Category Archives: DVDs

Cecil B. DeMille’s 102-year-old silent finds a “Captive” audience among cinema fans

Olive Films, truly a company to be revered for its interest in restoring and releasing films thought lost, has come up with yet another real winner.  The Captive, directed by a 34-year-old Cecil B. DeMille, is an amazing time capsule, showing a film maker’s early steps to understanding and exploiting  the new art form.

Image result for the captive demille poster

This is not a sword-and-swashbuckling lust-and-religion epic that modern audiences have come to expect from DeMille, but a small and delicate story about the triumph of love against all odds.

Older brother Marko, younger sister Sonia and cute little brother Milos live in a Balkan country at war with the Turks.  The older brother is killed. However, the conflict goes against the Turks, and prisoners are forced to aid families of the country where the older sister and little tyke live.  A Turkish nobleman, Mahmud Hassan, Bey of Karvan, is charged with serving Sonia and her young brother.  Yet DeMille steers the film into compelling territory: The sister and the nobleman fall in love, the Turks attack their cottage, threaten to kill and eat the tyke’s baby goat, as well as the usual rape and pillage.

How else can this end? The Turkish nobleman saves the day, clobbers a couple of Turks, and proposes to Sonia, who rejects him because he is of noble birth and she a simple peasant. Crushed, the Turk returns home, only to be stripped of all honors because of the aforesaid clobbering, so he hits the dusty road. Our heroine’s home is destroyed by more marauding Turks, and she hits the same dusty road with tyke and adorable goat, and, with the magic of cinema, they meet, embrace and  live happily ever after.

This rather ponderous detailing of what is an amazingly fast film— well under an hour—shows DeMille’s narration pile scene upon scene to construct the narrative.  The realism is amazing, the Turkish hoards are of reasonable  size, and the characters and relationships are developed, like building blocks, with nary a tease or  jump in logic, clearly the touch of genius is there.
Blanche Sweet and Page Peters (no relation to House), who plays her older brother.

The now-forgotten Blanche Sweet is a revelation in realistic film acting. The camera adores her; she is radiant in her every scene . Neither cloying nor plucky, she is completely convincing as the peasant girl who grows up and finds love.  The amorous Turk is played by House Peters, and the little tyke by Gerald Ward, two names perhaps even more obscure than Sweet.  The goat is suitably sympathetic.

For a film made 102 years ago, Olive has done a masterful job recreating the original color tinting on what appears to be a complete print thought lost for years. The Blu-ray is brilliant. If you enjoy silent films, get this, and if you have little experience with these period films you’d go far to find a better film reproduced in better condition.

Luke Hemsworth gives a star turn as “Wild Bill” Hickok, the actor’s first lead in a feature film

You’ve heard of the infamous legend.  Now you can meet him. Sort of.

Welcome to Hickok.

Following its theatrical release, the action-packed saga of the “Wild Bill” Hickok has rolled onto 4K UHD + BD and DVD. In the hopes of escaping his past as a notorious outlaw,  seeks redemption as a small town lawman.  Unfortunately, as the titular gunslinger discovers, the past has a way of catching up with you in Hickok, a frontier thriller starring Luke Hemsworth in his first leading role in a feature film; the period Western from Cinedigm and Status Media also stars Bruce Dern and country cronners Trace Adkins and Kris Kristofferson.

The story of the West’s most notorious gunslinger and his road to redemption, Hickok finds the infamous, hard-drinking outlaw (Hemsworth) in 1870’s Abilene, Kansas, seeking to start a new life.  Captivated by Wild Bill’s unparalleled gun skills, the mayor, George Knox, (Kristofferson) quickly ropes him in as the town marshal.  Recognizing the need to clamp down on the wildest cow-town in the west, Hickok soon finds himself at the center of a controversial ordinance while dispensing his own brand of frontier justice.
His attempts to protect Abilene, however, are quickly challenged by a band of outlaws led by powerful saloon owner Phil Poe (Adkins).  And when Poe places a bounty on Wild Bill’s head, the marshal, with the help of outlaw turned lawman John Wesley Hardin, makes a stand for Abilene and his new life, while putting his reputation as the fastest draw in the west on the line.
Shot on the dusty, turn-of-the-century sets like Melody Ranch (also home to HBO’s Westworld), the action-packed HICKOK, directed by Timothy Woodward Jr. and written by Michael Lanahan, is filled with gritty authenticity.  Variety calls it “a respectfully sincere retelling of a familiar legend,” and of Hemsworth’s star turn, The Hollywood Reporter declares, “following in the footsteps of such actors as Gary Cooper, Jeff Bridges and Sam Elliott, among many others, the burly Hemsworth proves more than credible with his portrayal of the iconic gunslinger.”

