By Harley Lond - 07/29/14 at 01:10 AM CT
THIS WEEK'S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
"Noah": Director Darren Aronofsky kicked up quite a storm with his semi-revisionist take on the biblical tale of Noah and the Ark. Much to the chagrin of bible-thumpers, Aronofsky humanized Noah and his struggle to understand why he was chosen by his creator to undertake the great task of saving animal species before an apocalyptic flood destroyed the world (he also altered the biblical tale by introducing The Watchers, fallen angels turned to stone golems for helping humans expelled from the Garden of Eden and who now help Noah build his ark). At the other end of the creationism divide, it's easy to acknowledge "Noah" as a literary work of art, but it's harder to accept the weak acting (especially by Jennifer Connelly as Noah's wife, Naameh, and Emma Watson as Ila, Shem's wife) and at-times sluggish pace. Russell Crowe as Noah is just perfect as the stubborn and tenacious keeper of the world's animals; his anger at his creator for not giving him guidance is palpable. Also along for the ride is Anthony Hopkins (in a by-now-typical role as a wise old man -- here as Methuselah) and Ray Winstone as an evil descendent of Cain who wants to makeover the world in his own profane image. Metaphors abound in this watchable -- if not totally enthralling -- CGI spectacle. DVD and Blu-ray Extras include a trio of three short behind-the-scenes featurettes. From Paramount.
Also due this week is "The Other Woman," a girlfriend revenge flick about a successful New York attorney (Cameron Diaz) who accidentally discovers that her too-good-to-be-true boyfriend is married and -- worse yet -- has another mistress; she teams with the wife (Leslie Mann) and other girlfriend (Kate Upton) to teach the three-timing man a lesson. It's pretty slight and pretty silly. Disappointingly directed by Nick Cassavetes. From Fox.
THIS WEEK'S HIGHLIGHTS:
There's a lot of oldies but goodies due this week:
First we head to the 1950s with "At War With the Army" (1950) the freshman outing for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. In typical Martin and Lewis style, Martin plays the ladies' man with a crooner's voice while Lewis brings on the laughter in the duo's first starring roles on the silver screen. It's a classic, song-and gag-filled comedy that has the due enlisting in the army. Co-stars Mike Kellin, Polly Bergen, Jimmie Dundee and Dick Stabile. From Film Chest Media ... follow that up with a set of films by one of the most gorgeous actresses ever to grace the silver screen in the "Grace Kelly Collection," a six-disc set with "Mogambo" (1953), "Dial M for Murder" (1954), "The Country Girl" (1954), "The Bridges at Toko-Ri" (1954), "High Society" (1956) and "To Catch a Thief" (1955). The set includes a collectible series of art cards, photos and memorabilia. $34.96 from Warner.
Moving on to the 1970s we have the "Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Revisited Blu-ray" (1970), a four-hour Director's Cut of the Oscar-winning documentary about the landmark music event that featured some of the greatest rock 'n' roll performers in history. This latest release will contain the complete "40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition" plus brand new concert footage from Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, Santana, The Who and more. There are new premiums -- a reproduction of Woodstock Festival tickets and articles from Life Magazine and The New York Times -- in addition to a re-issue of the Woodstock logo iron-on patch. From Warner.
Segueing to the 80s we have "Without Warning" (1980), starring Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Tarah Nutter, Christopher S. Nelson, Cameron Mitchell, Neville Brand, Sue Ane Langdon, Ralph Meeker and Larry Storch. In this sci-fi horror thriller, the Earth is the new hunting ground for an alien life form that preys on human fear and feeds on human flesh. A group of teenagers head out to a lake for a relaxing camping trip in the mountains but things go terribly wrong when they run into an extraterrestrial who throws deadly discs that suck the blood of their victims. The group heads back to the local truck stop for help from the eclectic group of residents -- a crazy war veteran (Martin Landau) and a determined hunter (Jack Palance). From Scream Factory/Shout! Factory ... The Criterion Collection offers up a Blu-ray/DVD Dual Format Edition of Lawrence Kasdan's "The Big Chill" (1983). After the shocking suicide of their friend, a group of thirtysomethings reunite for his funeral and end up spending a weekend together, reminiscing about their shared pasts as children of the sixties and confronting the uncertainty of their lives as adults of the eighties. Poignant and warmly humorous in equal measure, this 1983 baby-boomer milestone featuring memorable performances by an ensemble cast of Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly and JoBeth Williams. And with its playlist of hit songs from the sixties, "The Big Chill" all but invented the consummately curated soundtrack.
