Monday, April 15, 2013

Joshua Tree 1951: A Portrait Of James Dean On DVD From Wolfe Video June 4

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report
He starred in only three films, and yet he is a silver screen icon; a Hollywood legend.  He died at 24 (Sept. 30, 1955) and yet books, movies and more (art, legend, tales, etc.) have been devoted to his influence on generations that may even lack a cohesive understanding of what the young man was all about.

We are speaking of James Dean, the star of East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant … and the subject of writer/director Matthew Mishory’s first feature film (after three noteworthy short films, including Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman).

The film in question, which is heading to DVD from Wolfe Video on June 4, is Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean.   Using elements from the actor’s pre-New York TV and stage work and his college days at UCLA, Mishory has fashioned a sexually-charged tale about a brief moment in the future icon’s life prior to his flash of fame … and immortality.

James Preston plays the young actor in this stylized, dream-like — even surreal — glimpse into what life (and experimentation) might have been like for a 1950s college student and thespian.   We know from his biography that he had a torrid affair with Pier Angeli once he gained notoriety and fame … and we also know that he had an exceptionally “close” relationship with his college roommate and future screenwriter William Bast (based on two books written by Bast).

From these sexual threads, Mishory has sculpted a “might-have-been” story that, quite frankly, it is one that James Dean would not have objected to.  The relationships, the sexual encounters and experimentation all seem to fit … and in an odd way the story spun here (“roommate” without a name, etc.) is neither gay, nor bi-sexual, but just a “what if” moment lost to time.

Included as a bonus feature is the aforementioned short film from Matthew Mishory, Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman.

To download this week's complete edition of the DVD and Blu-ray Release Report:  DVD & Blu-ray Release Report

It's A Disaster On DVD From Oscilloscope Laboratories June 4

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report
Dang!  Timing is everything.   You’re at the sort-of-regular Sunday “couples” brunch with your friends, ready to have a good time; get into a bitch session; drink, eat and more, when suddenly the world ends.  Son of a gun, if you could time such an event, wouldn’t having sex on the beach with a super model be a better option?

No matter, that’s the premise of writer/director Todd Berger’s comedy, It’s a Disaster, announced this week for a DVD and Blu-ray launch by Oscilloscope Laboratories on June 4.   

Nearly a full year of film festival competitions (with Best Feature wins at the BendFilm Festival, Edmonton International Film Festival and New Orleans Film Festival) led up to a limited theatrical showcase on Apr. 12, so technically speaking the ARR works outs to 53 days.

This is a tightrope act.  When you start spinning acts of terror into the premise of a comedy, you have to be careful not to cross certain lines … it has to be a plot element and not the subject of the story.   It’s the “thing” that motivates, or in this case, “constrains” the characters, not the act itself.   It’s just the MacGuffin.

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With that out of the way, it is OK to laugh out loud with It’s a Disaster, an eight-person ensemble piece (think: stage play) that includes the likes of Julia Stiles, David Cross, Jeff Grace and America Ferrera in the mix.   

As four distinct couples, they’ve all assemble at the Mandrake’s house (Erinn Hayes and Blaise Miller) for their brunch, but just when things get rolling the cable, the phone and then the lights go out.  

Pretty soon the goofy neighbor comes knocking with news that a “dirty bomb” has been set off and a deadly gas cloud is heading their way.   Their only option is to lock themselves in and hope for the best. 

Of course you can see where that is going and Todd Berger wastes no time in lighting the “nails on the chalkboard” fuse.   A brunch with a beginning and ending (even if it runs a little long) is tolerable, but a brunch that goes on and on and on until the world comes to the end is … HELL!
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Bonus features include commentary from writer/director Todd Berger, who is joined by cast members David Cross, Kevin Brennan and Jeff Grace, plus there is a behind-the-scenes featurette titled “Tour With Todd” and a Comic-Con 2012 panel discussion.

To download this week's complete edition of the DVD and Blu-ray Release Report:  DVD & Blu-ray Release Report

VCI Entertainment Spins A Moonshine DVD Trio On June 11

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report
VCI Entertainment heads to the hills on June 11 with a trio of film vault treasures (actually four films in all) making their way to DVD with a downhome, backwoods theme.

