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New on DVD and Blu-ray Week of June 30-July 6

View Harley Lond's Profile

By Harley Lond - 06/30/15 at 03:52 AM CT


In "Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter," brothers Nathan and David Zellner have created a film that can only be called surreal naturalism -- a film in which a skewed reality seems to be natural yet turns inside out and surreal as it progresses. A lonely Japanese woman discovers a hidden copy of the Coen Brother's "Fargo" (1996) on VHS, and believing it to be a treasure map indicating the location of a large case of money, she heads out to the U.S. to find her fortune. Rinko Kikuchi searches for her destiny in the unforgiving North Dakota winter in 2015 top drama Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter. Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) is a cubicle-bound office worker seeking to escape her dour working life and the demands of her mother who keeps wondering why Kumiko hasn't met a man and settled down. Knowing that there's something more in the world than marriage, family and a job, Kumiko becomes obsessed with a battered tape of "Fargo" and, mistaking it for a documentary, she becomes fixated on the scene where a suitcase of stolen cash has been buried in North Dakota's bleak landscape. Single-mindedly believing this treasure to be real and waiting to be discovered, Kumiko leaves Tokyo and her beloved rabbit Bunzo behind to recover it, journeying to a snowy land where she doesn't speak the language and has trouble interacting with the local citizens. Add in Sean Porter's stark yet beautiful cinematography and an unusual score by The Octopus Project and you have a film so original my heart aches with joy. And it doesn't hurt that the atmosphere throughout is Jim Jarmusch meets Roman Polanski. The Zellners' script is partially inspired by an urban legend about a Japanese woman -- depressed after losing her job -- who traveled to Minneapolis, then to Bismarck, then to Fargo, and finally to Detroit Lakes, where she committed suicide. She had traveled there because it was a place she had previously visited with her lover, a married American businessman. A misunderstanding by a Bismarck police office as to the nature of her visit sparked the false story that she was seeking the money buried at the end of "Fargo." Co-stars David Zellner, Nathan Zellner and Brad Prather. Extras include commentary with director/co-writer David Zellner, co-writer Nathan Zellner and producer Chris Ohlson; deleted and alternate scenes. From Anchor Bay.

Director Noah Baumbach alternately loves and hates hipsters, pseudo hipsters and millennials; in 2010's "Greenberg" he ambivalently charted the course of lost soul Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) as he searched for a new life in Los Angeles; in 2012's "Frances Ha" he lavished love on the lost soul Frances (Greta Gerwig) as she sought a new life in New York; in "While Were Young" he makes no bones about it: urban sophisticates are conflicted, spoiled and selfish. The film revolves around Josh (Stiller) and his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) who, after meeting a free-spirited twenty-something couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried), adopt a new lifestyle complete with hip-hop dance classes and mind-expanding parties. The mantra here: Reinvent yourself -- constantly. Hip and cool never looked so bad -- especially with four characters one has difficulty feeling empathy for. Oh well, that's what happens when Woody Allen meets Alexander Payne. Extras include six behind-the-scenes vignettes. From Lionsgate.

Also due this week: "Danny Collins," with Al Pacino as an aging, over-the-hill rock star resurrecting his past; "The Gunman," with Sean Penn as an aging Special Ops hitman who finds himself the target of a hit; and "Get Hard," a silly comedy about a millionaire hedge fund manager (Will Ferrell) nailed for fraud who enlists the help of a black man (Kevin Hart) to help prepare him for prison.