And, lastly, on to the 90s. CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount has released a giant box set of "Twin Peaks - The Entire Mystery," a comprehensive 10-disc compendium that contains every episode from the complete television series (1990-91); both the U.S. and international versions of the series' pilot; the North American Blu-ray debut of David Lynch's follow-up feature "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me"; and nearly 90 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes from the film. The set also features newly transferred Log Lady introductions for each episode; picture upgrades to many shots in the TV series; a new featurette with Lynch and the actors who portrayed the Palmer family that includes a mesmerizing return to the lives of their characters today; and hours of never-before-released material that dives into the fascinating story behind the celebrated pop culture classic. Along with the newly transferred version of "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me," created from a 4K scan of the original negative, the box set boasts the long-awaited missing pieces from the original version of the film -- nearly an hour-and-a-half of deleted/alternate scenes from -– often referred to as the "holy grail" of Twin Peaks fandom. This feature-length experience has been directed and edited by Lynch exclusively for this release. Capping off more than 30 deleted/alternate scenes is an epilogue providing a fascinating glimpse beyond the cliffhanger finale of the TV series. All with upgraded picture and 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio under the personal supervision of Lynch. What more could you ask for?
BUZZIN' THE 'B'S:
Get ready for some hard-hitting Tony Jaa action this week: When Boss Suchart is murdered in "The Protector 2" (2013 -- Thailand), all evidence points to Kham (Tony Jaa). Forced to run as he fights to clear his name, he's hunted not only by the police, but also Boss Suchart's revengeful twin nieces and crime lord LC (RZA). Co-stars Petchtai Wongkamlao and JeeJa Yanin. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc from Magnet Label/Magnolia Home Entertainment. Magnolia also has packaged all three "Ong Bak" films -- the three-part epic tale of revenge starring Tony Jaa in one neat box set, "The Ong Bak Trilogy" (2003-2008-2010), on DVD and Blu-ray Disc ... There's more Thai action in "Dragonwolf" (2013 -- Thailand), a marital arts choreographed film that follows two assassins from the same company who become bitter rivals when a woman comes between them. Stars Kazu Patrick Tang, Johan Kirsten, Macha Polivka. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Well Go USA ... "Legendary" (2013), starring Scott Adkins, Dolph Lundgren, Huang Yi, Nathan Lee and James Lance, is an action-adventure about the battle between two rivals to capture a mythical creature that shouldn't exist in China's hinterland -- a wild animal that the locals believe to be a primeval monster they call the "Shocate." From Lionsgate ... A young woman studying the habits of webcam chat users from the apparent safety of her apartment witnesses a brutal murder online and is quickly immersed in a nightmare in which she and her loved ones are targeted for the same grisly fate as the first victim in "The Den" (2013), starring Melanie Papalia and David Schlachtenhaufen. From IFC Films ... In "Cuban Fury" (2014), starring Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O'Dowd, Olivia Colman, Ian McShane and Kayvan Novak, it's 1987 and poised to sweep the floor at the U.K. Junior Salsa Championships, 13-year-old Bruce Garrett has fire in his heels and the world at his feet ... until one fateful night, a freakish bullying incident robs him of his confidence and diverts his life down a very different path. 25 years later, having locked away his boyhood dreams, shabby, overweight Bruce (Nick Frost) finds himself unloved and emotionally inert, with the passionate beating heart of a salsa king laying dormant. It takes the arrival of Julia (Rashida Jones), his smart, funny, gorgeous new American boss, that forces him to re-examine his dull existence. She's way out of his league, but with his loyal sister, childhood dance mentor, and crazy new amateur salsa pal, Bruce tries to unshackle his dancing beast, regain his long lost fury and claim the love of his life. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Entertainment One ... On a trip to Italy to visit her estranged father, an American teenager is thrown into a world of mystery, horror and legend when she is called upon by 3000-year-old spirits of the Neverlake to help return their lost artifacts and save the lives of missing children in "Neverlake" (2013 -- Italy), starring Daisy Keeping, David Brandon, Joy Tanne and Martin Kashirokov. From Uncork’d Entertainment ... "Curtains" (1983), starring John Vernon, Samantha Eggar, Lesleh Donaldson and Lynne Griffin, is a horror classic from the golden age of the slasher genre in which six young actresses auditioning for a movie role at a remote mansion are targeted by a mysterious masked murderer. From Synapse Films.
