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You are here: Community Film Blu-ray/DVD Roundup for November 22, 2019

Blu-ray/DVD Roundup for November 22, 2019

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It’s time for another look at new releases on Blu-ray and DVD. As always, there’s an interesting selection of discs coming your way in a wide variety of genres. So, if you can’t make it out to the movies this week, be sure to give one of these titles a try!

Big New Releases!

American Dreamer - A driver-for-hire finds himself working for a low-level drug-dealer, but when he falls deeper and deeper in debt, he decides to take some very drastic actions. The lead attempts to kidnap the daughter of his employer, leading to all sorts of violent complications. This drama/thriller split reviewers. About half wrote that the lead performance was strong but that the story was weak, and the poor choices made by the characters made them all less-than-compelling. The same number found this to be a dark, tense, and uncomfortable effort bolstered by the committed and very talented cast. It features Jim Gaffigan, Robbie Jones, Isabel Arraiza and Tammy Blanchard.

Blinded by the Light - Set in England in 1987, this musical drama follows a Pakistani teen and immigrant to the UK who becomes a devoted fan of Bruce Springsteen. Wanting to escape some of his parent’s traditional values as well as his glum neighborhood surroundings, the youth finds meaning and inspiration in the music and attempts to find out if he can make a new start. The press was generally positive about this effort. A few commented that it was overly sentimental and didn’t handle elements involving racism as effectively as it should have.

However, the majority found it charming and described the movie as fun and a charming coming of age film with some great tunes. It stars Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon and Neil Williams.

Cold Case Hammarskjold - United Nations secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold passed away in a tragic and mysterious plane crash back in 1961. This documentary involves a journalist who reexamines the man and the crash itself, attempting to answer questions about exactly what happened and who may have been responsible. Apparently, the trip takes the investigator down a rabbit hole as he learns more and more surprising details about his subject. Critics were quite positive towards this non-fiction feature.

A small percentage suggested that the pacing was a bit slow and that the filmmaker slowly lost credibility as his search progressed. Yet many stated that the eye-opening details revealed were not only surprising, but equally shocking and frightening.

Cold War - This foreign-language drama from Poland was released in cinemas late last year and ended up being nominated for a couple of Oscars, but is only now debuting on Blu-ray and DVD (courtesy of Criterion on a disc filled with extras). It’s about a doomed love affair between a man auditioning talent for a state-sponsored folk troupe and the young singer whom he falls for. The story follows the tumultuous life, with the melodies being reworked as the times and their relationship change. Obviously, the movie was very well liked.

A small group found it too downbeat and icy for their liking, but the consensus was that there was great visual beauty and fiery passion on display. The cast includes Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot.

The Divine Fury - Set in South Korea, this foreign-language effort combines elements of martial arts, fantasy, and horror. The story involves a champion MMA fighter who lost his father at a young age and gave up on religion. He begins to experience bizarre stigmata wounds on his hands. After contacting a priest, the pair determines that to save the hero’s soul, he’ll have to fight and defeat a series of supernatural opponents.

The picture garnered mixed notices, with slightly more negative notes than positive. Many said that the movie delivered kooky fun and some great fight scenes. Unfortunately, slightly more thought that it could have gone further with the concept and felt too restrained overall. It features Park Seo-joon and Ahn Sung-ki.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold - Based on the popular cartoon series Dora the Explorer, this live-action adaptation follows teenager Dora and her friends as they embark on an incredible adventure. While attending high school, the youngster learns that her explorer parents have disappeared while searching Inca ruins in a jungle. She sets out to find them and reunite the family. The press seemed very positive about this family-friendly effort.

While a few did grumble that the Dora character didn’t get enough of the spotlight and noted that movie could have used more excitement, most believed it was fun and charismatic. They also appreciated the fact that it enjoyed poking fun at its own outrageous premise. It stars Isabela Merced, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Pena, Eva Longoria, Adriana Barraza and Temuera Morrison.

A Faithful Man - This French comedy/drama follows an unusual relationship between a man and woman. When the lady decides to leave her significant other for his best friend, he is devastated. Several years later, things get even odder when the man’s old chum dies and his ex decides to rekindle her relationship with him. This all comes as something of a shock to family and friends.

