Welcome back to another look at all the highlights arriving on Blu-ray and DVD. There’s incredible variety in this week’s releases with interesting films featured from all around the globe. As always, remember to click on any links you see to read detailed reviews. 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!
100 Streets – This UK ensemble drama follows three different individuals whose stories intertwine within the same London neighborhood. One is an ex-rugby player looking for a new start, another involves a small-time drug dealer, while a third features a cab driver. It earned mixed reviews from the press. Almost everyone praised the work of the impressive cast, but more than half complained that the screenplay was melodramatic and lacking in a fresh perspective. Now viewers can make up their own minds. It stars Gemma Arterton, Idris Elba, Tom Cullen, Ken Stott, Ashley Thomas, Ryan Gage and Charlie Creed-Miles.
Bad Kids of Crestview Academy – Only in the movies can you end up spending a Saturday in detention. Taking its cue from The Breakfast Club, this comic thriller is about a group of kids who find themselves at school, locked up and being picked off one by one by another student who blames them all for a sister’s death. Apparently, it’s based on a graphic novel series. Critics did not give this effort a passing grade. In fact, almost all flunked it for being an ineffective feature with no charismatic leads for viewers to root for. Cameron Dean Stewart, Ben Browder, Jeffrey Schmidt, Ali Faulkner, Eloise DeJoria, Sean Astin and Gina Gershon headline the film.
The Brand New Testament – In this unique Belgian comedy, God is in human form and living in Brussels as a jaded writer. His opinionated daughter is unimpressed with the current state of the world, so she heads out to help fix it. Angry, the Supreme Being decides to earn his old powers back. A few called it too cutesy for its own good, but the vat majority of the press enjoyed this foreign-language feature, referring to it as an amusing, witty and satirical feel-good romp that delivers plenty of laughs. The cast includes Pili Groyne, Benoit Poelvoorde and Catherine Deneuve.
Bunyan and Babe – The history of this animated kid’s flick may be more interesting than the actual movie. This one has been in production since 2008 – various bankruptcies have found it changing studios and creator hands, only to finally come out this month on a small label. It’s a new take on Paul Bunyan, featuring a brother and sister who find the giant, legendary figure and convince him to help them stop a land developer from razing their town. Nobody has seen this at present and frankly it’s a miracle that the movie was finished at all, so I wouldn’t expect too much. The impressive voice-talent includes John Goodman, Kelsey Grammer, Jeff Foxworthy, Johnny Orlando and Mark Hamill.
Check Point – This low-budget, direct-to-DVD action flick involves a small town vagrant in North Carolina who overhears a diabolical plan to invade America. At first no one believes him and he is locked away, but when the local Sheriff notices some sinister behavior, the two team up to stop the threat. Sounds pretty goofy and no one has yet to see the actual movie – it hasn’t been previewed. If you do pick it up, at least you may get some value from the familiar faces listed in the cast, like Mindy Robinson, Kenny Johnson, Bill Goldberg, William Forsythe, Kane Hodder, Tyler Mane, Michelle Lee and Fred Williamson.
Cold War II – Hong Kong action fans have a new sequel arriving this week. Set after the events of the first movie (released in 2012), this follow-up continues with the film’s hero having been promoted to Police Commissioner. Unfortunately, his wife and daughter are kidnapped, forcing the lead to team up with old foes and investigate familiar faces in order to find his family. Critics were mixed on this sequel, with a few more sounding off in a negative manner. Some thought the action was good when it arrived, but many felt it was a poor and quickly hashed together retread. Aaron Kwok, Tony Ka Fai Leung and Yun-Fat Chow appear.
The C Word – Morgan Freeman narrates this documentary about cancer prevention. The film’s director tells her own story of survival dealing with the dreaded disease. She also uses interviews with experts like French neurosurgeon Dr. David Servan-Schreiber about health steps that can help to stop its progress. The press were very positive about the feature, calling it an important and interesting doc that brings forward some interesting ideas about prevention that is helped tremendously by the personal experiences shared by the filmmaker.
