New on DVD and Blu-ray Week of March 14-March 20
By Harley Lond - 03/14/17 at 03:31 PM CT
FROM THE BIG SCREEN:
"Elle" is one of the most wickedly nasty films of the year, featuring a terrifically convoluted scenario, great performances (including a tour-de-force turn by Isabelle Huppert, who won this year's Golden Globe for Best Actress), and lots of off-kilter sex. It's a psychological thriller that casts a jaundiced eye at marriage, family, business and relations between the sexes. Michele (Huppert) is the strong- willed head of a leading French video game company, divorced from her husband, having an affair with her best friend's husband, emotionally estranged from her narcissistic mother, and financially responsible for her wimpy son. Her emotional baggage includes being the daughter of an infamous mass murderer, who is soon coming up for a parole hearing. After being attacked and raped in her home by an unknown assailant, Michele's life gets more complicated. Leery of contacting the authorities because of her previous bad experiences with the police, she resolutely tracks the man down on her own, leading to suspicious and at times violent confrontations with those around her. Director Paul Verhoeven has lost none of the directing hubris that was so on display in such films as "Turkish Delight," "Soldier of Orange," "RoboCop" and "Basic Instinct." Here he presents a host of characters (Elle in particular) who are so amoral, mean and selfish that you have difficulty liking any of them -- but like them you do. And, perversely, you get sucked into their lives. A stunning film. Extras include "A Tale of Empowerment: Making Elle" featurette. From Sony>
"Passengers," a sci-fi yarn about an interstellar spaceship on a 90-year mission to a distant planet that malfunctions and wakes one of its hibernating passengers too early, is a B-film outing with an A-list cast and A-list special effects. The film begins as an existential journey when the Avalon, with some 5200 sleeping colonists and crew members headed across the galaxy, is bombarded by meteors, causing the computer to malfunction and awaken Jim (Chris Pratt), who, faced with nothing but robots and holograms, must eke out a lonely existence before figuring out a way to find companionship. That comes in the form of Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), a writer also on her way to the new world. The rest of the film revolves around their love story and their subsequent efforts to save the now deteriorating spacecraft from destruction. Viewers looking for a "Star Wars" actioner will have to look elsewhere for their sci-fi fix; this is basically a love tale between two gorgeous people, set on a spaceship. There's solid acting by Pratt and Lawrence, and their chemistry holds the film together. Aside from the spectacular special effects that creates a "real" spaceship in "real" space, the film is fairly predictable. The copious extras include "Outtakes from the Set"; three featurettes: “Casting the Passengers,” “Creating the Avalon” and “On Set with Chris Pratt”; and a faux commercial for the company that books interstellar colonial trips: "Book Your Passage." The Blu-ray version adds deleted scenes and a “Space on Screen: The Visual Effects of Passengers” featurette. From Sony.
Also due this week: "Fences," a big-screen adaptation of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play that centers on a black garbage collector named Troy Maxson in 1950s Pittsburgh who, bitter that baseball's color barrier was only broken after his own heyday in the Negro Leagues, is prone to taking out his frustrations on his loved ones. Directed by Denzel Washington and starring Washington and Viola Davis, from Paramount ... and "Collateral Beauty," a melodrama about a successful advertising executive and majority stockholder in his company (Will Smith) who is reduced to a clinically depressed loner after his young daughter's tragic death; the story revolves around the efforts by his colleagues to prove him mentally unstable so they can sell the company. The term "Collateral Beauty" refers to the acts of selfless kindness that result from tragedies. Co-stars Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Pena, Helen Mirren, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore, Ann Dowd. From Warner.
