Category Archives: DVDs

PBS offers the fascinating “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,” on TV and on DVD

She has been distinctly referred to as “a redwood tree, with deep roots in American culture.” She is a woman who has gone out on many limbs to make the world a better, safer and more living place.

Dr. Maya Angelou led a prolific life. As a singer, dancer, activist, poet and writer, she inspired generations with lyrical modern African-American thought that pushed boundaries. Best known for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she gave people the freedom to think about their history in a way they never had before.

Her story is told in the marvelous American Masters: Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, making its national broadcast premiere on Tuesday, February 21 at 8 p.m. on PBS as a continuing celebration of part of Black History. The DVD of the documentary will also be available (from PBS Distribution) that same done, and will include bonus features. The program will also be available for digital download.

With unprecedented access, filmmakers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack trace Dr. Angelou’s incredible journey, shedding light on the untold aspects of her life through never-before-seen footage, rare archival photographs and videos and her own words. From her upbringing in the Depression-era South and her early performing career (1957’s Miss Calypso album and Calypso Heat Wave film, Jean Genet’s 1961 play The Blacks) to her work with Malcolm X in Ghana and her many writing successes, including her inaugural poem for President Bill Clinton, American Masters: Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise reveals hidden facets of her life during some of America’s most defining moments.

The film also features exclusive interviews with Dr. Angelou, her friends and family, including Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, Hillary Clinton, Louis Gossett, Jr., John Singleton, Diahann Carroll, Valerie Simpson, Random House editor Bob Loomis and Dr. Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson.

American Masters: Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise premiered to critical acclaim at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. It won the Audience Award at AFI Docs and was featured at notable film festivals worldwide, including Full Frame, Sheffield, IDFA and Seattle, winning 17 awards on three continents, and has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

The show’s title comes from an Angelou poem:

“Out of the huts of history’s shame / I rise / Up from a past that’s rooted in pain / I rise / I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, / Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. / Leaving behind nights of terror and fear / I rise / Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear / I rise.”

“American Experience: Battle of Chosin” recounts the epic, historical conflict

On Thanksgiving Day 1950, American-led United Nations troops were on the march in North Korea. U.S. Marine and Air Force pilots distributed holiday meals, even to those on the front lines. Hopes were high that everyone would be home by Christmas. But soon after that peaceful celebration, American military leaders, including General Douglas MacArthur, were caught off guard by the entrance of the People’s Republic of China, led by Mao Zedong, into the five-month-old Korean War.

Twelve thousand men of the First Marine Division, along with a few thousand Army soldiers, suddenly found themselves surrounded, outnumbered and at risk of annihilation at the Chosin Reservoir, high in the mountains of North Korea. The two-week battle that followed, fought in brutally cold temperatures, is one of the most celebrated in Marine Corps annals and helped set the course of American foreign policy in the Cold War and beyond. Incorporating interviews with more than 20 veterans of the campaign, American Experience: Battle of Chosin recounts this epic conflict through the heroic stories of the men who fought it.

The PBS Distribution documentary will be available on DVD on January 24; the program will also be available for digital download.

The events that led to the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir started five months earlier when Korea unexpectedly became the battleground for the first hot conflict of the Cold War. Split across the middle at the 38th parallel in the political settlement that followed World War II, the Korean peninsula had solidified into separate states by 1950.

The two new governments symbolized the rising struggle between the world’s dominant political ideologies: democracy and communism. The Soviet Union and Mao Zedong’s new Communist China supported North Korea while South Korea had the backing of the United States and other Western democracies. This balance of power held until June 25, 1950, when North Korea led a surprise attack against South Korea and quickly overran most of the Korean peninsula.

The United Nations Security Council approved a resolution to end the hostilities in Korea and authorized the United States military to lead a multi-national force against North Korea. President Harry Truman told the world that the United States would take “whatever steps were necessary” to contain Communist expansion in Korea. This included the possibility of unleashing nuclear weapons on China. Fears of World War III filled the news.