Departure – An English mother and her son visit the family vacation home in the South of France and come head to head with personal issues in this small drama. As his mom’s marriage begins to unravel, the youngster begins to develop feelings for another local boy in the area. This little art film earned good notices from reviewers. While a minority believed that it was a bit too slow-moving for its own good, almost all found the photography to be striking and the melancholy story well-handled and intriguing. It features Juliet Stevenson, Alex Lawther, Phenix Brossard, Finbar Lynch and Nimah Cusack.
The Eyes of My Mother – Those with a taste for strange and eccentric storytelling may want to give this horror flick a try. Shot in black and white, it follows the odd and lonely daughter of a surgeon who is taught anatomy from an early age. A traumatic childhood family event inspires some very bizarre and disturbing behavior as she becomes an emotionally isolated woman. Critics liked this curious effort overall. Some had difficulty getting on its wavelength, but those who did described it as atmospheric and completely unique in its approach. Kika Magalhaes, Will Brill and Olivia Bond headline the feature.
Havenhurst – A woman fighting alcoholism manages to secure an impressive, Gothic-style apartment in New York City. However, they have strange rules and she learns that the previous tenant disappeared under highly suspect circumstances. Soon, the lady begins to fear that her life may be at risk from the caretakers. Notices were poor for this horror feature, with most critiques stating that the story was fairly run-of-the-mill and overly familiar, leaving the entire enterprise feeling uninspired and unmemorable. It stars Julie Benz, Belle Shouse, Josh Stramberg and Fionnula Flanagan.
I Am Michael – This biopic drama tells a story based on the life of Michael Glatze, a gay man and activist who suddenly finds religion. He then rejects his old lifestyle and friends and becomes a church pastor. Reaction from the press was mixed-positive. Some didn’t find that the events were presented in a compelling enough manner. Still, most praised the lead performance of James Franco and his surreal transformation into a preacher. These reviews also admired its detached and subtle approach to the material. The feature also includes performances by Emma Roberts, Daryl Hannah, Zachary Quinto and Leslie Ann Warren.
Incarnate – An 11-year old boy becomes possessed by a demon in this horror flick. His mother calls on a Vatican priest to help, who then pulls in a scientist with special skills to deal with the matter. This troubled expert can travel into the minds of patients and in doing so must battle wits with the demon. As expected, the film did not convert any reviewers. They panned it, suggesting that while it was original, it came across as a muddle of undeveloped idea and ultimately doesn’t deliver the scares. It stars Aaron Eckhart, Carice van Houten, Catalina Sandino, Moreno and David Mazouz.
Jackie – This biopic of Jacqueline Kennedy follows her grief and struggles immediately following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, recreating some well-known and private moments in the subject’s life. The movie earned very strong notices from the press. While a few found it a bit cold had difficulty connecting with it on an emotional level, most were impressed with look and period detail of the film and highlighted the exceptional performance of lead Natalie Portman (which earned her an Academy Award nomination). The cast also includes Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt and Richard E. Grant.
The Lesson – A teen gets caught up in a crowd of badly behaved students who push their teacher to the brink in this UK arthouse horror flick. The adult kidnaps the children and decides to instill a lesson that they won’t soon forget. This effort played the festival circuit and impressed most critics, although it seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of experience. Some couldn’t stand the characters and found it difficult to endure, but others claimed that the movie had a lot on its mind and offered thoughtful material amidst the chills. A few were even reminded of films like Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. It features Robert Hands, Evan Bendall and Michaela Prchalova.
Man Down – A US Marine returns home after serving in Afghanistan and discovers that his wife and child are no longer there. Desperate to solve the mystery of what happened, he enlists the assistance of his hot-tempered Marine friend to help him search for his family. Notices were quite poor for this drama. The comments seemed to suggest that while the cast were good, they were saddled with a silly, moody and melodramatic screenplay that doesn’t do its themes any justice. This effort stars Shia LaBeouf, Jai Courtney, Gary Oldman, Kate Mara, Tory Kittles and Clifton Collins Jr..
