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Friday, March 22, 2013

DVD+Digital: Terence Malick, deep focus and Badlands

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2013 at 12:48 PM

courtesy of the Criterion Collection One of the more auspicious debuts in film history, the 1973 drama Badlands was director Terrence Malick's first project after film school. Loosely based on the real-life killing spree of Charles Starkweather in 1958, it stars Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek as Kit and Holly, two young lovers on the lam in the badlands of the American West. The Criterion Collection's reissue of Badlands, new to DVD and Blu-ray this week, packages the digitally restored film with several director-approved extras, including interviews with the editor and producer, and a lengthy new behind-the-scenes documentary with Sheen...

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

DVD+Digital: Sholem Aleichem, Mark Twain and Laughing in the Darkness

Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 1:28 PM

courtesy of Docudrama Films The well-made 90-minute film documentary may be mankind's most efficient mode of communication. When put together by skilled filmmakers, the feature-length documentary can convey quite massive amounts of information while providing wit and heart and functioning as, you know, a movie. Such is the case with the historical documentary Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness, new to DVD and digital this week. In the late 19th century, Aleichem was the world's most famous Yiddish author and playwright — his stories of Jewish life in Eastern Europe inspired the musical Fiddler on the Roof. He's often referred...

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

DVD+Digital: Eco horror, crustaceous isopods and The Bay

Posted By on Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 11:06 AM

courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment It's Fourth of July in the seaside tourist town of Claridge, Md., on the Chesapeake Bay. All is well. The parade is forming up on Main Street. The kids are tubing out in the harbor. The annual crab eating contest is in full swing. Then the bad things start to happen. A million dead fish wash into the marina. Blackbirds fall from the sky. Some Claridge residents begin to break out in terrible, painful lesions. Others start hemorrhaging. And the less said about that crab-eating contest, the better. That's the set-up for the found-footage horror...

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

DVD+Digital: Brando, Kazan and On The Waterfront

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 11:45 AM

courtesy of the Criterion Collection Director Elia Kazan's classic 1954 drama On The Waterfront tells the story of dockworker Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), a once-promising boxer whose life is derailed when he gets mixed up with mobbed-up labor union honchos on the NYC waterfront. As you may have heard, Terry coulda been a contender. On The Waterfront is generally regarded as one of the greatest American films ever made and won eight Academy Awards in 1955, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Brando. New to DVD and Blu-ray this week, the Criterion Collection reissue of On The Waterfront features...

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Save the Date, The Heartbreak Kid and more anti-romantic movies for a singles' Valentine's Day home on your couch

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2013 at 5:06 PM

Today, millions will celebrate Valentine’s Day with their spouses, significant others and loved ones. Millions more will celebrate it alone, and some will wonder why their lives aren’t like those of Audrey Hepburn, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, or (in my case) John Cusack, at least the characters they play on screen. Though Hollywood has provided many pairs of rose-colored glasses when it comes to relationships, there’s a number of lesser-known films that are perfect for those finding themselves lonely and/or bitter on Feb. 14, that depict everything from the complexities of commitment to what becomes of the broken-hearted. Here’s...

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DVD+Digital: Game of Thrones, 30 Rock and TV binge watching

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2013 at 12:28 PM

courtesy of HBO Home Entertainment In the days before DVD/VHS, Netflix and endless online options — back when we had a little sanity left — TV binge watching was confined to weekend basic cable marathons. If you wanted to see all the episodes of a particular show in sequence, this was your sole option. Only the most dedicated souls braved those 24- and 48-hour endurance trials. I tried it once, years ago, with David Lynch's serial freakout Twin Peaks. Like an idiot I went in without a game plan or any training regimen at all. Amateur move. By Episode 15,...

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

DVD+Digital: Denzel Washington, DVD extras and Flight

Posted By on Thu, Feb 7, 2013 at 11:12 AM

courtesy of Paramount Pictures After nearly a decade of experimentation with motion-capture animation, director Robert Zemeckis returned to live action filmmaking last fall with Flight, starring Denzel Washington. The film tells the story of commercial airline pilot Whip Whitaker, who must confront his demons after crash landing a airliner while drunk on vodka and high on cocaine. (You can read Neil Morris' full review here.) Flight is a fascinating piece of filmmaking and a kind of stealthy movie business maneuver. The marketing and advance trailers for Flight highlighted the film's boffo action sequence — the plane crash — and the...

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

DVD+Digital: Colors, shadows and Tales of the Night

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 4:18 PM

courtesy of Cinedigm In recent years, I've become fascinated with animated foreign films for kids. There's so much good stuff out there — some recent examples include The Secret of Kells (Ireland), Chico & Rita (Spain), A Cat in Paris (France) and Ponyo (Japan). These are movies you're unlikely to see in theaters, so you have to track them down on DVD, Blu-ray or digital download. While I certainly appreciate the artfulness of these films — each has earned various world cinema awards — I have very practical reasons for keeping them on the shelf. I have two young kids...

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

DVD+Digital: South Central, found footage and End of Watch

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2013 at 4:01 PM

courtesy of Universal Pictures End of Watch — the intense police drama new to DVD, Blu-ray and digital this week — truly is a different kind of cop movie. I know, I know. They all say that. But director David Ayer (writer of Training Day) executes an interesting game plan here and gets big results by going small. He narrows the focus radically by following two L.A. cops and their day-to-day experiences in a notorious South Central neighborhood. Jake Gyllenhaal headlines as Brian Taylor, a young patrolman for whom the term "gung-ho" was apparently invented. As stated in the film's...

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

DVD+Digital: Distance, despair and Detropia

Posted By on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 1:01 PM

courtesy of Docudrama Films Family lore holds that my mom and dad met as teenagers during Detroit's heyday in the 1950s, when the Motor City was an enviable American metropolis. Mom worked at a diner downtown. Dad raced hot rods up Telegraph Road. She calmed his ass down and we settled in the suburbs, six blocks from Detroit's famous 8 Mile Road. My dad worked as a truck driver in the city for the next 40 years, often shuttling parts between auto plants. A dedicated union man, he clocked overtime pretty much every day and made enough money so that...

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

DVD+Digital: Sand mandalas, sex dolls and Samsara

Posted By on Thu, Jan 10, 2013 at 1:46 PM

courtesy of MPI Home Video "Samsara" is a Sanskrit term that suggests the endless flow of life and death in the material world. It's a core concept in Indian spiritual traditions, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism. Samsara is the trap of the waking world, from which we can only awaken through enlightenment. The film Samsara, new to DVD and Blu-ray this week, is an attempt to evoke this cosmic concept by way of music and motion picture images. It's a non-narrative documentary, a visual essay, or — in the words of director Ron Fricke — "a guided mediation on the cycle...

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

UNC School of the Arts graduate Craig Zobel gets under your skin with Compliance, now out on DVD

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 11:42 AM

Photo by Ben EngebrethCraig ZobelIt’s not every Hollywood résumé that includes multiple Southern art films, a flash animation about a tiny Luchador and an award-winning feature about an interrogation in the back room of a fast-food restaurant, but UNC School of the Arts graduate Craig Zobel is not your typical filmmaker—and his latest film Compliance, which hit DVD this week, is anything but your typical film. In its premiere at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, Compliance proved one of the most controversial films there, prompting multiple walkouts in its initial screening. And last month, INDY Week's Neil Morris called it...

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

DVD+Digital: Cerebral sci-fi, the future of corpse disposal and Looper

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2013 at 5:35 PM

courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment It's the year 2044 and America is in shambles. Economic collapse has led to social breakdown. Cities teem with desperate refugees, gangs of vicious vagrants roam the countryside, and organized crime has asserted itself as the law of the land. Street transactions require precious metals and Chinese currency. The cops and the criminal czars work together openly. Drugs are cheap, powerful and ingested through the eyeball. On the bright side, about 10 percent of the population is now telekinetic. These are the spooky dystopian details we get, in glimpses and flashes, throughout the excellent...

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

DVD+Digital: Epic Westerns, box office bombs and Heaven's Gate

Posted By on Thu, Dec 27, 2012 at 12:46 PM

courtesy of the Criterion Collection Heaven's Gate is one of the most famous pictures in the history of Hollywood, for all the wrong reasons. Released to theaters in 1980 (kind of; see below), the epic Western stars Kris Kristofferson, Isabelle Huppert and Christoper Walken in the true story of Wyoming's Johnson County War. Alas, director Michael Cimino's follow-up to The Deer Hunter, for which he won five Oscars, didn't fare well. Distributor United Artists initially refused to release the three-and-a-half hour movie and critics savaged the film when it did hit the screen. Heaven's Gate was pulled from theaters after...

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

DVD+Digital: Elizabeth Olsen, college nostalgia and Liberal Arts

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 11:21 AM

courtesy of IFC Films One of the great things about college town life, in my experience, is being plugged into a constant source of youthful energy and enthusiasm. In the spring especially, I like to walk around Chapel Hill and the UNC campus just to recharge my psychic batteries. It reminds me of my own undergraduate days, when life seemed full of promise and purpose, and — most critically, perhaps — college girls in sun dresses. The indie comedy Liberal Arts — new to DVD, Blu-ray and digital this week — explores this phenomenon with the story of one 30-something...

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Friday, December 14, 2012

DVD+Digital: Francis Ford Coppola, the Rolling Stones and holiday box sets

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2012 at 9:12 AM

courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment December always brings a flotilla of DVD and Blu-ray box sets aimed at holiday gift shoppers. Some are reissues of films and TV shows already available on disc or online, but most holiday bundles feature exclusive extras or new material. Below are some recommendations from this year's batch of box sets. The listed prices are approximate retail costs, but it really pays to shop around with these things, online or off, especially with the more expensive sets. Francis Ford Coppola: 5-Film Collection (Blu-ray, $30, 5 discs) This bargain box set packages Apocalypse Now and the...

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

DVD+Digital: Activist artists, Chinese dissidents and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2012 at 11:22 PM

courtesy of IFC Films One of the year's very best documentaries, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry chronicles recent events in the life and work of China's most famous artist, and one of its most tenacious political activists. The film made a splash at this year's Full Frame festival in Durham and just this week was shortlisted for the Best Documentary Oscar. New to DVD and Blu-ray from IFC Films, Never Sorry is a remarkably accomplished film from journalist and first-time director Alsion Klayman. In the art world, Ai Weiwei is a giant. His sculptures and installations are exhibited worldwide, and he...

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

DVD+Digital: City gangsters, country bootleggers and Lawless

Posted By on Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 8:53 PM

courtesy of the Weinstein Company Ask anyone around these parts and they'll tell you — them Bondurant boys mean business. The Prohibition-era crime drama Lawless, new to DVD and Blu-ray this week, departs from the usual gangster film mold by moving the action out of the city and into the drowsy summers of the rural South. The Bondurant brothers — played here by Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke — are the most successful moonshiners in Franklin County, Virginia. Their apple whiskey fuels speakeasies from Kansas City to Boston. In a pinch, it can fuel your Model T, too....

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

DVD+Digital: Box sets, board games and Tarantino XX

Posted By on Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 9:30 PM

courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment John Travolta is a strange dude. In all the on-camera interviews I've seen, Travolta has a weird vibrating kind of energy, a spaced-out thing where he seems to be channeling a more remote version of himself from somewhere very far away. This is the traditional time for a Scientology joke, but we're trying to run a classy operation here. Travolta is just one of the many collaborators and admirers who contribute to Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection, the new Blu-ray box set released — not coincidentally — just in time for holiday shopping. November always brings...

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

DVD+Digital: Angry robots, stubborn rabbits and Pixar Short Films

Posted By on Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 12:24 PM

Courtey of Disney/Pixar Is there a more trusted brand name in entertainment than Pixar? The innovative animation studio debuted in 1995 with Toy Story, and has since released 13 feature films and collected 26 Academy Awards. Pixar has yet to make a bad movie, although they came perilously close with Cars 2. It's the only studio in the business whose very name is its best marketing tool. Pixar Short Films Collection Volume 2, available this week in a two-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo pack and via digital download, collects 12 of the studio's recent short films along with commentary tracks and seven...

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

DVD+Digital: Satanic cults, Halloween videos and Rosemary's Baby

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 5:11 PM

courtesy of the Criterion Collection Director Roman Polanski made his Hollywood debut in 1968 with Rosemary's Baby, a psychological thriller so thoroughly creepy that it has since ascended into the pop culture superconsciousness. Some films just seem to hit a nerve. The film has been re-released to DVD and Blu-ray this week from the archivists at the Criterion Collection, with the usual suite of film-nerd extras. For the uninitiated (heh), Rosemary's Baby is quite literally a cult classic. Its depiction of a secret Satanic coven kicked off a decade of diabolical thrillers like The Exorcist and The Omen. Mia Farrow...

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

DVD+Digital: Michelle Williams, love stories and Take This Waltz

Posted By on Wed, Oct 24, 2012 at 10:05 AM

courtesy of Magnolia Pictures In Take This Waltz, a quietly brilliant romantic drama from Canadian actress and director Sarah Polley, we find ourselves in the colorful hipster neighborhoods of urban Toronto. Young married couple Margot and Lou (Michelle Williams and Seth Rogan) have an easy, playful banter around the house, but there are awkward pauses and sudden silences. All is not well. Margot leaves town for a work gig — she's a copywriter, he's a chef — and meets soulful, sexy artist Daniel (Luke Kirby). On the plane back home to Toronto, Daniel and Margot start crushing on each other,...

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

DVD+Digital: Bereaved puppets, Vaudevillian tragedy and Her Master's Voice

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 8:17 PM

courtesy of Virgil Films Actress and comedian Nina Conti has carved out a healthy alt-comedy career in her native U.K. and earned a small stateside following thanks to YouTube videos of her lateral-thinking ventriloquist act. Conti apprenticed early in life to British experimental theater guru and roustabout Ken Campbell and in fact the two carried on a May-December romance for years. Conti's beautiful debut film, Her Master's Voice, is a tribute of sorts to her former lover and mentor, and one of the best hidden gems you'll find on DVD and digital this year. Voice won an Audience Award at...

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

DVD+Digital: French heist films, sad little girls and A Cat in Paris

Posted By on Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 3:33 PM

courtesy of New Video Considering the volume and variety of family-friendly animated films that come down the pike, it's curious that they all offer essentially the same movie-watching experience: A kid-friendly story with kid-friendly jokes, the occasional stealthy double entendre aimed at parents, and varying levels of animated wizardry. With the good stuff, you'll get rich characters and real comic artistry (Fantastic Mr. Fox, the Pixar canon). With the lousy stuff, you get rebooted fairy tales and cheap pop cultre riffing (Shrek, anything with chipmunks). The French import and 2012 Academy Award nominee A Cat in Paris goes in another...

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

DVD+Digital: Catherine Keener, aging hippies and Misunderstanding

Posted By on Wed, Oct 3, 2012 at 10:51 AM

courtesy of IFC Films In the romantic comedy Peace, Love and Misunderstanding, new to DVD and Blu-ray this week, Catherine Keener plays Diane, a stressed out Manhattan attorney who retreats to her hippie mom's house in Woodstock when her husband asks for a divorce. Diane brings the kids as well, college student Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen) and nerdy teenager Jake (Nat Wolff). Diane's mom, Grace, is played by Jane Fonda, who has a good time sending up her image as queen of the aging hippie baby boomers. Grace, it seems, is something of a legend in Woodstock — Bob Dylan had...

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