This week’s DVDs begin in 1776:

DVDs and streaming for Dec. 8 by Boo Allen

 

 

This week, we begin in 1776:

 

 

HISTORY: War Collection

This 17 disc collection from the History cable channel assembles an impressive abundance of materials to offer both entertaining and also often surprisingly probing looks at every major conflict involving this country. Enclosed are the separate, lengthy documentaries first seen on History that concentrate on U.S. wars and the people involved. The five wars pre-dating visual-recording techniques (Revolutionary, 1812, Mexican, Civil, Spanish-American) receive History’s impressive and authentic re-enactments, along with interviews and testimonies from historians (Libby O’Connell, Mitchell Yockelson, John W. Hall, Caroline Cox, Christy Campbell, David Silby, and others), authors (Evan Thomas, Sam Haynes, Martin K. A. Morgan, John C. McManus, Stacy Schiff, and others), weapons experts and various informed sources. The three discs of the Revolutionary War include episodes “Boston: Bloody Boston,” “Rebellion to Revolution,” “Declaring Independence,” “American Crisis,” “Path to World War,” “Forging an Army,” “Treason and Betrayal,” “The War Heads South,” “A Hornet’s Nest,” and “The End Game.” The collection also examines often forgotten topics, such as the “Battlefield Detectives” segment on a pivotal maritime battle of 1812, “The Chesapeake and The Shannon,” a battle which lasted less than 15 minutes and ended with a British victory. The single disc on the Mexican-American War gives a comprehensive analysis of the often overlooked conflict. The conflicts reach the 20th century with a disc on the Spanish-American War. From that point, the collection offers more abundant viewing materials, including newsreel footage, home movies, on-scene photography, still photos, and more. The two discs covering World War I (“100 Years of WWI”) include episodes “Armored Beasts,” “Clouds of Death,” “Massive Air Attacks,” “Underwater Killers,” “Modern Marvels: World War I Tech,” “The First Dogfights,” and “The Red Baron and the Wings of Death.” The two discs of World War II (“75 Years of WWII”) include a single disc devoted to D-Day. A single flip-disc covers the Korean War: “The Korean War: Fire and Ice.” The Vietnam War can be seen on four discs, two on“The Vietnam War” and two on “Vietnam in HD.” Overall, various well known talents add narration and voice-overs, including Edward Hermann, Gavin MacFadyen, Steve Moreno, Larry Simon, and many others. Oscar De La Hoya hosts the Mexican War segment.

 

 

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: Jellyfish Eyes, The Kindergarten Teacher, Knock Knock, Minions, Partisan.

The week’s DVDs begin with ants:

DVDs and streaming for Dec. 1 by Boo Allen

 

This week, we begin with ants:

 

Ant-Man (***)

Ageless funnyman Paul Rudd stars as the title super-hero in this mostly light-hearted feature based on yet another Marvel Comics character. Rudd plays Scott Lang, a well meaning yet small time burglar who, through circumstances, falls in with outcast genius and entrepreneur Dr. Pym (Michael Douglas). Pym has created a suit that Lang wears to shrink himself to the size of ant while also increasing his powers. The plot revolves around some silly corporate shenanigans involving villainous Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). But the narrative simply serves Rudd’s polished off-hand delivery of his abundant comic lines, all while the excellent special effects make small things big and big things small.

Rated PG-13, 117 minutes.

Extras: commentary, a “making of” featurette, a featurette on the special effects, a brief tongue-in-cheek featurette on Pym Industries, deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel.

 

 

 

 

 

Mississippi Grind (***)

This often compelling movie about gambling and gambling addiction has, strangely enough, few gambling scenes, and even those are clumsy and never ring true. Otherwise, this first film from writer-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck since 2007’s Half Nelson, an earlier look at addiction, offers a probing yet painful look at obsession. Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn turn in effective performances as, respectively, Curtis and Gerry, two small time gamblers and poker players who meet at a game in Iowa. They combine forces and head toward New Orleans for some alleged “Big Game.” Of course they become sidetracked along the way with a girlfriend (Sienna Miller) and an ex-wife (Robin Wiegert), encounters which help paint the two as pathetic losers, fascinating in their failure. Like anything resembling a sports movie, this one too heads toward a climactic scene, which, unfortunately, feel forced and contrived. But before that culmination, the character portraits seem painfully authentic.

Rated R, 109 minutes.

Extras: an 18 minute “making of” featurette

 

 

 

American Ultra (**1/2)

Mike and Phoebe (Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, respectively) simply seem to be two slackers in love. But a chance confrontation wakes Mike up to what he used to be, that is, a trained C.I.A. killer. Phoebe has her own secrets, all of which remain hidden while director Nima Nourizadeh first choreographs several novel bouts of violence resulting in an escalating body count. Topher Grace plays the C.I.A. chief who assigns a hit-squad to eliminate the newly awakened Mike, who, for his part, finds a guardian angel in the form of his former trainer Victoria (Connie Britton). To keep the overly-familiar story entertaining, Max Landis’ script mixes the dark with the romantic, along with plentiful action sequences. For their parts, which require little of substance, Eisenberg and Stewart bring their limited acting abilities that range, to steal a quotation from Dorothy Parker, “from A to B.”

Rated R, 96 minutes.

