New on DVD and Blu-ray Week of February 14-February 20
By Harley Lond - 02/15/17 at 12:47 AM CT
FROM THE BIG SCREEN:
As far as alien arrival films go, this has to be one of the tamest ever. No cities destroyed. No humans pulverized. No flying saucer attacks. Instead, we get an Arrival by 12 strange space crafts -- aligned in different sectors of the world -- occupied by aliens who just want to communicate with us. Each major government puts together a team of scientists to try to figure out the aliens' language -- the U.S. team is headed up by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). As Banks and Donnelly get closer to understanding the aliens' language -- and hence the reason for their visit to Earth -- the Russians and Chinese get skittish and demand that the aliens leave or face nuclear weapons. As the world prepares for war, Banks figures out the meaning of the aliens' language, but has very little time in which to prevent total annihilation. Thanks to director Denis Villeneuve ("Sicario") for nicely handling a thinking person's sci-fi film that slowly builds in excitement and revelations, and thanks for Eric Heisserer's cerebral screenplay based on Ted Chiang's story "Story of Your Life." And kudos to Adams for putting in an understated, nuanced, emotionally warm performance. A real viewing pleasure. Extras for Arrival include a quintet of featurettes. From Paramount.
Also due this week: "The Edge of Seventeen," an honest, comedic look at what it's like to grow up as a young woman today. Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) and Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) are inseparable best friends attempting to navigate high school together. But then Nadine's world gets turned upside down when she finds out that Krista has been secretly dating her popular older brother (Blake Jenner) behind her back. Now with her best friend as her worst enemy, Nadine has to deal with being an awkward loner, while discovering that what may feel like the end of the world is really just the beginning of growing up. Co-stars Woody Harrelson and Kyra Sedgwick. Extras include a gag reel and deleted scenes. From Universal.
THIS WEEK'S HIGHLIGHT:
A painterly and sensual immersion in late 19th-century Italian farm life, "The Tree of Wooden Clogs" (1978) by Ermanno Olmi lovingly focuses on four families working for one landowner on an isolated estate in the province of Bergamo, Italy. Filming on an abandoned farm for four months, Olmi adapted neorealist techniques to tell his story, enlisting local people to live as their own ancestors had, speaking in their native dialect on locations with which they were intimately familiar. Through the cycle of seasons, of backbreaking labor, love and marriage, birth and death, faith and superstition, Olmi naturalistically evokes an existence very close to nature, one that celebrates its beauty, humor, and simplicity but also acknowledges the feudal cruelty that governs it. Winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1978, "The Tree of Wooden Clogs" is intimate in scale but epic in scope -- a towering, heart-stirring work of humanist filmmaking. On DVD and Blu-ray, in a new 4K restoration, created in collaboration with The Film Foundation at L'Immagine Ritrovata and supervised by director Ermanno Olmi, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection.
BUZZIN' THE 'B'S:
In "Priceless" (2016), James (Joel Smallbone), desperate and at a crossroads, agrees to drive a box truck on a shady, one-time trip cross country for cash -- no questions asked. But when he discovers what he is delivering is actually a who, James is compelled to help two frightened sisters who are unaware of the danger that awaits them in this tale of love, strength, and redemption. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Universal ... Based on the widely-acclaimed, bestselling novel, "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" (2016) is told from the point of view of 19-year-old private Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) who, along with his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad, becomes a hero after a harrowing Iraq battle and is brought home temporarily for a victory tour. Through flashbacks, culminating at the spectacular halftime show of the Thanksgiving Day football game, the film reveals what really happened to the squad - contrasting the realities of the war with America's perceptions. Directed by Ang Lee and starring Joe Alwyn, Garrett Hedlund, Arturo Castro, Mason Lee, Astro. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Sony ... "Bleed for This" (2016). starring Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal, Ciarán Hinds and Ted Levine, is the incredible true story of one of the most inspiring and unlikely comebacks in sports history. Miles Teller stars as Vinny "The Pazmanian Devil" Pazienza, a local boxer from Rhode Island who shot to stardom after winning two world title fights. After a near-fatal car accident leaves Vinny with a severed spine, he is told he may never walk again. Against doctor's orders, renowned trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) agrees to help Vinny return to the ring in just a year after the accident for what could be the last fight of his life. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Universal ... In "The Crooked Man" (2016), Olivia, as a young girl, recited a haunting rhyme at a slumber party, which summoned the demonic figure known as the Crooked Man. Years later, she must team up with a reclusive mastermind to defeat the demon before they die by his hands. Stars starring Angelique Rivera, Michael Jai White and Dina Meyer. From Lionsgate.
ON THE INDIE FRONT:
In "Five Nights in Maine" (2016), Sherwin (David Oyelowo), while grieving over the tragic death of his beloved wife, travels from Atlanta to Maine in order to meet his abrasive, estranged mother-in-law Lucinda (Dianne Wiest). Sherwin's late wife (Hani Furstenberg) had a rocky relationship with her terminally-ill mother, and Lucinda and Sherwin attempt to connect and mend their broken hearts. Also tars Rosie Perez, Teyonah Parris, Hani Furstenberg and Bill Raymond. From Filmrise ... In "London Town" (2016), starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Daniel Huttlestone, Nell Williams, Natascha McElhone and Dougray Scott, when 15-year-old Shay (Huttlestone) hears the music of the Clash for the first time, it's a revelation, opening up a new world of social consciousness and anti-establishment defiance beyond anything he's known in his dead-end London suburb. After his father is injured in a work accident, Shay takes over driving his cab and one fateful night, picks up none other than Joe Strummer (Rhys Meyers), the lead singer of the Clash. Drawn into the heart of the city's burgeoning punk scene, Shay forges two relationships that will change his life, falling in love with rebellious cool girl Vivian (Nell Williams) and finding and unexpected connection with the Clash's electrifying frontman. Soundtrack features the Clash, the Ramones, Buzzcocks, the Stranglers, Toots and the Maytals, Willi Williams and Stiff Little Fingers. From IFC Films ... A "babymoon" is the cultural phenomenon of expecting parents taking elaborate vacations in the few precious weeks prior to the birth of their first child. "The Babymoon" (2017), starring Julie McNiven, Shaun Sipos, Jessica Camacho and Michael Steger, is the story of one couple’s picture-perfect tropical getaway that takes a hilarious turn when the couple accidentally chooses a country that is undergoing a political revolution -- and get caught in the middle. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Gravitas Ventures.
