Hello again. It’s another busy week with plenty of new releases arriving on Blu-ray and DVD. Once again, they include blockbusters and Oscar nominees. As always, be sure to click on any links you see to read more about them. So if you can’t make it out to the movies this week, be sure to give one of these titles a try!
Big New Releases!
The Breadwinner – After her father is taken away and put in prison by members of the Taliban, a young girl is forced to find a way to provide for her mother and siblings. She does so disguising herself as a boy and trying to make ends meet without being discovered for who she really is. This animated tale was nominated for an Oscar and earned impressive marks from almost all critics. The overwhelming majority complimented the gorgeous imagery on display and found the themes both stirring and compelling. Saara Chaudry, Soma Chhaya and Noorin Gulamgaus provide the voices. To read a full review, click here.
The Clapper – This romantic comedy follows a pair of individuals who earn their living as infomercial audience members. The host of a spot takes a personal interest in one of the men and decides to use public media to find out who he is. Her actions, however, put a great strain on the man’s current relationship. Reviews weren’t very complimentary towards this independent film. A few found the cast charming enough to earn it a pass, but most felt the humor fell flat and that the story simply wasn’t interesting enough. It stars Ed Helms, Amanda Seyfried, Tracy Morgan, Adam Levine and Russell Peters.
Faces Places – French actress Agnes Varda teams with young photographer JR in this non-fiction tale. Together, they visit various locations and incorporate the public into large public works of art. As they continue, the artists also discuss their personal lives and relationships. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary and is a favorite to win in the category. It also garnered unanimous praise from the media. They liked the unexpected pairing, the interactions between the two, the work they helped to put together on the streets as well as the reactions from the locals/participants.
The Man Who Invented Christmas – Charles Dickens is the subject of this holiday-themed biopic which adds fantasy elements to a true story. It goes into the mind of the financially-strapped writer as he begins and tries to land a publisher for A Christmas Carol (which would eventually become one of his best known works). In doing so, he ends up interacting with a version of Ebenezer Scrooge existing in his head. Notices were quite positive. A few criticized it as being decent but unmemorable, but many more complimented the movie, calling it amusing, likable and well-performed. It features Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce and Miriam Margoyles. To read a detailed review, click here.
Novitiate – The story of this drama set in the late 1950s and early 60s follows a young woman fascinated by the Catholic church. As she trains to become a nun, she deals with many extreme ideas from persons in power. The protagonist begins to experience conflicting feelings about her calling and what the future will hold for her. Reviews were very good for this independent drama. A few thought it was too long for its own good, but the consensus was that it featured strong performances and asked interesting questions about faith, without providing direct answers or sermonizing. The cast includes Margaret Qualley, Melissa Leo and Julianne Nicholson.
Showdown in Manila – This independent action film follows the trend of films like The Expendables, grouping together a team of familiar faces to take down a sinister force. In this case, it’s a pair of private detectives in Manila who discover a terrorist camp; they call on old associates to help them on their suicide mission. Critics were very unimpressed. The kind ones called it dull and cliché ridden; the crueler ones described it as the action movie equivalent of “The Room” (which almost sounds like a recommendation). It stars Alexander Nevsky, Casper Van Dien, Mark Dacascos, Tia Carrere, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Mattias Hues, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock and Oliver Gruner.
Thor: Ragnarok – The biggest release of the week is this Marvel superhero sequel. The third Thor flick finds the Norse god imprisoned in a faraway world while an evil force threatens to bring a world ending cataclysm Ragnarok to Asgard. While finding his way home, the protagonist teams with some eccentric space creatures and a familiar face or two. The press were extremely taken by this entry, calling it the best of the series starring the character. They appreciated the elaborately staged action and stated that addition of quirky humor made the experience all the more enjoyable. The cast includes Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Taika Waititi and Jeff Goldblum. To read a full review, click here.
Wonder Wheel – The latest from Woody Allen is a drama set in the 1950s at a Coney Island amusement park. When the carousel operator’s troubled daughter arrives from out of the blue, his wife is longs for her days as a young woman and actress. Feeling jealous of her step-daughter, she decides to drastic action in order to improve her own situation. Critics weren’t as taken with this picture as with previous entries from the writer/director. They complimented the photography and some of the performances, but felt others were miscast and that the film had some strange shifts in tone. It features Jim Belushi, Kate Winslett, Justin Timberlake and Kate Winslett.
Blasts from the Past!
Lots of interesting classic titles arriving in high definition this week. Arrow Video are releasing a two-disc (Blu-ray and DVD) limited edition of The Cat O’Nine Tails (1971). This is the second film of Italian horror filmmaker Dario Argento (Suspiria) and involves the investigation of a string of murders at a scientific institute. The release includes a new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative, a film critic audio commentary, new interviews with Argento, co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, actress Cinzia De Carolis and production manager Angelo Iacono. It also comes with the script pages for the original ending, the Italian and international theatrical trailers and other bonuses. Read a review of the disc here.
They also have a Blu-ray of Donnie Darko (2001). This was released as a 4-disc limited edition (with multiple versions of the film) some time ago but sold out. Now, the 4K restoration is being made available again as a single disc that features the theatrical cut, multiple audio commentaries, brand new interviews, a short film from the director and 20 deleted scenes with optional director commentary.
Shout! Factory are releasing a 2 disc Collector’s Edition of the The Strangers (2008). This one features a couple who are terrorized in the middle of the night by a group of mask-wearing assailants who come calling. For its 10th anniversary, this upgrade includes new 2K restorations of the original and unrated cuts, archived and new interviews with the writer/director, the editor, as well as cast and crew. It also comes with deleted scenes and publicity materials.
Spaghetti western fans will be happy to hear that Kino are bringing Duck, You Sucker aka A Fistful of Dynamite (1971) to Blu-ray. This Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West) action film features Rod Steiger and James Coburn as hooligans who get themselves involved in the Mexican revolution.
Discount distributor Mill Creek Entertainment also have some interesting titles arriving in high definition. The first is Hammer Films Double Feature – Vol. 3, which includes the films Maniac (1960) and Die! Die! My Darling! (1961). If that’s not enough, they’re putting out Hammer Films Double Feature – Vol. 4. This Blu-ray includes Never Take Candy from a Stranger (1963) aka Never Take Sweets from a Stranger, and Scream of Fear (1965). Finally, the distributor are releasing the Californian skateboarding/surf flick, Lords of Dogtown (2005), starring Heath Ledger and Emile Hirsch.
Jim Henson enthusiasts will also be happy to learn that Sony have given the puppet fantasy flick The Dark Crystal (1982) a new release. It’s been a new 4K restoration from the original camera negative. There’s also a new documentary that goes behind-the-scenes during production. The disc also includes previously releases features including a commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes and of making-of documentaries.
Finally, Code Red have a double feature B-movie Blu-ray that includes the Italian horror/thriller, House on the Edge of the Park (1980) along with Last House on Massacre Street (1973).
You Know, For Kids!
Here are some titles that may be of interest to youngsters.
Blue Planet II
Paw Patrol: Sea Patrol (Nickelodeon)
Teen Titans Go! Pumped for Spring
On the Tube!
And these are the TV highlights arriving this week.
Blue Planet II
Campfire Kiss (Lifetime TV-movie)
Crossbow: The Complete Series
Newton’s Law: Season 1