Extras: commentary, a comprehensive 41 minute two part, “making of” featurette, and four minute featurettes on “Assassinating on a budget,” and a gag reel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CPO Sharkey—The Best of Season One

Don Rickles’ TV series from 1976 to 1978, originally seen on N.B.C., continues to be mined in this single disc collection of six episodes from the first season. Rickles plays Chief Petty Officer Otto Sharkey, in charge of the new recruits of Company 144 at the San Diego naval training center. Episodes include “Oh Captain! My Captain,” “The Dear John Letter,” “Goodbye Dolly,” “Sunday in Tijuana,” “Sharkey Boogies on Down,” and “Sharkey’s Secret Life.”

Not rated, 148 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: Amy, Momentum, Some Kind of Beautiful, Tokyo Tribe.

The week’s DVDs begin in the shadows:

DVDs and streaming for Nov. 24 by Boo Allen

 

 

This week, we begin in the shadows:

 

 

Dark Film Mysteries: Detour, Woman on the Run, Quicksand, Inner Sanctum, Kansas City Confidential, The Stranger, Fear in the Night, The Strange Woman, The Red House, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Scarlet Street.

Film Chest Media Group has assembled eleven film noir standouts into a single package of three discs. The collection features some familiar titles, but it also holds some lesser known fare along with a few titles that, however interesting, might not match the usual criteria of the genre, such as famed transplanted Austrian director Edgar Ulmer’s Hedy Lamarr vehicle The Strange Woman (99 minutes). The films include well known actors (Mickey Rooney, Joan Bennett, Kirk Douglas, George Sanders, Barbara Stanwyck, and Hedy Lamarr and many recognizable supporting players) appearing in films from top-notch directors, such as Orson Welles’ The Stranger and Fritz Lang’s dark Scarlet Street (102 minutes), starring Edward G. Robinson. All films, unrated and in black and white, were released from 1945 to 1950, except for the slick bank heist saga K.C. Confidential (1952) starring John Payne. Edgar Ulmer also directed the quickly filmed yet tightly structured Detour (67 minutes), in which Al (Tom Neal, whose own personal life was highly troubled) picks up a hitchhiker, only to find himself in a closing trap. Ann Sheridan stars in Woman on the Run (77 minutes) as a woman whose husband has witnessed a gangland murder, sending him on the run with her after him. Mickey Rooney turns in an electric performance in Quicksand (79 minutes) as a car mechanic who takes $20 from the till for an emergency “loan” before finding his troubles snowballing, many due to an avaricious femme fatale (Jeanne Cagney). Inner Sanctum (62 minutes), a quintessential “B” picture, follows a man (Charles Russell) who mistakenly thinks he has left no clues to a murder but winds up isolated and in danger in a small town. Welles directed The Stranger (95 minutes) and plays an ex-Nazi hiding out on a college campus as a professor while being pursued by a government agent (Edward G. Robinson ). Highly popular upon its 1946 release, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (116 minutes) boasts a fine cast (Douglas, Stanwyck, Van Helfin) in its story of an independent businesswoman who unwittingly turns into yet another femme fatale. Also included: Fear in the Night (72 minutes), The Red House (100 minutes),

 

 

 

 

 

In Cold Blood (****1/2)

The Criterion Collection has given a 4k digital restoration to writer and director Richard Brooks’ 1967 rendition of Truman Capote’s seminal non-fiction book. Brooks’ chilling portrayal of killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock (Robert Blake and Scott Wilson, respectively) became an instant American classic. The two killers traveled to Holcomb, Kansas in 1959 and brutally murdered the Clutter family, a farmer, his wife, and their two children, in a failed robbery. The film, and Capote’s novel, jumps back and forth to establish the events leading up to the crime, yet Brooks delays the crucial scene until late in the film. Brooks follows the two men as detectives close in for the capture. The director then stays with Dick and Perry during their incarceration before they are eventually led to the gallows. Capote described his journalistic technique as “combining the horizontal linearity of journalism with the verticality of fiction,” thereby taking the reader “deeper and deeper into characters and events.” Everything came together for the film after Brooks rejected Columbia Pictures’ suggestion to cast Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. Quincy Jones composed a memorable, nerve-jangling musical score, and Conrad Hall earned an Oscar for his evocative and highly imaginative black and white cinematography. Brooks creates and maintains a real feeling of suspense, while also sustaining the tension, even when we know what will happen.

Not rated, 134 minutes.

Extras: separate interviews with 1. John Bailey about Hall’s cinematography, 2. film historian Bobbie O’Steen on the editing, 3. author Gary Giddins on Quincy Jones’ score, 4. writer Douglass K. Daniel on Brooks and his career, 5. Richard Brooks on a 1988 French TV show, and 6. Truman Capote in two separate interviews featuring a 1966 trip to Holcomb, Kansas and a 1967 sit-down with Barbara Walters. Plus, a 10 page booklet with essay from critic Chris Fujiwara.

 

 

Applesauce (**)

This odd but not particularly likable romantic-comedy-mystery stars Onur Tukel, who, not so coincidentally, also wrote and directed. He plays Ron, a New York City high school teacher who seems to be falling apart after he babbles on about an earlier indiscretion on-air to a radio talk show host (over-qualified Dylan Baker). After, Ron begins sporadically receiving severed body parts. At the same time, he feuds with his wife as well as with a student. It’s an empty shaggy dog story that would probably be of no interest if it did not take place in New York City.

Not rated, 91 minutes.

Extras: commentary, 13 minutes of deleted scenes, and nine minutes of bloopers.