ON THE INDIE FRONT:
In "Lullaby" (2014), with an ensemble cast of Garrett Hedlund, Richard Jenkins, Amy Adams, Jessica Brown Findlay, Anne Archer, Terrence Howard, Jennifer Hudson and Jessica Barden, a man who's estranged from his family receives word that his father has chosen to take himself off life support within 48 hours; he returns home to reconcile with his family and his life. From ARC Entertainment ... Staged by acclaimed choreographer Jonah Bokaer, "Five Dances" (2013) focuses on a newly arrived to new York City 18-year-old Kansas innocent who discovers love, friendship and an awareness of his physical gifts during strenuous modern dance rehearsals. Stars Ryan Steele, Reed Luplau and Catherine Miller. From Wolfe Video ... When a 17-year old aspiring dancer is uprooted mid-semester of her senior year, she finds herself whisked away from Los Angeles to a small East Coast high school where her heart is divided between two boys, and she has one last shot at making her big dream of becoming a dancer a reality in "1 Chance 2 Dance" (2014), starring Lexi Giovagnoli, Justin Ray and Ray Latt. From Monarch Home Entertainment.
"The French Minister" (2013 -- France), directed by Bertrand Tavernier and starring Thierry Lhermitte and Raphael Personnaz, is a hilarious send-up of diplomacy and international politics with rapid-fire dialogue and a brilliant ensemble cast. A human whirlwind and a man confident in France's importance on the world stage, Foreign Affairs Minster Alexandre Taillard de Vorms takes on American neo-cons, corrupt Russians and the opportunistic Chinese while his hapless speech writer endures the eccentricities of his megalomaniacal boss and his sycophantic entourage. From IFC Films ... "The Amazing Catfish" (2013 -- Mexico/France) , starring Lisa Owen, Ximena Ayala, Sonia Franco and Wendy Guillen, is a heartwarming tale of two unique women who bond while recuperating in a hospital. Martha, a mother of four rambunctious and imaginative children, finds solace when she meets the younger woman, Claudia, and quickly the two build a strong relationship. When Martha invites Claudia to live with her family, Claudia unwittingly takes on the responsibility of becoming a surrogate mother to Martha's children. From Strand Releasing ... In "On My Way" (2013 -- France), former beauty queen Bettie (Catherine Deneuve) -- now in her early sixties -- finds herself jilted by her lover and left alone to deal with the financial problems facing her family's restaurant. What begins as a quick drive to clear her head turns into a full-fledged road trip. Along the way there are chance meetings, an ex-Miss France gala, renewed ties with her estranged daughter and grandson, and possibly, at the end of the road, love. Co-stars Nemo Schiffman, Gerard Garouste, Camille, Claude Gensac. In French with English subtitles. From Cohen Media Group.
FOR THE FAMILY:
What time is it? It's princess time featuring Cartoon Network's all-new on-air special and DVD release "Adventure Time: Princess Day" (2014). This eponymous, never-before-seen episode will be released two days before it debuts on Cartoon Network on Thursday, July 31 at 7:00 p.m. In the royalty-filled episode, it's Princess Day in Ooo! You know what that means? Yep, Lumpy Space Princess and Marceline team up to prank Breakfast Princess. In addition to the title episode, the single-disc volume includes a collection of 15 additional episodes that prominently feature fan-favorite Adventure Time princesses like Lumpy Space Princess, Princess Bubblegum, Hot Dog Princess, Flame Princess and many more. $19.82 from Cartoon Network ... In "Bubble Guppies: Get Ready For School!" (2014), the Bubble Guppies discover that school is a great place to learn, play and meet new friends; six new episodes; $16.99 -- with a free Bubble Guppies pencil case while supplies last -- from Nickelodeon/Paramount ... "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics" (2014) is a collection of the "Top 10" rated episodes by fans as found on TV.com. Timed to the new theatrical release of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and the 30th anniversary of the entire TMNT franchise, $14.98 from Lionsgate ... "My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: The Keys Of Friendship" (2014) consists of five episodes from the HUB TV Network kids series about Twilight Sparkle and her friends in Ponyville and the true meaning and value of friendship, $14.97 from Shout! Factory Kids ... After 80 celebrated years, Jean de Brunhoff's iconic tales of Babar gets a CGI update with "Babar and the Adventures of Badou: Gone Wild" (2014), a single disc with episodes featuring Babar's 8-year-old grandson, Badou, as he grows up, makes new friends and immerses himself in exciting adventures. From Entertainment One.