Under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, American-led forces had turned back North Korea’s aggression. MacArthur then set his sights on quickly pushing north to the Chinese border and reuniting the country under democratic rule. On the eve of MacArthur’s final offensive, the First Marine Division was strung out on a single 78-mile-long supply route leading to the Chosin Reservoir.

Mao Zedong had won a long and deadly civil war a year earlier and united China under the communist flag. When MacArthur’s UN forces threatened his border in the fall of 1950, Mao decided to act. By late November 1950, tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers had quietly infiltrated North Korea and surrounded MacArthur’s forces. On the night of November 27, Mao sprung his trap at the Chosin Reservoir.

The worst of the Chinese onslaught landed on the forces encamped in the hills around the Chosin Reservoir—the First Marine Division, under the command of General Oliver P. Smith, and a small, attached Army unit. Night after night, Mao’s army swept down from the hills and attacked the vastly outnumbered American troops.

The only hope for the surrounded men was to fight their way back to the coast, a perilous journey into the teeth of a subarctic winter, through tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers waiting in the high ground above the single road out. For the next two weeks, General Smith’s men fought brutal battles against the Chinese in some of the harshest conditions American forces had ever experienced. Dead bodies, frozen in grotesque and contorted shapes, littered the battlefield. Finally, 14,000 surviving troops made their way back to safety.

The carefully staged withdrawal succeeded and also inflicted devastating losses on the enemy. Two Chinese divisions were entirely destroyed, and an estimated 40,000 Chinese soldiers were killed.

Thousands of North Korean refugees were also fleeing south, many trailing the column of Marines. Nearly 100,000 refugees were part of the massive evacuation of American and UN troops out of North Korea.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ star turn as Clash lead singer in “London Town”

Petula Clark sang about the reasons going downtown. After all, a visit “can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares.” That was then. Fast forward a decade or so, and the music and energy about to explode in the ’70s punk underground electrifies the coming-of-age drama London Town (IFC Films). Featuring a stunning performance by Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Joe Strummer of the legendary band the Clash, the film comes to DVD from IFC Films on February 14.

Think of this as a musical valentine.

When 15-year-old Shay (portrayed by Daniel Huttlestone) hears the music of the Clash for the first time, it’s a revelation, opening up a new world of social consciousness and anti-establishment defiance beyond anything he’s known in his dead-end London suburb. After his father is injured in a work accident, Shay takes over driving his cab and one fateful night, picks up none other than Joe Strummer (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), the lead singer of the Clash. Drawn into the heart of the city’s burgeoning punk scene, Shay forges two relationships that will change his life, falling in love with rebellious cool girl Vivian (Nell Williams) and finding and unexpected connection with the Clash’s electrifying frontman.

Through being forced to take care of his family, his friendship with Strummer and his relationship with Vivian, Shay passes some important milestones on his way to adulthood.Propelled by a blistering soundtrack that bounces from the Clash to the Ramones to Buzzcocks, London Town captures the sound and spirit of a scene that shook the world. And lives on still.
The IFC Films theatrical release co-stars Natascha McElhone and Dougray Scott. It features the classic music not just of the Clash but of such other major artists as the Ramones, Buzzcocks, the Stranglers, Toots and the Maytals, Willi Williams and Stiff Little Fingers. It was an official selection of the BFI London Film Festival and the Los Angeles Film Festival.

 

Ever wonder how certain animals survive when it’s 50 below zero? Turn to “Snowbound: Animals of Winter”

It’s certainly a hot topic: The coldest and snowiest places on earth pose a challenge to anyone visiting such locations as the Arctic Circle or Antarctica, but what about the year-round animal population? How do they cope for many months with life in these frozen wonderlands where temperatures can plummet to as low as minus 50 degrees?

In Nature: Snowbound: Animals of Winter (PBS Distribution), Gordon Buchanan, a wildlife cameraman used to filming in frigid lands around the globe, explains how creatures like the wolf, Arctic fox, bison, reindeer, lynx, weasel, polar bear, penguin, Weddell seal and woolly bear caterpillar adapt to their surroundings or employ clever tactics to survive in these extreme climates. The documentary will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on February 7; the program will also be available for digital download.

