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New on DVD and Blu-ray Week of March 24-30

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By Harley Lond - 03/24/15 at 03:38 PM CT


At the risk of alienating Tolkien, Jolie and Sondheim fans, I have to say that this week's line-up of theatrical-releases-to-DVD hits a new high in boredom. I've previously weathered the barbs of Middle Earthlings by admitting that I can't stand the "Lord of the Rings" books and, hence, the Peter Jackson trilogy. Likewise, the "Hobbit" films do little for me. And of all the Ian McKellon and Luke Evans fight the good fight in the top fantasy film of 2014 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies "Hobbit" outings, "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" is the most overblown and gaseous of the bunch. The last in the trilogy brings to a conclusion the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield and the Company of Dwarves and not a moment too soon. It's all CGI and no heart, all surface effect with little of the wonderment and amazement that fantasy yarns should engender. The film has a talented cast -- Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Martin Freeman, Stephen Fry, Jed Brophy, Christopher Lee, Orlando Bloom, Billy Connolly, James Nesbitt, Ian Holm, Hugo Weaving, Ken Stott, Benedict Cumberbatch, Graham McTavish, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Evangeline Lilly, Richard Armitage, John Bell -- all hitting their marks with the best green screen action that money can buy. For fans only. From New Line.

Meanwhile, director Angelena Jolie took on the remarkable tale of Olympian and war hero Louis "Louie" Zamperini, who survived in a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash during World War II -- only to be caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a series of prisoner-of-war camps. As chronicled in Laura Hillenbrand's acclaimed New York Times bestseller "Unbroken," it's a strong story of bravery and courage, but in Jolie's hands it becomes a staid "tried and true" hero story that lacks any sizzle. It's competent but lackluster. The film stars Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Miyavi, Finn Wittrock, Jai Courtney, Luke Treadaway, John Magaro and Ross Anderson. From Universal.

Lastly, Rob ("Chicago") Marshall took a stab at a big-screen adaptation of "Into the Woods," the 1987 Broadway musical with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. It's a modern twist on the Brothers Grimm fairy tales in a musical format that follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel -- all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch who has put a curse on them. Unfortunately, the magic of the stage production evaporates on the big screen, and all the talents of Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick and Chris Pine couldn't put Humpty together again. Oops. Wrong tale. From Disney.


Lost for over 30 years, "Gone With the Pope" (1981) stars famed nightclub performer Duke Mitchell as Paul, a paroled gangster with an unholy scheme: to kidnap the Pope and charge a dollar from every Catholic in the world as the ransom. Shot in 1975, the film was unfinished at the time of Mitchell's death in 1981. Sage Stallone and Bob Murawski of Grindhouse Releasing The Beyond Blu-Ray Cover rediscovered the film in 1995 and vowed to save it from obscurity. Academy Award-winning film editor Murawski ("The Hurt Locker," "Army of Darkness") spent 15 years completing "Gone With the Pope" from the surviving film elements. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Grindhouse Releasing ... Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale. The seven dreaded gateways to hell are concealed in seven cursed places ... And on the day the gates of hell are opened, the dead will walk the earth. From legendary Italian horror master Lucio Fulci comes "The Beyond" (1981), the ultimate classic of supernatural terror. A cursed hotel, built over one of the seven gateways to hell, becomes a malevolent abyss that begins devouring both the bodies and the souls of all who enter in a graphic frenzy of gory crucifixions, brutal chain-whippings, eyeball impalements, sulfuric acid meltdowns, flesh-eating tarantulas, throat-shredding demon dogs and ravenous bloodthirsty zombies. Digital transfer of the original uncensored director's cut. In a three-disc collector's edition: two Blu-rays plus a CD featuring the original soundtrack album by Fabio Frizzi, newly remastered in stunning 96khz sound from the original studio master tapes. Also from Grindhouse Releasing.