Critics were generally positive about this foreign-language feature. A couple of them didn’t think it delved deeply enough into the various ramifications of getting back together. Yet most complimented it as a well-shot, direct, low-key and interesting look at complicated modern couples. The cast includes Louis Garrel, Laetitia Casta and Lily-Rose Depp.

The Fare - A taxi driver gets himself into a whole lot of trouble after picking up a charming fare. Sparks fly as the two talk, until she disappears from his back seat without a trace. Even more shocking, when the man behind the wheel resets his meter, he finds himself reliving the previous ride. Panicked and desperate, the cabbie tries to figure out what is happening by experiencing the same event over and over again.

This independent thriller is premiering on disc and being made available for streaming today, which means there aren’t a lot of reviews yet. Still, a few have popped up and are positive. They call it an enjoyable little mystery with good writing and strong performances. Gino Anthony Pesi, Brinna Kelly and Jason Stuart headline the film.

Liyana - Combining live-action and animation, this feature follows a Swazi girl who undertakes a dangerous mission to find and rescue her brothers. Apparently, this tale from Africa is told through the eyes of five orphaned children in Switzerland who collaborate using various artistic techniques to present a unified vision of the fable. This picture earned raves from reviewers. In fact, right now there aren’t any negative reviews for it out there.

Write-ups stated that the story was incredibly engaging and also complimented the visuals as being striking and impressive. According to critics, adults will find the picture as stimulating as it should be for youngsters.

Pipe Dreams - This documentary details five individuals involved in a somewhat eccentric competition - specifically, a group of young organists involved in Canada’s prestigious International Organ Competition in Montreal. Viewers will see the various participants compete and witness all of the stressful interactives, between hearing some beautiful music. There aren’t a lot of reviews for this film out there just yet, but one upbeat notice has appeared online. They wrote that the film was pretty, the contest was interesting to watch, and mentioned that they liked the individuals and their passion for the trade. Sounds like it might be of some appeal to music enthusiasts.

Pretty Little Stalker - Also known as The Danger of Positive Thinking, this thriller involves a self-help writer who finds herself in over her head after a fan begins stalking her. As the author tries to figure out what to do next, her superfan begins causing trouble for not only the protagonist, but also the lead’s family.  This independent thriller was made in Kentucky and appears to have played at a few festivals over the past year. According to IMDB, it even received a limited release in Canada.

However, there are no reviews available in the press, so curious parties will have to take a chance on it. The cast includes Nicky Whelan, Sierra McCormick, Heather Morris and Jesse Hutch.

Blasts from the Past!

There are plenty of older titles arriving in high definition as well. Arrow Video is delivering some genre fare with a Blu-ray of Hitch Hike to Hell (1977), a gritty horror flick about a mild-mannered, but psychotic truck driver with a mother obsession who enjoys picking up female hitchhikers and murdering them. The movie has been given a brand new 2K restoration and allows the film to be viewed in 1.33 and 1.78 aspect ratios. You’ll also get a recently created appreciation of the film by a horror movie expert, a visual essay exploring the dark side of hitchhiking, and an original theatrical trailer.

Shout! Factory has numerous Blu-rays coming your way, as well. The first is the box set, Abbott & Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection (1940 - 1965), which is exactly as described, including all of the comedians who work for the studio - 28 feature films in total. This 80th anniversary box comes with numerous bonuses like film historian commentary tracks on select titles and publicity materials. And if you can’t afford the whole set and just want one of their most well-regarded titles, you can also pick up Buck Privates (1941) separately.

They also have American Me (1992), arriving through their Shout Select line. This well-regarded drama stars and was directed by Edward James Olmos. The Blu-ray includes extras like a look back at the film featuring interviews with co-stars, an archival featurette, and a trailer. If musicals are more to your liking, then you can also pick up the documentary, Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll (1987), which features the famous artist performing on stage with other famous musicians.

This Collector’s Edition includes the 2006 DVD introduction to the film from director Taylor Hackford, concert rehearsal footage, a making-of, archival short specials featuring co-stars Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and others. You’ll also get a scrapbook feature, something called “Chuckisms” and some final words from the filmmaker. Some versions even include a biographical book on Berry himself in the package.