 

 

 

Ant-Man (***)

Ageless funnyman Paul Rudd stars as the title super-hero in this mostly light-hearted feature based on yet another Marvel Comics character. Rudd plays Scott Lang, a well meaning yet small time burglar who, through circumstances, falls in with outcast genius and entrepreneur Dr. Pym (Michael Douglas). Pym has created a suit that Lang wears to shrink himself to the size of ant while also increasing his powers. The plot revolves around some silly corporate shenanigans involving villainous Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). But the narrative simply serves Rudd’s polished off-hand delivery of his abundant comic lines, all while the excellent special effects make small things big and big things small.

Rated PG-13, 117 minutes.

Extras: commentary, a “making of” featurette, a featurette on the special effects, a brief tongue-in-cheek featurette on Pym Industries, deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel.

 

 

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: American Ultra, A Hard Day, Shaun the Sheep, The Square.

The week’s DVDs begin with Seymour:

DVDs and streaming for Nov. 17 by Boo Allen

 

 

This week, we begin with Seymour:

 

 

Seymour: An Introduction (***)

Ethan Hawke directed this engaging documentary centered on his fascinating and affable friend Seymour Bernstein. Although not a well known name, native New Yorker Bernstein began playing the piano as a child and eventually became a promising concert pianist. But he gave it up to become teacher and mentor to many who still pay tribute to him, including Junko Ichikawa and Marcus Ostermiller. Hawke interviews Bernstein at length and also interviews many touched by him.

Rated PG, 81 minutes.

Extras: a featurette of Bernstein in concert.

 

 

 

 

Two Men in Town (***)

Three of arguably the most popular French film stars ever appear in this 4k-remastered 1973 feature from writer-director José Giovanni. Sixty-nine year old war hero and national icon Jean Gabin plays Germaine, a soft-hearted social worker who pleads his case, after ten years, for the parole of Gino (Alain Delon, who also produced). Upon Gino’s release, he and his mentor both re-locate to Montpellier where Gino lands a job, tries to go straight, and even finds a girlfriend, Lucie (enigmatic American Mimsy Farmer). But members of Gino’s old gang show up, including a young punk played by Gerard Depardieu. Michel Bouquet, a staple of many Claude Chabrol films, plays Inspector Goitreau. This Javert-like character hounds Gino, believing he will resort to his old ways. The plot follows a familiar outline but with an unexpected third act twist that gives Giovanni a platform to expound philosophically on the basic goodness of humanity.

Not rated, 99 minutes.

Extras: commentary and trailer.

 

 

 

 

Hotel Paradiso (**1/2)

Alec Guinness stars in this lightweight soufflé from Warner Archive based on one of the door-slamming farces co-written by renowned French playwright Jacques Feydeau along with Maurice Desvallieres. British director Peter Glenville (Becket) co-wrote the script with noted and prolific screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriére. Guinness mugs it up as Monsieur Boniface, a married man in 1900 Paris. He goes through elaborate lengths to have an affair with his married neighbor Madam Cotte (Gina Lollabrigida). Unfortunately for them, they pick the Hotel Paradiso, a shabby and disreputable place for assignations. Others also arrive almost simultaneously, including Madam Cotte’s husband (Robert Morley), a government inspector looking for ghosts, a man and his four daughters, Boniface’s maid Victoire (Ann Beach) and her paramour Maxime (Derek Fowlds). Everyone seems to be avoiding everyone else, running in and out of the rooms and even onto the roof. It is all consistent silliness not overly improved by the willing cast, which includes character actors Leonard Rossiter, Akim Tamiroff, Peggy Mount. Director Glenville frames his film by appearing as playwright Feydeau.

Not rated, 98 minutes.

 

 

Matt Shepherd is a Friend of Mine (**1/2)

Michele Josue wrote and directed this compelling documentary about the title subject, the young University of Wyoming student tortured and left for dead while tied to a fence only because he was gay. The shocking 1998 event helped ignite the movement for greater acceptance for the gay and lesbian community. Josue uses the tragedy to flesh out a fuller portrait of her one-time friend Shepard, using extant video footage, home photos, and interviews.

Not rated, 89 minutes.

 

 

 

Swim Little Fish Swim (**)

This overly whimsical romantic-comedy was reportedly a big hit at several film festivals. Naturally. The low budget features cloys for love in its story about an interrupted domestic arrangement between nurse Mary (Brooke Bloom) and her flighty husband Leeward (Dustin Defa). The husband considers himself an artist and musician above it all. At one point, he even refuses work for a commercial. But he will let his wife work to pay the bills to support the family including their three year old daughter. Nineteen year-old French girl Lilas (Lola Bessis) steps into the mix, staying in Leeward and Mary’s New York apartment while trying to avoid the attentions of her famous artist mother in town for an exhibition. The banal music, simplistic effects, and an inane script never add up to much.

Not rated, 95 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Manhattan Romance, Trash, We Are Your Friends.

