By Harley Lond - 07/11/17 at 04:49 PM CT
FROM THE BIG SCREEN:
"The Fate of the Furious": Movie franchises get old, tired, bloated. After the silliness of "Fast & Furious 6" (with its overblown airplane-crash ending) and "Furious 7" (with its cardboard mercenaries, God's Eye software and collapsing parking garage), we had hoped that "The Fate of the Furious" would rescue the series from morbidity. It has and has not. The action sequences and acting are above par this time but, like in the previous two outings, the storyline leaves much to be desired. After the carnage of "Seven," Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on their honeymoon, Brian and Mia have retired from the game, and the rest of the crew has been exonerated, giving the globetrotting team a semblance of a normal life. But wait, this is "Fast & Furious." A hacker known as Cipher (Charlize Theron) forces Dom back into the world of crime and turns him against his crew as well as his friend, DSS Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). Now the gang -- joined by previous enemy Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) must fend off one of their own to stop a plot by Cipher to become a major player in world power politics (kinda like the villains in the Bond movies). "From the shores of Cuba and the streets of New York City to the icy plains off the arctic Barents Sea, the elite force crisscrosses the globe to stop an anarchist from unleashing chaos on the world’s stage ... and to bring home the man who made them a family." But wait -- there's more. Universal has announced two more editions in the franchise: "Fast & Furious 9," scheduled for April 2019, and "Fast & Furious 10," scheduled for 2021. "The Fate of the Furious" was directed by F. Gary Gray, who helmed "Straight Outta Compton" (2015); the film co-stars Scott Eastwood, Jordana Brewster, Kurt Russell, Helen Mirren, Michelle Rodriguez, Elsa Pataky, Nathalie Emmanuel, Lucas Black, Kristofer Hivju, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris. Extras include "All About the Stunts"; extended fight scenes; feature commentary with Gray; "The Cuban Spirit" featurette (As the first major studio motion picture to shoot in Cuba in decades, the country's effusive spirit permeates the making of the film); "In the Family"; "Car Culture," which puts viewers into the driver's seat of the supercharged vehicles showcased in the film. And there's a director's extended cut on Digital versions. From Universal.
Also due this week: "The Lost City of Z" Tells the incredible true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who journeys into the Amazon at the dawn of the 20th century and discovers evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilization. Supported by his devoted wife (Sienna Miller), son (Tom Holland) and aide-de-camp (Robert Pattinson) -- Fawcett returns time and again to his beloved jungle in search of the lost city, culminating in his mysterious disappearance in 1925. From Broad Green Pictures ... "Smurfs: The Lost Village" continues the kids franchise; here, a mysterious map sets Smurfette and her best friends Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty on a race through the Forbidden Forest filled with magical creatures to find a mysterious lost village before the evil wizard Gargamel does. From Sony ... and "Their Finest," a rousing WWII dramedy set in London during the Blitz about a former secretary who's appointed as a scriptwriter to bring a "woman's touch" to England's propaganda films. Stars Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Jack Huston, Helen McCrory, Eddie Marsan, Richard E. Grant, Bill Nighy. From Lionsgate.
THIS WEEK'S HIGHLIGHTS:
From American Noir to J-Horror, from France to Italy, this week's collectibles showcase four enjoyable and must-see films.
Let's start off with "Terror in a Texas Town" (1958) the 41st and final feature film for Joseph H. Lewis. The man in the director's chair for "My Name is Julia Ross," "Gun Crazy" and "The Big Combo," Lewis was one of the all-time greats in film noir. But he was also a fine director of Westerns, having made "A Lawless Street," "7th Cavalry" and "The Halliday Brand," all of which -- especially the last -- remain underrated. "Terror in a Texas Town" would bring his noir sensibilities to the American West, resulting in one of his finest works. McNeil (Sebastian Cabot) is a greedy hotel owner who wants to take control of Prairie City, the Texas town of the title. Keen to drive the local farmers of their land, McNeil hires a gunman, Johnny Crale (Nedrick Young, who would pen the Oscar-winning screenplay for "The Defiant Ones" the same year), resulting in the death of a former whaler. The dead man's son, George Hansen (Sterling Hayden), arrives in town to inherit the farm and set the stage for revenge -- armed with only his father's old harpoon. "Terror in a Texas Town" was written by Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten blacklisted by the film industry and forced to write under pseudonyms or to use "fronts." Two years before he helped break the blacklist with on-screen credits for Otto Preminger's "Exodus" and Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus," his work was credited to Ben Perry, but it demonstrates a psychological depth and political dimension that is undoubtedly that of Trumbo. Brand-new 2K restoration from original film elements produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release. Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM Audio. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment.
