DVD & Blu-Ray

The DVD Wrapup: Black Panther, Forgiven, Monkey King, Sweet Escape, Black Venus, It’s Alive and more

What were Stan Lee and Jack Kirby smoking when they named their new superhero after the militant organization founded by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton? Or… what were Seale and Newton smoking when they named the BPP after a comic-book superhero?

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The DVD Wrapup: La Belle Noiseuse, 50 Shades Freed, 4K Titles, Paradox, Manifesto, Dear White People, Butterflies and more

“Take My Word for It” might be a better title for this column, especially as it applies to movies that went to straight-to-video or streaming or are made by filmmakers yet to establish reputations. Jacques Rivette’s 1991 masterpiece, La Belle Noiseuse, doesn’t fit those categories, but, with its four-hour length and ready availability of an inferior 125-minute cut, La Belle Noiseuse: Divertimento, Cohen Media’s upgraded Blu-ray may benefit from any endorsement. La Belle Noiseuse (The Beautiful Troublemaker) won the Grand Prize of the Jury at Cannes and was nominated for a Palme d’Or. Roger Ebert called it “the best film I have ever seen about the physical creation of art, and about the painful bond between an artist and his muse.” The great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa named it one of his two favorite movies of the 1990s — with Takeshi Kitano’s Fireworks – calling it the best filmed display of a struggle of an artist doing his craft, as well as a movie he would have liked to have directed.

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The DVD Wrapup: In the Fade, Insult, In Between, Please Stand By, Kaleidoscope, Schlock, The Unwilling, Tremors, Capitalism and more

In Fatih Akin’s award-winning drama, In the Fade, we’re asked to share the grief of a woman whose husband and son are murdered in a racially motivated bombing so intense that police say they were burned beyond recognition. German-born Katja Sekerci (Diane Kruger) is married to a Turk – once convicted for selling hashish, not that it matters – whose business is in a part of Hamburg where the immigration community has been vulnerable to attacks by nationalist and anti-immigration groups. Just after she drops her son off at his dad’s office, Katja cautions a young woman against leaving her bicycle unlocked on the street. By the time she returns to pick them up, the bomb has already been detonated and the damage done.

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The DVD Wrapup: Hostiles, Moon Child, Violent Life, Backstabbing, Strings, Grease at 40, Joe, Ringo and more

It’s difficult to argue that Hostiles was snubbed by the Academy, but outstanding performances by Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike deserved more consideration than they got, as did cinematographer Masanobu “Masa” Takayanagi

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DVD Wrapup: Commuter, Oscar, A Taxi Driver, Humor Me, Prince, Doris Day, Shakespeare Wallah, Pomegranates and more

As high-concept pitches go, “Liam Neeson on a train” is right up there with “snakes on a plane” and “MTV cops.” What else would any screenwriter need to know to fill the blanks?

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The DVD Wrapup: Mohawk, Insidious IV, Proud Mary, Are We Not Cats, Fencer, Man From Earth, Mary Stark, Child in Time and more

I’d like to promote a gritty action adventure picture so small it didn’t even register a blip at Box Office Mojo. If Mohawk had been produced and released in the same general vicinity as Little Big Man, Soldier Blue, Black Robe or The Last of the Mohicans, writer-director Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here) might have found a niche among fine revisionist Westerns. As it is, he can be proud of almost universal raves in Metacritic.com and kudos for showing a different side to Uncle Sam’s decades-long campaign to eradicate native Americans from their homes. Make no mistake: Mohawk is a genre film from start to finish. No one holds the high ground for very long.

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The DVD Wrapup: Last Jedi, Behind the Mask, Executioners, King of Jazz, Sacha Guitry, 1:54, Nicholas, Peyton Place and more

Whew. I’m exhausted just trying to summarize the first 20 minutes.

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The DVD Wrapup: Downsizing, Small Town Crime, Baal, The Church, Images, Daughter of the Nile, Ichi, ’Burbs… and more

Downsizing doesn’t get more involving than a final choice between survival and love, and the solution to that dilemma is preordained. The humor is mostly invested in the excellent visual effects, but, at a certain point, our eyes reflect the reality that these are normal-sized characters in a fabricated environment. The novelty of the conceit wears out by the time we reach the fjord, whose majesty isn’t amplified by the optical gag.

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The DVD Wrapup: I Tonya, Serpico, Assistant, Pastor Paul, Children of Corn, Starlight Ends, Birdboy, Sensitivity Training and more

If Nancy Kerrigan hadn’t been assaulted by members of Jeff Gillooly’s posse before the 1994 U.S. figure-skating championships, it’s likely the tabloid press would have invented a rivalry between Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, leading into the Lillehammer Winter Games. The perceived difference in their economic backgrounds would have been too tempting to avoid.

