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More DVD News: May 2011

Collectibles: (5/31)

Blu-ray Debuts:

"American Graffiti Special Edition" (1973): George Lucas' breakout film gets the Blu-ray treatment. The HD images are fine but it's the music that comes to the fore in this edition. Stars Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Wolfman Jack, Bo Hopkins, Manuel Padilla Jr., Harrison Ford. Bonus features: Video commentary with director George Lucas and "The Music of American Graffiti" and "The Making of American Graffiti" featurettes. From Universal. photo

"A Clockwork Orange 40th Anniversary Edition" (1971): Directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates and Michael Gover, this adaptation of Anthony Burgess's dystopian novel is just stunning in its Blu-ray debut. The old "ultra-violence" just pops off the screen into your living room. The two-disc release includes two newly-produced bonus features: "Turning Like Clockwork," a 25-minute documentary about the film's "ultra-violence" and its cultural impact, and "Malcolm McDowell Looks Back," a short documentary in which Malcolm McDowell reminiscences on closely working with legendary director Stanley Kubrick. Also includes the feature-length documentaries "Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures" and "O Lucky Malcolm!" as well as "Still Tickin': The Return of Clockwork Orange," "Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange," commentary by Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman. Packaged in a 40-page Blu-ray Book with rare photos, production notes and more. From Warner.
continued below...

"Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968): Sergio Leone's cult classic spaghetti Western stars Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Jack Elam and Keenan Wynn, with Fonda playing the blackest character of his career: A ruthless and murderous photopsychopath who suffers no conscience pangs after annihilating an entire family at the behest of a powerful railroad tycoon. Jason Robards and Charles Bronson (as the mysterious harmonica man) go after the bad guys. Populated by rich and fascinating characters, driven by a great plot, this is arguably Leone's greatest Western. Written by Dario Argento and Bernardo Bertolucci. With a great score by Ennio Morricone. Bonus features: Commentary with contributions by directors John Carpenter, John Milius and Alex Cox, film historians Christopher Frayling and Dr. Sheldon Hall, and cast and crew; featurettes: "An Opera of Violence," "The Wages of Sin," "Something to Do With Death," "Railroad: Revolutionizing the West," "Locations Then & Now"; production gallery. From Paramount.

"Stanley Kubrick: Limited Edition Collection":A Nine-film, 10-disc collection contains every film the director made since 1960. The collection features the film and bonus content from "A Clockwork Orange 40th Anniversary Edition," the Blu-ray debuts of "Lolita" and "Barry Lyndon," as well as "Spartacus," "Dr. Strangelove," "2001: A Space Odyssey," "The Shining," "Full Metal photo Jacket" and "Eyes Wide Shut," boxed in new book-style premium packaging with a 40-page hard-cover book. Price tag: $148.95. From Warner.

Strong>More Collectibles:

"The Abbott and Costello Show: Hit the Road" is a "best-of" collection featuring six episodes from the classic 1952-54 "The Abbott and Costello Show": "The Vacation," "The Western Story," "The Haunted House," "Las Vegas," "Safari" and "Car Trouble." $9.98 from Entertainment One.

From TV to Video: (5/31)

"Ellery Queen Mysteries: The Disappearing Dagger" includes four digitally remastered episodes from the 1975-76 TV series starring Jim Hutton as mystery writer Ellery Queen, who assisted his detective father in solving crimes: "The Adventure of Auld Land Syne," "The Adventure of Lover's Leap," "The Adventure of the Hardhearted Huckster" and "The Adventure of the Disappearing Dagger." $9.98 from Entertainment One ... photo "Hijos del Carnaval Seasons One & Two" (2006-07) is a four-disc set with 13 episodes of the internationally acclaimed series that delves deep into the underbelly of the Brazilian organized crime syndicate; it's kind of a Latin American version of "The Sopranos." In Portuguese with English subtitles. $29.98 from Maya Entertainment ... "Psych: The Complete Fifth Season" (2010) is a four-disc set with 16 episodes, from Universal ... "Rookie Blue: The Complete First Season" (2010) is a four-disc set with 13 episodes, $44.98 from Entertainment One ... "Stargate: Universe Complete Season 2" (2010) is five-disc set with 20 episodes and 20 bonus featurettes, $49.98 from MGM ... "True Blood: The Complete Third Season" (2010) is a five-disc set with 12 episodes; bonus features include "Anatomy of a Scene" and "True Blood Post Mortems; the Blu-ray version adds an Enhanced Viewing mode with an amplified picture-in-picture display with original, interactive content, including "Character Perspectives," "Flashback/Flash Forwards," "Vampire Histories/Character Bios" and "Hints/FYIs." Also includes "True Blood Lines," an interactive on-screen guide that highlights the connections between the many worlds in the series. From HBO.

