Category Archives: Movies

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.

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.

Ashley Judd, Dennis Haysbert and Trace Adkins head the superb “Civil War 360”

A power film. An unforgettable war. The acclaimed Smithsonian Channel three-part miniseries Civil War 360 (Public Media Distribution) explores one of the most divisive eras in American history from multiple perspectives. Celebrity hosts Ashley Judd, Trace Adkins and Dennis Haysbert each helm an hour-long program that takes viewers back to a time when their ancestors and those of many viewers were involved in the conflict. Through exploration of iconic and often poignant Smithsonian artifacts, the hosts gain insight into their own family’s experiences and uncover new dimensions of our nation’s history.

Here’s some insights into each episode: 

Fight for Freedom
In some ways, the story that Haysbert tells is perhaps the least known of all, but it is an agonizing and heroic account of a great struggle for freedom. Haysbert experiences painful reminders of this struggle firsthand as he encounters Smithsonian treasures: a ship’s manifest listing a cargo of slaves, the inkwell Lincoln used to write the Emancipation Proclamation, and a hymnal owned by Harriet Tubman.  As Haysbert traces his ancestry back to enslaved people in America’s deep South, we are transported back to the brutal and complicated time when those with the most to gain also had the most to lose.  For Haysbert the lesser known stories, especially of individual courage, are the most inspiring, “So many people stood up and fought together to make this country a free country. It just gave me a different perspective on what our country is about and what we can be.”

The Confederacy
Hosted by dkins, this program begins back in 1861, when the South made the radical decision to leave the Union and form a new nation.  While honoring the experiences of everyday soldiers like his great-great grandfather, a Confederate infantryman from Louisiana, Adkins explores music, art, and firearm collections at the Smithsonian Institution. Says Adkins: “I’ve had a real personal connection with the Civil War ever since I was a kid. This is our last best chance to raise awareness. The battlefields, the guns, the pikes, the uniforms and flags–all these things are all that we have left from that pivotal period in this nation’s history.  They should be treated as treasures, and we should try to preserve them and save them for future generations. Because it’s impossible to know who you are if you don’t know your history, or where you’ve come from, or what you’ve done.”

The Union
It’s common knowledge who won the Civil War. But 150 years ago, a Union victory was anything but guaranteed. Judd seeks to understand the experiences of two of her great-great-great grandfathers, both Union soldiers from Kentucky. In the program Judd remarks: “I hope it inspires people to take a look at their own family history, and learn the interesting stories that can help enlighten them as well as move their hearts.”  Judd is visibly moved when she examines field surgical instruments, a Union private’s letter home about life in Kentucky, and battered dishes from Libby Prison- all providing glimpses of daily life during the grinding war.

A celebration of three real stories: “”True Grit,” “Braveheart,” “Live Free or Die Hard”

They’ve thrilled us, horrified us, and devastated us. They’ve raised questions about our past and given us hope for a brighter future. They are some of Hollywood’s biggest hits, all works of fiction, but all inspired by real events more dramatic than anything a screenwriter could dream up. Smithsonian Channel goes behind the scenes of Hollywood blockbusters to uncover the actual characters and true stories that inspired some of the world’s most famous films. On June 5, Public Media Distribution released a trio of three DVDs that tell the real stories.

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John Wayne in “True Grit”

The Real Story: True Grit
True Grit has the foundation of a typical Western–revenge, retribution and redemption. The story centers on the unlikely partnership between a 14 year-old girl and a one-eyed Deputy Marshal, who join forces to avenge her father’s death. The story may be fiction, but it’s closer to truth than many imagine. This program shows how the character of Rooster was inspired by a gun-toting Deputy Marshal; introduces “Hanging Judge” Parker, who delighted in sending legions of men to the gallows; and leaves the viewer with no illusions about what really happened in the Wild West.