"The Decline of Western Civilization Collection": This is the one rock fans (and cultural critics) have been waiting for: remastered editions of Penelope Spheeris' critically acclaimed rock films "The Decline of Western Civilization," "The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years" and "The Decline of Western Civilization: Part III." Each film in the four-disc set have new 2K high-definition scans, supervised by Spheeris. The set includes a 40-page book containing an essay written by rock historian Domenic Priore ("Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock 'n' Roll's Last Stand in Hollywood") and rare stills. Spheeris, who also directed "Suburbia," "Black Sheep" and "Wayne's World," regards the "Decline" films as her most personally rewarding work. "I am so grateful to the fans of these films, and the bands that appeared in them, for their loyalty and patience. This is my life's work, and I like to think that when I go to my grave, "The Decline" is what I'll be remembered for." In 1981 Spheeris was able to book only one midnight screening for the Los Angeles premiere of The Decline of Western Civilization Blu-Ray Collection "The Decline of Western Civilization." Even though mainstream Hollywood didn't get it, thousands of fans showed up, spilling onto Hollywood Boulevard, and over 300 policemen arrived on scene. Police Chief Darryl Gates wrote the filmmakers a letter banning further screenings in the city. However, times change, and in 2014 the three "Decline" films were restored by The Academy Film Archive, and screened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Part of the appeal of "The Decline of Western Civilization" was its appearance in the midst of a backlash against disco, and slick, mainstream music films. The film garnered rave reviews from press, becoming one of the most written about movies of 1980. Perceived as shocking and outrageous, the film captured the essence of the punk scene, and provided a front row seat to the mosh pits, violence, humor and anti-establishment view of the world, as well as unparalleled access to some of the most influential and innovative musicians and groups of the time, including X, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Fear, and Germs. Largely unknown at the time, many of the punk bands first seen here have become legendary. The second in Spheeris' music documentary trilogy, "The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years" (1988) takes a fast-paced look at the outrageous heavy metal scene of the late 80s. Set in Los Angeles, the film explores fascinating portraits of struggling musicians, fans and star-struck groupies. Featuring Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Poison, members of Aerosmith, Kiss, Motorhead, and performances by Megadeth, Faster Pussycat, Lizzy Borden, London, Odin and Seduce, this raucous and uproarious chapter also chronicles the lonely naivete of the striving bands, and the endless flow of alcohol and drugs.

In 1998, the last in the series, "The Decline of Western Civilization Part III", hit select theaters but was never released in any home video format. A disturbing social commentary on homeless youth who have often left home due to abuse or neglect, the film has themes of alienation and alcoholism. Spheeris personally financed the film, bringing to the screen the real-life squatter lifestyle and angry rejection of mainstream society two decades after she wrote and directed the cult classic Suburbia. Sadly there are plenty of tragic endings in this story: overdoses, a squat fire, and the murder of a kid named Squid, who was thrilled to be included in the film because he thought it might turn his life around. A fitting last chapter in the Decline trilogy, this film includes performances by Final Conflict, Litmus Green, Naked Aggression and The Resistance and won the Freedom of Expression award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. On DVD: $39.98, Blu-ray Disc: $59.98. Extras: include commentary by Dave Grohl; Penelope Spheeris interview with Tawn Mastrey of KNAC; never-before-seen original footage, performances and interviews; Mark Toscano of the Academy Film Archive interviews Penelope Spheeris; theatrical trailers. From Shout! Factory. Thank you, guys.

Here's a bang-em-up you have to see: "Pit Stop" (1969). The most dangerous game ever devised, to pit man against man, flesh against steel -- is the figure-8 race. Jack Hill ("Coffy," "Foxy Brown") follows up "Spider Baby," once again teaming up with Sid Haig ("House of 1000 Corpses"). Richard Davalos ("East of Eden") stars as Rick Bowman, a street punk who winds Pit Stop Blu-Ray Cover up in jail after a street race goes wrong. Bailed out by race promoter Grant Willard, Davalos is put in the deadly track where he comes up against Haig's maniacal winner Hawk Sidney. Featuring an outstanding supporting cast including Brian Donlevy in his last film appearance, Ellen Burstyn, billed as Ellen McRae, and Beverly Washburn, "Pit Stop" is one of Hill's lesser known films but arguably one of his greatest. Filmed on a real figure-8 track, Hill and his crew were able to capture gripping real-life car wreck scenes lending the film a brilliant sense of realism. New high-definition digital transfer supervised and approved by director Jack Hill. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo with high-definition Blu-ray (1080p) and standard definition DVD presentation. With original mono 1.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray). From Arrow Video/MVD.

