Heeding the expansionist call of Horace Greeley, an idealistic young man (though aptly named “Friendless”) hops a freight train westward to meet his destiny, first in a teeming metropolis—where he is roundly trampled by rush-hour foot traffic—then into the ranch lands of Arizona. His attempts at bronco busting, cattle wrangling, and even dairy farming all end in hilarious failure, but when a trainload of steer are unleashed on the streets of Los Angeles, “Friendless” decides to undertake an unorthodox, single-handed round-up.
Keaton’s ode to varsity life demonstrates the performer’s trademark brand of visual comedy as well as his remarkable agility. He stars as Ronald, a small-town, academically-inclined freshman who applies his wiry physique to a series of sports, in order to impress a fellow student (played by Anne Cornwall). He seems destined for failure, but when Mary is accosted by an overzealous rival (Harold Goodwin), Ronald discovers within himself an untapped wellspring of athleticism.
The first time I watched Jack Palance torment Joan Crawford, I was hit with a case of Sudden Fear. I wanted to join Joan in the closet and watch the wind-up toy getting closer . . .
She soon discovers that he not only married her for her money but that he plans to murder her with the help of his lover (played by Gloria Grahame) in a performance The New York Times hailed as “hard, brash and sexy”. This taut thriller, featuring a score by Elmer Bernstein, that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.
We like to think of the Cohen Film Collection as competition to the Criterion Collection; Cohen 2K and/or 4K restorations are stunning; they usually add fascinating bonus tracks and keeps their prices at amounts the average person can afford.
This year, the marvels we considered Cohen’s Best of the Year . . .
At the very top of the list moves that silence remains golden. Buster Keaton, one of the most important and highly-regarded comedians of Hollywood history, is celebrated in three volumes. Comedian? Also film director, producer, screenwriter and stunt performer.
The Great Stoneface’s brilliance is seen in three essential restored Blu-ray volumes.
The Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 1 features The General and Steamboat Bill, Jr.)
The General is considered to be the last great comedy of the silent era, and it consistently ranks as one of the greatest films of all time on international critics’ polls. Orson Welles called the film the greatest comedy, the greatest Civil War movie, even the greatest film of all time.
Set during the Civil War and based on a true incident, the film is an authentic-looking period piece that brings the scope and realism of Matthew Brady-like images to brilliant life.
Keaton portrays engineer Johnnie Gray, rejected by the Confederate Army and thought a coward by his girlfriend (the so-underrated silent icon Marion Mack). When a band of Union soldiers penetrate Confederate lines to steal his locomotive, Johnnie Gray sets off in pursuit. In Steamboat Bill, Jr., as the son of a steamboat captain, Buster falls in love with the daughter of a rival steamboat owner. When a cyclone rages, Buster proves himself a hero by rescuing his love and her father from a watery grave.
The Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 2 features Sherlock Jr. and The Navigator. In Sherlock Jr., Buster plays a movie projectionist who daydreams himself into the movies he is showing and merges with the figures and the backgrounds on the screen. While dreaming he is Conan Doyle’s master detective, he snoops out brilliant discoveries.
And in another hilarious comedy, Keaton and his sweetheart are cast adrift on a deserted ocean liner. The ship finally runs aground on a desert island where the two unfortunates are chased by cannibals. A box office success, The Navigator is also one of Keaton’s most revered films.
The Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 3 features Seven Chances and Battling Butler. In Seven Chances, Buster gets word that if he can be married by seven o’clock that evening he will inherit $7,000,000. When his sweetheart refuses, he proposes to everyone in skirts, including a Scotsman.
Hopeful still, he advertises for a bride and is horrified to discover 500 would-be-brides hot on his trail in a hilarious chase to the finish. Keaton remarked on occasion that Battling Butler was his favorite of all his films. Based on a Broadway play, the story revolves around a case of mistaken identity between two Alfred Butlers, one an effete millionaire (Keaton), the other the heavyweight champion of the world (the marvelous Francis McDonald).
Coincidence brings them to the same backwoods Kentucky neighborhood, where Butler-the-flop finds love with a mountain girl, but not before antagonizing Butler-the-brute into a Madison Square Garden grudge match.
A classic of French cinema, Joan of Maid is Jaques Rivette’s ambitious two-part historical epic starring Sandrine Bonnaire. For Joan the Maid: The Battles, the first installment of his powerful yet restrained two-part study, director and co-screenwriter Rivette surveys the revelatory period where Joan met with royalty, joined the army and led the French into battle against the English.
As Joan, Bonnaire gets at the reality behind the legend, showing the matter-of-fact courage of a teenage girl. Joan the Maid: The Prisons, the second part of Rivette’s diptych, brought leading lady Bonnaire a César Award nomination for her powerful performance, as she plays out windows in the final two years of Joan’s life, from the battlefield victory, to prison life, to the stake.