Miss Hokusai – This animated effort comes from the Japanese studio that produced the popular 1995 feature Ghost in the Shell. However, this tale is much more subdued. It’s a period drama about the daughter of renowned artist Hokusai. She was an impressive artist in her own right – some of her work was even distributed and sold under her father’s name. A few complained that the movie’s format was too episodic, but most found the images gorgeous to look at and even if the story wasn’t strong, enjoyed being immersed in the world of this hidden artist. Yutaka Matsushige, Anne Watanabe and Erica Lindbeck provide the voices.
Moana – Disney’s latest animated opus tells the tale of an island princess who yearns to travel the seas and explore, despite the protestations of her royal family. When a curse threatens her people, she decides to sail out and teams up with some eccentric companions. Notices were very good for the studio’s latest family feature. While several thought that it wasn’t necessarily a classic, most agreed that the gorgeous animation made up for the missteps and believed kids would certainly enjoy the tale. The voice talent includes Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger and Alan Tudyk. To read a full review of the film, click here and here.
Pocket Listing – This independent satire is set in the housing market of Los Angeles. It involves a couple who hire a property broker to sell their Malibu home. Seems fairly simple, but their questionable background involving adultery, mistaken identities, double crosses and murder soon complicate the sale. This is a very small film and so there aren’t really any reviews of it available as of yet. Interested viewers will just have to make a blind rental to find out what they’re in store for. The cast includes Rob Lowe, Burt Reynolds, Jessica Clark and James Jurdi.
Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine – A space adventurer is hired to take three passengers to a faraway planet on a rescue mission in this sci-fi thriller. Once there, they must face off against an evil overlord and his army of nasty, insectoid killers in order to save the universe. As you can imagine, this is B-movie stuff and as such has been made exclusively for the direct-to-DVD market. That means that no one has seen it as of this writing. Again, fantasy fans should keep their expectations well in check. It stars Casper Van Dien, Cynthia Rothrock, James Lew and Brit Laree.
Tanna – Shot entirely in the tribal community of Vanuata (a small series of islands east of Australia), this effort was nominated at last week’s Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. The indigenous people shared their culture and stories with the filmmakers and act in this feature that depicts a real-life tale that has been passed down through generations of storytelling. The press were quite taken with what they saw. While they all agreed the yarn itself wasn’t anything earth-shattering, they found the South Pacific locales and strong performances from the amateur performers compelling.
Trespass Against Us – This UK drama includes some big names in its cast, but didn’t earn much of a release in this part of the world. It’s about an outlaw clan who live on the road and steal from landowners they encounter on their travels. The adult son of the family patriarch worries about his own boy and attempts to break away from their criminal lifestyle. Critics were split on the results. Half found the script tonally imbalanced and the characters too boorish to get behind, while others admired the chances it took and felt that enough of the material worked successfully to recommend. It features Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Lyndsey Marshal, Rory Kinnear and Sean Harris.
Blasts From the Past!
Arrow Video are typically known for their high quality transfers of genre pictures to Blu-ray. However, they’ve just started a new line called Arrow Academy that focuses on arthouse titles. Their first release is Ludwig (1973), an Oscar-nominated Italian, German and French co-production about the Bavarian King, telling his life story from his appointment in 1864 until his death 22 years later. This is a 4-disc set that includes a 4K restoration, two viewing options (a nearly 4 hour theatrical cut and a version separated into 5 episodes), English and Italian audio tracks, an hour-long documentary on the director, as well as interviews with the stars and screenwriter.
Arrow also have a Blu-ray/DVD combo of the Italian cult film, Property is No Longer a Theft (1973). This satire from Elio Petri (Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) is about a bank cashier who is unhappy with his life. After he’s turned down for a loan that he believes will change his life for the better, the employee decides to enact a form of revenge on one of his wealthiest, nastiest businessman customers. The dark comedy includes a 4K restoration from the original negative, a DVD presentation, new subtitles and interviews with the actor, producer and make-up artist.