This week we begin in 1968:

DVDs and streaming for Nov. 10 by Boo Allen

This week, we begin in 1968:

 

Best of Enemies (****)

Few documentaries are as fun, funny, informative, and just plain entertaining as this juicy work from writer-directors Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville. And the reason the film deserves such accolades can be laid at the feet of its two main subjects, conservative wit, writer and pundit William F. Buckley Jr., and his liberal counterpart Gore Vidal. Gordon and Neville have centered their film around the ten so-called debates the two men had on ABC-TV during 1968’s two political conventions. At the time, ABC ranked last in news coverage and hired the men as more or less a stunt. And it worked. The on-screen interchanges between the two grow progressively barbed so that by the end, Vidal infamously calls Buckley, and all Republicans, greedy, crypto-Nazi, and Buckley replies by casting a sexuality slur on Vidal before warning him that he will punch him out. The exchanges did not end there but gained their own lives, as the two men answered questions about them until their deaths. It is widely argued the debates led to the current state of shouting TV “debates.” The brief clips from each 1968 encounter are complemented with plenty of convention footage along with expert testimony from interviewees Christopher Hitchens, Andrew Sullivan, Dick Cavett, James Wolcott, Brooke Gladstone, William’s brother Reid Buckley, and others.

Not rated, 89 minutes.

Extras: ten additional interviews and a seven minute interview with directors Neville and Gordon.

 

 

The Gift (**1/2)

Actor Joel Edgerton co-stars and makes his feature film directing debut in this overly familiar psychological drama based on his own script. Married couple Simon and Robyn (Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, respectively) have just moved from Chicago to Simon’s hometown Los Angeles. They accidentally meet Simon’s high school classmate Gordon (Edgerton), known in school as “Gordo the weirdo.” Gordo begins dropping by to visit the couple, bringing them gifts that only make them feel uncomfortable. At that point, director Edgerton succeeds in drawing a portrait of hovering menace, an exercise forgivable for its meticulousness because this technique customarily suggests a big ending lies ahead. The second half does deliver new information painting Simon in a different perspective so that the anticipated, yet disappointing, climax dutifully arrives but by then all emotion has been spent elsewhere. Still, it’s a competent directing debut, one that conjures up the proper emotions even when the script slackens.

Rated R, 89 minutes.

Extras: commentary with Edgerton, an alternate ending, four deleted scenes, and brief featurettes on Jason Bateman and “Karma for Bullies.”

 

 

Ann Vickers (***), Sweet Adeline (**1/2), Never a Dull Moment (**1/2)

On Demand Warner Archives releases three unrated titles starring Irene Dunn. The vivacious Dunn began her long career with a string of strong, young woman roles, such as her turn in the 1933 Ann Vickers (76 minutes). Based on an early novel from Nobel Laureate Sinclair Lewis, Ann Vickers is a dedicated social worker who spends the night with a soldier (Bruce Cabot—King Kong) about to leave for World War I. She finds herself pregnant and goes to Havana for an abortion, all acts which would soon be banned on-screen by the upcoming 1934 Production Code. Ann then works at a women’s prison, leaves to write a sensationalistic best seller, becomes head of a women’s reformatory, and then eventually falls for a corrupt judge (Walter Huston, father of director John Huston and grandfather of actors Angeli and Danny Huston). Through it all, future black-listed director John Cromwell (father of actor James Cromwell) accentuates the independence and intelligence of Lewis’ then infamous character. Dunn again plays the title character and also sings several numbers in director Mervyn Leroy’s Sweet Adeline (1934, 87 minutes), a 1929 Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II musical. While not up to the team’s iconic “Showboat,” the musical stars Dunn as a turn-of-last century Hoboken beer garden singer in love with composer and song-plugger Sid (Donald Woods). His newest work is due to open on Broadway with her in the lead role, but they argue and separate and she takes up with the show’s backer, Major Jim (Louis Calhern), an army recruiter for the Spanish-American war. The war also provides a silly sub-plot involving an opening night accident for Adeline, which, of course, eventually leads to the reconciliation of the two feuding youngsters. With notable character actors Ned Sparks, Hugh Herbert, Winifred Shaw. Years later, Dunn still registered her casual superiority in Never a Dull Moment (1950, 89 minutes) by playing Kay, a Park Avenue socialite and musical composer who weds rancher and rodeo rider Chris (Fred MacMurray) in a whirlwind romance. They return to Chris’ rustic home, and the immediate fish-out-of-water scenario sees Dunn learning to ride horses, feed pigs, carry water, cook, and become mother to Chris’s two young daughters (Gigi Perreau and 12 year-old Natalie Wood, already the veteran of a dozen movies). A subplot plays out about a water rights feud with a neighbor, played by William Demarest, who co-starred for seven years with MacMurray in TV’s “My Three Sons.”

 

 

Toy Story That Time Forget (***)

A familiar voice cast enlivens this animated tale starring both old and new personages from the “Toy Story” franchise. The action takes place during a post-Christmas lull and features Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Trixie (Kristen Schaal), Reptillus Maximus (Kevin McKidd), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Jessie (Joan Cusack) and others. It’s Trixie the triceratops who brings everyone together to calm the chaos in this enjoyable confection.

Rated TV-G, 22 minutes.

Extras: commentary, an 11 minute “making of” featurette, a segment on the feature’s crew traveling to Comic-Con, two Karaoke features, and a 2D animated opening for a fictional TV series.

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: Far From Men, Montana, Self/Less, Trainwreck.