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Mel Gibson in “Braveheart”

The Real Story: Braveheart
Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning box office smash tells the story of real-life Scottish rebel and freedom fighter William Wallace. The savage battle scenes and cast of thousands created a film of epic proportion, but ever since it was first shown historians have challenged the accuracy of the movie. Did William Wallace really live the life that “Braveheart” depicts? This program draws on medieval accounts and uses forensic evidence and weapons testing to build a picture of the real man and his times.

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Bruce Willis is “Live Free or Die Hard”

The Real Story: Live Free or Die Hard
In the fourth film in the Die Hard franchise, New York cop John McClane takes on a sophisticated cyber-criminal mastermind who shuts down the USA remotely via the Internet. It’s a story that is chillingly topical. This program shows how a similar cyber-attack could be a real possibility. Featuring interviews with real-life cyber-criminals, FBI investigators and computer specialists, the program uncovers the shadowy world of hacking on a scale that could shutdown entire countries. Meet the government officials and former hackers who are tasked with ensuring it never does.

“Grease” is still the word, 40 years after Sandy and Danny become hopelessly devoted

Grease is the word. Still, 40 years after bubbly musical was released. It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning and it’s still a cultural phenomenon 40 years after its original release.  The iconic celebration of high school life in the ’50s, Grease is the way you’ll be feeling with a new 40th Anniversary Edition on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital April 24 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.

Featuring an explosion of song and dance, as well as star-making performances from John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, Grease made an indelible impact on popular culture.  40 years later, the film remains an enduring favorite as legions of new fans discover the memorable moments, sensational soundtrack and classic love story.  Boasting unforgettable songs including “Greased Lightnin,” “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” “Summer Nights,” “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” “Beauty School Drop Out” and, of course, “Grease,” the film is a timeless feel-good celebration.

Paramount worked with director Randal Kleiser to restore the film to its original vibrancy with the highest quality sound, picture resolution and color.  The original negative was scanned and received extensive clean up and color correction using previously unavailable digital restoration tools such as high dynamic range technology.  In addition, the audio was enhanced from a six-track mix created for an original 70mm release, giving the music more clarity.  The resulting picture and sound create an exceptional home viewing experience.
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The Grease 40th Anniversary Edition 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo Packs include the fully restored version of the film plus an all-new, in-depth exploration of the little-known origins of what would become a Broadway play and then a feature film and worldwide phenomenon.  “Grease: A Chicago Story” features new interviews with writer Jim Jacobs and original cast members of the Chicago show.  In addition, the discs include the original song the title sequence was animated to and an alternate ending salvaged from the original black & white 16mm work print discovered by director Randal Kleiser.

 

Both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo Packs also feature more than an hour of previously released bonus material, including a sing-along, vintage interviews with the cast, deleted scenes and more.  Plus, the Blu-ray Combo comes in collectible packaging with 16 pages of images laid out like a high school yearbook.  In addition, a Grease Collection will be available in a Steelbook Locker, which includes the 40th Anniversary Blu-ray of Grease, as well as Grease 2 and Grease: Live! on Blu-ray for the first time.

March 30, 1985: The day Derek and Nancy Haysom were murdered . . . killing for love

It remains one of the most brutal crimes of our times.

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Haysom crime scene photos

On March 30, 1985, Derek and Nancy Haysom are discovered brutally murdered at their home in Lynchburg, Virginia. The arrest and conviction of the couple’s daughter Elizabeth, a scholarship student at the University of Virginia, and her boyfriend Jens Söring, the brilliant son of a German diplomat, set off a media frenzy, becoming the first trial of its kind to be nationally televised. But what if the justice system got it all wrong?

The gripping true crime tale Kliiling for Love untangles the web of romantic obsession and betrayal that may have led an innocent man to make the ultimate sacrifice for love: take the fall for a murder he didn’t commit. The IFC Films theatrical release, called “engrossing and unnerving” by the Daily Telegraph, features the voices of Daniel Brühl and Imogen Poots.