It’s been a slow trickle for deep finds but there are some real treasures worth getting!
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD] TGIF! You can now own THG:M-P1!
Beyond the Lights [Blu-ray] Hollywood romance with a breakout performance from Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Noni Jean, a pop starlet looking to escape her music career by leaping off a balcony. Kazam Nicol is the hunky police officer who saves her life. Minnie Driver plays Noni’s domineering stage mother/manager. Directed by ‘Love and Basketball’ helmer, Gina Prince-Bythewood.
Big Hero 6 won Best Animated Feature along with ‘Feast’ — an Oscar sweep for Disney. San Fransokyo is a wonderful mash-up of anime and Bay culture, and the first half of the film is a wonderful and empowering depiction of science education, robotics and higher learning. Just beware tenured professors.
Foxcatcher [Blu-ray] Dan named this movie the worst of 2014. Another film-buff friend declared it director Bennett Miller’s masterwork. Love or hate it? You should own your opinion:
Whiplash [Blu-ray] J.K. Simmons won best supporting actor and Whiplash also took home deserved wins for Best Sound Mixing and Best Editing. The finale is edge-of-the-seat viewing — a showdown that perfectly realizes the film’s themes with a virtuoso fusion of passion, performance and technique.
Algorithms: A look into the life experiences and game strategies of juvenile Blind Chess players in India. Smartly shot in black-and-white.
Slaughter Nick for President This self-produced documentary depicts actor Rob Stewart’s 2009 trip to Serbia. Stewart was the star of “Tropical Heat: Sweating Bullets” — a Canadian “Baywatch Nights” knock-off. His character, Nick Slaughter, galvanized the country’s anti-Milosovic movement in the 1990s(!) Slaughter’s tropical shirts, hairy chest and ponytail embodied an ideal of Western freedom that altered the country’s political course.
Watership Down [Blu-ray] Criterion presents a new high-definition digital restoration of Martin Rosen’s animated adaptation of Richard Adams’ classic novel about rabbits seeking shelter after being fleeing from their warren after a terrible vision of military threat. It’s beautiful and devastating. The Blu-Ray includes a new interview with the director, and an appreciation given by Guillermo del Toro!
Fellini Satyricon [Blu-ray] A new 4K Digital Restoration from Criterion: “Federico Fellini’s career achieved new levels of eccentricity and brilliance with this remarkable, controversial, extremely loose adaptation of Petronius’s classical Roman satire, written during the reign of Nero. An episodic barrage of sexual licentiousness, godless violence, and eye-catching grotesquerie, Fellini Satyricon follows the exploits of two pansexual young men—the handsome scholar Encolpius and his vulgar, insatiably lusty friend Ascyltus—as they move through a landscape of free-form pagan excess. Creating apparent chaos with exquisite control, Fellini constructs a weird old world that feels like science fiction.”
NEW TO BLU-RAY
52 Pick-Up [Blu-ray] is a Cannon film about Harry Mitchell (Roy Scheider), a successful Los Angeles entrepreneur and aspiring councilman who finds himself a blackmail target for a gang of pornographers, led by the louche Alan Raimy (John Glover.) Harry turns the tables and starts pitting the blackmailers against one another. This pulpy Elmore Leonard adaptation was directed by John Frankenheimer.
The Connection [Blu-ray] Shirley Clarke’s adaptation of Jack Gelber’s Obie-winning play is a film history standard that flips the theatrical ‘Playhouse 90’-style drama to the Flophouse, where a bunch of druggies and jazz musicians hang around in a New York tenement, waiting for their next fix to arrive. Banned from exhibition, this Blu-Ray exists thanks to the UCLA Film & Television Foundation.
In The Land Of The Head Hunters [Blu-ray] is another classic film restoration handled by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Filmed in 1914 by photographer Edward S. Curtis, it depicts a warrior’s spiritual quest to rescue his kidnapped bride from a rival tribe. This dramatic document of the Kwakwaka’wakw Native culture of British Columbia includes scenes of tribal traditions based on oral histories, including the potlatch — a ritual prohibited by Canadian law until 1951.
Eat Drink Man Woman [Blu-ray] is an early Taiwanese feature by Ang Lee (The Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain) about a widowed father who tries to guide his three grown daughters through life with delicious food and sage advice.
Exterminators Of The Year 3000 [Blu-ray] Post-apocalyptic Italo-trash riff on ‘The Road Warrior‘ — but this band of survivors is searching for water, not gas. They still have to face a mad bunch of bikers, car chases, explosions and gore galore. Presented by Shout Factory in its first wide-screen (1:85:1) Blu-Ray edition.
Oratorio for Prague Czech New Wave director Jan Nemec began shooting a documentary of the Prague Spring liberation celebrations — and ended up capturing the arrival of Soviet tanks in the streets of Prague. It is the only filmed document of the 1969 Soviet invasion. After exposing this brutal truth, Nemec was blacklisted and the film banned — but the footage found its way around the world and became an important part of history, later sourced for films such as Philip Kaufman’s classic, ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being‘ and Sophie Fiennes’ ‘The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology.’
God Told Me to [Blu-ray] B-movie auteur Larry Cohen (Q, the Winged Serpent) directed this legendary sci-fi/police procedural that examines murder in the name of religious extremism — and alien insemination. Blue Underground releases ‘a new 4K High Definition transfer from the original uncensored negative.’ Look for Andy Kaufman in his film debut.
Shout! Factory won’t stop ringing in the New Year. This Blu-Ray release is one of the lesser known holiday slasher flicks. Rock’n’roll radio hostess Blaze is throwing a Day-Glo, mock-punk New Year’s Eve party in 1980s Los Angeles. During her broadcast she hears from Evil — a long-time listener, first-time killer. Evil’s resolution is to kill one person at midnight in every time zone in America — and he promises a Blaze of gory when the bell tolls in Los Angeles.
Space Dandy: Season 1 (Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo) From the creator of ‘Cowboy Be-bop’, this hallucinatory anime deals with space travel, talking cats, alternate universes and interstellar zombies.
Sons of Anarchy The Complete Series Giftset [Blu-ray] Yes, the final season is out on Blu-Ray, as well — but why not go whole hog on the greatest Shakespearean-influenced biker drama ever made?
Chips: Season 3 For those who prefer their biker justice armed with more legal authority, Francis Poncherello and Jon Baker are back on the beat in this long-awaited Warner Home Video release.
Longmire: Season 3 [Blu-ray] Another long-awaited law enforcement-themed home video release. Made in New Mexico, the third season of Craig Johnson’s popular crime thriller ended with a can’t-miss cliffhanger — and was then canceled by A&E. Thankfully, Netflix promises a 10-episode fourth season soon.
Outlander: Season One – Volume One Lush Scottish settings and thick Scottish brogues enhance this adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s popular time-travel/romance series.
The Game Created by Toby Whithouse (“Being Human”), this 1970s-set BBC Cold War drama stars Tom Hughes and Brian Cox in an engaging tale of love and loyalty tested among spies.
Shakespeare Uncovered: Series 2 Stories behind the Bard’s greatest plays, explored by Morgan Freeman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugh Bonneville, Kim Cattrall and more… A series that educates in an entertaining and insightful fashion.
Return to the Wild: The Chris Mccandless Story reveals more information about the strange disappearance and death of Chris McCandless, the subject of both Jon Krakauer’s famed book, ‘Into the Wild’ and Sean Penn’s film adaptation.