Once Upon A Time in America: Extended Director’s Cut (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD) is Sergio Leone’s portrait of a 20th century American success story as a gangster epic of greed, loyalty, betrayal, and power, seen through the haze of an opium high. Shuffling back and forth through the century, from New York’s East side in 1923, where scrappy street kids Noodles and Max form a partnership that will blossom into a mob empire, though the glory days of the depression cut short by mob warfare, to 1968, when the graying Noodles (Rober DeNiro) returns from a 35 year exile to the scene of the crime to discover what really happened to his partner and best friend Max (James Woods) all those years ago, this is Leone’s most passionate, elegant, brutal, and elegiac film. William Forsythe and James Hayden complete the gangster quartet, with Joe Pesci and Burt Young as gangster cohorts. Elizabeth McGovern, Treat Williams, Tuesday Weld, Danny Aiello, and young Jennifer Connelly co-star. Ennio Morricone’s score is one of his most haunting and beautiful.
The film was originally released in the US in a butchered version cut by over an hour and torn from its evocative time-shifting structure to a traditional linear narrative. It was restored to its 229-minute European cut decades ago but earlier this year it was expanded with an additional 22 minutes of footage that Leone was forced to cut out before its Cannes premiere in 1984. The added footage was taken from workprint material and, faded and sometimes damaged, stands out against the well-reserved and beautifully-mastered material from the previous cut. Among the restored sequences is a legendary scene with Louise Fletcher as a cemetery director, previously only glimpsed in publicity stills (you can see the clip below). Susan King goes over the history of the cuts and the scope of the restoration in an article for the Los Angeles Times.
It’s available on DVD and Blu-ray along with an excerpt from the documentary Once Upon a Time: Sergio Leone and trailers. A deluxe Blu-ray Book edition also features the previous Blu-ray release of the 229-minute European cut, which features commentary by Richard Schickel, and an UltraViolet Digital HD copy of the “Extended Director’s Cut.”
Edge of Tomorrow (Warner, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, Digital, VOD) gets a new title (sort of) for home video: Live Die Repeat, which was the tag line of the original theatrical release. At least that’s what it looks like on the new cover art, which features the new words prominently and leaves the original title at the bottom like a URL link: “Cruise/Blunt/EdgeOfTomorrow.” The film, which is actually an interesting and entertaining bit of alien invasion action by way of metaphysical “Groundhog Day” time travel, underperformed at the box-office and some may have felt that the generic, vague title might have been a problem. I’ll give the studio this: the new title is an attention grabber.
And it should be. The film is pretty clever and Tom Cruise is well cast—in Groundhog Day fashion, he enters the picture as a smarmy, shallow PR guy with surface charm and a notable lack of courage and, after he’s caught in an inexplicable time loop that sends him back into combat every time he dies, he evolves over his ordeal to become a soldier, a hero, and a human being—and director Doug Liman embraces the conceptual possibilities as well as the adrenaline-spiked action. The cagey way that he revisits scenes and repeats key images leads us to discover the endgame along with the characters. Emily Blunt co-stars as a bad-ass soldier who trains Cruise to become as fierce as she is.
On Blu-ray and DVD with the featurettes “Weapons of the Future” and “Creatures Not of This World.” The Blu-ray editions also include the 43-minute documentary “On the Edge with Doug Liman,” which follows the director through the filmmaking process, the featurette “Storming the Beach,” the “Adrenaline Cut” of one Operation Downfall sequence, and deleted scenes, plus bonus DVD and UltraViolent HD editions of the film.
Also available on Digital and Cable VOD and for Digital HD purchase.
Obvious Child (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, VOD) has unfortunately been tagged the “abortion comedy” of 2014, which kind of misses the point of the film. Directed and scripted by Gillian Robespierre and starring stand-up comedian Jenny Slate as a struggling comic who mines her life for material and turns to uncomfortable issues of sex, self-image, excretion, etc… for both comedy on stage and humor off-stage, which she uses to deflect when emotions get serious. When she finds herself pregnant from a one-night-stand with a guy she likes (Jake Lacy as a sweet straight-arrow) so much she’s afraid to tell him, it’s almost too much to handle as she struggles with losing her day job and a stand-up act never seems to get her anywhere professionally. That frustration in work and art is very relatable, as is Slate’s likable character. Her instincts for crude humor and foul language keeps the film from slipping into sentimentality but for all the R-rated words, it’s a very human and tender and honest romantic comedy. Gaby Hoffmann, David Cross, Richard Kind, and Polly Draper co-star.
Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary by writer/director Gillian Robespierre, producer/co-writer Elisabeth Holm and actress Jenny Slate, the featurette “The Making of Obvious Child,” extended scenes, and the 2008 short film Obvious Child that was basis for the feature.
Also on Digital and Cable VOD.
