By Harley Lond - 09/07/15 at 11:42 PM CT
THIS WEEK'S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
"The Age of Adaline": This romantic melodrama opened on the cusp of the May summer releases and was soon buried by "Avengers: Age of Ultron," "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Pitch Perfect 2," yet the moderately budgeted film did surprisingly well at the boxoffice. The story, assisted by an omnipotent narrator, revolves around Adaline (Blake Lively), a 29-year-old widow who survives a near-death experience in 1935 and (thanks to a confluence of freezing temperatures and accidental electric shock) from that day on never grows older. She guards her secret and her heart for eight decades, never allowing herself to get close to anyone who might reveal her secret ... except her daughter (Ellen Burstyn), who is now older than her mother. Every decade Adaline changes her name and identity and moves on to a new life. But a chance encounter with charismatic philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) -- just before Adaline is about to leave San Francisco to move to Oregon -- re-ignites her passion for life and romance. When a weekend with his parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker) threatens to uncover the truth, Adaline makes a life-altering decision. Though sentimental and unbelievable (despite the narrator's scientific explanation), "The Age of Adaline" is about as charming as any film can be. The talented Lively is a pleasure to watch, and her acting chops keep you interested in her character and the story line. Kudos also to Ford, who plays a sympathetic older man in contrast to the generally crusty, wise-ass roles he's been taking lately. Lovely cinematography, syrupy music, sappy ending: A breath of fresh air in a market of over indulgent sex, violence, drugs and rock 'n' roll. For the romantic in you. From Lionsgate
THIS WEEK'S BEST BETS:
Wes Craven, who died August 30, was the king of modern horror films: he scared the hell out of audiences with slashing gore, self-reflexive humor and genre-bending in a host of films that have all stood the test of time, beginning in 1972 with "The Last House on the Left" through "The Hills Have Eyes" and the "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Scream" franchises. Expect his films to be reissued soon to commemorate his life and style; in the meantime, check out Scream Factory's Blu-ray Collector's Edition release of "Shocker" (1989), about a murderous TV repairman, Horace Pinker, whose killing spree continues even after he's put to death in the electric chair when he returns as a shape-shifting energy source. The film stars Michael Murphy, Peter Berg, Mitch Pileggi, Sam Scarber, Camille Cooper and Ted Raimi, and features a special audio commentary with Craven; an all-new interviews with Mitch Pileggi, Cami Cooper, executive producer Shep Gordon, music supervisor Desmond Child and soundtrack artists; new audio commentary with director of photography Jacques Haitkin, co-producer Robert Engelman and composer William Goldstein; retrospective featurettes; original storyboard gallery; and more.
Independent video studio The Film Detective has announced a new Blu-ray initiative in which the company will release two to three re-mastered titles per month; their library includes some 3,000 titles that include feature films, television programming, foreign imports and documentaries. The first three releases are: "Beat the Devil" (1953), directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida and Peter Lorre. An exquisitely dry comedy with a witty script (by Huston and Truman Capote), this film finds subtle, absurdist laughs in the misadventures of Humphrey Bogart's tough customer, who -- aboard a ship enroute to Africa -- becomes involved with an unlikely group of rogues in a complex scheme to gain control of a patch of uranium-rich land. The fifth and final movie Bogart made with Peter Lorre ... In "Hollow Triumph" (1948), starring Paul Henreid, Joan Bennett, Eduard Franz and Leslie Brooks, John Muller, a career criminal on the run from vengeful gangsters after a botched casino robbery, finds the ultimate hideout, masquerading as a successful psychoanalyst to whom he bears a strong resemblance. However, he fails to take into account that when you take over someone’s life, you inherit the bad with the good ... The controversial "Salt of the Earth" (1954), starring Juan Chacon, Rosaura Revueltas and Will Geer, centers on a long, difficult workers' strike against a mining company in New Mexico, based on real-life events. Ramon Quintero fights for equity of wages as well as health and safety issues ... but at home he mistreats his wife, Esperanza. When the men are forced to end their picketing, Esperanza joins up with the other wives of the workers, who demand to play a role in the strike -- against their husband's wishes. Written, directed and produced by members of the original blacklisted "Hollywood Ten": director Herbert J. Biberman, screenwriter Michael Wilson, producer Paul Jarrico and composer Sol Kaplan. "Salt of the Earth" was the only film ever blacklisted in American film history; it was not allowed to be shown during the Communist scares of the 1950s and was first shown in American theaters in 1965. The production was fraught with outside interference due to the "communist" nature of the film: The entire cast and crew were met by a citizens' committee in Central, New Mexico, where they had planned to film, and were ordered to leave town. The following day they moved the production to Silver City, NM, and were warned to "get out of town ... or go out in black boxes." Because the producers feared both sabotage and destruction of the film, the exposed footage had to be developed in secret, and at night, by a sympathetic lab technician, with the film delivered in unmarked canisters. One of the most important films of the 20th century.
