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New on DVD and Blu-ray Week of April 5-11

View Harley Lond's Profile

By Harley Lond - 04/05/16 at 04:53 AM CT

THIS WEEK'S THEATRICAL RELEASES:

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens":
This first of three sequels to "Star Wars" shattered box office opening-week records to become the highest grossing U.S. film of all time with over $930 million domestic, and the second-highest worldwide grossing film (behind "Avatar") with $2.82 billion worldwide. Thirty years following the battle of Endor, the Resistance is still hard at work rebuilding the galaxy from the ashes of the Empire -- but find themselves in trouble when Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi, disappears -- and remnants of the Empire, calling themselves the First Order, threaten to unleash the Dark Side on the universe. A young Rey (Daisy Ridley) and BB8 welcome a new generation into that galaxy far, far away in the top-grossing sci-fi film of all time, Star Wars: The Force Awakens Resistance pilot (Oscar Isaac) teams with a scavenger from the planet Jakku (Daisy Ridley), an ex-Stormtrooper named Finn (John Boyega) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to track down Skywalker, keeping one step ahead of the nasty dark warrior Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the forces of the Dark Side. There's plenty of new faces (including a new droid, BB-8, and a new Supreme Leader, Snoke, played by Andy Serkis) and old (in addition to Ford, Mayhew and Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher shows up as General Leia Organa) -- there's even a guest appearance by C-3PO. Almost a retelling of the original "Star Wars" saga, director J.J. Abrams' "The Force Awakens" infuses this myth -- and the franchise -- with new blood and energy. There are some faults, mainly the underwhelming performances by Ridley and Boyega, some cheesy special effects sequences (in particular the attack of the rathtars on the freighter manned by Solo and Chewbacca), and a bit too much buddy-boy gee-whiz excitement on the part of Isaac and Boyega. For the most part, though, this "Star Wars" is a terrific sci-fi joy ride with clear cut heroes and villains, fairly tight direction, and, aside from my quibbles above, good acting. The home video release is a class act, from the cool, jet-black plastic Blu-ray case to the plethora of neat bonus features. And don't forget the best part of the film -- the forever young Harrison Ford as Han Solo, still a wisecracking, hard-fighting, intergalactic hipster. Some of the extras: "Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey" behind-the-scenes documentary; "The Story Awakens: The Table Read"; "Building BB-8"; "Crafting Creatures"; "Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight"; "John Williams: The Seventh Symphony"; "ILM: The Visual Magic of The Force"; "Force For Change": Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. See how the "Star Wars: Force for Change" initiative has united Star Wars fans all over the globe to help others; deleted scenes. From Disney.

THIS WEEK'S HIGHLIGHTS:


"Death Walks Twice: Two Films By Luciano Ercoli": Emerging at the peak of the giallo boom of the early '70s, Luciano Ercoli's "Death Walks" films are two superlative examples of the genre linked by their shared casting of the stunning Nieves Navarro (billed under her DVD Cover for Death Walks Twice: Two Films by Luciano Ercoli adopted stage name of Susan Scott) as the lead woman in peril. In "Death Walks on High Heels" (1971), exotic dancer Nicole (Navarro), the daughter of a murdered jewel thief, finds herself terrorized by a black-clad assailant determined on procuring her father's stolen gems. Fleeing Paris and her knife-wielding pursuer, Nicole arrives in London only to discover that death stalks her at every corner. Returning in "Death Walks at Midnight" (1972), Navarro stars as Valentina -- a model who, in the midst of a drug-fueled photoshoot, witnesses a brutal murder in the apartment opposite hers. But when it becomes clear that the savage slaying she describes relates to a crime that took place six months earlier, the police are at a loss -- forcing Valentina to solve the mystery alone. Offering up all the glamour, perversity and narrative twists and turns that are typical of the giallo genre at its best, Luciano Ercoli's "Death Walks on High Heels" and "Death Walks at Midnight" anticipate the super-stylized trappings of Brian De Palma's early psycho thrillers (most notably, "Dressed to Kill"). Limited Edition boxed-set (3000 copies) with limited edition 60-page booklet containing new writing on the films. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.