The week’s DVDs begin inside the head of an 11 year-old girl:

DVDs and streaming for Nov. 3 by Boo Allen

 

This week, we begin inside the brain of an eleven year-old girl:

 

 

Inside Out (****)

You know those voices you keep hearing in your head? Well, they’re real, or at least that’s the premise behind this enchanting animated feature from Disney-Pixar. And, for the purposes of an animated production, what better mind to analyze than that of an excitable 11 year-old girl? Here, the brain of Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) houses a variety of emotions, all camped out in her brain waiting to send the appropriate signals, whether they be Fear (Bill Hader), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black), or the omnipresent Joy (Amy Poehler). In this early Oscar favorite for Best Animation, all the film’s voices perfectly fit either their character or an appropriate emotion. Riley travels through her every feeling as her family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. There, she must fit in at a new school while also trying out for the hockey team. Along the way, Joy and Sadness become lost in the vibrantly-realized vault of long-term memories, leaving only disgust, anger and fear to cope with Riley’s situation, as well as two parents (Diane Lane, Kyle Maclachlan) clueless about how to handle their newly combustible daughter. Director Pete Doctor uses the full spectrum of the trademark Pixar color palate to render the rich settings and inviting characters of this foreign terrain.

Rated PG, 94 minutes.

Extras: commentary, four deleted scenes, two animated shorts, 11 minute featurettes on “The Story of the Story” and “The Women of ‘Inside Out,’” three seven minute featurettes on: 1. selecting the film’s featured emotions, and 2. on the perspectives of two filmmakers’ daughters, and 3. on the film’s sound. Plus, additional featurettes on film animation editing, as well as on how the artists designed and created the human mind. The 15 minute featurette “Mind Candy” examines how many of the various film elements were created and assembled. And more.

 

 

 

The Benoît Jacquot Collection:

The Disenchanted (**1/2), A Single Girl (***), Keep It Quiet (**1/2)

The Cohen Film Collection has assembled into a single package, of two discs, three unrated films from the long and varied career of veteran French director Benoît Jacquot. In The Disenchanted (1990, 78 minutes), 17 year-old Beth (Judith Godrèch) fights with her boyfriend when he suggests that she sleep with other boys. Meanwhile, she must still take time to manage the household consisting of her little brother and her single, bedridden mother, while warding off the attentions of her mother’s creepy, predator boyfriend. Jacquot balances the needs and fears of this bright young talent who fights everyone until she finds unexpected refuge with an adult who treats her like an adult. Jacquot again explores the personal complexities of the title character in A Single Girl (1995, 90 minutes). In a single day, 19 year-old Valerie (Virginie Ledoyen) tells her boyfriend she is pregnant before rushing off to her first day as a chambermaid at a large luxury hotel. There, she encounters rude co-workers along with confrontational hotel guests. The day passes as she experiences more work troubles in between another meeting with her less-than-enthusiastic boyfriend. Jacquot then surprisingly closes by jumping ahead to when Valerie’s life has changed in unexpected ways, but while she still maintains her independence and integrity. Jacquot wanders into family dynamics in Keep It Quiet (1999, 105 minutes), a fluctuating examination of a family when Gregoire (Fabrice Lucini) is released from jail. The vaguely explained reason is that he embezzled funds, yet he still claims innocence. More distracting, however, is that upon release, he seems disoriented, now becoming a late-forming humanitarian who wants to speak to everyone; everyone that is except his brother Louis (Vincent Lindon), who invites Gregoire onto his popular TV talk show to give his side of the story. Jacquot juggles other extraneous plot elements, including a dour hairdresser (Vahina Giocante) and her recently paroled boyfriend, Gregoire’s confused wife (a wasted Isabelle Huppert) and other family members who float in and out.

Extras: all three films offer individual commentary from critics Wade Major and Tim Cogshell, along with a discussion with Jacquot and film critic Kent Jones on each movie.

 

 

 

She’s Funny That Way (**1/2)

Director and co-writer Peter Bogdanovich returns to the genre he grew up with, and one he obviously has a deep affinity for. The 76 year-old creator of such enjoyable fare as What’s Up Doc and Paper Moon delivers a screwball comedy, one that resembles, in form anyway, such earlier classics as Bringing Up, Baby and Twentieth Century. Here, the director keeps a consistently rapid pace, even when the material slackens. And Bogdanovich’s Hollywood royalty status has enabled him to draw an excellent cast, one in which such respected British talents as Joanna Lumley and Lucy Punch are wasted in brief appearances. The ensemble cast serves the sprawling, interconnected plot of director Arnold Albertson (Owen Wilson) casting call girl Izzy (Imogen Poots) opposite his wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn) in a Broadway play written by New York playwright Josh (Will Forte) and starring Delta’s former love Seth (Rhys Ifans). From this, weave in an love obsessed judge (Austin Pendleton), Josh’s psychiatrist girlfriend Jane (Jennifer Aniston), and various other oddities (such as Richard Lewis and Cybill Shepherd playing Izzy’s parents) and something always seems to be happening, however absurd, ill-conceived, or just plain corny. With Illeana Douglas, Debi Mazar, Austin Pendleton, Jennifer Esposito, and, in cameos, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Shannon, Tatum O’Neal and Graydon Carter.

Rated R, 93 minutes.

Extras: commentary with Bogdanovich and co-writer Louise Stratten and a 17 minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette.

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: Before We Go, Eden, The End of the Tour, The Final Girls, Stung, Vacation.