The Criterion Collection brings back one of our favorite thrillers from the 1980s, "Dressed to Kill" (1980). Brian De Palma ascended to the highest ranks of American suspense filmmaking with this virtuoso, explicit erotic thriller. At once tongue-in-cheek and scary as hell, "Dressed to Kill" revolves around the grisly murder of a woman in Manhattan, and what happens when her psychiatrist, her brainiac teenage son, and the prostitute who witnessed the crime try to piece together what happened while the killer remains at large. With its masterfully executed scenes of horror, voluptuous camera work, and passionate score, "Dressed to Kill" is a veritable symphony of terror, enhanced by vivid performances by Angie Dickinson, Michael Caine and Nancy Allen. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc, in a new, restored 4K digital transfer of director Brian De Palma's preferred unrated version, approved by the director, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.
And now for something completely different: Pickin' and grinnin,' singin' and spinnin' tall tales and corny jokes, the citizens of Kornfield Kounty landed on television in 1969 with the arrival of "Hee Haw" as a summer replacement series for "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." Each week, co-hosts Buck Owens and Roy Clark and the cast of comedians and musicians welcomed the biggest stars in country music to perform their songs and help deliver the legendary corny one-liners. Though a hit, CBS dropped the show in 1971 in an attempt to "de-countrify" the network's programming; however, it was quickly picked up and became the longest-running weekly syndicated series in television history. The "The Hee Haw Collection" three-disc collection features five episodes -- never-before-available at retail -- from the late 60s and early 70s. Features performances by Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard (singing his classic "Okie from Muskogie") Donna Fargo, Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, Charlie Rich, Hank Williams Jr. and Tennessee Ernie Ford. Extras: Bonus interviews with show regulars including Roy Clark, Lulu Roman, George Lindsey, Charlie McCoy and Jim and John Hager; favorite comedy bits from the early years in "Hee Haw Laffs," featuring "Board Fence," "Cornfield," "Moonshiners," "Doctor Spot," "Old Philosopher," "General Store," "Haystack," "Schoolhouse" and other knee-slappers. Chaw on that! From Time-Life.