BUZZIN' THE 'B'S:


"Mojave" (2016), starring Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund, Walton Goggins and Louise Bourgoin, is a cerebral thriller about a brilliant artist, Thomas (Hedlund), who attempts to escape his privileged existence by heading out to the desert, only to encounter homicidal, chameleon-like drifter Jack (Isaac). Their first encounter at a campfire sets up a nonstop, violent duel of Mojave Blu-Ray Cover physical and intellectual equals, a chase that moves from the spectacular vistas of the American desert to a noir Los Angeles, where Thomas's notoriety as an artist is revealed. Jack, for his part, continues to remake his own identity in relentless pursuit of his victim, culminating in a vortex of criminality and brutality as Thomas emerges as an equally dangerous opponent.On DVD, Blu-ray from Lionsgate ... In "Stealing Cars" (2015), starring Emory Cohen, William H. Macy, John Leguizamo, Felicity Huffman, Heather Lind and Mike Epps, Billy Wyatt (Cohen) is a young man with tremendous promise, but a troubled past that leads him to the Burnsville Camp for Boys. Billy must navigate his way through dangerous inmates and a cruel and punishing staff, but during it all, he learns to inspire others and find out the truth about himself in the process. From Sony ... When a young woman learns that her father is dying, she makes a pact with the head of a centuries-old witches' coven -- a coven that uses the fruit of an ancient cherry tree in a bloody secret ritual that restores life to the dead and dying -- to save his life in exchange for a child in "Cherry Tree" (2015), starring Naomi Battrick, Anna Walton, Patrick Gibson, Sam Hazeldine and Leah McNamara. On DVD, Blu-ray from Dark Sky Films ... "Curveball" (2015), starring Rockmond Dunbar, Jean-Luc McMurtry, Lynn Whitfiel, E. Roger Mitchell and Adam Aalderk, is a coming-of-age story about a young boy who puts his troubled childhood behind him with the help of the two things he could always depend on: his love of baseball and his best friend . .. until his best friend starts leading him into trouble -- playing hard and partying harder. From RLJ Entertainment ... DVD Cover for Identicals In "The Identicals" (2015), starring Nick Blood, Lachlan Nieboer, Nora-Jane Noone, Michelle Asante and Tony Way, the organization Brand New-U identifies networks of Identicals -- people who walk like you, talk like you, but are walking through different, better lives -- and helps their customers make a life upgrade: eliminating the better-life person, and replacing them with their clients. When a young man's girlfriend is abducted by Brand New-U, and a corpse left in her place, he's forced to become an Identical himself, moving through a series of parallel lives as he becomes more and more obsessed with finding her. From Samuel Goldwyn Films/Sony ... "The Great Hypnotist" (2014 -- Hong Kong) is a thriller about a nationally renowned therapist, Xu Ruining (Xu Zheng), incredibly skilled in hypnotherapy, who meets his match with a patient named Ren Xiaoyan (Karen Mok) who - despite her thin and weak appearance -- reacts violently during their sessions and thrusts the doctor into a horrible trap. From Well Go USA ... In "Dixieland" (2015), starring Chris Zylka, Riley Keough, Faith Hill and Steve Earle, a young, recently-released and unpredictable ex-con with bad luck, and a sexy, listless girl-next-door with a troubled family, become trapped in a downward spiral of crime and obsessive love, as they try to ditch their dead-end town for a better life. From IFC Films ... When a young woman finds out that her fiance has a secret storage unit on the seedy outskirts of town, she enlists her best friend to sneak off and break in to the building. But deep in the lower levels of the warehouse, the two women -- as well as a half dozen other storage unit customers -- discover there's more than old furniture and memorabilia being locked away here: A relentless psychopath has started his own "collection," and is on a blood-soaked hoarding rampage. "The Hoarder" (2015) stars Mischa Barton, Robert Knepper, Andrew Buckley, Charlotte Salt, Emily Atack and John Sackville. From RLJ Entertainment ... DVD Cover for Riot In "Riot" (2016), starring Matthew Reese, Dolph Lundgren, Danielle Chuchran and Chuck Liddell, copper Jack Stone purposefully orchestrates a bank robbery in order to be thrown into prison with the notorious Russian kingpin, Balam, who's more than just a mob criminal -- he's a very cunning and dangerous lord who controls the police force from behind bars. He lives in prison -- in a cell that is a lavish private room built specifically for him, inaccessible to most in the depths of the prison structure -- as a cover for his real power, which is King of the city. Even surrounded by his loyal henchmen and guards in his sectioned off fortress, Balam doesn't know Jack is coming for him to avenge his family, whom Balam murdered in cold blood. On DVD, Blu-ray from Universal ... When mafia fall guy Zhang Jin finally gets released from prison, he's nearly assassinated and, in an effort to survive, he becomes entangled in a conspiracy, linking his fate with unlikely allies -- including a taxi driver -- and turning friends into enemies in "Payback" (2013), starring Francis Ng and Siu-Wong Fan. From Lionsgate ... "Dangerous Men" (2005) is the fanatical brainchild of Iranian polymath John S. Rad, a passion project that remained in obsessive production for nearly two decades before finally debuting in Californian theaters in 2005. An unflappably prodigious creative force, Rad handled much of the technical duties of the film, appearing multiple times in the film's credits as the director, writer, location scout, producer, executive producer, and more. Despite initially languishing at the DVD Cover for Dangerous Men box office during its limited theatrical release, and never finding a like-minded audience before Rad's untimely death in 2007, "Dangerous Men" developed a devoted following before vanishing as mysteriously as it appeared. Working with the late artist's family, the Drafthouse Films team worked tirelessly alongside the American Genre Film Institute to locate and restore the original film. "Dangerous Men" was re-released into theaters in October 2015, garnering enthusiastically baffled acclaim from critics. The story: After Mina witnesses her fiance's brutal murder by beach thugs, she sets out on a venomous spree to eradicate all human trash from Los Angeles. Armed with a knife, a gun, and an undying rage, she murders her way through the masculine half of the city's populace. A renegade cop is hot on her heels, a trail that also leads him to the subhuman criminal overlord known as Black Pepper. Blades flash, blood flows, bullets fly and synthesizers blare as the morgue overflows with the corpses of "Dangerous Men." In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Drafthouse Films/MVD Entertainment.