"The Bride (La Novia)" (2015 -- Spain) is director Paula Ortiz’s adaptation of Fedrico Garcia Lorca’s "Blood Wedding," which is among the 20th century’s most famous and revered Spanish plays. Nominated for 12 Goya Awards (Spain’s Academy Award) including Best Picture, the story follows a bride involved in a conflicted love triangle full of deception and forbidden passion, which ultimately gives rise to tragic repercussions. From Strand Releasing ... In "Tharlo" (2015 -- Tibet), Tibetan shepherd Tharlo travels from rural Tibet to a town in Qinghai province to obtain an ID card. In the process, he meets a beautiful local hairdresser named Yangtso. Although Tharlo is smitten, town-dweller Yangtso’s ideas of fun are not quite his. Contemporary pleasures like smoking, drinking, singing and sex run against Tharlo's pastoral imperatives, contributing to an awkward and suspenseful courtship between the two. From Icarus Films.
FOR THE FAMILY:
In "The Powerpuff Girls: Tiara Trouble" (2017), everyone’s favorite superhero sisters, Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup, are back and better than ever. The all-new, reimagined Powerpuff Girls, the iconic Cartoon Network series, returned to television this past April after more than a decade. Three of the cutest, fiercest, pint-sized, crime fighters are back to bust up all the baddies and save the world ... before bedtime. Twelve 11-minute episodes, $14.97 from Warner ... In "Down on the Farm" (2016), when a bale of hay goes missing on the farm, mystery-solving Oink the Flying Pig and his know-it-all pal, Boink the Owl, set off on an adventure to discover which of the farm animals is the culprit. In order to discover who took the hay, Oink and Boink have to first learn all there is to know about all the farm animal suspects. From Ruthless ... Scooby-Doo! and his friends visit a dude ranch that's haunted by ghastly outlaw Dapper Jack Rogers in "Scooby-Doo! Shaggy's Showdown" (2016), a new animated western-themed mystery feature, from Warner.
"It Ain't Pretty" (2016) is a documentary about the challenges and triumphs of female big wave surfers. The film follows the quickly-growing women's big wave movement, as well as exposing rampant sexism in the water, in the media and within the surf industry. Over the course of three years, director Dayla Soul follows a group of Bay Area surfers -- from driven beginners to the professional big wave surfers, including Ocean Beach surf pro Bianca Valenti -- as they take on the dangerous breaks of the Red Triangle and battle stereotypes of the shallow, sexualized female surfer. Surfing in the Bay Area is not for the perpetually sunny, bikini-babe lifestyle and "It Ain't Pretty" explores the passions that drive these women to paddle out in such unforgiving waters, as well as work overtime to carve out a place in a sport that has not always existed for them. From Candy Factory Films.
FROM TV TO DVD:
"Beavis and Butt-Head: The Complete Collection" (1993-2011) is a 12-DVD set that includes all four volumes of the television series, plus the special collector’s edition of the movie "Beavis and Butt-Head Do America." From Paramount ... "Deep Water"
(2016 -- Australia) is a two-disc set with four episodes of the thrilling four-part Australian drama inspired by true events. Noah Taylor ("Game of Thrones") and Yael Stone ("Orange is the New Black") star as detectives assigned a brutal murder case in Bondi, where they begin to discover mounting evidence to suggest the killing is connected to a spate of unexplained deaths, “suicides,” and disappearances of gay men throughout the 80s and 90s. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Acorn Media ... "Mercy Street Season 2" (2017) is a two-disc set with six episodes of the much-acclaimed Civil War-era drama set in the occupied city of Alexandria, Virginia. Allegiances blur, loyalties shift and the drama intensifies as the scope of the war pushes beyond Mansion House, the former hotel commandeered by Northern troops to serve as a Union hospital. The series follows the doctors, nurses and soldiers, as well as free, enslaved and contraband African Americans and other residents of the war-torn city, as they navigate the new world emerging from the most cataclysmic event in our country’s history. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from PBS Distribution ... "Quarry: The Complete First Season" (2016) is a three-disc set with all eight episodes. Set in and around Memphis during the early 1970s, the action drama centers on the character of Mac Conway, a Marine who returns home from a second tour of duty in Vietnam. With his relationship with his wife Joni growing tenuous, Mac finds himself tempted by a lucrative offer from The Broker, a shady criminal involved in a network of killing and corruption that spans the length of the Mississippi River. After a series of events, Mac -- whom The Broker codenames "Quarry" -- finds himself conscripted against his better judgment into The Broker's crew, a turn of events that has dire consequences for both himself and Joni. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from HBO.
Check out other February 14 to February 20 DVD/Blu-ray releases and reviews at OnVideo.