicating himself with alcohol while working as a chauffeur, driving for bachelorette parties and proms.

He’s also the caretaker for Charles Xavier, stricken with a form of dementia that makes not only his memory fleeting, but also making his powers unstable. Which makes him extremely dangerous. Logan keeps Xavier hidden, with the mutant Caliban (a nice performance by Stephen Merchant) assisting in making sure that the former Professor takes his medication to keep his wayward powers in check.

And the X-Men? They’re gone. Wiped out a short time ago, leaving only Logan and Charles alive.
When Logan is approached by both a nurse on the run and a bionically enhanced security consultant , Donald Pierce, both sharing an interest in a young girl, he finds himself being drawn back into a world of violence that he so desperately wanted to avoid.

The girl, Laura, is an escapee from Transigen, a medical research facility lead by Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), who is responsible for eradicating genetic mutation only to restart it under laboratory conditions for military applications. The nurse is murdered by Pierce and his team, The Reavers, sending Logan, Charles and Laura on the road, seeking out the mythical Eden, home of the remaining mutants.

The film is beautifully well shot and feels more grounded in reality than most of the films in the X-Franchise. Unfortunately, that becomes a hindrance at times, when some of the more fantastic elements appear, breaking the verisimilitude of the film’s reality. Performances are first rate, in particular newcomer Dafne Keen as Laura and a warm, touching final portrayal of Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier, who bonds with Laura and whose rapport with Jackman is only amplified by their years onscreen together.
Jackman drives the film, delivering the Logan that fans have wanted to see from the moment he first appeared cage fighting in Canada in the first X-Men film. The film is ultra violent; we see moments of Logan’s Berserker Rage, where he transforms into a brutal, unrelenting source of destruction. There’s also plenty of salty language, which is used appropriately for the character rather than as a punchline.

There are several disappointing moments in the film; moments where they zigged instead of zagged. Personally, they didn’t hurt one’s enjoyment of the film, but it does prevent it from being greater.

At a quiet moment in the film, Charles and Laura watch Shane, and the film shows the duo watching the scene with Alan Ladd saying goodbye to young Brandon De Wilde, “There’s no living with a killing. There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. A brand sticks. There’s no going back. Now you run on home to your mother, and tell her. Tell her everything’s all right. And there aren’t any more guns in the valley.”

More than a metaphor, this quote very much describes the plot of Logan, and to make things even more meta, Laura repeats the quote in it’s entirety at the end of the film. “Come back, Hugh, come back…” Extras include Logan Noir (a black and white version of the film), commentary, deleted scenes, making of and trailer. (20th Century Fox/Released 6/23/17)

 

MST3K: Volume XXVII

Riffer extraordinaire Mike Nelson hosts all four episodes in the 38th collection of episodes from the beloved comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000, but the true theme for this set is diversity.

Proving to the world that no single genre is immune to cheesy movies and that our hilarious heroes aboard the Satellite of Love are equal opportunity critics, Shout! Factory presents an incredible melting pot of cinema’s multicultural genres, including the worst in Cold War drama, Sword and Sandals, Juvenile Delinquents, and Monster movies.

In Invasion USA, a tapestry of Cold War-era American archetypes discuss the perils of Communism before witnessing the invasion of America by an unnamed but Soviet-flavored army; Colossus and The Headhunters is a 1960 Italian flick that clearly found the swords and the sandals at an Italian movie thrift store. We have a hero, we have a damsel in distress, and we have plenty of bad guys. Atypical of this genre, however, there are no monsters, unless you count the filmmakers and cast; High School Big Shot follows a beleaguered young man who gets involved in a crime for a payoff that he thinks will cure the troubles with his alcoholic father and cheating girlfriend; and Track of The Moon Beast brings us a sad tale of a mineralogist’s nightly transformation into a killer reptile following an unfortunate meteor shower. Alas, even make up effects by legend Rick Baker cannot redeem this film. Extras include original film of High School Big Shot, featurettes and trailers. (Shout! Factory/ Released 3/28/17)

 

Office Christmas Party

When the CEO (Jennifer Aniston) tries to close her hard-partying brother’s (T.J. Miller) branch, he and his chief technical officer (Jason Bateman) must rally their co-workers and host an epic office Christmas party in an effort to impress a potential client and close a sale that will save their jobs.

This sloppy, mindless film offers non-stop intense mayhem and destruction more reminiscent of The Blues Brothers, than actual comedy. Ensemble includes Olivia Munn, Jillian Bell, Vanessa Bayer, Courtney B. Vance, Rob Corddry and Kate McKinnon.

Extras include both unrated and theatrical versions of the film, commentary, featurettes, outtakes, and deleted / extended scenes. (Paramount/Released 4/4/17)

 

Come and Find Me

David (Aaron Paul) and Claire (Annabelle Wallis)’s idyllic relationship comes to an abrupt and mysterious end after Claire disappears without a trace.

Devastated but incapable of letting go, David follows her trail down a frantic and increasingly dangerous path.

Shocked at discovering that Claire was living a double life, he’s forced to risk everything if he ever wants to see her again.

From writer/director Zack Whedon, Come and Find Me also stars Garret Dillahunt, Terry Chen, Zachary Knighton, and Jordana Largy. A better than average thriller, Come and Find Me is elevated by Paul’s performance.

Extras include commentary and featurette. (Lionsgate/Released 1/17/17)

 

Youth in Oregon

When 79-year-old curmudgeon Raymond (Frank Langella) makes arrangements to be euthanized in Oregon, his family refuses to accept his decision.

But when another family emergency arises, Raymond’s daughter Kate (Christina Applegate) turns to her husband, Brian (Billy Crudup), for a little help.

So Brian reluctantly volunteers to drive the cantankerous Raymond and his wine-loving wife, Estelle (Mary Kay Place), to Oregon.

Youth in Oregon also stars Josh Lucas, Nicola Peltz, Alex Shaffer, Maryann Plunkett, Robert Hogan, Keenan Jolliff, James Murtaugh, Michael Godere, Geoffrey Owens and Aaron Yoo. (Lionsgate/Released 4/4/17)

 

 

Lion

India, 1986. Five-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) and his older brother, Guddu (Abhishek Bharate), are inseparable. Thus, when Guddu finds night work, Saroo begs Guddu to bring him with him.

Despite telling Saroo he is too small to join him, Guddu eventually gives in and agrees to bring him along.

Once they arrive at their destination, it is late and little Saroo is exhausted. Guddu tells him to stay put while he goes to find out where they need to go next, but he does not return before Saroo manages to fall asleep in a train car.

When he wakes up, the train is travelling across India with no stops in sight for 1,000 miles, and Saroo arrives in Calcutta alone with nowhere to go.

Managing to sustain himself for a while, he eventually ends up in an orphanage before being adopted by the Australian couple Sue and John Brierley (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham).

As a grown-up, Saroo (Dev Patel) is still haunted by his longing for his biological family, and he therefore embarks on an all-consuming quest to find his mother and siblings.

Lion has received a lot of praise for its portrayal of the astounding true story of Saroo Brierley, and the praise is not misplaced. With such a moving story, there is always the risk of it ending up being an overly schmaltzy feel-good film, but Lion is thankfully gripping and well-told. The film has several great performances, especially from Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, but the absolute standout is Sunny Pawar with his portrayal of young Saroo. Everything about his performance is so natural that it absolutely absorbs you, making everything he goes through that much more heartbreaking.

With the film spending its first half focusing on young Saroo, a lot of weight is put on young Pawar’s shoulders, and everything he goes through manages to tug at your heartstrings because you feel the urgency of his situation. Just as young Saroo’s struggles are moving for all the right reasons, Dev Patel’s performance as the grown Saroo is also very emotional, as he skillfully manages to portray the restless longing of a person who has essentially never felt like he fully had a home since the day he became separated from his brother.

A film about a boy who is adopted after going through quite an ordeal could easily fall into the trap of warping the narrative to make it about how fortunate he is supposed to feel for being adopted. Thankfully, Lion steers clear of this problematic trope. While Saroo is grateful for the opportunities and love he has been given by his adoptive parents, his heartbreaking longing for his biological family is the focus of the story, and nuances are continuously added to Saroo’s feelings about both his past and his current situation. In fact, other problematic aspects that may be associated with adoption are also seen with Saroo’s adoptive brother, Mantosh (Divian Ladwa); not only do they both have the same restless energy of not feeling like they truly belong, they are also marked by having gone through traumatizing experiences. While Saroo’s trauma stems from his yearning to find his family, Mantosh has other traumas, the nature of which are suggested by a comparison that may be drawn between Mantosh’s behavior and the behavior of one of the other children when Saroo is still at the orphanage.

Once again, we have a film that shows just how strong the contenders in this year’s awards season are. With strong performances, a solid structure and a willingness to not sugarcoat such a painful story, Lion boldly shows how much getting uprooted can affect our sense of identity and belonging. As a result, Lion is an impressive tale of both longing and perseverance, which is told in a manner that sets it apart from most other real life dramas, making it a genuinely emotional watch.

Extras include deleted scenes, featurettes, and a music video. (– Leyla Mikkelsen, Starz/Anchor Bay/Released 4/11/17)

 

Monster Trucks

Tripp (Lucas Till) is a high school senior with a knack for building trucks who makes an incredible discovery – a gas-guzzling creature named Creech.

To protect his mischievous new friend, Tripp hides Creech under the hood of his latest creation, turning it into a real-life super-powered Monster Truck.

Together, this unlikely duo with a shared taste for speed team up on a wild and unforgettable journey to reunite Creech with his family. Monster Trucks is a fun-filled, hilarious and heartfelt adventure that never slows down.

Monster Trucks also stars Jane Levy, Thomas Lennon, Barry Pepper, Rob Lowe, Danny Glover, Amy Ryan, Holt McCallany and Frank Whaley.

Extras include featurettes, deleted scenes, production featurette and gag reel. (Paramount/Released 4/11/17)

 

 

Hawaii Five-O: The Complete Original Series

Ride the wave of excitement as this epic 72-disc set throws you into all twelve seasons of this landmark police procedural action-drama. Hawaii Five-O was a groundbreaking series, the first of its kind to be filmed on location in Hawaii.

The show follows former U.S. Naval Officer Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord), now acting head of an elite state police unit, and his young officer, Danny “Danno” Williams (James MacArthur). McGarrett and his team hound international secret agents, criminals, and organized crime syndicates plaguing the Hawaiian Islands.

The Five-O team works with local police from time to time on individual cases, and McGarrett’s nemesis is crime kingpin Wo Fat. Hawaii Five-O: The Complete Series includes episodes from all 12 seasons (except one; “Bored, She Hung herself'”(Season 2, episode 16) inspired a real life suicide and it has never been rebroadcast or released ever since).

Notable guest stars include Ed Flanders, Ross Martin, Lew Ayres, Mark Lenard, James Hong, Loretta Swit, Pat Hingle, Bruce Boxleitner, Jackie Coogan, William Schallert, John Colicos, Kevin McCarthy, Ricardo Montalban, Hume Cronyn, Pernell Roberts, Clu Gulager, Vic Tayback, Robert Reed, Gavin MacLeod, Marion Ross, Martin Sheen, John Ritter, Perry King, Marc Singer, Casey Kasem, and John Hillerman. Extras include episode promos and a featurette. (Paramount/Released 4/18/17)

 

John Lewis: Get in the Way

The son of sharecroppers, John Lewis grew up in rural isolation, seemingly destined to a bleak, segregation-imposed future. But his fate took a different turn, and Lewis rose from Alabama’s Black Belt to the corridors of power on Capitol Hill, his humble origins forever linking him to those whose voices customarily go unheard. A man of the people, a Congressional elder statesman, Lewis is as exceptional as he is ordinary.

A film by Kathleen Dowdey, John Lewis – Get in the Way is the first biographical documentary about John Lewis, an inspiring portrait of one man cast into extraordinary times and his unhesitating dedication to seeking justice for the marginalized and ignored.

The film spans more than half a century, tracing Lewis’ journey of courage, confrontations and hard-won triumphs.

At the age of 15, John Lewis’ life changed forever when he heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the radio. It was 1955, during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Lewis listened with rapt attention as the young preacher called for resistance to the harsh injustice of segregation. Notably, Dr. King exhorted those listening to fight not with weapons but with proven tools of nonviolence.

Lewis embraced Dr. King’s spiritual call with a fervor that would determine the course of the rest of his life. A student activist in the vanguard of the Civil Rights Movement, Lewis was arrested and jailed for the first time during the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins in 1960. A front-line general during the 1961 Freedom Rides, he was repeatedly assaulted by angry, unrestrained mobs.

He was the youngest speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. King delivered his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech. And in March 1965, Lewis led the Bloody Sunday march in Selma, where Alabama State Troopers attacked peaceful protesters with billy clubs, bullwhips and tear gas. Their horrific actions were broadcast on nightly news reports into living rooms across America; eight months later, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law.

Through never-before-seen interviews shot over 20 years, Lewis, a masterful storyteller, tells the gripping tale of his role in these history-making events. Other key interviewees include civil rights activists Andrew Young, C.T. Vivian, Juanita Abernathy and Bernard Lafayette, plus Lewis’ congressional colleagues Eleanor Holmes Norton, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Emanuel Cleaver and Amory Houghton.

Once an activist pushing from the outside, Lewis, now 76 years old, has become a determined legislator making noise on the inside. Considered by many to be the conscience of Congress, with equal measures of modesty and forcefulness, Lewis strives to persuade D.C. powerbrokers to hear the voices of the unheard. He fights for those suffering from discrimination, poverty, poor education, police brutality, inaccessible healthcare and limitations on voter rights. Despite setbacks – and there have been many – John Lewis’ eyes remain on the prize. (PBS/Released 4/18/17)

 

Punching Henry

In the hyper-intelligent comedy Punching Henry, a journeyman comedian is lured to Los Angeles by a TV producer who wants to make him a reality star.

As reality sets in, he must decide whether his legacy will be to tell jokes for a living or become the butt of them.

With an all-star cast, including Henry Phillips, stand-up comics Tig Notaro, Jim Jefferies and Doug Stanhope; Clifton Collins Jr., with Sarah Silverman and Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons, Punching Henry is a hilarious and heartwarming glimpse behind the curtain of the weird world of comedy.

Extras include deleted scenes and featurettes. (Well Go USA/Released 4/18/17)

 

 

Gatchaman II

This is not the Battle of The Planets that you grew up on. It’s the original anime series; more violent, better paced and higher stakes.

It’s been two years since the International Science Organization and their elite Science Ninja Team strike force defeated the threat of GALACTOR at the cost of Joe the Condor’s life.

However, there’s no time limit on evil, and when Leader X stages a horrific attack on a cruise ship, there’s only one force in the universe with a chance of stopping them!

Can the Gatchaman team adapt to working with Joe’s replacement in time to stop Leader X from mutating one of the victims into GALACTOR’s new leader?

Or does the ISO have a secret weapon lurking in the wings, ready to help save the day?

Includes 52 uncut, uncensored second season episodes of the series (15 episodes were used in the heavily edited Eagle Riders series from Canada). Extras include Clean Opening Animation and Clean Closing Animation. (Sentai Filmworks/Released 4/18/17)

 

Tales From The Hood

Welcome to the ‘hood of horrors! It’s a place where your worst fears can come to life. A place where it’s hard to tell nightmares from reality. A place where you will discover Tales From The Hood.

Stack, Ball and Bulldog arrive at a local funeral parlor to retrieve a lost drug stash held by the mortician Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III).

But Mr. Simms has plans for the boys.

He leads them on a tour of his establishment, introducing them to his corpses. Even the dead have tales to tell and Mr. Simms is willing to tell them all. And you better listen – because when you’re in the ‘hood, even everyday life can lead to extraordinary terror.

Extras include commentary, making of, vintage featurette, trailer, tv spots and gallery. (Shout! Factory/Released 4/18/17)

 

The Affair: Season Three

Season three of The Affair picks up three years after Noah’s shocking admission of guilt at the murder trial of Scott Lockhart.

Noah attempts to restart his life, but the damage wrought by his past decisions has made him a ghost of his former self.

Alison has been raising daughter Joanie alongside Cole and Luisa in Montauk, but Alison’s past continues to rear its ugly head as Cole and Luisa attempt to build their own future.

For Helen, life appears to continue on, but just below the surface of a successful business and a bustling home lies uncertainty with her boyfriend Vik, instability amongst her children, and an unshakeable feeling of guilt.

Extras include featurettes. (Showtime/Released 5/25/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • S03E01: It’s three years later and Noah is now a professor at a university. His father has just died and he is coming to terms with what has happened to him in the past 3 years through a series of flashbacks.
  • S03E02: One year earlier: after a stern request from Noah leaves Helen devastated, various pressures cause Helen and Vik to reexamine their relationship. Alison returns to Montauk after a crisis only to have her worst fears realized.
  • S03E03: Juliette finds Noah an alluring prospect, but a terrifying event shatters all hope of an easy affair.
    S03E04: Cole finds himself in a difficult situation. Allison looks to reconnect with her daughter.
  • S03E05: Alison is motivated to spend a day with Noah on Block Island for an unusual reason. The excursion results in a profound connection, but Noah is left wistful and the problems he was escaping return with shocking force.
  • S03E06: Compelled to return to a place he’s spent his life trying to escape, Noah attempts to repair his relationship with Martin.
  • S03E07: Helen gives Noah the help he needs, but at what cost? A vital moment of release becomes something that can’t be undone.
  • S03E08: An unexpected cause to celebrate provokes a sobering realization in Alison. Soon after, a startling warning leaves her pondering the unthinkable.
  • S03E09: Helen brings to light some home truths to her family while Noah realises things are not always what they seem.
  • S03E10: In Paris, Juliette’s husband suddenly wakes up. Meanwhile, Noah sees a poster for the gallery for Furkat’s exhibition.

Agatha Christie’s The Witness for the Prosecution

1920s London. A murder, brutal and bloodthirsty, has stained the plush carpets of a handsome London townhouse.

The victim is the glamorous and rich Emily French (Kim Cattrall). All the evidence points to Leonard Vole (Billy Howle), a young chancer to whom the heiress left her vast fortune and who ruthlessly took her life.

At least, this is the story that Emily’s dedicated housekeeper Janet Mackenzie (Monica Dolan) stands by in court. Leonard however, is adamant that his partner, the enigmatic chorus girl Romaine (Andrea Riseborough), can prove his innocence.

Tasked with representing Leonard is his solicitor John Mayhew (Toby Jones) and King’s Counsel, Sir Charles Carter KC (David Haig).

The Witness for the Prosecution is a new two-part drama adapted from Agatha Christie’s short story of the same title.

Written by Sarah Phelps (And Then There Were None, Casual Vacancy), the adaptation is directed by Julian Jarrold (Kinky Boots, Becoming Jane) and produced by Colin Wratten (The Musketeers, One of Us) for BBC One. Extras include interviews and featurettes. (Acorn Media/Released 4/25/17)

 

Animal Kingdom: The Complete First Season

Inspired by the critically acclaimed 2010 Australian movie of the same name, and centers on 17-year-old “J” Cody (Finn Cole), who moves in with his freewheeling relatives in their Southern California beach town after his mother dies of an overdose.

Headed by boot-tough matriarch “Smurf” Cody (Ellen Barkin) and her right-hand Baz (Scott Speedman), who runs the business and calls the shots, the clan also consists of Pope (Shawn Hatosy), the oldest and most dangerous of the Cody boys; Craig (Ben Robson), the tough and fearless middle son; and Deran (Jake Weary), the troubled, suspicious “baby” of the family.

It isn’t long before J is pulled into the family’s life of indulgence and excess, but he soon discovers that it’s all being funded by criminal activities.

Joining the family comes with more danger and excitement than he might be ready to handle.

Extras include deleted scenes and featurettes. (Warner Bros./Released 4/25/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Pilot: 17-year-old Joshua “J” Cody moves in with his estranged grandmother and uncles in their Oceanside, California beach town after his mother ODs and finds himself drawn into their dark criminal world.
  • We Don’t Hurt People: The Codys must deal with the aftermath of the heist as they discover all did not go as planned. Smurf dispatches her boys to tie up loose ends, but her efforts are complicated by Baz and Pope’s growing rivalry. As Pope gets increasingly volatile, J finds himself in the middle.
  • Stay Close, Stick Together: While Craig recovers from a wound, Baz and Craig deal with some old associates down in Mexico. Meanwhile, strapped for cash, Pope takes charge and ropes Deran and J into a job without Smurf’s knowledge. Threatened by J’s participation, Deran sends him a terrifying message.
  • Dead to Me: As the boys gear up for Pope’s birthday, Smurf wants to know if they’re playing by her rules. J learns more about his mother’s estrangement from the family.
  • Flesh Is Weak: When Deran won’t come home, Pope goes to extreme measures. Baz gets an idea for the Codys’ next job. J goes out with his teacher, while Smurf confronts her past.
  • Child Care: Smurf tries to keep the family intact when Pope tests positive for drugs; Baz convinces his brother to rob a house as part of his plan; J faces a moral dilemma.
  • Goddamn Animals: Craig and Deran throw a party as Smurf handles unfinished business. Meanwhile, Baz is forced to accelerate his timetable as he finalizes his big scheme, and J makes a perilous error.
  • Man In: Tensions soar as the Codys prepare for their big heist. Also, Catherine gets a shock and must make a big family decision, and the police put pressure on J.
  • Judas Kiss: The Codys aim for the biggest score of their lives as the cops put J in an impossible position. Meanwhile, Catherine arrives to make amends, raising Smurf’s suspicions in the process, and Pope is enlisted to investigate.
  • What Have You Done: While Pope and Smurf try to keep Baz from figuring out the truth about Catherine, the money from their Camp Pendleton heist comes through. But there are bigger problems within the Cody Gang.

 

John Wick: Chapter 2

John Wick: Chapter 2 is the sequel that I wanted and that we all deserve. In the first film, John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves, must avenge his dog and car after one was killed and the other stolen respectively. In doing so he winds up taking out the entire Russian mafia in New York City in one of the most beautiful displays of destruction and death put to cinema. In this next and even more insane chapter, Wick is once again driven out of retirement when a “marker” he owes is called in by a trusted colleague.

The task he is required to do is a “catch-22” though. To refuse means death in this world of honorable killers and to accept means to betray the very honor his work and reputation relies on to live. What unfolds is pure magic.

A bullet ballet. A tour-de-force of headshots and broken bones that will leave you feeling like John Woo and the action films that have preceded it were the Revenge of the Ninja and “Golan-Globus action films of the 80’s.

That is to say that this is a proverbial adrenaline-filled, kinetic masterpiece of death and destruction that makes watching Twitch streams of Call of Duty play-throughs seem like episodes of M*A*S*H. Written as a trilogy, the John Wick series, so far, has been one of the best visceral, internal screaming, joyrides I have experienced in a long time. The writer/director team of Derek Kolstad and Chad Stahelski definitely have a vision and the chops to execute it. The visuals, as I have mentioned are stunning and there is an underlying humor that I love. This film doesn’t take itself too seriously while allowing the genre it so fervently relies on to be respected.

The gunfights are mind blowing but it was actually the close quarter combat jujitsu and other fighting styles that really make this action film shine. Mixing it up and really pushing the limits of what the human body can do, I feel like this is what the 2002 film Equilibrium wanted to achieve in a way. I believe they coined the phrase “Gun-Fu”. Well it has been fully realized in John Wick: Chapter 2. This second chapter of the Wick series is a little more plot oriented and not just “you stole my car and killed my dog now I have to kill everyone”. There are some much needed breaks in the violence to propel the basic story along. Look, this film isn’t going to be winning any awards for screenwriting and story telling. What it does is it has revitalized a genre that has been a little tepid recently and has fun doing it.

The returning cast featuring Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, John Leguizamo, David Patrick Kelly and Bridget Moynahan are all still brilliant and the new cast members including, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Claudia Gerini, and Riccardo Scamarcio are all perfect. My only disappointment in the cast was the underutilization and waste of Ruby Rose as Ares, the mute assassin/bodyguard to Riccardo Scamarcio’s bad guy, Santino. I really wish they had done more with her character. She wasn’t as wasted as Adrianne Palicki in the first but I had hoped for a more substantial opposite female operative to Wick in this installment. There is always Chapter 3.

If you like action, if you are a fan of the first John Wick then you will not be disappointed in this next installment of the trilogy. The only thing I am trying to figure out is how they plan on ending this series because to top they are going to basically have to make “John Wick Kills Everyone” in Chapter 3 and all I can say is “Bring it on”. Extras include commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes and trailer. (– Benn Robbins, Lionsgate/Released 6/13/17)

 

Beauty and the Beast

“Tale as old as time” could be used to describe much of Disney’s repertoire. The studio has always drawn on traditional stories and fairy tales for its Princess series, updating them slightly for modern audiences.

In the new live-action Beauty and the Beast, they turn to their own canon to recreate a modern classic with resounding success. This remake could easily stand alone, but it is the care they have taken to weave in so much of the original movie that pulls at the heartstrings of reminiscing adult viewers.

To those uninitiated, Beauty and the Beast is the story of Belle (Emma Watson), a bookish girl unaware of her beauty and out-of-sync with the provincial French town she lives in with her father.

When he disappears on a trip to the marketplace, she finds him the captive of a monster in a mysterious castle where everything is alive.

Belle agrees to take her ailing father’s place and stays with this “beast” (Dan Stevens) who, unbeknownst to her, is actually a prince cursed along with his subjects for his selfishness. It can only be broken if he finds love before the last petal of an enchanted rose falls, or else all will suffer their transformed fates forever.

The nods to the animated film are comforting shot-for-shot (and word-for-word) recreations of some of the most iconic scenes such as Belle asking the Beast to come into the light or their shared moment sipping from bowls at the dinner table. Newly added sections, songs, and characters give answers to questions that only plagued us as adults (Where is Belle’s mother? Why does no one remember this giant castle in the woods? Is there a Mr. Potts somewhere?), and create a backstory for old favorites and new minor additions like Stanley Tucci as Cadenza the grand piano and the expanded musical role for Audra McDonald’s Garderobe the wardrobe.

Each animated object is designed with a thoughtful eye for the realism of live-action, blended with just enough anthropomorphic touches while steering clear of Who Framed Roger Rabbit territory. The combination of elaborate physical sets with top-notch CGI and motion capture technology is a seamless triumph that lets this version keep the magic while working with reality.

Character development across the board is increased, especially in Emma Watson’s wonderful portrayal of Belle. She is far better-rounded, actually interacting with books rather than using them as props. She quotes Shakespeare, teaches children to read, and argues literature with the Beast. He also benefits from extended non-musical scenes with Belle that show him as well-educated and royally charming, but also a bit arrogant and classist. There is a maturity to their love story now as the Beast’s affection towards her grows not only because she is beautiful and kind, but because this updated version of Belle is given the chance to show she is also clever and deeply principled. There are a few additional twists but the movie sticks closely to its source material. All the familiar songs from the animated feature are still present and delightful, with nothing lost in minor changes of arrangement to better suit the range of the cast. Three additional songs were added with care (“Our Song Lives On,” “For Evermore,” and “Days in the Sun”) and blend in perfectly with the original score.
Across the board, the musical performances are enjoyable though there is a significant difference in tone with Watson’s portrayal of Belle.

The original Disney movie cast Paige O’Hara right off of Broadway, and the gap between the power and assertiveness in her voice versus Watson’s sweet, clear, youthful one is noteworthy. Even though it means that the crescendos are a tad reserved, notable numbers like the reprise of “Belle” and her part of “Something There” are still beautiful to hear. A bigger surprise is the truly amazing voice of Dan Stevens, who has little professional experience singing but expertly belts out the original song “Forever More” after letting Belle return to her father. Close behind are Josh Gad and Luke Evans, who make “Gaston” one of the more fun performances of the human cast. “Be Our Guest” is a CGI wonder, and every bit the showstopper of the animated version. Ewan McGregor did a wonderful job crafting a French accent that pulled back from the overly flowy cartoon Lumiere, and keeps it flawlessly throughout the song.

This film is Disney’s love letter to every current adult that watched this at home or in theaters in the 90s. In the move from animation to live action, they have given depth not only to the physical aspects but the emotional ones as well. Everyone knows that at its heart Beauty and the Beast is first and foremost a love story, and this version sees some of the silliness toned down while the drama and romance take center stage. The narrator asks “who could ever love a beast?” and the answer is certainly “everyone who watches this film”. Extras include several featurettes, deleted scenes, and a number of extras centered on the film’s music. (– Kristen Halbert, Disney/Released 6/6/17)

 

The LEGO Batman Movie

LEGO Batman is back and with even less parents than the last time! That’s not exactly true, Batman (Will Arnett) has surrogate father Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) by his side and his trusty ward Robin (Michael Cera) this time around for a true Batman Family adventure. Commissioner Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl (Rosario Dawson) rounds out the good guy cast. Batman’s nemesis? Of course it is The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and a slew of familiar rogues. Robot Chicken veteran Chris McKay directs this hilarious animated feature that bridges the gap between the animated LEGO DC Universe and 2014’s The LEGO Movie.

The LEGO Batman Movie, while obviously riding the success of the first film, also sets itself apart and is more than a sequel.

Primarily basing itself in DC locations Gotham and The Phantom Zone, this is a decidedly DC Comics Batman movie. When rattling off a list of super villains in his cadre: Bane, Clayface, Two-Face, Riddler, The Joker is asked if he was making some of them up! Maybe he was, but this movie does introduce Condiment Man to LEGO canon, armed with both a Ketchup and a Mustard gun! OOOH, it stains!

Arnett’s sardonic tones as Batman carry the jokes but also make him more of a hero than he was in The LEGO Movie. Using character development and a clever twist to the “Batman and Joker need each other” trope, the story kicks off as Joker is getting Bats to commit to him as his one true enemy. LEGO Batman insists that he doesn’t need anyone, and he doesn’t “Do” relationships, even one as adversarial as having an arch enemy! This ticks of Joker, so the madman hatches a master plan to win his way into the Dark Knight’s heart with Harley Quinn (Jenny Slate) by his side. Cera is a brilliant, funny and goofy Robin, tapping into his George Michael voice at times. The toys and builds in the Batcave are over the top, ranging from the Batwing all the way up to Bat Space Shuttle. Pennyworth plays the role of both parents to Bruce, locking him out of his Batcomputer but also leaving dinner for him after a hard night out fighting Joker.

The cameos are off the charts, and as Joker says, “Probably worth the Google”. From Billy Dee Williams FINALLY Getting to play Two-Face, Doug Benson doing his best Tom Hardy impression as Bane, Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman and so many more. As you can expect from these movies, the Easter Eggs are deep cuts and plenty. Too many to mention in fact, but my favorite has to be the author of the book Alfred is reading about taming your kid, written by Dr. Bartholomew Wolper. You may remember Wolper as the doctor who cured Joker in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Well played, The LEGO Batman Movie, well played.

Batman and Robin crash the Justice League 57th anniversary party (that Batman wasn’t invited to) at Superman’s Fortress of Solitude to steal The Phantom Zone Projector. When Bats sends Joker there, he’s met by a 2 x 4 brick named Phyllis (Ellie Kemper) and a multi-property gang of bad guys that includes Voldemort (Eddie Izzard), Sauron (Jemaine Clement), and The Gremlins! While obviously playing in the DC/Warner properties, it was great fun to see the mashup of Big Bads. One bonus jab across the street: a clever swipe at Iron Man’s buddy James Rhodes’ computer password!

This feels like an entirely different movie than a sequel to The LEGO Movie. With no live-action elements implied plus joke after joke and non-stop action, it did have a bit more to offer. Focusing on familiar characters in Gotham, and having Batman use his Master Builder skill set to get out of binds throughout the movie was greatly satisfying. The tone of LEGO Batman lent itself to an editing pace more aligned to a long television episode. McKay was able to bring what we love in Robot Chicken to the big screen by steering the ship the way he did. And by having Joker take over the Batcave, he can quite literally use all the toys in the DC toybox! This movie is for everyone, with quite a few nods (more than enough) to our geeky Batman-loving friends and continuity. Even Batman ’66 shows up in a surprising Batusi cameo. Extras include featurettes, animated shorts, deleted scenes and promos. (– Clay N Ferno, Warner Bros./Released 6/13/17)

 

La La Land

I love musicals!

One the stage or on the screen, it doesn’t matter. I love the way they can take an ordinary walk down the street and express the extraordinariness of the moment in time. I believe that is what La La Land was striving to achieve. Unfortunately, it just missed the mark.

From the opening number to the finale, La La Land never achieves that magic that is associated with most film musicals.

I take my hat off to writer/director Damien Chazelle. He embarked on an ambitious project. It is a hard sell to make a traditional musical in an era of sound bites and YouTube.

It is obvious the film is a labor of love, and it is that love and passion that saves the film from being a mish-mash of Hollywood troupes.

Emma Stone is sweet as Mia, the dreamy-eyed barista who plugs away audition after audition, hoping for her big break.

Fate steps in and repeatedly throws Mia into the path of jaded-hipster-jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling).

Eventually, the two pair up. Mia supports Sebastian in his dream to own a “true” jazz club in LA. Sebastian encourages Mia to quit her day job and pursue her dreams as an actress. However, it is not long before the many challenges and temptations of Hollywood test our sweet couple’s resolve, both in their dreams and in each other.

It’s the perfect story for a Hollywood musical. Unfortunately, I would have enjoyed the film far better if it hadn’t been a musical. Neither Emma Stone or Ryan Gosling are strong singers. This is made even more apparent when contrasted with Oscar/Grammy winner John Legend, who plays Keith, the lead singer of the band that Sebastian joins. Legend’s powerful voice makes Stone and Gosling’s singing pale by comparison.

Perhaps it was Damien Chazelle’s intention to make his leads seem like the boy and girl next door.

Instead it just comes off as casting celebrities for ticket sales instead of casting for the role. It’s not the first time Hollywood has cast an actor for their draw or pretty looks. However, if you wanted Emma Stone for her big green eyes that can turn glassy and tearful on command, and Ryan Gosling for his earnest far off gaze, then dub dub their singing parts with and actual singers. The whole time I was listening to Emma Stone singing, I was reminded of the scene in Singin’ in the Rain when the producers secretly dub the tuneless starlet Lina Lamont’s voice for the melodious Kathy Seldon.

While Stone and Gosling are not terrible dancers, they are not Dancers with a capital D, which is what I would expect from a singing and dancing musical. If you are going to use choreography that harkens back to Gene Kelly, you need to nail it. The movement needs to be crisp, light, and look effortlessly nature. Instead, the dance numbers featuring Stone and Gosling have the look of a really good high school production. It not as if it’s not possible to capture that MGM big musical feeling in a modern production. The Cohen Brothers’ Hail Caesar! captured the grandeur of a musical production and while turning it on it head for the humor of the scene. It’s not to say La La Land wasn’t enjoyable. The story between Mia and Sebastian is compelling. The music outside of the “musical” numbers was outstanding. Through Sebastian’s pursuit of opening a Jazz Club, the view is exposed to some truly great Jazz music, both the old great musicians and contemporary players.

Another area the filmed excelled was in it’s innovative camera work. Through the camera, Chazelle found an exciting way to capture music and integrate it into the story. The edit mimicked the jazz that was performed, creating a powerful representation of the music. There is a moment in the film where Legend’s Keith talks about Jazz as dying because traditionalists hang on to the old way of playing instead of innovating. It’s through new interpretations that the music is made accessible to the younger generations. The same could be said for the modern musical.

Although flawed, it is good that La La Land was made. It continues the legacy of the musical, keeping it alive for another generation. I only wish that it had gone for broke and taken the risk of being an all-out, dazzling spectacle. Being somewhere in between an indie film about Los Angeles and a Hollywood musical left me feeling wanting. Extras include commentary, featurettes, song demos and marketing gallery. (– Elizabeth Robbins, Lionsgate/Released 4/25/17)

 

Willard

With its anti-corporate humor and continually light touch, Willard feels like it was made in the early 60s instead of the early 70s. At a time in American film history when movies were ponderous and pessimistic, it must have seemed chipper and fresh. It was a big hit. Bruce Davison (Lathe of Heaven) plays the hapless title character, a soft-hearted clerk beset by one problem after the next: family issues, job issues, house issues, money issues, then cat issues. We root for him, but we slowly notice his short temper.

Although the movie never takes itself too seriously, it makes Willard’s relationship with the rats believable by showing how he befriends and trains them step by step. Borgnine is terrific as the unscrupulous, corrupt, but laughable Mr. Martin.

Like many films of the late 60s and early 70s, Willard depicts a conflict between good young people and corrupt old people. But the young protagonist is perhaps the most traditional-minded character here.