Buzzin' the 'B's: (5/31)

In "Cross" (2011), beautiful young women start disappearing from the streets of L.A. and Callan (a.k.a. Cross) -- granted incredible power by his ancient Celtic cross -- and his crew of weapons experts kick into high gear to take out the trash, uncovering a plot by an immortal Viking who wants to destroy mankind with his doomsday device. Stars Brian Austin Green, Jake Busey, Tom Sizemore, Michael Clarke Duncan, Vinnie Jones and Lori Heuring. From Sony ... photo In "Savage County" (2010), a group of kids trespass on the land of a family of mutant in-bred Tennessee lunatics with a taste for torture -- and guess what happens to the teens. This started life as a Web miniseries, but due to popular demand, was turned into a feature and had its premiere on MTV2. The DVD features the uncensored cut that was too graphic for basic cable. From FilmBuff/MPI Media Group ... In "Passion Play" (2010), starring Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, Bill Murray, Rhys Ifans, Kelly Lynch and former UFC champ Chuck Liddell, a washed-up jazz musician (Rourke) fleeing a trigger-happy gangster (Murray) stumbles across a traveling carnival and is instantly mesmerized by the carnival's prized attraction, Lily "The Bird Woman" (Fox). But Lily is no carny fake: her wings are real. The fugitive musician falls in love with this angelic creature and he convinces her to leave with him, to the anger of her ruthless employer (Ifans), and the pair flee across the desert towards ... destruction? Salvation? From Image Entertainment.

On the Indie Front: (5/31)

photo "Kaboom," the latest film from iconoclastic independent filmmaker Gregg Araki, is a hyper-stylized "Twin Peaks" for the Coachella Generation; it's a wild, witty and sex-drenched horror-comedy thriller about an ambisexual 18-year-old college freshman who stumbles upon a monstrous conspiracy in a seemingly idyllic Southern California seaside town. Stars Thomas Dekker, Haley Bennett, Chris Zylka, Roxane Mesquida, Juno Temple, Kelly Lynch and James Duval. From IFC Entertainment ... In "The Waiting City" (2009), starring Joel Edgerton and Radha Mitchell, an outwardly happy Australian couple journey to Calcutta to collect their adopted baby, but find that the arrangements have yet to be finalized, giving them no option but to wait in this chaotic, foreign place. But as the intoxicating, mystical powers of the Indian city pull them in separate and unexpected directions, the vulnerability of their marriage begins to reveal itself. From Entertainment One.

Foreign: (5/31)

"Undertow" (2009 -- Peru) is an unusual ghost story about a married fisherman's struggles to reconcile his devotion to his male lover within his town's rigid traditions. Stars Christian Mercado, Manolo Cardona and Tatiana Astengo. From Wolfe Video.

For the Family: (5/31)

photo"Wubbzy Saves the Day" (2011) is a collection of six episodes filled with age-appropriate lessons about sharing, caring and being yourself. Kids join Wubbzy as he hosts a bird-watching slumber party, has a picnic in the park with Daizy and Widget and much more. $16.98 from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Special Interest: (5/31)

Malcolm McDowell stars in "Never Apologize" (2007), a one-man stage show and documentary about the life of famed director Lindsay Anderson, telling stories of Alan Bates, Bette Davis, Princess Diana, John Ford, John Gielgud, Lillian Gish and Laurence Olivier. From Warner.

This Week's Releases (May 24)
From the Big Screen:

"Gnomeo and Juliet" and "I Am Number Four." For more releases this week, see the "Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases."

DVD Collectibles: (5/24)

This Week's Blu-ray Debuts:
"The Firm"(1993): Can't go wrong here: Sydney Pollack's take on the John Grisham book (with script by David Rabe) pushes all the right thriller buttons in a story about a young lawyer (Tom Cruise) snapped up by a prestigious law firm that, it turns out, caters to sinister clients. photo Also stars Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman, Hal Holbrook, Holly Hunter, David Strathairn and Gary Busey. From Paramount ... "Grand Prix"(1966): John Frankenheimer puts you behind the driver's seat in this beautifully shot homage to Formula 1 racing, filmed around the world with an all-star cast and an involving script; only shortcoming -- the film takes almost three hours to cross the finish line. Stars James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand and Toshirô Mifune. From Warner ... "Le Mans" (1971): Spectacular racing action overlays an ultimately boring story line about a loner race car driver at the famous 24 Heures du Mans. Steve McQueen is at his stoic, noncommunicative worst. From Paramount ... photo "Papillon" (1973): Steve McQueen as Papillon is wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison on a remote island off the coast of French Guiana, where he attempts to escape ... many times. Dustin Hoffman plays his sidekick and friend Louis Dega. At times painful to watch. Available as a Blu-ray book with fascinating film information, archival photos, and an examination of the controversy surrounding the film. From Warner ... "Platoon" (1986): The film that put Oliver Stone on the cinematic map; a no-holds barred, grueling look at the horrors of the Vietnam War with a cast that includes Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Charlie Sheen, Keith David, Forest Whitaker, Kevin Dillon and Johnny Depp. Available as a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack from Warner ... And from The Criterion Collection: Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" (1940) and Andrey Tarkovskiy's Soviet sci-fi adventure "Solaris" (1972), based on the famous novel by Stanislaw Lem.