First Run Features makes a run to the top spot with a trio of new DVDs

We are speeding so fast to get you new First Run Features news that we may a ticket. It’s worth it. Now on DVD:

Speed Sisters
A film by Amber Fares
English & Arabic with English subtitles, 2016
The Speed Sisters are the first all-woman race car driving team in the Middle East. Grabbing headlines and turning heads at improvised tracks across the West Bank, these five women have sped their way into the heart of the gritty, male-dominated Palestinian street car-racing scene.
Weaving together their lives on and off the track, Speed Sisters takes you on a surprising journey into the drive to go further and faster than anyone thought you could.

Marinoni: The Fire in the Frame
A film by Tony Girardin
English, French & Italian w/ English subtitles, 2016
Giuseppe Marinoni found his calling when he transitioned from champion cyclist to master bike craftsman. But after years hunched over toxic fumes, his passion almost killed him. Today, at age 75, Marinoni is back in top shape, and decided to attempt the world hour record for his age group, all on a bike he built with his own hands almost 40 years ago.

Casablancas
A film by Hubert Woroniecki
When he created the Elite modeling agency in the ’70s, John Casablancas invented the concept of the “supermodel.” If names like Naomi, Cindy, Linda, Iman, Gisèle or Kate are part of popular culture today, it’s mostly his doing.
He lived a life many have dreamed about, surrounded by glamour and beauty. Now, John Casablancas tells his own story.


 

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick take a powerful, riveting look at “The Vietnam War”. It’s possibly their best, ever!

Anytime we hear that Ken Burns and Lynn Novick are creating a new documentary series, we stand. And cheer. Often and loudly.

Let us tell you about The Vietnam War, arriving on Blu-ray and DVD and Blu-ray on September 19, coinciding with its PBS airing. In an immersive narrative, Burns and Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film. The epic program features testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.

Ten years in the making, the series brings the war and the chaotic epoch it encompassed viscerally to life. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward, produced by Sarah Botstein, Novick and Burns, it includes rarely seen, digitally re-mastered archival footage from sources around the globe, photographs taken by some of the most celebrated photojournalists of the 20th century, historic television broadcasts, evocative home movies and revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations.

“The Vietnam War was a decade of agony that took the lives of more than 58,000 Americans,” Burns says. “Not since the Civil War have we as a country been so torn apart. There wasn’t an American alive then who wasn’t affected in some way—from those who fought and sacrificed in the war, to families of service members and POWs, to those who protested the war in open conflict with their government and fellow citizens. More than 40 years after it ended, we can’t forget Vietnam, and we are still arguing about why it went wrong, who was to blame and whether it was all worth it.”

“We are all searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy. Ken and I have tried to shed new light on the war by looking at it from the bottom up, the top down and from all sides,” Novick adds. “In addition to dozens of Americans who shared their stories, we interviewed many Vietnamese on both the winning and losing sides, and were surprised to learn that the war remains as painful and unresolved for them as it is for us. Within this almost incomprehensibly destructive event, we discovered profound, universal human truths, as well as uncanny resonances with recent events.”

Related image
Airborne Brigade Vietnam War Hill 823

The Vietnam War features new, original music written and recorded by Oscar-winning composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The film also features new music arranged and performed by Grammy Award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble. It is the first time Burns and Novick have worked with Reznor and Ross, as well as with Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble.  Additional music in the film was composed by David Cieri and Doug Wamble, both of whom are longtime collaborators with Florentine Films.

The series also features more than 120 popular songs that define the era, including tracks from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, Ben E. King, Phil Ochs, Donovan, Johnny Cash, Barry McGuire, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Otis Redding, Santana, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, The Temptations, Booker T. and the M.G.s and Pete Seeger.

Related image
The cost of war, Horrors!

The film will be accompanied by an outreach and public engagement program, providing opportunities—facilitated by public television stations—for communities to participate in a national conversation about what happened during the Vietnam War, what went wrong and what lessons are to be learned. In addition, there will be a robust interactive website and an educational initiative designed to engage teachers and students through multiple platforms, including PBS LearningMedia.

Viewers are encouraged to join the conversation: #VietnamWarPBS

The Vietnam War rounds out a trilogy of Florentine Films’ exploration of American wars that began with Burns’s landmark series, The Civil War (1990), followed by Burns and Novick’s acclaimed seven-part series about World War II, The War (2007).

Accompanying the series will be a companion book—written by Geoffrey C. Ward, with an introduction by Burns and Novick—that will be published by Knopf, Burns’ longtime publisher, on September 5.

The Blu-ray and DVD sets contain 10 discs; there are more than 100 minutes of extra bonus footage, including a 45-minute preview program, two pieces on contemporary lives of two of the participants and bonus content. The program will also be available for digital download.