From The Criterion Collection comes "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" (1970): A girl on the verge of womanhood finds herself in a sensual fantasyland of vampires, witchcraft and other threats in this eerie and mystical movie daydream. "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" serves up an endlessly looping, nonlinear fairy tale, set in a quasi-medieval landscape. Ravishingly shot, enchantingly scored, and spilling over with surreal fancies, this enticing phantasmagoria from director Jaromil Jires is among the most beautiful oddities of the Czechoslovak New Wave. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, with a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.


In "Last Knights" (2015), starring Clive Owen and Morgan Freeman, a fallen warrior rises against a corrupt and sadistic ruler to avenge his dishonored master. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Last Knights Blu-Ray Cover Lionsgate ... "Still" (2014), starring Aidan Gillen, Jonathan Slinger, Elodie Yung, Amanda Mealing and Sonny Green, is a gritty and atmospheric thriller about the traumatic disintegration of a man and father. Film follows Tom Carver, a man stumbling blindly towards a crossroads in his life and recently thrown out of focus following the unexpected, tragic death of his teenage son in a car crash. After a seemingly harmless encounter with a neighborhood kid, he finds himself involved in a feud with a teenage gang that quickly intensifies to more disturbing and horrifying heights. With Tom's personal life unraveling before his eyes, and the threat of gang violence escalating out of control, the world he is so desperately trying to rebuild may collapse all together. From Omnibus Entertainment/Film Movement.


"Soldate Jeanette (Soldier Jane)" (2013 -- Austria), starring Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg DVD Cover for Soldate Jeanette and Christina Reichsthaler, is a provocative, atmospheric comedic deadpan takedown of materialism -- a portrait of two women from very different ends of the social spectrum. The film follows heroine Fanni (Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg), a member of the Viennese bourgeois who tires of her life of leisure and, on the eve of her eviction, sets off for an alpine expedition where she camps in the mountains and burns her money. Soon, she finds herself on a livestock farm where she takes up residence and befriends Anna (Christina Reichsthaler), a rebellious farm girl ready to move on from her agrarian life. After stealing the farmer's jeep and emboldened by their newfound liberty, they journey together in search of their dreams. From IndiPix Films.


"My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: Cutie Mark Quests" (2015) consists of five episodes of everyone's favorite ponies. In Equestria, being true to yourself is the key to earning your cutie mark. Join Twilig's favorite Cutie Mark Crusaders, Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, DVD Cover for My Little Pony - Friendship is Magic: Cutie Marks Quests and Apple Bloom -- as they journey to find their own Cutie Marks, take on the spirit of chaos and disharmony and visit a village where ... every pony has given up their Cutie Marks? "Frog Kingdom" (2015), with the voices of Bella Thorne, Cameron Dallas, Drake Bell, Keith David, Gregg Sulkin and Rob Schneider, when The Frog King announces that the winner of the Froglympics will win his daughter's hand in marriage, Princess Froglegs runs away instead. Disguised as a commoner, the Princess befriends street vendor Freddie and begins training with him for the games -- determined that she will win and thwart her father's plans of marriage. Meanwhile, the villainous serpent has ideas of his own to ruin the Froglympics and take over the kingdom. From Lionsgate.