Award-winning filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa delivered one of the finest entries in the "J-Horror" cycle of films with "Pulse" (2001 -- Japan), a moody and spiritually terrifying film that delivers existential dread along with its frights. Setting his story in the burgeoning internet and social media scene in Japan, Kurosawa's dark and apocalyptic film foretells how technology will only serve to isolate us as it grows more important to our lives. A group of young people in Tokyo begin to experience strange phenomena involving missing co-workers and friends, technological breakdown, and a mysterious website which asks the compelling question, "Do you want to meet a ghost?" After the unexpected suicides of several friends, three strangers set out to explore a city which is growing more empty by the day, and to solve the mystery of what lies within a forbidden room in an abandoned construction site, mysteriously sealed shut with red packing tape. Featuring haunting cinematography by Junichiro Hayashi ("Ring," "Dark Water"), a dark and unsettling tone that lingers long after the movie is over, and an ahead-of-its-time story that anticipates 21st century disconnection and social media malaise, "Pulse" is one of the greatest and most terrifying achievements in modern Japanese horror, and a dark mirror for our contemporary digital world. In a DVD/Blu-ray Combo with Original 5.1 audio (DTS-HD on the Blu-ray). From Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.
From The Criterion Collection this week:
In his ruthlessly clear-eyed final film "L'argent" (1983 -- France), French master Robert Bresson pushed his unique blend of spiritual rumination and formal rigor to a new level of astringency. Transposing a Tolstoy novella to contemporary Paris, "L’argent" follows a counterfeit bill as it originates as a prop in a schoolboy prank, then circulates like a virus among the corrupt and the virtuous alike before landing with a young truck driver and leading him to incarceration and violence. With brutal economy, Bresson constructs his unforgiving vision of original sin out of starkly perceived details, rooting his characters in a dehumanizing material world that withholds any hope of transcendence. On DVD, Blu-ray ... "Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy": Roberto Rossellini is one of the most influential filmmakers of all time. And it was with his trilogy of films made during and after World War II -- "Rome Open City" (1945), "Paisan" (1946), and "Germany Year Zero" (1948) -- that he left his first transformative mark on cinema. With their stripped-down aesthetic, largely nonprofessional casts, and unorthodox approaches to storytelling, these intensely emotional works were international sensations and came to define the neorealist movement. Shot in battle-ravaged Italy and Germany, these three films are some of our most lasting, humane documents of devastated postwar Europe, containing universal images of both tragedy and hope. Special Edition three-disc set with new high-definition digital restorations, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks. On Blu-ray.
BUZZIN' THE 'B'S:
In "Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer" (2016), starring Richard Gere, Lior Ashkenazi, Hank Azaria, Steve Buscemi, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Michael Sheen, Dan Stevens, Harris Yulin and Josh Charles, Norman Oppenheimer (Gere) lives a lonely life in the margins of New York City power and money; his incessant networking leads him nowhere, but he does befriend a young but charismatic politician Micha Eshel (Ashkenazi) at a low point in his life. Three years later, the politician becomes an influential world leader, and Norman attempts to use Eshel’s name to leverage his biggest deal ever: a series of quid pro quo transactions linking the Prime Minister to Norman’s nephew (Sheen), a rabbi (Buscemi), a mogul (Yulin), his assistant (Stevens), and a treasury official from the Ivory Coast. Norman’s kaleidoscopic plans soon go awry, creating the potential for an international catastrophe he must struggle to prevent. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Sony ... In "London Heist" (2016), starring Craig Fairbrass, James Cosmo, Mem Ferda, Steven Berkoff and Nick Moran, career criminal, family man, and vicious armed robber Jack Cregan (Fairbrass) is on a mission for revenge. When Jack's father, Alfie Cregan (Berkoff), is brutally murdered, and the money from their Heathrow airport heist is stolen, Jack, his cousin Sammy, and gang members Eddie and Frank realize there is more to the stolen money and Alfie's murder than meets the eye -- and, once Jack starts digging, he knows that his life will never be the same again. The shattering revelations that follow force Jack, with the clock ticking, to not only pull off one last dangerous robbery, but also to exact brutal revenge on all those involved. ON DVD from Lionsgate ... "Devil's Domain" (2016), starring Michael Madsen, Sticky Fingers, Fred Rose and Rene