From TV to Video: (5/24)

In "Brad Meltzer's Decoded: The Complete Season One" (2010-11), best-selling author and history buff Meltzer separates fact from fiction as he investigates the hidden history and coded truths behind everything from the Statue of Liberty to the dollar bill to the assassination of President Lincoln; $19.95 from A&E Home Entertainment ... "Capadocia: A Place Without Forgiveness, Season One" (2008) is a five-disc set with all 13 episodes of the HBO Latin America Originals' grim, bloody and chaotic series that follows the struggles of several women imprisoned in an experimental penal complex in Mexico City, $19.98 from Maya Entertainment ... photo "Children's Hospital: The Complete First and Second Seasons" (2008, 2010) is a two-disc set with 22 episodes of the Adult Swim series, $29.98 from Warner ... "IRT: Deadliest Roads: The Complete Season One" (2010) is a three-disc set with 13 white-knuckled episodes, $24.95 from A&E Home Entertainment ... "The Kids in the Hall: The Complete Series Megaset" is a 22-disc set with nearly 800 sketches and 42 hours, $99.95 from A&E Home Entertainment ... "The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town" (2010) is a two-disc set of the eight-part comedy series with all the parts played by the Kids; When Death gets off the Greyhound bus in small town Shuckton, Ontario, everyone in town is implicated when one of its most distinguished citizens is found murdered; from A&E Home Entertainment ... "Lemonade Mouth: Extended Edition" (2011) is a Disney Channel Original Movie about five ragtag freshmen who first meet in detention and bond through music, eventually forming a high school garage band; from Disney ... "Melissa & Joey: Season One, Part One" (2010) is a two-disc set with the first 12 episodes; $29.97. Shout! Factory ... "Swamp People: The Complete Season One" (2010) is a three-disc set with 10 episodes, $24.95 from A&E Home Entertainment.

Buzzin' the 'B's: (5/24)

"The Big Bang" (2011) is pseudo-noir thriller about a private detective hired by a hulking ex-boxer (shades of 'Farewell, My Sweet') to find a missing stripper; his job turns complicated when the clues send him to a Hollywood action star with a dirty little secret, an enterprising porn producer who takes a personal interest in his own work, a kinky photo waitress with an unusual fetish for particle physics, and a reclusive billionaire and his physicist intent on recreating The Big Bang underneath the New Mexico desert. Antonio Banderas plays the not-thoroughly believable gumshoe; co-stars Sienna Guillory, Thomas Kretschmann, William Fichtner, Sam Elliott, Delroy Lindo, James Van Der Beek and Snoop Dogg. From Anchor Bay ... "Burning Palms" (2011)is an anthology of dark yet comic stories so decadent they could only be worthy of Los Angeles. It's a study of five lives: all different, yet all strangely similar. A father's (Dylan McDermott) relationship with his precocious teenage daughter (Emily ) is too close for comfort for his fiancee. A woman (Jamie Chung) becomes undone by her boyfriend's kinky bedroom request. A gay couple (Peter Macdissi and Anson Mount) brings home the ultimate lifestyle accessory: an African child. A young boy involves his brothers in disturbing games. A lonely woman (Zoe Saldana ) confronts her attacker (Nick Stahl) with a bizarre request. From Image Entertainment ... Lionsgate After Dark Originals has two offerings this week: "Fertile Ground," in which a couple is haunted by ghosts at the woman's family home in the country; and "Seconds Apart," in which telekinetic twins wreck havoc on their high school classmates, killing them in twisted and bizarre ways until jealousy divides them and they face-off against each other.

On the Indie Front: (5/24)

"Anton Chekhov's The Duel" (2009) is an English-language adaptation of Anton Chekhov's 1891 novella about romance, betrayal and violence between a restless philanderer looking for something new, his beautiful but emotionally empty married mistress and his impassioned but unhinged former friend. Stars Fiona Glascott, Andrew Scott, Tobias Menzies and Niall Buggy. From Music Box Films.

For the Family: (5/24)

In "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey's Great Outdoors" (2011) Mickey Mouse and his famous pals (Minnie, Donald, Pluto, Goofy and Daisy) join efforts to inspire preschoolers around the country to enjoy the outdoors by camping, fishing and exploring nature with five episodes from the Disney Channel's Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Packaged as a special DVD Play Set (DVD plus Digital Copy plus Mickey Mote), $29.99 from Disney ... In the photo title story of "Scrambled States of America ... and More Stories by Laurie Keller" (2011) the states are bored and long for a change, so they decide to swap spots in hopes that each can get to see a different part of the country. Also includes "The Scrambled States of America Talent Show," "Do Unto Otters (A Book About Manners)" and "Open Wide: Tooth School Inside," $14.95 from Scholastic Storybook Treasures ... Also from Scholastic Storybook Treasures is "The North Star ... And More Stories About Following Your Dreams" (2011), which contains five stories narrated by Tim Curry, Zooey Deschanel and others: The title story as well as "That Book Woman," "Players in Pigtails," "Yo! Yes?" and "Swamp Angel," $14.95 ... "Sweet Dreams" (2011) contains eight sleepytime episodes from Thomas & Friends, Barney, Bob the Builder, Angelina Ballerina, Timmy Time, Fireman Sam, Kipper and Roary the Racing Car, $14.98 from HIT Entertainment/Lionsgate.