Shout! Factory have a Collector’s Edition of the cop drama Colors (1988). It stars Sean Penn and Robert Duvall as two officers patrolling the gang-ridden streets of East LA. The cast also includes Maria Conchita Alonzo, Randy Brooks, Don Cheadle, Sy Richardson and Damon Wayans. This release includes a restored, unrated cut of the feature that adds footage from the international and home video versions of the movie. Extras also include an interview with the screenwriter and technical advisor.
Pulse (1988) is a amusing little low-budget thriller that bares no relation to the more famous J-Horror feature from 2000. It stars Cliff De Young, Roxanne Hart and Joey Lawrence as a family terrorized by an evil surge of electricity that follows them into their house and takes control of their appliances. This Blu-ray comes from Mill Creek Entertainment, which means that it’s a very cost effective disc for those who enjoy cheesy genre pictures.
Kino have Compulsion (1959) arriving in high definition. It’s a biopic crime drama about two upper class law students who were arrested and charged with a horrific murder. This feature appears to be well-regarded and has been described as a solid effort that attempts to get into the minds of a pair of sociopaths. Orson Welles and Dean Stockwell are featured.
It already came out on Blu-ray last summer, but Criterion are delivering an extras-filled disc of the critically praised UK drama, 45 Years (2015). It’s about a married couple whose anniversary celebration is dampened by a mysterious event that occurred in the husband’s past. This is a character piece and the new edition comes with more extras that include a director supervised transfer, new interviews and an audio commentary featuring the filmmaker and producer, a new documentary on the film that includes conversations with cast members Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, as well as the crew, a new interview with the author of the short story on which the film is based and trailers.
In the 60s, writer Samuel Beckett teamed with the great Buster Keaton on a silent short titled, Film (1965). Milestone is releasing this dark but interesting collaboration on DVD. Along with it, they are putting out Notfilm (2015) a feature-length documentary on the movie, that attempts to explain how and why the pair got together to take on this project.
Warner Archive have some interesting titles as well that can be made-to-order. You might not realize this but one of the first movies directed by Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, The Outsiders) was a musical. It’s called Finian’s Rainbow (1968) and it features the last starring performance by Fred Astaire as an Irish immigrant to America who must face off against a nasty politician. You can now order a Blu-ray of the feature.
Also being made available in high definition is the comedy S.O.B. (1981) about a film producer attempting an… unusual method to try and bounce back from his latest flop. It’s from writer/director Blake Edwards (The Pink Panther, A Shot in the Dark, The Party).
On DVD, you can now order copies of the Patricia Arquette thriller Beyond Rangoon (1995) and the Elizabeth Hurley/Ice Cube crime pic, Dangerous Ground (1997). They also have Gossip (2000) with James Marsden, Norman Reedus and Kate Hudson, as well as Human Nature (2002) with Tim Robbins. Finally, you can also request a copy of the family comedy, The Stupids (1996) with Tom Arnold, which is based upon the children’s book series.
You Know, For Kids!
Here are some titles kids might enjoy…
Bunyan and Babe
Care Bears & Cousins: BFFs Vol. 2
Ice Age: The Great Eggscapade
Little Charmers: Sparkle Bunny Day (Kaboom!)
Paw Patrol: Pups Save the Bunnies (Nickelodeon)
Power Rangers Dino Super Charge: Extinction: Vol. 2
The Stupids (1996) (Warner Archive)
On the Tube!
And here’s what new on TV.
American Experience: Oklahoma City (PBS)
The Americans: Season 4
Arthur: King of the Britons (BBC)
City in the Sky (PBS/BBC)
The Jamie Foxx Show: Season 2
J.L. Family Ranch (Hallmark TV-movie)
Kendra On Top: Seasons 4 & 5
Mama’s Family: Mama’s Favorites Collection
NOVA: Search for the Super Battery (PBS)
Saving Hope: Season 4
Star Trek: Voyager: The Complete Series (individuals seasons also available)
Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le (Lifetime TV-movie)
Suspects: Series 5
That 70’s Show: The Complete Series (Flashback Edition)
Wentworth: Season 2
Wicked Tuna: Season 5 (National Geographic)
You Me Her: Season 1