By Harley Lond - 03/21/17 at 02:10 PM CT
FROM THE BIG SCREEN:
Due this week: "Sing," an animated musical set in a world entirely inhabited by animals, about Buster Moon, a dapper koala who presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times and who has one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world's greatest singing competition. Sing features the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Seth MacFarlane, John C. Reilly and Tori Kelly. From Universal ... "Live by Night," a thriller about a group of Boston-bred gangsters who set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, facing off against the local competition and the Ku Klux Klan. Stars Ben Affleck (who also directed), Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana and Chris Cooper. From Warner ... "Assassin's Creed," a thriller about a man who, through a revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day. Stars Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons and Brendan Gleeson. From Fox.
THIS WEEK'S BEST BETS
There's two modern classics arriving this week from The Criterion Collection: The (very) black comedy "Being There" (1979) by director Hal Ashby in which scenario, direction and acting all click for a political/cultural satire not to be missed. In one of his most finely tuned performances, Peter Sellers plays the pure- hearted Chance, a gardener forced out of moneyed seclusion and into the urban wilds of Washington, D.C., after the death of his employer. Shocked to discover that the real world doesn't respond to the click of a remote, Chance stumbles haplessly into celebrity after being taken under the wing of a tycoon (Melvyn Douglas), who mistakes his new protégé's mumbling about horticulture for sagacious pronouncements on life and politics, and whose wife targets Chance as the object of her desire. Adapted from a novel by Jerzy Kosinski, this hilarious, deeply melancholy satire marks the culmination a remarkable string of films by Ashby in the 1970s, and serves as a carefully modulated examination of the ideals, anxieties, and media-fueled delusions that shaped American culture during that decade (and even now). On DVD and Blu-ray, in a new, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray ... "Multiple Maniacs" (1970) is the gloriously grotesque second feature by John Waters, replete with all manner of depravity, from robbery to murder to one of cinema's most memorably blasphemous moments. Made on a shoestring budget in Waters' native Baltimore, with the filmmaker taking on nearly every technical task, this gleeful mockery of the peace-and-love ethos of its era features the Cavalcade of Perversion, a traveling show mounted by a troupe of misfits whose shocking proclivities are topped only by those of their leader: the glammer-than-glam, larger-than-life Divine, out for blood after discovering her lover's affair. Starring Waters' beloved regular cast the Dreamlanders (including David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole, Susan Lowe, George Figgs, and Cookie Mueller), "Multiple Maniacs" is an anarchic masterwork from an artist who has doggedly tested the limits of good taste for decades. On DVD and Blu-ray in a new 4K digital restoration, supervised by Waters, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.
From Italy and Arrow Video comes the classic "Property is No Longer a Theft" (1973). Having tackled the corrupting nature of power with "Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion" and taken an angry, impassioned look at labor relations with "The Working Class Goes to Heaven," Italian master Elio Petri next turned his attentions to capitalism for this darkly comic film. A young bank clerk (Flavio Bucci), denied a loan by his employer, decides to exact his revenge on the local butcher (Ugo Tognazzi) who is not only a nasty, violent, greedy piece of work but also one of the bank's star customers. Quitting his job, the clerk devotes all of his time to tormenting the butcher, stealing his possessions one-by-one, including his mistress (Daria Nicolodi). Told in an off-kilter fashion by Petri, abetted by the woozy sound design and another outstanding score by Ennio Morricone, "Property is No Longer a Theft" presents a caustic, blackly comic look at a corrupt society. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo with a 4K restoration from the original film negative.From MVD Entertainment.
And from a modern master: "Julieta" (2016 -- Spain), critically acclaimed director Pedro Almodovar's 20th film tells a story about a mother’s struggle to survive uncertainty and come to grips with fate. It's the story of a brokenhearted woman who faces the painful mystery of her long alienation from her daughter during flashbacks on her life and the most important events concerning her estranged daughter. Julieta lives in Madrid with her daughter Antia. They are both in pain over the loss of Xoan, Antia’s father and Julieta’s husband. But sometimes grief doesn’t bring people closer, it drives them apart. When Antia turns 18, she abandons her mother without a word of explanation. Julieta is haunted by the mystery of this loss and it pervades everything in her life. Her struggle and obsession lead to self discovery and surprising revelations. Stars Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Daniel Grao, Inma Cuesta, Darío Grandinetti, Michelle Jenner and Rossy de Palma. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Sony.
BUZZIN' THE 'B'S:
"A Kind of Murder" (2016), starring Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel, Haley Bennett and Eddie Marsan, is based on the acclaimed novel by Patricia Highsmith. The film unfolds as a spine-tingling murder mystery that blurs the lines of reality. A crime novelist obsessed with an unsolved murder case begins to fantasize about committing a crime of his own. His marriage is an unhappy one, and his desire to be free from his beautiful but damaged wife becomes an obsession. But when his wife is found dead the lines blur between innocence and intent, forcing the question who, in fact, is the real killer? On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia Home Entertainment ... From celebrated author Janette Oke ("The Love Comes Softly" series) comes, "When Calls the Heart: The Heart of Faith" (2016) the latest feature in the "When Calls the Heart" series (originally released as "The Heart Of Christmas"). Christmas is coming to Hope Valley and everyone’s in a festive mood. Rosemary and Lee have returned from their honeymoon to reside in their new row house next to Elizabeth, who’s busy helping her students mount a nativity play. A travelling peddler, Sam, is mistaken for Santa by the kids ... and then mistaken for a thief by Jack. But Elizabeth is stunned when word arrives that the supply train has derailed. Without costumes for the play, food for the feast and presents for the kids, Christmas will be ruined. It takes a lot of faith, spirit, and the cooperation of friends and family to show Hope Valley what Christmas is all about. From Shout! Factory.