Way, way back in the 1960s the late Ferlin Husky was a top country singer with such hits as “Gone,” “Wings of a Dove” “Once” and “Just For You.”    

He spun that success into a brief stint with the movies, turning out two musical comedies as the legendary crooner, “Woody Wetherby” — VCI has them both: The Las Vegas Hillbillys (1966, with Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren) and Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967, with a cast that includes Basil Rathbone, Lon Chaney Jr. and John Carradine).

DVD & Blu-ray Release ReportRounding out the June 11 DVD release trio is the remastered double feature that toplines director Albert S. Rogell’s 1940 film adaptation of the Al Capp comic strip, Li’l Abner, with Jeff York (aka: Granville Owen) as Li’l Abner, Martha O'Driscoll as Daisy Mae and none other than the old Stone Face himself, Buster Keaton, as Lonesome Polecat.   

This little moonshine comedy gem is teamed with director Edward F. Cline’s 1942 film adaptation of the “Barney Google and Snuffy Smith” comic strip, Private Snuffy Smith (Bud Duncan as Snuffy, with Edgar Kennedy as Sergeant Cooper).

All three SKUs in this promotion carry an SRP of just $9.98 each!

To download this week's complete edition of the DVD and Blu-ray Release Report:  DVD & Blu-ray Release Report

The Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane From Eagle Rock Entertainment On May 21

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report
Writer/director Brett Morgen’s feature-length documentary, The Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane, has been tabbed for May 21 domestic DVD and Blu-ray release by Eagle Rock Entertainment.

Oscar-nominated for his 2000 documentary, On the Rope, Morgen has turned his keen eye for detail to the iconic rock group, The Rolling Stones, as they celebrate their 50th anniversary.    Vintage film interviews and archival footage of early performances have been blended together with commentary interviews featuring Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts (among others) to detail the band’s history.

Bonus features include a newly-prepared interview with director Brett Morgen and four vault treasures — NME Poll Winners Concert 1964 (showcasing: “Not Fade Away,” “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” and “I’m All Right”), NME Poll Winners Concert 1965 (featuring: “Pain In My Heart” and “The Last Time”), Live In Germany 1965 (“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”) and The Arthur Haynes Show 1964 (“I Wanna be Your Man” and “You Better Move On”).

To download this week's complete edition of the DVD and Blu-ray Release Report:  DVD & Blu-ray Release Report

Lionsgate Home Entertainment's Snitch To Market On June 11

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has targeted June 11 as the street date for the Summit Entertainment film production of former stuntman-turned-director Ric Roman Waugh’s Snitch.   Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars in this action thriller, which pulled in $41.8 million in its domestic theatrical run.

The ARR works out to 109 days for the planned release of both DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack (with UltraViolet) editions.

As to bonus features, filmmaker Ric Roman Waugh (Felon, In the Shadows) will be providing commentary (he is joined by editor Jonathan Chibnall), plus there are deleted scenes and a multi-part making-of featurette titled “Privileged Information: The Making of Snitch.”

To download this week's complete edition of the DVD and Blu-ray Release Report:  DVD & Blu-ray Release Report

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Girl Makes Its DVD Debut From Virgil Films And Entertainment On July 2

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report
On July 2 Virgil Films & Entertainment will release The Girl, writer/director David Riker’s latest take on illegal immigration on DVD.

The film is currently in the middle of a regional and arthouse theatrical run (it scored wins in its film festival circuit rollout this past year) and as a result comes in with an ARR of 116 days.  The box office tally thus far (and growing) is $34,192.

It’s been 15 years since the release of La Ciudad, which earned Riker a basket full of awards and gave him instant credibility as a filmmaker.   Quite frankly, we expected to see a steady stream of films from him, but just one screenplay five years ago and that was it … until now.

Ashley (Abbie Cornish — Bright Star, Candy, Sucker Punch, etc.) is the kind of woman that you see in the background.   She’s the waitress, the clerk at supermarket … the pole dancer at the adult club in town; the subject of a country song.   Attractive, but not a beauty, she has reached the point in her life where men attracted to her are only thinking about drinks and sex … too much baggage for a relationship.  

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You could call her a loser, but that almost implies that she was good at something.  Motherhood isn’t her strong suit as her little boy has become a foster kid; a single mom without custody of her own kid … it is pretty sad stuff.   