The week’s DVDs begin in England:

DVDs and streaming for Oct. 27 by Boo Allen

 

 

This week, we begin in England:

 

 

Mr. Holmes (***)

Ian McKellen stars as ninety-something year old Sherlock Holmes in this reunion with his Gods and Monsters director Bill Condon. In post World War II England, Holmes enjoys the status of a celebrity but spends most of his time reflecting on his last case, a frustrating affair concluded some thirty years previous. In addition, much screen time is given to his interactions with his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her young son Roger (Milo Parker). The plaintive Holmes only seems to find solace while working with his bee hives with Roger. During various flashbacks, Condon fleshes out screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher’s story, based on Mitch Cullen’s novel, about Holmes’ nagging lack of resolve. Astute observers (whom we thank) have pointed out that Holmes’ lengthy diversion to Japan serves several functions essential to the plot and to understanding Holmes’ faltering state of mind.

Rated PG, 104 minutes.

Extras: the three minute “making of” featurette “Mr. Holmes: The Icon,” and the three minute “making of” featurette “Mr. Holmes: The Story.”

 

 

 

 

 

Crumbs (**1/2)

Anyone used to Hollywood extravaganzas filled with large, garish special effects might not appreciate this no-budget science fiction fantasy from writer-director Miguel Llansó. In a bleak, barren part of Ethiopia, Gagano (Daniel Tadesse) travels the post-apocalyptic landscape in his vaguely-explained odyssey. He leaves his sanctuary inside an abandoned bowling alley where his love, Birdy (Selam Tesfaye), remains praying to a photograph of Michael Jordan. Really. But Gagano ventures out to encounter a wide variety of oddities, including Santa Clause, a bizarre pawn shop, and a man touring the area wearing what looks to be a gas mask. And meanwhile, a giant spacecraft hovers over everything. Making sense of all this proves challenging, but Llansó’s rich imagination makes it interesting, however baffling.

Not rated, 68 minutes.

Extras: two short films of director Llansó also starring Daniel Tadesse and six minutes of “Crumbs” anecdotes.

 

 

 

 

From this week’s TV arrivals:

 

 

Black Sails—second season

The ten episodes of the sophomore season of the best ripping yarn on TV now arrive on three discs. This nine-time Emmy nominated Starz series has become an unlikely universal hit, with its constant action, beautiful scenery, complex plots, and a roster of nefarious characters (maybe people just like their pirates). Set in New Providence, Nassau, 20 years before Robert Lewis Stevenson penned “Treasure Island,” the series revolves mostly around Captain Flint (Toby Stephens), a one-time servant to Her Majesty but now a pirate seeking redemption more than gold. But, in the meantime, the gold serves as the catalyst for Flint and erstwhile partner John (not yet “Long John”) Silver, played by Luke Arnold. The season revolves around the taking of Spanish gold but also with the machinations on land of Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New), the scheming ruler of the island. Between Flint’s and Guthrie’s intrigues, every episode delivers confrontations, action, and even unexpected sexual adventures. Arrrgggh.

Not rated, 555 minutes.

Extras: a 23 minute “making of” featurette, four minutes on the series’ main ship “The Man O’War,” four minutes on “Expanding Worlds,” and two, five minute featurettes: “High Seas Action” and “History’s Influence.”

 

 

 

The Great American Dream Machine

This highly entertaining four disc set offers a collection of the title TV program, a high energy variety show that only ran from 1971 to 1972. And, surprisingly, it showed on public television. Its talent was first rank, with regular comedy sketches, skits, and even some musical performances. But it also featured some barbed political commentary, which eventually helped its demise after only two years. Among many talents seen in this early program were Albert Brooks and his hilarious “School for Comedians,” Chevy Chase’s debut TV performance, as well as appearances from future sit-com stars Marshall Efron, Penny Marshall, Martin Mull and Henry Winkler. Andy Rooney offers commentary before he became a weekly institution on “60 Minutes.” Others who appeared during the series’ brief run were Studs Terkel, Linda Lavin, “The Velvet Fog” Mel Tormé, and Evil Knievel. Kurt Vonnegut stops by to chat, and Elaine Stritch belts out her famous “Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch” from Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Company.”

Not rated, 777 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: Max, Pixels, Sunset Edge, Tu Dors Nicole.

 

 

 

The week’s DVDs begin in New Zealand:

DVDs and streaming for Oct. 16 by Boo Allen

This week, we begin in New Zealand:

 

Z for Zachariah (***)

This minimalist, post-apocalyptic tale contrasts a somber bearing with its stunning, unexpectedly beautiful New Zealand setting. Margot Robbie plays Ann, a simple-minded farmer’s daughter left alone when a vaguely explained disaster wiped out her known civilization, leaving only unpredictable radioactive patches. She repulses but then welcomes interloper John (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Wary of each other at first, they eventually bond and work towards rehabilitating her farmland and neglected home. Their perceived reverie bends when Caleb (Chris Pine) arrives. Together, the three work towards erecting a power source, but something lurks underneath their surface bonhomie. Craig Zobel directs from Nissar Modi’s script of Robert O’Brien’s novel. The familiar plot has been used many times previous but Zobel succeeds in creating the sense of unease surrounding the farmhouse.

Rated PG-13, 98 minutes.

Extras: a 12 minute “making of” featurette, four deleted scenes totaling six minutes, and 20 minutes total of separate interviews with Ejiofor, Robbie, Zobel and Modi.