ON THE INDIE FRONT:
Set against the sweeping tide of history, "Ali and Nino" (2016) is a tale of a romance that crosses political, geographic and religious divides. Azerbaijan, 1918: Though he is Muslim and she is Christian, Ali and Nino defy their parents and marry. At first it appears their all-consuming love will be enough to overcome the differences in their backgrounds. But their bond is soon put to the test, first as she confronts what it means to be a westernized woman living in a traditionalist society, and then again when everything they know is turned upside down by the arrival of World War I. Stars Adam Bakri, Maria Valverde, Mandy Patinkin, Connie Nielsen. From IFC Films ... Blurring fantasy and reality, "Split" (2016) is the final film in Deborah Kampmeier's trilogy, following the Independent Spirit Nominated "Virgin" and Sundance's Controversial "Hounddog." American poet and political activist Muriel Rukeyser once opined that if one woman told the truth about her life, the world would split open. "Split" -- a powerful meditation on the traumas women face and the struggle to overcome them -- tells the story of Inanna (Amy Ferguson), a young actress working as a stripper, who becomes obsessed with a mask maker (Morgan Spector) and sacrifices parts of herself, piece by piece, in order to win his love. At the same time, the film depicts a mythic journey that blurs theater performance, dreams and real life, as Inanna connects with other women's experiences of trauma and repressed sexuality. From Candy Factory Films.
"Frontline: Exodus" (2017): Since 2011, millions of people have fled their homes in Syria and other countries besieged by violence, helping to fuel Europe’s largest migration crisis since the end of World War II. This documentary explores the epic, first-hand stories of refugees and migrants as they make dangerous journeys across 26 countries seeking safety and a better life. The program draws on camera and smartphone footage filmed by refugees and migrants themselves -- from inside a sinking dinghy on a route across the Mediterranean Sea where thousands have died, to the tents and fires inside Calais’s notorious “Jungle” camp. From PBS Distribution ... Over 100 years after the release of D.W. Griffith’s "The Birth of a Nation," which depicted the KKK as heroes and African Americans in the most racist caricatures imaginable, the new documentary "Independent Lens: Birth of a Movement" (2017) recounts the little-known story of the battle waged against the film by an early and largely forgotten civil rights activist named William Monroe Trotter. Angered by the film’s unrepentant racism, Trotter led African Americans in a pitched battle against the film’s exhibition that culminated with protests in the streets of Boston, laying the foundation for the civil rights movement to come. Through interviews with Spike Lee (whose NYU student film "The Answer" was a response to Griffith’s film), Reginald Hudlin, DJ Spooky, and others, “Birth of a Movement” explores how Griffith’s epic -- long taught in film classes as a groundbreaking work of genius -- motivated generations of African American filmmakers and artists as they worked to fight and reclaim their history and their onscreen image. From PBS Distribution.
FROM TV TO DVD:
The cool New Zealand detective series "The Brokenwood Mysteries"
(2016) continues with Series 3. After transferring from a big city to the small town of Brokenwood, Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd continues to settle into country life working with his assistant, Detective Kristin Sims. Despite the growing accord between the mismatched pair, all is not well in Brokenwood, where passions simmering beneath the sleepy surface regularly erupt into gruesome crimes. In these four feature-length mysteries, the detectives investigate the death of a "Lord of the Ringz" tour guide, a real-life Clue board game gone wrong, the death of a classic-car enthusiast and someone killing the Christmas spirit. In a four-disc DVD, two-disc Blu-ray set from Acorn Media ... "Insecure: The Complete First Season" (2016) is a single disc with all eight episodes. This series -- created by, written by and starring Golden Globe nominee (Best Actress in a Comedy Series) Issa Rae ("The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl") -- follows best friends Issa (Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji) as they navigate the tricky professional and personal terrain of Los Angeles, while facing the challenges of being two black women who defy all stereotypes. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from HBO ... "Master of None: Season One" (2015) is a two-disc set with all 10 episodes of the series that follows the personal and professional life of Dev, a 30-year-old in NYC who has trouble deciding what he wants to eat, much less the pathway for the rest of his life. Dev's story takes him through subjects as diverse as the plight of the elderly, the immigrant experience, and how to find the most delicious pasta for dinner. From Universal ... " Wolf Creek: Season One" (2016) is a two-disc set with all six episodes of the series based on the cult movie franchise. After her family is brutally murdered in the Australian outback, American college student Eve Thorogood vows to bring serial killer Mick Taylor to justice -- or die in the attempt. From Lionsgate.
Check out other March 21-27 DVD/Blu-ray releases and reviews at OnVideo.