When NSA contractor Edward Snowden downloaded tens of thousands of top-secret documents from a highly secure government network, it led to the largest leak of classified information in history -- and sparked a fierce debate over privacy, technology and democracy in the post-9/11 world. In "Frontline: The United States of Secrets" (2014), Frontline goes behind the headlines to reveal the dramatic inside story of how the U.S. government came to monitor and collect the communications of millions of people around the world -– including ordinary Americans –- and the lengths they went to trying to hide the massive surveillance program from the public. In Part One, a two-hour film, filmmaker Michael Kirk goes inside Washington and the National Security Agency, piecing together the secret history of the unprecedented surveillance program that began in the wake of September 11 and continues today -– even after thee revelations of its existence by Edward Snowden. Then, in Part Two, veteran Frontline filmmaker Martin Smith continues the story, exploring the secret relationship between Silicon Valley and the National Security Agency, and investigating how the government and tech companies have worked together to gather and warehouse your data. $24.99 from PBS Distribution ... "Finding Vivian Maier" (2013) is a documentary on the late Vivian Maier, a nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs earned her a posthumous reputation as one the most accomplished street photographers of the 20th century. Since buying her work by chance at auction, amateur historian John Maloof has crusaded to put this prolific photographer in the history books. Maier's strange and riveting life and art are revealed through never-before-seen photographs, films, and interviews with dozens who thought they knew her. From IFC Films.
FROM TV TO DVD:
"Midsomer Murders, Set 24" (2012-13) offers up three mysteries that take place in the cozy villages of Midsomer County: "Written in the Stars" (The death of an amateur astronomer during a total eclipse of the sun shines light into some dark corners of the star-gazing community in Midsomer Stanton), "The Sicilian Defence" (In which star-crossed lovers and championship chess intersect as the detectives search for a killer who leaves a chess notation at the scene of the crime) and "Schooled in Murder" (In which a series of gruesome murders appears to be related to secret plans to modernize the dairy that produces the famous Midsomer Blue). Three-disc DVD: $39.99, two-disc Blu-ray: $49.99 from Acorn Media ... In this terrific British political thriller "Secret State" (2013), Gabriel Byrne delivers a spellbinding performance as British deputy prime minister Tom Dawkins, who is thrust into a world of political machinations and conspiracy he never knew existed. The four-part series follows Dawkins along a quest for the truth that is tainted by financial, diplomatic, and personal issues that include a banking scandal, impending war, and his most personal secrets being exploited by a journalist. Co-stars Charles Dance, Gina McKee, Rupert Graves and Stephen Dillane. Two-disc DVD, $39.99 from Acorn Media ... In "The Eagle: Season 1" (2004 -- Denmark) detective Hallgrim Hallgrimsson, nicknamed "The Eagle" for his unerring intuition, exudes competence and self-assurance but beneath the façade is a tormented personality. Pulled off a plane as he's going to visit his dying mother in Iceland, Hallgrimsson learns that he's been selected to lead a team of Danish investigators gathered to stem the explosion of European cross-border organized crime. The group takes on the infiltration of organized crime into the state institutions, banks and social strata of Europe and Scandinavia. In Danish with English subtitles. Two-disc set with eight episodes from MHz Home Entertainment ... "Nicolas Le Floch" (2008 -- France) is a four-disc set with five episodes of the detective series set in 1761 Paris. Brilliant young Parisian police commissioner Nicolas Le Floch works under Monsieur de Sartine, the Royal Lieutenant General of Police. Louis XV's kingdom is plagued by conspiracies and murders. With the help of his faithful subordinate Bourdeau, Nicolas solves mysterious disappearances and sorts out awkward scandals. From seedy taverns to the muffled hallways of Versailles, from brothels to the Chatelet prisons, he tracks and stakes out suspects, questions witnesses, gathers evidence, foils traps, and unveils plotters. In French with English subtitles. From MHz Home Entertainment.
Check out other July 29-August 4 DVD releases and reviews at OnVideo.