And there’s more. Shout! also has a Blu-ray of the thriller, The Fan (1981), which features Michael Biehn as a stalker terrorizing a Broadway star, played by Lauren Bacall. It arrives with a new interview with Biehn, the director, the editor, as well as a commentary with cult film director Dave DeCoteau alongside some publicity materials. The same distributor is also putting out a Steelbook of the Roger Corman-produced comedy, Rock ‘N’ Roll High School (1979), featuring The Ramones and lots of crazy, school-related hi-jinx.

Sony is getting in on the specialty Blu-ray market and has a trio of titles arriving in high definition. The first is the action/comedy, 3000 Miles to Graceland (2001) with Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner as Elvis impersonators pulling a heist in Las Vegas. I’m not a big fan of this one, but at least it’s being made available. They also have a 20th anniversary edition of the dark comedy, Jawbreaker (1999), about a high school kidnapping prank that goes horribly wrong.

There’s no word yet about what extras, if any at all, will be included. And they are releasing the amusing Bruce Willis/Mathew Perry comedy, The Whole Nine Yards (2000), with a newly upgraded image. That one may be worth the upgrade.

Criterion is releasing a Blu-ray of the Oscar-nominated French drama, Betty Blue (1986). The movie has been given a high-definition digital restoration approved by director Jean-Jacques Beineix and comes with an hour-long documentary on the production, a short video making-of, a short made by director in 1977, a French television interview with filmmaker from 1986, screen tests and trailers.

Speaking of French cinema, many of the Blu-rays being made available by Kino this week were made in the very same country. This includes Diabolically Yours (1967), Farewell, Friend (1968) and Un Flick (1972), aka Dirty Money. They also have the not-so-great Eddie Murphy comedy, Holy Man (1998) on Blu-ray, as well as the features Intimacy (2001) and Someone Behind the Door (1971).

And there’s more. Synapse is giving horror fans a treat with an upgrade of their fantastic Suspiria (1977) Blu-ray. It has been given the 4K Ultra HD treatment and is now included with the original Blu-ray in a combo pack.

Severin has a Blu-ray of the effective chiller, The Boys Next Door (1985) about a pair of California teens (played by Matthew Caulfield and Charlie Sheen) who go on a killing rampage through Los Angeles. You’ll get a new 4K restoration of the fully uncut version of the film, audio commentary with director Penelope Spheeris and co-star Caulfield, an interview with a movie critic on the film, extra talks with Caulfield and co-star Christopher McDonald, an alternate opening and extended scenes, and many more plusses.

They also have the campy and kinky adventure, Gwendoline (1984) aka The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak with Tawny Kitaen. The disc includes a brand new 4K restoration of 2 cuts of the film, multiple commentary tracks (one with the director and another with Kitaen), a 2019 filmmaker interview, talks with the costume designers and other crew members, the executive producer, the production designer, and several other extras. If you like the movie, you’ll probably love this release.

Scorpion has some ‘80s action cheese with their Blu-ray for the musical, Delivery Boys (1985). Reports suggest that this was actually the last break dancing movie made during the ‘80s. The feature has been given a new 2K re-master, an interview with the cinematographer, and trailers. It never received a DVD release and has been lost to time, so it’s great to have it see the light of day once again.

Universal is putting out a trio of family friendly titles on Blu-ray. They include the animated feature, Cricket on the Hearth (1967) as well as the 25-minute holiday animated TV special, The Little Drummer Boy (1968), and Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962), a 52-minute animated TV special. On a completely different note, you’ll be able to pick up a Blu-ray of Scarface (1932) which includes 2 cuts of the movie.

Finally, Warner Archive has a Blu-ray of the Kirk Douglas/Lana Turner romance, The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), for your enjoyment in high def.

You Know, For Kids!

Here are some titles that kids may enjoy.

Cricket on the Hearth (1967)

The Little Drummer Boy (1968) holiday TV special

Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962) holiday TV special

On the Tube!

And you’ll find the week’s TV-themed releases below.

Charlie’s Angels: The Complete Series (1976 - 2011)

Farscape: The Complete Series (1999 - 2004)

FRONTLINE: Flint’s Deadly Water (PBS)

FRONTLINE: For Sama (PBS)

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3

The King of Queens: The Complete Series (1998 - 2007)

The Kominsky Method: Season 1

Life from Above (PBS)

Wedding at Graceland (Hallmark TV-movie)

By Glenn Kay
For the Sun