Nezhola, is a new-age horror film centered on a cyber-bullying incident at a fictional high school that goes terribly wrong. The victim then seeks her own unique form of revenge, albeit with some super-natural help along the way.On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, from Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Entertainment ... In "Game Changers" (2016), lifelong friends Bryan and Scott were e-sports legends, and their identity had always been tied to their notoriety as professional garners. Now, in their late 20's and working together at a failing IT company, they begin to feel the responsibilities of adulthood sinking in. Hungry for the fame that now eludes them, Bryan will do anything to reclaim his status as a pro gamer, and though Scott doesn't identify with the circuit like he used to, he agrees to help assemble a squad of top tier players in order to get back to the top of the pro gaming world. But how far will the pair go as they seek e-sports notoriety -- and at what cost? Stars Brian Bernys and Jake Albarella. From Candy Factory Films ... Remember "Species," the slick 1995 sci-fi thriller about an alien DNA strand found by the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence Project that U.S. scientists merge with human DNA to create Sil, a beautiful female human-alien hybrid (Natasha Henstridge) that escapes from observation? Scientist Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley) dispatches a crew of experts to find her before she is able to fulfill her horrific purpose: to mate with unsuspecting men and produce offspring that could destroy mankind, setting off a nifty "Species" franchise. Scream Factory has released a two-disc Blu-ray Collector's Edition -- with a new 4K scan of the film’s inter-positive -- featuring a load of extras. The film co-stars Michael Madsen, Alfred Molina, Forest Whitaker and Marg Helgenberger.
ON THE INDIE FRONT:
In "American Fable" (2016), starring Peyton Kennedy, Richard Schiff, Gavin Macintosh, Kip Pardu and Marci Miller, a dark, dreamlike mystery plays out amid the expansive farmlands of the American Midwest. With her family's livelihood imperiled by the farm crisis of the 1980s, 11-year-old Gitty loses herself in a world of fantasy and make-believe. But she stumbles into her own fairytale when she makes a startling discovery: a well-dressed mystery man being held captive in her family's silo. From IFC Films ... An exhausted, workaholic actress, Anna Baskin, 44, abruptly extricates herself from a successful but mind-numbing TV role, returning to her past life in New York to reinvent herself in "A Woman, A Part" (2016), starring Maggie Siff, John Ortiz and Cara Seymour. From Strand Releasing ... An intimate group of friends and family gather at the home of two gay men (Anthony Rapp and Jonathan Bennett) to celebrate their nuptials and when the wedding hits a snag, they help the grooms to see that all marriages have their challenges, and love is just the beginning in "Do You Take This Man" (2016), from Breaking Glass Pictures ... "A Quiet Passion" (2017), directed by Terence Davies and starring Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Ehle, Keith Carradine, is a biographical portrait of the life of 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson (Nixon), whose genius only came to be recognized after her death. It begins with Dickinson’s early days as a young schoolgirl and the growth of her wit, intellectual independence and sense of pathos that fueled her work. Dickinson's deep attachment to her close-knit family and the manners, mores and spiritual convictions of her time that she struggled with and transcended in her poetry are subsequently examined, leading to her later years as a brilliant but reclusive and unrecognized artist. From Music Box Films.
FOR THE FAMILY:
In "Spark: A Space Tail" (2016), with the voices of Hilary Swank, Susan Sarandon, Jessica Biel, Patrick Stewart and Jace Norman, a fearless teenage monkey and his brave friends embark on a mission to save the universe. When a power-hungry general plans to wipe out the planet, no one but wisecracking Spark (Norman) and his friends can stop him. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Universal ... "Caillou: Things That Go!" (2016) features 13 stories from the PBS KIDS series as Caillou takes his first plane ride and as he explores, and helps steer, a big sailboat. In the new DVD, Caillou also takes the subway with his mother, watches a big bulldozer at a construction site, and rides the school bus for the first time. From PBS Distribution ... "Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (2017) is a new animated movie based on the beloved children’s book, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," by Roald Dahl, and the iconic musical family film "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory." This new adaptation adds Tom and Jerry’s antics to the classic story of young Charlie Bucket’s unforgettable visit to Willy Wonka’s marvelous chocolate factory. From Warner.