 

 

 

Beat the Devil (***1/2), Salt of the Earth (***1/2)

Two unrated releases from the early 1950s arrive on digitally remastered Blu-ray, one a light Hollywood production and one anti-Hollywood and definitely not light. A dozen years after his seminal caper film The Maltese Falcon, director John Huston reassembled part of his cast for Beat the Devil (1953, 89 minutes). This whimsical, even satirical, twist on the caper genre stars Humphrey Bogart as a confidence man stranded in a coastal Italian village with his wife (Gina Lollobrigida) and a gang of four petty shysters. Peter Lorre plays one of the gang, and Robert Morley takes the lead role taken by Sidney Greenstreet in “Falcon.” But it’s Jennifer Jones who enlivens the action as the flighty wife of a stuffy British man also stuck in town. Huston co-wrote the screenplay with Truman Capote, and it’s hard not to think the film’s biting wit and off-hand humor came from the then-young novelist. Overall, it’s a shaggy dog story of epic proportions but one that delivers a surprisingly constant level of humor. As opposed to the loose re-assembling of a cinematic classic, Salt of the Earth (1954, 94 minutes), a no-budget production from blacklisted producer Paul Jarrico, brought together various other talents then blacklisted by Hollywood. Herbert Biberman directed a story from scriptwriter Michael Wilson about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Using mostly non-professional actors, Biberman rendered an emotional story revealing the plight of Mexican-American miners whose only ally to gain safety and equality demands was their union. Various confrontations play out on the picket line and within the union rank and file, while, personally, the families suffer. Blacklisted Will Geer, future Grandpa Walton of TV’s “The Waltons,” plays the local sheriff. At the time of its completion, the film could not find a distributor and had only been infrequently displayed thereafter until home video came along.

 

 

And, finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:

 

 

The Making of the Mob: New York
This summer, AMC-TV presented this eight part, entertainingly salacious series (now on two discs) featuring some of the most colorful characters this country has ever had to offer. Using abundant docudrama techniques and History Channel-like re-enactments, the series examines the history of organized crime in the U.S., with the obvious concentration on New York’s Mafia figures (Chicago’s Al Capone will be featured in season two). Prominent, movie-friendly, characters are studied in detail, from their births, many in Italy, and to their deaths, many surprisingly non-violent. They include Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Albert Anastasia, Meyer Lansky, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Vito Genovese, and on up to the relatively recent mafioso John Gotti. The series begins with the wave of Italian immigration in the late 19th century, which leads to filling in the backgrounds for the future mob bosses. Goodfella Ray Liotta narrates, and the impressive roster of Italian-American interviewees include Rudolph Giuliani, Meyer Lansky III, Chazz Palminteri, and many others. Author Selwyn Robb (“The Five Families”) also offers his often trenchant observations.

Not rated, 343 minutes.

Extras: eight additional scenes totaling around ten minutes, along with six brief featurettes on Arnold Rothstein, mob wives, “Style,” “Mob innovation,” “The Mob and Mussolini,” and “The Mob Shrink.”

 

 

Mr. Warmth! Don Rickles: the ultimate TV collection

This eight disc collection assembles virtually every known, unknown, and known unknown TV appearance starring the great Rickles. Four separate collections make up the single package, including seasons one and two of Rickles’ TV show, “CPO Sharkey,” and volumes one and two of “The Don Rickles TV Specials.” The two “CPO Sharkey” packages include all 37 half hour episodes. The TV programs include his four 1970s specials: “The Many Sides of Don Rickles,” “Don Rickles: Alive and Kicking,” “Mr. Warmth,” and “Rickles.” The programs feature appearances from some of the biggest stars of the era, including John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Robert Goulet, Michael Caine, Helen Reddy, Dean Martin, Bob Newhart, Don Adams and many others.

Not rated, 1240 minutes.

Extras: a new introduction from Rickles, outtakes and deleted scenes, clips of Johnny Carson visiting Rickles’ “Sharkey” set as well as Rickles being awarded the “TV Land Award” from Jimmy Kimmel.

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: Gueros, Hungry Hearts, Jurassic World, San Andreas, The Vatican Tapes, The Wolfpack.

The week’s DVDs begin tomorrow:

DVDs and streaming for Oct. 13 by Boo Allen

 

This week, we begin tomorrow:

 

 

Tomorrowland (***)

Two-time Oscar winner Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) directs this convoluted science fiction fantasy about a one-time boy inventor who takes a perilous journey to a place he has long dreamed of, Tomorrowland. Frank Walker (George Clooney as the adult, Thomas Robinson as the child) visits the New York World’s Fair in 1964 and leaves with a magic pin that sets the narrative rolling. Later, in current day, teen Casey (Britt Robertson) finds Walker’s pin and learns of its magic powers to transform and transport. Along comes mysterious young Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who sets them both off on a journey through futuristic worlds filled with unimaginable discoveries. Director Bird uses an army of special effects and computer imaging to keep his sprawling narrative rolling along.

Rated PG, 130 minutes.

Extras: eight deleted scenes, an eight minute featurette on the casting, a seven minute “making of” featurette, six minutes on the musical scoring, five minutes of outtakes from the original “World of Tomorrow” Science Hour, an animated short, three entries in Brad Bird’s production diaries, a vintage commercial, four Easter eggs, and more.