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The DVD Wrapup: Thor, Gintama, Novitiate, White Sun, Faces Places, Voyage, Paris Opera, Strangers, Moveable Feast and more

Comic books are said to have existed in America since the publication of the hardcover book, “The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck,” in 1842. Newspaper comic strips and panels became a phenomenon in New York at the end of the 1890s, with “The Katzenjammer Kids” and “The Yellow Kid.” It wasn’t until the 1930s that comics in the print and visual media came of age, with Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s “Superman,” which opened the door for a legion of superheroes to come. It’s been something of roller-coaster ride for comic books, strips and movies, ever since. Anyone born since the advent of the digital age might think that studios have always been buoyed by the fortunes of their comic-book franchises. Until recently, though, they’ve been anything but a sure thing. Expensive to make and subject to the whims of fickle fan bases, comic-book movies now flourish commercially because of the extraordinary emergence of modern theaters in foreign markets and audiences hungry for CGI thrills. Unlike comics, storylines are incidental to a movie’s performance.

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The DVD Wrapup: Darkest Hour, Coco, Tom Jones, Basket Case, Hangman, Godard+Gorin, Hallelujah Trail, Tyrus … More

Oldman shines throughout, delivering inspirational oratory, displaying an unexpected sense of humor and the tenacity required to rally the nation in its, yes, darkest hour. The picture is further enhanced by key performances in supporting roles by Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ronald Pickup and Stephen Dillane. Of six nominations, the other likely winner is in the Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling category.

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The DVD Wrapup: Florida Project, Daddy’s Home 2, The Hero, Thirsty and more

By setting his closely observed humanist drama, The Florida Project, within the shadow of Disney World, Sean Baker (Tangerine) describes how a community of homeless, underemployed and frequently lawless single parents has taken root on one of the commercial strips leading into Uncle Walt’s greatest fantasy.

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The DVD Wrapup: Ballad of Lefty Brown, Wonder, Blades, Seijun Suzuki, Fellini, Hellraiser, Paradise and more

Set in the desolate plains of Montana, before the arrival of the railroad, The Ballad of Lefty Brown is an ode to the traditional revenge Western. When famed frontier lawman and Montana’s first elected senator Eddie Johnson (Peter Fonda) is brutally murdered – assassinated, to be precise — his longtime sidekick and friend, Lefty Brown (Bill Pullman), vows to avenge his death. The trouble is, Lefty is more than a tad over the hill and he’s outgunned by some ornery desperadoes.

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The DVD Wrapup: Only the Brave, LBJ, Suburbicon, Aida’s Secrets, Clouzot’s Inferno, Jackie Gleason and more

Joseph Kosinski’s stunningly effective Only the Brave is the rare disaster movie guaranteed to leave its audiences not just in tears, but in mourning for the victims, their families and community at large, as well.

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The DVD Wrapup: Last Flag, Westfront 1918, My Art, Viva L’Italia, Gothic, Viva Espana and more

At first glance, the best reason for picking up Last Flag Flying are the names on the promotional material. The Amazon Studios production was directed by Richard Linklater (Boyhood), adapted from a novel by co-screenwriter Darryl Ponicsan (Cinderella Liberty) and stars Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne. (Good enough for me, anyway.) Last Flag Flying also got extremely positive reviews. But Linklater’s heartfelt story about whether honor and the bonds of brotherhood still matter, played in no more than 110 domestic theaters, earning  just under a million dollars before shipping off to ancillary markets, where money figures are kept close to a studio’s vest. When it was released, just ahead of Veterans Day, many pundits predicted Last Flag Flying might produce an Oscar nomination, or two, but it was ignored … not “snubbed,” ignored. That’s what happens when a picture underperforms in the marketplace for no good reason.

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The DVD Wrapup: In Search of Fellini, In Her Name, High School Sinks Into Sea, Jigsaw, Argento’s Opera, Red Trees and more

I can’t remember the last time I was so charmed by a movie that was dumped into limited release, received mixed reviews and could be lost in the shuffle of January releases that receive little fanfare. Maybe, though, I can help draw attention to In Search of Fellini if I point out the romantic fantasy’s “Simpsons” connection. (Everybody loves “The Simpsons.”) In Search of Fellini was adapted from a one-woman play co-written by Nancy Cartwright, who, since 1989, has been the voice of Bart Simpson on Fox’s trail-blazing animated series. Before that, however, the Ohio native joined an acting class taught by Milton Katselas. He recommended that she study Federico Fellini’s La Strada, which starred Giulietta Masina as the street urchin sold by her mother to circus strongman Zampano (Anthony Quinn) to be his comic foil. Cartwright recalls performing “every imaginable scene” from the movie in her class and spending several months trying to secure the rights to produce a stage adaptation. Like the protagonist in In Search of Fellini, she visited Italy with the intention of meeting Fellini and requesting his permission in person. Although she never met the Maestro, Cartwright kept a journal of the trip and later co-wrote the play upon which it was based.