ON THE INDIE FRONT:


Interlocking tales of 10 New Yorkers collide at a surprise party that goes spectacularly wrong in "Mutual Friends" (2013), starring Caitlin FitzGerald, Cheyenne Jackson, DVD Cover for Mutual Friends Peter Scanavino, Michael Stahl-David, Christina Cole, Jennifer Lafleu, Ross Partridge, Annika Peterson. Ten friends, four couples, a stripper, Ms. Sexy Hot Boss and a ninja. A romantic comedy about intertwined New Yorkers trying to sort out their messed-up lives ... with each character written by a different writer. A quirky bonus feature is a music video of all the couples in the cast singing "Harvest Moon" (song featured in film). From MVD Entertainment ... In "Tumbledown" (2015), starring Rebecca Hall, Jason Sudeikis, Joe Manganiello, Dianna Agron, Blythe Danner, Griffin Dunne and Richard Masu, it's years after the accidental death of her folk-singer husband, and Hannah (Hall) has yet to fully accept her small-town life without him. When she's approached by a charming New York writer (Jason Sudeikis), intent on penning a biography of her late husband's life, she finds herself opening up again.On DVD, Blu-ray from Entertainment One.

FOR THE FAMILY:


"Twinkle Toes Lights Up New York" (2016) is the second feature-length animated adventure inspired by the Sketchers Girls' footwear collection and its advertising character, 14-year-old Twinkle Toes; follow up to "Twinkle Toes: The Movie." It all starts on the last day of school when Twinkle Toes's dad gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to direct a Broadway musical -- sweeping Twinkle Toes from her small-pond suburban life into the hustle and bustle of New York City for the summer. Dove Foundation "family approved." From Cinedigm.

SPECIAL INTEREST:


"Morgan Spurlock Presents Meet the Hitlers" (2015): What's it like to have a name that makes people you meet do a double take? Or laugh? Or cringe? Those are some of the reactions recounted in this one-of-a-kind documentary. Most of us don't give names much thought, but some names can't be ignored. This is why 80-year-old Gene Hitler expects a double take whenever he presents his Medicare card, and why teenager Emily Hitler finds high school a struggle for acceptance. Director Matt Ogens' film examines the relationship between names and identity by exploring the lives of people from all walks of life who happen to be linked by the name Hitler.From Virgil Films.

FROM TV TO DVD:


"Banshee: The Complete Third Season" (2015) is a four-disc set with 10 episodes. The Cinemax action-drama series charts the continuing twists and turns that follow Lucas Hood (Antony Starr), an ex-convict who improbably assumes the identity of sheriff of the rural, Amish-area town of Banshee, Pa., where his former lover and partner-in-crime has been living under her own alias, Carrie Hopewell (Ivana Milicevic). Season 3 picks up a month after the Season 2 finale, when Carrie's father, gang kingpin Rabbit (Ben Cross), finally met his demise after a climactic church shootout. Carrie, now DVD Cover for Banshee: The Complete Third Season exposed and estranged from her husband and kids, remains in Banshee, working as a waitress by day while moonlighting with Lucas, Sugar Bates (Frankie Faison) and Job (Hoon Lee) on a variety of local heists. As Lucas finds it harder and harder to keep his true identity from his deputies -- especially Siobhan Kelly (Trieste Kelly Dunn), now his romantic interest -- he and the Banshee police force become embroiled in a new conflict between Amish gangster Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen) and Chayton Littlestone (Geno Segers), the vicious, vengeance-minded leader of the Redbone wing of the Kinaho tribe. And as fists and bullets fly in and around Banshee, Lucas concocts a new scheme that could net his thieves a fortune -- by robbing a decommissioned Marine compound housing millions of dollars. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from HBO ... "Casual: Season One" 2015 is a two-disc set with all 10 episodes of the Hulu original series that follows brother and sister Alex (Tommy Dewey) and Valerie (Michaela Watkins) as they manage to live with one another while attempting to keep Valerie's teenage daughter, Laura (Tara Lynne Barr), on the right track -- with a house full of one-night stands, bizarre encounters, and attempts to master the art of dating. From Lionsgate ... DVD Cover for Episodes: The Fourth Season "Episodes: The Fourth Season" (2015) is a two-disc set with nine episodes. The witty series follows husband and wife writing team of Sean and Beverly Lincoln as they attempt to reproduce their wildly successful British TV hit for an American network. Forced to cast Matt (Matt LeBlanc) as their lead, all of their worst fears come true as Hollywood lives up to its reputation for absurdity. Just when everybody thinks the ailing show "Pucks!" has been put out of its misery, the network un-cancels it. For Matt, the hits keep coming as an embezzlement scam drains his finances, forcing him to scramble for cash. Meanwhile, Pucks! creators Sean and Beverly are back on top with a hot new script, but Hollywood politics tear them right back down. From Showtime/CBS/Paramount ... "The Expanse: Season One" (2015) is a two-disc set with 10 episodes. Based on the New York Times bestselling book series by James S.A. Corey, this space drama combining great visuals and elements of sci-fi drama and detective noir is a thriller set 200 years in the future, after mankind has colonized the solar system. A hardened detective (Thomas Jane) and a rogue ship's captain (Steven Strait) come together for what starts as the case of a missing young woman and evolves into a race across the solar system to expose the greatest conspiracy in human history. On DVD, Blu-ray from Universal The Expanse: Season One Blu-Ray Cover ... "House of Lies: The Fourth Season" (2015) is a two-disc set with 12 episodes. In season 4 of this viciously funny take on high-stakes business, failure is not an option. Fresh from a stint in prison, brilliantly manipulative management consultant Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle) is driven to rebuild his faltering firm. Nothing's going to distract him, even if that means booting his extremely pregnant off-and-on partner Jeannie (co-star Kristen Bell). While spin-master Clyde initiates a start-up relationship with a hot computer nerd, and number-cruncher Doug copes with a marriage turned psycho, Marty remains laser-focused on out-stabbing the backstabbers in a corporate battle for survival. From Showtime/CBS/Paramount ... "NYPD Blue: Season Nine" (2001-02) is a five-disc set with all 23 episodes. The men and women of New York's 15th Precinct return in the ninth season of the Emmy and Peabody award-winning police drama from co-creators Steven Bochco and David Milch. Always a series that effortlessly adapted to change, Season Nine finds Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) experiencing several dramatic developments in his life, including a long-overdue promotion, a surprising new romance with Detective Connie McDowell (Charlotte Ross), and a new partner in the form of John Clark (Mark-Paul Gosselaar). The 2001 terrorist DVD Cover for NYPD Blue Season Nine attacks on New York City are also employed into the series, reflecting both the evolving emotions about our public safety as well as the steadfast strength and dedication of law enforcement officers in the wake of those real-life events. From Shout! Factory ... ... "The Odd Couple: Season One" (2015) is a two-disc set with 12 episodes in the series that stars Matthew Perry as endearing slob Oscar Madison and Thomas Lennon as uptight neat freak Felix Unger, two former college buddies who become unlikely roommates after the demise of their marriages. It's not long after Oscar lets Felix move in that Oscar fears he's made a monumental mistake. Despite how exasperated they make each other, in the end, these mismatched friends agree they can help each other move on from their divorces and somehow make this crazy living arrangement work. A remake of the 1970s series starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, itself a remake of the 1968 Gene Saks movie version of the 1965 Neil Simon play. From Showtime/CBS/Paramount).

Check out other April 5- 11 DVD releases and reviews at OnVideo.

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