THIS WEEK'S BEST BETS
Two absorbing -- and unusual -- works of cinematic art arrive this week. One of Mexico's best-regarded works of political cinema, "Canoa: A Shameful Memory" (1976), reimagines a real-life incident that had occurred just eight years before its release, when a group of urban university employees on a hiking trip were viciously attacked by residents of the village of San Miguel de Canoa, who had been manipulated by a corrupt priest into believing the travelers were communist revolutionaries. Intercutting footage from a fictional documentary about the village with gruesome scenes of the crime itself, director Felipe Cazals produced a daring commentary on the climate of violence and repression in Mexico during that era, including the military's infamous massacre of demonstrating students in Tlatelolco, Mexico City. With its gritty newsreel style, Canoa is a visceral expression of horror as well as an important historical document. On Blu-ray and DVD, in a new, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director Felipe Cazals, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection ... The life of a beautiful, young and pious teenaged girl is thrown into chaos when her parents take in a dashingly handsome lodger in "Story of Sin" (1975 -- Poland). Having embarked on a torrid affair with the girl, taking her innocence, the lodger goes off to Rome to seek a divorce from his estranged wife. Unable to live apart from her beloved, the young woman leaves home only to fall prey to the infatuations and lusts of a band of noble admirers, unsavory criminals and utopian do-gooders. The only feature cult filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk ("The Beast," "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne") made in his native Poland, "Story of Sin" transforms Stefan Zeromski's classic melodrama into a deliriously surrealistic meditation on l'amour fou. It's probably also the least erotic romance of Borowczyk's ouvre. 2K restoration from the original film negative. On Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.
BUZZIN' THE 'B'S:
"American Violence" (2017), starring Denise Richards, Kaiwi Lyman-Mersereau, Columbus Short, Johnny Messner, Michael Paré, Bruce Dern, Stipe Miocic and Rob Gronkowski, is a thriller that follows one man’s path to execution and the strong-minded doctor brought in to take a deeper look at the violent circumstances that have doomed him. Jackson Shea (Lyman-Mersereau) has lived a life of deceit, brutality and corruption. But when a series of chilling, violent events lands him on Death Row, Dr. Amanda Tyler, a psychologist (Denise Richards) must determine whether his violent behavior is inherent in his soul, or if he is able to be rehabilitated. As the interview commences, and Jack's fate hangs in the balance, Amanda must determine whether or not a stay of execution should be granted. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Cinedigm ... In "Solace" (2015), starring Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Colin Farrell and Abbie Cornish, when FBI Special Agent Joe Merriwether (Morgan) is unable to solve a series of homicides, he enlists the help of a former colleague, Dr. John Clancy (Hopkins), a retired physician with psychic powers. Soon, Clancy realizes that his exceptional intuitive powers are no match for the extraordinary powers of the vicious murderer (Farrell). On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate ... "Red Dawn Collector’s Edition" (1984), starring Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Ben Johnson, Harry Dean Stanton, Ron O’Neal, William Smith, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey and Powers Boothe. From writer-director John Milius comes the tale of what-could-have-been, had the Cold War gone another way. When Communist paratroopers descend on a Colorado high school football field, a group of students wages an all-out guerilla war to save their town -- and their country. On Blu-ray Disc from Shout! Factory.
In "Being 17" (2016 -- France), directed by André Téchiné and starring Sandrine Kiberlain, Kacey Mottet Klein and Corentin Fil, Damien and Thomas are French teenagers from very different upbringings who go to the same high school but can’t stand each other. When circumstances bring Damien’s mother Marianne to invite Thomas to live with them, the young men are forced to coexist and work through their emerging attraction and complicated desires. From Strand Releasing.
FOR THE FAMILY:
Music, friendship, fashion and girl power unite in "Spacepop: Princess Power" (2017), the first full-length feature film based on the YouTube webseries. Five teenage intergalactic princesses -- headstrong Athena, sassy Rhea, free spirit Hera, punk rock Juno and fashionista Luna -- fight to save the universe from the evil Empress Geela, disguised as the out-of-this-world band, SpacePOP. From Sony ... "Daniel Visits the Farm" (2017) features four grr-ific stories from the popular PBS KIDS series "Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood," produced by The Fred Rogers Company. In this new collection, Daniel rides a horse for the first time with encouragement from Dad Tiger, helps his sister Margaret feed adorable ducks, plays “farm” with O the Owl, and helps his mom give baby sister a bath. From PBS Distribution ... In the animated "The Jetsons & WWE: Robo-Wrestlmania" (2017), the favorite futuristic family travels back in time to team up with some of today’s biggest WWE Superstars to save Orbit City from a wrestle-bot army in an all-new original animated movie. In the midst of an exhibition match, a powerful snow storm freezes Big Show solid. One hundred years later, Big Show has finally thawed and is discovered by George Jetson. His first mission is to revive wrestling in 22nd century Orbit City. With Big Show’s help, Elroy and George build robotic Superstars. But Big Show had big plans of his own. The wrestle-bot army manages to capture Orbit City, leaving George and the Jetsons family one option: travel back in time to enlist WWE Superstars Alicia Fox, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Sheamus to help defeat the Big Show and his wrestle-bot army in the future. From Warner ... "Robo-Dog: Airborne" (2017) is a sequel to 2015’s family film "Robo-Dog." When the world’s most advanced K-9 loses his family and his memory chip, it’s up to his best friend Tyler and his scientist dad to find Robo-Dog and bring him home. From Lionsgate.