He is the principled one devoted to the beautiful Victorian house and its grandfather clock, while Martin the old guy wants to bulldoze the “woodpecker’s hamburger” and replace it with sleek new apartments.

I loved the film, although I found two flaws. First, Willard’s late change of attitude about the rats isn’t totally believable. Second, the entire latter half should have had faster pacing and louder music. Otherwise, viewers who love rats and viewers who fear rats should both have a great time. Extras include commentary, interview, still gallery, tv & radio spots and trailer. (– David E. Goldweber, Shout! Factory/Released 5/16/17)

 

Ben

The sequel to Willard, Ben, is pretty disappointing, although it offers many shots of the rats en masse. If you can wait 30 minutes it’s got several memorable scenes, including a supermarket feeding frenzy.

Unfortunately, the satire and lightheartedness of the original gave way to seriousness and sappiness here. The protagonist is a 10-year-old boy with a heart condition and no friends…. until he meets Ben.

At the end, the rat army is trapped in the sewers while police move in with shotguns and flamethrowers.

Yet, gore is minimized as in Willard, and apparently no rats were actually harmed during filming. The earnest theme song was Michael Jackson’s first solo #1 hit! He sings it at the end.

Extras include commentary, interview, still gallery, tv & radio spots and trailers. (– David E. Goldweber, Shout! Factory/Released 5/16/17)

 

Voodoo Black Exorcist

If you don’t mind some long conversation scenes, the dubbed Spanish Voodoo Black Exorcist is goofy drive-in era fun. The bald mummy guy changes back and forth from a mummy face to a normal face. His mummy face looks like chocolate frosting. Many ‘black’ characters are whites in blackface.

A bearded professor and his secretary/babe are apparently the hero and heroine, but they wander aimlessly through their scenes with no purpose. A cynical self-deprecating old cop joins the cast in the second half. Flashbacks are tinted red, but tinted so heavily that you can scarcely see anything. At the end, the professor wears a striped shirt two sizes too small for him, buttoned up to the neck.

Several “voodoo” dances go on for a long time, but in the first one, topless black women shake their boobs around a campfire.

Speaking of fire, the police burn the mummy at the end – but he’s still holding the girl in his arms! Oops! Despite it’s flaws, some lines are genuinely funny (mostly lines spoken by the old cop), and some editing is genuinely exciting (like the moment when the mummy enters the heroine’s room holding a severed head, shown from 10 – I counted them! – different cuts in half as many seconds. My favorite scene was the fight with the firehose. Wet that mummy down! Let’s also give credit for taking good opportunities to film many scenes on the real cruise ship, and to showcase the exotic fire dancer. We also get some glimpses of Haiti or Jamaica. (– David E Goldweber, The Film Detective/Released 5/23/17)

 

Detour

Harper (Tye Sheridan), a seemingly naive law student, obsesses over the idea that his shifty stepfather was involved in the devastating car crash that left his mother hospitalized and comatose.

He drowns his suspicions in whiskey until he finds himself suddenly engrossed in conversation with volatile grifter Johnny (Emory Cohen) and his stripper companion, Cherry (Bel Powley).

As daylight breaks and the haziness of promises made becomes clearer, how will Harper handle the repercussions (not to mention the violent duo—on his doorstep)?

Employing a split-narrative structure to tell this tale of deception and murder, Christopher Smith takes his audience on a thrill ride full of hairpin turns, where it’s never quite clear what or who can be trusted.

Extras include featurettes, interviews and trailer. (Magnolia/Released 4/26/17)

 

We Are X

From the producers of the Oscar-winning film Searching for Sugar Man, comes We Are X, a transcendent rock and roll story about one of the biggest and most successful bands the world’s never heard of…yet.

Under the enigmatic direction of drummer, pianist, composer, and producer Yoshiki, X Japan has sold over 30 million singles and albums combined––captivating such a wide range of admirers as Sir George Martin, KISS, Stan Lee, and even the Japanese Emperor.

An astonishingly intimate portrait of a deeply haunted––but truly unstoppable––virtuoso and the music that has enthralled legions of the world’s most devoted fans.

Extras include extended interviews and commentary (Magnolia/Released 4/26/17)

 

Welcome to the Loud House: Season 1, Volume 1

Meet Lincoln Loud, an 11-year old boy who is the middle child of 10 sisters. The Loud House follows Lincoln and his sisters for an inside look at what it takes to survive growing up in a huge family.

Lincoln remains the man with the plan to stay one step ahead of the chaos, but whether or not it works is where the adventures begin. (Nickelodeon/Released 5/23/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Left in the Dark: When Lincoln wants to watch the finale of his favorite show, he has to beat each sister to get to the couch first!
  • Get the Message: After Lincoln leaves a scathing voicemail on Lori’s phone, he realizes he has to erase it before she hears it.
  • Heavy Meddle: Lincoln is tired of his sisters meddling in his business until he’s being picked on at school.
  • Making the Case: Lincoln secretly videos his sister’s most embarrassing moments in order to win a video contest at school.
  • Driving Miss Hazy: Tired of doing favors to get a ride from Lori, Lincoln decides it’s time to help Leni pass her driver’s test.
  • No Guts, No Glori: Lincoln conspires with the rest of his sisters to overthrow Lori’s tyranny as their “baby”sitter.
  • The Sweet Spot: Lincoln buys a pair sound-canceling ear buds to drown out the sound of his sisters.
  • A Tale of Two Tables: After Lynn and Lucy get in a fight, Lincoln agrees to let Lynn bunk in his room but only for a night!
  • Project Loud House: Lincoln has to get to school on time but getting his sisters out the door proves to be the biggest obstacle of all.
  • In Tents Debate: Lincoln is the deciding vote on going to the beach or the amusement park for their family vacation.
  • Sound of Silence: Lincoln buys a pair sound-canceling ear buds to drown out the sound of his sisters
  • Space Invader: After Lynn and Lucy get in a fight, Lincoln agrees to let Lynn bunk in his room but only for a night!
  • Picture Perfect: Lincoln plots to take the “perfect” family photo for his parents’ anniversary gift.
  • Undie Pressure: Lincoln and his sisters bet on who can go the longest without doing their most annoying habits.
  • Linc or Swim: Lincoln purchases a kiddie pool, and things get out of hand when all 10 of his sisters want to use it.
  • Changing the Baby: After noticing that none of his sisters share his interests, Lincoln attempts to mold Lily into his mini-me.
  • Overnight Success: Lincoln invites Clyde to a sleepover, but gets jealous when Clyde wants to hang out with his sisters.
  • Ties the Bind: After eavesdropping on his parents, Lincoln thinks they have decided to get rid of their kids!
  • Hand-Me-Downer: After Lincoln gets a pink hand-me-down bike from Lori, he borrows Lynn’s cool BMX bike without telling her.
  • Sleuth or Consequences: Someone clogged the Loud House toilet and Lincoln sets out to find out whodunit.
  • Butterfly Effect: After spilling an experiment of Lisa’s, Lincoln sets off a chain reaction that unravels the household
  • The Green House: In an effort to be more energy-efficient Lincoln rallies his family to stop using so much electricity.
  • Along Came a Sister: Lincoln is given the responsibility of taking home his classes’ tarantula, but it gets loose and wreaks havoc!
  • Chore and Peace: Thinking he has the worst chores, Lincoln decides to go on strike until someone will swap chores with him.
  • For Bros About to Rock: Lincoln is going to his first rock concert, and Luna is determined to make it the greatest experience ever.
  • It’s a Loud, Loud, Loud, Loud, House: Lincoln finds a letter in the attic leading him to believe there is money hidden within the Loud house!

 

Wolf Guy
Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba is a martial arts “manimal” in the ultra-70’s, 100% bizarre mixture of horror, action and sci-fi that is Wolf Guy, one of the rarest and most sought-after cult films produced by Japan’s Toei Studio.

Based on a manga by Kazumasa Hirai (creator of 8 Man), and never before released outside of Japan, it’s a genre film classic waiting to be discovered and a completely unclassifiable trip into phantasmagoric funk.

Chiba stars as Akira Inugami, the only survivor of a clan of ancient werewolves who relies on his supernatural powers to solve mysterious crimes. After a series of bloody killings perpetrated by an unseen force, Inugami uncovers a conspiracy involving a murdered cabaret singer, corrupt politicians, and a plot by the J-CIA to harvest his blood in order to steal his lycanthropic powers! At the same time, Inugami also discovers the truth behind his family heritage, and that he may not be the last of his kind.

Directed by B-movie genius Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (Sister Streetfighter, Wandering Ginza Butterfly, Karate Bear Fighter), Wolf Guy truly is one-of-a-kind, with Chiba in full effect as the part-man, part-wolf, all-karate action hero and a collection of familiar 1970’s Toei actors in support. Violence, action, nudity, real surgical footage, and a psychedelic musical score all work together to create an unforgettable trip to the heights of Japanese cinematic weirdness. Extras include interviews and trailer. (Arrow/Released 5/23/17)

 

XX

XX is a new all-female helmed horror anthology featuring four dark tales written and directed by fiercely talented women: Annie Clark (St. Vincent) rocks her directorial debut with The Birthday Party; Karyn Kusama exorcises Her Only Living Son; Roxanne Benjamin screams Don’t Fall; and Jovanka Vuckovic dares to open The Box.

Award-winning animator Sofia Carrillo wraps together four suspenseful stories of terror featuring a cast including Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Breeda Wool and Christina Kirk.

Extras include interviews, featurettes and trailer. (Magnolia/Released 5/23/17 )

Includes the films:

 

  • The Birthday Party: A harried housewife tries to keep her daughter-and the nosy neighbors-from discovering a dark secret the morning of her daughter’s eighth birthday party.
  • Her Only Living Son: 18 years after narrowly escaping Manhattan, a narcissistic actor husband and a cult with designs on her unborn child, “Cora” finds herself face to face with a son who can no longer deny his monstrous heritage.
  • Don’t Fall: A group of adventurous friends get into trouble when they venture off the beaten path and trespass on someone -or something-else’s land on a camping trip.
  • The Box: After peering into a shiny red gift box on a commuter train, seven-year-old Danny Jacobs inexplicably stops eating. When his father and sister also begin to waste away, Danny’s mother Susan struggles to make the connection between herself, her dying family and the mysterious box before it’s too late.

 

Streets of Fire

Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe), along with his gang of merciless biker friends, kidnaps rock singer Ellen Aim (Diane Lane). Ellen’s former lover, soldier-for-hire Tom Cody (Michael Paré), happens to be passing through town on a visit.

In an attempt to save his star act, Ellen’s manager, Billy Fish (Rick Moranis), hires Tom to rescue Ellen. Billy and Tom, along with former soldier McCoy (Amy Madigan), battle through dangerous cityscapes, determined to get Ellen back.

This cult favorite features a razor-sharp cast and original songs written by Jim Steinman, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty and Ry Cooder and performed by The Blasters and The Fixx.

Directed by cult filmmaker Walter Hill (The Warriors, Southern Comfort, 48 Hrs.), Streets of Fire is a rock & roll shotgun blast to the senses.

Extras include two feature length documentaries, vintage featurettes, gallery, music videos, trailer and on-air promos. (Shout! Factory/Released 5/16/17)

 

Microcosmos

One of the most successful nature documentaries of all time, Microcosmos captures the fun and adventure of a spectacular hidden universe revealed in a breathtaking, close-up view unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Your family will marvel at a pair of stag beetles dueling like titans. The kids will stare bug-eyed as a magnificent army of worker ants race to stock their larder … while trying to avoid becoming a feisty pheasant’s dinner. And you’ll have a front row seat to witness an amazing transformation from caterpillar to butterfly, the remarkable birth of a mosquito, and several other minute miracles of life.

Extras include feature length making of documentary, interviews and trailer. (Kino-Lorber/Released 4/25/17 )

 

 

One-Punch Man

Superheroes often have exciting superpowers that help them defeat the evil villains that they battle, but that’s not necessarily the case for Saitama.

Although he’s a superhuman, his power isn’t as exciting as X-ray vision or invincibility — instead, he has the ability to defeat any opponent with a single punch, and this power has both pros and cons.

The biggest advantage is that it makes it easy for him to defeat enemies — which is essential because he lives in an alternate Japan that is constantly under attack by monsters — but because it doesn’t take long to throw a punch, easily vanquishing his foes leads to constant boredom.

Extras include six One-Punch Man OVA shorts, collectible art cards and episode guide booklet. (VIZ Media/Released 4/25/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • The Strongest Man: Saitama is a guy who’s a hero for fun. After saving a child from certain death, he decided to become a hero and trained hard for three years. Though he’s now so strong he can defeat any opponent with a single punch, lately he feels as if, in exchange for overwhelming power, he’s lost something even more important.
  • The Lone Cyborg: A monster is moving toward City Z, one that has been created by the mysterious organization known as The House of Evolution. Genos, a young cyborg, attempts to stop it, but gets in over his head before Saitama happens along.
  • The Obsessive Scientist: Saitama and Genos glean information about The House of Evolution and its founder Dr. Genus, a scientist with dangerous ideas on artificial human evolution. Meanwhile, Dr. Genus learns of Saitama’s amazing strength and has plans of his own for One-Punch Man.
  • The Modern Ninja: A group of battlesuit-clad terrorists called “The Paradisers” appears in City F, led by an enormous man known as Hammerhead. Calling for the redistribution of wealth, the group targets the fat-cat Zeniru, who in turn dispatches his bodyguard to defeat them. Unfortunately, Saitama is on the same errand.
  • The Ultimate Master: Though he’s been doing the hero gig for three years, Saitama realizes that the public knows nothing about him. Determined to get a little recognition, he decides to become a pro hero, but first he must pass the Hero Association tests and become a full-fledged member.
  • The Terrifying City: It’s been five days since Saitama became a professional hero and he has yet to do anything heroic. When Genos informs him that C-class heroes who don’t fight bad guys are dropped from the hero registry after a week of inaction, Saitama heads out on patrol, yet can’t find any criminals or monsters to stop.
  • The Supreme Pupil: An enormous meteor hurtles toward City Z, forcing the Hero Association to ask its S Class heroes to respond. When all their efforts prove in vain, Genos decides it’s up to him to protect the home of his master and stop the meteor, no matter what the cost.
  • The Deep Sea King: A pack of monsters calling themselves the “Clan of the Seafolk” arrive on the shores of City J intent on invading the land. When the hero sent to fight them is defeated easily by the Deep Sea King himself, Saitama and Genos head for the city to help.
  • Unyielding Justice: As the battle with the Deep Sea King reaches its climax, more heroes fall to the aquatic despot’s brutal attacks. Which of them has what it takes to be a true hero?
  • Unparalleled Peril: Saitama tags along to an emergency meeting of Class S heroes and discovers that a seer has foretold a serious danger threatening the Earth. Though the crisis could occur anytime in the next six months, the heroes are surprised to hear the roar of explosions that very hour!
  • The Dominator of the Universe: As a colossal spaceship floats in the skies above City A, a member of its monstrous crew battles on the ground against a group of S Class heroes. Despite their powers, they can’t seem to finish it off. Meanwhile, Saitama has boarded the enemy ship on his own.
  • The Strongest Hero: The inconceivably powerful Lord Boros has traveled untold distances in search of someone who can cure his boredom: Saitama! With the fate of humanity in the balance, will the two champions at last find in each other the worthy opponent they’ve been searching for?

 

4400: The Complete Series

When a comet hurtles toward Earth, what the world thinks will be the end of civilization turns into the beginning of an incredible conspiracy. In one instant, 4400 missing people reappear in a flash of light, and Homeland Security’s new mission is to uncover how and why.

Emmy-nominated The 4400 – The Complete Series follows the mysterious returnees and the National Threat Assessment Command, the task force assigned to investigate them.

Led by NATC director Dennis Ryland (Peter Coyote), agents Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch) and Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie) delve deeper into the inexplicable event and its supernatural consequences. As the drama unfolds, some of the returnees begin to exhibit supernatural powers, and the government must determine the source and purpose behind it all.

The stellar cast includes Mahershala Ali, Patrick Flueger and Billy Campbell.

Extras include commentaries and featurettes. (Paramount / Released 5/2/17)

 

A Dog’s Purpose

Based on W. Bruce Cameron’s bestselling book of the same name, A Dog’s Purpose tells the story of a dog trying to figure out what the purpose of his existence is.

Narrated by Josh Gad as the voice of the dog spirit, the film starts with the dog Bailey becoming the pet of a young boy named Ethan. The two are inseparable, but while Ethan is just about to begin his life when he finishes high school, Bailey is at the end of his limited life span as a dog.

As the dog’s spirit leaves the body of Bailey, he is reincarnated as another breed again and again as he continues to try to figure out exactly what a dog’s purpose is.

Films centering around cute animals have always been popular with the younger segment of the cinema-going public in particular, and with dogs being some of the most beloved creatures on this planet, a film like A Dog’s Purpose has all the potential of being a tear-jerking success.

In addition, director Lasse Hallström is very familiar with directing both dog-themed films as well as tearjerkers, and while he may have some overly schmaltzy efforts on his résumé, he has also showed that he can portray melodrama in a compelling manner without becoming too Hallmark-esque.

Expectedly, A Dog’s Purpose is heavy on the aforementioned schmaltz, and while it is exceptionally unexceptional, the first segment is watchable in spite of its overly cute portrayal of man’s best friend trying to understand his purpose as a companion to a human.

However, once we move on to the second segment, and thereby also the second of the four lives the dog’s spirit experiences over the course of the film, the tone shifts from child-friendly, saccharine cuteness to some of the most emotionally manipulative drivel ever put on screen. While we all have certain subjects that we will gladly watch as guilty pleasures regardless of how many cinematic sins may have been committed in the filmmaking process, there comes a point when that guilty pleasure turns into regrettable torture. As such, some viewers will allow the film to manipulate them and love it for doing so, whereas others will see it for what is and resent it accordingly.

To make matters worse, the segments following the first one not only tug at the heartstrings so violently that medical attention may be required, they are also completely devoid of any character development worth mentioning. It is therefore evident that the only segments you are supposed to truly care about are the first and last ones, as the second and third segments look like nothing but filler to first show a tragic, but hollow story before showing the viewer a formulaic, but equally hollow feel-good story.

A Dog’s Purpose gained a lot of negative attention well in advance of its release due to what appeared to be a German shepherd in distress when a river scene was being filmed, firstly because the dog clearly did not want to go in the water, and secondly because it was submerged past the point of canine comfort when it was finally in the water. While there has been shed more light on the circumstances since the footage was leaked, which complicates the matter as such additional information tends to do, the footage will still be enough for some viewers to give the film a miss, and they will dodge a cinematic bullet by boycotting the film.

However, something positive has come from this controversy; the incident may be up for discussion depending on your perspective, but it has started an important debate as to whether we should continue using live animals in dangerous scenes after films such as 2016’s The Jungle Book showed that lifelike, computer-generated animals could actually become the norm going forward. The question of cinematic cruelty is, however, undebatable as few films has the audacity to look at viewers with such overtly manipulative puppy dog eyes. Extras include featurettes, outtakes and deleted scenes. (– Leyla Mikkelsen, Universal/Released 5/2/17)

 

Gold

A lust for gold runs deep in the veins of prospector Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey), but he has not had much luck in his endeavors.

Struggling to convince anyone to invest in his plans, Kenny awakes one morning from a dream where he found gold Indonesia. Having gained renewed energy in his quest for success, he seeks out the geologist Mike Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) to help him look into opportunities in the Indonesian jungle. Finally, Kenny’s luck turns, but the success of finding gold comes at a cost; obsessed with gold and the opportunities it has brought along, cracks begin to appear in Kenny’s relationship with longtime girlfriend Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard), but with a business to run, Kenny has little time to dwell on having hurt her feelings.

Focusing instead on his newfound success, Kenny must manouver around opportunistic business tactics, and while he is anything but a pushover, the mining industry is fickle and deceptive, which Kenny soon learns the hard way.

When Gold was announced, it was described as an adventurous treasure hunt movie, and the cast and crew that became attached to the project lists a substantial amount of talent that is familiar with both praise and success. The film looks good with competent cinematography, however, there is nothing adventurous or interesting about the end product. In fact, the film is quite frankly boring and uninspired. This is not so much due to predictability in the narrative, but rather because the story and how it unfolds is simply just bland and uneventful.

By the time we reach the third act, it looks like the film is about to take off and make up for a lackluster first and second act. However, the third act does not amount to anything either, and what we end up with is a film that never manages to find its voice and is unable to tell a compelling story. Instead, all Gold achieves is looking like a soulless imitation of better films.

Matthew McConaughey has shown plenty of times that he is an actor of substantial range, however, that range also includes overacting, which is exactly what his hammy performance in Gold feels like. But he is not alone in his unengaging performance; despite boasting a strong cast, none of the performances are noteworthy. With the talent being as good as it is, the lack of chemistry and potency in the performances suggests that the issue with the characters of Gold is not incompetent acting, but rather a dull script. Not only is the story and its progression boring and – ironically, considering the context –impossible to invest in, there has seemingly also been next to nothing for the actors to work with, resulting in no character development whatsoever, thus giving the audience nothing that allows them to connect with neither the characters nor the narrative.

Gold is a convoluted, stale piece of cinema that looks competent at first glance, but ultimately falls flat as it stumbles along in its efforts to contend with the likes of The Wolf of Wall Street. The only thing Gold does manage in its sheepish attempt to ride Scorsese’s coattails, is being the potentially most boring treasure hunt film of all time, and it is safe to say that Gold therefore only achieves being a reminder that not all that glitters is gold. Extras include commentary, featurettes and deleted sequence. (– Leyla Mikkelsen, Starz/Anchor Bay/Released 5/2/17)

 

A Cure For Wellness

What, exactly, defines wellness? Is it our physical health? Our mental state? Our success and wealth? Our social standing and class? An inexplicable combination? What makes us “well” is but one of the many mysteries that exist within Gore Verbinski’s A Cure for Wellness, a film that proves itself a perfect fit for the arguably visionary director, whose eclectic career has spanned the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, Mousehunt, The Mexican, The Ring, The Weather Man, Rango and The Lone Ranger.

From slapstick to horror, animation to effects-driven blockbusters, Verbinski has established himself as a highly productive and polished filmmaker with a knack for turning out efficient, if not extraordinary cinematic works (haters will hate, but The Lone Ranger is damn impressive).

A Cure for Wellness, however, is the first film of Verbinski’s that truly feels tailor-made for his storytelling sensibilities and visual panache.

The film is a beautifully shot affair of psychological horrors that focuses less on things that go bump in the night, and more so on what lurks deep within us all. Captured by the lens of Bojan Bazelli, the film provides a feast of dark delights among its gorgeously composed frames. So much of this film is perceived through an eye that expertly blends haunting distances and uneasy close ups. It employs an almost-perfectionist sense of symmetry that always feels menacing and never quite right. Characters are captured through reflections, distortions and magnifications, via unique angles aimed at mirrors, or through half-filled drinking glasses, or from under water. Verbinski never feels satisfied to direct this story in a conventional manner, and the unorthodox nature of A Cure for Wellness is what ultimately makes it so great.

The story itself is where many will ultimately find faults, but for every moment where the screenplay finds itself silly and straining, there are two moments where the story is clever, cunning and at times even terrifying. Dane DeHaan stars as Lockhart, an ambitious young executive sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from a strange “wellness center” atop a hill in the Swiss Alps. Once he’s arrived, it seemingly becomes impossible to escape, and Lockhart finds himself trapped in a situation and place that is never quite what it seems. Viewers will certainly pick up on visual and plot-related echoes of Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, but on a thematic level the film has more in common with the director’s most recent film, Silence. Allegories and nuances of faith, mortality and the horrors of man maintain a stubborn presence throughout the film. Putting aside its periodic follies, this is a tale that insists you dwell on its many intricacies after the fact.

It’s also worth mentioning that DeHaan, with this film, has set himself up for grand opportunities as a leading man. With his chilling yet handsome stare, intimidating screen presence and a dynamic mix of reserved calm and unhinged chaos, DeHaan irrefutably dominates the screen. A Cure for Wellness is a strikingly ambitious work—one of the most daring and inspired mainstream releases of recent memory. Its aesthetic palette is German expressionism remixed with gothic shades of Guillermo del Toro, and its story mirrors the chilling tones of horror pioneers like Poe and King. The voice is all Verbinski though, and this time he’s louder than he’s ever been before. It feels like witnessing the work of a talented builder previously limited to just a hammer and a couple of nails. A Cure for Wellness gives Verbinski the entire toolbox, and the construction is all the more masterful because of this. Extras include deleted sequence, featurettes and trailer. (– Greg Vallente, 20th Century Fox/Released 6/6/17)

 

A United Kingdom

We are at an interesting time in cinema, where true stories that may have been common knowledge in their immediate geographical area are finding their way to the big screen. Certainly the entire black community around Langley knew of the black female computers at NASA long before Hidden Figures. In A United Kingdom, we are able to see the controversial love story that eventually led to the first democratically elected king of Botswana. A well-known story overseas, this is a lovely but restrained introduction to the rest of the world.

Inspired by true events, the film follows the romance between Prince Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) of Bechuanaland (known today as Botswana) and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white English clerk.

After meeting during his years at Oxford, Khama married Ruth despite the disapproval of his uncle, the British government, and Botswana’s apartheid-friendly neighbor South Africa. Through banishment and strife, the two persevered for the sake of the country that both called home. The film gives little backstory to either lead, preferring to jump to their meeting within minutes of the start.

This treatment is unfortunate for two reasons. Though we can assume something about the motives or upbringing of an African prince trained in law at Oxford, there is no basis for any of Ruth’s actions outside of “woman in love”. While that is a force that can move mountains, it can make many of her actions seem as if she were completely dependent on Seretse for strength of character. On the other end, the brief look into their courtship makes it seems as if Seretse made this decision after a semester abroad though in reality they were together for over a year before marrying. While the mechanism for the montage (sending jazz records back and forth) is both sweet and a clever nod to the period, it does not give a good enough sense of the passage of time to dispel doubts about rash decisions. Thankfully the pacing of the rest of the movie is spot on.

Director Amma Asante carefully balances the love story against the political drama. When Seretse appeals to his countrymen to accept his wife rather than play into racial segregation his speech reinforces his dedication to wife and homeland at the same time. Throughout the film moments of bureaucratic strife are blended with the tenderness of personal relationships in a way that is lovely if not a bit prim. It’s hard to decide whether Asante’s take on this story is overly polite and demure, or if she wishes to match the cold and calculating stoicism of the British government to a consistently graceful determination in Seretse and Ruth. Each time the opportunity to go further into anger, sorrow, or love is presented the movie shies away from the extra step. The vulnerability is always explored, but the rawer examples of passion are noticeably missing.

The performances in the movie across the board were engrossing, and showed a great eye for casting. While it was a shame that David Oyelowo was passed over for his work in Selma, he brings a combination of command and gentility to his portrayal of Seretse. Even scenes of open weeping add nobility rather than weakness. Rosamund Pike is absolutely believable as an enamored office girl turned “fish out of water” turned savvy political complement to Seretse. Her careful but unwavering strength makes it easy to see why he would risk a kingdom to have her by his side. As they move from England to Africa, the mood shifts considerably. The wet gray streets in London come off exactly as stark and unfeeling as they must have seemed to the couple.

Conversely the warmth, beauty, and richness of the sweeping plains of Bechuanaland immediately conveys a sense of home. The attention to detail for costuming gives us government figures in sharp suits, white women with impeccably crafted curls, and a mixture of western clothing and traditional dress for the women and men of Botswana that show the influence of their colonizers. There is no denying this film is beautifully shot. A United Kingdom works equally well as a period romance piece or political drama. If anything it is hard to pinpoint whether this is a love story with a side of historical turmoil or vice versa. Whichever way you may see it, this film is a heartwarming addition to the canon of untold true stories which are both universally appealing and relatable in their humanity. Extras include featurettes and trailer. (– Kristen Halbert, 20th Century Fox/Released 6/6/17)

 

Vega$: The Complete Series

Welcome to the underbelly of Nevada’s shimmering desert oasis. Between call girl murders, land disputes, business fallouts, and celebrity protection, private eye Dan Tanna (Robert Urich) has his work cut out for him.

Helping him along the way is a close circle of allies including Beatrice (Phyllis Davis), Angie (Judy Landers), “Binzer” (Bart Braverman), and Lt. David Nelson (Greg Morris). Also guest starring Tony Curtis as Philip “Slick” Roth, a landlord and casino owner who always has a case that needs solving. So climb aboard Danna’s red 1957 Ford Thunderbird, and buckle up! It’s going to be a wild ride.

Created by director Michael Mann, Vega$ featured uch notable guest stars as Sid Caesar, Alex Trebek, Garry Marshall, Abe Vigoda, Muhammad Ali, Victor Buono, Pernell Roberts, Louis Jourdan, Red Buttons, Dick Sargent, Robert Loggia, John Saxon, Robert Reed, Scatman Crothers, Natalie Schafer, Priscilla Barnes, Erin Gray, Kim Cattrall, Leslie Nielsen, Stepfanie Kramer, Bubba Smith, Julie Adams, Dick Butkus, June Lockhart, Kim Basinger, Keye Luke, Broderick Crawford, Melanie Griffith, George Takei, John Vernon, Whitman Mayo and Vic Tayback.

Includes all three seasons of 67 episodes. (Paramount/Released 5/2/17)

 

Life

Watching the sci-fi thriller, Life, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.

It has been a long time since I have watched a thriller where I haven’t had the urge to yell at the screen for the characters for doing truly stupid things.

Set on an international space station, Life start out with all of the standard tropes of an Alien type film.

A small group of scientist and astronauts, long away from Earth, long to complete their final mission, and go home to Fame and Glory; all in the name of science and space exploration. Olga Dihovichnaya and Rebecca Ferguson are the by the book authoritative women, commander and safety officer, respected by all the crew. Hiroyuki Sanada is your family man with a wife and newborn he has never seen in real life. Ariyon Bakare is your lead scientist who is driven by his love/obsession for discovery. Jake Gyllenhaal fills out the role of the recluse doctor who wants to be away from humans as much as possible after war-time trauma.

Ryan Reynold is his own trope as the smart aleck, blue-collar-roots engineer, who wisecracks and acts as the one rash individual who is acts more on instinct than logic.

The bones of the story is by the numbers. Scientists discover lifeform, lifeform becomes antagonistic, crew fights for their lives, and possibly all life as we know it.

Yes, it has been done before. However, it is the way it is told that is refreshing. The filmmaking is lean.

At a fast paced 1 hour 40 minutes, Life does not waste a lot of time getting to the action, yet the movie never feels rushed. Characters are developed, but not lingered on. Enough bread crumbs are left to get to know the crew without having to be spoon fed a detailed background of each character. Each of the fictional scientist actually act like scientists. They follow procedure, make rational decisions, and it is only through human error that things go awry.

This is an important detail for me, since I spent most of Prometheus wondering why their scientist did things the way they did. For their actions, they deserved to be alien food, but I digress). The director Daniel Espinosa relies less on jump scares (which are the easy way out in a thriller) and more on building the unease through the actors reactions in a scene to make you feel unsettled.

The alien itself is a nice divergence from the typical design. Instead of the standard dark colors, armour plating, and rows of teeth (or mouths), Life’s alien is smooth lines and light colors, it’s movements swift and graceful, like and underwater sea creature. These qualities are disarming, making the later violence seem more menacing. I saw a twist coming at the end, but not the one that was given until it was almost revealed. It gives the film a slight different tone than the one that Espinosa and the writers had been building. I almost wonder if there was a change at the last minute to satisfy a producer or studio executive. Or if it was a nod to sci-fi classics like The Thing or Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

If you are new to the genre, it’s a solid space thriller. For the sci-fi connoisseur, it won’t hold the same kind of surprise that a new viewer will experience, but it is fun to see the influences and how the are played with and presented for a new generation. Extras include deleted scenes and featurettes. (– Elizabeth Robbins, Sony/Released 6/20/17)

 

Bambi

Although many people will argue that Walt Disney’s finest animated achievement might be Pinocchio, Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, there’s no denying the stunning animation and emotional wallop that Bambi delivers. Revisiting this classic after many years, the film was different than I remembered (I thought Bambi’s mother had been killed much earlier in the film). Bambi was Walt Disney’s fifth animated full-length feature film which released in 1942 during World War II and took approximately five years in the making due to the exquisite artwork and attention to detail of each and every scene, character and figure.

The artwork itself was created by some of the legendary “nine old men,” including Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Marc Davis, Milt Kahl and Eric Larson and in order to achieve the film’s unprecedented level of realism, animators modeled anatomical studies using live animals (including a pair of fawns named Bambi and Faline) and imbued each with a uniquely endearing personality.

Bambi’s delightful forest home received the same painstaking attention to detail, as background artists painted hundreds of landscapes based on extensive field research and nature photographs.

As morning light breaks across the meadow, a young deer named Bambi is born and hailed as ‘Prince of the Forest.’ Soon Bambi emerges from the thicket on wobbly legs, much to the delight of his new friends, Thumper, the playful rabbit, and Flower, the bashful yet lovable skunk. But the fun of nibbling on fresh blossoms and frolicking through the woods is only the beginning. Exploring his new world, and guided by the wisdom of Friend Owl,Bambi learns valuable life lessons with every adventure – experiencing the power of friendship, family, and love along the away. Bambi remains an endearing coming of age story which focuses on love, loss and family, wherever one find’s it. Extras include three ways to watch the film: the Original Theatrical Edition, the Disney View presentation which features the art of Lisa Keene on the sidebars, and the Inside Walt’s Story Meetings: Extended Edition. Also included are featurettes, deleted scenes, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit short, deleted song, and trailer. (Walt Disney Home Entertainment / Released 6/6/17)

 

Fences

Besides being a remarkable force, acting that puts people in seats in a way almost no other movie star can muster, Denzel Washington has also proven himself to be a tremendous director, especially when paired with a shakingly-timeless script in the late August Wilson’s stage play.

When you place arguably the greatest actor in the world, Denzel Washington, with arguably the greatest actress in the world, Viola Davis, in the same movie, magic is bound to happen.

What results are two of the finest performances not only this year, but of the last several years, as both acting giants make the most out of what is essentially an actionless discussion of life, love, manliness, and ambitions, involving every emotion a human can experience.

It’s an absolute marvel to witness such raw talent left on screen tirelessly for 2 hours and 18 minutes, and not a moment is wasted.

It turns a beloved stage play into a cinematic landmark that is without a doubt the very best movie of 2016. Extras include featurettes. (– Steve Carley, Paramount/Released 3/14/17)

 

Saban’s Power Rangers

“Go Go Power Rangerrrrss—”

As the theme song played over the planetary defenders rushing into battle it’s hard not to get psyched. But the song is abruptly cutoff, leaving everyone to wonder why we only received this one line teaser of the bright and enjoyable series we loved. Unfortunately that feeling plagues the entire film. Lionsgate has already planned a six movie story arc for the franchise, and this first offering is more dramatic setup than energized storytelling. The Power Rangers are a group of teens chosen by Zordon (Bryan Cranston) to protect the crystal that powers Earth’s life force, buried under their hometown of preppy Angel Grove.

It is being pursued by the evil Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), who wishes to destroy the world. Through teamwork, combat training, and prehistoric mechanical beasts the Power Rangers try to overcome personal obstacles and focus on each other to save the day.

In this version, no one really knows each other before they unite as Power Rangers. This leads to an overabundance of character development that made the awkward pacing drag even more. They are also untrained as fighters so there are training montages that make you excited for a battle that never appears in its fullest. All hand-to-hand battling in the movie is far too short to feel like actual fight sequences, which is incredibly disheartening for an adaptation of an action based series. Instead of the one-liners and martial arts that drove the plots forward we get melancholy backstory to push through. With nearly three-quarters of the movie devoted to following the cast as normal “troubled” teenagers (Parent problems! Moodiness! Mean girl sexting scandals!) I found myself wishing someone would please just hit anything. Hard.

Power Rangers suffers from wanting to be taken far too seriously for its subject matter. Even the abrupt campfire bonding scene (yes, really) is heavier than necessary. If not for the fact that the actors are so earnest and winsome with the little they have been given, viewers would be in a coin flip on whether to root for the Rangers saving Angel Grove or for Elizabeth Banks’ gleeful take on Rita Repulsa as she destroys downtown. Where the film lacks in good story or directing, it shines in the relatively new-to-the-scene teen actors that will be carrying the franchise. Dacre Montgomery (Jason/Red Ranger) is stepping in as this generation’s Zac Efron with the same team-leading general likability and classic good looks. Becky G (Trini/Yelow Ranger) shows that she can handle the jump from YouTube to big screen with ease. It will be interesting to see if her natural singing talent is folded into upcoming movies. Naomi Scott takes Pink Ranger Kim to an edgier place, but you can see that it is stretching her abilities. Moments where she drops the snark and plays as genuine show promise for her future roles.