"Downtown 81 Collector's Edition" (1981, 2000): The desolate streets of Manhattan's lower east side in the early 1980s were permeated with abandoned buildings, drug lords and vagabonds -- but the underground scene was bubbling with an electrifying fusion of art and music. At the beginning of this newfound energy was Swiss photographer Edo Bertoglio, poised to capture the imaginative, fantastical drama, "Downtown 81." The film, a documentary-style narrative, features then-obscure artists on the brink of fame, such as a 19-year-old Jean-Michel Basquiat, Debbie DVD Cover for Downtown 81 Harry, Fab Five Freddy and Lee Quinones. Originally titled "New York Beat Movie," "Downtown 81," which took nearly 20 years to complete, is both a post-modernist fairytale and a vivid depiction of the downtown New York art and music scene in the early 1980s. Starring legendary American painter, graffiti artist, poet and musician Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), the film chronicles a day in the life of a 19-year-old starving artist who must raise money to reclaim the apartment from which he has been evicted. Hoping to sell a painting to earn the rent, he wanders the downtown streets, painting in hand, encountering painters, models, junkies, graffiti artists, rappers and rockers whose lives and performances provide a glimpse into one of the most exciting periods in American culture. "Downtown 81" features an eclectic soundtrack with music by Blondie, DNA, Tuxedomoon, The Plastics, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, James White and the Blacks, Gray, Liquid Liquid, Walter Steding, John Lurie, Marvin Pontiac, Lydia Lunch, Suicide and Melle Mel. Although the film was shot in 1981, it was not actually completed until 2000, 12 years after Basquiat's untimely death. Now, 15 years after its NYC debut, "Downtown 81" is available on DVD, digitally remastered and restored. Extras include archival footage, interviews, audio commentary, a special 32-page collector's booklet, photo gallery, more. From Music Box Films ... "I Am Evel Knievel" (2014): Evel Knievel's rise to superstardom was built on nerves of steel and the ability to get up and do it again no matter the severity of the fall. He lived life like every day was his last, which led to a tumultuous life filled with stunts no man would ever dream of, encompassing meteoric success, wild hubris, egomaniacal I Am Evel Knievel Blu-Ray Cover mistakes, and ultimately redemption. Sporting flashy leather jumpsuits and a determined grin in the face of death, Knievel became a national hero whose outrageous feats were broadcast on live TV. This documentary is the untold story of this legendary figure who gave birth to the culture and the meaning of the word "extreme". The film also showcases Knievel's rise from a small town rebel in Butte, Montana, to a cultural icon. The enduring legacy of Knievel is his unforgettable death-defying jumps. The film features footage of Knievel's greatest jumps, including his first major attempt, over the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, the Snake River Canyon jump in Idaho and London's Wembley Stadium jump. A cast -- featuring those who knew him best and were inspired to achieve greatness of their own, including Matthew McConaughey, Kid Rock, Michelle Rodriguez, Guy Fieri, Robbie Maddison, daredevils Spanky Spangler and Mike Vallely, Willie G. Davidson of Harley-Davidson, funnyman Bob Einstein (known as Super Dave Osborne), Chris and J.C. Agajanian, and family members including sons Kelly and Robbie, and former wives Linda Knievel and Krystal Kennedy-Knievel -- pay tribute to the man and the legend. From Virgil Films.


There's two international TV series due this week from MHz Home Entertainment: "Annika Bengtzon Crime Reporter: Episodes 7 & 8" (2001, 2003): Helena Bergstrom stars as crime reporter Annika Bengtzon in two feature films which launched Liza Marklund's bestselling DVD Cover for Annika Bengtzon Crimer Reporter Episodes 7 & 8 literary character on-screen. Fearless in her search for the truth, journalist Annika Bengtzon won't take no for an answer from anyone: not from prestigious academicians or drug dealers or from colleagues. Her passion for getting the story brings her into dangerous situations, but also allows her to peer into the heart of every crime. ... "Maria Wern: Episodes 8 & 9" (2010 -- Sweden) Two-disc set: Eva Rose returns as police inspector Maria Wern in two new movies based on the bestselling crime novels by Swedish author Anna Jansson. After the death of her husband, Maria moves to the picturesque Swedish island of Gotland with her two children to start over. While struggling to raise the children on her own and still mourning her husband's death, Maria manages to sustain her female perspective and approach to life in a harsh and male-dominated environment -- while solving bizarre crimes.

Check out other June 30-July 6 DVD releases and reviews at OnVideo.


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