By Harley Lond - 05/10/17 at 12:00 AM CT
FROM THE BIG SCREEN:
If ever there was a prurient, soft-core porn film that appealed to the masses, it was 2015's "Fifty Shades of Grey," a big-screen adaptation of an almost-illiterate book about a masochistic relationship between a college student and a businessman. Well, the kinky hijinks continue with this sequel, "Fifty Shades Darker," in a -- hold your breath -- unrated version. Here's what Rotten Tomatoes had to say about the film (with a 9 percent rating): "Lacking enough chemistry, heat, or narrative friction to satisfy, the limp Fifty Shades Darker wants to be kinky but only serves as its own form of punishment." Nuff said. Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson return for more punishment. Extras include deleted scenes, several behind-the-scenes featurettes, and -- oh no -- "A Tease to Fifty Shades Freed," the next Fifty Shades film. From Universal.
THIS WEEK'S HIGHLIGHTS:
A singular work in film history, Chantal Akerman's "Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles" (1975) meticulously details, with a sense of impending doom, the daily routine of a middle-aged widow (Delphine Seyrig) -- whose chores include making the beds, cooking dinner for her son, and turning the occasional trick. In its enormous spareness, Akerman's film seems simple, but it encompasses an entire world. Whether seen as an exacting character study or one of cinema's most hypnotic and complete depictions of space and time, Jeanne Dielman is an astonishing, compelling movie experiment, one that has been analyzed and argued over for decades. And one of the most over-looked classics of the modern era. On DVD and Blu-ray, in a new 2K digital restoration undertaken by the Royal Belgian Film Archive, supervised by director of photography Babette Mangolte, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include "Autour de Jeanne Dielman," a 69-minute documentary-shot by actor Sami Frey and edited by Agnes Ravez and director Chantal Akerman, made during the filming of "Jeanne Dielman"; interviews from 2009 with Akerman and Mangolte; excerpt from "Chantal Akerman par Chantal Akerman," a 1997 episode of the French television program "Cinéma de notre temps"; interview from 2007 with Akerman's mother, Natalia; excerpt from a 1976 television interview featuring Akerman and actor Delphine Seyrig; "Saute ma ville" (1968), Akerman's first film, with an introduction by the director; a booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Ivone Margulies. From The Criterion Collection.
The work of Kiju Yoshida is one of Japanese cinema's obscure pleasures. A contemporary of Nagisa Oshima ("Death by Hanging," "In the Realm of the Senses") and Masahiro Shinoda ("Pale Flower," "Assassination"), Yoshida started out as an assistant to Keisuke Kinoshita before making his directorial debut at age 27. In the decades that followed he produced more than 20 features and documentaries, yet each and every one has proven difficult to see in the English-speaking world. This collection, "Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism Limited Edition," brings together three works from the late sixties and early seventies, a loose trilogy united by their radical politics and an even more radical shooting style. "Eros + Massacre," presented here in both its 169-minute theatrical version and the full-length 220-minute director's cut, tells the parallel stories of early 20th-century anarchist (and free love advocate) Sakae Osugi and a pair of student activists. Their stories interact and intertwine, resulting in a complex, rewarding work that is arguably Yoshida's masterpiece. "Heroic Purgatory" pushes the dazzling cinematic language of "Eros + Massacre" even further, presenting a bleak but dreamlike investigation into the political discourses taking place in early seventies Japan. "Coup d'état" returns to the past for a biopic of Ikki Kita, the right-wing extremist who sought to overthrow the government in 1936. Yoshida considered the film to be the culmination of his work, promptly retiring from feature filmmaking following its completion. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo with high definition digital transfers supervised by Kiju Yoshida, High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations for all films, uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM Audio on all films. From Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment.
"Heat" (1995) is arguably director Michael Mann's most successful outing, from an artistic, critical and audience perspective. It's the kind of film -- ostensibly a heist thriller -- in which everything comes together in a perfect storm of acting, writing, directing and audacity. And the icing on the cake: Al Pacino and Robert De Niro facing off on the big screen. This Director’s Definitive Edition is a new restoration overseen by Mann himself. The film co-stars Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Dennis Haysbert, William Fichtner, Natalie Portman and Tom Noonan. Extras include a new 2016 Academy Panel reuniting Mann, Pacino and De Niro and moderated by Christopher Nolan; New Toronto International Film Festival Q&A with Mann; commentary by Mann; three-part "The Making of Heat": "True Crime," "Crime Stories" and "Into the Fire"; "Pacino and De Niro: The Conversation"; "Return to the Scene of the Crime": additional footage - deleted scenes: Scene 5 - Season's starting early, Scene 42 - Nicest guy on the block, Scene 55 - Albert and Hanna (Alternate Take), Scene 62 – Shakedown, Scene 76 - Murder in C-Block, Scene 96A - Let's Dance, Scene 125 - Late arrival, Scene 148/147 - Where's Anna?, Scene 177B - Double the worst trouble, Scene 191 - Nate delivers, Scene 204A - No response; theatrical trailers: Surprise of a Lifetime, Two Actors Collide, Closing In. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Fox.