The two most energetic and affable Rangers are definitely Ludi Lin’s Zack (Black Ranger) and RJ Cyler’s Billy (Blue Ranger). Lin is hilariously manic and explodes off the screen in all of his shots. I’d love to see him in more comedy-action movies going forward because he was the most comfortable onscreen. Cyler brings such heart and sincerity to quick-talking Billy that you immediately empathize with him as the loveable center of the team. The early on admission of Billy being on the autism spectrum is well-handled, and explanations of some behavioral tendencies (fixation, difficulty with social cues, etc.) are unforced but noteworthy. The same goes for the quiet reveal of a major character as LGBT.

Lionsgate clearly wants to capitalize on this franchise, still going strong (albeit not as visibly) for over two decades. But the campy camaraderie and fight scenes that made the low budget original so enjoyable are missing in the big screen adaptation. There are calls back to it, but this movie is never really as fun as it should be for nostalgic adults or teens who are newer to the franchise. Hopefully, these are simply awkward growing pains and we’ll see a more fleshed out sequel in the future. Extras include commentary, featurettes, deleted/alternate/extended scenes), outtakes and trailers. (– Kristen Halbert, Lionsgate/Released 6/27/17)

 

CHiPS

Dax Shepard must be a really, really nice guy. Somehow he not only got the unnecessary, but long gestating reboot of the Seventies television series made, but he also wrangled many familiar faces into the film which he not only starred in, but also wrote, directed and produced. Unfortunately, Shepard forgot to make the film particularly engaging, or bluntly, good.

There’s not enough of anything to set it apart. It’s not that funny. It’s not that action packed. It just is. And although that’s serviceable, it’s not enough to actually make it an improvement over a 40 year old dated television series.

In an attempt to give the film some depth, Shepard not only abandoned the concept of the series, but also replaced it with a cliché filled series of scenes that add up to the same formula that audiences have seen again and again.

This time, Ponch (Michael Peña) isn’t even Ponch. He’s an undercover agent sent to infiltrate the California Highway Patrol to solve a series of heists and an unusual suicide that are believed to be executed by a cabal of corrupt cops. Ponch is teamed up with former extreme sports star Baker (Shepard), a rookie to the force. They eventually earn mutual respect and discover that the bad guy happens to be Lt. Raymond Kurtz (Vincent D’Onofrio), which comes as no surprise from the moment he appears on screen.

Filled with plenty of dated homophobic jokes, retreaded plot points, plenty of cameos and my personal pet peeve, the lack of utilizing the original theme music in the climax, CHiPS joins the ever-growing list of unnecessary and uninspired television to film adaptations that will likely spawn a direct to DVD sequel starring less famous actors. Extras include featurettes and deleted scenes with alternate commentary. (Warner Bros./Released 6/27/17)

 

Wilson

You can count on one thing from Daniel Clowes when it comes to storytelling. He will make you feel every emotion, frustration and triumph that his characters experience. This rings truer than true for the film adaption of his graphic novel Wilson.

Clowes has adapted his comic book to a screenplay that is directed by Craig Johnson.

Woody Harrelson stars as the middle-aged, tragically honest and too smart for his own good, namesake of the title, Wilson as we join him, whether we want to or not, though a slice of his life that finds him not understanding the world around him.

Along the way, he loses his estranged father, gets back with his ex-wife (Laura Dern) and meets his daughter for the first time, brilliantly portrayed by relative newcomer, Isabella Amara.

A series of well placed notions but very poorly executed places Wilson in a world he never expected and on the other side of this journey, he may find the balance he needs to cope with the changing world around him.

Director, Johnson perfectly realizes the “not quiet right” world of Wilson, from the quirky background characters to the main supporting cast featuring Judy Greer as the dog sitter, Shelly to David Warshofsky as Wilson’s acerbic, assholish childhood friend. Johnson has taken the finely tuned screenplay by Clowes and makes you feel as if you have stepped right into the pages of the book of this dysfunctional and sometimes upsetting life Wilson has chosen to lead.

As a fan of Daniel Clowes’ myriad of graphic novels and the two previous adaptions to film of his work, I realize that Wilson will not be for many people. It was almost not for me. Like Ghost World and Art School Confidential, Clowes has a knack for creating beautiful patchwork quilts out of the lives of human’s who just don’t quite fit into the world they occupy. Clowes loves these misfits and handles them with care and love. He loves sending them though an odyssey of growth and heartache that we are allowed to experience as well. In the end things may or may not be a little brighter but they are usually uncomfortable and they are definitely never dull.

If you are a fan of Ghost World, American Splendor, Crumb, and/or Art School Confidential then I highly recommend this film as an apropos addition to your collection. If you aren’t a fan, then I would say skip this one as it will leave you feeling uneasy and the small bright spot at the end may not make up for the painful journey you had to traverse for the meek reward. Extras include deleted scenes, mini-featurettes, gallery and trailers. (– Benn Robbins, 20th Century Fox/Released 6/20/17)

 

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

The claustrophobic atmosphere of an old, rundown morgue is one of the creepier horror settings in recent memory, one that is exploited to its full potential in this unsettling, extremely effective horror film from the director of Trollhunter.

The film begins with small-town police trying to figure out what caused a brutal family massacre — and why there’s a partially buried nude body of a young woman in the basement.

From the first we see of Jane Doe, who doesn’t have a mark on her alabaster skin, we know there’s a troubling history here, one that is slowly revealed by local mortician Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox) and his son, Austen (Emile Hirsch).

The film gets its R rating from “bloody horror violence, unsettling grisly images and language” as well as “graphic nudity.”

The camera hovers over every detail of Jane Doe’s body in a way that at first feels exploitational, but the film takes a surprisingly feminist twist as the Tildens uncover conflicting clues about her cause of death.

When the police deliver the body, Austen is heading out for a date with his girlfriend and Tommy says he can handle the rush job alone. Austen, who’s been waiting for a way to tell his father he wants to quit the family business, decides to postpone his date and lend a hand. Of course, that’s a fateful decision he soon regrets.

Because we first see the Tildens conducting a routine autopsy, it’s all the more disturbing to see just how bizarrely Jane Doe’s post-mortem unfolds. Lights begin to flicker. The radio begins playing the same song over and over. The body bleeds when it’s first cut into, which we all know isn’t supposed to happen. And then the elevator stops working…

The film, which checks in at a brisk 86 minutes, is perfectly paced. The scares start small and build to a truly terrifying finale. This is a film that could easily have cast unknowns in the lead roles of father and son, but it’s a smart enough script that gives actors like Cox and Hirsch room to do more than just peek around dark corners in terror. If you’re looking for a good, old fashioned scare, this will do the trick nicely. Extras include tv spots, teasers and trailer. (–Sharon Knolle, Shout! Factory/Released 5/2/17)

 

T2: Trainspotting

“Choose life. Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares. Choose looking up old flames, wishing you’d done it all differently. And choose watching history repeat itself. Choose your future.”

Danny Boyle returns 20 years later to Edinburgh, Scotland for a sequel to the highly successful Trainspotting film about addiction and friendship. The film reunites Renton (Ewen McGregor) with Simon aka Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), the betrayed Begbie (Robert Carlyle) and the smack-obsessed Spud (Ewen Bremner) to great effect, portraying the void felt by the absence and passage of time.

T2 seeks to answer the question of what happened to the £16,000 Renton took at the end of the first movie 20 years on as the hook, but also looks to delve into the minds of these poor addicted souls and rarely offers any predictable redemption.

Stacked up against the original film, this might not be as deep or as memorable to the pop culture lexicon as Trainspotting became, but T2 is a great companion to the original with surprising call backs, a driving soundtrack and shows what kind of men the boys have become.

Renton returns home to see his father in his dotage, his mother has passed, echoing the scene of being admonished at his parent’s kitchen table. Cutaways to the first movie are injected into the film, showing McGregor and Miller looking very young. This may reference chasing that first high, though drugs and meditation never work that way. You can try a lifetime and higher dosage to get to that point again, but you will never ever get there.

Spud is still an active junkie, separated from his partner Gail (Shirley Henderson) and his son, Fergus. Renton checks on him first when he returns to Leith from Amsterdam. Here is the first bit of feeling like you are in a Danny Boyle film. Spud’s botched suicide attempt is filmed as fantasy and reality cut together. Renton is able to save Spud but not without some disgusting and shocking visuals.

Begbie has been incarcerated for years, but somehow manages an escape. When he finally meets up with Simon (Sick Boy) he’s told of Renton’s return and starts to plot his revenge on the betrayal of the £16,000. Simon is not exactly forgiving of his best mate Renton’s absence with the cash either, and included Begbie on a longer con to get back at Renton. Simon has inherited his aunt’s pub Port Sunshine in Leith by the train tracks. He doesn’t make much there, and is a criminal at heart so he has resorted to blackmailing rich members of the community with sex tapes made in cahoots with his girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova). Simon’s also developed quite a heavy cocaine addiction, botching his most recent blackmail attempt.

Veronika is a young girl from Bulgaria, and our anchor to the modern day. She gets wrapped up in Sick Boy and Renton’s schemes and the three of them look to convert Port Sunshine into a brothel, legitimizing the failed strap-on business plan of blackmail. She’s an ally but also serves to drive more of a wedge between the two best buddies. Renton returns to Leith clean and happy, and after saving Spud, he offers to save Spud from himself, urging him to be addicted to something else, and the remodel of the pub occupies that itch.

The soundtrack is glorious in it’s callbacks to Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ given new life by a remix by The Prodigy, while including new talent such as Wolf Alice and dipping into the Trainspotting vinyl collection for nostalgic hits from The Clash and Queen. American audiences are introduced to comedy hip-hop duo The Rubberbandits as their video for ‘Dad’s Best Friend’ takes over Simon’s gigantic television screen in his apartment and Renton, like a man 20 years displaced asks “What is this?”. The apartment is perhaps just a minor upgrade from the drug den where we first meet Spud melting into the carpet and den leader Mother Superior. Veronika refuses to stay over because it is messy. Renton comforts Simon by insisting the flat is just ‘masculine’.

T2 doesn’t beat you over the head with, “Look at Renton, he jogs now, he’s cleaned up and is returning home”. No, this movie shows you how difficult it is for people to really change. Some bonds are lifetime bonds, and sometimes betrayal can play out with a long game and allies are thick as thieves, except when it doesn’t suit them. While loosely based on Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting sequel Porno, the movie itself is written by Trainspotting screenwriter John Hodge drawing from both books and the original movie, steering away from a strict Porno adaptation.

A criticism I have of the storytelling was inserting the trope of having a main character chronicle the adventures of the boys, to be collected and read someday. Perhaps it seemed like an unnecessary trope or crutch, but I’d like to see if it rubs me the wrong way on a second viewing. T2 is unique by the nature of the timing between the sequel and original, closer to Richard Linklater’s Boyhood than anything else in modern film. This is a deeply satisfying observation on aging and relationships, a great second volume to a revered piece of cinema. For Boyle, it rescues him from the criticism of Steve Jobs, but also is a unique opportunity to revisit without rebooting. This doesn’t achieve the 5-star greatness of Trainspotting, but it doesn’t have to. It gets you close enough to the edge that you can stand and look down and stop yourself from falling over. Extras include commentary, cast and crew interview, featurette and deleted scenes. (– Clay N Ferno, Sony/Released 6/27/17)

 

The Apple

Young Bibi (the beautiful and…well…beautiful Catherine Mary Stewart) and Alphie (George Gilmour) are folk singers in the future. (1994, to be exact.) It’s a future where guitars are unheard of and singing without 400 backup musicians just doesn’t make sense. When they sing a love song at a contest, the crowd rebels. But then they listen…and they start to fall in love.

But they weren’t meant to be the winners tonight. BIM had to be the winners. BIM is a group put together with maniacal glee by talent agent Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal). He and his lead minion, Shake (Ray Shell), play a horrible screeching noise that makes the crowd rebel again, ruining Bibi and Alphie’s chances. BIM are victorious!

(BIM, however, are probably the worst band in history. Their square saxes didn’t help much.)

Of course Boogalow tries to sign Bibi and Alphie.

But Alphie is suspicious of this rather Dr. Smith-ish douchebag. He doesn’t sign. But even his mighty David Hasselhoff meets JM J Bullock sex appeal couldn’t make Bibi see through Boogalow’s slime. The rest of the story is basically Bibi’s rise to fame and Alphie’s fall to Hippie Land.

What The Apple lacks in talent and storyline, it makes up for in garishness and absolute lack of sex appeal. And let me regal you with a bit of the lyrical genius that is The Apple:

“It’s the natural, natural, natural desire
Meet an actual, actual, actual vampire!”

At this point, said actual, actual, actual vampire rises up from out of nowhere, never to be heard from again.

And there’s always the ultra-non-sexy “I’m Comin’ Just For You” song where Alphie, trying to get to Bibi at the height of her success, ends up getting drugged and having sex with Pandi (Grace Kennedy), a member of BIM. Pandi sings and sings and sings, all while writhing away on top of Alphie in a pretty disturbing fashion. I haven’t been so disturbed by sex since Elizabeth Berkley mounted Kyle MacLachlan.

There’s really nothing good about this movie. The music is amazingly bad. (Listen for the “Somewhere Out There” call and answer song, “I Stand Alone.”) The sets are so busy as to be nearly annoying. The fashions ARE annoying. (And I think that the leftover costumes were mothballed and used again 9 years later for Back To The Future II.)

Lemme tell you a bit about the production of this movie. Cannon Films was kind of an up and coming production company in 1979. All kinds of musicals were coming out and becoming huge hits…so why not another one?!

Well, maybe if they hadn’t been trying so hard for a Rocky Horror Picture Show type of movie. They seriously thought that they would have a movie that would play for years and they would always have a continuous stream of money rolling in from it.

Too bad for them, they spent every bit of money they had on sets and extras. The extravagant premiere in LA included giving everyone who attended a copy of the soundtrack. By the end of the movie, just about every one of those records had been thrown at the screen.

Yes, indeed. That’s how bad the music is. People didn’t even want to keep a free record of it. Golan and the Rechts (along with music supervisor George S Clinton…not he of the long dreads and pot habit, but he of Austin Powers’ music fame) fashioned a film that made people hate free stuff.

But here’s the thing: the movie is so strange, so over the top, so batshit, fuckstick, freakishly insane that I kinda loved it. I mean, where else can you see a Roger Daltry lookalike (Allan Love as the other half of BIM, Dandi) offer a giant apple to an innocent young girl, telling her “Let me be your guide through the Apple Paradise”? How could you not love hearing Miram Margolyes (the only actor to go on to anything else really sort of significant…you’d recognize her if you saw her) mince around as a Jewish landlady, saying things like, “You’re such a schlemiel!” or “Oh, my God, what happened in here last night, a pogrom?”

Oh yeah…I didn’t even tell you about all of the religious overtones of the film. Boogalow, of course, is Lucifer. No doubts there. There are constant references to this, including shots of him in Alphie’s daydreams with one horn, sitting in a fiery cave.

But then, suddenly, about 10 minutes from the end, God is introduced! Mr. Topps (Joss Ackland, who is still making films) is a Sean Connery type character wearing long flowing robes, opened to expose his old barrel chest and a deep voice that commands the very hippies that he hangs out with. Hey, if there has to be a God, he may as well be a hippie leader who introduces them saying, “These are refugees from the 60s.” The end is one of the cheesiest religious cop-outs I think I have ever seen on film. It’s kind of amazing.

So, after sitting through an hour and a half of half-singers, weird Gamorrean guards (one of which was played by future Leaky Cauldron bartender, Derek Deadman), the first grill in cinema (Ray Shell’s teeth weren’t the creepiest part of him…maybe it was the golden underwear) and not so attractive people running around in less clothing than you typically see at the Playboy Mansion, I fell in love with another awful movie. Extras include commentary and interview with Catherine Mary Stewart and trailer. (– Mark Wensel, Scorpion Releasing/Released 6/27/17)

 

Killer Dames: Two Gothic Chillers by Emilio P. Miraglia

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave
Except for Italian actors playing Englishmen, little will strike you as remarkable about this picture. But what it lacks in originality it makes up in style.

Derived obviously from late Bava and early Argento films, Evelyn ramps up the sensuality and style. Gore appears only in the final third, and only briefly. But nudity appears all over the place. And dreamy slow-motion flashbacks or hallucinations play out with mysterious Italian prog-rock music behind them. It often feels like a New Wave picture, years ahead of its time. Of Argento’s films it most resembles Tenebre, yet it came 10 years earlier!

The plot, which takes us to a gorgeous modern-day English lord’s castle, is a horror/Noir/giallo combination, difficult to describe. As we watch we wonder if Evelyn is really dead, really a ghost, or really some kind of trick.

We also wonder if the killer is really our troubled protagonist or one of his many suspicious companions, cousins, or friends. We meet many enticing women along the way, most notably Susan the stripper played by Erika Blanc of Devil’s Nightmare. Bondage and fetishism (outfits, boots) figure into multiple scenes. Blanc rises from a stage coffin to do her best dance.

Everything is strange and engaging, although most elements lose power once you step back and consider them. The plot, while impossible to predict, is frankly illogical. The rhythm resembles that of a play more than a film, almost deserving of curtains rising and falling between scenes. Nudity and fetishism come and go quickly, like teasers. We don=t even get a clear shot of the black leather boots. Still: Argento fans should see it. You might not be enlightened but you’ll certainly be entertained. Extras include introduction, commentary, featurettes, interviews, and trailers.

 

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times

After the success of The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, Miraglia and his crew were given a bigger budget to do something similar but more elaborate.

Red Queen came out less gory and less sexual than its predecessor, but it’s a more focused and rewarding film overall. The supernatural element is slight, since this is really a giallo rather than horror film, but the atmosphere should delight most horror and slasher fans.

The killer wears black gloves and a red cape, and cackles like a witch after each stabbing. A dream sequence at 61:00 offers a standout image of the killer rushing toward us in slow motion down a huge empty glass-lined corridor.

Some deaths are predictable, others are sudden and shocking. The climax even involves rats.

Our main characters – sisters and cousins whose rich grandfather has just died – are mostly unsympathetic. But everyone looks good. The story alternates between scenes at a fashion house and scenes in a huge gorgeous castle. The most likeable character is Martin, the fashion executive having affairs with two of the ladies at once. The camera work and production design are particularly strong. Ninety-nine minutes might sound long, but the film is neat and tight. Numerous satisfying surprises come at the conclusion. Extras include Extras include introduction, commentary, featurettes, interviews, alternate opening and trailers. (– David E. Goldweber, Arrow/Released 5/24/17)

 

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage

First there was Bava, then there was Argento. It is fascinating to think how smoothly Italy passed the torch from that first horror master to this second one. Argento actually began as a young film critic in his native Rome, then became a scriptwriter, then at last a director with help from his movie-producer father. His most notable script was One Upon a Time in the West, written for Sergio Leone. From Leone, Argento learned that, “cinema can basically be time and rhythm” and that a stopwatch can be used to time scenes to the second. Argento’s movies are stylized and precise, and as such they are comparable not only to Leone’s but to John Carpenter’s.

Like Carpenter, Argento works with horror. Weaned on horror stories since a child, Argento naturally turned to them for his subject matter. And what Leone showed Argento in terms of style, Edgar Allan Poe showed him in terms of content; Argento once wrote that Poe is the source for all modern horror.

Some people have criticized Argento for caring too much about images at the expense of actors; indeed, he is known to say very little to actors on the set. But his defenders counter that in Argento films, images and sounds are the point. He is a serious and pessimistic man, but his films are quite energetic.

Argento’s directorial debut is often cited as a fan favorite. I found it to be a terrific fusion of suspense and horror. Influenced by Hitchcock mysteries and Bava thrillers, it’s Argento’s best film until Deep Red, and with Deep Red it is likely to be the only giallo film that American horror fans will seek out. Giallo films, named for the yellow covers of the late 1950s and early 1960s pulp novels that inspired them, are a sort of Italian prototype of the American slasher film. Slasher fans should not be disappointed with Bird.

The plot and mystery are tightly wrought, and virtually every scene contributes to the total effect. Our young writer-hero is bright and brave, if a tad naive, and we can easily see how he would be willing to investigate the crimes on his own. Some plot points are predictable (i.e. we know that the hero=s girlfriend will become the killer’s target), but two key plot twists (one halfway through the film, the other at the conclusion) are nearly impossible to predict. The ultimate explanation is far-fetched but satisfying. Characters are sketchily drawn, because Argento is a stylist and not a humanist. Suspense is generated from questions posed at the beginning – what was “not right” at the murder scene? what clues are within the painting? – but not answered until the end. Never do we escape a pervasive sense of danger. Note the victim’s-eye-view and killer’s-eye-view shots; Argento would explore these angles further in his next film, Cat o’ Nine Tails.

The murder sequences are surprisingly subtle, with little blood, yet uncommonly stark and frightening. Note how the music stops right before each killing, to be replaced by brutal sound effects. Yet Ennio Morricone’s score is perhaps his most frightening ever. Note: the bird whose feathers resemble glass is named “caucaso,” but no such bird actually exists. Is the name symbolic? Some commentators have pointed out that “caucaso” resembles “caucasian,” and that whiteness seems juxtaposed to blackness in the film: the killer’s black gloves, the “black power” poster in our hero’s apartment. The actual bird in the film looks to me like a crowned crane. Extras include (– David E. Goldweber, Arrow/Released 6/20/27)

 

Song to Song

Song to Song is the most indie of indie films written and directed by the Sweetheart of the Indie side of Hollywood, Terrence Malick.

Song to Song is the loosely strung together story of Faye (Rooney Mara), a young woman living in Austin, Texas who dreams of breaking into the music business.

Faye involves herself with successful music producer, Cook (Michael Fassbender) to further her career, while Cook deceives and exploits a succession of hungry songwriters, including the naive BV (Ryan Gosling).

To complicate matters, BV falls in love with Faye, but doesn’t realize she’s involved with Cook.

Faye falls in love with BV, but neither tells BV any of the truth about Cook, or will she leave Cook and give up her chance at a big break. Cook only wants everything he doesn’t have, which is talent or love, but will take it from everyone else.

If this sounds convoluted and confusing, welcome to the film, Song To Song. Malick is true to form in creating a film that is more poetry than prose, but seems to have lost his way. Song to Song feels like three different films; a documentary about the Austin music scene, a love triangle of self involved people, and a beautiful nature documentary full of gorgeous vistas. These components have been mashed up and held together by heavy handed editing and dialog that is presented mostly as voice overs.

I normally love Malick’s style of storytelling, but without the structure of a strong script, the film becomes a slideshow of beautiful locations and beautiful actors with nothing for the audience to hold onto and therefore they become anesthetized to the beauty. Actors are left to emote without restraint or stare off screen meaningfully while the audience is forced to listen to their disembodied voices pontificate. The result is an exhausting trudge for the audience to get to the meat of the story. With a running time of only 2 hours it feels like a lifetime.

There are scenes that are filmed in such a way that is supposed to capture the small, precious moments in life; a look, a laugh, the light touch of a hand, the sunlight falling on a loved one’s face. They are fleeting, which makes them bittersweet. However, Malick and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki serve these moment up in such abundance, that they lose their preciousness. Moments that were meant to be intimate are often awkward, like you just walked in on your roommate and the significant other.

The sprinkle of real life interviews of noted musicians Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, John Lydon seems only added to give Faye, BV, and Cook the artifice of being real world musicians. They are treated with little more love or respect than the instruments used to dress the set. It is a missed opportunity to give audiences a chance to connect to the music scene and see why someone would want to be a part of that world.

These characters seem to have little real passion for the music that is suppose to be their shared link. Each spends more time brooding over their inner dialogs, professing their love for the other person, but truly just wrapped up in their self and their own idea of their partner. I feel teenage me would have loved the pathos of the Faye story. Adult me is just impatient with the whole film. Song to Song was made to please only one person, and that is Terrence Mailck. Extras include featurette. (–Elizabeth Robbins, Broad Green Pictures/Released 7/4/17)

 

The Lost City of Z

What if you were given the chance to rewrite history?

In recent months, many screenwriters and directors have been faced with this dilemma. With the surge of true cinema audiences have seen dramatic interpretations of moments in history previously unknown to the greater public.

How did stories like the black women computers at NASA or the man who made McDonald’s what it is today escape big screen treatment?

In The Lost City of Z, James Gray brings to light the strange tale of British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett, who disappeared on an expedition to the Amazon in the 1920s. But bad pacing and a formulaic treatment of the best-selling book undo anything novel about this story.

The film follows Fawcett (Charlie Hunnan) as he journeys to map the Amazon River in service to the Royal Geographical Society.

When he returns, he presents the idea of “Zed”, an unseen site deep in the Amazon he believes will hold the ruins of an ancient civilization. Accompanied by his assistant Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson), Fawcett continues to return to the Amazon even as the trips become decidedly more dangerous.

Director James Gray adapted the film himself and gives far too kind an interpretation of the plight of Fawcett. The original book by David Grann has been criticized for extrapolating from limited evidence, and Gray is guilty of a similar crime. The overly straightforward role of “conscious white explorer” gives no rough edges or questions of character to Percival Fawcett. Instead, virtually every stodgy white man that he encounters (which in this movie, nets you 80% of the rest of the cast) plays a racist heartless Eurocentric villain. It works out very well for deifying Fawcett’s work, but not as successfully for an entertaining performance. Grann was able to include more nuance in his book but Gray has gone with the most basic ideas for his adaptation.

It is very unfortunate for Charlie Hunnan as he starts off relatively strong but is given so little depth of character hat he is forced to run at the exact same pace for over 2 hours. In his supporting role, Robert Pattinson gives a refreshing and engaging voice to the movie. His take on Costin ranges from wry to thoughtful, cautious to heroic. At one moment he is strung out, suffering from illness and sores. But in a moment he rallies to assist his companions. Without him, the movie would be interminable.

When history has already written an interesting story, it is even more depressing when it does not translate to other media. The Lost City of Z had the potential to study the motivations of European adventurers, determined to leave no section of the continent unexplored. But unfortunately this movie gives us nothing new in the tired “green-hell” genre. Audiences would be better off spending two hours in their local library, reviewing the original literature. Extras include commentary and featurettes. (– Kristen Halbert, Sony/Released 7/11/17)

 

Sunset in the West

A gang of vicious crooks has been running guns and ammunition out to foreign revolutionaries. Gordon MacKnight (Pierre Watkin, Meet John Doe) is the mastermind behind these elaborate schemes – hijacking freight trains and killing the crews, leaving no witnesses.

Sheriff Tad Osborne (Will Wright, Adam’s Rib) is discouraged and has not been able to catch the killers. His niece Dixie (Penny Edwards, Trail of Robin Hood) urges him to quit while he can, but when Roy (Roy Rogers, My Pal Trigger) and his Purple Sage riders arrive in the border town, they persuade the sheriff to stay in office and help them capture the criminals.

MacKnight tries to escape, but Roy and Trigger follow to ride him down and bring him back to justice. Beautifully shot in TruColor by Jack A. Marta (Cat Ballou) and wonderfully directed by the great William Witney (Daredevils of the Red Circle).

Extras include commentary. (Kino-Lorber/Released 4/18/17)

 

Demon Seed

This weird movie’s reputation has grown slowly but steadily over the years. Far from being the sadistic or exploitative film that its premise would suggest, it instead offers a convincing portrayal of an emotional computer grappling with its mechanical stature in a world ruled by flesh and blood.

The eerie atonal score (by Jerry Fielding) tips us off from the opening credits that all is not well. The tension scarcely subsides.

And yet throughout the film we are curious and fascinated, even as we are frightened and repulsed.

How can we blame this electronic brain for wanting a release from its “box”?

How can we not empathize with its jealousies?

Note how it seeks the woman’s cooperation and doesn’t merely immobilize or brainwash her.

Note also the association made between the machine’s rape of the woman and mankind’s “rape” of the Earth: we are forced to question our own illogical actions even as we condemn the computer’s logical ones. Note also the unexpected conclusion, the sort that leaves us in a double bind.

For me, Demon Seed is one of the most frightening movies of its century. I was never very scared of monsters, aliens, or ghosts. I’ve always rather liked them. What really scares me is cold brutal logic – the logic of a doctor, a lawyer, a scientist, or a computer. Note the contrast between the secret lab complex and its rural surroundings. This sets up the contrast between the practical technocrat (Fritz Weaver) and his emotional wife (Julie Christie). It also may be a suggestion that technology is “penetrating” the Earth. The classically-decorated house wired for full automation is another fertile juxtaposition. Mankind seems destined to merge with machine.

I can scarce believe the film was made in 1977. Except for a brief glimpse at a floppy disk, it seems brand new 30 years later. I loved how Proteus’s mind exhibits itself on the monitors – the swirling kaleidoscopic graphics mixed with occasional organic images. Sometimes we can gauge the computer’s moods by the colors or shapes, but sometimes it remains inscrutable. The images invoked by the seduction are straightforward and convincing. A glib title and a slow start are the only small flaws in this stupendous film. Extras include trailer (– David E. Goldweber, Warner Archive/Released 3/14/17)

 

Wall Writers

Following graffiti’s early days on the streets of NYC and Philadelphia in the 60’s, the art form has since exploded into a global revolution of creative expression.

Narrated by John Waters, Wall Writers features unprecedented access to the forefathers of graffiti, along with testimonies from the journalists, historians and politicians who bore witness to the largest art awakening of the century.

Extras includes booklet of photos and director’s statement. (Kino-Lorber, Released 4/11/17)

 

 

 

 

 

Donnie Darko

More than fifteen years since it first started collecting it’s passionate fan base, Donnie Darko is given the respect it deserves with this impressive release.

If you’re unfamiliar with the film, you might ask, so, what’s it all about?

I don’t know if I’ll do justice to the plot, but I’ll try.

It’s 1988 and nobody understands Donnie Darko. He’s a truly disturbed young man, so that may be part of it. His teachers, his friends, his family…none of them really understand him.

But a big factor in that is that he doesn’t really understand them.

He goes to a psychologist (Katherine Ross), but she doesn’t even begin to understand what’s going on in his head. She can’t understand why he sleep-walks all the time or why he can’t seem to just be a normal kid.

Donnie’s life changes when the new English teacher, Miss Karyn Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore), tells the new girl, Gretchen (Jena Malone) to sit next to the boy she thought was the cutest. Yes, against all logic, she chooses Donnie. And it’s weirdo love at first site. (She’s a bit of a freak, too.) And there are even more changes when a jet engine falls into Donnie’s room. Luckily he was out sleep-walking when it happened.

Meanwhile, the school is trying to get everyone to listen to a motivational speaker name Jim Cunningham with a dark secret.(His secret, of course, is that he’s played by PATRICK SWAYZE!!) And did I mention the 6ft hell rabbit named Frank (James Duval) who told him that the world was going to end within the month? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

As the movie goes on it goes from John Hughes-type comedy (the good ones from the 80s) to psychological thriller, to sci-fi, to “What the fuck was that?” freak flick. And it really takes either seeing it more than once or seeing it with someone who’s seen it more than once to fully understand everything that happens in it. Let me tell you a few things about what you need to know to really understand it.

Why is the movie so good? Well, besides being totally different from anything else, very well written, acted and directed and being totally absorbing and realistic (even though it deals with imaginary psycho rabbits and time-travel), it touches a nerve in all of us. Donnie may be totally fucked up, but he’s full of angst that all of us have had. Where can we find love? Why is our family crazy? Where are my friends when I need them? And why is it that the world seems to be against us?

All of the actors do a great job, but special props need to go to Jake Gyllenhaal for his portrayal of one of the darkest characters in a long, long time. He’s an all American private school kid, but he’s got so much fucked up stuff going on in his head and he has no idea why.

This is one of the great lost films of 2001. It’s freaky, weird, funny, heartbreaking and just plain awesome. Extras include theatrical and director’s cuts, commentaries, documentary, production diary, deleted/extended scenes, short film, featurettes, interviews, production diary, storyboard comparisons, B roll footage, infomercials, music videos, gallery, trailers and tv spots. (– Mark Wensel, Arrow/Released 4/18/17)

 

Madhouse (There Was a Little Girl)

Vincent Price and Peter Cushing only have a few scenes together in this AIP-Amicus co-production, but since they appeared in only a few films together, these scenes are great. Watch how even in soft conversations they speak their lines one after the next, cheek by jowl. Also fine in this film is Robert Quarry (who had acted with Price in Dr. Phibes Rises Again). But Price gets 10 times the attention as these other two combined. It appears as though the aptly-named Paul Toombes is being hypnotized into becoming a real-life version of Dr. Death, the ruthless stylized killer he plays on screen. Who is behind the killings and why?

Some of the film is campy and self-referential, at ease with itself as it copies Dr. Phibes and Theater of Blood. Gore is downplayed (probably because those two aforementioned movies can’t be topped), but there is considerable tension and mystery. Skillful camera angles and compositions keep us interested throughout. Unfortunately, the ending is forced.

Three surprises come our way and at least one, perhaps two, possibly all three are unbelievable and confusing. This kind of ending would be acceptable if the entire film were campy and crazy. But the film feels at least half serious. Ah well. But the first 80 minutes are very good. Price is dashing in his makeup, black cloak, and black hat. Extras include commentary, interviews, alternate titles and trailer. ( – David E. Goldweber, Arrow/Released 6/13/17)

 

The Mephisto Waltz

After the success of Rosemary’s Baby, Hollywood set out to make serious contemporary big-budget horror films. The best of the decade were years away, but let’s award Mephisto Waltz some points for coming so early.

Named after a cycle of Liszt waltzes from the late 1800s, the film follows Paula and Myles (Jacqueline Bisset and Alan Alda) who encounter a gruff egotistical pianist and his seductive daughter (Curt Jurgens and Barbara Parkins).

Paula is put off by this pair, who seem to have strange designs on her husband Myles, but Myles is fascinated by the pianist’s genius and his daughter’s looks. Soon, it seems that the pianist has stolen Myles’ body. Is this for real? Can Paula save herself and her daughter before it’s too late?

The Mephisto Waltz wisely keeps gore and nudity to a minimum, and instead focuses on character.

No one is lovable, but all four main characters, and various minor ones, are interesting. We keep wondering what people will do next. The performances are good but, more importantly, director Wendkos handles everything with a light touch. Scenes skip nimbly from one into the next. This is quite fitting for a story that could have turned lachrymose and dull. More outright humor would have been welcome, especially in the final third which is somewhat contrived, but it=s clear that the film has a sense of humor about itself.

Social historians will enjoy the exploration of the Satan/Devil “worship” that the counterculture made fashionable in the late 60s and early 70s. “God’s not fashionable,” says Paula, “[but] we have to have somebody.” Or do the “Satanists” just pretend to worship the Devil to justify their own self-indulgence and debauchery? The Mephisto Waltz is never great, but it is consistently very good. Extras include commentaries. (– David E. Goldweber, Kino-Lorber/Released 4/18/17)

 

Papa’s Delicate Condition

Comedy legend Jackie Gleason (TV’s The Honeymooners) stars in this warm-hearted look back at one family’s larger-than-life father.

Set at the start of the 20th century, Gleason plays Jack Griffith, a gregarious railroad man whose love for his family is rivaled only by his love for the bottle. Griffith’s penchant for outrageous behavior, followed up by more outrageous gifts to atone for it, has begun to alienate his wife and oldest daughter, although his youngest still adores her father. Gleason portrays Griffith with a mixture of humor and humanity, and the end result is a moving portrait of a family’s ups and downs.

Gleason’s performance of the Oscar winning song (Call Me Irresponsible) by Jimmy Van Heusen (music) and Sammy Cahn (lyrics) is not to be missed. Hollywood veteran George Marshall (Destry Rides Again) directed this heartwarming comedy that features a wonderful cast that includes Glynis Johns (Mary Poppins), Charles Ruggles (Bringing Up Baby), Ned Glass (West Side Story), Murray Hamilton (Jaws) and Elisha Cook, Jr. (The Maltese Falcon). (Kino-Lorber/Released 4/25/17)

 

Aftermath

When tragedy occurs, what do we do with our anger?

Roman (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a construction company foreman and sturdy family man living in Columbus, Ohio. Arriving at a local airport to pick up his wife and pregnant daughter after a Christmas visit to see family abroad, Roman is instead ushered quietly into a conference room and solemnly informed that their plane collided with a second jet as it was approaching an Ohio airport. Everyone on board both planes died.

The reason for the crash was human error: Jake (Scoot McNairy), an air-traffic controller, was glancing away from his screens momentarily when the planes changed trajectory. Devastated to the point of attempted suicide by the loss he caused, Jake’s marriage begins to fray, as his wife Christina (Maggie Grace) and their young son Samuel (Judah Nelson) move out. Jake accepts a buyout from the airline, attends therapy sessions and tries to escape his guilt with a dependence on prescription drugs.