Special Interest: (5/24)

It's another banner week on the documentary front:
  • "The Unknown War: WWII and the Epic Battles of the Russian Front" (1978) Hosted and narrated by Burt Lancaster; script adaptation and music score by Rod McKuen. Perfectly timed for Memorial Day and just one month shy of the 70th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, this five-disc box set includes all 20 episodes of photo the gripping 1978 docu-series, as well as provocative bonus content. Features rare and stunning footage recorded by Soviet camera crews on the front lines -- most of it unseen since the series' original broadcast on public television 30 years ago. The docu-series delivers a sweeping chronicle of the Soviets' struggle against -- and ultimately victory over -- the Nazi war machine. From Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 to the Russians' victorious march into Berlin in 1945, "The Unknown War" takes a 360-degree look at the strategies, suffering, heroism and courage of the Soviet experience with footage retrieved from the vaults of the Kremlin. Here are the devastating battles in the air, at sea and on land; and the poignant stories of daring and loss from what the Russians call "The Great Patriotic War." This epic documentary series sheds new light on the Red Army's massive contribution to the Allies' defeat of Hitler. Extras: Interview with Rod McKuen; analysis by Willard Sunderland, Associate Professor of Russian History at the University of Cincinnati. From Shout! Factory.
  • "Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies" (2008) looks at how early filmmaking influenced the Cubist painters Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. $29.95 from Arthouse Films.
  • "Transcendent Man" (2009) gets inside the mind of the award-winning scientist and A.I. specialist Ray Kurzweil through extensive interviews with Kurzweil and revealing conversations with friends and colleagues. The film outlines Kurzweil's theory of singularity -- the point when change occurs so rapidly that humans will need to merge with technology to keep up -- while also chronicling his history, his myriad accomplishments (including 24 U.S. patents), and his unique vision of the future (Within 25 years, computers will have consciousness and humans will soon be bionic). $29.95 from Docurama.
  • In "A Small Act" (2010), a young Kenyan's life changes drastically when his education is sponsored by a Swedish stranger. Years later, he founds his own scholarship program to replicate the kindness he once received. $29.95 from Docurama.
  • "Reagan" (2011) celebrates the centennial of the 40th president's birth, examining the man behind the myth. $19.95 from A&E Home Entertainment.
  • And ... need more of the Royal Wedding? BBC Warner has complete coverage of the event in "The Royal Wedding of William & Catherine" and PBS has a documentary on the ceremony, "William & Kate: Planning a Royal Wedding."
  • DVD Collectibles: (5/17)

    Two extraordinary classic films come to market this week, both from The Criterion Collection, and both in DVD and Blu-ray: "Diabolique" (1954), an intense thriller from Henri-Georges Clouzot ('The Wages of Fear') about two women -- one the fragile wife of a sadistic school headmaster, the other his willful mistress -- photo who team up to hatch a daring revenge plot to put him in his place. Shocking for its time, the film still holds up with its narrative twists and turns and unforgettably scary images. Features outstanding performances by Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot and Paul Meurisse ... The Japanese New Wave thrived in the 1960s, with such directors as Seijun Suzuki, Kinji Fukasaku and Masahiro Shinoda making movies that explored the moral code, violence and honor of the Yakuza, generally pitting a lone gangster against the mob mentality. Among the best is Shinoda's "Pale Flower," (1964), a cool and seductive film about a Yakuza, fresh out of prison, who becomes entangled with a beautiful yet enigmatic gambling addict; what at first seems a redemptive relationship ends up leading him further down the criminal path ... Also due this week: "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984), the film that cemented Eddie Murphy's place as an A-list star, gets the Blu-ray treatment with commentary by director Martin Brest; three featurettes: "Beverly Hills Cop -- The Phenomenon Begins," "A Glimpse Inside the Casting Process" and "The Music of Beverly Hills Cop"; as well as an interactive "Location Map"; from Paramount.