Summer is not over, now that “Baywatch” makes 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack & Blu-ray Combo Pack waves

Summer is still sizzling and Paramount Home Media Distribution is making waves with the release of Baywatch. This new extended version features outrageous footage not seen in theaters, on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack and Blu-ray Combo Pack. Take a dip now that the flick has been released.

When a dangerous crime wave hits the beach, legendary Lt. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) leads his elite squad of badass lifeguards on a mission to prove you don’t have to wear a badge to save the bay. Joined by a trio of hot-shot recruits including former Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron), they’ll ditch the surf and go deep undercover to take down a ruthless businesswoman (Priyanka Chopra), whose devious plans threaten the future of the bay.

The Baywatch 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo Packs include both the extended and theatrical versions of the film and are loaded with special features, including interviews with the sensational cast, a look at the “Baywatch” legacy, behind-the-scenes footage of the spectacular stunts, as well as deleted and extended scenes.  The film also boasts a Dolby Atmos soundtrack remixed specifically for the home theater environment to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead.

And underwater?

“Dark Angel”: The gruesome true story of Mary Ann Cotton, Britain’s first serial killer

May we serve you a nice cup of tea? Imbibe, as long as the beverage isn’t being served by Mary Ann Cotton.  Inspired by the book Mary Ann Cotton: Britain’s First Female Serial Killer by noted criminologist David Wilson, the PBS program Dark Angel (PBS Distribution) dramatizes the events that drew a troubled woman ever deeper into a career of casual murder, while her loved ones and friends, who were also her victims, never suspected a thing.

Joanne Froggatt, who stole the hearts of millions of viewers as Anna, the loving and resilient lady’s maid on Downton Abbey, stars in a totally different role in the spine-tingling two-part drama. Dispensing death from the spout of a warm teapot, Froggatt plays the notorious Victorian poisoner.

A Golden Globe-winner and three-time Emmy nominee for her Downton Abbey performance, Froggatt is joined by an exceptional cast, including Alun Armstrong as Mary Ann’s stepfather, Mr. Stott; Thomas Howes as her husband number two, George; Jonas Armstrong as her longtime lover, Joe; Sam Hoare as husband number three, James; Laura Morgan as her best friend, Maggie; plus additional actors playing other husbands, her many children, and the few citizens who suspect that something is not quite right about Mary Ann.

Image result for Mary Ann Cotton

Born in North East England in 1832, a child of the coalfields, Mary Ann Cotton grew up in poverty with the dream of escaping the hard life of a miner’s family, a goal she came tantalizingly close to achieving. Her chosen means were her good looks, sexual allure, and the dirty secret of nineteenth-century suspicious deaths: arsenic, which is tasteless and easily disguised in a cup of tea.

For authorities, the problem was that arsenic poisoning, if done skillfully, mimicked the symptoms of two of the major public health scourges of the day: typhoid fever and cholera. The passing of a child or husband after a week of severe stomach pains, convulsions, and other portents of disease was all too common—and even less surprising when several members of the same household succumbed.

Image result for Mary Ann Cotton

Mary Ann did tempt fate by taking out a modest insurance policy on her intended victims, whenever possible, but she inadvertently hit on the major success strategies of a serial killer: keep moving, be charming, and exude self-confidence. And along with others in this line of criminality, her body count can never be certain; the current best estimate is at least thirteen, ranking her far above her Victorian male counterpart, Jack the Ripper.

Female serial killers are so rare that criminologists continue to debate what makes them tick. Is it a thirst for power, a desire for material gain, or a sadistic delight in undermining gender stereotypes when they ask, “Why don’t I make you a nice cup of tea?”

“My Mother and Other Strangers” offers an absorbing adventure in 1943 Ireland

Shot on the stunningly beautiful Ards Peninsula Ards Peninsula in Northern Ireland, My Mother and Other Strangers (PBS Distribution) portrays the culture clash when a U.S. bomber base is established near the fictional village of Moybeg in 1943, bringing hundreds of gum-chewing, swing-band-listening American airmen to a remote Ulster farming community, with its winsome women and stolid workingmen.

The action is framed from the point of view of a young boy, Francis Coyne, whose childhood is populated by strangers. On the one hand, there are the friendly Americans in their Jeeps and airplanes, who treat him like a little brother.

Then there is his mother, Rose, an upright Englishwoman who married Michael Coyne and moved to his hometown, Moybeg, where she is raising their three children, teaching in the village school, and tending a grocery shop next to Michael’s pub. Despite being a pillar of the community, Rose has never fit in. She speaks more properly than the locals, loves English literature, and has a lively interest in the wider world.

Into this isolated domain comes Captain Ronald Dreyfus, U.S. Army Air Forces, who encounters Rose during a walk on the heath. When they meet again, he quotes her a line from Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott”—one of her favorite poems.