Filmmaker Riker seems to know this character pretty well.   She’s not cardboard, but flesh and blood and for better or worse the focal point of his story.   She’s not a bad person, just a human being without skills, much of an education or any sort of track record of accomplishments.   You can almost fill in the blanks … high school, relationships, employment, etc.

Family?   Her father is a long-haul trucker (Will Patton) and mom, well mom, there is no mom, so when she ends up taking a ride with him down to the Texas/Mexico border she sees a side of him that is completely new to her.  There is some easy money to be made smuggling illegals and he’s good at it.   This sets her to thinking … that sort of money could solve her custody problems and a whole lot more.

We get Ashley’s backstory in waves and when added to the whole narrative — where writer/director David Riker is taking this — it all comes together when she decides to try her hand at being a coyote.   Like we said, she’s not much good at anything, except screwing up.

There is a two-level story here.   On the grand scale there is the story of human grief, the struggles to survive and much more, which are all set against the backdrop of cross-border human trafficking … it’s not pretty.   

And then there is the equally important human drama of Ashley, a screw-up of a young woman, who is certain to end up as someone’s “bitch” in prison.  How many stupid mistakes is one person allowed to make?
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Riker kicks it into high gear when Ashley finds herself caring for a young girl named Rosa (Maritza Santiago Hernandez) when her first attempt at being a coyote ends disastrously.  She could dump her and run (that’s her father’s advice), but instead she does something completely unexpected.   

For The Girl to work, you have to buy into Ashley’s transformation; her redemption.   And Riker, as a filmmaker and storyteller, accomplishes that in spades.   By story’s end you are rooting for the young woman … even while everything that got her to that point is completely wrong.  

Bonus features include the video diary from Abbie Cornish title “Through My Eyes.”

 To download this week's complete edition of the DVD and Blu-ray Release Report:  DVD & Blu-ray Release Report

Lionhead Heads To DVD From Green Apple Entertainment On July 9

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report
Green Apple Entertainment has selected July 9 as the DVD debut for director Thomas Rennier’s off-kilter romantic comedy, Lionhead.

This is a debut feature film effort from a first-time director?   Really?   It doesn’t look it!

Before we get into the nitty gritty of Lionhead, it should be noted that this isn’t the first indie film making its way to the home entertainment market place in recent memory that is showcasing production elements that belie the limits of its budget.   

You would think that some of the studio brass, who cavalierly toss tens of thousands of dollars at just meaningless things, would begin to take notice of what is happening in the indie film world.   Some really nice stuff is being produced on micro and limited budgets these days and you would think that they’d be keeping a finger on that production pulse … it would just seem to make good business sense.   

They probably — the ubiquitous they — are probably monitoring such things, but some of these all-too-often big budget write-downs make you wonder.

True indie filmmaking is going to break, we predict, into two groups.   Slick, well-produced, well-planned little films like Lionhead (great cinematography/videography; sound, lighting and editing) and crap shot on video that is tinny in sound, VHS-looking in presentation and dreadful to watch.  Well, maybe not to that extreme, but you get the idea … watch enough indie films and you can quickly separate one from the other (we have the 15 minute rule around here for screeners).
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The difference between these two groups is that the former will find acceptance on DVD, even Blu-ray (and limited digital theatrical exhibition), and the latter will become extinct.  Learn the craft, plan and execute … that’s the future.   Adapt technically or get the flip out of here.

The analogy would be something along the lines of Gutenberg’s printing press.  It gave publishers and writers access to mass markets and as the process was refined it allowed even the ramble in the street the technology to deliver serious works.  It has been the same for the personal computer.   Filmmaking is simply following the same curve … quality output becomes accessible for those who study, learn, plan (plan, plan and plan) and then hook the whole kit and caboodle together with a well-told; well-acted story.  

Enough of the soapbox.  As to Rennier’s Lionhead, clearly he (and his crew) executed a tight shooting schedule (Michael Madsen in the cast list is the first tip off … probably only had access to the talent for three or four days) and ended up with a sweet little comedy in the process.

Frank (Trevor Lissauer — Eden’s Curve, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, etc.) wants to pop the question to Darlene (Jill Crewshaw) and is more that aware that her father, Walter (a nice turn by Madsen), doesn’t think much of him.   Ah-ha, a stunning engagement ring would not only sweep his girlfriend off her feet, but it could also warm dear old dad to the idea of just how serious he is … it is an excellent plan!