What does it take to keep Jazz Age music going strong in the 21st century? Two words: Vince Giordano -- a bandleader, musician, historian, scholar, collector, and NYC institution. For nearly 40 years, Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks have brought the joyful syncopation of the 1920s and ‘30s to life with their virtuosity, vintage musical instruments, and more than 60,000 period band arrangements. The beautifully crafted documentary "Vince Giordano: There's a Future in the Past" (2016) offers an intimate and energetic portrait of a truly devoted musician and preservationist, taking us behind the scenes of the recording of HBO’s Grammy award-winning Boardwalk Empire soundtrack, and alongside Giordano as he shares his passion for hot jazz with a new generation of music and swing-dance fans.From First Run Features ... "Alive and Kicking" (2016) is a high-spirited look inside the resurgence of the international swing dance community that revisits the origins of swing, slides onto the dance floor with competitive modern-day enthusiasts, and examines the positive mental and emotional affects of dancing. Originating in Harlem during the Great Depression, swing was created to alleviate the economic and social stressors of the 1930s. The film features archival footage and recent interviews with swing legends Norma Miller and the late Frankie Manning, alongside new, vivacious swing dancers making their mark on the dance floor. From Magnolia Home Entertainment ... Armed with low-tech gear and high-minded notions that penguin populations hold the key to human survival, Ron Naveen lays bare his 30 year love affair with the world’s most pristine scientific laboratory: Antarctica. "The Penguin Counters" (2016) follows Ron and his ragtag team of field biologists to one of the harshest corners of the planet, where they track the impact of climate change and ocean health by counting penguin populations. The documentary takes us from the tip of Argentina to the ominous Deception Island on a treacherous yet heartwarming journey by a 21st century Dr. Doolittle who dreams of conserving this stunning but fragile region for future generations. From First Run Features.
FROM TV TO DVD:
"Prime Suspect: Tennison" (2017) is a two-disc set with all six episodes. A prequel to one of the most innovative crime series in television history, starring Stefanie Martini as the rookie WPC (Woman Police Constable) Jane Tennison -- the iconic role immortalized by Helen Mirren. Set in 1973 amid the sounds of the pop tunes of the day, the show opens with Jane a newly minted WPC (Woman Police Constable), performing her probationary stint at Hackney Police Station in East London. Relegated to traffic incidents, dispatching, and other routine police chores -- in addition to serving the senior officers tea -- she gets her big break when a murder case of a young girl calls for an all-hands-on-deck investigation. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from PBS Distribution ... "Rake, Series 2" (2012) is a three-disc set with all eight episodes of the award-winning Aussie legal dramedy. Sharp-witted, but self-destructive solicitor Cleaver Greene (Richard Roxburgh) faces new challenges. In Series 2, Cleaver makes a bitter enemy of the powerful new Attorney General, Cal McGregor (Damien Garvey), when Cleaver is caught having an affair with his wife (Toni Collette). Cleaver’s paramour, Missy (Adrienne Pickering), causes a scandal with a memoir about her life as a prostitute, and his best friend’s wife, Scarlet (Danielle Cormack), can’t forgive Cleaver for the damage he caused to her marriage. From Acorn Media ... "The Tunnel: Sabotage Season 2" (2016) is a three-disc set with all eight episodes. Eighteen months on from the devastating conclusion of Season 1, the newly promoted Commander Wassermann (Clémence Poésy) and the grieving DCI Roebuck (Stephen Dillane) have been leading separate lives until two seemingly isolated events bring them back together; a plane crash in the English Channel, killing everyone on board and a couple abducted from The Tunnel, leaving behind their traumatized child. On the surface the two cases appear to be unconnected. But as the ensuing investigation moves between the coasts of Kent and northern France, it reveals the murderous crusade of a terrorist cell. As Wassermann and Roebuck pick their way through the clues thrown up by a vast field of debris, forging connections as they go, they are confronted with sinister and complicated forces at play. In a terrifying game of brinksmanship, they risk everything in the pursuit of true justice. Based on the original hit Swedish series from Filmlance International, “The Bridge.” On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from PBS Distribution ... "Underground: Season Two" (2017) is a three-disc set with all 10 episodes. Season Two continues to draw inspiration from America’s historical roots, bringing pioneering hero and infamous conductor, Harriet Tubman, to life along with renowned abolitionist Frederick Douglass. In one of history’s greatest escape stories, the Macon 7 face endless challenges in their dangerous escape to freedom within a divided America on the brink of civil war. From Sony.
Check out other July 11-July 17 DVD/Blu-ray releases and reviews at OnVideo.