In the opening segment, Buchanan is seen calmly stroking the thick coat of a wolf in Norway’s Polar Park where wolves have grown up with humans. He shows how the wolf’s fine hairs provide much needed insulation, while its longer, outer hairs repel snow and water. Also helping to reduce a wolf’s heat loss, despite its paws being in constant contact with ice and snow, is an ingenious adaptation: An image displayed on a thermal camera illustrates that as a wolf’s warm blood flows down its leg, it cools down. This means only cold blood stays within the paws and all the warm blood can remain within the body.

The Arctic fox however has a different solution to keeping warm during the winter months: its thin brown summer coat undergoes an amazing transformation to one that is white, very fluffy and 200 percent thicker, the warmest coat of all arctic mammals.

The film also cites hibernation as another cold weather strategy practiced by several animals including the brown bear, ground squirrel, and polar bear. Buchanan explains that even though a female polar bear’s heart rate drops dramatically in hibernation and she doesn’t eat or drink and relies solely on fat reserves, she can still give birth during this time. The cubs are kept warm by her body heat and grow quickly due to their mother’s extremely fatty milk. The wildlife cameraman is on hand as tiny twin cubs crawl out of their winter den to explore the outside world.

Possessing super senses gives other animals an edge when it comes to successfully hunting prey during the big freeze. Buchanan describes how a lynx can use its keen vision to spot a mouse 80 yards away or the benefits a reindeer has with ultra violet vision. He also remarks on how the great grey owl employs its super sensitive hearing to detect the movement of mice or voles beneath two feet of snow. Similarly, a young Arctic fox can pick up the faint sound of lemmings under the snow. To nab its unseen victim, the fox performs a special pouncing technique known as mousing. Buchanan says foxes align their pounce to the earth’s magnetic field in order to pinpoint the right spot for the kill. The film concludes with the remarkable metamorphosis of the Arctic woolly bear caterpillar that spends most of its life frozen stiff during the winter months and miraculously thaws itself in the spring, as if rising from the dead.

Whether it’s undergoing a physical adaptation, using super senses, employing clever tactics to gain the advantage, or just being built for frigid conditions, these animals of winter not only subsist, but thrive in some of the coldest places on earth.

 

“Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts” lives to being called “an urgent wake-up call”

PBS Distribution will be releasing a DVD that has been dubbed being called “an urgent wake-up call” about the national threat posed by Alzheimer’s disease. Many know the unique tragedy of this disease, but few know that Alzheimer’s is one of the most critical public health crises facing America. The powerful documentary Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts illuminates the social and economic consequences for the country unless a medical breakthrough is discovered for this currently incurable disease.

Save the date: The documentary will be available on DVD February 21; the program will also be available for digital download.

There are more than five million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease. Because of the growing number of aging baby boomers, and the fact that the onset of Alzheimer’s is primarily age-related, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s is projected to rise by 55% by 2030; by 2050 the Alzheimer’s Association estimates the total number could explode to nearly 14 million.

This “tsunami” of Alzheimer’s will not only be a profound human tragedy, but an overwhelming economic one as well. Because of the length of time people live with the illness and need care, it’s the most expensive medical condition in the U.S.  Future costs for Alzheimer’s threaten to bankrupt Medicare, Medicaid and the life savings of millions of Americans. It is estimated that if the number of patients increases as projected in the years ahead, the costs to care for them will exceed $1.1 trillion.

With power and passion, the program weaves together the sobering statistics about Alzheimer’s, expert commentary and compelling personal stories filmed around the country that represent previews of the future happening today.

“16 for ’16” features candidates in the most contentious political campaigns of the last 50 years

The dreaded day comes Friday, but we found a great new PBS Distribution two-disc DVD that trumps it all: 16 for ’16: The Contenders. The multi-part documentary features candidates in the most contentious and compelling political campaigns of the last 50 years and includes interviews with candidates and their inner circles that offer unexpected human moments and new insights into political battles for the U.S. presidency.