"To Tell the Truth" (2012) includes two films that explore the development of the documentary, from the emergence of political filmmaking during the Great Depression to using documentary in the battle of ideas during World War II. "Working for Change" is a history of the early development of documentary filmmaking in the US and UK from 1929 to 1941. It is focused on the social and political movements of the times, the Great Depression, and the New Deal. "The Strategy of Truth" is an examination of documentary filmmaking in 1933 to 1945 during World War II, and how film was used as propaganda in the US, the UK, and Germany. Extras include Alec Baldwin on the importance of documentaries; Agnes Varda on the making of documentaries; film historian Kevin Brownlow on Leni Riefenstahl, propagandist for the Nazis; two World War II documentaries by John Huston ("Let There Be Light" and "The Autobiography of a Jeep"). From Icarus Films ... Credited as the father of modern documentary film, Robert Flaherty is also a controversial figure. The minute he chose to stage scenes in his seminal Inuit film project, "Nanook of the North," he was opening documentary's Pandora's Box. "A Boatload of Wild Irishmen" (2010) is an entertaining portrait of Flaherty that looks beyond standard polemical positions to present a complex view of the man and his work.
From Icarus Films ... "The Creeping Garden" (2014 - UK) is an award-winning feature-length creative documentary exploring the extraordinary world of the plasmodial slime mould as revealed through the eyes of the fringe scientists, mycologists and artists who work with them. Long overlooked by biologists, in recent years this curious organism has become the focus of much research in such areas as biological-inspired design, emergence theory, unconventional computing and robot engineering, much of which borders on the world of science fiction. The film transports us from the laboratory into its natural habitat, depicting these otherworldly lifeforms using startling time-lapse macro-cinematography to reveal hidden facets of the world around us. Co-directed by the artist film-maker Tim Grabham and author and film critic Jasper Sharp, with an original soundtrack composed by celebrated musician and producer Jim O'Rourke (Sonic Youth, Grizzly Man), "The Creeping Garden" is a unique exploration into a hitherto untapped subject matter, immersing the viewer within the worlds of the observers and the observed. On Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.
FROM TV TO DVD:
"Drunk History: Season 4" (2016) is a single disc with all 11 episodes. Host Derek Waters is back with a whole season's worth of historical tales told by some of the most captivating (and totally wasted) storytellers around. It's the history they never taught you, narrated by guest stars who never thought they'd drink this much. From Paramount ... "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season Two" (2016) is a two-disc set with 13 episodes. As Kimmy continues to learn the ways of New York City, she's got her roommate Titus and socialite Jacqueline by her side to tackle all social matters that are hashbrown: relevant. From Universal ... "Z Nation: Season 3" (2016) is a three-disc set with all 14 episodes of one of our favorite series, a tongue-in-check post-zombie-apocalyptic series about a band of survivors traversing what's left of the U.S. to find a vaccine for the living dead. Three years after the devastating ZN1 virus gutted the country, a group of strangers band together to transport the only known survivor of the zombie attack- Murphy -- from New York to California. As humanity's last hope to develop a vaccine, Murphy's dark secret could seriously endanger the mission. An epic road trip filled with non-stop thrills, chills, and blood-splattering zombie fun. In Season Three, with Operation Bite Mark in shambles and the group again on the hunt for Murphy (who holds the key to the vaccine), the fate of humanity rests not in the jaws of zombies, but in the rise of a new breed of hybrid "blends." Created and controlled by Murphy, the ever-growing army of blends is hell bent on spreading their message of "No Fear" across the land. With all new horrors like Wolf-Zombies, Electro-Shock Zombies, and the deadly Enders, "Z-Nation: Season 3" has a new mission with even more blood-splattering fun. "Z Nation: Season 1-3 Collection" (2014-16) is a nine-disc set with all 42 episodes to date of the series. From Universal.
Check out other March 14-20 DVD/Blu-ray releases and reviews at OnVideo.