BUZZIN' THE 'B'S:
"American Heist" (2014), starring Hayden Christensen, Adrien Brody, Jordana Brewster, Tory Kittles and Aliaune "Akon" Thiam, is a tale of two brothers torn apart and reunited by the reckless and perilous world of crime. James (Christensen) owes his life to his older brother Frankie (Brody) after taking the rap for a crime they committed together. Now, Frankie is released and back on the streets with no money and no place to go. He turns to his underworld connections and convinces James to join him in hopes that one last job will be the solution to change both their lives. On DVD, Blu-ray from Lionsgate ... "The Editor" (2014, starring Paz de la Huerta, Samantha Hill, Laurence R. Harvey, Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, Conor Sweeney, Tristan Risk and Udo Kier, is a loving tribute to the gory and gruesome erotic horror of classic Italian giallo cinema; this stylish horror comedy spins the twisted tale of a once-prolific film editor who becomes the prime suspect in a series of murders haunting a seedy 1970s film studio. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Scream Factory ... "Closer to the Moon" (2014) is based on audaciously true events about a Romanian police officer in 1959 Bucharest who teams up with a small crew of old friends from the World War II Jewish Resistance to pull off a heist by convincing everyone at the scene of the crime that they are only filming a movie. The heist that baffled the repressive regime and left the public in an uproar. Their motives were never known. Having been captured, arrested and sentenced to death, the unusual gang is given one last punishment before facing the execution squad: reenact the heist for the benefit of a Communist propaganda film. Stars Vera Farmiga and Mark Strong. From IFC Films ... Legendary, internationally-renowned Academy Award-nominated director John Boorman concludes a career spanning more than 50 years with "Queen and Country" (2014), his final film. This long awaited sequel to the five-time Academy Award-nominated "Hope and Glory"(1987) is based on Boorman's early adult years, and follows Bill Rohan -- a child of the Blitz -- as he comes of age while the country is drawn into the Korean War. At boot camp, Bill and his new buddies master the art of poking fun at petty tyrants and hunger for weekend leaves with local beauties. Stars Callum Turner, Caleb Landry Jones, David Thewlis, Tamsin Egerton, Richard E. Grant. From BBC Worldwide.
ON THE INDIE FRONT:
In "Paper Planes" (2015), starring Sam Worthington and Ed Oxenbould, 12-year-old Dylan Webber lives in the outback of Western Australia in a small country town with a father, desperately trying to get over the death of his wife. When the imaginative Dylan discovers he has a talent for folding and flying paper planes, he begins an improbable journey to reach the World Junior Paper Plane Championships in Japan. Along the way he makes unlikely new friends, clashes with powerful rivals and comes to terms with his family's past before facing his greatest challenge -- to create a paper plane that will compete with the best in the world. The highest-grossing family film in Australian history. From Entertainment One.
FOR THE FAMILY:
In the animated musical "Barbie in Rock 'N Royals" (2015), Barbie stars as Princess Courtney, a modern princess whose world is turned upside down when she switches places with Erika, a famous rockstar. Two very different worlds collide when a mix-up sends Princess Courtney to Camp Pop and Erika, to Camp Royalty. While the leaders of the rival camps try to correct the mix-up, both Courtney and Erika learn to adjust to the different worlds and have fun while making new, unexpected friends. When the girls learn both camps are at risk of shutting down, they must embrace their differences, find their true voices, and come together for an epic sing-off that shows anything is possible when you dare to dream big. On DVD and in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Universal ... Preschoolers can spend the afternoon dancing, jumping, and clapping while playing all of Elmo's favorite games in "Sesame Street: Play All Day With Elmo" (2015). Kids can join Elmo to play Freeze Dance, Red Light Green Light, Elmo Says, and more. Elmo helps make learning fun with his interactive approach to teaching children his favorite games. Includes the full length episode "Simon Says." $14.98 from Warner ... In "Thomas & Friends: Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure - The Movie" (2015), surprises await Thomas and his friends as they dig up their most daring adventure yet. Unearthing an old pirate ship, Thomas is on the hunt for Sodor's lost treasure. When Thomas rocks the boat with some new friends, trouble soon rushes in. Will Thomas track down the treasure in time or will Sailor John set sail with it? On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Universal.
"Gameplay" (2014) chronicles the history of video games, from the origin of the technology to the birth of the arcade game. Featuring interviews with video game pioneers including Nolan Bushnell (the founder of Atari), David Crane (the co-founder of Activision), Noah Falstein (chief game designer at Google), John Romero (the founder of ID Software), Todd Howard (director of Fallout 4), and many others, the film is a compendium of all of the groundbreaking games of the past 40 years, and includes original animation and iconic graphics. From Pong to Pac Man, Super Mario to Lara Croft, Doom, Grand Theft Auto and beyond, this film tells the remarkable story of the fastest-evolving new media of all time. From Public Media Distribution ... Inspired by the critically-acclaimed book, "Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th" (2013) takes viewers behind the mask on an epic journey into the making of the landmark horror franchise -- from its humble beginnings in 1980 at a New Jersey summer camp to the blockbuster release of its 2009 "reboot." Combines hundreds of rare and never-before-seen photographs, film clips, outtakes, archival documents, conceptual art and behind-the-scenes footage, and featuring interviews with more than 150 cast and crew members spanning all twelve films and the television series. Features Sean S. Cunningham, Corey Feldman, Wes Craven, Robert Englund, Alice Cooper, Frank Mancuso Jr., Adrienne King, Amy Steel, Ari Lehman, Betsy Palmer, Erin Gray, Kane Hodder, Stu Charno. From RLJ Entertainment.