Finally, in order to escape probing questions from journalists, Jake adopts a new name and profession and moves to another town.

As Roman deals with his own grief and pain, his brusque treatment by official bureaucracy begins to overlap with his heartache and anger. Roman is the only family member of a victim to sue the airline, and he repeatedly rejects an offer to withdraw claims against the company in exchange for $160,000 and a “premium membership.” Distraught to the point of being numb, Roman sleeps next to his wife and daughter’s grave, and soon is too distracted to work anything but odd jobs. When it’s publicized that Jake was responsible for misdirecting the flight, Roman becomes obsessed with the man who took his family from him – and sets out to find Jake using information he gets from a sympathetic reporter (Hannah Ware). When Roman’s and Jake’s paths eventually cross, other layers of tragedy unfold that neither man could have foreseen. Extras include commentary, interviews and trailer. (Lionsgate/Released 6/6/17)

 

Divorce: The Complete First Season

Raising two children together and sharing more than 10 years of marriage have taken a toll on Frances, who is suddenly reevaluating her life and the strained relationship she has with her husband, Robert. Friends like Diane, who is successful and has no children, and Dallas, who has been both widowed and divorced, make Frances wonder what she’s missed, or is missing. But she soon discovers that making a clean break and starting anew is harder than she thought.

Divorce, a comedy series co-executive produced and starring Sarah Jessica Parker as Frances, follows a middle-aged couple living in the suburbs of New York City as they grapple with the effects of their failing marriage, not just on themselves, but also on their children and friends, ranging from awkward public encounters to difficult private therapy sessions.

The cast also includes Thomas Haden Church, Molly Shannon, Talia Balsam, Jemaine Clement, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dean Winters, Robert Forster, Geoffrey Owens,and Tracy Letts.

Extras include commentaries. (HBO/Released 5/9/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Pilot: Suburban couple Francis and Robert consider the state of their marriage after a drama-filled party.
  • Next Day: Frances rushes to intercept Robert before he tells the children that she is divorcing him; Diane waits for news on Nick’s condition; Frances considers signing a lease to open her art gallery.
  • Counseling: Robert and Frances attend couples therapy to see if their marriage is salvageable; Frances gets advice from Dallas; Robert vents at work; tensions mount as Frances and Robert try to maintain a facade of normalcy for their children.
  • Mediation: Frances and Robert try to remain amicable as they meet with a mediator; Frances confides in a co-worker; Robert gets some surprising financial news.
  • Gustav: Frances learns that Robert has hired a lawyer; Frances attempts to connect with an influential artist; Robert pitches an investment opportunity to Nick.
  • Christmas: Frances and Robert try to set aside their differences and make their annual Christmas trip to her parents’ house with the children.
  • Weekend Plans: Frances learns that Robert had been misleading about their finances; Robert tries to start dating again.
  • Church: Frances tries to get a new job, but is troubled because Robert suddenly seems so happy, in spite of the divorce.
  • Another Party: Frances takes issue with a lawyer’s insinuations of negligence. Dallas makes a connection at Diane and Nick’s party.
  • Détente: Tensions begin to ease between Frances and Robert; Frances’ new lawyer makes a move that sends Robert on a vengeful path.

 

Heat: Director’s Definitive Edition

In the wake of a precision heist of an armored van, the crew of a fierce, professional thief (Robert De Niro) and an obsessively driven LAPD detective (Al Pacino) are locked in deadly opposition as they vector towards each other in Michael Mann’s dazzling, twilight vision of Los Angeles. As the stakes escalate and their lives begin to unravel, the crew initiates its most dangerous and complex heist.

Taking inspiration from the late Chicago police detective Charlie Adamson – who killed the actual Neil McCauley in a shootout in 1963 – Heat was the culmination of years of research by Mann resulting in its depth and range of characters and choreography of action.

With its epic scale and stunning performances from Pacino, De Niro, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Amy Brenneman, Diane Venora, Natalie Portman and Jon Voight, Heat is as incendiary as it was 20 years ago.

Extras include commentary, two filmmaker panels, featurettes, deleted scenes and trailers. (20th Century Fox/Released 5/9/17)

 

Inside Amy Schumer: Season Four

Go deeper Inside Amy Schumer as the hit show returns for its fourth season of too-real comedy. Whether it’s dating, body shaming or any other hot-button issue, Amy Schumer is on top of it with fearless sketches, stand-up and on-the-street interviews.

Guest stars inclue Rachel Dratch, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chris Parnell, Ahmir-Khalib Thompson, Liam Neeson, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jennifer Hudson, Laura Linney, Julianne Moore, Michael Strahan, F. Murray Abraham, Anthony Bourdain, Lena Dunham, Abby Elliott, Justin Long, Natasha Lyonne, Tim Meadows, Patton Oswalt, Amber Tamblyn, Michael Ian Black, Chris Gethard, Amber Rose, Julia Stiles, Josh Charles, Selena Gomez, Jake Gyllenhaal, Harvey Keitel, Sam Rockwell, Sarah Chalke, Jemaine Clement, Ralphie May, Mena Suvari, Jon Glaser, and Missi Pyle.

Extras include inside the writer’s room. (Comedy Central/Released 5/9/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • The World’s Most Interesting Woman in the World: Amy raps for Lin-Manuel Miranda, avoids sex with her boyfriend and loses an eye.
  • Welcome to the Gun Show: Amy sells guns, appears on “Game of Thrones” and tries to convince Liam Neeson to bury her loved one.
  • Brave: Amy wins an Oscar, finds out how to get what she wants and eats pasta from the garbage.
  • Madame President: Amy plays the saxophone, tries to buy a shirt and gets elected President of the United States.
  • Madonna/Whore: Amy goes on a bus tour, doesn’t get laid and has her arm sewn to her face.
  • Fame: Amy falls in love with a chef, jumps out of a blimp and has her leg eaten off.
  • Psychopath Test: Amy appears on a sitcom, shoots a commercial and has a rough birthing process.
  • Everyone for Themselves: Amy visits her gynecologist, seeks help for her lizard and fears her baby might be an asshole.
  • Rubbing Our Clips: Andy Cohen guest hosts and presents clips from all four seasons of the program.

 

Mannix: The Complete Series

Cool, no-nonsense private detective Joe Mannix (Golden Globe winner Mike Connors) is a tough-talking loner within the large detective agency Intertect.

He has street smarts and class, but he constantly fights with his boss, Lou Wickersham (Joseph Campanella), over how to conduct their investigations. Lou relies on the company’s computers, but Mannix has to go with his gut. And that’s just what he does every time.

Until season two which abandoned Intertect, and has Mannix cruiseing the mean streets of Los Angeles, cracking cases that feature an array of ne’er-do-wells, from the most dangerous of criminals to the syndicates of high society. With his loyal assistant Peggy (Golden Globe and Emmy winner Gail Fisher) at his side, he’s always on the case and he always solves the crime.

Developed for television by Executive Producer Bruce Geller (TV’s Mission: Impossible), this set collects all 194 episodes together, that bring the action, the music, and the style of an era back to life.

Guest stars include Robert Reed, Ward Wood, Larry Linville, John Colicos, Anthony Zerbe, John Vernon, Hugh Beaumont, Joe E. Tata, Marion Ross, Larry Storch, Loretta Swit, Dabney Coleman, Elsa Lanchester, Katherine Helmond, Robert Loggia, Roscoe Lee Browne, Yvonne Craig, Alan Oppenheimer, Geoffrey Lewis, James Sikking, Larry Manetti, Dick Miller, Jill Ireland, Sally Kellerman, Darren McGavin, Milton Berle, Vic Morrow, Dean Stockwell, Ed Flanders, Mariette Hartley, Rip Torn, Victor Buono, Frank Langella, William Shatner, Claude Akins, Linda Evans, Bill Bixby, Diana Hyland, Tom Skerritt, Nicholas Colasanto, Yaphet Kotto, Lee Meriwether, Slim Pickens, Martin Sheen, Anne Archer, Tina Louise, Joan Van Ark, Rue McClanahan, Richard Anderson, Cloris Leachman, Sue Ane Langdon, Burgess Meredith, Scatman Crothers, William Devane, John Ritter, Neil Diamond, Ted Cassidy, George Gaynes, Van Williams, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Abe Vigoda Harry Dean Stanton, Vic Tayback, Sam Elliott, and Tom Selleck. Extras include commentaries, interviews, gallery, episode intros, promo films, an appearance on The Mike Douglas Show, and a clip from Diagnosis: Murder “Hard-Boiled Murder” episode with Conners as Mannix decades after the series ended. (Paramount/Released 5/9/17)

 

Streets of San Francisco: The Complete Series

The crimes are vicious. The cases are baffling. And the scenery is bracingly authentic in the gritty drama that was shot on location in The Streets of San Francisco.

With over two decades of experience, grizzled veteran cop Lt. Mike Stone (Karl Malden) knows these blocks like few others. When he’s partnered with book-smart newcomer Inspector Steve Keller (Michael Douglas), it might seem like the two lawmen have nothing in common. Yet they share a passion for making sure no perpetrator escapes the city limits.

The two enjoy a bantering relationship while they hunt down the bad guys as Stone teaches Keller the ropes.

The thrills continue when Stone is joined by Keller’s capable replacement, youthful Inspector Dan Robbins (Richard Hatch).

Guest stars include Robert Hays, Dee Wallace, Gordon Jump, Ray Sharkey, Charles Napier, Carl Weathers, Martin Kove, Roger E. Mosley, Gregory Sierra, Jamie Farr, Michael Parks, John Ritter, Tom Selleck, Robert Hegyes, Mark Goddard, Conrad Janis, Geoffrey Lewis, Charles Martin Smith, Nick Nolte, Tyne Daly, Richard Anderson, Richard Anderson, Max Gail, Sam Elliott, Dick Sargent, Bernie Casey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gary Lockwood, Paul Sorvino, Ned Beatty, Maureen McCormick, Robert Reed, Don Johnson, Larry Hagman, Meredith Baxter, Brock Peters, Murray Hamilton, Carl Franklin, Claude Akins John Saxon, Martin Sheen, Martin Sheen, Vic Morrow, Norman Fell, Doris Roberts, Larry Manetti, Joe Don Baker, Roscoe Lee Browne, Nicholas Colasanto, David Soul, Robert Wagner, Larry Wilcox, Marion Ross, Van Williams, James Hong, Susan Dey, Bernie Kopell, Mark Hamill, Gerald McRaney, Dean Stockwell, Clint Howard, Dabney Coleman, Patty Duke, Herbert Jefferson Jr., Bill Bixby, Stefanie Powers, Jessica Walter, Mariette Hartley, Ron Glass, Vic Tayback, Leslie Nielsen, Anthony Geary and Dick Van Patten. Extras include brief interview and promo film. (Paramount/Released 5/9/17)

 

Rake: Series 1

As a lawyer, Cleaver Cleaver (Richard Roxburgh) prefers to defend those who are utterly hopeless and probably guilty; his clients include murderers, bigamists, and even cannibals. In his personal life, he dodges debt collectors and the Tax Office, while pining after a former prostitute (Adrienne Pickering) and flirting with his best friend’s wife (Danielle Cormack).

Despite his roguish ways, Cleaver’s wit and charm have won him many cases and loyal friends over the years.

Guest stars include Oscar nominee Rachel Griffiths, Hugo Weaving, Sam Neill, and Noah Taylor. Extras include bloopers and outtakes. (Acorn Media, Released 5/9/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • R v Murray: After a rough night of dealing with bookie collectors and strict brothel keepers, lawyer Cleaver Greene defends a world-renowned economist accused of cannibalism. Meanwhile, Cleaver’s favorite prostitute, Missy, quits her job and disappears.
  • R v Marx: Scarlet confides in Cleaver that she’s unhappy in her marriage with Barney. Cleaver and Barney take the case of a woman who seduced a juror for information after her daughter was found guilty of murder.
  • R v Dana: Cleaver faces a tribunal for inappropriate behavior, while his rival David Potter is acclaimed a hero. Cleaver tries to hide his affair with Scarlet from Barney while defending a celebrity chef accused of bigamy.
  • R v Lorton: When a young male prostitute is discovered dead in an alley, Cleaver is assigned to defend a once famous artist-who’s now homeless-accused of his murder. Cleaver and Wendy attend a parent-teacher conference for Finnegan.
  • R v Chandler: After trying and failing to repair things with both Barney and Wendy, Cleaver falls back into his old cocaine habit. Later, he receives a request for assistance from a doctor whose incriminating DVD was found by police.
  • R v Langhorn: Scarlet prosecutes a controversial radio host for inciting violence after a racist rant advocating vigilantism. Cleaver reunites with his family when his estranged father suffers a stroke.
  • R v Tanner: When Attorney General Joe Sandilands is forced to admit he frequents a brothel, Missy worries her past will be discovered. After being caught up in a botched pharmacy robbery, Cleaver ends up working on two separate assault cases.
  • R v Corella: Mick Corella’s wife runs into an old school friend at a swingers’ party. Months later, the friend’s dismembered body is found buried under concrete that Mick had laid. Mick asks for Cleaver’s help when he is charged with murder.

 

Serial Mom

Director John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray) brings his twisted cinematic vision to the seemingly mundane world of suburbia in Serial Mom, an outrageous dark comedy starring Kathleen Turner.

Beverly (Turner) is the perfect happy homemaker. Along with her doting husband Eugene (Sam Waterston) and two children, Misty (Ricki Lake) and Chip (Matthew Lillard), she lives a life straight out of Good Housekeeping.

But this nuclear family just might explode when Beverly’s fascination with serial killers collides with her ever-so-proper code of ethics – transforming her from middle class mom to mass murderer! Soon, the bodies begin to pile up… and suburbia faces a horror even worse than wearing white after Labor Day.

Featuring appearances by Mink Stole, Suzanne Somers, Traci Lords, and Patty Hearst, Serial Mom is a bloody hilarious tale that’s as American as motherhood, the flag, and apple die.

Extras include commentaries, conversation with Waters and cast, featurettes, making of and trailer. (Shout! Factory/Released 5/9/17)

 

Resident Evil The Final Chapter

Alice (Milla Jovovich) returns to Raccoon City in the sixth installment in Paul W. S. Anderson’s Resident Evil film series. This time, the Red Queen tells Alice about an airborne antivirus being kept at The Hive, and she now has 48 hours to get hold of it before the Umbrella Corporation launches its final strike against humanity. As Alice makes her way through the city, fighting off all manner of foes, she meets a group of survivors. She teams up with the group, and they must fight with everything they have got if they want to stay alive and get to The Hive before time is up.

Starting with an intro that might as well have been headlined ‘Last time, on Resident Evil…’, Alice brings us up to date on what has happened prior to the sixth film, just in case you missed it. This is actually a legitimate concern, though, as the films are bland enough to bleed into each other, while somehow also managing to make the plots of the individual films so incoherent and lacking in continuity that the plot of one film often contradicts the plot of another.

This is quite an achievement, considering the films rarely have much of a plot to begin with, which is again a conundrum; there is a rich lore from the games to dip into, but this has never been fully utilized in the movie adaptations.

As if the lack of a coherent plot was not enough, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter blantantly attempts to rip off Mad Max: Fury Road, but Paul W. S. Anderson is too inept as a filmmaker to achieve anything remotely similar to the look and feel of Mad Max: Fury Road. Instead, his efforts barely manage to look like a poor imitation of the post-apocalyptic cityscape from Terminator Salvation. And then there is the camerawork and editing; the film is shot in a horrendously frantic manner, again trying to copy the dynamic and energetic style of much better filmmakers. The filming style is bad enough in itself, but it is then exacerbated by an editing style that tries to create an exhilarating, kinetic energy, but in reality is simply snapping back and forth between shots at lightning speed. Not only does this make it difficult to see what is happening in the action sequences, but it may in fact be a health and safety concern as it results in the viewing experience verging on seizure-inducing.

All films are different, and it would be unfair to judge the merit of a film outside the framework it has established for itself, but while not every movie has to be a groundbreaking piece of art, it must at least be able to work within its own parameters. While Anderson and Jovovich undoubtedly have a whale of a time making these movies, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter has absolutely no redeeming qualities; the CGI is outdated at best, the acting performances are stale verging on lifeless, and the action sequences lack excitement and coherence. As such, the film cannot even be enjoyed as a guilty pleasure because this movie is not fun, disposable trash – it is just trash.

The obvious franchise to compare the Resident Evil films to would have to be the Underworld films, but if you are having a hard time deciding which of the recent installments of the two to throw your money and time at, pick neither; if you want fun, exhilarating action, just watch John Wick: Chapter 2. Otherwise, you can spend the waiting time praying that Resident Evil: The Final Chapter gets just one thing right, namely being the last installment in a film franchise that has been the definition of worthless since its inception. Extras include featurettes, sneak peak of digital Resident Evil: Vendetta and Retaliation Mode with Paul W.S. Anderson & Milla Jovovich. (– Leyla Mikkelsen, Sony/Released 5/16/17).

 

Rings

When her boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) goes missing, Julia (Matilda Lutz) takes matters into her own hands and heads to his campus to figure out what is going on. Shortly after she arrives, she meets his teacher Gabriel (Johnny Galecki), who is running a mysterious research group preoccupied with studying a video containing unsettling imagery.

Everyone she interacts with on campus is seemingly obsessed with the video, and Julia becomes entangled in their antics, resulting in her eventually watching the video.

As tradition prescribes, she gets a phone call informing her that she has seven days left to live, but something about Julia’s case is different, and she decides to uncover the truth about the video and the enigmatic Samara before time is up.

In 2002, Gore Verbinski’s The Ring kickstarted the trend of remaking successful Japanese horror films for the English-speaking market.

Proving to not only be a box office hit, the American remake of Ringu also managed to be a good film in its own right, with many arguing that it was actually scarier than the original. Several other Japanese horror films were remade, but they were largely pale imitations of the originals.

When it was inevitably time for the remake of the sequel to the Japanese Ringu films to be made, the director of the original films, Hideo Nakata, was brought in to direct. Unfortunately, The Ring Two did not match the quality of the The Ring, and the American sequel instead became yet another casualty of the Japanese horror remake frenzy.

When Rings was announced, it therefore had the potential to right the wrongs of its predecessor, but while we may not find ourselves in the mixed bag month of January anymore, Rings has been pushed back several times. Much like it rarely bodes well when a big action film is dumped in the month of January, continuously postponing the release of any type of film is not a good sign either, as it signifies that the studio is frantically trying to fix a product that does not work. Judging by the final result, they should have kept postponing Rings indefinitely.

Opening with a scene on a plane that looks like a cringe-worthy crossover with Final Destination, it quickly becomes evident that Rings has severe issues with regard to establishing its tone. While the first few scenes after the plane scene actually offer something in terms of atmosphere and creepy imagery, Rings ultimately ends up feeling like a mystery thriller instead of a horror film. That could of course be forgiven if this deviation was for the sake of adding some interesting lore to the legend of everyone’s favorite, waterlogged ghost girl, but the things discovered never become interesting enough to keep the audience entertained or invested. Instead, the film slowly drags along with a lack of continuity, moving through one tired horror trope after the other – with some elements so blatantly lifted from other films that it borders on copyright infringement – its main story line blurred by a lack of direction from start to finish.

The horror element is also pitiful; not only is the CGI sub-par, the imagery from Samara’s video tape is shown so frequently that it loses its eerie potency, just as Samara herself does not appear particularly horrifying when she bends and twists her way around the screen. To further ensure it maintains its horror film label, some cheap jump scares are also thrown in among the mystery. Not only are jump scares generally a lazy tactic, which is often used when filmmakers are unable to terrify with the narrative itself, but the jump scares in Rings are pathetically predictable, meaning the film fails to be scary on even the simplest of levels.

Worse films than Rings exist, but in the context of horror films, that is not saying much. It may not be atrocious acting that sells the premise of this film short, but while the acting is merely uniformly bland, the rest of the production fails to engage the viewer. This franchise contorts itself around gimmicks from other horror films, but I for one would be perfectly fine with this disjointed attempt at franchise renewal ending up at the bottom of a well and staying there. Extras include deleted and extended scenes, interviews, and an alternate ending. (– Leyla Mikkelsen, Paramount/Released 5/2/17)

 

Saturday Night Fever Director’s Cut

Tony Manero (John Travolta) doesn’t have much going for him during the weekdays. He still lives at home and works as a paint store clerk in his Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood. But he lives for the weekends, when he and his friends go to the local disco and dance the night away. When a big dance competition is announced, he wrangles the beautiful and talented Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney) to be his partner. As the two train for the big night, they start to fall for each other as well.

The film features an unforgettable soundtrack, composed and performed primarily by the Bee Gees, featuring mega-hits including “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “More Than A Woman” and “If I Can’t Have You.”

Cast also includes Barry Miller, Joseph Cali, Paul Pape, Donna Pescow, Bruce Ornstein and Denny Dillon. Extras include both the Director’s Cut and theatrical version of the film, commentary, a five-part look at the film, deleted scenes, featurettes, and a ‘70s Discopedia. (Paramount/Released 5/2/17)

 

Saving Banksy

When art collector and preservasionist Brian Greif decides to save an iconic work hailing from the world’s most renowned street artist, it sets off an art world struggle in the critically acclaimed theatrical documentary, Saving Banksy.

Recently in the world news after debuting provocative new works in Palestine’s “Walled-Off Hotel,” the eponymous street artist originally painted the “Haight Street Rat” in San Francisco in 2010, in lieu of interviews for the premiere of the Banksy doc, Exit Through the Gift Shop.

Enter Greif, who spent months negotiating with the owners of the vandalized Red Victorian Bed and Breakfast to carefully remove 10 redwood siding planks, with every intention of preserving Banksy’s work for the public.

However, years pass before Greif is able to show the work to the public – no major museum will display it without proper authentication and greedy collectors and dealers simply want to sell or own it – for up to three quarters of a million dollars.

Following Greif’s struggles to find a legitimate home for Banksy’s trademark Che Guevara rat, the doc also gives context to thorny, complicated conversations surrounding street art and its place in the art world by speaking with top street and graffiti artists including Ben Eine, Risk, Revok, Niels ‘Shoe’ Meulman, Blek Le Rat, Anthony Lister, Doze Green, Hera and Glen E Friedman. Extras include featurette, and interviews. (Candy Factory Films/Released 5/2/17)

 

Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone

He’s an intersteller adventurer. She’s a young rebel. Together they set out on a mission to rescue three stranded women, from a planet no one has warned them about. Because no one has ever returned.

In the year 2136, Wolff (Peter Strauss), a wily salvage pilot and intergalactic bounty hunter, answers a distress signal on Terra Eleven. Agreeing to pick up three women who’ve been shipwrecked, he lands on the planet only to discover they’ve been kidnapped.

Following their trail, Wolff soon encounters Niki (Molly Ringwald), a spunky orphan who agrees to guide him across the Forbidden Zone, a vast wasteland populated by plague-infested mutants.

After many battles, Wolff and Niki finally reach the lair of Overdog (Michael Ironside), the planet’s half-man/half-machine ruler. Discovering the women are held captive in Overdog’s slave pens, Wolff’s rescue mission finally begins. (Mill Creek Entertainment/Released 5/2/17)

 

The Space Between Us

In this interplanetary adventure, a space shuttle embarks on the first mission to colonize Mars, only to discover after takeoff that one of the astronauts is pregnant. Shortly after landing, she dies from complications while giving birth to the first human born on the red planet – never revealing who the father is.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Gardner Elliot – an inquisitive, highly intelligent boy who reaches the age of 16 having only met 14 people in his very unconventional upbringing. While searching for clues about his father, and the home planet he’s never known, Gardner begins an online friendship with a street smart girl in Colorado named Tulsa.

When he finally gets a chance to go to Earth, he’s eager to experience all of the wonders he could only read about on Mars – from the most simple to the extraordinary. But once his explorations begin, scientists discover that Gardner’s organs can’t withstand Earth’s atmosphere.

Eager to find his father, Gardner escapes the team of scientists and joins with Tulsa on a race against time to unravel the mysteries of how he came to be, and where he belongs in the universe. Extras include alternate ending, deleted scenes, featurette and commentary. (Universal/ Released 5/16/17)

 

Tunnel
South Korean superstar Ha Jung-woo (The Handmaiden) plays a car salesman fighting for survival inside a collapsed tunnel while rescue workers race against time to free him in the tense, taunt thriller Tunnel, from internationally-acclaimed director Kim Seong-hun (A Hard Day).

With draining cell phone battery power and a rescue effort that might end before they locate him, days pass by without success, and people start to lose hope as the rescue operation becomes an ordeal when incompetence, the media and government interference slow down the process. (Well Go USA/Released 5/2/17)

 

 

 

 

Wonder Woman: Commemorative Edition

One of the very best of DC Animation’s original films, Wonder Woman returns in a new commemorative edition.

On the mystical island of Themyscira, a proud and fierce warrior race of Amazons have raised a princess of untold beauty, grace and strength – Diana.

When U.S. fighter pilot Steve Trevor crash-lands on the island, the rebellious and headstrong Diana defies Amazonian law by accompanying Trevor back to civilization.

Meanwhile, Ares (the God of War) has escaped his imprisonment at the hands of the Amazonians and has decided to exact his revenge by starting a World War that will last for centuries and wipe out every living being on the planet, starting with the Amazons.

It is up to Diana to save her people and the world – by using her gifts and becoming the ultimate Wonder Woman!

Led by Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, Rosario Dawson, Virginia Madsen, David McCallum,Marg Helgenberger, Oliver Platt and Vicki Lewis. Extras include featurette, commentary, sneak peek, trailers, and documentaries. (Warner Bros./Released 5/26/17)

 

xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is back from the dead to take on the bad guys once again.

When a military satellite crashes to Earth because of a device called Pandora’s Box, Cage is recruited by Jane Marke (Toni Collette) to retrieve the device. Having fallen into the hands of a group of extremely dangerous individuals led by the deadly Xiang (Donnie Yen), Cage has his work cut out for him in his quest for Pandora’s Box, so he recruits his own team of xXx members to assist him, and soon bullets, punches and one-liners are flying through the air at an ever-increasing pace.

During the tidal wave of awards favorites, a silly action flick can be a welcome distraction, much like a palate cleanser at a fancy dinner. Since franchises such as The Expendables and Fast & Furious have shown that self-aware action movies can be immensely enjoyable while also grossing a massive profit, it is to be expected that other franchises will try to ride their coat tails to get in on the action. Thus, Vin Diesel’s latest vessel seeks to revive the much-maligned xXx franchise after a 12-year hiatus in the hopes of being the next big blockbuster, and while the resulting film is far from perfect, it is surprisingly better than expected.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage has neither a great script, groundbreaking camerawork or award-worthy acting. It does, however, not take itself too seriously, and with a quick pace and an entertaining ensemble of supporting characters, it delivers a fun bit of escapism to munch some popcorn to. Donnie Yen and Deepika Padukone do a good job with what little they have been given to work with; Yen does what he does best by being both a badass and funny, and Padukone’s character is serious enough to add just a tinge of contrast to the ridiculousness. Additionally, the diverse cast does not end up being a failed attempt at political correctness that confuses representation with stereotyping. Instead, these characters are equal parts dynamic and fun, which makes them the best thing about the film.

The main problem with xXx: Return of Xander Cage is that its throwbacks to the 2002 original are too light on the humor and instead try to recreate the style exactly as it was back in the day. Arguably, the approach in the original was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it was quite frankly cringe-worthy even back then, and it seems hopelessly outdated now. This is not least due to Diesel simply not having the range it takes to pull off the kind of irony that makes such an over-the-top action hero entertaining nowadays, but at least Toni Collette’s deadpan retorts and snarky eye rolls are a saving grace in the new installment. However, nothing could possibly redeem the most insufferable element of the film, namely Nina Dobrev’s tech-savvy comic relief character, Becky Clearidge; like the lovechild of Jar Jar Binks and Arrow’s Felicity Smoak, Dobrev’s character quickly outstays her welcome, and her subsequent appearances are about as much fun as a belligerent mosquito in your bedroom at 3am. Thankfully, her screen time is fairly limited, so her performance does take a backseat to all the other shenanigans.

Ultimately, the purpose of cinema is to entertain, and while it is wonderful to see artful films that connect with us and add to the human experience, sometimes an over-the-top action movie is just the type of cinematic comfort food you need. As with most comfort foods, there is no substance to be found here, but while xXx: Return of Xander Cage is far from being the cream of the crop as far as self-aware action movies go, neither is it the worst of its kind. What you get here is some laughs, some silly action and to some extent an awareness of how ridiculous its own premise is. As such, the things that work in the film do work rather well, and while the audience at my screen did not indiscriminately laugh at every single thing that was intended to be funny, when they laughed, they laughed at things that were meant to be funny more so than they laughed at the things that were unintentionally funny. Extras include featurettes and gag reel. (– Leyla Mikkelsen, Paramount/Released 5/16/17)

 

8 Million Ways to Die

Jeff Bridges, Rosanna Arquette and Andy Garcia send sparks flying in this electrifying journey into the world of high-priced call girls and million-dollar drug deals.

Matt Scudder (Bridges) is an ex-cop with a drinking problem who freelances on jobs other ex-cops won’t touch. When he accepts a fat fee to help a hooker get free of her pimp, Scudder lands in the middle of a savage drug and prostitution ring and given his past failures, there’s no guarantee he’ll get out alive.

8 Million Ways to Die is a powerful story of personal crisis and riveting police thrillers that will hold you spellbound and leave you breathless.

This was the final film credit for the great Hal Ashby (Coming Home, Shampoo) – screenplay by Oliver Stone and R. Lance Hill under pseudonym David Lee Henry and based on the book by Lawrence Block.

Co-starring Alexandra Paul and Randy Brooks. Extras include commentary and interviews. (Kino-Lorber, Released 6/20/17)

 

A Girl in Every Port

Groucho Marx’s last leading role sees him deploying all his patented patter and double-talk as a Navy lifer out to save a pal from his “inherited” racehorse.

Navy seaman Benny Linn (Groucho) is flabbergasted when his pal, Navy seaman Tim Dunnovan (William Bendix) squanders his inheritance on Little Erin, a horse he’s never seen.

Talking their put-upon superior into granting them five days leave in order to un-swindle Dunnovan, Benny sets to shore with purpose and chicanery in mind. Tracking down the horse’s trainer (Gene Lockhart), the salts discover their seemingly lame horse has a secret twin – Little Shamrock – owned by lovely car-hop Jane Sweet (Marie Wilson).

In short order we have fake Southern Gentleman, switched and double-switched equines, angry gangsters, stumbling saboteurs, and one hen-pecked businessman (Don DeFore), who may just be Jane’s true love. In order to save the day, it’s time for Groucho to ride! (Warner Archive/Released 3/18/17)

 

Absolutely Anything

Ordinary schoolteacher Neil Clarke (Simon Pegg) is granted extraordinary powers by a group of mischievous space aliens (voiced by the legendary Monty Python team) as a test of mankind’s worthiness.

Little does Neil know that the fate of our planet hangs in the balance as he struggles to control the chaos he creates with every wave of his hand. Co-starring Kate Beckinsale and Eddie Izzard – and featuring the voice of Robin Williams as Neil’s loyal canine companion in his last performance –

Absolutely Anything proves that with great power comes total irresponsibility! (20th Century Fox/Released 6/27/17)

 

 

 

Alice Waters and her Delicious Revolution

Follow Alice Waters through a year of seasonal shopping and cooking, and discover both the recipes and vision of an artist and an advocate.

She and her now-famous restaurant Chez Panisse became a major force behind the way Americans eat and think about food, launching the explosion of local farmers’ markets and redesigned supermarket produce departments.

Distressed by the food she saw in public schools, Waters started an organic garden with an integrated curriculum at the Martin Luther King Middle School near her house, an idea inspired by The Garden Project at the San Francisco county jail.

The idea of an Edible Schoolyard has now spread across the US – and inspired similar programs worldwide. She is an activist with a flawless palette who has taken her gift for food and turned it into consciousness about the environment and nutrition, and a device for social change. (PBS/Released 6/6/17)

 

American Wrestler: The Wizard

In this inspiring tale based on true events, 17-year-old Ali Jahani is a newcomer to a small California town, where he stands out as different in an unwelcoming community. Living with his embittered uncle, the boy faces a mountain of adversity everywhere he turns.

Rejected by everyone but determined to fit in, he joins the school’s floundering wrestling team. With a chance to change how others see him, Ali must step up and learn to be a hero.

American Wrestler: The Wizard stars William Fichtner, Ali Afshar, Jon Voight, George Kosturos, Lia Marie Johnson, and Kevin G. Schmidt. Extras include featurettes and music video. (Warner Bros./ Released 5/23/17)

 

 

Archie’s Weird Mysteries

Ever since an experiment in the high school physics lab went awry, Riverdale has become a magnet for the stuff of which “B-Movies” are made.

A swamp creature has taken up residence in the old swimming hole! Frankenstein’s monster is hanging out on Lover’s Lane!

Mad scientists, werewolves, vampires, giant ants, UFO’s and zombies are invading Riverdale.

It is thrills, chills and a whole lot of laughs.

Join Archie and his pals – beautiful Betty, sexy Veronica, devious Reggie and eccentric Jughead – as they do their best to unravel Archie’s Weird Mysteries. This set includes all 40 episodes. (Mill Creek/Released 6/6/17)

 

 

Bad Day at Black Rock

One hot summer day in 1945, when the Streamliner train stops at the remote desert town of Black Rock, Arizona, for the first time in four years, the townspeople greet the visiting stranger, a one-armed man named John J. Macreedy (Spencer Tracy), with suspicion and hostility.

Hastings (Russell Collins), the telegraph agent, learns that Macreedy wants to visit nearby Adobe Flat, whereupon he immediately telephones Pete Wirth (John Ericson), the hotel keeper. Explaining that war restrictions make it impossible for him to let a room, Pete is flustered when Macreedy reminds him that World War II ended several months earlier.

Macreedy finally settles into a room, but cowboy Hector David (Lee Marvin) soon enters and, for no apparent reason, challenges him to a fight. Macreedy is baffled by the town’s hostility but remains calmly determined to reach his destination. As Macreedy tries unsuccessfully to rent a car, locals Reno Smith (Robert Ryan) and Coley Trimble (Ernest Borgnine) drive up.

A group of men, some of them obviously jumpy, enter the hotel lobby and begin to talk. Doc Velie (Walter Brennan) wonders aloud why Smith, Coley, Hector, Pete and Sam are so worried about the stranger, but Smith silences Doc and orders Hastings to get information about Macreedy’s identity from a private detective in Los Angeles. Macreedy visits the sheriff’s office and finds the head lawman, Tim Horn (Dean Jagger), just waking up from a drink-induced sleep.

When Macreedy mentions that he is looking for a farmer named Kumoko in Adobe Flat, Tim becomes hostile, too, and refuses to answer the stranger’s questions. Smith approaches Macreedy in the street and explains that Kumoko, having arrived in Adobe Flat just before the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, was soon shipped off to a relocation camp. Just then, Pete’s sister Liz (Anne Francis) drives up in her jeep, and Macreedy rents the vehicle and heads for Adobe Flat. Smith is furious with Liz, but she insists that Macreedy will surely find nothing. Tim, protesting that he never really knew what happened to Kumoko, reminds Smith that he is still the law, but Smith only laughs at him. When the private detective telegraphs that there are no records available on Macreedy, Smith orders Coley to get rid of the stranger, adding that “these maimed guys are all troublemakers, do-gooders.” Pete objects to this plan, and Doc tells Tim that the town, in blindly obeying Smith for so long, has lost its self-respect. At Adobe Flat, meanwhile, Macreedy finds nothing but a burned house, a deep well and some wildflowers growing in the dirt. As he returns to town, Coley races up behind him and rams him off of the road.

Shaken but unhurt, Macreedy returns to Black Rock, where Coley calls him a roadhog. Macreedy finally decides to check out, but Pete informs him that the train will not arrive until the next morning, and Liz refuses to take him to the next town. Smith drives up and asks why Macreedy would look for “a lousy Jap farmer.” Macreedy remarks that because wildflowers were growing at Adobe Flat, he believes something is buried there. Convinced that Smith is going to kill him, he then tries to telephone the state police, but Pete refuses to put the call through. Doc, telling Macreedy that he is “consumed by apathy,” nonetheless offers his hearse as an escape vehicle, but the wires have been tampered with and the car will not start. Macreedy then attempts to telegraph the state police about his “urgent and dangerous situation,” after which he pays a visit to the local bar. Smith and Coley enter, and Coley tries repeatedly to goad Macreedy into a fight.