Frank, who can’t for the life of him shut up for more than ten seconds (a real motor mouth, who just spews out whatever is dancing around his frontal lobes at the moment), gets even faster-talked by a hustler with a cool deal named Ted (Brien Perry), only he doesn’t suspect that Ted is a hustler.  In any case, he blows ten big ones on a phony diamond ring that Darlene’s father spots for what it is and is quickly sent packing.

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Nebbish dolt gets hustled, embarrasses himself and loses the love of his life … but that’s not a feature film, it’s just a sad, sad short.   It is just the set up.  

Frank plans to win her back, but his chosen path to do so becomes a long and twisted (laugh-filled) journey.   He will get his money back (good luck with that) and somehow that will solve everything, but his schemes seem to work against him — the cops are of no help and even her father encourages his daughter to start dating (candidates that are even worse than what her father imagines Frank to be) as the broken-hearted Romeo stands by and watches helplessly.

The story is like a snowball, racing downhill, becoming more and more complicated — and funnier — as it races towards its not so obvious conclusion.

Green Apple Entertainment has two-and-a-half months to work the street for this one … it is a sweet little comedy that does not disappoint.   As for filmmaker Thomas Rennier, if this is his first film, we can’t wait to see his next … and the one after that. 

To download this week's complete edition of the DVD and Blu-ray Release Report:  DVD & Blu-ray Release Report

May 7 Is A Quick Turn From 20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment For Safe Haven

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report
Alert!   Alert!   Alert!   Nicholas Sparks and we all know what that means.   Kleenex!

For some odd reason everyone and their mother seemed to know that director Lasse Hallström’s film adaptation of Sparks’ latest, Safe Haven, would be arriving at retail on May 7 as both DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack production offerings.   But it wasn’t announced officially until this past week (literally at pre-book).

No matter, with $70.3 million at the box office Safe Haven will do just fine.   The ARR is a zippy 81 days!   It looks as though Fox pushed this hard to market to make a Mother’s Day window (that’s smart).

Erin/Katie (dancer, singer and actress Julianne Hough — Footloose, Rock of Ages) is in an abusive marriage to a drunk, but to make matters even worse, Kevin (David Lyons — Storm Warning, Eat Pray Love, etc.) is a Boston police detective.  That means he is an abusive drunk with a gun.

So she does the only reasonable thing and takes off, changes her name and shows up at one of Sparks’ favorite locations, a beach town on the North Carolina coast (filmed in and around Southport).   In a yarn very similar to the 1991 Julia Roberts film, Sleeping With the Enemy, Katie (her new name) is also a beautiful young woman on the run from a dangerous husband and she too meets and falls in love with one of the locals.  Not just any man, but a handsome family man named Alex (Josh Duhamel), a recent widower with two young kids.

Now all of these plot elements drive mainstream film critics right up the wall.  Throw in a life-and-death confrontation with Kevin in the third act and you have all you need to get them worked into an absolute frenzy.   

But when it comes to Nicholas Sparks, you just have to remember the chorus to the Jim Croce song:

"You don't tug on Superman's cape

You don't spit into the wind

You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger

And you don't mess around with Jim"

Film critics that bashed this film are simply spitting into the wind.   It probably makes them feel good saying snarky things about the film, but Safe Haven delivers exactly what it promises, a romantic story, with a sad/happy ending.   Just look at the box office results, fans win; critics ended up wet from their own verbosity.

A few observations ...  First, Julianne Hough just became a full-blown star with this film … a full breakout.   Second, those expecting to need handfuls of Kleenex to soak up the free-flowing tears for the sad, sad ending got a nice, if very eerie twist from Sparks that, again, sent those all too smug critics into apoplectic fits.

As to bonus features, both the DVD and Blu-ray SKUs include an alternate ending (that should be interesting) and deleted scenes.  Exclusive to the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack are a trio of featurettes — “Igniting the Romance in Safe Haven,” “Set Tour” and “Josh Duhamel's Lessons in Crabbing.”

To download this week's complete edition of the DVD and Blu-ray Release Report:  DVD & Blu-ray Release Report