If you are ill-mannered, have a poor sense of social etiquette or just plain irresponsible, then beware of the cheerfully psychotic housewife Beverly Sutphin from John Waters’ wickedly hilarious cult classic "Serial Mom" (1994), making its Blu-ray debut this week. The operable words here: "Don't wear white after Labor Day." Stars Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake, Mink Stole, Patricia Hearst, Matthew Lillard, Mary Jo Catlett, Traci Lords and Suzanne Somers. Extras include a new conversation with director John Waters, actress Kathleen Turner and actress Mink Stole; "Serial Mom: Surreal Moments" featuring interviews with Waters, Stole, actress Patricia Hearst, actress Ricki Lake, actor Matthew Lillard, casting director Pat Moran, production designer Vincent Pirano and more; commentary with John Waters and Kathleen Turner; commentary with John Waters; "The Making of Serial Mom" original promotional featurette; "The Kings of Gore: Herschel Gordon Lewis and David Friedman" featurette; original theatrical trailer. From Shout! Factory.
BUZZIN' THE 'B'S:
Arrow Video has a nifty offbeat offering this week: "Brain Damage" (1988). Meet Elmer. He's your local, friendly parasite with the ability to induce euphoric hallucinations in his hosts. But these LSD-like trips come with a hefty price tag. When young Brian comes under Elmer's addictive spell, it's not long before he finds himself scouring the city streets in search of his parasite's preferred food source -- brains. Features late TV horror host John Zacherley as the voice of Elmer. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo with original mono and 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround Audio options ... In "Justice Served" (2015), starring Marvin Young, Lochlyn Munro, Lance Henriksen and Gail O’Grady, three people whose loved ones were victims of crimes in which the accused perpetrator was inexplicably exonerated are given a second chance to re-litigate the crime in a private setting, acting as judge, jury, and executioner, all under the auspices of “Justice.” From Breaking Glass Pictures ... In "The Greasy Strangler" (2016), starring Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo and Gil Gex, Ronnie runs a disco walking tour with his son, Brayden. When a sexy woman takes the tour, it begins a competition between father and son for her love ... and also signals the arrival of an oily strangler who stalks the streets at night. From FilmRise/MVD Visual.
ON THE INDIE FRONT:
"Millie and the Lords" (2015), starring Jessica Carmona, Mateo Gomez, Alex Hernandez and Alfredo Huereca, is the story of Milagros Baez, a young, working class under-confident Puerto Rican woman whose life is changed for the better when she begins to learn about the Young Lords Party, a revolutionary group from the later '60s, and her rich Puerto Rican history. Marrying a deeply emotional story and inventive cinematography with documentary footage and original presentations from the founding members of the Young Lords Party, the film is an inspirational and poignant film about one woman's journey from isolation and helplessness to strength and empowerment. From IndiePix Films.
"Alena" (2015 -- Sweden), starring Amalia Holm and Rebecka Nyman, is a teen lesbian romance/horror film based on the internationally acclaimed graphic novel by Kim W. Andersson. With a traumatic event in her recent past, Alena transfers to a posh private all-girls school where her decidedly lower class roots makes her an outsider. While a gang of mean rich girls are determined to make Alena’s life a living hell, she's mysteriously defended by a shadowy and jealous, yet beautiful guardian angel. From Icarus Films ... In "The Chef's Wife" (2014 -- France), overshadowed by her Michelin-starred chef husband, Carole takes a course at an adult training center where she meets Marithé, who wants to help Carole create a new, fulfilling life. The two women hit it off immediately, bonding over their desire for change, but complications arise when Marithé encounters Carole's charming husband. Stars Karin Viard, Emmanuelle Devos and Roschdy Zem. From Icarus Films.
FOR THE FAMILY:
"Alpha and Omega: Journey to Bear Kingdom" (2017) is the latest adventure in the animated franchise, in which wolf pups Stinky, Claudette, and Runt must defend Bear Kingdom’s royalty and their forest home from the evil Rogue Wolves. From Lionsgate.
In 1985, film school graduate Will Allen joined a spiritual community in West Hollywood, which centered on the mysterious leader they called the "Teacher." Allen became quickly immersed and with his camera in hand began to document life inside the group. Slowly over time, hidden truths about their Teacher began to surface until finally his darkest secrets were revealed. In "Holy Hell" (2016), using 22 years of intimate archival footage, Allen takes us on an emotional journey behind closed doors and into a world no one, not even its participants, could have imagined. From The Film Sales Company.
FROM TV TO DVD:
"Divorce: The Complete First Season" (2016-17) is a two-disc set with all 10 episodes. Sarah Jessica Parker returns to HBO in this new comedy series. Parker stars as Frances, a woman who suddenly begins to reassess her life and her marriage with Robert (Thomas Haden Church), and finds that making a clean break and a fresh start is harder than she thought. The story of a very, very long divorce, the first season follows Frances and Robert as they grapple with the fallout from their failing union, not just for themselves, but also for their children and friends. Finding sharp, observant humor in tense situations ranging from awkward public encounters to bitter private therapy sessions, Divorce is about two people at the most difficult moment in their lives, feeling more intense emotions for each other than they've felt in years. The ensemble cast includes Molly Shannon, Talia Balsam, Tracy Letts, Sterling Jerins and Charlie Kilgore. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from HBO ... "Orange is the New Black: Season Four" (2016) is a four-disc DVD, three-disc Blu-ray with 13 episodes. From Jenji Kohan, the creator of "Weeds," "Orange Is the New Black" is a thought-provoking, funny, and evocative show about life in a women’s prison. Based on the best-selling memoir by Piper Kerman, the newest season delves into the racial and economic tensions that run rampant in the halls of Litchfield. Overrun with new inmates and overseen by inexperienced guards, the prison undergoes an unprecedented culture war. From Lionsgate.
Check out other May 9-May 15 DVD/Blu-ray releases and reviews at OnVideo.