Space Station 76 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) sets up audiences to expect something broad and spoofy, particularly with its spot-on re-creation of the future as envisioned by 1970s sci-fi. But the movie has more on its plate than wackiness: once you get past the cigarettes, hairspray and ceramic owl cookie jars, you find that these sets are populated with melancholy characters and messed-up relationships that are meant to be taken seriously. Not for nothing did one critic call this a mix of Space: 1999 and The Ice Storm.
The arrival of Jessica (Liv Tyler) aboard the space station causes ripples amongst its unhappy crew: hard-drinking Captain Glenn (Patrick Wilson) resents her presence while stewing over past regret, but Ted (Matt Bomer) sees Jessica as a kindred spirit, and certainly a better mother to his daughter Sunshine (Kylie Rogers) than his Valium-addicted wife Misty (Marisa Coughlan). There’s dark humor to be found among the pathos, and some of the greatest '70s FM radio hits this side of Guardians of the Galaxy. Allow yourself to be ready for anything, and then beam aboard one of the year’s most original films. (Hey Sony — where’s the Blu-ray of this gorgeous movie?)
Also available: Jesse Eisenbeg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard commit an act of environmental protest that goes terribly wrong in Night Moves (Cinedigm), from director Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy); Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen are Very Good Girls (Well Go USA/Tribeca Film) and best friends during a summer that changes everything; See You Next Tuesday (Devolver Digital Films) is one of those love-it-or-hate-it comedies, but its pitch-black humor had me laughing start to finish; Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler and an all-star cast send up rom-coms in They Came Together (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).
Young lovers Krysten Ritter and Brian Geraghty find Refuge (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment) in each other; find out what to do when My Man Is a Loser (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) in this sassy rom-com; in Louder Than Words (Arc Entertainment), David Duchovny and Hope Davis star as parents who turn their grief into a way to help others; the chemistry between Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen is the highlight of Words and Pictures (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).
Navy pilots in love during the days of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” have to keep things secret in the powerful Burning Blue (Lionsgate Home Entertainment); My Name Is A by Anonymous (MVD Entertainment) relates the shocking true tale of a teen thrill killer; Jon Favreau’s Chef (Universal Studios Home Entertainment) is one of the year’s big indie hits, and now that it’s on DVD, you can eat whatever you want while watching; Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson fight their way through the postapocalyptic outback in the intense The Rover (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).
New Foreign and Documentary:
One of the year’s most blissfully joyous movies, We Are the Best! (Magnolia Home Entertainment) follows the adventures of three young teenage girls in 1982 Stockholm who decide to start a punk band. The fact that only one of them knows how to play an instrument is completely beside the point. Written and directed by the great Lukas Moodysson (Together, Show Me Love), based on the graphic novel by his wife Coco Moodysson, captures the exuberance and rebellion of youthful rebellion as well as just about any movie ever made.
Also available: Critics are raving about Ida (Music Box Films) from director Pawel Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love); Agnieszka Holland’s powerful Burning Bush (Kino Lorber) recalls the fiery protests against the Soviet presence in Eastern Europe during the 1960s; Paris-Manhattan (Strand Releasing Home Video) hilariously follows a French pharmacist who is utterly obsessed with the films of Woody Allen.
New documentaries include Vincent Bugliosi’s stinging The Prosecution of an American President (First Run Features), which puts George W. Bush on trial for the American soldiers and Iraqi civilians killed in his foreign-policy misadventures, and For No Good Reason (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), narrated by Johnny Depp, on the life and work of artist Ralph Steadman, best known for his illustrations in books by Hunter S. Thompson.
With you know what coming up at the end of October, there’s no better time to dig into Halloween: The Complete Collection (Anchor Bay Entertainment and Scream Factory), a staggering 10-disc (15 in the Deluxe Edition) retrospective on one of the most enduring horror franchises of all time. If you’re mad for Michael Myers, you won’t want to miss out on the goodies here, including a producer’s cut of the sixth Halloween entry, unrated cuts of the two Rob Zombie remakes, the network TV edits of Halloween and Halloween II, a remastered mono soundtrack for the original film, scads of new interviews and much more.
Also available: Another teenage vacation becomes a nightmare in Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (RLJ Entertainment/Image); in Friend 2: The Legacy (CJ Entertainment), gangsters seek power — and revenge; horror fave Pumpkinhead (Scream Factory) makes its Blu-ray debut in a new collector’s edition; legendary martial arts star Donnie Yen faces 14 Blades (Anthor Bay Entertainment/Radius-TWC) to restore the emperor to the throne; Andy Lau wages war on armored-car thieves in Firestorm (Well Go USA Entertainment); The Battery (Scream Factory) gives us two mismatched personalities who must survive each other, not to mention the zombie apocalypse.