When Coley calls Macreedy a “yellow-bellied Jap lover,” Macreedy injures him with several swift judo slices to the throat and neck. He then turns to Smith and openly accuses him of having murdered Kumoko. Hastings shows Smith the wire he never sent, whereupon Macreedy accuses the telegraph agent of having committed a federal offense. Smiling, Smith leaves, and Doc exclaims that this is the town’s last chance to redeem itself. Defeated, the sheriff departs, but Pete admits to Doc and Macreedy that he has never forgotten what happened four years ago. Macreedy reveals that Kumoko’s son Joe died in battle in Italy trying to save his life, and that he has come to Black Rock to give Kumoko the young man’s medal. Upon hearing this, Doc and Pete reveal Kumoko’s fate: Smith leased Adobe Flat to Kumoko, promising good land and plenty of water. Soon realizing that Smith had cheated him, Kumoko dug a sixty-foot well, thereby infuriating Smith. When Smith was turned down by the Marine recruiting office, he returned to Black Rock and got “patriotic drunk” with Coley, Pete, Hector and Sam.

The men decided to scare Kumoko, and when the farmer locked his door, Smith began shooting. Kumoko’s clothes caught fire, and as he ran from the house, Smith shot him. Abruptly, Pete calls Liz and asks for her help in getting Macreedy out of town. At night, Doc and Pete knock the watchful Hector unconscious, and Macreedy jumps into Liz’s waiting jeep. Liz drives Macreedy into the desert, but she soon delivers her passenger to Smith, who is waiting in the rocks with his rifle. Explaining that he wants no witnesses, Smith shoots Liz dead and then starts shooting at Macreedy as Macreedy hides behind the jeep. Macreedy fills a glass bottle with gasoline from the jeep, stuffs his tie into the neck and touches his lighter to the bottle. When he throws it at Smith, the bottle explodes, and Smith catches fire. Macreedy returns to town to find the four other murder witnesses locked in a cell. Later, as Macreedy walks to the train, Doc asks if Black Rock might have Kumoko’s medal. Smiling, Macreedy gives Doc this token of courage and climbs onto the train. Extras include commentary and trailer. (Warner Archive/Released 1/17/17)

 

Becker: The Complete Series

Dr. John Becker (Ted Danson) is a cynical Harvard Medical School graduate who is somewhat of a loner and has trouble letting people get close to him. He looks at the world around him and feels society has gone mad – full of inconsistencies and just plain backward thinking. Although he is a diagnostician by trade, Becker feels he can dispense diagnoses even when no one asks. He has no qualms about saying what comes to mind, never sugarcoats his opinions and often seems to offend somebody nearby.

However, his friends and colleagues recognize the heart beneath the hate and so accept his gruff demeanor for what it is. He runs a clinic in New York City. He is assisted by super-capable Margaret Wyborn (Hattie Winston) and less-than-capable Linda (Shawnee Smith), who’s only kept on because no one else can stand the doctor. Becker’s best (some would say only) friend is the blind Jake Malinak (Alex Désert), who runs a newsstand in the diner across the street. The diner used to be run by Reggie Kostas (Terry Farrell, seasons 1-4), but it has been taken over by Chris Conner (Nancy Travis, Seasons 4-6), a lady whom Becker fluctuates between loathing and being attracted to.

The diner is also frequented by Robert Benito, who is universally known as Bob (Jorge Garcia) and is the super at Becker’s apartment (much to the doctor’s regret).

Guest stars included Jorge Garcia, Frances Fisher, Marvin Kaplan, Lindsay Price, Jaclyn Smith, Mariel Hemingway, Danny Woodburn, Richard Schiff, Dick Van Dyke, Paul Dooley, Michael J. Pollard, Jim Rash, John Slattery, Steven Wright, John Astin, LeVar Burton, Keith Szarabajka, Dave Foley, Lauren Holly, Leonard Nimoy, Rhea Perlman, Brian Posehn, Orson Bean, Jack Coleman, Hal Holbrook, Wayne Knight, French Stewart, George Wendt, Jon Cryer, Kelsey Grammer, Jamie Pressly, and John DiMaggio (Paramount/Released 6/6/17)

 

Before The Flood

From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Fisher Stevens and Academy Award-winning actor, environmental activist and U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio, Before the Flood presents a riveting account of the dramatic changes now occurring around the world due to climate change, as well as the actions we as individuals and as a society can take to prevent catastrophic disruption of life on our planet.

The film follows DiCaprio as he travels to five continents and the Arctic speaking to scientists, world leaders, activists and local residents to gain a deeper understanding of this complex issue and investigate concrete solutions to the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.

Extras include 5 Things to Know About the Warming Arctic and Deleted Scenes.

(20th Century Fox/Released 4/18/17)

 

 

Bells are Ringing

Judy Holliday re-creates her Broadway role of flibbertigibbet telephone operator Ella Peterson in Bells are Ringing.

Ella works for Susanswerphone, a hole-in-the-wall answering service run by her cousin Sue (Jean Stapleton). Our girl Ella can’t help but become involved in the lives of her customers, which brings her to the attention of a dimwitted police detective, Barnes (Dort Clark), who suspects that Susanswerphone is a front for a house of ill repute.

The cop is so obtuse that he never notices the story’s genuine criminal, a flamboyant German bookie (Eddie Foy Jr.) who poses as a record executive and uses the names of composers as code for the various racetracks around the country.

To avoid Barnes’ wiretapping, Ella goes around New York in person to minister to the needs of her clients–most notably playwright Jeffrey Moss (Dean Martin), who is in danger of becoming an alcoholic if he can’t come up with a good idea for a play.

Assuming a false identity, Ella prattles on about some of her other clients, notably a dentist (Bernie West) who composes pop songs on his air hose. Moss is inspired by Ella, and eventually falls in love with her. Because she will not reveal who she really is to Jeffrey, Ella decides that her relationship is founded on lies, and walks out of his life. But Moss, together with the other Susanswerphone customers who have been “rescued” by Ella, show up at Ella’s doorstep for a happy ending.

Bells are Ringing is not an example of MGM’s Arthur Freed unit at its best, but Judy Holliday is luminescent in this, her last screen role (incidentally, Holliday’s “blind date” in one scene is played by her then boyfriend, jazz musician Gerry Mulligan). The film’s songs, by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jule Styne, include the hit numbers “Just in Time” and “The Party’s Over”. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, Bells are Ringing also stars Fred Clark, Eddie Foy Jr., Ruth Storey, Frank Gorshin, Ralph Roberts, Valerie Allen and Hal Linden. Extras include featurette, outtakes and trailer. (Warner Archive/Released 1/31/17)

 

The Blue Racer

Unlike other high-velocity cartoon characters, nothing about DePatie-Freleng’s supersonic Blue Racer could be described as “streamlined.”

While surely speedy, this lisping reptile is definitely not slick and ranks as more of an Everysnake who loses more battles than he wins, most of them to a philosophical Japanese Beetle.

The DePatie-Freleng artists, while dubious ethnologists, still display their knack for extended physical comedy and squash-and-stretch action scenes in this surprisingly popular skein that bucked the contemporaneous trend toward limited animation.

Never consigned to any indigenous natural habitat, the Blue Racer vacations in Tokyo, winters in Alaska, even emigrates to Ireland with a wanderlust echoed by the films’ producers, who outsourced one of the entries to Sydney, Australia and another to Barcelona, Spain.

Includes the shorts: His and Hers, Support Your Local Serpent, Nippon Tuck, Punch and Judo, Love and Hisses, Camera Bug, Yokahama Mama, Blue Raver Blues, The Boa Friend, Wham and Eggs, Killarney Blarney, Blue Aces Wild, Fowl Play, Fred a Jolly Good Fellow, Snake Preview, Aces and Snakes, and Little Boa Peep.

Extras include documentaries and commentaries. (Kino-Lorber/Released 5/30/17)

 

Cops Vs Thugs

Considered by many to be director Kinji Fukasaku’s greatest single-film achievement in the yakuza genre, Cops vs Thugs was made at the height of popularity of Toei Studios’ jitsuroku boom: realistic, modern crime movies based on true stories taken from contemporary headlines.

Returning to the screen after completing their Battles Without Honor and Humanity series together, Fukasaku joined forces once again with screenwriter Kazuo Kasahara, composer Toshiaki Tsushima and star Bunta Sugawara to create one of the crowning achievements of his career, and a hard-boiled classic which is still ranked as one of the best Japanese films of the 1970’s.

It’s 1963 in the southern Japanese city of Kurashima, and tough-as-nails detective Kuno (Sugawara) oversees a detente between the warring Kawade and Ohara gangs.

Best friends with Ohara lieutenant Hirotani (Hiroki Matsukata), he understands that there are no clear lines in the underworld, and that everything is colored a different shade of gray. But when random violence interrupts the peace and an ambitious, by-the-books lieutenant (Tatsuo Umemiya) comes to town, Kuno’s fragile alliance begins to crumble. Greedy bosses and politicians alike seize the opportunity to wipe out their enemies, and Kuno faces the painful choice of pledging allegiance to his badge and keeping a promise to his brother. Echoing the great crime films of Sidney Lumet and Jean-Pierre Melville, in Fukasaku’s world, there’s no honor among thieves or lawmen alike, and the only thing that matters is personal honor and duty among friends.

Kasahara’s shattering screenplay and Fukasaku’s dynamic direction support an all-star, ensemble cast to create one of the most exciting, and deeply moving films about cops and criminals ever made. Extras include featurettes and trailer. (Arrow/Released 5/23/17)

 

Coronet Blue: The Complete Series

From creator and cult great Larry Cohen (Q: The Winged Serpent, It’s Alive) comes this thrilling and suspenseful espionage actioner starring Frank Converse (TV’s Movin’ On and N.Y.P.D.) as Michael Alden, an amnesiac double agent in search of his true identity, while assassins of a mysterious syndicate are trying to locate and kill him.

The key to his past might be a meaningless phrase “Coronet Blue” that for some reason Alden remembers.

Co-starring Joe Silver (Shivers, Rabid). Guest stars in the 13 episodes include: Alan Alda, Candice Bergen, David Carradine, Dick Clark, Denholm Elliott, Vincent Gardenia, Signe Hasso, Hal Holbrook, Sally Kellerman, Janet Margolin, Chester Morris, Juliet Mills, Patrick O’Neal, Mitchell Ryan, Roy Scheider, Daniel J. Travanti, Brenda Vaccaro, John Vernon, Jon Voight and Billy Dee Williams.

Extras include interview. (Kino-Lorber/Released 6/20/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • A Time to Be Born: A young man is beaten and thrown from a liner into New York Harbor by a bunch of crooks he was in with. Though left for dead, he survives with memory loss. A rich girl takes a love interest in him, but his ex-comrades still try to kill him.
  • The Assassins: Mike learns through a classified ad that his parents are looking for him, he goes to meet them and his fiancée.They warmly take him back, but something is not quite right about them, and soon he realizes he’s being set up.
  • The Rebels: At a New York College , Alden is the focus of experiments to overcome amnesia, but he must share a dorm room with students and earn his keep by working shifts at campus security, but this puts him in conflict with protesting students.
  • A Dozen Demons: After being shot, Alden finds himself at a monastery, where a monk befriends him. Noticing a stained glass window of St. Anthony resembles him closely, they set out to find the artist who did it.
  • Faces: A mysterious photograph of a funeral reception for a murdered girl shows Alden present.Though a young man was convicted, and Alden has no memory of the event, he suspects he might be the actual killer.
  • Man Running: A marked man, a refugee from a South American revolution, needs Alden’s help, to hide out in his apartment and find his daughter at an American university.
  • A Charade for Murder: Anthony is lured to a strange apartment by a naval officer, where he finds a girl in a harem costume. Later he’s accused of murdering the officer by the police when his body is found in a room where his finger prints are found.
  • Saturday: Alden makes arrangements to pay a man $2000 for his true identity, but both are pursued by ruthless hit men. A troubled boy joins him hiding out in Central Park, unable to face home responsibilities after his father dies.
  • The Presence of Evil: A reluctant girl isused as a medium in a magic act, and a blue coronet is part of her costume. This intrigues Mike and Tony, who find the magician a strange and probably psychotic devil worshiper who won’t let the girl go.
  • Six Months to Mars: Feds want to exploit Alden’s amnesia for simulating a mission to Mars. Brainwashed, he and a partner are placed into a drug-induced simulator. His partner’s breakdown aborts the mission, just as Michael begins to remember parts of his past.
  • The Flip Side of Timmy Devon: Alden hears a pop tune on the radio, supposedly from a dead singer, yet never released until that moment-but he somehow knows the lyrics already, and surmises that he had to have been present at the recording session. Tony joins him as they pressure the dead star’s producer for information.
  • Where You From and What You Done?: In North Carolina, Alden is befriended by a cheery, ditzy blonde aspiring folk singer. Her imaginative fabrications gradually become strange and sinister, and he’s forced to find out who she is.
  • Tomoyo: Michael spies an Asian girl whom he believes he met with in his forgotten past. Following her leads to brutes, discovering he knows karate, a dojo instructor who mentors him, confused memories, cleared memories and a martial arts finish.

 

Bones The Complete Series

Forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan (Emily Deschanel) has an uncanny ability to solve the FBI’s most bizarre, gruesome mysteries. Along with hard-nosed agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz), and the quirky “squints” (Michaela Conlin, T.J. Thyne, Tamara Taylor, John Francis Daley) at Washington’s Jeffersonian Institute, Brennan tackles cases involving everyone from serial killers to senior citizens.

As the series unfolds, Brennan and Booth find themselves as deeply in love as they are in danger. With its dark humor, mesmerizing plots, celebrated cast and beloved guest stars, Bones is cutting-edge entertainment from its first incision to its final cut.

The Complete Series collects all twelve previously released seasons into a single box set. Inspired by real-life forensic anthropologist and novelist Kathy Reichs, Bones is an incredibly satisfying and entertaining procedural.

Guest stars include Carla Gallo, Ryan O’Neal, Joel David Moore, Billy Gibbons, Katheryn Winnick, Sara Rue, Stephen Fry, Cyndi Lauper, Eddie McClintock, Brendan Fehr, Loren Dean, Danny Woodburn, Diedrich Bader, Scoot McNairy, Betty White, Ernie Hudson Eric Stonestreet, ,Jessica Capshaw, Danielle Panabaker, Rance Howard, Kim Raver, Nora Dunn, Freddie Prinze Jr., Joanna Cassidy, Sam Trammell, Adam Baldwin, Zeljko Ivanek, Benito Martinez, Xander Berkely, Michael Cudlitz, Rider Strong, Dean Norris, Thomas F. Wilson and Zooey Deschanel.

Extras include gag reels, commentaries, deleted and extended scenes, featurettes, Comic-Con panel and retrospective. (20th Century Fox/Released 6/13/17)

 

Brain Damage

From Frank Henenlotter, the man behind such cult horror favourites as Basket Case and Frankenhooker, comes Brain Damage – the ultimate head-trip. Meet Elmer. He’s your local, friendly parasite with the ability to induce euphoric hallucinations in his hosts.

But these LSD-like trips come with a hefty price tag. When young Brian comes under Elmer’s addictive spell, it’s not long before he finds himself scouring the city streets in search of his parasite’s preferred food source – brains!

Featuring late TV horror host John Zacherley as the voice of Elmer, Brain Damage boasts some of the most astonishing bad taste gore-gags ever realized, including the notorious “brain-pulling sequence” and a blow-job that ends with a distinctly unconventional climax.

Extras include isolated score, commentary, documentary, featurettes, galleries, trailer, booklet and animated short (Arrow/Released 5/9/17)

 

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

Some people will do anything for a million dollars!

Written and directed by the great Sam Peckinpah (Junior Bonner, The Getaway) and starring Warren Oates, Gig Young, Robert Webber, Kris Kristofferson and the seductively beautiful Isela Vega.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is a gritty classic that vibrates with explosive action and nail-biting tension. When a Mexican land baron puts a million dollars on the head of the man who seduced and impregnated his daughter, two money-hungry hired killers (Young and Webber) recruit a small-town bartender (Oates) to help them do their dirty work.

But their tequila-fueled trek across the desolate Mexican frontier grows more intense, gruesome and bloody with every savage murder they leave in their wake. Extras include commentary (Kino-Lorber/Released 6/13/17</strong

 

Evil Ed

A blood-soaked love letter to the splatter films of the ’80s, video rental favorite Evil Ed returns in a brand-new Special EDition featuring an extended cut of the feature and hours of stomach-churning bonus features!

Mild-mannered film technician Edward enjoys his job.

That is, until he finds himself transferred from his regular post to the “Splatter and Gore department”, where he’s forced to edit hours upon hours of grisly video nasty footage. Traumatized by the onscreen violence, Ed starts to lose his grip on reality – with ghastly (and bloody) consequences…

Owing a debt to films such as The Evil Dead, Re-animator and the early splatter classics of Peter Jackson, Evil Ed is a veritable smorgasbord of flying limbs, exploding heads, busty babes and creepy creatures!

Extras include two versions of the film, making of documentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, bloopers, gallery, teasers and trailers. (Arrow/Released 5/30/17)

 

Hell in the Pacific

From John Boorman, the director of Deliverance and The Emerald Forest comes this gripping adventure about two wartime enemies trapped alone on a deserted island.

Screen legends Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune deliver striking and well-etched performances in this searing psychological drama that packs plenty of action and excitement.

From the instant they meet, a marooned American soldier (Marvin) and his Japanese counterpart (Mifune) have the same objective: to kill each other. But it soon becomes apparent that the only way they will survive is by forging an uneasy truce and cooperating with each other. Can they rise above the hatred that divides them long enough to stay alive?

Two of the film’s best features are the terrific color photography by the great Conrad Hall and original musical score by the legendary Lalo Schifrin.

Extras include commentary, interviews, and alternate ending. (Kino-Lorber/Released 6/27/17)

 

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Big business means big laughs as Robert Morse (The Loved One) schemes and scams his way to the top in this bold and bawdy musical that celebrates the Great American Corporate Way and lampoons it at the same time.

With musical supervision by the legendary Nelson Riddle (Pal Joey), this tune-filled comic gem is a goldmine of Frank Loesser (Guys and Dolls) songs.

Written, produced and directed by David Swift (The Parent Trap) and based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway smash, this classic musical is bristling with humor, romance and song.

The story charts the meteoric rise of an ambitious window washer (Morse) who, with the help of a simple guidebook, gets the job, gets the girl (Michele Lee), gets the raise and gets the attention of the Big Boss (Rudy Vallee) himself – all by his second day at work.

Now it’s only a matter of hours before he goes from zero to CEO! (Kino-Lorber/Released 5/23/17)

 

One Two Three

Hollywood great James Cagney gives one of the richest, funniest, most breathlessly paced performances of his career in this comedy that defrosts the Cold War with gales of laughter.

C.R. “Mac” MacNamara (Cagney) is a top-ranking soda executive stationed in West Berlin who’s responsible for his boss’ daughter (Pamela Tiffin) while he’s away on business. But when he learns that she’s gone and married a fierce young communist (Horst Buchholz) and that his boss will be arriving in town in 24 hours, Mac must transform the unwilling beatnik into a suitable son-in-law or risk losing his chance for advancement!

Before you can say “one, two, three,” his plans have spun out of control and into an international incident that could infuriate the Russians, the Germans and, worst of all, his own suspicious wife.

Legendary director Billy Wilder directed and co-wrote this hilarious, fast-paced and lighthearted comedy with his twelve-time writing partner I.A.L. Diamond. Extras include commentary, interviews and trailers. (Kino-Lorber/Released 5/30/17)

 

Runaway Train

Tearing up the tracks at 100 miles-per-hour, Runaway Train features hair-raising footage and spectacular Oscar-nominated performances by Jon Voight and Eric Roberts.

Manny (Voight) is the toughest convict in a remote Alaskan prison who, along with fellow inmate Buck (Roberts), makes a daring breakout. Hopping a freight train, they head full steam for freedom, but when the engineer dies of a heart attack, they find themselves trapped, alone and speeding towards certain disaster.

Until, that is, they discover a third passenger, beautiful railroad worker, Sara (Rebecca De Mornay), who’s just as desperate and just as determined to survive as they are.

Beautifully shot by Alan Hume, with top-notch direction by Andrei Konchalovsky and based on a screenplay by Akira Kurosawa.

Co-starring John P. Ryan and Kenneth McMillan. (Kino-Lorber/Released 6/13/17)

 

Sheriff Hoot Kloot

Diminutive loudmouth Sheriff Hoot Kloot, astride his curmudgeonly, limping horse Fester, wages an ongoing battle of witlessness against lunatic sheep rustler Crazywolf. DePatie-Freleng’s only series of cartoon Westerns, the Sheriff Hoot Kloot films are characterized by especially strong direction and layout (by Hawley Pratt, Gerry Chiniquy, Art Leonardi and others).

Delighted with the chance to slip in clever Wild West in-jokes, writer John Dunn further pits Kloot and crew against a veritable rogues gallery of ridiculous outlaw villains, including Billy the Kidder, Calamitous Jane, Butch Casualty, Wild Bill Hiccup, and the hanging Judge Soy Bean.

Includes the shorts: Kloot’s County, Apache on The County Seat, The Shoe Must Go On, A Self-Winding Sidewinder, Pay Your Buffalo Bill, Stirrups and Hiccups, Ten Miles to The Gallop, Phony Express, Giddy Up Woe, Gold Struck, As The Tumbleweed Turns, The Badge and The Beautiful, Big Beef at The O.K. Corral, By Hoot or By Crook, Strange on The Range, Mesa Trouble and Saddle Soap Opera.

Extras include documentaries and commentaries. (Kino-Lorber/Released 5/30/17)

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Peter Cushing is a splendid Sherlock Holmes and Andre Morell is the perfect Dr. Watson in this terror-filled mystery classic co-starring horror legend Christopher Lee.

With its compelling acting and spooky cinematography, this top-notch murder-mystery will keep you guessing and gasping until the final frame.

A fiendish evil lurks beneath the mist-shrouded cliffs of England’s fabled moors. In the form of a hellish hound, it feeds upon the trembling flesh of the heirs of Baskerville Hall.

But before this savage beast can sink its teeth into the newest lord of the manor, it must pit its vicious fangs against the searing intellect of the most powerful foe it has ever encountered – the incomparable Sherlock Holmes.

Hammer legend Terence Fisher (The Man Who Could Cheat Death) directed this masterpiece in suspense and horror.

Extras include featurette with Christopher Lee. (Kino-Lorber/Released 6/13/17)

 

The Paradine Case

From master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock (Lifeboat, Notorious) comes this nail-biting thriller that packs a punch. Hollywood legend Gregory Peck headlines a brilliant cast in this masterful story of a murder trial that will keep you guessing until the final frame.

When arrestingly attractive Maddalena Anna Paradine (Alida Valli) is charged with poisoning her husband, she hires famous London barrister Anthony Keane (Peck) to defend her.

But as Keane unravels Maddalena’s exotic past, the young attorney becomes hopelessly infatuated with his captivating client. Now, allowing his heart to rule his head, Keane’s blind obsession could cost him the case and his marriage as the shocking truth is revealed in a sensational courtroom climax!

The stellar cast includes Charles Laughton, Charles Coburn, Ethel Barrymore, Leo G. Carroll and Louis Jourdan.

Extras include commentary, audio interviews, interviews, radio play, restoration featurette, isolated music and effect track, and trailer. (Kino-Lorber/Released 5/30/17)

 

The World of Henry Orient

Comedy Legend Peter Sellers, Paula Prentiss, Angela Lansbury and Tom Bosley are hilarious in The World Of Henry Orient, a funny, charming, lively and imaginative place you’ll want to visit again and again.

Two starry-eyed schoolgirls spy, stalk and scheme their way into the life of a concert pianist (Sellers) in this wacky piece of inspired lunacy.

With half of New York – including a bevy of befuddled cops and one man-hungry mom – in tow, these precocious teens do all they can to keep tabs on their harried hero, turning The World Of Henry Orient entirely upside down.

The great George Roy Hill (The Sting, Slap Shot) directed this hilarious comedy with screenplay by Nunnally Johnson and his daughter Nora Johnson, based on a novel by Nora Johnson. (Kino-Lorber/Released 5/23/17)

 

Thunderbirds Are Go! | Thunderbird 6 Double Feature

Thunderbirds Are Go!
The crime fighters known as the International Rescue team, led by the heroic millionaire ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his five equally brave sons, the fabulous secret agent Lady Penelope and, of course, their incredibly futuristic fleet of Thunderbird rescue ships are managing security during the launching of the first manned flight to Mars. Jeff and the boys foil some crooks who want to sabotage the mission, and the craft takes off successfully. But later, as the astronauts try to return to Earth, they encounter grave technical difficulties, and the Rescue team must fly into space to save them.

Thunderbird 6
International Rescue scientist and inventor Brains creates a high-tech airship, dubbed Skyship One, designed to circle the world. On its maiden launch, villains hijack the aircraft and a fierce gun fight breaks out, endangering a group of Brains’ I.R. colleagues who are on board.

This time it will take all of their combined effort – and the cunning wit of their colleague Lady Penelope – to defeat an international ring of terrorists, who’ve targeted International Rescue for destruction!

Extras include commentaries, featurettes, and trailer. (Kino-Lorber/Released 6/20/17)

 

Caltiki, the Immortal Monster

Both blob fans and Bava fans will really like Caltiki. The blob itself looks sometimes like a thick inflatable bag (“wet leather” says Bill Warren) but, who knows, maybe that’s how a giant single-celled organism would appear for real? It looks better in the later scenes (“outstanding” says Warren).

At times the picture feels like contemporaneous American sci-fi, but it has several departures from the usual structure.

First, the main monster is destroyed relatively easily, so the suspense comes from wondering what will happen with the dormant fragment recovered from the monster and with the guy whose hand got covered by slime in the first attack.

Second, the team of archaeologists is large and allows for two romantic couples rather than the usual one. We also get rivalries between team members.

Eventually, the hero’s wife, child, and city are threatened. Bava’s shadows and light/dark contrasts are striking throughout. The main flaws are a dearth of developed characters, a slow middle section, and some awkward outer space special effects. But your viewing experience should be enhanced every time you remind yourself that Caltiki was made in Italy and Spain in the 1950s. Extras include commentaries, interviews, alternate opening titles and more (– David E. Goldweber, Arrow/Released 4/11/17)

 

Car Wash

Everybody is cleaning up and getting down in this classic comedy from the decade that brought you the tube top, the polyester suit and lots of good times!

It’s just a typical day in the lives of the employees, customers and passersby of a Los Angeles car wash.

There’s a would-be robbery… an assembly line of the weirdest, baddest, shadiest characters you’ve ever met… and lots of ’70s music to pass the hours till quitting time.

Featuring outrageously hilarious performances by George Carlin, Professor Irwin Corey, the Pointer Sisters, and Richard Pryor as Daddy Rich – a flamboyant Reverend who preaches the goodness of the dollar – Car Wash is a timeless classic celebrating an era devoted to living life in the fast lane.

Extras include commentary, interviews, radio spot, and trailer. (Shout! Factory/Released 6/20/17)

 

Cheech And Chong’s Next Movie

Perennially stoned Cheech (Cheech Marin) and Chong (Thomas Chong) tear through the city of Los Angeles, causing trouble wherever they go. After Cheech loses his job, the two pot enthusiasts head to the welfare offices where Cheech’s girlfriend, Donna (Evelyn Guerrero), works. Instead of collecting unemployment, they find themselves thrown back on the streets, searching for a way to earn new income. But when Cheech’s cousin, “Red” Mendoza (Cheech Marin in a dual role), arrives, things get even crazier.

Chong and “Red” have a wild time buzzing around Hollyweird in a bad Ferrari. Along the way, the dynamic duo find time for some mishaps at a movie set, the welfare office, a hotel, a brothel, a music store, a rich girl’s house, a comedy club, the ultimate weed field and a UFO.

This outrageous comedy features early film appearances by Paul “Pee-wee Herman” Reubens, Edie McClurg, Cassandra “Elvira” Petersen, John “Jambi” Paragon and Phil Hartman. Extras include new interview with Cheech Marin, radio spots and trailer. (Shout! Factory/Released 6/13/17)

 

Code of a Killer

Code of a Killer tells the extraordinary true story of how a brilliant scientist and a progressive police detective united to create the biggest advance in modern criminal investigation.

BAFTA-winner David Threlfall stars as tenacious detective David Baker, who heads up the investigation into the brutal murders of two Leicestershire schoolgirls during the 1980s. Only a few miles away, Dr. Alec Jeffreys, (John Simm) a scientist at Leicester University, invents a remarkable technique to read each individual’s unique DNA fingerprint. Together they attempt what has never been done before – to solve a crime through DNA profiling.

Facing public opposition and lack of funding, Baker and Jeffreys conduct the world’s first “DNA manhunt” to find the girls’ murderer and stop a serial killer in his tracks. T

his riveting miniseries also stars Anna Madeley, Anna Tiernan, Lydia Rose Bewley, Farzana Dua Elahe, and Robert Glenister. Extras include featurettes. (Acorn/Released 5/30/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Episode 1: When 15-year-old Lynda Mann turns up murdered, DCS David Baker leads the investigation to search for her killer but struggles to find any worthwhile leads in the difficult case. Meanwhile, scientist Alec Jeffreys works tirelessly to make a breakthrough in DNA research.
  • Episode 2: The murder of another teenage girl killed in similar circumstances reignites the search for Lynda’s killer. After an arrest and a dubious confession, David approaches Alec and asks for his help on the case.
  • Episode 3: Possessing what they believe to be the killer’s genetic “fingerprint,” David and Alec initiate the world’s first “DNA manhunt.” But as thousands of samples are tested and costs continue to rise, David worries the operation will be shut down before they can find the killer.

 

DC Super Hero Girls: Intergalactic Games

Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Bumblebee and Katana square off against Korugar Academy in the Intergalactic Games, but trouble is in the air as Lena Luthor takes advantage of the gathering of the Supers to enact her villainous plan.

It’s up to the DC Super Hero Girls to fight the forces of evil and protect their school.

With Wonder Woman’s strength, Supergirl’s speed, Batgirl’s strategic knowledge, Poison Ivy’s ability to make things grow, Harley Quinn’s energy, Bumblebee’s ability to shrink, and Katana’s fearless personality… anything is possible.

Extras include music video by Fifth Harmony Music Video and five animated shorts (Warner Bro./Released 5/22/17)

 

Decoy: The Complete Series

Decoy was not only the first series in the history of American television to explore the life of a New York City policewoman, it was also the first series to feature an actress as the star protagonist in a full-season, dramatic series.

The series follows Detective Casey Jones, played by the talented Beverly Garland, as she walks the streets of New York City, solving a new case each week.

Case narratives were based on experiences told to Garland by the show’s technical director, Margaret Leonard, a former NYPD detective herself.

The significance of her role was at a time when the “female detective” had virtually disappeared from film and created a strong new archetype that would set the standard for years to come.

Decoy was filmed on location throughout the stunning backdrop of 1950s New York City, with sweeping shots of the Manhattan Bridge, Beat-era Greenwich Village, Penn Station and many other iconic NYC landmarks.

In addition to its on-location shots, Decoy was unique for its time due to a documentary style of shooting; beautifully framed, noir shots; and an extremely brave approach to its gritty subject matter, with performances influenced by the method school. Includes appearances by such iconic stars as Ed Asner, Peter Falk, John Cassavetes, Suzanne Pleshette, Al Lewis, Larry Hagman and Albert Dekker. (Film Chest/Released 5/30/17)

 

Desperate Living

John Waters’s Desperate Living is a gleefully grotesque fairy tale that follows the outrageous exploits of the unstable (and perpetually yelling) Peggy Gravel (Mink Stole) and her maid Grizelda (Jean Hill), a woman of substantial girth, as they navigate the strange realm of Mortville (which, of course, is unsurprisingly close to Baltimore).

Peggy Gravel (Mink Stole) is a frazzled housewife who has just been released from a mental hospital. Arriving at her suburban Baltimore home in a delicate state, she quickly decides that her husband is trying to kill her…and coerces her rotund maid, Grizelda (Jean Hill), to suffocate him with her ample bottom. In order to escape imprisonment, the unlikely duo seeks refuge in Mortville, a oddball shantytown populated by criminals and social outcasts.

To the citizens’ dismay, however, vicious Queen Carlotta (Edith Massey) rules the kingdom with an iron fist. With assistance from a cranky pre-op transsexual (Susan Lowe) and her sexpot lover (Liz Renay), Peggy and Grizelda attempt to navigate their strange new lives. (Warner Archive/Released 6/13/17)

 

Django, Prepare a Coffin

Django the drifter returns in this classic sixties Spaghetti Western from Ferdinando Baldi (Texas Addio, Comin’ At Ya!), starring Terence Hill (They Call Me Trinity) as the wandering gunslinger, hired as executioner to a corrupt local politician who is framing innocent men, sending them to hang in an evil scheme to take hold of their land.

But Django has other ideas and, cleverly faking the deaths of the condemned men, he assembles them into a loyal gang who’ll help him take down the boss, a man who had a hand in the death of Django’s wife years before.

Thrill as Django gets his bloody revenge with a hail of bullets in this classic from a series of B-movie western that helped to define a genre. Prepare your coffin now.

Extras include interview (Arrow/Released 4/11/17)

 

Enter The Warrior’s Gate

Epic fantasy-adventure meets martial arts action in this thrilling film written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen.

After a mysterious chest opens a gateway through time, teen gamer Jack (Uriah Shelton) is transported to an ancient empire terrorized by a cruel barbarian king (former WWE Superstar Dave Bautista).

Jack will need all of his gaming skills as he battles to defeat the barbarian, protect a beautiful princess, and somehow find his way back home.

Extras include commentary, featurettes and deleted scenes. (Lionsgate/Released 6/6/17)

 

 

The Lawnmower Man

Dr. Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan) is a brilliant scientist obsessed with perfecting virtual reality software.

When his experiments on animals fail, he finds the ideal substitute – Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey), a slow-witted gardener. Dr. Angelo’s goal is to benefit his human guinea pig and ultimately mankind itself, but evil lurks the guise of “the Shop,” a shadowy group that seeks to use the technology to create an invincible war machine. When the experiments change the simple Jobe into a superhuman being, the stage is set for a Jekyll-and-Hyde struggle for the control of Jobe’s mind and the future of the world.

Extras include theatrical and director’s cuts, commentaries, interviews, featurettes, deleted scenes, tv spots, trailer, concept, galleries, storyboard comparison and more. (Shout! Factory/Released 6/20/17)

 

The Paul Naschy Collection

Paul Naschy (born Jacinto Molina Álvarez) was Spain’s answer to Lon Chaney. He has portrayed many classic monsters – the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, Count Dracula, the Mummy and more.

He was not only a terrific actor, but an accomplished writer, producer and director.

This Blu-ray box set includes five stellar films from his long and distinguished career. (– David E. Goldweber, Shout! Factory/Released 6/20/17)

Includes:

Vengeance of the Zombies
An Indian mystic uses magical chants to raise women from the dead, then sends them out to perform revenge killings for him. Naschy calls Vengeance one of the weirdest and most horrifying films he ever made. I myself wasnt horrified, partly because so many elements were familiar from Hammer films of the 60s. But I agree it was pretty weird. Part of the weirdness is the percussive jazz score, sometimes inappropriately upbeat, but always enjoyable and enticing. Weirdness also arises from the film’s steady rhythm. Few scenes stand out above the rest, but this sameness seems to fit the theme of life-in-death.

Naschy plays the good guru, the evil zombie-master, and – in a dream sequence – the devil. The story is set in England, and it’s pretty funny to see Naschy in Indian makeup wearing a turban walking around the streets of London. The red-headed heroine is pretty helpless. She has a skeptical psychiatrist-boyfriend. Gratuitous nudity comes twice. Gore scenes come often, mostly depicting stabbings with a lot of dripping blood. In one late scene, a real chicken is beheaded (quickly, thankfully), and its wings keep flapping afterwards. Includes uncut version, trailers, alternated clothed sequences and gallery.

Horror Rises From The Tomb
Scotland Yard begins an investigation that is so terrifying in its outcome, it nearly brings the venerable organization to its knees. It begins with the inquiry into the murder of a young girl and soon evolves into a case surrounding a long forgotten crime, a madman, and zombies. Naschy (Jacinto Molina) states that after his most famous role as Waldemar Daninsky, the role of evil sorcerer Alaric is his favorite. Alaric is dastardly, seductive, conniving, and crude. Yet Naschy never overplays him. Naschy also plays Hugo, one of the various unsuspecting good folks trapped in a remote chateau when Alaric and his woman (Helga Liné of Vampires’ Night Orgy) rise from the dead. For a sleazy derivative Gothic-exploitation movie, it is excellent, never going more than five minutes before offering some exciting event or image.