Each part in the program features two candidates whose stories appear vastly different on the surface but share common elements that changed the outcomes of campaigns and the course of history.

16 for ’16: The Contenders will be available on DVD January 24; the program will also be available for digital download.

The program kicks off with one such unlikely pair: 1972 presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm, the first black American and first female to run for the country’s top post, and Senator John McCain, who ran against George W. Bush in the 2000 primaries and against  Barack Obama for the presidency in 2008. Despite extraordinarily different backgrounds, Chisholm and McCain both ran as plain-spoken outsiders. Chisholm’s slogan, “Unbossed and Unbought,” was underscored by a grassroots approach that saw her teams collecting cash in the streets, while McCain’s image as an outspoken maverick often led him to speak off-the-cuff.

The show depicts game-changing moments in both campaigns: Chisholm’s betrayal by a friend in the House of Representatives who, at the last moment, decided he would not officially nominate her; and a revealing off-camera show-down between McCain and George W. Bush just prior to a live debate.

The second part revisits the campaigns of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and conservative insider Pat Buchanan—men of two divergent perspectives who were seen as insurrectionists within their own parties. Dean provided a voice for furious Democrats who opposed the war in Iraq and brought “participatory democracy” innovations to his campaign, such as the introduction of Internet fundraising that is now a standard part of campaigns.

Buchanan—a so-called “paleo-conservative” insider who served several American presidents and advocated a strong move rightward for the Republican Party—ran twice for the Republican presidential nomination (1992 and 1996) and on the Reform Party ticket in 2000. Despite the strategies, scripts, data analysis and marketing that went into these campaigns, it was, again, the human moments that led to their unpredicted outcomes. For Dean, it was the excitement (and problematic acoustics) that gave rise to his infamous, campaign-imploding “scream.” For Buchanan, who had barely recovered from heart surgery at his first convention in 1992, a decision to go off the party script and detail his concept of a “cultural war” for the soul of America resulted in a speech that many believe divided Republicans and propelled Bill Clinton to the White House.

Pairings for the balance of the series include: Mitt Romney and Michael Dukakis; Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson; Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan; Ross Perot and Ralph Nader; Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin; and George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Featured alongside the candidates, their families and their friends are a who’s who of campaign managers, observers and Washington, D.C., insiders such as Susan Estrich, Karl Rove, Donna Brazile, Karen Hughes and dozens more. Through background stories of groundbreaking campaign moments, fatal missteps, behind-the-scenes insights and lessons learned by each candidate, the series explores deeper questions such as “Can a positive campaign be a winning campaign?” and “Should a single misstep define a campaign and a candidate?”

 

 

Movie mavens, committed cineophiles: Welcome to Arrow Academy, whose first five releases are five star

We’ll march right the exciting news delivered by MVD Entertainment Group: MVD will be disturbing works in the U.S. by Arrow Academy, one of the world’s leading distributors of independent, arthouse and world cinema, beginning in March.
The label releases definitive and prestige edition films by revered maestros of cinema from across the globe, including filmmakers such as Federico Fellini, Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick, Fritz Lang, R.W. Fassbinder, Roberto Rossellini and Jean-Luc Godard.


Each of Arrow Academy’s five new titles feature :
– Definitive editions of classic arthouse films from across the world
– World class restoration and an award-winning label
– A label which goes above and beyond to release films in their original release format
– High-end and well-produced boxsets aimed at the cinephile audience
– New and insightful extras on each release

Film fanatics, movie mavens and committed cinephiles take note and save these dates!