    From TV to Video:(5/17)

    "All in the Family: Season Nine" (1978-79) is a three-disc set with 23 episodes, $29.93 from Shout! Factory ... "The Bionic Woman: Season 2" (1976-77) is a five-disc set with 24 episodes, from Universal ... photo "Circles of Deceit" (1993-96) is the U.S. debut of the riveting spy thriller starring Dennis Waterman as an ex-SAS operative freelancing for the British government, in a set with four full-length dramas from Acorn Media ... "Covert Affairs: Season One" (2010) is a three-disc set with 11 episodes, from Universal ... "The Feathered Serpent Complete Series" (1976) includes all 12 episodes from the two seasons of the cult classic set in ancient Mexico. Patrick Troughton stars as the villainous high priest Nasca in this ITV drama, which is available to U.S. audiences for the first time. From Acorn Media ... "Flashpoint: The Complete Third Season" (2010-11) is a four-disc set with 20 episodes of the series about the cops in the SRU (inspired by Toronto's Emergency Task Force) tactical team, a unique unit of elite heroes who rescue hostages, bust gangs, defuse bombs, scale buildings and interrogate suspects -- all in a day's work; $42.99 from CBS/Paramount ... "Royal Pains: Season Two" (2010) is a four-disc set with 12 episodes, from Universal ... "Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job: Season 5" (2010) includes 10 episodes of the Adult Swim series, $19.97 from Warner ... "The Wild Thornberrys: Season One" (1998-99) is a four-disc set with 20 episodes, $29.93 from Shout! Factory.

    Buzzin' the 'B's:(5/17)

    When a massive power outage plunges the city of Detroit into total darkness, a disparate group of individuals find that they're the only remaining people in the city and, soon enough, they realize that an encroaching darkness is out to get them as well in "Vanishing on 7th Street" (2010), starring Hayden Christensen, John Leguizamo and Thandie Newton; from Magnolia Home Entertainment ... photo"Broken Hill" (2010), starring Alex Vega, Timothy Hutton and Luke Arnold, is a Dove-approved inspirational drama about the struggles of a young man, raised in the Australian Outback, to make his dream of being accepted into the famous Sydney Conservatorium of Music come true. From Entertainment One ... A city girl moves to a small town and becomes entangled in a love triangle between her high school teacher and a stoner classmate in "Daydream Nation" (2010), starring Kat Dennings, Reece Thompson, Josh Lucas and Andie MacDowell; from Anchor Bay ... "Deadly Shooter (aka The Shooter)" (1997) is a Western about a gunslinger with a deadly reputation who takes a stand against a controlling family terrorizing a small town; stars Randy Travis and Michael Dudikoff; from RHI Entertainment/Vivendi Entertainment ... Natalie Portman gives a mature performance in "The Other Woman" (2011), a sensitive and compelling modern drama about a law-school graduate who falls in love with her married boss; after he divorces his bitter wife, they marry, but happiness turns to grief when their newborn baby dies and she has to deal with her 8-year-old stepson and a jealous ex; from IFC Entertainment/MPI Media ... A security guard (Lou Diamond Phillipps) -- who lost his daughter to a brutal attack -- comes across an abhorrent human trafficking racket and embarks on a do-or-die mission against the Russian mob in "Takedown (aka Transparency)" (2010 -- Canada), co-starring Estella Warren and Deborah Kara Unger, from Entertainment One.

    Foreign:(5/17)

    While "The Bicycle Thief" is certainly Italian director Vittorio de Sica's best-known work, it certainly wasn't his first to examine the social problems of post-war Italy. Two years earlier, he directed the critically acclaimed "Sciuscia (Shoeshine)" photo (1946), which focuses on the disintegration of a friendship between two Italian youths who fall victim to the state's juvenile detention system. Filmed on location in post-war Rome using non-professional actors, "Shoeshine" --widely regarded as one of the finest films to have emerged from Italian neo-realist cinema -- was inspired by the real stories of those struggling to overcome the oppressive forces of a corrupt and ineffective political system. Restored and re-mastered from Entertainment One ... "Adua and Her Friends" (1960 -- Italy) is a rare masterpiece and a wonderful example of Italian Cinema starring two European film icons, Simone Signoret and Marcello Mastroianni, in the story of four prostitutes forced to fend for themselves when a new law closes the bordellos of Rome. They pool their savings to open a trattoria, but find they cannot get a license. A prominent fixer with connections obtains the license for them, on the condition that they conduct their old business upstairs and pay him an exorbitant monthly fee. Director Antonio Pietrangeli was one of the most talented members of the Italian neo-realism movement. Newly restored from the original 35mm negatives. From RaroVideo U.S./Entertainment One.

    Special Interest:(5/17)

    photo "Freedom Riders" (2011) is an American Experience documentary that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1961 "Freedom Riders," the group of men and women who, using non-violent tactics, risked their lives to challenge segregated facilities in the south in 1961. From May until November, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives -- many enduring savage beatings and even imprisonment -- for simply traveling together on buses and trains through the deep south. The film features testimony from a fascinating cast of central characters -- the riders themselves, state and federal government officials, and journalists who witnessed the rides firsthand. The film is partially based on Raymond Arsenault's acclaimed book "Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice." $24.99 from PBS Distribution.

