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.
"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.
"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 psychopath 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.
"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 ... "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 ... 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)"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)"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.
"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. 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 ... "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 ... "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 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 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:
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 -- 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 ... "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 ... "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)" (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)"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,
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.