The Return of Martin Guerre is one of the most stunning, beautifully filmed atmospheric movies of all time. One critic said “it literally looks like it was painted by Camille Pissarro”.
A thought-provoking story, indeed: In medieval France, some villagers challenge a man’s claim of identity when he (as he says) returns home from some time in the army.
So how do you prove that you are who you say you are, hundreds of years before fingerprinting and DNA? The village dentist is dragged out, as is the midwife who delivered him and the shoemaker who brings a wooden last he made of the husband’s foot before he went off to war.
Gérard Depardieu and Nathalie Baye, who has the difficult job of playing either his wife or his co-conspirator, depending on what’s actually going on, offer solid, riveting performances.
Gérard Depardieu also stars in the lovely Get Out Your Hankerchiefs, a complex, funny, sad, uncomfortaable and very French look at love and sexual dynamics. Depardieu plays a man who truly loves his wife, but is so bothered by his wife ‘s depression that he decides to ask a stranger to be her lover.
No luck, and now the two men are bewitched and
What does work is her love affair with a precocious 13-year-old boy who, in many ways, is the most mature character in the film. And she wants his baby!
This is an unconventional comedy that charmed and shocked the Oscars and went on to become one of the most talked-about French films of the decade.
Starting in 1999, Claude Lanzmann made several films that could be considered satellites of Shoah, the 9 1/2 hour documentary of the Holocaust he made without using a single frame of archival footage. Shoah: Four Sisters is a continuation of Shoah, comprised of interviews conducted in the ’70s that didn’t make it into his completed monumental work. In the last years of the late director’s life, he decided to devote a film to four women from four different areas of Eastern Europe with four different destinies, each finding herself improbably alive after war’s end: Ruth Elias from Ostravia, Czechoslovakia; Paula Biren from Lodz, Poland; Ada Lichtman from further south in Krakow; and Hannah Marton from Cluj, or Kolozsva’r, in Transylvania.
Survivors of unimaginable Nazi horrors during the Holocaust, they tell their individual stories and become crucial witnesses to the barbarism they experienced. Each possesses a vivid intelligence and a commitment to candor that make their accounts of what they suffered through both searing and unforgettable. The frankness of their words, their intensely scrutinized faces, and their bravery as they revisit unimaginable experiences will make them lasting presences in the moral universe of younger generations. Lanzmann’s films remarkably stay within the immediate present tense, where the absolute horror of the Shoah is always happening.
Between the Lines, the sophomore 1977 film by trailblazing writer/director Joan Micklin Silver, marked her second independent production and theatrical follow up to the acclaimed Hester Street. Some consider this an adult version of The Front Page. At the offices of a Boston alternative newspaper, the staff members enjoy a positive and open-minded work environment.
Music critic Max (the brilliant Jeff Goldblum) uses his influence to score dates, while news reporter Harry (the brilliant John Heard) is dating the lovely Abbie (the brilliant Lindsay Crouse), the publication’s lead photographer. However, it seems as though their relatively carefree days are numbered when the owner of a major publishing company buys the paper, leading to more money, but even more changes.
Keep your eyes peeled for Michael J. Pollard, Marilu Henner, Lewis J. Stadlen, Joe Morton, Lane Smith, Jill Eikenberry and a slew of mother big and small-screen faves.
Before making Hollywood epics such as Tora! Tora! Tora! and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, director Richard Fleischer started his career with a series of low-budget B-features, often taking ripped-from-the-headlines tales of crime stories and spinning them into noir gold, of which an exquisite example is 1949’s endlessly entertaining Trapped.
A young Lloyd Bridges stars as hard-boiled hood Tris Stewart, a convicted counterfeiter doing time in the Atlanta pen. When a fresh batch of fake bills starts circulating, treasury agents bail Stewart out to help lead them to the maker of the fake plates. But Tris double-crosses the Feds, hooking up with his gun-moll sweetie (22-year-old Barbara Payton in her breakout role). They plan to heist the plates and hightail it across the border. With the Feds closing in and the double-crosses piling up, Stewart finds himself between a rock and a hard place. Will he trapped for good?
Although long sought by the Film Noir Foundation, Trapped was believed to have suffered the unfortunate fate of many B-films of the era—oblivion. But when a private collector deposited a 35mm acetate print at the Harvard Film Archive, the Film Noir Foundation and UCLA Film & Television Archive (with support from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Charitable Trust [The HFPA Trust]) sprang into action, restoring the film. The result, presented in a Blu-ray/DVD dual-format edition by Flicker Alley, honors the pitch-perfect performances, assured direction, and gorgeous cinematography of this edge-of-your-seat, noir classic.