    August Criterion Titles: Polanski,
    Kubrick, Vigo, Anderson & More

    photo (May 16) The folks at The Criterion Collection have just announced their August lineup of films and while each month's output from the company is always exciting and well-worth purchasing, this late-summer offering is excessively impressive. Due Aug. 16 is Roman Polanski's long-unavailable, tense relationship-drama-cum-gangster-thriller "Cul-de-sac" (1966) starring Donald Pleasence in his most iconic role as a married Englishman whose old seaside castle is invaded by a pair of hoods on the lam; due Aug. 30 is a Blu-ray-only edition of Lindsay Anderson's "If ..." (1969), a bold, revolutionary indictment of British society set on the grounds of a boarding school in late-1960s England, starring Malcolm McDowell; Stanley Kubrick's early master class of a heist movie "The Killing" (1956) (due Aug. 16); Jean Cocteau's visually innovative update of the Greek myth "Orpheus" (1950) (due Aug. 30); the complete output of Jean Vigo, the legendary artist who produced such revelatory works as "Zero de conduite" and "L'Atalante" (due Aug. 30); South Korean cinema master Lee Chang-dong's Cannes-awarded "Secret Sunshine" (2007) (due Aug. 23); a Blu-ray update of "The Battle of Algiers" (Aug. 9); and "Eclipse Series 28: The Warped World of Koreyoshi Kurahara," a five-disc set of work by one of 1960s Japan's craziest filmmakers, who created dangerous psychological universes with deranged portraits of lost youths, criminals, and families (due Aug. 23). Read more about the releases here.

    This Week's Releases (May 10)
    From the Big Screen:

    "Blue Valentine," "The Illusionist," "No Strings Attached" and "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never." For more releases this week, see the "Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases."

    DVD Collectibles: (5/10)

    The Criterion Collection releases oddball American auteur Jonathan Demme's "Something Wild" (1986) on Blu-ray this week, a stunning portrait of late-1980s America painted with one-part satire, one-part black comedy and one-part terror. photo This was Demme's fourth film (preceded by "Melvin and Howard," "Swing Shift," which the studio took away from him, and the concert film "Stop Making Sense") after his apprenticeship with the Roger Corman school of low-budget productions and you can see him fine-tuning the stlye that will go on to serve him well in "Married to the Mob" and "The Silence of the Lambs." In "Something Wild," a straitlaced businessman meets a quirky, free-spirited woman at a downtown New York greasy spoon, where her offer of a ride back to his office results in a lunchtime motel rendezvous -- just the beginning of a capricious interstate road trip that brings the two face-to-face with their hidden selves. Featuring a killer soundtrack and electric performances from Jeff Daniels, Melanie Griffith and Ray Liotta, "Something Wild" is both a kinky comic thriller and a radiantly off-kilter love story. In a restored digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Tak Fujimoto and approved by director Jonathan Demme, with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.

    Buzzin' the 'B's: (5/10)

    In "The Hit List" (2011), a down-on-his-luck businessman meets a mysterious stranger at a bar who claims to be a professional hit man and who offers to take out five targets, free of charge. Thinking it's a bad joke, the man jots down his own private hit list but, to his shock, photo the hit man starts to make good on his promise. Stars Cuba Gooding Jr., Cole Hauser, Jonathan LaPaglia and Ginny Weirick. From Sony ... In "Black Death" (2010), set during the time of the first outbreak of bubonic plague in England, a young monk is tasked with learning the truth about reports of people being brought back to life in a small village. Stars Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, David Warner and Carice Van Houten. From Magnolia Home Entertainment/Magnet Label ... "Gene-Fusion" (2010) is an animated sci-fi actioner about a new sport, "Gene-Fusion," that is all the rage in 2310: Specially trained athletes, called Fusers, design their own super-creature by combining three forms of animal DNA. When four teens, seemingly plucked from obscurity, are trained to be Fusers, they become instant celebrities until they discover that each of them has a role to play in an alien conspiracy to take over the world. From MTI Home Video ... When his pregnant fiancee becomes the latest victim of a serial killer, a secret agent blurs the line between good and evil in his pursuit of revenge in director Kim Ji-Woon's "I Saw the Devil" (2010 -- South Korea), starring Lee Byung-Hun and Choi Min-Sik. From Magnolia Home Entertainment ... Kicked out of every high school across the country, a young man steps up to help his mother pay for his education by launching "Cougars, Inc.," an escort service that allows a generation of women trying to hold onto their youth a second chance at love. Stars Sarah Hyland, Denise Richards, James Belushi, Kyle Gallner and Kathryn Morris. From Lionsgate.