In the weird sci-fi thriller "Memory Lane" (2012), starring Michael Guy Allen, Meg Braden, Julian Curi and Zac Snyder, PTSD-plagued war vet Nick returns home and finds that his finance Kayla has committed suicide. He decides to take his own life, but what he sees in flashbacks moments before he is resuscitated leads him to believe Kayla was murdered. Now Nick must travel DVD Cover for The Diamond Heist back and fourth between our world and the afterlife in a search for her killer -- but to do it, he has to die over and over again. From MVD Entertainment ... "Confessions of a Prodigal Son" (2015), starring Kevin Sorbo, Nathan Clarkson, Rachael Lee, Azel James, Tanya Chisholm, Michael Christopher Bolten and Darwin Harris, is a modern retelling of the Prodigal Son story. A rebel leaves his home and family to reflect on self-discovery, suddenly finding himself questioning everything he once learned. He encounters a professor who challenges his thoughts and emotions, helping him realize that life is a story full of unexpected events, but no matter what happens, everyone has a second chance. From Cinedigm ... After witnessing a murder, a hapless pair of misfits escape their own near death experience by posing as male strippers -- only to find themselves neck deep in even bigger trouble in "Diamond Heist (aka Magic Boys)" (2012), starring Michael Madsen and Vinnie Jones. From Random Media ... "Lonesome Dove Church" (2014), starring Tom Berenger, Alex Zahara and Alex Zahara, is the true story of the formation of the Lonesome Dove Church in Texas. A preacher delivers frontier justice on the journey to find and save his outlaw son. From Lionsgate ... DVD Cover for The Sins of Dracula In "The Sins of Dracula" (2014), starring Michael Thurber, Jamie Dufault, Sarah Nicklin, Samantha Acampora and Steven O'Broin, the young star of a local church choir goes against the wishes of his pastor and follows his girlfriend into the world of secular entertainment, joining a local community theatre troupe where he's introduced to a whole new world of drugs, sexual perversion, and table-top game-play. But nothing could prepare him for the darkest truth of them all: The theatre group is actually a front for a Satanic cult intent on raising Dracula from the grave. Tongue-in-cheek satire of the Christian scare films of the 70s and 80s. From MVD Entertainment ... In "LA Apocalypse" (2014), starring David Cade, Gina Holden, Christopher Judge and Eric Allan Kramer, volcanic activity at the Earth's core turns L.A. into a living nightmare, ripping the city apart. After a mass evacuation, Calvin Crawford is one of few left, desperately searching for his fiancee, Ashley Pace, who unbeknownst to him, has been kidnapped and is being held hostage. With L.A. becoming more unstable by the minute, Calvin must find a way to save Ashley and get them both to safety before the city is completely annihilated. From Anchor Bay.


In "Song One" (2014), starring Anne Hathaway, Johnny Flynn, Mary Steenburgen and Ben Rosenfield, Franny (Hathaway), estranged from her family, returns home when an accident leaves her brother comatose. Retracing his life as an aspiring musician, she tracks down his favorite musician, James Forester (Johnny Flynn) and, against the backdrop of Brooklyn's music scene, they develop an unexpected relationship and face the realities of their lives. From Cinedigm.


The Criterion Collection celebrates some of the great work of documentary filmmaker Errol Morris with two releases this week. "The Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida": With his trademark mixture of empathy and scrutiny, Errol Morris has changed the face of documentary filmmaking in the United States, and his career began with two remarkable tales of American eccentricity: "Gates of Heaven" (1978) and "Vernon, Florida" (1981). The first uses two Southern California pet cemeteries as the bases for a profound and funny rumination on love, loss, and industry; the second travels to a languorous southern backwater and meets a handful of fascinating folks -- a The Criterion Collection Blu-Ray Cover for The Thin Blue Line determined turkey hunter, a curious minister, a laconic policeman -- engaged in individualistic, sometimes absurd pursuits. Morris consistently creates humane portraits of true candor, and these early works remain two of his greatest and most provocative films. New 2K digital restorations of both films on DVD and Blu-ray, supervised by director Errol Morris, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays. Among the most important documentaries ever made, "The Thin Blue Line" (1988) by Morris erases the border between art and activism. A work of meticulous journalism and gripping drama, it recounts the disturbing tale of Randall Adams, a drifter who was charged with the murder of a Dallas police officer and sent to death row, despite overwhelming evidence that he did not commit the crime. Incorporating stylized reenactments, penetrating interviews, and haunting original music by Philip Glass, Morris uses cinema to build a case forensically while effortlessly entertaining his viewers. "The Thin Blue Line" effected real-world change, proving film's power beyond the shadow of a doubt. New high-definition digital restoration on DVD and Blu-ray, supervised by director Errol Morris and producer Mark Lipson, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.