Olive Signature line has released a Blu-ray edition of Bells of St. Mary’s that is a significant improvement over the DVD released by Republic Pictures 100 years ago. The lack of specks and soot and and scratches leads us to believe the film has been (greatly) restored, though why Olive doesn’t use this bragging point is beyond us.
This is not a true “Christmas film”, but the warmth and heart and humor and luminous Ingrid Bergman make it worth a few viewings. We are still a bit surprised when we admit that she and co-star Bing Crosby (as a nun and a pastor at odds with each other) have appealing chemistry together.
When a wealthy and eccentric New York playboy prone to mischief dies unexpectedly, his four closest socialite friends are summoned to the late aristocrat’s country home overlooking the Hudson for a viewing of his video will. Only things don’t go quite as Wolf, the executor of the estate, had planne: Gallagher’s posthumous wish is to put his dearly beloved to the test—each will become a millionaire overnight if they can unanimously agree to consume his dead body and the group, has until the end of the weekend to reach a decision. Funny food for thought!
Say hello to the ultimate Tony Montana experience with the Scarface “The World Is Yours” Edition Gift Set (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment). This gem is chockfull of goodies: The 1983 film is 4K UHD; experience the unforgettable film like never before with HDR for brighter, deeper, more lifelike color.
There’s also more than 2 and a half hours of bonuses, including the brand-new Scarface 35th Anniversary Reunion Feature, with an all-new conversation with director Brian De Palma and actors Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer and Steven Bauer. Another Blu-ray bonus: Both the original theatrical and alternate censored versions of Howard Hawks’ newly restored 1932 version Scarface. Perhaps best of all is the limited edition, individually-numbered replica of one of the most iconic props from the film.
After a special bond quickly forms, he realizes his own queer identity, and the couple start to make their way in a culture that is not always friendly to alternative ways of life.
The Broad City Complete Series(Paramount) has everything a queen or two could ever need. In addition to every single freakin’ episode, there are special features including outtakes, deleted/extended scenes, and every episode of Hack into Broad City and Behind Broad City. Plus, a special features only disc with more than 30 minutes of additional extras. Yaaaas!
Frank Capra’s heart-warming masterpiece is the best-known and most-loved holiday film. Now you can watch It’s a Wonderful Life (Paramount) holiday classic like never before, newly remastered from the original film negatives and more vibrant than ever with stunning clarity.
With the endearing message that “no one is a failure who has friends”, Capra’s heartwarming masterpiece continues to endure, and after more than 70 years, this beloved classic still remains as powerful and moving as the day it was made.
Not to be catty, but little heroes can romp to the rescue with the PAW Patrol pups, as the canine crew use their tools, tech, vehicles and problem-solving skills to save Adventure Bay.
Each pup has a unique job and skills, but the pack must always come together as a team to save the day. The 3-DVD set PAW Patrol: Best in Snow Collection (Nickelodeon) deserves a spot in each kid’s stocking.
For the young and young-at-heart: Bumblebee & Transformers Ultimate 6-Movie Collection,
including Bumblebee and all five Transformers films, from visionary director Michael Bay and legendary producer Steven Spielberg.
Baby Boomer boom! The Toys That Made Us (Screen Media) is an American television series created by Brian Volk-Weiss. The first four episodes of the series began streaming on Netflix on December 22, 2017, and the next four were released on May 25, 2018.
The eight-episode documentary series, as it was originally touted, focused on the history of important toy lines. The first four episodes focus on the Star Wars, He-Man and G.I. Joe toy lines with subsequent episodes featuring LEGO, Transformers, Hello Kitty and Star Trek. The Bu-ray set includes a free collectible!
Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orphee & Eurydice in one of opera’s most beautiful masterpieces; his exquisite drama introduces us to Orpheus, the poet and musician whose every word and note communicate the most overwhelming love for his Eurydice.
This production features Gluck’s reworking of the original German opera into a French-language production which contains thrilling ballet sequences that will come to vivid life under the direction and choreography of the legendary John Neumeier. This production stars Dmitry Korchak as Orphée with Andriana Chuchman as Eurydice and Lauren Snouffer as Amour. Oui!
Democracies should protect their citizens, especially the most vulnerable among them, but the United States is increasingly failing to do so especially in areas like the Rust Belt, the manufacturing heartland of the nation that includes Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The investigative documentary The Corporate Coup d’Etat (First Run features) shows how corporations and billionaires have taken control of the American political process, and in doing so have brought economic hardship and ruin to vast swaths of the country. It combines insights from political thinkers and journalists with the experiences of citizens from the Rust Belt, where factory closures and outsourcing have left it desolate and people hopeless.