    Deep within a secret government lab, a scientist is obsessively working to create the ultimate killer by combining the DNA of two of the world's most infamous serial murderers: Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy. photo But all hell is unleashed when a freak accident allows their escape in "Dahmer vs. Gacy" (2011), starring Art LaFleur, Harland Williams, Ford Austin and Randal Malone. From Walking Shadows/Virgil Films & Entertainment ... "Sledgehammer" (1983) is notorious as the first shot-on-tape slasher film (direct-to-video) for the then-exploding 1980s home video market. A young boy murders his mother and her lover with a hammer; 10 years later, a wave of teenage murders plagues the same area. From Severin Films ... And speaking of splatter films, CAV Distributing is bringing out three Tromas bloodfests: "Blood Junkie" (2010), a hyper-hipster 1980s horror comedy about a group of teenagers who discover a mysterious abandoned building where bad things happen; "Blood Oath" (2007), in which a group of friends on a weekend camping trip decide to investigate a local urban legend about a twisted and evil being who feeds on the bodies of those who enter his domain; and "Killer Yacht Party" (2006), in which partygoers on a private yacht looking to have fun on the high seas become fish food when one of the passengers turns out to be a blood thirsty nut job.

    On the Indie Front: (5/10)

    photo In "Now & Later" (2009), a former golden boy of the banking industry, Bill gets caught illegally trading assets of emerging nations and becomes a fugitive running from a prison term; deserted by his wife and friends, on the verge of suicide, he is sheltered by kind and free-spirited Angela, an illegal immigrant, who's created a magical world on a rooftop in East L.A. In a dance of politics and soul-searching leading to a passionate, uninhibited affair, Angela tears down and rebuilds the foundations of Bill's life. A film of political, social and sexual liberation. From Cinema Libre Studio.

    For the Family: (5/10)

    There's two edition this week of the "Shalom Sesame 12-part series that sees the Sesame Street characters travel to Israel to introduce Jewish holidays, traditions and cultures to viewers of all ages. In "Shalom Sesame: Grover Learns Hebrew" and "Shalom Sesame: Countdown to Shavout" celebrates the harvest festival of Shavout. Both are $14.95 from SISU Home Entertainment ... "My First Collection Featuring Splat the Cat" (2010) is the debut of Scholastic Storybook Treasures' "My First" series, a new line of DVDs created specifically to support early literacy skills and a love of reading in the pre- and early reader. Three-disc set with ""Splat The Cat ... and Other Furry Friends," "The Story About Ping ... and Other Fine Feathered Friends" and "The Napping House ... and Other Stories That Rhyme," $24.95 from Scholastic Storybook Treasures.

    Special Interest: (5/10)

    "Nova: The Smartest Machine on Earth: Can A Computer Win on Jeopardy!?" (2010) is a documentary on Watson, the computer that competed on "Jeopardy!" $24.99 from PBS Distribution ... photo "Bhutto" (2011) is a documentary about Benazir Bhutto, the first woman in history elected to lead a Muslim nation. A favored daughter of the family often called the "Kennedys of Pakistan," Benazir was elected Prime Minister after her father was overthrown and executed by his own military. Her time in power saw acts of courage and controversy as she broke the Islamic glass ceiling, fought for the rights of women, and tried to quell the fires of religious extremism, while battling accusations of corruption. She was assassinated in December, 2007. From First Run Features ... "I Love Toy Trains: All Aboard!" (2011) is a children's video for kids of all ages. Features live-action footage -- irresistible toy and real train action, elaborate layouts, train trivia, and six new songs by award-winning composer James Coffey. Includes the world's largest G-scale layout at the Living desert in California and a giant Lego train layout. $9.99 from TM Books & Video.

    'Unknown' Comes Forward June 21

    photo (May 5) The Liam Neeson action-thriller "Unknown," about an American doctor (Neeson) in Berlin for a conference who awakens after a car accident to discover that his wife doesn't recognize him -- and another man has assumed his identity, will arrive on DVD and Blu-ray June 21. The non-stop adventure also stars Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz and Frank Langella. Read more on the release (we promise we won't reveal the twist ending).

    May the 4th Be With You:
    'Star Wars' Blu-rays Revealed

    photo (May 4) Today is one of two days that "Star Wars" fans have been waiting for: The official announcement of the release date and specs for the Blu-ray releases of all six "Star Wars" films. The other date: September 16, when the set hits the street in the U.S. (September 12 internationally). The Blu-ray versions will be available in three configurations: "Star Wars: The Complete Saga," a nine-disc set with all six movies priced at $139.99; "Star Wars: Original Trilogy" three-disc set with only the original Episodes IV to VI ("A New Hope," "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi") for $69.99 and "Star Wars: Prequel Trilogy," a three-disc set with Episodes I to III ("The Phantom Menace," "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith") for $69.99. There's a host of new and old goodies to be had in the sets, including deleted, extended and alternate scenes, featurettes and more. Read more about the releases.