Captain Dreyfus is as reserved as Rose is. But in his capacity as base liaison officer, he has occasion to see her frequently: dealing with a fracas between airmen and regulars at the pub, arranging for an army nurse to care for a sick child, and planning a Christmas party for the school.

Both would-be lovers fight against the stronger feelings that are overwhelming them—emotions that are increasingly evident to those around them.

Wary of betraying her husband, Rose feels seized by some otherworldly force, a sentiment she can only recognize from a piece of literature—Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights—which she quotes from memory: “Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!”

During its recent UK broadcast, viewers and critics were deeply moved by this bittersweet tale. “No other recent drama has captured quite so keenly a sense of the complex, hidden, unspoken desires that can roil away beneath even the quietest surface,” wrote the reviewer for The Telegraph.

Just how does nature (think wolves, owls, bison and beavers) survive a great freeze?

Filmed over the course of several intense months, from deep winter to early summer, Great Yellowstone Thaw: How Nature Survives (PBS Distribution) intercuts the stories of several different animal families—including wolves, bison, grizzlies, beavers and great gray owls. The program follows the animals in the Yellowstone ecosystem as they emerge from winter’s cold and adapt to an early spring thaw, before encountering the soaring summer temperatures. From winter to summer, Yellowstone’s temperature typically swings 140 degrees.

Dr. Kirk Johnson, Sant Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and a renowned paleontologist and author, hosts the program. Johnson and a team of Yellowstone experts explore how these animals fend off floods, starvation, and fires, as well as the area’s extreme evolution from cold to heat during the spring season. The program showcases the extraordinary survival instincts Yellowstone’s natural species possess. Viewers will learn how the early thaw brings the bears of the Rocky Mountain region out of hibernation prematurely, creating concern over food supply. The wolves, which have recovered from their extinct status in the 1990s, are now beginning to thrive, but the fluctuating temperatures pose a threat to the species once again. While the beavers have to make their homes in freezing rivers, the great gray owls must migrate to find food in thawed areas in order to survive.

“Fortitude Season 2” returns to the Arctic. For more chills. And thrills.

Remember the parasite threat from season one of Fortitude? It is gone, but the residents are still fleeing the Arctic town in droves. Cut off from the mainland, those who remain in Fortitude battle on. However, in the wilderness, nature is growing restless and unpredictable. When the sky turns red, locals fear it is a bad omen for the town.

Welcome to Public Media Distribution’s Fortitude Season 2 on Blu-ray and DVD. The new series sees Dennis Quaid, Ken Stott Parminder Nagra, Robert Sheehan and Michelle Fairley join its stellar international cast.

Having disappeared after shooting Elena, Sheriff Dan Anderssen (Richard Dormer) is presumed dead. Vincent (Luke Treadaway) remains traumatized by his attack and Hildur (Sofie Grabol) struggles to hold on to her marriage, and her office. Eric (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson) fails to step into Dan’s shoes, leaving Ingrid and Petra to police a fragile community. New faces are pulled into Fortitude’s vortex, including Ingrid’s stepfather Michael (Quaid). A fisherman, he is desperate to raise funds to buy treatment for his dying wife, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

At the research center, ambitious newcomer Dr. Surinder Khatri (Nagra) spots an opportunity that encourages her to push both medical and ethical boundaries. Then, a horrendous death rocks Fortitude. What looks like a careless accident involving a snowplow turns out to be a barbaric murder. As the police team investigate, a strange new figure appears hell-bent on destroying an evil spirit he believes has descended upon Fortitude and its inhabitants. There’s a demon amongst the herd and it has to be stopped, no matter what the consequences . . .

Corneliu Porumboiu’s “The Treasure” is a madcap treasure

In the mood for a madcap comedy, “an ingeniously intricate goofball comedy that evokes heroes of legend while bringing sociological abstractions to mucky life”, as New Yorker scribe Richard Brody calls it? Look no further than The Treasure (IFC), coming to DVD on September 19.
The Cannes prize-winning charmer from acclaimed director Corneliu Porumboiu spotlights a hunt for buried treasure that sends two men on a surprising comic caper. Costi (portrayed by Cuzin Toma) is a workaday family man whose cash-strapped next-door neighbor (Adrian Purcarescu) makes him an intriguing proposition: Help him find the fortune reportedly buried somewhere on the grounds of his family’s country home and split the profits. But as the two men dig, they unearth more than they bargained for, excavating not only dirt, but traces of Romania’s often tumultuous history. Part modern-day fable, part profound social commentary, The Treasure confirms Porumboiu’s status as second scribe (Scott Foundas of Variety) gushes that the director is “one of our great contemporary observers of the human comedy”