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The DVD Wrapup: Matinee, Crooked House, Jawbone, Cook Off!, Blue World Order, Into the Amazon, Tuxedo Park and more

I wonder if kids today, are being prepped for the possibility of a nuclear strike. I haven’t read any reports of people stockpiling goods or hurriedly digging holes in their backyards for bomb shelters, as was the case during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s possible that Americans not only have convince themselves that cooler heads will prevail, as they did then, or they no longer can be conned into believing that ducking underneath a desk and covering their heads could protect anyone from becoming toast. Fifty-five years ago, however, that’s all the hope American school children were given. In Joe Dante’s wonderfully nostalgic Matinee, kids living in Key West, Florida – 90 miles from Cuba, where Soviet missiles were being pointed directly at them – were allowed to take a break from ducking-and-covering exercises long enough to enjoy a movie about a man who turns into a giant ant after a botched X-ray exam at the dentist.

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The DVD Wrapup: 68 Kill, Bad Day for the Cut, Friend Request, Tiger Hunter, CERN, Conduct!, Macon County Line and more

January is also prime time for studios to dump disappointments and question marks into theaters, before a fast turnaround on video. Occasionally, an overlooked gem will sneak into circulation – last year’s The Founder and Split, for example — but it won’t be because anyone saw it coming. I’ve found a few titles that fit that description.

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DVD & Blue Ray

Gary Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Eighth Grade, No. 1 Fan, Jeannette, Moe Berg, 12th Man, La Familia, Molly, Sarno, Making a Killing, All Styles … More

David Pearce on: The DVD Wrapup: Eighth Grade, No. 1 Fan, Jeannette, Moe Berg, 12th Man, La Familia, Molly, Sarno, Making a Killing, All Styles … More

Trevor T. Trujillo on: The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

Steven DeGennaro on: The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

Gary J Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

Steven DeGennaro on: The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

Gary Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

Andre on: The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

Steven DeGennaro on: The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

Roy Atkinson on: DVD Wrapup: Commuter, Oscar, A Taxi Driver, Humor Me, Prince, Doris Day, Shakespeare Wallah, Pomegranates and more

The DVD Wrap: Ant-Man/Wasp, Whitney, Boundaries, BuyBust, Down a Dark Hall, Reprisal, Gen Wealth, 8 Hours Don’t Make a Day … More

The DVD Wrapup: Prayer Before Dawn, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far, Angels Wear White, Rodin, Schiele, Witch Files, 3rd Night, Official Story, Iron Mask … More

The DVD Wrapup: Eighth Grade, No. 1 Fan, Jeannette, Moe Berg, 12th Man, La Familia, Molly, Sarno, Making a Killing, All Styles … More

The DVD Wrapup: Solo, Izzy, Mountain, Uncle Drew, Gotti, The Row, Sumer Nights, Seagull, Mountain, American Psycho, Day of Jackal, The Baby, Freaky Friday, Human Body … More

The DVD Wrapup: Damsel, Hired Hand, Siberia, Toybox, Guardians, Cold Water, Lost Child, Rock HofF, Pyjama Girl, Miniaturist … More

The DVD Wrapup: Goldstone, Westwood, That Summer, Irish Surf, Wyeth, Barbershop, Jess Franco, Mambo Cool, Watcher, Rolling Stone at 50 … More

The DVD Wrapup: Hereditary, Ghost Stories, Found Footage 3D, Beast, Venus, This Is Our Land, The Big Take, Brothers, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, Sid Caesar, Good Karma Hospital … More

The DVD Wrapup: American Animals, Book Club, Woman Walks Ahead, Bound, Mind Game, Shadowbuilder, Poetic Trilogy, Boss N-word, Crazy Six, My Life With James Dean … More

The DVD Wrapup: 1st Reformed, Bleeding Steel, Higher Power, Black Water, Porcupine Lake, Tingler, Strait-Jacket, Tideland, Wild at Heart, Jack Ryan, Terror, Hillary, Outback, Blacklist, Walking Dead … More

The DVD Wrapup: Avengers, Ninko, Escape, Aim for the Heart, Yellow Birds, Affairs of State, Gregorio Cortez, 200 Motels, Done to Your Daughters?, S.F. Brownrigg, Muppet Babies, BBC Earth … More

Quote Unquotesee all »

“Ten years ago at Telluride, I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true, but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain.
1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters)
2. Family (cartoon like features)
3. Horror (teen-driven), and
4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious).

There are isolated pockets like black cinema, romcom, girl’s-night-out, seniors, teen gross-outs, but it’s primarily those four. Everything else is TV. Now I have to go back to episode five of ‘Looming Tower.'”
~ Paul Schrader

“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch