Category Archives: DVDs

Maxine Peake creates a Hamlet that is both timeless and unique for today

To be, or not to be: that is the question . . .
To be honest William Shakespeare’s most iconic work, Hamlet,is the ultimate play about loyalty, love, betrayal, murder and madness. Every production is defined by its lead actor. Or actress.

Save the date: On June 12, Omnibus Entertainment releases the DVD of a stripped back, fresh and fast-paced staging by Sarah Frankcom for Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in which Maxine Peake creates a Hamlet that is both timeless and unique for today. Though the part has a long history of being performed by women, Peake is the first female actor to be cast in a major production since Frances de la Tour assumed the role 40 years ago.
This above all: to thine own self be true.

A trio of Blu-rays that Arrow Video aims right at your heart

There’s something to be said about Arrow Video, who take aim at horror fans hearts and deliver the soul of some spooky stuff. New flicks that are must-see, must-own:

Death Smiles on a Murderer
A haunting and dreamlike gothic horror/giallo hybrid, Death Smiles on a Murderer is a compelling early work from the legendary sleaze and horror film director Joe D’Amato , here billed under his real name Aristide Massaccesi. Set in Austria in the early 1900s, the film stars Ewa Aulin as Greta, a beautiful young woman abused by her brother Franz (played by Luciano Rossi) and left to die in childbirth by her illicit lover, the aristocrat Dr. von Ravensbrück (Giacomo Rossi Stuart).
Death Smiles On A MurdererBereft with grief, Franz reanimates his dead sister using a formula engraved on an ancient Incan medallion. Greta then returns as an undead avenging angel, reaping revenge on the Ravensbrück family and her manically possessive brother. Presented here in a stunning 2K restoration, D’Amato’s film is a stately and surreal supernatural mystery which benefits from an achingly mournful score by Berto Pisano, several shocking scenes of gore, and a typically sinister performance from Klaus Kinski as a morbid doctor. Bonuses include D’Amato Smiles on Death, an archival interview in which the director discusses the film; All About Ewa, a newly-filmed, career-spanning interview with the Swedish star; Smiling on the Taboo: Sex, Death and Transgression in the horror films of Joe D’Amato, a new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger and original trailers.

Two Thousand Maniacs
After shocking and outraging the world with his genre-defining 1963 gore-fest Blood Feast, exploitation pioneer H.G. Lewis would seek (and positively succeed) to outdo himself with the deliciously depraved Two Thousand Maniacs.
Two Thousand Maniacs!When a group of Yankee tourists take a detour and wind up in the small Southern town of Pleasant Valley—which has magically rematerialized 100 years after its destruction during the Civil War—they find themselves welcomed by the eager townsfolk as guests of honor at their centennial celebrations. Little do the Northerners know that the festivities are set to include torture, death and dismemberment. Also including H.G. Lewis’ fist fightin’, hooch-swillin’ epic Moonshine Mountain as a bonus feature, this is one double-dose of hicksploitation truly worthy of an almighty “Yeehah!” Bonuses include Herschell’s Art of Advertising in which H.G. Lewis shares his expert opinion on the art of selling movies; Two Thousand Maniacs Can’t be Wrong, in which filmmaker Tim Sullivan on H.G. Lewis’ gore classic and Hickspoitation: Confidential, a visual essay on the depiction of the American South in exploitation cinema.

The Bloodthirsty Trilogy
Inspired by the runaway success of the British and American gothic horror films of the ’60s, Toho Studios brought the vampiric tropes of the Dracula legend to Japanese screens with The Vampire Doll, Lake of Dracula and Evil of Dracula, a trio of spookily effective cult classics collectively known as The Bloodthirsty Trilogy. In The Vampire Doll, a young man goes missing after visiting his girlfriend’s isolated country home. His sister and her boyfriend trace him to the creepy mansion, but their search becomes perilous when they uncover a gruesome family history.
The Bloodthirsty TrilogyLake of Dracula begins with a young girl suffering a terrifying nightmare of a vampire with blazing golden eyes. Eighteen years later, the dream is revealed to be a hellish prophecy when a strange package containing an empty coffin mysteriously turns up at a nearby lake. In Evil of Dracula, a professor takes up a new post at an all-girls school only to discover the school’s principle conceals a dark secret and the pupils are in grave danger. Abounding with images of dark thunderous nights, ghostly mansions and bloody fangs, Michio Yamamoto’s trilogy emphasizes atmosphere and style and is sure to please both fans of classic gothic horror and Japanese genre cinema. Bonuses include newly translated English subtitles; Kim Newman on The Bloodthirsty Trilogy, a new video appraisal by the critic and writer; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin.

Two must-see PBS programs: “GI Jews” and “Art of the Shine”

We are always gushing over programs, documentaries, shows, specials, films and mini-series that are released on Blu-ray and DVD by PBS Distribution. And with good reason. They are always riveting. Here are two that could easily fall through the cracks. Take note!

Through the eyes of servicemen and women, GI Jews: Jewish Americans in WWII brings to life the little-known story of Jews in World War II—as active participants in the fight against Hitler, bigotry and intolerance. These men and women were religious and secular, Zionists, socialists, even pacifists. Some had been in America for generations; others were recent immigrants, with close family members left behind in Hitler’s Europe. Their extraordinary experiences are at the heart of the film, telling the story of World War II from a uniquely Jewish perspective.

Like all Americans, they fought against fascism, but they also fought a more personal fight– to save their brethren in Europe. In the midst of it all, they battled anti-Semitism within the ranks of the U.S. military, facing slurs and violence from their fellow servicemen. In the end, the story of the Jewish GIs is the story of becoming American; the story of immigrants who earned their citizenship by shedding blood and fought for democracy and tolerance abroad and at home.

Meet the men and women who make their living cleaning our shoes. From the brash street shiners of New York City, to the masked shoe shine boys of La Paz, this program takes viewers around the world to give viewers an insider’s perspective of this overlooked profession. The Art of the Shine introduces the people who do this job and the chance to see the world through their eyes.

Viewers discover that despite being literally and figuratively “looked down upon” by society, shoe shiners universally take great pride in their work. They like the freedom that comes with being their own bosses and enjoy interacting with customers who always walk away happy. People around the world have turned to shoe shining to provide for themselves and their families. These are their stories. Step into their world. You’ll never look at a shoe shiner the same way again.

Whoever knew road trips could be so funny and filthy? Welcome to “Frat Pack”

You’re invited to an insane wedding, a decadent frat party and a filthy, funny, 700-mile road trip. Since we love road trips, truly, we tagged along. That’s why we love Frat Pack, the wildly hilarious and raunchy flick, arriving on DVD, Digital, and On Demand June 19 from Lionsgate.

When Moira (portrayed by Beverly D’Angelo) decides to marry into a larger-than-life American family, her son, Elliot (Richard Alan Reid), is dragged on a road trip across the country with his soon-to-be stepbrothers for an epic alumni-weekend fraternity rager. The out-of-control comedy also stars Danny Trejo, Lochlyn Munro and Hana Mae Lee.  On the road, the gang meets drug dealers, tattoo artists, snooty clerks, and party gals who don’t act like ladies. All the while, Elliot’s dying to make a pass at sweet, sensible neighbor Skylar—but will he pass out instead?

The world of a college professor spins out of control in “Spinning Man”

When a 17-year-old girl goes missing, family man and distinguished college professor Evan Birch’s (portrayed by Guy Pearce) life is turned upside down as circumstantial evidence convinces gruff Detective Malloy (Pierce Brosnan) that Birch is a prime suspect. As Malloy begins to peel back the layers of Birch’s past indiscretions with female students, and Birch’s wife (Minnie Driver) begins to question his alibi, Birch’s life starts to unravel, and suddenly the questions that he faces aren’t merely academic—they’re a matter of life and death.

Welcome to Spinning Man. The  riveting thriller, based on the book of the same name by George Harrar and written for the screen by Matthew Aldrich, arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital), DVD, and Digital June 12 from Lionsgate. This film is currently available On Demand.

Allow the noted writer to take you on a tour of his bathroom in “Henry Miller Asleep & Awake”

Think of Henry Miller Asleep & Awake (IndiePix Films) as a cinema verité “dear John”. The quiet ticking of a clock gives way to the stirrings and rumblings of a lump hidden under the blankets. Pajama-clad, the lump throws back the covers, stretches, groans and grumbles. He rises and goes to his mirror in a tiled room he knows well.

The man is literary legend Henry Miller, the author of the infamous, groundbreaking Tropic of Cancer, and the room is his bathroom. It’s a miraculous shrine covered with photos and drawings collected by Miller over the course of his long and fruitful life. Graciously, in his raspy, sonorous voice, he points out the highlights of his improvised gallery speaking on various Buddhas, Blaise Cendrars, Hieronymous Bosch and Gaugin; several Japanese writers; Hermann Hesse; a stone carving by Jung; women he found attractive; his tendency to hear “celestial music” in airplanes; the relationship between Zen and sex; the fact that “most writers don’t look so hot” (because they spend so much time alone); and the question of identity, which “harasses” him.
This portrait from Emmy-winning director Tom Schiller, filmed in 1973 when the author was 81, is a voyage of ideas about life, writing, sex, spirituality, nightmares, and New York that captures the warmth, vigor and high animal spirits of a singular American artist.

Four words George Carlin would have proudly uttered: “George Carlin Commemorative Collection”

Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.

So said George Carlin, one of thousands of memorable one-liners.

OK, we’ll share one more: “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.”

Carlin devotees will relish the George Carlin Commemorative Collection (MPI Home Video and the George Carlin Estate), a 10-disc must-have DVD, CD and Blu-ray boxed set which features more than five hours of previously unreleased bonus material including rare performance footage from Carlin’s personal archive. The uncensored celebration hits shelves June 12.

George Carlin Commemorative Collection

“While digging around in dad’s stuff, we found a few gems that we just couldn’t keep for ourselves,” says George Carlin’s daughter, Kelly, who helped compile material for the set commented. “ It’s amazing to think that ten years after his death, we keep finding stuff I’d never seen before!”

Carlin was not only one of America’s greatest comedians whose albums topped the charts, he was a pioneer of cable TV’s concert format that has become a benchmark of success for all humorists ever since.

And now, all of Carlin’s pointed, often controversial but always hilarious specials originally shown on HBO have been gathered for the first time in the George Carlin Commemorative Collection. Encompassing over five decades of his groundbreaking career, all 14 of the legendary funnyman’s Emmy nominated HBO specials are now available in one package–a remarkable set that also contains a previously unreleased HBO special entitled 40 Years of Comedy hosted by Jon Stewart plus Carlin’s posthumous audio release, I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die.

One of the key bonus pieces of material is Carlin’s first stand-up special from 1973, The Real George Carlin which has not been seen since it first aired. Additional bonus material includes APT 2C (a never-aired HBO pilot from the ’80s) plus two one-hour stand-up comedy club performances that features material performed by Carlin for the first time.  There is also never-before-released material from the 1960s–when Carlin was a clean-cut, suit-wearing guest on the variety shows such as Talent Scouts, The Jackie Gleason Show and Hollywood Palace. 

The box set features also includes both DVD and Blu-ray discs of the HBO specials Life Is Worth Losing and It’s Bad for Ya plus liner notes written by comedian Patton Oswalt.

Carlin, a fearless commentator on society and a champion of free speech, now finally gets the boxed set he and fans of great, enduring comedy deserve and the set represents the most complete collection of Carlin performances to date.

Bravo!

One “Debt Collector” we like meeting up with

We all have debts. now it’s time to meet The Debt Collector. Scott Adkins teams up with Louis Mandylor for this darkly hilarious and action-packed tale of a classically-trained martial artist (Adkins) who goes to work as a debt collector for the mob . . .  a job that seems easy enough until one “client” pulls him into a situation more dangerous and deadly than he ever expected. This  case of small-time enforcers find themselves in big-time trouble hits shelves on DVD and Digital June 5 from Archstone Distribution via Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Paul Giamatti narrates a fluttery “Nature: Sex, Lies & Butterflies”

Fly high this summer with Nature: Sex, Lies & Butterflies, now on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD from PBS Distribution. Butterflies have been flying around our planet for more than 50 million years, and today around 20,000 different species inhabit the globe. This program, narrated by Paul Giamatti, follows their lives from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to the emergence of the full-blown, winged creature.

Explore their astonishing survival techniques, including 360° vision, deceptive camouflage, chemical weaponry and fantastic flight. Through sophisticated macro-filming, look beyond the butterflies’ bright colors and fragile beauty to follow them on one of the greatest migrations on Earth.

Smithsonian Channel celebrates the greatness of American with two new DVDs

Oh say can you see . . .
Wait until June 12 and you will be able to see two great Smithsonian Channel  programs being released on DVD by PBS  Distribution.

A Star-Spangled Story: Battle for America
The Star-Spangled Banner is known by all, treasured for its powerful melody and stirring lyrics. And yet, only about 40% of U.S. citizens know all the words. And even fewer know their meaning. In this program, viewers can travel back to 1814, when Washington D.C. was under British attack during the “Second War of Independence,” and the very bricks and mortar of American democracy were reduced to smoking rubble.

Image result for francis scott key
Stamp out your ignorance of the lyrics!

The program examines the battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to immortalize its final moments, then reveal how his poem transformed into an anthem.

They are studied in school and visited by millions. They are world-renowned symbols of the nation. But they are also shrouded in misinformation, mystery, and mythology. How much does America really know about its greatest monuments?

Finishing touches are made to the huge statue of Abraham Lincoln, which stands just inside the entrance of the Lincoln Memorial, prior to its dedication in Washington, D.C., on May 30, 1922.

From war memorials, to monuments honoring America’s founding fathers, to Arlington’s eternal flame, these soaring tributes in stone, steel, soil, and sky have amazing stories to tell. They are a permanent record of this nation’s history and evolution into the world’s greatest democracy . . .  a country of the people.