March 7
Ludwig
He loved women. He loved men. He lived as controversially as he ruled. But he did not care what the world thought. He was the world.
A string of masterpieces behind him, the great Italian director Luchino Visconti turned his attentions to the life and death of King Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1972, resulting in an epic of 19th century decadence. 
Dominated by Helmut Berger in the title role, Ludwig nevertheless manages to find room for an impressive cast list: Romy Schneider (reprising her Elisabeth of Austria characterization from the Sissi trilogy), Silvana Mangano, Gert Fröbe, John Moulder-Brown and Trevor Howard as Richard Wagner.
As opulent as any of Visconti’s epic (Piero Tosi’s costume design was nominated for an Academy Award) Ludwig is presented here in its complete form in accordance with the director’s wishes and features the English-language soundtrack for the first ever on home video.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
4K restoration from the original film negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Two viewing options: The full-length theatrical cut or as five individual parts
  • Original Italian soundtrack with optional English subtitles
  • Original English soundtrack available on home video for the first time ever with optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Brand-new interview with Helmut Berger
  • Luchino Visconti, an hour-long documentary portrait of the director by Carlo Lizzani containing interviews with Burt Lancaster, Vittorio Gassman, Francesco Rosi, Claudia Cardinale and others
  • Speaking with Suso Cecchi d’Amico, an interview with the screenwriter
  • Silvana Mangano: The Scent Of A Primrose, a half-hour portrait of the actress
  • Theatrical trailer

Property Is No Longer A Theft
Having tackled the corrupting nature of power with Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and taken an angry, impassioned look at labour relations with The Working Class Goes to Heaven, Italian master Elio Petri next turned his attentions to capitalism for the darkly comic Property is No Longer a Theft.

A young bank clerk (Flavio Bucci, the blind pianist in Dario Argento’s Suspiria), denied a loan by his employer, decides to exact his revenge the local butcher (Ugo Tognazzi) who is not only a nasty, violent, greedy piece of work but also one of the bank’s star customers. Quitting his job, the clerk devotes all of his time tormenting the butcher, stealing his possessions one-by-one, including his mistress (Daria Nicolodi).

 Told in an off-kilter fashion by Petri, abetted by the woozy sound design and another outstanding score by Ennio Morricone, Property is No Longer a Theft presents a caustic, blackly comic look at a corrupt society.
 
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS 
  • 4K restoration from the original film negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • New subtitle translation
  • Brand-new interview with actor Flavio Bucci
  • Brand-new interview with producer Claudio Mancini
  • Brand-new interview with make-up artist Pierantonio Mecacci
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh

Cinema Paradiso (Barnes & Noble exclusive)
Giuseppe Tornatore’s loving homage to the cinema tells the story of Salvatore, a successful film director, returning home for the funeral of Alfredo, his old friend who was the projectionist at the local cinema throughout his childhood. Soon memories of his first love affair with the beautiful Elena and all the high and lows that shaped his life come flooding back, as Salvatore reconnects with the community he left 30 years earlier. Presented in both the original award-winning cut and the expanded Director’s Cut incorporating more of Salvatore’s backstory, newly restored from original negative materials.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS 
  • Restored from the original camera negative and presented in two versions: The 124 minute Cannes Festival theatrical version and the 174 minute director’s cut
  • Uncompressed original stereo 2.0 Audio and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Audio commentary with director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus
  • A Dream of Sicily A 52-minute documentary profile of Giuseppe Tornatore featuring interviews with director and extracts from his early home movies as well as interviews with director Francesco Rosi and painter Peppino Ducato, set to music by the legendary Ennio Morricone
  • A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise – A 27-minute documentary on the genesis of Cinema Paradiso, the characters of Toto and Alfredo, featuring interviews with the actors who play them, Philippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio as well as Tornatore
  • The Kissing Sequence Giuseppe Tornatore discusses the origins of the kissing scenes with full clips identifying each scene
  • Original director’s cut theatrical trailer and 25th anniversary re-release trailer
March 14
The Creeping Garden
The Creeping Garden is an award-winning feature-length creative documentary exploring the extraordinary world of the plasmodial slime mold as revealed through the eyes of the fringe scientists, mycologists and artists who work with them. Long overlooked by biologists, in recent years this curious organism has become the focus of much research in such areas as biological-inspired design, emergence theory, unconventional computing and robot engineering, much of which borders on the world of science fiction.