The film argues that the crisis predates Adolph Freak’s election by many years: Decades ago, U.S. democracy began selling its soul to big corporations; lobbyists and business-friendly politicians took control in Washington, gradually undermining the will of the people. Provocative and revealing, The Corporate Coup d État exposes what happened and where we are now.
Other First Run features topping the list:
Tattoo Uprising reveals the artistic and historical roots of today s tattoo explosion. This sweeping overview explores how tattoos were used in early Christian practices, how they were discovered halfway around the world during the voyages of Captain James Cook, and how they exploded in popularity in America beginning with artists like Ed Hardy.
There’s an unforgettable appearance by Werner Herzog, who allows a rare glimpse at his Ed Hardy tattoo.
Spanning three generations, Chasing Portraits is a deeply moving narrative of the richness of one man’s art, the devastation of war, and an unexpected path to healing. Moshe Rynecki was a prolific artist who painted scenes of the Polish-Jewish community until he was murdered during the Holocaust. For more than a decade his great-granddaughter, Elizabeth, has searched for the missing art.
An elderly man, Octav Petrescu (portrayed by the brilliant Marcel Iures), returns to his childhood villa in Romania to sell it. Arriving there after a decades-long absence, Octav wanders through the atmospheric house and undulating grounds that surround it and is confronted and transformed by the memories and spectres of his youth, eventually finding answers to questions that have cast a shadow over his adult life.
From Oscar-nominated Josh Aronson and featuring a new song from Jon Bon Jovi, To Be Of Service is a documentary about veterans suffering from PTSD who are paired with a service dog to help them regain their lives.
The film follows these warriors with their dogs as this deeply bonded friendship restores independence and feeling for the men and women who so courageously served our country.
Inherited from Maria Montessori in 1907, the Montessori Method is a child-centered educational philosophy that celebrates and nurtures each child’s desire to learn, an approach valuing the human spirit and full development: physical, social, emotional and cognitive. The Montessori Method is increasing in popularity both in the U.S. and abroad.
Curious to see how the Method works first hand, filmmaker Alexandre Mourot sets his camera up in the oldest Montessori school in France (with kids from 3 to 6) and observes. He meets happy children, free to move around, working alone or in small groups. Some read, others make bread, do divisions, laugh or sleep. The teacher remains discreet.
Children guide the filmmaker through the whole school year, helping him understand the magic of their autonomy and self-esteem–the seeds of a new society of peace and freedom, which Maria Montessori dedicated her life work to.
Such is the wonder and joy of Montessori: Let the Child be the Guide.
Holy high notes! Melody Makers (Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Visual), a chronicle of the birth of music journalism from the world’s oldest and longest standing seminal music magazine, is not just another music documentary; through a series of interviews from artists and journalists of the time, the film tells the true story of the rise and fall of the world’s most influential music publication and uncovers an era of tremendous creative freedom.
Who says the holidays can’t be a horror . . . and we don’t just mean when the in-laws come. George Roy Hill’s landmark science-fiction classic, Slaughterhouse-Five, tells the tale of World War II soldier Billy Pilgrim and how he was abducted by aliens. The flick took home the Jury Prize at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival and has been a favorite of sci-fi fans ever since. Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote the novel the book is based on, famously claimed, “I drool and cackle every time I watch that film.”
Not only is Arrow bringing this to Blu-ray for the first time in North America, but it comes with a brand new 4K restoration and a spaceship-load of special features. Yippee!
He was a true genius. And Kurt Weill’s Street Scene is an amazing mélange of show tunes, arias, jazz numbers, folk songs and spirituals, a true musical melting pot that aptly underlines the rich variety of characters that populate the New York City tenement block in the ’30s that’s the focus of this exceptionally vital and criminally undervalued work.
It was meant meant to be a truly American opera, half-way between his The Threepenny Opera and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story and drawing from the famous play by Elmer Rice (recipient of the Pulitzer Prize when it was published in 1928).
Weill wrote Street Scene shortly after fleeing Nazi Germany. When he discovered the vitality of the American musical scene, his focus became to reconcile the Broadway musical with European traditional opera, jazzy and North-American tunes with an almost Puccinian-like lyricism. Under Tim Murray’s vivid and precise baton, the superb production by John Fulljames perfectly renders the vitality and energy released by the streets of New York that proved to be a great inspiration to the theatrical mind of the composer.
Released by BelAir Classiques, the staging generously evokes a bygone era of American history, simultaneously looking rundown and part of a dreamscape worth longing for.
Cohen Media Group will release the 2017 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or nominee Rodin on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms on October 2. The biographical drama, starring Vincent Lindon as the great sculptor, is the latest from Jacques Doillon, the multiple award-winning director of Ponette, La Drôlesse and dozens of other films that have made him one of the most esteemed European auteurs of the last 40 years.