 

 

 

 

Murder My Sweet (****)

On Demand Warner Archive dips into their RKO Pictures library to give a Blu-ray release to one of the earliest, and still one of the best, examples of wartime (1944) film noir. Soon-to-be-blacklisted Edward Dmytryk directed this dark, gritty mystery based on a Raymond Chandler novel, with screenplay by John Paxton. Former song-and-dance man Dick Powell went against type as Philip Marlowe, one of the many who have played the iconic detective. Marlowe is hired by an intimidating, recently released ex-convict, Moose Malloy (played by intimidating Mike Mazurki), to find his, Moose’s, ex-girlfriend. From there, Marlowe finds himself ensnared in a double and triple cross involving a jade necklace and two archetypal femme fatales (Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley). The new Blu-ray captures Harry Wild’s glossy and evocative black and white photography.

Not rated, 95 minutes.

Extras: commentary.

 

 

Manglehorn (**1/2)

Al Pacino stars as the title Manglehorn, a spiteful single man who regrets his loneliness but then sabotages his few chances for intimacy. In the rambling character study, Manglehorn is a locksmith, but otherwise an angry man who tries but often fails to hide his anger. He lives alone with his cat, and even when he socializes with his son (Chris Messina) or the only woman (Holly Hunter) who shows any interest in him, the results are disastrous. Director David Gordon Green keeps the atmosphere grim and humorless, but he also makes the drama seem authentic, using non-professional actors, an often lyrical voice-over, and drab settings to draw his discomforting yet touching portrait of this lonely soul.

Rated PG-13, 97 minutes.

 

 

 

Call Me Lucky (***)

Bobcat Goldthwait directed this documentary that examines his friend and mentor Barry Crimmins. In the 1970s and 1980s, Crimmins first became known as a stand-up comic with an edge. Goldthwait probes Crimmins’ childhood abuse that might have shaped his personality. Various latter-day comics claim Crimmins as an influence, including interviewees David Cross, Marc Maron, Patton Oswalt, Margaret Cho and others. Crimmins eventually steered his emotions into a crusade against Internet child pornography.

Not rated, 105 minutes.

Extras: commentary with Goldthwait and Crimmins.

 

 

 

Aladdin—Diamond Edition

Disney brings to Blu-ray and digital HD this animated 1992 favorite featuring the manic voicings of Robin Williams as the genie-in-the-lamp. Scott Weinger voices Aladdin and Linda Larkin is Jasmine, and together, the cast performs the Oscar-winning music of Alan Menken, with lyrics from Howard Ashman and Tim Rice.

Rated G, 91 minutes

Extras: This new edition includes all the supplements from the original DVD release along with specific genie outtakes featuring Williams, a “Genie 101” featurette with Scott Weinger, an interview with directors John Musker and Ron Clements, a featurette with Darren Criss examining how “Aladdin” transformed from an animated film into a Broadway show, and more.

 

 

 

And, finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:

 

 

 

 

The Leftovers—season one

The startling premise behind this HBO series created by Damon Lindelof originates with Tom Perrotta’s titular source novel. The ten episodes of the series, now on two discs, appealed to a surprisingly wide audience, with its primary theme of abandonment and the subsequent exploration of loss. Justin Theroux stars as Kevin Garvey, the town sheriff of Mapleton, New York who is just as surprised and clueless as everyone else when one day a random two percent of the world’s population vanishes with no trace. Destroyed families come together, abandoned spouses commit suicide, and yet no one has answers except for cults, shysters and con-men. With a town simmering, Garvey must juggle his own family problems, specifically a wife (Amy Brenneman) who has left him to join a cult, the Guilty Remnants, that seems to do little more than smoke a lot and wear white. Christopher Eccleston plays a local Episcopal minister trying to cope with his own doubt while still assuaging his flock. The series conjures and sustains eerie atmospherics along with a discomforting unease.

Not rated, 558 minutes.

Extras: commentary, a comprehensive, 29 minute “making of” featurette, a nine minute segment on the series’ cult, the Guilty Remnants, a 15 minute interview with Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta, and a four minute look ahead at the upcoming season two.

 

 

 

The Don Rickles TV Specials—volume one

Included on a single disc are two uncut, 1970s TV specials hosted by Don Rickles. The various personalities who appear to perform sketches with Rickles include Harvey Korman, Bob Newhart, Carroll O’Connor, Don Adams, Anne Meara, Johnny Carson, Robert Goulet and others.

Not rated, 110 minutes.

Extras: a new introduction from Rickles, and a featurette on Rickles winning an award presented by Jimmy Kimmel.

 

 

 

Mad Men—the final season, part two

One of the most praised and rewarded TV dramas finally comes to a close in these seven episodes on two discs. Without giving away the mostly satisfying ending, the season itself sees Don Draper (recent Emmy winner Jon Hamm) having a brief fling with a waitress before hitting the road and trying to “find himself,” Joan (Christina Hendricks) feuding with her new bosses before finding love and a surprising new career, Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) feeling unsure about her future, Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) landing an unexpected new opportunity, and Betty (January Jones) suffering the cruelest fate of all. The fourth episode, “Time and Life,” written by Emmy nominees creator Matthew Weiner and writer-producer Erin Levy, daughter of Fran Spelling Levy (Bryan Adams, ’64) and novelist and TV writer Lawrence Levy, best crystallizes the ambivalence felt by virtually all the characters.

Not rated, 352 minutes.

Extras: commentaries, a 30 minute “Unmarried Professional Women” featurette, 26 minutes on the “Generation Boom,” and three minute featurettes on Laurel Canyon and “Earth Day,” and more. Lionsgate is also releasing a complete limited edition, gift set “Mad Men” collection of all seven seasons.

 

 

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: Dope, The Gallows, The Little Death.