The film transports us from the laboratory into its natural habitat, depicting these otherworldly lifeforms using startling time-lapse macro-cinematography to reveal hidden facets of the world around us. 
The Creeping Garden is a unique exploration into a hitherto untapped subject matter, immersing the viewer within the worlds of the observers and the observed.
 
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original 2.0 audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Audio commentary by directors Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp
  • Biocomputer Music, a short film by Grabham on the first biocomputer music system, allowing a two-way musical dialogue between man and slime mold
  • Return to the Fungarium, a featurette revealing further treasures of the fungarium at Kew Gardens
  • Feeding Habits of Physarum, a featurette on the feeding preferences and dislikes of slime molds
  • Three cinema iloobia short films: Milk (2009), Rotten (2012) and Paramusical Ensemble (2015)
  • Angela Mele’s animated slime moulds
  • Gallery
  • US theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two pieces of original artwork
The Creeping Garden soundtrack [Limited Edition Exclusive]
Bonus CD containing the rearranged soundtrack to The Creeping Garden by legendary producer and musician Jim O’Rourke

Story of Sin

The life of a beautiful, young and pious woman is thrown into chaos when her parents takes in a dashingly handsome lodger. Having embarked on a torrid affair, the lodger goes off to Rome to seek a divorce from his estranged wife.

Unable to live apart from her beloved, our hero leaves home only to fall prey to the infatuations and lusts of a band of noble admirers, unsavory criminals and utopian do-gooders . . .

The only feature Walerian Borowczyk made in his native Poland, Story of Sin transforms Stefan Zeromski’s classic melodrama into a deliriously surrealistic meditation on l’amour fou.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
  • 2K restoration from the original film negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • New subtitle translation
  • New 2K restorations from the original negatives of Borowczyk’s ground-breaking Polish shorts: Once Upon a Time (co-directed by Jan Lenica), Dom (co-directed by Lenica) and The School
  • New introduction by poster designer Andrzej Klimowski
  • New interview with Story of Sin lead actor Grazyna Dlugolecka
  • New interview featurette on Borowczyk’s career in Poland by Daniel Bird (co-founder Friends of Walerian Borowczyk)
  • New interview featurette on Borowczyk’s innovate use of classical music in his films by writer and filmmaker David Thompson
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Andrzej Klimowski

The New Year puts the country in a state of horror. And not only from Washington, D.C.

We can name the one major reason the country goes into terror this month. But we’d rather name three reason, good ones, that will frightened film fans looking for movies that trump releases from those “big” Studios.

MVD Entertainment Group keeps furthering the distribution of Arrow Video in the U.S. with a triumvirate of titles to kick off 2017.  Each release is crammed with incredible extras and bonus tracks.

Fans of Japanese crime cinema will revel Takashi Miike’s Black Society Trilogy, arriving on Blu-ray and DVD. After several years spent working almost exclusively in the direct-to-video world of “V-cinema” in Japan, Miike announced himself as a world-class filmmaking talent with this trio of thematically-connected, character-centric crime stories about violence, the underworld of Japanese society, families both real and surrogate, and the possibly hopeless task of finding one’s place in the world.

His first films made specifically for theatrical release, and his first for a major studio, the “Black Society Trilogy” was the beginning of Miike’s mature career as a filmmaker and they remain among the prolific director’s finest works.These stylish and gripping crime films put Miike on the cinematic map and proved he was more than just a specialist in blood and guts. See the films that made Miike’s name as a master of Japanese crime cinema with this exciting set; including Shinjuku Triad Society, Rainy Dog and Ley Lines, in beautiful high definition transfers, the set also contains a host of special features including a brand new interview with the director himself.
Fresh from recent festival and filmmaker acclaim, We Are the Flesh debuts on DVD and Blu-ray. We Are the Flesh is a Mexican arthouse head-trip which takes you on a nightmarish journey into a post-apocalyptic hell. Outrageous and explicit, it sees a brother and sister taken in by a strange hermit who uses them as he acts out his own depraved fantasies. The longer they stay, the more they find themselves slipping into the darkness, despite their better judgement.
This bizarre slice of Mexican arthouse is one of the most unsettling film experiences you will ever have and an all-out psychedelic head-trip. It details the adventures of a brother and sister who take refuge with a strange hermit in a post-apocalyptic city. As he acts out his dark, depraved fantasies, they find themselves drifting further into the realms of the forbidden.
Last but not least, the United States gave motorcycle-mad cinemagoers Easy Rider, The Wild One and The Wild Angels. The United Kingdom gave them Psychomania, the tale of zombie bikers run amok is southern England, coming to dual format DVD + Blu-ray on February  21. The Living Dead are a delinquent biker gang, fond of causing havoc on British roadways and making out in graveyards. Gang leader Tom (played by Nicky Henson) also has a Satanist for a mother, and when he discovers the secret of immortality, the name of his motley crew takes on a more literal meaning. Psychomania is a wonderfully offbeat gem, outlandish and eccentric in equal measure.