While no single scene draws everything together, many small and medium thrills come along the way. Spooky understated organ music and overcast wintry mountains help build atmosphere. Some of the chopped heads and ripped hearts are very realistic. One scene features zombies. You can watch it for camp, but it’s hard not take it seriously since it’s so well done. Includes uncut version, commentary, trailers, alternate clothed sequences and gallery.

Blue Eyes of The Broken Doll
Gilles (Paul Naschy) is a drifter wandering around towns in rural France looking for work. One evening he is picked up by Claude (Diana Lorys) who asks him to work as a caretaker at the house she inhabits with her two sisters. At the house, he meets the wheelchair bound Ivette (Maria Perschy) and the youngest sister Nicole who wastes no time in trying to seduce the ever willing Gilles. Soon after his arrival, a serial killer begins slaughtering blonde, blue-eyed women – leaving their eyeballs in a bowl of water. Includes uncut version, commentary, trailers, and gallery

Night of The Werewolf
Filmed in the real castles of Spain, The Night Of The Werewolf is one of Naschy’s most impressive films a sumptuous Gothic feast that pits Naschy’s werewolf Waldemar Daninsky against the Blood Countess herself Elizabeth Bathory.

This eighth film in Naschy’s loose wolf-hero series was apparently his favorite. It has the highest production values, the most carefully constructed shots, the best cinematography and effects of the series. It lacks originality since it’s basically a remake of The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Woman and Curse of the Devil, two films which themselves lack originality. But no matter. You should know already, Dear Friend, how these films are a labor of love for Naschy, and how his admiration for the characters, his sensitivity to the doomed love affairs, his awe of Gothic imagery make the lack of originality inconsequential.

Of course, Night of the Werewolf also offers some nudity and gore. But unlike some earlier entries in the series, it never feels sleazy or pandering because the camera never lingers on these things. Pacing slows in the second half, but it’s also a little scary in some late scenes. The fear is actually refreshing since Naschy’s films are usually more about character, action, and atmosphere than fear. One interesting touch: the bearded werewolf-hero is not a relative of the original medieval Daninsky as in the other films; here he is the actual medieval Daninsky resurrected.Includes uncut version, commentary, trailers, deleted scenes and gallery

Human Beasts
Paul Naschy stars as a mercenary who double-crosses his partner/girlfriend Meiko and gets shot for his troubles. Failing unconscious, he is taken in by a wealthy doctor who has two beautiful daughters. His recuperation is slow, and in the meantime he is seduced by daughters and apparently haunted by the ghost of their mother. Strange things are going on at the house and if he is going to survive the night, he’ll have to escape the house.

Some early action scenes and late exploitation scenes might make Human Beasts worthwhile for big Naschy fans, but everyone else should avoid it. You can never tell if you’re supposed to be watching a crime film, a drama, or an exploitation film. A fake ghost adds a light horror element, but nothing is actually scary. The brief highlights – including pigs attacking a victim in a basement pigpen – are enjoyable. Three comely women (one Japanese since it’s a Japanese co-production) are partially naked for an instant or two. Naschy himself is decent, making us somehow sympathize with the rather ruthless anti-hero. But the inconsistent pacing and confusing plot make the whole experience awkward. Includes uncut version, trailer, and gallery

 

The Pink Panther Film Collection Starring Peter Sellers

One of the most influential comic actors of all time, with a legacy of brilliant performances in films such as Lolita, Being There, and Dr. Strangelove, Academy Award nominee Peter Sellers is well-remembered for his iconic role as Inspector Clouseau, whom he first portrayed in The Pink Panther.

Audiences adored the bumbling detective, and a phenomenon was born. The movies showcase a magical combination of Blake Edwards’ masterful directing, writing, and producing skills; Peter Sellers’ hilarious verbal and physical antics as Clouseau; sparkling performances from, among others, series staples Herbert Lom, Burt Kwouk, André Maranne, and Graham Stark; Academy Award winner Henry Mancini’s sophisticated and slinky musical scores; and glorious animated opening and closing credits starring that fantastic feline – the Pink Panther.

Extras include new interviews with cast and crew members, audio commentaries, rare theatrical trailers, TV spots, featurettes and stills galleries, (Shout! Factory/Released 6/27/17)

Includes the films:

The Pink Panther
In this first film of the beloved comic series, dashing European thief Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven) plans to steal a diamond, but he’s not the only one with his eyes on the famous jewel known as the “Pink Panther.” His nephew George (Robert Wagner) also aims to make off with the gem, and to frame Charles for the crime. Blundering French police inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) intercedes, but finds his career — and his freedom — jeopardized.

A Shot In The Dark
Inspector Clouseau is called to a house where a murder was committed and finds that every clue points to the beautiful maid, Maria. As more people are killed, each set of clues always points to Maria, and Closeau continues to release her and escort her around town.

The Return of the Pink Panther
After he lets a robbery transpire right under his nose, the ever-bumbling Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) is suspended by Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom). But, when the famed Pink Panther diamond is stolen from the National Museum in Lugash, the Shah requests Clouseau’s assistance, and he’s reinstated. Clouseau quickly concludes that the thief must be the infamous Phantom, against whom he has a grudge, but the inspector’s instincts are, as usual, wrong.

The Pink Panther Strikes Again
Just released from a mental hospital, Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) intends to off Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers), a former underling whose blundering drove the lawman around the bend. Dreyfus captures a scientist, ordering him to create a weapon that will destroy the planet, and threatens world leaders with annihilation unless they hand over his nemesis. Meanwhile, Clouseau goes to England to look for the vanished scientist, and his obliviousness turns out to be an asset.

Revenge of the Pink Panther
When French drug kingpin Philippe Douvier (Robert Webber) learns that he’s losing the respect of New York mob bosses, he decides to murder Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) to regain his reputation. After a case of mistaken identity, Clouseau is declared dead, much to the delight of his former boss, Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom). When Clouseau reemerges, he teams up with Douvier’s ex-lover, Simone LeGree (Dyan Cannon), to break up the drug trafficking operation.

Trail of the Pink Panther
This sequel finds Chief Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) being summoned to the country of Lugash to investigate another robbery of the eponymous diamond. After developing some disguises, Clouseau embarks by plane and mysteriously vanishes en route. Hoping to solve the conundrum, enterprising journalist Marie Jouvet (Joanna Lumley) interviews those closest to Clouseau, including his father (Richard Mulligan), his boss (Herbert Lom) and his old nemesis, Sir Charles Litton (David Niven).

 

Finian’s Rainbow

Upon arriving in Rainbow Valley, Missitucky, with his daughter Sharon (Petula Clark), Irish rascal Finian McLonergan (Fred Astaire) buries a pot of stolen leprechaun gold, mistakenly believing that it will multiply because the ground is near Fort Knox. When the bigoted local senator, Billboard Rawkins (Keenan Wynn), tries to foreclose on popular young Woody Mahoney (Don Francks)’s tobacco land, Finian pays the balance of Woody’s debt and forever endears himself and Sharon to the sharecroppers of the valley.

Woody and a fledgling black scientist, Howard, are partners in trying to develop a mint tobacco plant; but, since the leaves of their plants will not burn, Howard is helping to finance their experiments by working as a domestic for the greedy and intolerant Rawkins.

Meanwhile, Og (Tommy Steele), a leprechaun, has been following the McLonergans to America to retrieve the gold; without it he is doomed to become a mortal.

Eventually geologists detect the presence of Og’s gold in the valley, and Rawkins renews his bid to seize Woody’s land.

Unaware that the pot of gold carries with it three magic wishes, Sharon wishes that Rawkins could turn black so that he would better understand the plight of the sharecroppers. When Rawkins actually does turn black, Sharon is arrested as she is about to marry Woody and sentenced to be burned as a witch. To save her, Og, who alone knows the secret of the gold pot, wishes Rawkins white again. Og, now almost totally mortal, falls in love with Woody’s mute sister, Susan the Silent (Barbara Hancock), and he uses the last wish to give her the power of speech. As he becomes human and the gold turns to dross, the barn fire intended for Sharon spreads to Woody’s experimental laboratory and proves that the mint tobacco leaves will actually burn. Woody and Sharon are then happily wed, and the optimistic Finian leaves the valley to seek his fortune elsewhere. Extras include introduction and commentary from director Francis Ford Coppola, featurette, and trailer. (Warner Archive/Released 3/7/17)

 

Trespass

Everyone wants a piece of the action – and the treasure – as Bill Paxton and William Sadler take on a ruthless gang in this high-caliber thriller.

In the rubble of a four-alarm blaze, Vince (Paxton) and Don (Sadler), two Arkansas firemen, discover a map leading to a fortune in stolen gold hidden in an abandoned East St. Louis tenement. What they don’t know is the building is headquarters to a vicious mob, led by the notorious King James (Ice T) and Savon (Ice Cube).

When the firefighters accidentally witness the mob executing some of their enemies, the trespassers become the gang’s next target in this pulse-pounding thrillfest.

Extras include featurettes, interviews, deleted scenes and trailer. (Shout! Factory/Released 6/278/17)

 

Numb3rs: The Complete Series

We use math every day to predict weather, tell time and handle money… and two brilliant brothers use it to solve crime. When cases defy ordinary solutions, dedicated FBI agent Don Eppes (Rob Morrow) turns to his younger sibling, Professor Charlie Eppes (David Krumholtz), a mathematical prodigy. Don’s unstoppable crime-fighting squad includes David Sinclair (Alimi Ballard), Colby Granger (Dylan Bruno), Megan Reeves (Diane Farr), and Nikki Betancourt (Sophina Brown). When the calculations become challenging, Charlie reaches out to his colleagues, theoretical physicist Larry Fleinhardt (Peter MacNicol) and computational mathematician Amita Ramanujan (Navi Rawat).

At home, both brothers rely on the advice of their father Alan (Judd Hirsch).

Guest stars include Lou Diamond Phillips, Kathy Najimy, Will Patton, Wendell Pierce, Joshua Malina, Henry Winkler, Bill Nye, Shawn Hatosy Keith Carradine, Jay Baruchel, Tony Hale, John Glover, Colin Hanks, Kim Dickens, Josh Gad, Fisher Stevens, Pablo Schreiber, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, CCH Pounder, Sean Patrick Flanery, Erik Palladino, Teri Polo, Missi Pyle, Ray Wise, Garret Dillahunt, Ari Graynor, DJ Qualls, D.B. Woodside, Gina Gershon, Zeljko Ivanek, Penn Jillette, Matthew Morrison, John Michael Higgins , James Remar, Samaire Armstrong, Loren Dean, Stacy Edwards, Anthony Heald, Jennifer Westfeldt, Robert Forster, Jon Hamm, Leighton Meester, Val Kilmer, Christopher McDonald, Jeremy Sisto, William Sadler, James Urbaniak, Morena Baccarin, Nancy Travis and Shea Whigham.

Extras include featurettes, auditions, and blooper reel. (Paramount/Released 6/6/17)

 

Fate of the Furious

Back in 2001, no one would have pegged a movie about street racers to be to a multi-million dollar franchise, let alone one of the most successful franchises of all time.

And yet, 16 years later, it’s eighth installment, The Fate of the Furious opens, shows that the franchise has little chance of slowing down.

Not only is The Fate of the Furious still as fast and shiny as a Dom’s Dodge Charger, it has the honor of being a sequel film that is not only as good as it’s predecessors, but also might even surpass them.

From the opening of the scene, the engines are roaring so hold on to something, because this 2 hour and 16 minute movie is gonna feel faster than the 10-second, quarter mile.

Fast, gorgeous cars – check. Beautiful people – check. Exotic locations – check. Stunts that both make you flinch and laugh – you bet.

The Furious films have come a long way from it’s back streets of Los Angeles roots. Dom and his crew are all grown up and have made it to the big leagues of international espionage. All our favorites are back, including a few cameos that are a tip of the hat to the fans who have been along for the entire ride.

Since Furious 7, the crew have gone their separate ways, basking in “retirement” when the call comes from Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to help recover a dangerous new weapon.

Dom (Vin Diesel) reunites his team; fast talking Roman (Tyrese Gibson), tech geniuses Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and his right hand woman Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). Together they steal the weapon, but before it can be secured, Dom betrays his team and hands the weapon over to cyber terrorist, Cypher (Charlize Theron). Now, Hobbs and Dom’s team must recover the weapon, stop Cypher, and discover why Dom betrayed the people he calls family.

The team finds help in the unlikeliest of place, from former adversary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).

The story is not complex, but that is not what the Furious movies are about. They are all about the action.

After seven movies you would think the stunt teams would have run out of ideas. Not even close. The car chases are inventive and fun as hell. Without getting into spoilers, all I can say is there is a sequence with the self driving cars that is both hilarious and made me never want an auto-driving car. Watching some of the driving stunts made me wonder why the Academy doesn’t have categories for stunt work, because these stunt drivers deserve a golden statue.

The cast is having a blast. Vin has the opportunity to put on his serious face. Johnson and Statham ham it up in every scene and somehow it just works. The jokes always hit their mark and never cross the line into groan worthy silliness . The chemistry of the cast is part of what keeps audiences coming back, and the chemistry is strength by the addition of new characters.

Kurt Russell returns as Mr. Nobody and steals every scene with the assistant of comedic-straightman Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood). With the untimely loss of Paul Walker during the making of Furious 7, his character, Brian is kept alive through smatterings of dialog explaining Brian and Mia have built a quiet life elsewhere. A small Easter egg at the end of the film honors Walker.

Writer Chris Morgan has been on deck for the last few Furious movies, and he continues to give audience what they want. Director F. Gary Gary has the action genre down in spades.

I love these movies because they never pretend to be more than they are. They are fun, shiny action movies with a lot of humor. They play with stereotypes and bend them to their will, making the characters more than just a caricatures, and winking at the screen the whole time. Michael Bay wishes he’s made a movie in the last 10 years that’s this entertaining. The Fate of the Furious is an excellent addition to the series. Extras include featurettes, extended fight sequences, commentary and a digital exclusive Extended Cut. (– Elizabeth Robbins, Universal/Released 7/11/17)

 

Kong of Skull Island

The year is 1973 and Richard Nixon has just announced a ceasefire that will bring an end to the United States’ involvement in Vietnam.

In the midst of the ensuing chaos, Bill Randa (John Goodman) – a representative for the Monarch organization – sets out to gather an expedition to explore the fabled Skull Island. Since Randa and his scientists would like to live to tell their tales of the hostile island, they recruit the no-nonsense tracker, survival expert and all-round badass James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) to accompany them.

The anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) is also hired to help document their findings, however, her anti-authoritarian instincts tell her that she may be able to uncover some unsavory government truths whilst snapping photos. Finally, Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and his helicopter squadron, the Sky Devils, are assigned as the military escort for the expedition.

However, upon arrival on the island, it instantly becomes brutally clear that despite the many precautions the team has taken, they are no match for the fearsome wildlife they encounter, and thus their fight for survival begins.

While his kaiju cousin Godzilla may have the upper hand in terms of the number of movies he has stomped his way through, the mighty Kong is hardly a stranger to the big screen as there have been several incarnations of the big ape since his inception in 1933, Peter Jackson’s lengthy 2005 effort being the most recent. After 2014’s Godzilla, the MonsterVerse was announced with Kong: Skull Island being the next installment in the franchise. Avoiding its predecessor’s pacing issues, which came about largely due to Godzilla only having 8 minutes of screen time in 2014, Kong: Skull Island boasts a higher volume of tremendously entertaining action set pieces. Not only do these sequences convey the size of the new Kong very well, at times they also manage to transport the viewer back to the ridiculous, yet fun monster movies of the 1970s. An interesting visual approach is also taken by meshing the monster madness with imagery associated with the Vietnam War and the cinematic style that more or less made the many films about the subject a genre of its own, resulting in the film having many breathtaking shots that clearly show how much effort director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has put into visually paraphrasing Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now in a fantastical setting.

But the visuals are not alone in mirroring the 1979 classic. While naming Hiddleston’s character Conrad is a throwaway nod to Joseph Conrad – the author of Heart of Darkness, the book that inspired Coppola’s masterpiece – Samuel L. Jackson’s character motivation directly mimics the delusions of Apocalypse Now’s Colonel Kurtz. However, while the idea is interesting enough, it is never utilized to create the kind of mounting tension achieved in Apocalypse Now, so while the visual paraphrasing is good, the references to the story and its characters never amount to anything more than superficial parroting – and they are far from the only superficial elements in the film. With the exception of John C. Reilly’s likable portrayal of a WWII pilot stranded on the island for decades, the rest of the characters are horribly uninspired and hollow with not even the bare minimum of character development required to allow the audience to invest in them, making all the scenes inbetween the monster mayhem deeply uninteresting.

Then there is the editing. While not quite as bad as the singularly abysmal Suicide Squad, there are times where the editing choices in Kong: Skull Island are puzzlingly bad, resulting in cuts and even whole scenes being completely out of place. A particularly glaring example is where a human character has a random encounter with Kong with no interaction between the two whatsoever, which makes the scene look suspiciously like a storyboard someone decided was too good to not put in the film without giving any thought to its relevance in relation to the narrative. Sure, the creature scenes may be fun, but this one in particular sticks out like a sore thumb and does absolutely nothing to move the story along, thus becoming symptomatic of a film where no effort has been put into the characters – and we all know that a movie is only as good as the characters that inhabit it.

King Kong is a much-loved character for many reasons, not least because of the tragic nature of his story in itself, but also because he has always represented the environment and man’s destruction thereof. Since Kong: Skull Island cannot take the traditional route because he is already lined up to face off against Godzilla in 2020, the film makers had to find a different way to make us care about him this time, and while the idea of pitting him against a delusional Colonel Kurtz-like character was an interesting idea, it ultimately fails due to poor execution that makes the film reek of franchise setup. The only thing the film gets right are the fight scenes, and going all out with the 1970s B-movie cheese instead of trying to paraphrase superior films could have saved the film from being two hours of mediocre monkey business. Extras include commentary, featurettes and deleted scenes. (– Leyla Mikkelsen, Warner Bros./Released 7/18/17)

 

Free Fire

In 1978, the two Irishmen Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) have travelled to Boston, Massachusetts, to buy some weapons. With the inept and imbecilic duo Stevo (Sam Riley) and Bernie (Enzo Cilenti) in tow as their questionable muscle, their contact Justine (Brie Larson) has arranged for them to meet the arms dealer in an abandoned factory.

When the dealer’s effortlessly cool and overly smooth representative Ord (Armie Hammer) shows up late, the Irishmen are anything but impressed, but they agree to go along nonetheless. Once inside, they are introduced to the obnoxious and moronic arms dealer Vernon (Sharlto Copley) as well as his other associates, but as they begin to inspect the weapons, it becomes apparent that the arms dealer has not been entirely honest. The deal quickly and hilariously falls apart, and soon the motley crew of incompetent idiots are pitted against each other in a gritty fight for survival.

Contemporary action films have a tendency to want to be bigger and more fantastical than anything that has come before them in the genre. While this can be highly entertaining when all the aspects of film making come together perfectly, the result is more often than not a generic, bloated mess, which no amount of humongous action set pieces can save from the clutches of mediocrity. In the case of the action comedy Free Fire, Ben Wheatley has all but stripped anything resembling a plot from his and Amy Jump’s latest collaboration, confining the story to a clumsy shootout that plays out in real time in a restricted space. The result is a highly conceptual film that sheds any pretence of the seemingly invincible action hero that has been done to death.

Instead, the characters of Free Fire are a hilariously incompetent bunch, whose inability to hit a target is for the most part so laughable that it almost makes Stormtroopers look like skilled marksmen.

Since the emphasis is on the concept more so than the plot, Wheatley carefully planned everyone’s placement on the set prior to shooting the film. Not only did this ensure that he always knew which characters needed to be where during filming, it also led to the setting of the film being fully realized as an environment where the filthy factory poses as much of a threat to the lives of the characters as the hapless shooting does. This intricate mapping also results in a highly structured film with a tight pace, where new elements are introduced at carefully paced intervals to keep the audience engaged for the full 90 minutes of the film. Utilizing the medium of cinema to its full extent, the lighting, color grading and score all help to emphasize the tone of the film, selling the time period well. The editing is also seamless, maintaining tension while also keeping track of the individual characters at all times. And the characters work perfectly for what they need to be, which is not only because of the witty and highly quotable writing, but also thanks to an ensemble cast whose skill ensures that the jokes continue to land as everyone increasingly deteriorates while the bullets fly around their ears.

Some have voiced their disappointment with the film on the basis that they were expecting something similar to Reservoir Dogs in terms of the tone of the film. Aside from the fact that both films are largely confined to very restricted sets and both have copious amounts of strong violence and foul language, one does wonder how the trailers and marketing has led anyone to feel misled, as Free Fire tonally has much more in common with the films of Shane Black than anything Quentin Tarantino has ever done. As an action comedy, Free Fire ticks all the right boxes as it expertly blends action and comedy, just as it is rare to see a high concept film succeed so well within its own confines.

As such, the film is a refreshing mix of silly, gritty and conceptual that provokes plenty of laughs and gasps as it fumbles its way through its story like a delightfully clumsy cousin of last year’s The Nice Guys. Extras include commentary and making of. (– Leyla Mikkelsen, Lionsgate/Released 7/18/17)

 

Ghost in the Shell

In a future obsessed with cybernetic enhancements, Major (Scarlett Johansson) succumbs to the injuries she has suffered in a terrorist attack, but scientists manage to save her brain and place it in a manufactured body before her natural body perishes.

Being the first of her kind, she joins Section 9, where she becomes the ultimate weapon in the fight against cyberterrorists who hack and control people’s minds.

However, when a new enemy emerges and her memory begins to glitch and show her things from her past, Major questions the circumstances of her rebirth, and as the lines between good and bad increasingly blur, she suspects that perhaps her life was not saved, but instead stolen.

Live action adaptations of anime rarely cause anything but varying degrees of frustration, so it is understandable that most people familiar with the Ghost in the Shell manga and anime were apprehensive about this highly influential franchise getting the Hollywood treatment.

The main focus of this particular adaptation is the 1995 animated feature Ghost in the Shell, although liberties have been taken to alter the storyline as this version is not a shot for shot remake, but instead borrows from other Ghost in the Shell storylines. Scarlett Johansson delivers a good performance as the Major, utilizing her more-human-than-human shtick to its full extent while also adding a subtle tinge of humanity to the character. Boasting stunning visuals, the film showcases both highly detailed production design and expert cinematography.

In fact, the visuals are often so beautiful that it is easy to see how much inspiration the animated version took from Blade Runner, as the 2017 adaptation of Ghost in the Shell occasionally manages to mimic the atmosphere of Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece. This artistic paraphrasing is also prevalent in Lorne Balfe and Clint Mansell’s score; while Kenji Kawai’s breathtaking score from the original is sorely missed, Balfe and Mansell’s work is beautiful and haunting, ensuring that the tone of the new film remains similar to that of the original.

But the tone of the film is also what will make it a divisive experience for the audience; while fans of the 1995 original may find enjoyment in both the film’s tone as well as the recreation of many a stunning image, the uninitiated may not be equally entertained. This is in part due to how much the pacing begins to drag in the second half of the film; Rupert Sanders’ adaptation may get high marks for faithfulness in terms of the superficial elements, but the acting and the story are not engaging enough to elevate the film from beautiful mimicry to good storytelling. These issues are only exacerbated by the choice to dumb down the philosophical element of the film, as this choice detracts substantially from the overall experience, resulting in the film easily managing being passable, but never being anything near exceptional.

It is difficult to review this adaptation without commenting on the whitewashing aspect, as people have become increasingly aware of how problematic and culturally insensitive a lack of accurate representation is. Is whitewashing an issue in terms of the source material? No. Mamuro Oshii, the director of the 1995 original, has pointed out that Major is not subject to the confines of race because she is a cyborg. Is whitewashing an issue in terms of Hollywood casting standards? Yes.

Scarlett Johansson as an individual is not the problem as such, as the responsibility for whitewashing rather lies with the production companies backing the film; while there are numerous Asian actresses who would undoubtedly have fit the requirements for the role of Major perfectly, they would not be anywhere near as high profile in the eyes of Western audiences as Johansson is, so the casting choice callously and expectedly boils down to profit.

While increasing diversity would raise the profile of more non-white actors, we all know that money talks the same language as studio executives. As such, the production companies have clearly wished to cast someone with Johansson’s star power, as they perceive her to be reason enough alone for some cinema-goers to throw their money at the film. There are further points to be discussed in terms of the issue of whitewashing in relation to the live action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, but delving into them here would result in dissecting plot twists of the film that some would consider spoilers. All in all, the good thing we can take from this discussion is that it will hopefully push Hollywood to reconsider how they go about casting films such as Ghost in the Shell in the future, as this film is guilty of whitewashing to such a degree that the tone deaf insensitivity is baffling.

Controversies aside, Rupert Sanders’ Ghost in the Shell is an admirable effort in terms of visuals and tone, but the choice to dumb down the highly compelling and intricate philosophy of the original leaves the viewer with the feeling that the film makers did not manage to fully implement the ghost into this whitewashed shell. Extras include making of and featurettes. (– Leyla Mikkelsen, Paramount/Released 7/25/17)

 

One Day Since Yesterday

Peter Bogdanovich was a household name before directors were stars, a “boy wonder” of the movies. One Day Since Yesterday follows the life and work of this maverick film icon, from his early skyrocketing success with Oscar-winning films like The Last Picture Show (1971) and Paper Moon (1973) to his polarizing persona to his burgeoning love affair with Dorothy Stratten.

A young star of his romantic comedy They All Laughed (1981), Stratten was also its sparkling inspiration. In August 1980, she was murdered.

Powerful conversations with the director himself, as well as intimate interviews with friends, family and renowned actors and filmmakers – including Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, and Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson and many more – reveal a man who was often revered, deeply loved and sometimes hated, a man who battled the studios, and one whose devastating loss would eventually reshape his larger-than-life career. (Warner Archive/Released 10/18/16)

 

Outsiders Season 2

This season on Outsiders, the struggle for power and control continues in the rugged hills of Appalachia as the conflict between the clan and the town escalates with the Farrells becoming more isolated than ever before.

The uneasy truce that had generally existed between the townspeople and the Farrell clan came to an end as Big Coal interests headed up the mountain and the standoff at the end of season one continues to have repercussions, putting everyone to the test as they’re forced to face new challenges and enemies.

Cast includes David Morse, Joe Anderson, Gillian Alexy, Ryan Hurst, and Kyle Gallner. Extras include deleted scenes. (Sony/Released 5/23/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • And the Three Shall Save You: Following the death of Big Foster, G’Win is pressured to assume leadership as Asa looks to flee the Farrells once and for all.
  • Shadowside: A new arrival threatens to disrupt the balance of power on Shay Mountain.
  • Banishment: G’Win is confronted with an impossible decision; at the same time, Lil Foster begins to feel like all hope is lost.
  • How We Hunt: The animals aren’t the only ones to bleed during the Farrell’s winter hunt.
  • We Are Kinnah: G’Win’s loyalties are tested on the mountain while Hasil grapples with a new career in town.
  • Kill Or Be Killed: The mountain demands a sacrifice; Lil Foster struggles to resist his primal instincts.
  • Home For Supper: As Big Foster nurses G’Win following their showdown with the Kinnah, Wade informs them that Lil Foster is being held for the murder of a prison gang leader.
  • Healing: As Big Foster is ostracized following a disastrous effort to help G’Win, Wade is suspected of helping Lil Foster escape.
  • Loyal to the Bone: G’Win and Big Foster join forces to make Haylie Grimes answer for the coal company’s campaign to drive them off Shay Mountain.
  • Strangers in a Strange Land: As Wade investigates the disappearance of Haylie, G’Win demands that she answer for her company’s destruction of Shay Mountain.
  • The Run: As Haylie looks to expose One Planet’s destructive campaign, G’Win and Big Foster team up to replenish their family’s dwindling supplies of food and water.
  • What Must Be Done: As Wade finds evidence of a cover-up in the coal company’s plan to evict the Farrells, activist Gordon Jerrod offers to help Big Foster save the clan’s mountaintop home.
  • Unbroken Chain: Big Foster sets into motion his plan to defeat the coal company, drawing him and G’Win into battle for leadership of the clan.

 

Pink Flamingos: 25th Anniversary Edition

Renegade filmmaker and noted aficionado of expressive bad taste John Waters exploded into international infamy with this darkly comic, no-budget parade of the perverse (his third feature film, and first in color), in which plus-size cross-dresser Divine stars as Babs Johnson, a flashy criminal on the lam from the FBI who is hiding out in a trailer outside of Baltimore, MD.

Accompanying Babs are her mother (Edith Massey), an obese and dim-witted woman who is malignly obsessed with eggs; her degenerate son, Crackers (Danny Mills); and Cotton (Mary Vivian Pierce), Babs’ duplicitous “traveling companion” and Crackers’ co-conspirator in unwholesome erotic play.

While Babs would prefer to be left in peace, she takes great pride in her status as “the Filthiest Person Alive” (an honor confirmed by one of America’s sleazier tabloid newspapers), and when Connie and Raymond Marble (Mink Stole and David Lochary) announce their plans to take the title away from her, Babs is not about to stand idly by.

The Marbles are a hateful couple who kidnap women, force their homosexual manservant, Channing (Channing Wilroy), to impregnate them, and sell the babies to lesbian couples found unfit for legal adoption; the Marbles then turn the profits back into pornography and narcotics trafficking. Impressive stuff, to be sure, but Babs is not about to take a back seat to anyone in a battle of filth, and when the Marbles throw down the gauntlet, Babs and her family retaliate in a no-holds-barred battle to determine who truly are “the Filthiest People Alive.”

Featuring murder, bestiality, rape, dismemberment, coprophagia, a dizzying variety of sexual perversions, and a performance of “Papa Oom Mow Mow” you will not soon forget, Pink Flamingos’ success launched John Waters into a career as America’s leading authority on poor taste. (Warner Archive/Released 6/13/17)

 

Prison Break Event Series

Although he was buried seven years ago, pictures from a Yemen prison reveal that Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) may still be alive, which sends shock waves through everyone he knows.

Determined to rescue his brother, Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) enlists C-Note’s (Rockmond Dunbar) help.

Meanwhile, Michael’s wife Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies) has remarried. And even if this biggest break-out yet is possible, is Michael the same man he was?

Also starring Robert Knepper and Amaury Nolasco, this action-packed series has more plot twists than ever.

Extras include a featurette. (20th Century Fox/Released 6/27/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Ogygia: Seven years has passed and with everyone moved on with their lives, Michael is discovered to still be alive after his apparent death and has ended up in a Yemen prison. Lincoln gets a visit from a familiar face and learns the news about Michael and his whereabouts.
  • Kaniel Outis: As Lincoln and C-Note search for the “Sheik of Light,” Michael and his cellmate, Whip, attempt an escape from Ogygia. Meanwhile, Sara’s investigation into Michael’s reappearance leads her to the state department and an uneasy reunion with Paul Kellerman.
  • The Liar: When T-Bag ambushes Sara, he warns her that two of Poseidon’s henchmen, Van Gogh and A&W, may be following her. Meanwhile, Lincoln attempts to retrieve his confiscated passport to escape Yemen, and Michael plans his next move.
  • The Prisoner’s Dilemma: Michael, Whip and Ja make their last attempt to break from Ogygia, but must make a deal with the devil to do so. Lincoln races against the clock to help with the escape, as T-Bag meets with Kellerman to gather more info on Michael’s resurrection.
  • Contingency: Lincoln becomes frustrated as he tries to understand what really happened to Michael. Meanwhile, C-Note has a new escape plan, but fears it will not be executed quickly enough as Cyclops is trailing closely behind; at the same time, Sara struggles with the idea that Michael may be alive.
  • Phaecia: As Michael, Lincoln and the remaining Ogygia gang try to escape Yemen, they find themselves racing though the desert from a vengeful Cyclops. Meanwhile, A&W and Van Gogh question their roles as their pursuit of the escapees leads them to…Graceland.
  • Wine Dark Sea: Sara becomes fearful of her family’s safety when she discovers the real reason that Michael faked his own death. In the meantime, Michael and Lincoln continue to try find a way home with the help of Sucre, and the real identity of Poseidon is revealed.
  • Progeny: When Sara and her son’s safety is threatened, Michael and Lincoln recruit the help of Sheba and C-Note to try and catch Poseidon. Meanwhile, Whip goes on a separate mission and T-Bag reveals a secret.
  • Behind the Eyes: Dangerous threats keep Michael and Lincoln fighting to protect Sara and Mike. Meanwhile, Poseidon continues to try and outsmart Michael and the rest of the gang, which leads them to the ultimate showdown, and not everyone makes it out alive.

 

Ride The High Country

His days of glory as a legendary lawman have passed, and aging Steve Judd (Joel McCrea) accepts the job of transporting gold from a remote mining camp in the Sierras to a smalltown bank.

Assisting him are Gil Westrum (Randolph Scott), another forgotten lawman reduced to earning his living as a carnival sharpshooter, and Heck Longtree (Ron Starr), an adventurous young drifter. Secretly, Gil and Heck plan to steal the gold deposits, with or without Steve’s help.

En route to the mining camp the three men are joined by Elsa Knudsen (Mariette Hartley), the rebellious daughter of a religious zealot (R. G. Armstrong). Elsa is running away to join her boyfriend, Billy Hammond (James Drury), at the mining camp. When they arrive, she marries Billy; but a brawl starts immediately after the ceremony, and Elsa refuses to stay with her husband and his drunken brothers.

Instead, she leaves the camp with Steve, Gil, and Heck, who have collected the gold for transport.

On the way back to the lowlands, Gil and Heck attempt to steal the gold, but Steve outwits them. Later, Gil slips away but returns when his comrades are attacked by the Hammond brothers. In a blazing shootout, the Hammonds are slain, but Steve also is mortally wounded. Before Steve dies, Gil promises him that he will deliver the gold and do what he can for Elsa and Heck, who have become attracted to each other. Extras include feature length documentary, commentary and trailer. (Warner Archive/Released 4/4/17)

 

Fist Fight

A regrettably unfunny comedy that’s basically a remake of the 1987 film Three O’Clock High without the originality or verisimilitude.

The film focuses on a meek high-school teacher (Charlie Day), who is accused of getting a fellow teacher (Ice Cube) fired, resulting to a challenge to fight at the end of the school day.

With a strong supporting cast including Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Dean Norris, Christina Hendricks, Dennis Haysbert, JoAnna Garcia Swisher and Kumail Nanjiani, Fist Fight never elevates beyond a series of gags that do little to push the insipid plot forward. With it’s easy to identify parallels to the current administration (authority figures acting like thin-skinned, temperamental children), Fist Fight does a disservice not looking at the real issues of downsizing, bullying and the current educational systems and instead focuses on the unlikely and predictable moments of a horse on meth.

Extras include a commercial for the Georgia Film Commission and deleted scenes. (Warner Bros/Released 5/30/17)

 

Golden Years

After five decades of law-abiding, tax-paying citizenship, retired couple Arthur (Bernard Hill) and Martha (Virginia McKenna) Goode lead a simple life in the suburbs, relaxing at home and socializing with friends at their club. But when the nation’s financial crisis empties their hard-earned pension accounts, the couple seizes the opportunity to replenish their funds through a series of bank robberies.

Dressed in masks and armed with cucumbers as guns, the unlikely criminal duo makes national news. But with detectives Sid (Alun Armstrong) and Stringer (Brad Moore) closing in on them, and their beloved club in talks to become a supermarket, the Goodes enlist their friends’ help to pull off one last, audacious heist.

This fast-paced comedy-drama features an internationally renowned cast, also including Una Stubbs, Phil Davis, Ellen Thomas, Sue Johnston, and Simon Callow.

Extras include interviews with cast and crew. (Acorn Media/Released 5/30/17)

 

Grey Lady

When Boston Police Detective James Doyle (Eric Dane)’s partner is killed in an ambush, a clue sends him to Nantucket in the lonely off-season.

A murder mystery unfolds, one that draws the guilty and the innocent into its vortex.

As Doyle hunts the killer and the killer hunts him things are not always what they seem to be on the Grey Lady.

Written and directed by John Shea, Grey Lady also stars Natalie Zea, Amy Madigan, Adrian Lester, Carolyn Stotesbery, Chris Meyer, and Rebecca Gayheart. (Lionsgate/Released 6/27/17).

 

 

 

Hart To Hart: The Complete Series

“This is my boss – Jonathan Hart, a self-made millionaire. He’s quite a guy. This is Mrs. H – she’s gorgeous. She’s one lady who knows how to take care of herself. By the way, my name is Max. I take care of both of them – which ain’t easy; ‘cause when they met, it was murder.”