  • "Bukow and Konig: Sets 1 & 2" (1971 -- Germany): Alexander Bukow is a veteran cop who doesn't mind working at the edge of the law to get results. Katrin Konig has a sterling reputation as an analyst and profiler and is esteemed by all who know her for her assessments and concentrated professionalism. Bukow knows the town where they work, Rostock, like his own backyard and he should; it's where he grew up. He has contacts on every corner and can be charming enough to wrap friends and enemies around his finger, but never reveals much about himself. He's also got a life outside the job and is married with two small children. For Konig, the job is her life, which is how she became such an accomplished criminal profiler. She's a strait-laced control freak and all too aware of her partner's seedy past and questionable allegiances. Despite, or perhaps because of their differences, they make a successful crime-fighting team -- when they're not fighting each other. Each three-disc set contains five episodes; $39.95 each. From MHz Home Entertainment.

  • "Don Matteo: Sets 9 & 10" (2005-06 -- Italy): Terence Hill stars as Don Matteo, a thoroughly ordinary Catholic priest with an extraordinary ability to read people and solve crimes. He's a parish priest who never met an unjustly accused person he didn't want to help. In fact, he never met anyone marginalized he didn't want to help: the elderly, the homeless, the immigrant, the unemployed. He sees them all as he bicycles along the streets and through the countryside of his parish. His friend and chess partner is policeman Marshal Cecchini, who slips him information about new cases much to the chagrin of the police chief who isn't at all thrilled about the collaboration. But he's in agreement with Don Matteo about one thing: the importance of justice being served. Each three-disc set contains 11 episodes; $39.95 each. From MHz Home Entertainment.DVD Cover for Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean 25th Anniversary Collection

  • "Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean: 25th Anniversary Collection" (1990-95): Four-disc set with all 14 episodes of the British series, $24.97. He captured the hearts of millions of viewers worldwide and has been called the most embarrassing man on earth. He is the character who everyone wants to help out of his sticky situations, but nobody would invite for tea. Behold the man who is a bean, Mr. Bean. Starring award-winning British comedy genius Rowan Atkinson, the internationally acclaimed TV series continues to enthrall audiences worldwide. This set brings together all 14 uncut British episodes of "Mr. Bean." Extras include missing scenes from three episodes, "The Best Bits of Mr. Bean," "The Story of Mr. Bean" documentary, never before seen-on-TV Sketches "Bus Stop" and "Library," "Mr. Bean: The Animated Series" trailer. From Shout! Factory.

  • "Sebastian Bergman: Dark Secrets" (2010 -- Sweden): Every criminal has his own handwriting, but only Sebastian Bergman can read it. Bergman is Sweden's most famous criminal profiler, having written a definitive, best-selling book about workings of the criminal mind. Bergman is strong-headed, politically incorrect, intuitive, abrasive - and grief-stricken. He's struggling to come to terms with the loss of his wife and young daughter from the 2004 tsunami in Thailand, an event that caused his life to careen out of control. Returning to work, Bergman had one more surprise waiting for him -- an adult daughter he never knew he had, now working alongside him as a fellow investigator in the Stockholm police department. At the same time, he discovers a personal connection in the case of three girls who were found dead in a small-town mine. It could have been a triple suicide or murder. More dark secrets emerge as the corpse of a notorious serial killer is found buried in a field. Clues lead to a nearby convent, where the body of a young girl is also unearthed. He has to figure out who killed the girl and who killed the killer. Bergman is played by Swedish actor Rolf Lassgard, famous for his performance as the original Wallander, based on Henning Mankell's wildly popular crime novels. Two-disc set, $29.95. From MHz Home Entertainment.

Check out other March 24-30 DVD releases and reviews at OnVideo.


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