Listen closely: Did Vincent Van Gogh really cut off his ear? “Secrets of the Dead: Van Gogh’s Ear” offer new evidence

Listen up, dear readers. This is important news. Even those with a scant knowledge of art know about the moment when artist Vincent van Gogh looked into a mirror, held up a blade and cut into his ear. Ouch! The deed was dramatized by Irving Stone in his best-selling novel Lust for Life, and portrayed vividly by Kirk Douglas in the 1956 film.

But did Stone get it right?  What did van Gogh really do on the fateful night of December 23, 1888 in the town of Arles in southern France?  Afterwards, there was a successful effort by his family to play down the event.  His friend, artist Paul Gauguin, who was present, gave conflicting accounts.  Still others tried to profit from his local infamy. Generations have theorized about what really happened, but no one has unearthed the true details. Until now.

Answers lie in Secrets of the Dead: Van Gogh’s Ear (PBS Distribution), available on DVD January 17. The program will also be available for digital download.

The program offers fascinating evidence discovered by Bernadette Murphy, an independent researcher living in Provence, France. Murphy had long been intrigued by van Gogh’s story and spent seven years piecing together a meticulous picture of his life in Arles; person by person, house by house, exploring closely his friends and his enemies.

Her detective work uncovered definitive long-lost evidence, which graphically reveals exactly what happened that night, who was involved and how it ultimately shaped van Gogh’s remarkable art. Murphy finally provides answers to the mystery that has divided art historians for decades.

The program focuses on van Gogh’s time in Arles including the visit from Gauguin which proved to be life-changing, weaving together a detailed timeline of the momentous events. Following Murphy’s meticulous research and a reexamination of van Gogh’s work, the film reveals the artist’s roller coaster of emotions and his mental health, placing his actions in proper context for the first time.

Judy Collins offers the perfect Valentine’s treat: “A Love Letter to Stephen Sondheim”

We cannot think of a better Valentine’s Day gift, even if it won’t be released until February 24. Judy Collins takes the audience through Stephen Sondheim’s remarkable treasure trove of music, interweaving stories of Broadway with her personal anecdotes in A Love Letter to Stephen Sondheim (MVD Entertainment Group). The musical treat was filmed in May 2016 at the Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver, Colorado.

“I have loved the songs and the shows of Stephen since recording ‘Send in the Clowns’ on my album Judith in 1974,” says Collins. (Her take on the tune earned Sondheim his only chart-topping song.)

“My version of the great Sondheim ballad garnered a Grammy, the top ten slot in Billboard twice in a decade, and is still played on the radio all over the world. Ever since the success, I have longed to sing the rest of Sondheim’s greatest songs. Now, I have the opportunity do to that. These songs glow with familiarity and inhabit the rooms and vistas of all our lives, scenes and melodies from A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, Company, Merrily We Roll Along and Into the Woods. I pray to do justice to these great songs, and to their composer, one of our national treasures: Stephen Sondheim.”

All orchestrations are by Jonathan Tunick, who has been orchestrating Stephen Sondheim’s musicals for decades. Tunick’s genius orchestration were used by Collins for her “Send in the Clowns.”