FROM TV TO DVD:
"Blue Bloods: The Fifth Season" (2014-15) is a six-disc set with 22 episodes, $55.98. The Regan family -- headed up by Tom Selleck -- continues to serve and protect the streets of New York. Oldest son Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) works to convict a national felon as well as resolve a dangerous hostage situation. Erin (Bridget Moynahan) faces numerous challenges as she navigates the judicial system enduring the retrial of a woman she's already convicted, as = well as enlisting the testimony of a protected mob informant. Meanwhile, Jamie's (Will Estes) desire to help lands him in a few troubling situations. No matter what difficulties they face, this is a squad that sticks together, protecting family before all else. From CBS/Paramount ... "Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Season Two" (2014-15) is a three-disc set with all 23 episodes. Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher) are back for more hijinks as they team up with Brooklyn's finest to make the precinct better than ever. As they deal with overbearing superiors, a drug task force, dating crimes, the questionable motives of close family, and a long-awaited interdepartmental romance, they discover there's nothing like laughter when you're staring danger in the face. From Universal ... "The Goldbergs: The Complete Second Season" (2014-15) is a three-disc set with 24 episodes from Sony ... "Gotham: The Complete First Season" (2014-15) is a six-DVD set and four-disc Blu-ray with all 22 episodes from Warner ... "Haven: Season Five, Volume One" (2014) is a four-disc set with 13 episodes. Based on the novella "The Colorado Kid" by Stephen King, the Syfy series follows former FBI agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose), who became a cop in the small town of Haven, Maine, and quickly found herself involved in the return of "the Troubles," a series of supernatural afflictions that have plagued the seaside village for generations. Partnered with local residents Nathan Wuornos (Lucas Bryant) and Duke Crocker (Eric Balfour), Audrey began to realize that Haven's fate was linked to her own, and only she can save the town and the people she loves from the weight of their curses. From Entertainment One ... "Hill Street Blues: Season Six" (1985-86) is a five-disc set with all 22 episodes, $34.99. Combining gritty realism and surprising humor to document both the personal and professional challenges of the officers and detectives who protect and serve, the sixth season of "Hill Street Blues" continued the series' tradition of high-quality, compelling television. With top-notch writing, directing, and ensemble acting (from cast veterans Daniel J. Travanti, Veronica Hamel, Bruce Weitz, Joe Spano, Betty Thomas, Robert Prosky and Dennis Franz, appearing as Lt. Norman Buntz), the sixth season maintained the program's dominance as one of the greatest television series of its time, and further solidified its place as one of the all-time finest. From Shout! Factory ... "Homeland: The Complete Fourth Season" (2014) is a four-disc DVD, three-disc Blu-ray with 12 episodes from Fox ... "Supernatural: The Complete Tenth Season" (2014-15) is a six-disc DVD and four-disc Blu-ray with all 23 episodes from Warner ... "When Calls the Heart: Heart and Home" (2015) is the latest episode in the nostalgic Hallmark series about Elizabeth Thatcher, a young school teacher from a wealthy Eastern family who migrates from the big city to teach school in a small coal mining town in the west. Jack and Elizabeth leave Hope Valley and rush back to the city of Hamilton when they learn that Jack's brother, Tom, was involved in an automobile accident ... with Elizabeth's sister, Julie. Their trip is further complicated when Tom and Julie endeavor to run off together -- via train this time – and Elizabeth's father offers Jack a job -- an offer that puts Jack and Elizabeth’s fledgling romance in peril yet again. From Shout! Factory.
Check out other September 8-14 DVD releases and reviews at OnVideo.