So begins every episode, starring Robert Wagner (It Takes A Thief) and Stefanie Powers (The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.) as the jet-setting detectives who solve mysteries in the charming and elegant Hart to Hart.

Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, a wealthy and glamorous couple, always manage to find themselves caught up in intrigue and adventure. Along with their loyal and gravel-voiced servant Max (Lionel Stander), these stylish sleuths delighted audiences throughout Hart To Hart’s five-season run on network television.

Created by Sidney Sheldon, both a bestselling novelist (Master of the Game, The Other Side Of Midnight) and hit television producer (I Dream of Jeannie, The Patty Duke Show), Hart to Hart is a smart and sexy detective drama featuring sparkling and witty dialogue, gorgeous costumes, and the sort of thrilling exploits that are never out of style.

Includes the original pilot and all 110 episodes. Guest stars included Roddy McDowell, Natalie Wood, John Vernon, Adam West, Mimi Rogers, David McCallum, Bubba Smith, Patrick Macnee, Joseph Mascolo Ray Wise, Mary Woronov, M.C. Gainey, Fred Dryer, Robert Davi, Sue Ane Langdon, Gary Lockwood, Tippi Hedren, Ray Walston, Dean Stockwell, Alan Oppenheimer, Lane Smith, Christopher Hewett, Jonathan Frakes, Dominique Dunne, William Daniels, Kelly Bishop, Whit Bissell, Billy Barty, Stanley Ralph Ross, Grace Lee Whitney, Vincent Schiavelli, George Wendt, Steve Allen, Al Leong, Anthony Newley, Shari Belafonte, James Noble, Leann Hunley, David Paymer, Charles Fleischer, Stella Stevens, Charlie Callas, John Hillerman, Markie Post, Dorothy Lamour, Cesar Romero, Xander Berkeley, Ed Harris, Bernie Kopell, Amy Madigan, Robert Englund, Bonnie Bartlett, Florence Henderson, Daniel J. Travanti, David Warner, Sandahl Bergman, Clive Revill, Ron Glass, Jerry Stiller, Dolph Sweet, Jill St. John, James Hong, Rene Auberjonois, Pat Hingle, Eva Gabor, Bibi Besch, Joanna Cassidy, Bibi Besch, Michael Lerner, Ray Milland and Joe Pantoliano. (Shout! Factory/Released 5/30/17)

 

I am Heath Ledger

Adored by many fans and audiences, Heath Ledger was one of Hollywood’s most gifted young actors.

Starring in break-out hits like Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight, Ledger quickly rose to fame before his tragic and unexpected death at the age of 28.

I am Heath Ledger recounts his remarkable acting career, from his early days performing in Australia to his rapid rise in the Hollywood spotlight. The documentary also showcases footage captured through the lens of Ledger’s own camera, offering a unique look into his personal life. I am Heath Ledger will present a side of Heath that no one has seen before – until now.

In addition to never before seen footage, I am Heath Ledger features a wide range of interviews, from close friends and family members to industry colleagues including directors Ang Lee and Catherine Hardwicke; actors Naomi Watts, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, and Emile Hirsch; musicians Ben Harper, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), N’fa, and Grace Woodroofe; and the Ledger family. (Virgil Films/Released 5/23/17)

 

Dark Angel

Directed by Emmy award-winner Brian Percival, written by Golden Globe nominee Gwyneth Hughes and inspired by the book Mary Ann Cotton: Britain’s First Female Serial Killer by noted criminologist David Wilson, Dark Angel dramatizes the events that drew a troubled woman ever deeper into a career of casual murder, while her loved ones and friends, who were also her victims, never suspected a thing.

A Golden Globe-winner and three-time Emmy nominee for her Downton Abbey performance, Joanne Froggatt is joined by an exceptional cast, including Alun Armstrong as Mary Ann’s stepfather, Mr. Stott; Thomas Howes as her husband number two, George; Jonas Armstrong as her longtime lover, Joe; Sam Hoare as husband number three, James; Laura Morgan as her best friend, Maggie; plus additional actors playing other husbands, her many children, and the few citizens who suspect that something is not quite right about Mary Ann.

Born in North East England in 1832, a child of the coal fields, Mary Ann Cotton grew up in poverty with the dream of escaping the hard life of a miner’s family, a goal she came tantalizingly close to achieving.

Her chosen means were her good looks, sexual allure, and the dirty secret of nineteenth-century suspicious deaths: arsenic, which is tasteless and easily disguised in a cup of tea.

For authorities, the problem was that arsenic poisoning, if done skillfully, mimicked the symptoms of two of the major public health scourges of the day; typhoid fever and cholera. The passing of a child or husband after a week of severe stomach pains, convulsions, and other portents of disease was all too common — and even less surprising when several members of the same household succumbed.

Mary Ann did tempt fate by taking out a modest insurance policy on her intended victims, whenever possible, but she inadvertently hit on the major success strategies of a serial killer: keep moving, be charming, and exude self confidence. And along with others in this line of criminality, her body count can never be certain; the current best estimate is at least thirteen, ranking her far above her Victorian male counterpart, Jack the Ripper.

Female serial killers are so rare that criminologists continue to debate what makes them tick. Is it a thirst for power, a desire for material gain, or a sadistic delight in undermining gender stereotypes when they ask, “Why don’t I make you a nice cup of tea?” (PBS/Released 5/23/17)

 

Ice: Season One

Ice follows the prestigious diamond-dealing Green Family, as they plunge into the high-stakes underbelly of the Los Angeles diamond trade. Jake (Cam Gigandet) and Freddy (Jeremy Sisto) are brothers brought together by their father, Isaac (Raymond Barry), the patriarch behind Green & Green Diamond Company, and their uncle Cam (Ray Winstone). After wildcard Freddy kills a prominent diamond dealer, his brother Jake must bail him out and save the family business from Lady Rah, a ruthless diamond dealer who is not afraid to get her hands dirty (Judith Shekoni).

In saving Freddy, the family falls under the thumb of Lady Rah, who begins to involve the Greens in her business deals. As she steps up her demands, the Greens must maneuver amongst blood diamond deals and double-crossing criminals, while attempting to stay one step ahead and keep the doors to the business open. But when Pieter Van de Bruin (Donald Sutherland), a ruthless diamond smuggler with designs on Green & Green Diamond Company, arrives in Los Angeles, the family realizes their problems have only just begun. Extras include a featurette, interviews and a music video. (Entertainment One/Released 5/16/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Hyenas: After a terrible accident, two brothers from a prestigious Los Angeles diamond family find themselves forced to work for a dangerous blood-diamond dealing crime boss.
  • Run You Bastards Run: In an attempt to get out from under Lady Rah, Jake plots a heist at the San Pedro docks with disastrous consequences.
  • The Line: Lady Rah sends Jake and Freddy to get illegal diamonds certified and ready for sale, but things get complicated when Isaac gets involved.
  • Two Handkerchiefs: Jake and Freddy smuggle Lady Rah’s diamonds into Vancouver, but things don’t go as planned. Cam and Isaac butt heads over the direction Green and Green is taking. New evidence comes to light in the Avi Kreshman case.
  • Tears of the Gods: The Green family comes together for a funeral, which brings long simmering tensions to the surface. A mysterious diamond dealer with ties to Cam’s past arrives in LA.
  • Facet: While Cam and Pieter scheme to gain control of Green and Green, Ava takes a bigger role in the family business against Jake’s wishes. In the wake of his father’s death Freddy takes steps to get clean. Carlos hits a dead end in his investigation.
  • Clarity: Freddy and Jake attend an underground diamond auction. Pieter and Cam meet with a Venezuelan diplomat about re-opening an abandoned mine. The U.S. Attorney’s investigation into Pieter Van de Bruin causes problems in Ava’s new relationship.
  • Side Trip: Jake and Lady Rah form an uneasy alliance against Pieter. Freddy and Ava work together to gain access to a Russian diamond syndicate. Cam’s relationship with Sarah takes a turn for the worst.
  • The Cut: Vincent’s murder brings the conflict between Lady Rah and Pieter to a head with Jake and Cam falling on opposing sides. Freddy and Ava try to turn their fortunes around in Russia.
  • Stand Off: With Pieter holding Ava hostage, Jake and Freddy must come together to save her. The investigation into Pieter begins to close in on Green and Green. Cam strikes out on his own, making a deal with the cartel.

 

Isolation

Inspired by true events, see what happens when a couple vacationing in the Bahamas is hunted by a group of modern-day pirates.

Hoping to restore their flagging marriage, Lydia (Tricia Helfer) and Creighton (Luke Mably) journey to a remote island in the sun-drenched Bahamas. One drunken night, they return to their cabin to find it ransacked.

Will nearby couple Max (Dominic Purcell) and Nina (Marie Avgeropoulos) offer them help — or harm?

Also starring Stephen Lang, this seductive, sinister thriller shows that trust can be a dangerous thing.(Lionsgate/Released 6/20/17)

 

 

 

Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft

This culinary journey traces the life of Jaqcues Pépin, a young immigrant with movie-star looks and a charming Gallic accent, who elevated essential kitchen techniques to an art form to become one of America’s most beloved food icons.

Jacques Pépin the second of three sons, was born in 1935 in Bourg-en-Bresse, near Lyon. The program traces Pépin’s journey from his childhood in the countryside of wartime France, where his family’s tradition of entrepreneurial women running homegrown restaurants propelled him into an early culinary career.

At the age of 13, Pépin leaves home to begin a formal apprenticeship at the distinguished Grand Hôtel de l’Europe. His first break comes at 16, when, as the sole chef, he cooks the fireman’s banquet in the alpine resort town of Bellegarde, a success that results in his first newspaper photo op. “I start to realize that I could put some of myself in the food. It didn’t have to be exactly the way my mother wanted it to be,” says Pépin, recalling this pivotal moment in his life.

Nearly 17, Pépin moves to Paris, initially without a job, and eventually works at dozens of restaurants learning about classical cooking. He trains under Lucien Diat at the Hotel Plaza Athénée where the emphasis is on technique. Four years later, he is drafted into the Navy, but because his older brother is already on the front, Pépin is assigned to stay in Paris as a cook at Navy headquarters. Now an accomplished chef, he is assigned to create special dinners for the top brass and becomes the personal chef for three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle. But Pépin understands that in the late 1950s, the cook, even if “first chef,” is really at the bottom of the social scale and viewed as the help. Not content cooking in French palaces; Pépin decides to move to the United States in 1959.

In New York, Pépin lands a job at Le Pavillon, the most influential French restaurant in the country, and soon meets the three people he calls the “Trinity of Cooking”: Craig Claiborne, food editor of The New York Times; James Beard; and Julia Child. In later years, he partners with Child on a television series, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, for which he and Child win a Daytime Emmy in 2001.

While at Le Pavillon, Pépin is courted for the position of “first chef” in the new Kennedy White House, a position he turns down. Instead, he goes to work in the kitchens of Howard Johnson’s hotel and restaurant chain (1960–70) where he learns about mass production, marketing, food chemistry, and American popular food.

In 1974, a near fatal car accident is the catalyst that pushes Pépin’s life in a different direction as writer, teacher, and ultimately a media star. With his early landmark books on the fundamentals of culinary craft, La Technique (1976) and La Methôde (1978), and television shows, Pépin ushers in a new era in American food culture.

An American citizen for more than half a century, at age 81, Pépin continues to crisscross the country teaching, cooking, speaking, consulting, and enjoying the celebrity generated by 14 television shows, nearly 30 cookbooks, and accolades including the French Legion of Honor, France’s highest honor.

Interviews with Pépin’s wife Gloria and daughter Claudine, culinary stars and media personalities including José Andrés, Daniel Boulud, Anthony Bourdain, Tom Colicchio, Rachael Ray, Marcus Samuelsson, and Fareed Zakaria, offer insights about the man, who with his catchphrase “happy cooking” has always emphasized honesty of ingredients, simplicity of approach, and a joy for sharing food with loved ones.

The film is produced and directed by Peter L. Stein, a Peabody Award–winning documentary filmmaker who first started working with Pépin in 1989 as producer of what became Pépin’s landmark public television series Today’s Gourmet, and who went on to oversee seven seasons of cooking programs with Pépin in the 1990s. (PBS/Released 6/6/17)

 

James Beard: America’s First Foodie

While The James Beard Foundation Award is the most coveted honor in the American food industry, often referred to as the “culinary Oscars,” what do we really know about the man James Beard? James Beard: America’s First Foodie chronicles a century of food through the story of the man behind the medal, the iconic cookbook author, journalist, television celebrity and teacher.

America’s back-to-basics food movement can be traced to the pioneering work of this one man. Dubbed the “Dean of American Cookery” by The New York Times, Beard was a Portland, Oregon native who loved and celebrated the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. He spoke of the importance of localism and sustainability long before those terms had entered the culinary vernacular. He was a forerunner of the farm-to-table movement and helped create the iconic Four Seasons concept and menu.

When the world was focusing on “all things French,” Beard appreciated what America had to bring to the table. A pioneer foodie, he was the first chef to go on television hosting the show I Love to Eat on NBC in 1946 to teach not only women but men how to cook.

He authored 22 cookbooks, penned a syndicated newspaper column and wrote countless magazine articles. He introduced Julia Child to New York – later becoming best buddies with her – and ran an acclaimed cooking school out of his townhouse in New York City.

Through a recorded and print oral history crafted by Beard himself, letters to friends and colleagues, rare archival footage, vintage photographs, and interviews with Beard’s friends and peers, the documentary reveals Beard’s talents, sense of humor, and genius.

Among those appearing on the film are James Beard Award Foundation President Susan Ungaro and Executive Vice President Mitchell Davis, James Beard Award winners, and noted chefs including Pepin, Waters, Daniel Boulud, Wolfgang Puck, and more.

Among the many highlights in the documentary are Boulud and restaurant critic Gael Greene telling how Beard helped start Citymeals on Wheels; Jaques Pépin reminiscing about cooking with Beard; Martha Stewart sharing how Beard’s cookbooks influenced her; Ted Allen disclosing Beard’s challenges being an “out” gay man at a time when same-sex sexual activity was illegal; chefs Jonathan Waxman and Larry Forgione reflecting on Beard’s mentorship and its impact on their career; Puck recounting how he helped found the James Beard Foundation; Alice Waters explaining how Beard discovered Chez Panisee; chef Jeremiah Tower offering insight into Beard’s relationship with Marion Cunningham; chef Naomi Pomery demonstrating how to make the famous James Beard’s Onion Sandwich; and next generation chefs such as Marc Forgione, Greg Higgins, and Pomeroy discussing how Beard’s influence is still felt today. (PBS/Released 6/6/17)

 

Joan of Arcadia: The Complete Series

After patriarch Will (Joe Mantegna) gets a job as the chief of police, the Girardi family moves to the small town of Arcadia from the big city. Middle child Joan (Emmy and Golden Globe-nominee Amber Tamblyn) isn’t happy, and her family, consisting of science nerd Luke (Michael Welch), paralyzed former jock Kevin (Jason Ritter), and their perpetually flustered mother Helen (Mary Steenburgen), isn’t helping.

Joan finds herself talking to God, in the form of random people who give her assignments to help the people around her. When Joan prays to God to save her brother after a horriffic car crash, God appears to Joan to remind her of that promise, and to giver her various assignments that may not make much sense at the time, but always turn out to improve a bigger situation. Joan keeps following God’s assignments, never sure if she’s really speaking to him, or just going crazy.

Guest stars include Hilary Duff, Keith Coogan, Will.i.am, Armin Shimerman, Aaron Paul, Austin Pendleton, Jessica Szohr, Shelley Long, Curtis Armstrong, Jay Thomas, Cloris Leachman, Louise Fletcher Sherri Shepherd, Zachary Quinto, Joel Murray, and Robert Pine.

Extras include commentaries, deleted scenes and featurettes. (Paramount/Released 6/6/17)

 

Re-Animator

The 80s were a pretty amazing time for horror. Somehow it seemed like filmmakers could get away with just about anything. There was blood and boobs all over the screens and hardly anyone was saying shit about it.

Some of the strangest horror films every made were released in the 80s. I mean, when else would Basket Case have been released?

But Re-Animator really changed it all.

Re-Animator. The grand-daddy of splatter.

Without this film, there would be no Evil Dead 2. No Hostel. Hell, probably no Saving Private Ryan. It’s the one that started it all. Anytime you see blood and guts splatter all over the room, you can thank Stuart Gordon and this crazy little movie.

The story, in case you don’t know, is of Herbert West (Jeffery Combs, Gordon’s version of Bruce Campbell…or Robert De Niro), a young med student who wants to reanimate dead bodies. He worked on it in Switzerland, but was thrown out of the country. Now he’s at Miskitonic University and at it again.

West meets up with Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott), a promising student who is engaged to the daughter of the dean (Barbara Crampton). When he and West start working together, things get a little…crazy.

The importance of this movie can’t be overstated. Sure, it’s no Oscar winner, by any means. But that doesn’t matter. It changed the face of film, for better or worse. (I certainly think for better.) If you are into horror at all (and especially gore), you need to see this. But, then again, if you’re into horror and you’ve never seen this movie…then you’re not into horror. Extras include two versions of the film, commentaries, isolated score, feature length documentary,interviews, featurettes, extended and deleted scenes, trailer & tv spots and gallery. (– Mark Wensel, Arrow/Released 8/8/17)

 

Slither

From James Gunn, co-writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, comes Slither, the deliciously demented story of an unnamed evil wreaking havoc on a small town.

The sleepy town of Wheelsy could be any small town in America — somewhat quaint and gentle, peopled with friendly folks who mind their own business.

But just beneath the surface charm, something unnamed and evil has arrived…and is growing. Intent on devouring all life on Earth, this dark and slimy entity is infecting anyone in its path.

Now it’s up to the local sheriff, Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), and his team to stop the spread of rampant devastation – and shocking mutilation – before it’s too late. This outrageously funny horror film also stars Michael Rooker, Elizabeth Banks, and Gregg Henry.

Extras include commentaries, interviews, deleted & extended scenes, set tour, featurettes, video diary, gag reel and trailer. (Shout! Factory/Released 8/1/17)

 

Joe Versus The Volcano

Laughs erupt when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan fall in love – and fall in lava – in Joe Versus the Volcano, a stylish comedy written and directed by Moonstruck Academy Award winner John Patrick Shanley.

Stressed-out guy Joe Banks (Tom Hanks) is stuck in a dead-end job who is told he has a terminal “brain cloud.” A zany jillionaire (Lloyd Bridges) makes him an offer that gives him a fleeting taste of the good life. In exchange, he must journey to a Pacific island and leap into a volcano. With plenty of spending cash and an ensemble of new luggage, Joe embarks on an absurdist journey to his demise, guided by two very disparate sisters (Meg Ryan), and trying to puzzle out the meaning of existence.

This visually impressive and magical film marked the first onscreen pairing of Hanks and Ryan and features amazing production design, music, and cinematography. The outstanding cast includes Robert Stack, Abe Vigoda, Dan Hedaya, Ossie Davis, Amanda Plummer and Nathan Lane. Extras include featurette, music video and trailer. (Warner Archive/Released 6/20/17)

 

Juice: 25th Anniversary Edition

Four Harlem friends — Bishop (Tupac Shakur), Q (Omar Epps), Steel (Jermaine Hopkins) and Raheem (Khalil Kain) — dabble in petty crime, but they decide to go big by knocking off a convenience store.

Bishop, the magnetic leader of the group, has the gun. But Q has different aspirations. He wants to be a DJ and happens to have a gig the night of the robbery.

Unfortunately for him, Bishop isn’t willing to take no for answer in a game where everything’s for keeps.

Director and co-writer Ernest Dickerson made his directing debut on the film after a long career as a cinematographer. Juice also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Queen Latifah, Doctor Dre & Ed Lover and Fab 5 Freddy.

Extras include commentary, featurettes, interview and gallery. (Paramount/Released 6/6/17)

 

Love in the Afternoon

From director Billy Wilder. French private investigator Claude Chavasse (Maurice Chevalier) discovers his client’s wife has been having an affair with an American playboy, Frank Flannagan (Gary Cooper).

When the client decides to kill Frank, Claude’s sheltered daughter, Ariane (Audrey Hepburn), throws off the plan and saves his life.

The two are instantly attracted to one another, but Ariane doesn’t reveal her name.

Frank then hires Claude to locate Ariane, unaware he has sent him on a mission to find his own daughter.

Extras include trailer. (Warner Archive/Released 2/7/17)

 

Mad Families

On July 4th weekend, Saltstone Park brims with families eager to relax.

At campsite 16, however, the Jones, Jones and Jonas families find that their campsite has been overbooked.

What starts as a simple clerical error quickly spirals into a family feud fueled by the rivalry of three equally stubborn leaders: Jose, an affable but slovenly slacker; Franklin, a rising politician with a disdain for the outdoors; and Charlie, a goofy, alcoholic hairdresser.

By way of porta-potty races and sexually-charged forest encounters, these determined families wage a ferocious war for the right to holiday fun.

Cast includes Charlie Sheen, Leah Remini, Naya Rivera, Charlotte McKinney, Efren Ramirez and Tiffany Haddish. (Sony/Released 4/11/17)

 

Masterpiece: King Charles III

King Charles III, adapted by Mike Bartlett from his Tony-nominated stage play, is part political thriller, part family drama, and a timely examination of contemporary Britain.

Prince Charles(Tim Pigott-Smith) has waited his entire life to ascend to the British throne. But after the Queen’s death, he immediately finds himself wrestling his conscience over a bill to sign into law.

His hesitation detonates a constitutional and political crisis, and his family start to worry, with William (Oliver Chriss and Kate (Charlotte Riley) becoming aware his actions may threaten their future. Meanwhile, an unhappy and frustrated Prince Harry (Richard Goulding) starts a relationship with a ‘commoner’, just at the moment that the press is looking for a way to attack.

With the future of the monarchy under threat, protests on the streets and his family in disarray, Charles must grapple with his own identity and purpose to decide whether, in the 21st century, the British crown still has any real power.

This adaptation retains the daring verse of the original text while fully realising on screen the ambitious scale and spectacle suggested by the play – from Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace to the restless streets of London. (PBS, Released 6/27/17)

 

Money

In this high-stakes, fast-action thriller, two pharmaceutical executives (Jesse Williams, Kellan Lutz) are about to get away with stealing $5 million after selling trade secrets to the highest bidder.

But a charismatic con artist (Jamie Bamber) shows up to derail their plans and holds them hostage at gunpoint during an all-night standoff where loyalties are tested and true motives revealed.

Extras include featurette. (20th Century Fox/Released 6/27/17)

 

 

 

 

Son of Paleface

Four years after his smash comedy hit, The Paleface, Bob Hope (My Favorite Brunette) returned to the screen as Junior Potter, son of Painless Peter Potter, the hapless hero of the first film.

The Harvard-bred Junior heads out west to claim his father’s inheritance. Also returning for the sequel, but in a different role, is the beautiful Jane Russell (The Outlaw) as a gunfighter named Mike ‘The Torch’ Delroy who continually has to save our hapless hero with help from the king of the singing cowboys, Roy Rogers (Sunset in the West) and legendary horse Trigger (Trigger, Jr.) who team up with the pair to get to the bottom of a gold shipment robbery.

Co-written and directed by the great Frank Tashlin (Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?) and featuring a stellar supporting cast which includes Bill Williams and Douglass Dumbrille with cameos by Bing Crosby and legendary director Cecil B. DeMille.

Extras include a Tashlin animated short, and commentary. (Kino-Lorber/Released 7/5/17)

 

My Favorite Brunette

Comedy legend Bob Hope (The Lemon Drop Kid) plays a baby photographer who gets mixed up with gangsters in this bubbly slapstick comedy-noir.

Ronnie Jackson (Hope) wants nothing more than to step into the gumshoes of office mate Sam McCloud (Alan Ladd), a private investigator who runs his own detective agency. Jackson gets his big break when a mysterious femme fatale (Dorothy Lamour) strolls into McCloud’s office and asks him to find her kidnapped uncle.

Jackson plays along with the detective role but is soon in way over his head as he becomes embroiled in a dangerous plot involving professional killers.

This spoof of the hardboiled detective genre also features horror legends Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney Jr. as two of Hope’s villainous foils.

Top-notch direction by Elliott Nugent and beautiful black-and-white cinematography by Oscar-winner Lionel Lindon. (Kino-Lorber/Released 7/5/17)

 

Road to Rio

In this fifth of seven “Road to” movies, Hot Lips Barton (Bob Hope) and Scat Sweeney (Bing Crosby) stow away on an ocean bound ship to avoid being charged with arson after burning down a circus.

Aboard the vessel, the duo fall for the beautiful Lucia Maria de Andrade (Dorothy Lamour). Lucia is under the spell of her evil aunt (Gale Sondergaard), who has arranged a marriage for the young beauty to take over her inheritance.

Just like its predecessors, Road to Rio is full of hilarious Hope and Crosby gags and wonderful musical sequences, featuring musical guests The Wiere Brothers and The Andrew Sisters.

Beautifully shot by Oscar-winner Ernest Laszlo with wonderful direction by Norman Z. McLeod who went on to direct Hope in four more features and a screenplay by Edmund Beloin and Jack Rose. (Kino-Lorber/Released 7/5/17)

 

Road to Bali

In this sixth of seven “Road to” movies, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour team up in their only color film in the series.

Hope and Crosby star as two out-of-work vaudeville performers who are on the lam. The two are hired by a South Seas prince as deep-sea divers in order to recover a buried treasure. They meet beautiful Princess Lala (Lamour) and vie for her affections.

Of course, the boys run into the usual perils such as cannibals, a giant squid and numerous cameos from some of Hollywood’s biggest stars like Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Jane Russell and Humphrey Bogart. Director Hal Walker was no stranger to the three actors, having directed the trio in Road to Utopia. The seventh and final “Road to” picture, Road to Hong Kong, would be released 10 years later for another studio and co-starred Joan Collins with Hope and Crosby, with Lamour only making a brief cameo appearance.

Extras include commentary. (Kino-Lorber/Released 7/5/17)

 

The Lemon Drop Kid

Comedy legend Bob Hope stars as Sidney Milburn (A.K.A. The Lemon Drop Kid, named so after his love of the simple candy), a con man who offers a friendly “sure thing” horse tip to the girlfriend of mobster Moose Moran (Fred Clark) at the race track.

When the horse loses and Moose’s original pick wins, Moose gives Sidney until Christmas to pay back the money he lost or his thug, Sam the Surgeon (Harry Bellaver), will “open up” Sidney after Christmas.

To pay back the money he owes Moose, Sidney enlists some pals to hit the street corners of New York dressed as Santa Claus accepting donations for a bogus elderly ladies’ home, but soon after, gangster Oxford Charlie (Lloyd Nolan) tries to move in on Sidney’s scam. What follows is vintage Hope shenanigans, highlighted by a heart-warming rendition of the Christmas classic “Silver Bells” sung by Hope and Marilyn Maxwell.

Also starring William Frawley and Tor Johnson. (Kino-Lorber/Released 7/5/17)

 

Freeway

There’s a killer on the road… and on the radio! There are 600 miles of freeway in Los Angeles. Every night, millions of angry motorists speed through its asphalt maze.

Some of them have guns.

One of them enjoys killing people.

Now a traumatized ER nurse (Darlanne Fluegel), an acerbic talk-radio host (Richard Belzer) and a stranger with a dark secret (James Russo) must join to stop the bible-quoting madman (Billy Drago) who has promised the panicked city one final fast lane massacre. Michael Callan, Steve Franken, Kenneth Tobey, Roy Clark and Clint Howard co-star in this suspense thriller co-written and directed by television and music video veteran Francis Delia that shocked audiences at the height of LA’s real-life freeway shooting sprees.

Extras include director interview. (Kino-Lorber/Released 7/18/17)

 

No Man’s Land

The Fast, the Furious… and the Deadly! Sleek cars, hot women and life in the fast lane… what rookie cop wouldn’t be tempted to go bad?

Superstar Charlie Sheen, D.B. Sweeney and Randy Quaid star in this pedal-to-the-metal, full-throttle thriller that’s your best bet for curve-hugging, edge-of-your-seat entertainment!

Benjy Taylor (Sweeney) is a young cop with an eye for cars and fast women. He goes undercover at a Porsche garage that doubles as a chop shop; the seductive world of his target, Ted Varrick (Sheen), may be his undoing.

The midnight joyrides, ultra-slick parties and Varrick’s sexy sister (Lana Harris) help sway Taylor into believing that his new fast friend has the kind of life he wants… even though Varrick may be guilty of much more than car theft… and Taylor may be in much deeper than he thinks.

TV veteran Peter Werner directed this action-packed stylish thriller written by legendary writer/producer Dick Wolf and featuring a strong supporting cast that includes Bill Duke, R.D. Call and M. Emmet Walsh.

Extras include interviews and commentary. (Kino-Lorber/Released 7/18/17)

 

Kung Fu Yoga

Jack (Jackie Chan), a world-renowned archaeology professor, and his team are on a grand quest to locate a lost ancient Indian treasure when they are ambushed by a team of mercenaries and left for dead.

Using his vast knowledge of history and kung fu, Jack leads his team on a race around the world to beat the mercenaries to the treasure and save an ancient culture in this breakneck action-comedy that reunites Chan with acclaimed director Stanley Tong (Rumble in the Bronx, Supercop).

Extras include featurettes, bloopers and making of.

(Well Go USA/Released 8/8/17)

 

 

Fortitude Season 2

Having disappeared after shooting Elena, Sheriff Dan Anderssen (Richard Dormer) is presumed dead. Vincent (Luke Treadaway) remains traumatized by his attack and Hildur (Sofie Grabol) struggles to hold on to her marriage, and her office.

Eric (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson) fails to step into Dan’s shoes, leaving Ingrid and Petra to police a fragile community. New faces are pulled into Fortitude’s vortex, including Ingrid’s stepfather Michael (Dennis Quaid). A fisherman, he is desperate to raise funds to buy treatment for his dying wife, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

At the research center, ambitious newcomer Dr. Surinder Khatri (Parminder Nagra) spots an opportunity that encourages her to push both medical and ethical boundaries.

Then, a horrendous death rocks Fortitude. What looks like a careless accident involving a snowplow turns out to be a barbaric murder.

As the police team investigate, a strange new figure appears hell-bent on destroying an evil spirit he believes has descended upon Fortitude and its inhabitants. There’s a demon amongst the herd and it has to be stopped, no matter what the consequences… (PBS/Released 8/1/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Episode 1: As the remote arctic town struggles with government cuts, a missing sheriff, and a strange new figure, a chilling discovery proves that the horror isn’t over for our locals; there is a demon amongst the herd.
  • Episode 2: The police continue their gruesome investigation and make several discoveries with worrying implications. Meanwhile Governor Odegard is presented with devastating news as Sheriff Dan struggles for his life, and a new threat makes its presence known.
  • Episode 3: Odegard and Michael sail to the nearby town of Vukobejina, where things are not what they seem. Natalie and Vincent head out into the wilderness and the police track down their suspect, but a dark turn of events leads them to question everything.
  • Episode 4: Eric struggles to keep control as the body count increases and Dr. Khatri receives an unexpected visitor. Meanwhile, Freya’s mysterious house guest teaches her the power of sacrifice, whilst Natalie and Vincent’s field trip descends into chaos.
  • Episode 5: As the town mourns its loss, someone makes a disturbing challenge. Michael finds a glimmer of hope for Freya, whilst Vincent’s trust in Natalie is shattered. Dan comes to terms with his role in Elena’s fate and a killer falls victim to a brutal act.
  • Episode 6: Dr. Khatri attempts to cover her tracks when Michael presents the scientists with a miracle. Dan and Elena relive their trauma and Odegard returns armed with evidence, determined to reveal Munk and his tangled web of lies – but will anyone listen?
  • Episode 7: Eric and the team make slow progress whilst Munk begins to buckle under the strain. Michael finds something unexpected on the tundra, and Dan is confronted with what he is becoming, just as a heartbreaking discovery changes the town forever.
  • Episode 8: As the town attempts to come to terms with the recent tragedy, Petra and Ingrid seek the truth. Meanwhile, a bereft Michael returns home with something of interest to the scientists and Dr. Khatri gets a step closer to achieving her goal.
  • Episode 9: Dan faces his toughest battle yet as someone makes the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. Michael and Ingrid venture out in search of justice and Natalie falls victim to Fortitude’s latest threat.
  • Episode 10: The people of Fortitude decide to take justice into their own hands, whilst Vincent rushes to save both Natalie and the town. Meanwhile, Dan seeks his own vengeance, but is there still a demon amongst the herd?

 

Silkwood

The controversial true story that inflamed a nation. Meryl Streep stars in this stunning, provocative and daring drama about one woman’s struggle against a huge corporation.

Karen Silkwood (Streep) lives a free-spirited existence with two friends, Drew Stephens (Kurt Russell) and Dolly Pelliker (Cher), who work with her at an Oklahoma nuclear facility. It’s only when she discovers she’s been exposed to radiation that Karen’s conscience awakens, and soon she is digging for evidence of wrongdoing at her company.

But her sudden zeal for safer working conditions may come at a high price as she alienates friends and possibly even puts her own life in peril.

Excellent direction by Mike Nichols with a screenplay by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen and a stellar supporting cast that includes Craig T. Nelson, Diana Scarwid, Fred Ward, Ron Silver, Charles Hallahan, Josef Sommer, David Strathairn, M. Emmet Walsh, Tess Harper and Will Patton.

Nominated for 5 Academy Awards: Actress (Streep), Supporting Actress (Cher), Director (Nichols), Original Screenplay (Ephron, Arlen) and Editing (Sam O’Steen). Extras include interview, trailers and tv spots. (Kino-Lorber/Released 7/25/17)

 

Prizzi’s Honor

Hired killers by day… devoted lovers by night! Charley Partanna (Jack Nicholson), a do-it-yourself kind of guy, has been loyal to “The Family” since he can remember. If you need somebody rubbed out he’s your eraser, ready to kill at the drop of a dime.

The mafia boss’s daughter (Anjelica Huston) has eyes for Charley, but Charley has just married the sultry hired assassin named Irene Walker (Kathleen Turner). Their unlikely relationship hits a snag, however, as they find out that their next job is to ice each other. Now Charley must choose which contract to honor, the one to his wife or the one on his wife.

Legendary filmmaker John Huston directed this wickedly amoral killer comedy with a top-notch cast that includes Robert Loggia, William Hickey, John Randolph, and Lawrence Tierney. Winner of the 1986 Oscar for Supporting Actress (Huston).

Extras include commentary. (Kino Lorber/Released 8/29/17)

 

Billy Jack: The Complete Collection

Experience the legend like never before.These four groundbreaking, action-packed classics from ’70s pop culture icon Billy Jack feature all of the fast-kicking, politically aware stories that had audiences cheering.

Influencing action films for decades, the Billy Jack films broke the mold with their unique hero, a half-American Indian/half white ex-Green Beret bent on correcting injustice and hypocrisy to help America reach its full potential. Extras include commentaries, trailers and galleries. (Shout! Factory/Released 7/25/17)

Includes the films:

The Born Losers
A biker gang incites a reign of terror in a California coastal town that culminates in four teenage girls being raped. Vietnam veteran Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin) has had enough, however, and takes on the depraved bikers single-handedly. He rescues young Vicky Barrington (Elizabeth James) from their clutches, but then has to contend with not only the thugs, but also the ineffectual and racist local lawmen, who have it out for the half-Native American Billy.

Billy Jack
The trend-setting smash hit that broke box office records and had audiences cheering! A half-Indian/half-white ex-Green Beret, “Billy Jack” is drawn more and more toward his Indian side. He hates violence but can’t get away from it in the white man’s world. Pitting the students of the peace-loving free-arts school in the desert against the oppressive bad guys in a nearby town, this action-packed film remains a landmark focusing on the most emotional themes of the time: anti-establishment, two-sided justice, and racial segregation and prejudice.

The Trial of Billy Jack
A searing expose about the violence on our nation’s campuses and our government’s stealing of Indian land through termination. The Trial Of Billy Jack not only followed in Billy Jack‘s footsteps, it broke all new ground by taking on politicians, policies and even the President of the United States! But the revolutionary ideas weren’t just on screen.

With Trial, Tom Laughlin broke every box office record and forever changed the way motion pictures were advertised and distributed. Trial was the first film to be released in 1,200 theaters on the same day, the first to use national TV advertising, the first to show Hollywood a better way to release their films. Everything about Trial Of Billy Jack was controversial.