    'Battle: Los Angeles' Invades DVD
    on June 14

    photo (May 4) The battle for Earth's survival begins June 14 when Sony releases "Battle: Los Angeles" on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack. Jonathan Liebesman (upcoming 'Clash of the Titans 2') directed the pulse-pounding tale of a U.S. Marine squadron fighting off hostile alien invaders bent on colonizing our planet, starring Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez. The DVD includes four featurettes; both Blu-ray editions include "Command Control" interactive viewing mode, allowing audiences to experience the film with picture-in-picture featurettes, storyboard comparisons and Battle Points within the context of the movie. Read more and watch a behind-the-scenes video clip.

    This Week's Releases (May 3)
    From the Big Screen:

    "The Dilemma," "From Prada to Nada," "The Green Hornet" and "Mao's Last Dancer." For more releases this week, see the "Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases."

    DVD Collectibles: (5/3)

    The hot Blu-ray release this week is "Smiles of a Summer Night" (1955) from The Criterion Collection. After 15 films that received mostly local acclaim, the 1955 comedy "Smiles of a Summer Night (Sommarnattens leende)" at last ushered in an international photo audience for Ingmar Bergman. In turn-of-the-century Sweden, four men and four women of different classes attempt to navigate the laws of attraction. During a weekend in the country, the women collude to force the men's hands in matters of the heart, exposing their pretensions and insecurities along the way. Chock-full of flirtatious propositions and sharp witticisms delivered by such Swedish screen legends as Gunnar Bjornstrand and Harriet Andersson, "Smiles of a Summer Night" is one of cinema's great erotic comedies. Digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Bonus features include a video introduction to the film by director Ingmar Bergman; a video conversation between Bergman scholar Peter Cowie and writer Jorn Donner, executive producer of "Fanny and Alexander"; the original theatrical trailer;and a booklet featuring an essay by theater and film critic John Simon and a 1961 review by film critic Pauline Kael.

    From TV to Video: (5/3)

    "Drop Dead Diva: The Complete Second Season" (2010) is a three-disc set with 13 episodes, $29.95 from Sony ... "Identity" (2010) is the North American debut of the British high-tech crime procedural about an elite police team charged photo with investigating the high-stakes world of identity theft. Two-disc set with six episodes, $39.99 from Acorn Media ... "Melrose Place Season Six Volume One" (1997) is a three-disc set with 13 episodes, $42.99 from CBS/Paramount ... "Murdoch Mysteries, Season 3" (2010), the acclaimed Canadian series, based on the characters from award-winning author Maureen Jennings' "Detective Murdoch" novels, set in Victorian-era Toronto, follows Detective Murdoch as he uses revolutionary forensic techniques to solve the city's most mystifying crimes. Four-disc set with 13 episodes, $59.99 from Acorn Media ... "Penn and Teller: Bullshit! The Eighth Season" (2010) features 10 , $29.99. from CBS/Paramount ... "True Blood: The Complete Third Season" (2010) is a five-disc set with 12 episodes, $59.99 from HBO.

    Buzzin' the 'B's: (5/3)

    "Waiting for Forever" (2010) stars Rachel Bilson, Tom Sturridge, Richard Jenkins, Blythe Danner, Nikki Blonsky and Jaime King in a drama about a quirky street performer with a free spirit and a heart of pure gold reunites with his childhood sweetheart, an actress with a complicated past; from Fox ... "Megan Is Missing" (2011), starring Amber Perkins, Rachel Quinn and Dean Waite, is a fictional drama based on actual events, about two teenage girls who encounter an Internet predator and disappear. Based on seven real cases of child abduction; from Anchor Bay.

    Foreign: (5/3)

    "A Somewhat Gentle Man" (2010) is a Norwegian black comedy that stars Stellan Skarsgard as a rehabilitated murderer who comes home after 12 years in prison to a world he no longer knows. Trying to acclimate himself, he gets a job as a car mechanic and falls for his boss' secretary, but is forbidden from dating her. His landlady trades food for sex, and his old mob boss wants him to rejoin his old colleagues. But he's a somewhat gentle man -- as far as gangsters go -- and he just wants to be left alone. But he keeps getting pushed to the edge. Will he snap? From Strand Releasing.

    For the Family: (5/3)

    "Dora The Explorer: It's Haircut Day!/Font> (2011) features four episodes from the popular pre-school series: "Dora's Hair Raising Adventure," "Happy Birthday, Super Babies," "Baby Winky Goes Home!" and "Dora's Pegaso Adventure"; $16.99 from Nickelodeon/Paramount ... "Curious George Plays Ball" (2011) includes eight episodes from the kids TV series; from Universal.

    Special Interest: (5/3)

    "Frontline: Revolution in Cairo" (2011 follows key leaders of the April 6 Youth Movement as they plot strategy and head out into Tahrir Square hoping to bring down President Hosni Mubarak. Also in this hour, veteran Middle East correspondent Charles Sennott of GlobalPost lands in Cairo to take a hard look at Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood -- the most well-organized and powerful of the country's opposition groups -- as a new fight for power in Egypt begins to take shape. $24.99 from PBS Distribution.

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    May 1, 2011
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