Even if it meant having to survive the misguided 1998 American version of Godzilla, Sony’s arrangement with Toho Studios has at least offered kaiju fans more accessibility to the 1990s and 2000s monster movies from Toho. For instance, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray collections of Godzilla 2000 (featuring both the U.S. and Japanese versions), Godzilla Double Feature (offering 2000’s Godzilla, Mothra & King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack and 2002’s Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla), and Mothra Trilogy, the latter presenting three of the giant moth’s adventures from 1996-1998. All films are tons of fun and guaranteed 100% Matthew Broderick-free.
Also available: go classy this Halloween with one of the screen’s most elegantly chilling ghost stories, The Innocents (Criterion Collection), starring Deborah Kerr; the globe-trotting The Great Race (Warner Archive Collection) gets a Blu-ray release, making Tony Curtis’ teeth even more glinty; fans of Oliver Stone director’s cuts won’t want to miss his gridiron saga Any Given Sunday (Warner Home Video).
Roman Polanski’s Macbeth (Criterion Collection) ranks among the most visceral and powerful Shakespeare adaptations even put on film, and the new Criterion Blu-ray looks better than any of its previous home-video iterations; the outrageous white-trash comedy of manners Sordid Lives (Wolfe Video) makes its Blu-ray debut; if you can get over Peter Sellers in brownface makeup, the farcical The Party (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) is one of the great American comedies of the 1960s (from The Great Race director Blake Edwards, coincidentally enough).
Celebrate the 40th anniversary of Young Frankenstein (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) with a new Blu-ray edition; The Lusty Men (Warner Archive Collection) sees Nicholas Ray directing a stellar cast that includes Robert Mitchum, Susan Hayward and Frank Faylen; disaster buffs won’t want to miss Rock Hudson and Mia Farrow fighting off an Avalanche (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) in high-def.
The Audrey Hepburn Gift Set (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) features three of the screen legend’s classics — Funny Face, Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany’s — in beautiful Blu-ray versions; one of the great teacher movies ever made is the beautiful French drama To Be and to Have (Kino Lorber); a new Blu-ray marks the U.S. debut of an even longer (251-minute) cut of Sergio Leone’s final triumph, Once Upon a Time in America (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment).
Full disclosure: I appear for about four seconds on one of the extras on the Hannibal: Season Two (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) DVD, talking with my “What the Flick?!” cohost Ben Mankiewicz about the show. But that’s not the only reason you should pick up this stellar collection. If you’re not watching this terrifying, beautiful, haunting series — maybe you’re one of those people who thought trying to do justice to Thomas Harris’ characters and gory situations on TV was a fool’s errand — you’re missing out on one of television’s most baroque and unsettling offerings. This set comes loaded with commentaries and a lengthy documentary on the planning of, making of, and fan response to one of the season’s most hotly debated episodes. Tuck in.
Also available: OK, technically, the animated shorts featured on Loopy DeLoop: The Complete Collection (Warner Archive Collection) were produced for theatrical consumption, but most of who grew up on Hanna-Barbera know this Canadian wolf from the small screen; the show that allowed Ricky Schroeder to ditch the “y” continues with NYPD Blue: Season Seven (Shout Factory); after a slow start, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — The Complete First Season (ABC Studios) got a lot more exciting, particularly on the heels of the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Bronies can kick it old school with My Little Pony: The Complete Series (Hasbro Studios/Shout Factory), compiling the entire run of the original 1980s series; and speaking of the ’80s, relive the Reagan-era hijinks of The Goldbergs: The Complete First Season (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment); the taboos and intrigue of Flowers in the Attic continues with the deliciously soapy Petals on the Wind (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (Shout Factory), one of the classic TV musicals, celebrates its 50th anniversary, and if you know Lesley Ann Warren only from Clue or Victor/Victoria, get ready for a whole new side of this versatile performer; Slugterra: Return of the Elementals (Shout Factory/Nerd Corps Entertainment) features the slimy stars of the popular Disney XD hit; giddyup for Bonanza: The Official Seventh Season — Volumes One and Two (CBS/Paramount).
Dynasty: The Final Season — Volumes One and Two (CBS/Paramount) will make you want to put on a spangly evening gown and get into a catfight; Homeland fans awaiting their season-four fix can bide their time with the Israeli show that spawned it, Prisoners of War: Season Two (Shout Factory); if it please the jury, CBS/Paramount has three new volumes (numbers Four, Five and Six, to be specific) of Perry Mason Movie Collection Double Features.
And last, but certainly not least, one of 2014’s most talked-about TV events, Sharknado 2: The Second One (Cinedigm), makes it to DVD and Blu-ray with a making-of documentary, a gag reel, commentary, and yes, deleted scenes. Because some scenes just weren’t awesome enough to make it into Sharknado 2.
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