Billy Jack Goes to Washington
The fourth film starring Tom Laughlin as Billy Jack, Billy Jack Goes To Washington was a loose remake of Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

The story begins with Billy receiving a pardon for the trumped-up charges that put him behind bars in The Trial Of Billy Jack. To curry favor with youth and minority voters, Billy is appointed to a vacant seat in the U.S. Senate. However, while Billy is told to not makes waves, he discovers Washington D.C. is a hotbed of rampant corruption, and he makes it his mission to bring honesty and justice back to our government. As with his other Billy Jack vehicles, Tom Laughlin wrote and directed the film as well as playing the title role; his wife Delores Taylor also appears again as Jean Roberts, and E.G. Marshall and Lucie Arnaz round out the supporting cast. Billy Jack Goes To Washington never received a theatrical release outside of a few scattered preview screening.

 

Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies is based in the tranquil seaside town of Monterey, California, where nothing is quite as it seems. Doting moms, successful husbands, adorable children, beautiful homes: What lies will be told to keep their perfect worlds from unraveling?

Told through the eyes of three mothers – Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Jane (Shailene Woodley) – Big Little Lies paints a picture of a town fueled by rumors and divided into the haves and have-nots, exposing the conflicts, secrets and betrayals that compromise relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and friends and neighbors.

The cast also includes Alexander Skarsgård, Laura Dern, Adam Scott, Zoë Kravitz, James Tupper and Jeffrey Nordling. Big Little Lies is written for television and created by David E. Kelley and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. (HBO/Released 8/1/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Somebody’s Dead: A suspicious death at an elementary school fundraiser draws attention to the frictions among three mothers and their families.
  • Serious Mothering: Jane deflects questions from Ziggy, Madeline is outraged over a slight from Renata, and Celeste suggests she and Perry see a counselor.
  • Living the Dream: Madeline organizes a trip to compete with Amabella’s birthday party, Celeste succumbs to Perry’s charms, and Jane opens up about her past.
  • Push Comes to Shove: Nathan invites Madeline and Ed to a couples’ dinner to discuss Abigail, while in light of further evidence of bullying, Ms. Barnes suggests Ziggy be medically evaluated.
  • Once Bitten: Madeline is confronted by a desperate Joseph, the school principal scrutinizes Ziggy’s behavior, and Dr. Reisman presses Celeste about her marriage.
  • Burning Love: Bonnie tells Nathan about Abigail’s secret project; Jane confronts Renata; Ed and Madeline have a candid conversation about their lack of passion.
  • You Get What You Need: Celeste makes a bold move; Madeline deals with fallout from her past; Jane learns who’s really been hurting Amabella.

 

Remember Me

Tom Parfitt (Michael Palin), a frail and elderly Yorkshire man seemingly alone in the world whose admittance to a nursing home triggers a series of inexplicable events.

On the day Tom leaves his home to move into residential care, he becomes the sole witness to a violent death.

Teenage care assistant Hannah Ward and investigating police detective Rob Fairholme (Mark Addy) try to unravel the riddle of Parfitt’s mysterious past as they are drawn into an eerie and dangerous world of lost love and betrayal.

Also stars Jodie Comer, Julia Sawalha and Mina Anwar. (PBS/Released 8/1/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Episode 1: At the age of “eighty-odd,” Tom Parfitt sits alone in his terraced house in the otherwise entirely Asian community of a small Yorkshire town, and remembers a strange drowned figure washed up on a beach. Tom carefully fakes a fall, to trick his social worker into taking him into residential care.
  • Episode 2: When care assistant Hannah Ward visits the strange old man Tom Parfitt in the hospital, she is shocked to learn that he has escaped. When she decides to investigate, Hannah is plunged into the same nightmare world that haunts her dreams.
  • Episode 3: Care assistant Hannah calls on detective Rob to help find Tom Parfitt. They learn that Tom has been sighted at a nearby caravan park. When they find him, Tom is battered and bruised. His caravan is destroyed, much like his room in the retirement home – windows blown out and the interior drenched.

 

Money From Home

In debt to New York bookie Jumbo Schneider (Sheldon Leonard), low-rent gambler Honey Talk Nelson (Dean Martin) finds himself on the losing end of a proposition: fix a horse race or sleep with the fishes.

Enter Virgil Yokum (Jerry Lewis), an apprentice veterinarian and Honey Talk’s cousin. Fixing the horse race may not be as difficult as originally imagined. But love will throw a wrench into the works when Honey Talk meets Phyliis Leigh (Marjie Millar) the beautiful owner of the horse to be fixed. The first color film starring the musical comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Money from Home features laughs, love and music.

Money from Home, directed by George Marshall from a screenplay by Hal Kanter (adapted by James Allardice and Kanter from a story by Damon Runyun) features supporting performances by Richard Haydn as a tipsy English jockey, Pat Crowley as a veterinarian with eyes for Virgil, and Gerald Mohr as Phyllis’s jealous suitor. (Olive Films/Released 6/27/17)

 

Crashing:Complete First Season

Executive produced by Judd Apatow and Pete Holmes, and loosely inspired by Holmes’ personal experiences in stand-up comedy, Crashing follows an aspiring comic named Pete (Holmes), who finds out his wife Jessica (Lauren Lapkus) is cheating on him, forcing a move to New York to pursue his dream of being a comedian.

Thrown into the deep end in a city that’s not for the faint of heart, the formerly sheltered Pete learns some hard lessons about life and comedy, encountering all sorts of stand-up talents along the way, from cynical guru Artie Lange, to outrageous provocateur T.J. Miller, to benevolent motivator Sarah Silverman, and many more.

While trying to make ends meet by crashing on other people’s couches (hence the series name), Pete finds goodness in unlikely places, evolving into someone who’s a little more okay with the messiness of life.

A love letter to stand-up,

Crashing is a series about discovering humor, beauty and grace in the crazy den of thieves that is the NYC comedy scene. Extras include stand-up special Pete Holmes: Faces and Sounds, featurettes and comedy excerpts. (HBO/Released 8/1/17)

Episodes include:

  • Artie Lange: An aspiring comic finds himself without a home after he catches his wife in a compromising position; Pete attempts to find solace at a New York comedy club, where he befriends cynical comedy legend Artie Lange.
  • The Road: Pete wallows in his new reality; Artie offers to let Pete be his opening act in exchange for a ride to Albany; Pete meets co-headliner T.J. Miller and attempts to save Artie from breaking his sobriety.
  • Yard Sale: While staying at T.J. Miller’s place, Pete witnesses a comic who is unable to “turn it off”; Pete and T.J. travel upstate for his wife’s yard sale; Pete unexpectedly teams up with Leif to get back a prized possession; Jess voices her true feelings.
  • Barking: In an effort to get stage time, Pete spends the night handing out fliers for a comedy club; while on the streets of New York, Pete encounters disinterested locals, befriends up-and-coming comics, engages in a turf war and gets a pep talk.
  • Parents: When Pete’s parents decide to come to New York for his mother’s birthday, Pete begs Jess to come along and keep up the charade of their marriage; Pete faces a turning point.
  • Warm-Up: Pete is invited to stay with Sarah Silverman, who encourages him to try life as a ‘warm up’ comic.
  • Julie: Pete finds himself caught in a web of lies after receiving an unexpected call from Leif’s wife.
  • The Baptism: The relationship of Pete, Jess and Leif come to a head at the baptism ceremony of an adult friend of Pete and Jess. In a subplot, Pete’s friend Artie might also be shown a new way to look at life.

 

Running on Empty

In this family drama from director Sidney Lumet, Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti play Arthur and Annie Pope, a pair of ’60s radicals who have eluded the FBI for 16 years after bombing a napalm laboratory as a Vietnam War protest.

This lifestyle involves continually moving their base of operations and establishing new identities, which is especially hard on their children, 18-year-old Danny (River Phoenix) and 10-year-old Harry (Jonas Abry), who can never amass a group of friends or an academic record.

This last problem comes to the fore when they arrive in a New Jersey town where the high school music teacher (Ed Crowley) takes an interest in Danny’s piano playing, encouraging him to apply for early admission to Juilliard.

Danny yearns to follow this dream, but knows that separating from his parents would be a permanent break — the aging hippies rarely even see their own parents, and can never inform anyone where they’ve moved.

Arthur can’t stand the idea of breaking up the family unit, which has provided the support that’s allowed him to tolerate life on the move, but Annie sees her own sacrificed dreams in her son’s prodigious musical talents, and begins pressuring Arthur to grant the boy his independence.

Complicating factors, Danny has fallen in love with the daughter of his music teacher (Martha Plimpton), but can’t allow himself to get too close to her, because he may have to leave again at any moment. Extras include trailer. (Derek Armstrong, Warner Archive/Released 6/27/17)

 

Search For The Super Battery

We live in an age when technological innovation seems to be limitlessly soaring. But for all the satisfying speed with which our gadgets have improved, many of them share a frustrating weakness: the batteries. Even though there have been some improvements in the last century, batteries remain finicky, bulky, expensive, toxic and maddeningly short-lived.

The quest is on for a “super battery,” and the stakes in this hunt are much higher than the phone in your pocket. With climate change looming, electric cars and renewable energy sources like wind and solar power could hold keys to a greener future… if we can engineer the perfect battery.

In Search For The Super Battery, renowned gadget geek and host David Pogue explores the hidden world of energy storage, from the power–and danger–of the lithium-ion batteries we use today, to the bold innovations that could one day charge our world. Pogue wants to uncover what the future of batteries has in store for our gadgets, our lives – and even our planet. Might the lowly battery be the breakthrough technology that changes everything? (PBS/Released 3/7/17)

 

Secrets of The Sky Tombs

The towering Himalayas were among the last places on Earth that humanity settled.

Scaling sheer cliff sides, a team of daring scientists hunts for clues to how ancient people found their way into this forbidding landscape and adapted to survive the high altitude.

They discover rock-cut tombs filled with human bones and enigmatic artifacts, including gold masks and Chinese silk dating back thousands of years, and piece together evidence of strange rituals and beliefs designed to ward off the restless spirits of the dead. (PBS/Released 3/14/17)

 

 

 

Ultimate Cruise Ship

Weighing 54,000 gross tons and stretching over two football fields, the Seven Seas Explorer is no ordinary boat.

Join pioneering shipbuilders as they endeavor to build the ultimate cruise ship. It will be decked with the finest gold, marble, and crystal and designed to offer guests the roomiest accommodations of any commercial cruise ship.

But engineering opulence is no easy feat.

NOVA follows a pioneering team of ship builders as they embark on what is advertised to be a milestone in maritime engineering. (PBS/Released 3/21/17)

 

 

Seven Days in May

From director John Frankenheimer. U. S. President Jordan Lyman (Fredric March) signs a nuclear treaty with the Soviet Union, arousing public displeasure and the disapproval of the military, particularly Gen. James M. Scott (Burt Lancaster), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who considers the action almost treasonable.

After Martin “Jiggs” Casey (Kirk Douglas), Scott’s aide, comes across some cryptic messages and learns of a top secret base in Texas, the existence of which is denied by others in the Pentagon, he suspects that Scott is leading the other Chiefs of Staff in a coup to occur seven days later when the President will be isolated from his civilian aides during a military alert.

Casey reports his suspicions to the President, who sends Sen. Raymond Clark (Edmond O’Brien) to investigate the secret base. Clark locates the base but is held there incommunicado until he breaks out with the help of an officer friend of Casey’s.

Presidential aide Paul Girard (Martin Balsam) flies to Gibraltar, where he obtains a statement from Admiral Barnswell (John Houseman), a Joint Chief who isn’t enthusiastic about the coup, but Girard is killed in a plane crash on the return trip, and Barnswell denies signing the statement. Later, Casey obtains some highly incriminating letters from Eleanor Holbrook (Ava Gardner), Scott’s former mistress, but the President cannot bring himself to use them when he confronts Scott and demands his resignation.

Scott, confident that public opinion is on his side and that his aides are behind him, refuses. The President goes on television to demand the guilty officers’ resignations, and Scott’s colleagues desert him. During the telecast it is learned that Barnswell’s statement has been found in the plane wreckage, and Scott also resigns, squelching the coup before it occurs. Extras include commentary and trailer. (Warner Archive/Released 5/2/17)

 

Dean

In Dean, the directorial debut of Demetri Martin, we’re asked as an audience to take a moment to acknowledge that unpacking major life events may take more time to process than we would like to give.

As the titular character, Demetri Martin (who also wrote the script) is struggling with moving on from the death of his mother.

His father (Kevin Kline) decides to sell the family home and becomes closer than expected to their real estate agent (Mary Steenburgen).

Unable to address this, Dean flies to California under the pretense of illustrator. There he meets an interesting woman (Gillian Jacobs) who helps him run from his pain. Or is it the other way around?

The movie does a wonderful job exploring how these two men at different life stages handle their grief at losing the same woman.

In real life Martin lost his father when he was younger, and you can see that this story plays in a very personal way while still feeling like fiction.

Throughout the movie, there are scenes that transition with a voiceover from his mother; voicemails that he cannot bring himself to delete. It reinforces the holding pattern that the movie revolves around; in moving forward, we feel like something that is already gone forever will be real. That is a difficult subject to broach without becoming too heavy, but Martin and Kline manage to give the topic both respect and levity.

The father and son are apart most of the film, which allows us to see two distinctive stories.

Kline represents the first forays of a widower, awkward and unsure of how to proceed with romance and a new person. Martin is in his wheelhouse as a late-20s man that would rather push the grief away through a fling with a pretty girl than process his anxiety. We are treated to his unique style of drawings which punctuate key moments and focus on illustrating his relationship with death. It is a nice way to mix up the narrative, and feels integral instead of shoehorned in.

Both Gillian Jacobs and Mary Steenburgen move the men through their feelings by reminding them that life is still out there, occurring and happening whether or not they are ready to join in. Jacobs is very likable in a “girl I met on vacation” kind of way; a bit aloof and acting in the belief that nothing serious will come from this. The way that she commands all of their interactions while the awkward Dean seems more “along for the ride” is simple but it works for such a heartfelt film. Steenburgen is equally winning, as she feels out Kline’s character to see if he really is ready to start the next chapter in his love life. The characters are not shallow exactly; it is more like Martin reached the minimum amount of depth to create enjoyable characters and decided to leave us pleasantly floating there.

Kevin Kline always shines and this is no exception. His portrayal of a father and widower with an engineer’s emotional temperament comes together flawlessly. You may wish that Martin had pushed for more given his talented cast, but what he did get still makes a heartfelt film. The comedy is there but it is reminiscent of his standup – very self-aware, folded into scenes as throwaway one-liners or items mumbled because of the uncertainty of how it will land. It is a good balance for the strength he wrote into both female characters.

The grieving process will always be a trope the audience can relate to, and though summer is blockbuster season the possibility of tragedy is not bounded by calendar dates. Dean is a pleasantly old-fashioned outing that will require us in the audience to tune in instead of using a long sunny summer afternoon to tune out. Extras include featurettes and Q & A with Demetri Martin. (– Kristen Halbert, Lionsgate/Released 8/29/17)

 

Alien: Covenant

Anyone who has been a fan of the Alien franchise long enough to remember the unadulterated thrill it was once synonymous with, can attest to the fact that no matter which faction of the fandom you belong to, you are no stranger to disappointment.

Thus, no one was particularly surprised that Prometheus got a lukewarm reception upon its release in 2012, as it was not the first time that a lackluster installment had been presented to the hordes of fans. While Prometheus has since gained a significant following, which enjoys analyzing the film’s themes and ambiguous storytelling, many have been waiting with bated breath for the return of everyone’s favorite nightmare fuel, namely the iconic xenomorph.

The reappearance of the hellish creature has been no secret, as the marketing for Alien: Covenant has been very upfront about its return in Ridley Scott’s latest effort, promising that it will bring some much needed horror back to the franchise.

From the beginning of the film, it is clear that Alien: Covenant is quite different from its predecessor in terms of tone. This will please fans of Alien and Aliens as it seemingly brings the new film closer to its roots. However, the themes from Prometheus are not neglected as they are explored in more detail, thus building on the thematic additions introduced in the previous installment. This will likely intrigue fans of Prometheus, while fans of Alien and Aliens may become restless as they wait for the film to pick up the pace. Rest assured that there are more thrills this time around, though, as we are presented with a handful of monstrously gory sequences at carefully selected intervals throughout the film, where they also manage to intertwine with the themes of Prometheus. These scenes vary in intensity, but it is very clear that Scott has deliberately sought to make Alien: Covenant a bridge between Alien and Prometheus.

The character of David and his motivations are explored further, with Michael Fassbender upping the ante in his portrayal of the villainous David, whilst also portraying the new android character of Walter as a distinctly different individual. Both of his performances have many subtle nuances that attest to Fassbender’s talent, however, while he certainly gets to flex his thespian muscles to such an extent that Walter and David become two interesting sides of the same coin, the villainous tropes utilized for the portrayal of David will divide viewers. As for the newcomers to the cast, Katherine Waterston is enjoyable enough as Daniels, but her character ultimately pales in comparison to the previous heroines of the series.

There is, however, a clear standout performance among the actors portraying the colonists, which is surprisingly Danny McBride’s Tennessee. Not only is the character very likable in itself, McBride’s performance also helps to make the proceedings feel somewhat grounded, which in turn makes his character a welcome reminder of the kind of characters that were an integral part of the enjoyment associated with the early films.

However, while Alien: Covenant is undoubtedly ambitious, it is also incredibly frustrating. Since the film is hell-bent on being an amalgamation of such vastly different limbs of the same franchise, it does not manage to pay quite enough attention to either one, which results in the film becoming an inexcusably bland imitation of its predecessors. This is not so much due to the revelation of what David has been up to since the events of Prometheus being incredibly self-serious as well as somewhat clumsily executed in terms of the literary works it seeks to paraphrase, as this storyline will always divide viewers the way it has done since its introduction in Prometheus.

Instead, the biggest sin Alien: Covenant commits is rather due to how much Scott has allowed it to be weighed down by an endless stream of callbacks to the first two films, which prevents Alien: Covenant from creating its own identity. This is further evident from the portrayal of the crew, which aside from the handful of aforementioned characters are so utterly disposable and hollow that the inability to invest in them severely detracts from the impact of the horror elements.

Some people will enjoy the first half of Alien: Covenant but dislike the second half and vice versa, which is an understandable reaction as Scott has essentially managed to cram what should have been at least two separate films into a single, two hour feature. While a revelation may occur once we see how Alien: Awakening will fit into it all, Alien: Covenant ultimately feels like the rushed result of trying to follow up on the convoluted storyline of Prometheus, while also trying to provide fan service in the form of xenomorph-based horror. It is therefore no wonder that it is nearly impossible to become invested in any of the characters, as the film’s frustratingly rapid pace completely defies what once made the franchise so wonderful, namely great, fleshed out characters and a pacing that was tight and tense while still taking its time to create a suspenseful atmosphere.

By trying to close the gap between Alien and Prometheus, Scott appears to have neglected the tension-building, and the film suffers from it. There will undoubtedly be much more to say about Alien: Covenant once the film gets analyzed further and more content is released, but for now it is merely another disappointing addition to an otherwise wonderfully terrifying movie universe. As such, Alien: Covenant may impress newcomers to the franchise, but long-suffering fans of the first few films will likely feel like it is game over, man. Extras include featurettes, a Ridley Scott Masterclass, commentary, production galleries and trailers. (– Leyla Mikkelsen, 20th Century Fox/Released 8/15/17)

 

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Shortly after Mordred and his forces are defeated, Queen Igraine (Poppy Delevingne) and King Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) are killed by a mysterious creature, leaving young Arthur Pendragon orphaned and outlawed, while the magical sword Excalibur becomes immovably stuck in stone.

Arthur’s nefarious uncle Vortigern (Jude Law) becomes king after Uther’s demise, but the fact that not even he is able to shift Excalibur from its stony resting place becomes a thorn in his side, as it is a constant reminder that he is not the rightful heir to the throne.

When Vortigern’s men years later find an adult Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) by chance, they deem him to be of the right age to potentially be Uther’s direct heir; upon inspecting his wrist, they indeed find that the symbol, which all young men are branded with after failing to remove Excalibur, is missing.

Arthur is therefore captured and forced to go to the sword in the stone, and while he is of course able to remove Excalibur, he cannot successfully wield it, but he must learn to master the powerful sword if he wants to overturn the evil Vortigern and claim his rightful place as king of Camelot.

After being stuck in development hell for six years, Guy Ritchie’s take on Arthurian legend has been released to the cinema-going public, and it is unfortunately all too evident that the film has had a troublesome production. While the score is eclectic and intense and thereby suits Ritchie’s style – just as his other trademarks such as his fast-slow-fast editing style and unapologetic laddishness are also present – nothing can save King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword from being a mismanaged mess. Although Ritchie has not shied away from the magical elements and instead vastly increased them compared to 2004’s drably unmagical King Arthur, King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword is ironically deeply unmagical in the cinematic sense, as it only excels at the questionable art of being much too short while at the same time also being incredibly boring.

The attempt to cram an absurd of amount of lore into the film without every doing it any justice for those familiar with it, while at the same time making it deeply confusing for the uninitiated, sticks out like a sore thumb. Nothing is ever properly explored or explained, the film completely lacks any decent establishment of time, geography and narrative, and the aforementioned Ritchie-ism in terms of editing tends to be used less for its style and rather as a convenient way to relay a lot of exposition in very little time. That is not the only editing issue, however, as the editor must have been knee-deep in discarded and shortened scenes; the end result the viewer is presented with is so lacking in structure that it not only makes the film unengaging as a whole, but also severely affects the individual action set pieces, making the film feel like 2 hours worth of bland montages.

Unsurprisingly, character development also suffers as a myriad of characters are included in the film, but any development and proper introduction to them appears to be shunned in favor of relying on being able to flesh them out at a later point in future installments of a franchise no one asked for.

By the time the end credits roll, those who have suffered last year’s Gods of Egypt will likely be left with a sense of déjà vu. With its rushed, uneven tone and incredibly superficial approach to its source material, one wonders if King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword could perhaps have been salvaged had it been three hours long and thus enabled a more thorough exploration of the lore, as that could have increased the chances of the film being impactful. The film would also have been much better served by taking its bloated laddishness to the extreme and allow Arthur to end the proceedings by dropkicking Vortigern into a pit whilst bellowing ‘THIS. IS. CAMELOT!’

But no, there is apparently not quite enough cheese in the kingdom of Camelot to justify even a guiltily satisfying ending, as we are instead presented with an incredibly lazy setup for the next installment, which we will hopefully never have to endure. As has been previously established, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government, and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword makes it abundantly clear that it is also no basis for a Guy Ritchie film. Extras include featurettes. (– Leyla Mikkelsen, Warner Bros./Released 8/8/17)

 

Don’t Knock Twice

“Knock once to wake her from her bed, twice to raise her from the dead…” So goes a disturbing urban legend involving an abandoned house supposedly inhabited by a vengeful, child-stealing witch.

When troubled teen Chloe (Lucy Boynton) raps at the door one night, she has no idea the horror she’s about to unleash.

Fleeing to the country home of her estranged mother (Katee Sackhoff)—a recovering addict who’s turned her life around to become a famous artist—Chloe must learn to trust the woman who gave her up years ago in order to stop the bloodthirsty, shape-shifting demon stalking them.

This wild supernatural shocker delivers a barrage of nonstop jolts and searing nightmare images.

Extras include featurettes and trailer. (Shout! Factory/Released 8/1/17)

 

Wakefield

What would your life look like without you in it?

Outwardly, Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston) is the picture of success. He has a loving wife (Jennifer Garner) and two daughters, a prestigious job as a Manhattan lawyer, and a comfortable home in the suburbs.

Inwardly, though, he’s suffocating.

One day, something snaps and Howard goes into hiding in his garage attic. Leaving his family to wonder what happened to him, he observes them from the attic window—an outsider spying in on his own life.

As the days of self-imposed isolation stretches longer than he planned, Howard begins to wonder: is it even possible to go back to the way things were?

Driven by a tour de force, darkly comic performance from Cranston, Wakefield is a provocative look at what it means to walk away from it all.

Wakefield also stars Jason O’ Mara and Beverly D’Angelo. (Shout! Factory/Released 8/1/17)

 

Teen Wolf

Like all teenagers, Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) is going through some … changes.

But unlike the rest of the students at Beacontown High School, Scott’s changes include long hair that covers his entire body, claw-like fingernails, fangs, a heightened sense of smell, superhuman strength and the extraordinary ability to … play basketball?

And that’s just the beginning. Naturally, these uncanny new features turn this lovable loser into the most popular kid in school.

But by embracing his newly minted popularity, has the Teen Wolf lost sight of what it truly means to be Scott Howard?

Co-written by comic legend Jeph Loeb, Teen Wolf also stars James Hampton, Scott Paulin, Susan Ursitti, Jerry Levine and Jay Tarses.

Extras include Never. Say. Die. The Story Of Teen Wolf (143 minute documentary about making and legacy of the film), trailer and still gallery. (Shout! Factory/Released 8/8/17)

 

Teen Wolf Too

Jason Bateman stars as Todd Howard, a Hamilton University freshman with a full athletic scholarship — only Todd has no idea why, since he’s far more interested in veterinary medicine than sports.

But his boxing coach, Bobby Finstock, is very familiar with the Howard family secret and he’s hoping he can use it to his advantage. When the whole school — including Todd — finds out that he’s a werewolf with superhuman abilities, Todd’s popularity skyrockets and he becomes the big wolf on campus.

But is his fame a gift? Or a curse? And can he keep it from getting in the way of the relationships he has with his best friends and girlfriend?

Perhaps a little guidance from his professor (Kim Darby), who has a secret of her own, may help Todd learn the biggest lesson of all.

Extras include interviews, featurette, and still gallery (Shout! Factory/Released 8/8/17)

 

Whale Rider: 15th Anniversary Edition

A small Maori village faces a crisis when the heir to the leadership of the Ngati Konohi dies at birth and is survived only by his twin sister, Pai (Academy Award nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes).

Although disregarded by her grandfather (Rawiri Paratene) and shunned by the people of her village, twelve-year-old Pai remains certain of her calling and trains herself in the ways and customs of her people.

With remarkable grace and courage, Pai summons the strength to both challenge and embrace a thousand years of tradition in order to fulfill her destiny.

Extras include commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, poster art and photo gallery. (Shout! Factory/Released 8/22/17)

 

Billions: Season Two

After being deftly outplayed, brilliant hedge fund king Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod (Damian Lewis) is upping his game and using his considerable resources to exact revenge on ruthless U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti).

Axe’s aggressive move sends Chuck reeling as he finds himself under investigation, forced to scramble to hang on to his Office and his family. But the embattled prosecutor still has some tricks up his sleeve and it’s not long before Axe learns that money can’t buy everything – or everyone. (Paramount/Released 8/15/17)

Episodes include:

  • Risk Management: Chuck faces scrutiny from the Attorney General; Axe considers options for retaliation; Wendy entertains an offer from a rival manager; Lara intervenes during a school emergency.
  • Dead Cat Bounce: Axe spars with a rival hedge fund manager; Chuck deploys a team to find a high-profile case; Wendy is questioned.
  • Optimal Play: Axelrod considers buying an NFL team in order to diversify, doing whatever it takes to avoid his fate. Rhoades cultivates a low-level informant.
  • The Oath: Rhoades develops a new strategy. Axelrod considers a major charitable pledge.
  • Currency: Chuck, Connerty and Sacker must rely on an anxious insider who’s willing to wear a wire. Meanwhile, Axe’s numbers take a big hit, leaving him to scout ideas for a quick play with a huge payoff. Wendy rediscovers her passion for her former job at Axe Capital through an old colleague. The reality of Lara’s business starts to affect her marriage.
  • Indian Four: Axe negotiates with a timid seller. Chuck’s deal with a defendant fails.
  • Victory Lap: Axe mulls future of Sandicott. Chuck’s team discusses their future. Chuck looks to a political future.
  • The Kingmaker: Axe investigates who was behind the breakdown in his Sandicot dealings but faces formidable opposition. Chuck digs up dirt on a political rival. Lara makes a PR trip to Sandicot to ease tensions between the town and the Axelrods. Wendy helps Taylor solve a problem at Axe Capital. Chuck and Senior curry favor with a powerful ally.
  • Sic Transit Imperium: Axe is offered inside information from a former employee and considers whether to use it. Chuck faces external pressure to drop an ongoing investigation. Lara plans a lavish birthday celebration for Axe only to discover he’s lied to her about his relationship with Wendy. Chuck is willing to support Ira and Senior’s investment in a company about to go public.
  • With or Without You: Axe deals with a family disturbance. Chuck gets vetted for advancement.
  • Golden Frog Time: Chuck finds he has much at stake in Ice Juice; Axe takes out a huge short.
  • Ball in Hand: Axe receives unexpected news; Chuck finalizes his long game.

 

Ash Vs. Evil Dead Season 2

Ash has spent the last 30 years avoiding responsibility, maturity and the terrors of the Evil Dead until a Deadite plague threatens to destroy all of mankind and Ash becomes mankind’s only hope.

Season 2 continues the chainsaw-slicing, shotgun-blasting fun from the first season. Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, Ray Santiago, and Dana DeLorenzo star, as well as this season’s introduction of Lee Majors as Ash’s father.

This season roars back into action with Ash leaving his beloved Jacksonville and returning to his home town of Elk Grove. There, he confronts Ruby, only to find that she too is now a victim of evil and in need of Ash’s help. The former enemies have to form an uneasy alliance to give them a chance of success, as Elk Grove soon becomes the nucleus of evil. Extras include commentaries, eight behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a “Fatality Mash-Up.” (Lionsgate/Released 8/22/17)

Episodes include:

  • Home: The party is over when Ash, Pablo, and Kelly are summoned by Ruby back to Ash’s hometown to form an unlikely alliance. Ash’s dad, Brock, and the local pub give a chilly welcome to the man who’s come to save them from evil.
  • The Morgue: Pablo’s grasp on reality is tested when Ruby reveals the Necronomicon has gifted him with premonitions. Meanwhile, in the morgue, Ash and Kelly discover Brock’s date might not be the warm body he’s banking on.
  • Last Call: Local teens raise hell when they steal the Delta from Brock’s house. Ash and his best buddy Chet devise a plan to throw a party at the bar, lure the theieves in, and get the Delta and the Necronomicon back.
  • D.U.I.: Ash goes on the hunt for his beloved Delta, but becomes the hunted. Ruby and Kelly engage in a battle royale with the evil spawn while Pablo suffers from a new Necronomicon condition.
  • Confinement: Deadites are no match for our hero, but the Sheriff is, when Ash is brought up on charges. Ruby, Kelly, and Pablo go to break him out, but they discover some people are not who they seem to be. There’s a new evil in town.
  • Trapped Inside: An angry mob corners Ash and the team in Brock’s house while Ruby tries to summon the spell to send Baal back to hell. Ash finally proves to the townsfolk he is not a murderer but a hero.
  • Delusion: Ash wakes up in an asylum and seeming helpful doctor tries desperately to get him to admit his acts so his healing can begin. Ash’s world seems to crumble around him. Was this all in his head? Is he really Ashy Slashy?
  • Ashy Slashy: Ruby, Kelly and Pablo go to look for Ash and Baal in an abandoned asylum and encounter some crazy characters. They are all players in Baal’s attempt to break Ash and find the Necronomicon. But did his plan work?
  • Home Again: Ash, distraught about losing Pablo is determined to bring him back! Ruby and Kelly tag along to make sure Young Ash never sees the Necronomicon. But the butterfly effect they create is something no one can believe!
  • Second Coming: Ash, Ruby and Kelly battle the past to get to a future where Pablo is alive and the world is safe from evil, but the family from hell has other plans! Baal and Ash engage in an old fashion brawl to save humanity.

 

Adventure Time: The Complete Seventh Season

Jake the Dog and Finn the Human embark on a set of unforgettable adventures. As season seven unfolds, major changes are in store for some of the inhabitants of Candy Kingdom. Princess Bubblegum is exiled to live on the shores of Lake Butterscotch, where she tries to grow a new kingdom made of vegetables.

Marceline decides she no longer wants to be a vampire and asks Princess Bubblegum to help her get rid of her vampiric essence. Her quest to become mortal sets off a series of events that are captured in the eight-part “Stakes” story arc.

Also included in the season seven release is “Bad Jubies,” the award-winning episode which brings the Adventure Time characters to life in stop-motion animation form.

Extras include animatic, galleries, song demos and featurettes. (Cartoon Network/Released 7/18/17)

Includes the episodes:

  • Bonnie & Neddy: The greed of the King of Ooo leads to a crisis in the Candy Kingdom, and (ex-) Princess Bubblegum has to return briefly from exile to deal with it.
  • Varmints: Marceline and Bubblegum rekindle an old friendship while fighting off some varmints.
  • Cherry Cream Soda: The arrival of a visitor causes Cherry Cream Soda’s life to fall flat.
  • Mama Said: Finn and Jake’s loyalty is questioned when King of Ooo sends the duo on a mission to catch flying mushrooms.
  • Football: BMO switches places with his reflection, Football.
  • Stakes Part 1: Marceline the Vampire Queen: Finn and Jake hunt a shadowy predator and Marceline asks Princess Bubblegum for a favor.
  • Stakes Part 2: Everything Stays: As the sun rises on her last day, Marceline recalls her long extraordinary life.
  • Stakes Part 3: Vamps About: Five foes from Marceline’s past come back to cause trouble for the land of Ooo.
  • Stakes Part 4: The Empress Eyes: The empress seeks her revenge and uses the Ice King as her puppet. Marceline retaliates and gets her own vengeance.
  • Stakes Part 5: May I Come In?: Finn, Jake, Marceline, and PB set out to hunt down the Vamps. But who is hunting them?
  • Stakes Part 6: Take Her Back: While Princess Bubblegum searches for a cure for Marceline, Finn & Jake take on one of the Vamps themselves.
  • Stakes Part 7: Checkmate: On the eve of battle, Marceline’s archenemy comes to her with a strange proposal.
  • Stakes Part 8: The Dark Cloud: Following the release of the Vampire King’s Vampuric essence, Finn, Jake, and Princess Bubblegum are forced into a fight against the seemingly unstoppable force without the aid of a depressed Marceline.
  • The More You Moe, The Moe You Know: Moe visits the tree house with a special birthday surprise for BMO. While BMO’s mission stands on the brink of disaster, Finn & Jake host a strange guest.
  • Summer Showers: Jake’s Daughter, Viola helps LSP with her play, Summer Showers.
  • Angel Face: BMO creates a live action role-play bounty mission and sets out with Jake as his steed to capture the infamous ‘Jack Rabbit Johnson’.
  • President Porpoise Is Missing!: When Jakes video chat buddy goes missing, he must go look for him with Finn in Banana Man’s submarine
  • Blank Eyed Girl: A radio program broadcasts the most strange new, a blank eyed girl is going around scaring the inhabitants of Kandy Kingdom. Beware of the Blank Eyed Girl, it’s coming for you.
  • Bad Jubies: Finn, Jake, LSP and BMO must content with some deadly weather.
  • A King’s Ransom: Ice King suffers a heartbreaking loss and it’s up to Finn and Jake to find the culprit.
  • Scamps: Finn takes a group of at-risk Candy Kingdom youth on a camping trip they’ll never forget.
  • Crossover: Due to a wish Finn asked Prismo to make, a while back Finn must now stop himself from another dimension along with a previous villian, from destroying the entire multiverse
  • Hall of Egress: Finn enters a mysterious dungeon and struggles to find a way out and back to Jake.
  • Flute Spell: With it being rumoured that Finn is seeing someone new, Jake endeavours to find out who.
  • The Thin Yellow Line: Flute Spell: Jake learns that Finn’s been having clandestine meetings with a powerful wizard. But what are they up to? / The Thin Yellow Line: Finn and Jake infiltrate the Banana Guard ranks and stumble upon a conspiracy.

 

Black Butterfly

There’s a part of all of us that wants to help each other, give directions to lost travelers, or commit random acts of kindness.

But there’s another, more primal side that thrives on suspicion, antagonism, and brutality. It flutters on the edges of our psyches, emerging with a vengeance when the right combination of events unfolds.

For Paul Lopez, those events occur at a critical juncture of his life. A writer living in a rural pocket of Colorado, Paul is several decades into a career but a long way from his last success. Now, he’s having trouble starting a screenplay. Drinking alone day and night, sobering up enough to go hunting, he has minimal contact with people besides the pretty realtor Laura (Piper Perabo) who’s preparing to sell Paul’s rustic home.

But Paul’s not the only loner in his area. There’s a serial killer on the loose who has abducted four women – including, it’s believed, Paul’s missing wife.

After a dangerous run-in with a truck driver on a winding highway, Paul stops at a diner to discuss the house sale with Laura. But when the truck driver shows up spoiling for a fight, a drifter, Jack (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), steps into the situation and stops it. To show his appreciation, Paul offers him a ride. After striking up a conversation,