Sundays and Cybèle (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD), the debut 1962 feature from Serge Bourguignon, straddles the borders of delicate French poetic realism and nouvelle vague freshness. It stars Hardy Krüger as Pierre, a bomber pilot back from Vietnam an emotionally and mentally damaged man (today he’d be diagnosed with PTSD) who connects with a 12-year-old girl (Patricia Gozzi) who has been abandoned by her mother and dumped in a Catholic boarding school by her father. Today it’s hard not to see the possible unsavory aspects of such a relationship, a grown, emotionally damaged man connecting with a vulnerable 12-year-old girl who speaks of marrying him someday, especially as he grows more distant from his lover Madeleine (Nicole Courcel), the nurse who fell in love with him during his hospitalization and takes care of him in her apartment, and exhibits violent reflexive responses to emotionally-trying situations. Certainly some of the characters in the film see it that way, but Bourguignon shows us an innocent kind of second childhood for Pierre and a surrogate big-brother / best friend for Cybèle. And Henri Dacaë’s photography is sublime, presenting autumn and winter landscapes filled with people bundled up for the outdoors and our two children innocently playing in a beautiful but increasingly cold and bare park.
Criterion presents a newly-remastered edition of the film on Blu-ray and DVD, transferred from a new 35mm fine-grain master made from the original negative that preserves the delicate gray-scale of Dacaë’s wintry cinematography. There are newly-recorded interviews with director Serge Bourguignon and actors Hardy Krüger and Patricia Gozzi and Bourguignon’s Palme d’Or–winning short documentary Le Sourire (1960), the film that gave him the opportunity to make Sundays and Cybèle.
The modern silent film Sidewalk Stories (Carlotta, Blu-ray, DVD), which brings Chaplin’s The Kid into eighties New York, was originally released in 1989 and practically disappeared from sight soon after. It was directed and written by Charles Lane, who stars as a homeless street artist who takes in a child after her father is murdered and goes in search of the little girl’s mother. Unlike the later, much celebrated The Artist, Lane doesn’t try for silent movie conventions or style; he instead offers a wordless story in poetic pantomime with a backdrop of social commentary and a lovingly-photographed tour of down-and-out New York City.
It’s been resurrected and beautifully restored for its 25th anniversary and receives its home video debut on Blu-ray and DVD. Features commentary by and an interview featurette with filmmaker Charles Lane and composer Marc Marder and Lane’s 1977 short film A Place in Time, which looks forward to his first feature.
Isabelle Huppert serves up a Nightcap (aka Merci Pour le Chocolat) (Cohen, Blu-ray, DVD) in Claude Chabrol’s 2000 continental thriller. Huppert is married to concert pianist Jacques Dutronc, but her generosity to a visiting young prodigy (Anna Mouglalis) “adopted” by her husband is motivated by shadowy impulses. Chabrol became ever more cool and restrained in his late films and this one hardly fits the description of “thriller,” though it is rife with his love of Hitchcockian elements: suspicion, jealousy, possessiveness, psychosis, and mistaken identity. She wants her husband all to herself, it seems, as curious fatal events appear to repeat themselves. In French with English subtitles, with commentary by film critics Wade Major and Andy Klein, a booklet with an essay by Peter Tonguette, and a2014 re-release trailer.
It’s a good week for TV horror on disc. That’s as it should be for October but frankly there simply hasn’t been much notable horror television until recently.
Showtime’s original series Penny Dreadful: Season One (CBS, Blu-ray, DVD), which weaves classic horror characters through an original story of a supernatural underworld in London and a team of private agents (Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Josh Hartnett) battling the forces of darkness. The title captures the tone of the series, which takes the idea of Victorian-era horrors and weaves an ambitious storyline that connects the humans and the monsters as they search the underworld for a kidnapped child. John Logan scripts all eight episodes of the first season and horror director J.A. Bayona sets the ominous, shadowing mood as he helms the first two episodes. Billie Piper co-stars as a tubercular hooker, Harry Treadaway is Dr. Frankenstein (who consults for the team), and Rory Kinnear is his creature, playing out the “Frankenstein” story in the margins of Dalton’s drama. Eight episodes on Blu-ray and DVD, with numerous featurettes and bonus episodes of other Showtime original shows. Note that this show will not stream on any other service apart from Showtime, so disc is the only alternative to a Showtime cable subscription for the foreseeable future.
In a different vein of the horror genre is Hemlock Grove: The Complete First Season (Scream Factory, Blu-ray, DVD), Eli Roth’s Netflix original series about a werewolf clan, and American Horror Story: Coven (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD), the third self-contained story from Ryan Murphy’s interesting horror anthology, this one set around two rival covens of witches in New Orleans. Hemlock Grove is, of course, also available on Netflix, but to date only the first two seasons of American Horror Story are on Netflix.
Sharknado 2: The Second One (Cinedigm, Blu-ray, DVD), the SyFy original sequel to its most buzzworthy B-movie disaster lampoon ever, proudly displays its absurdity on the packaging: “The new extended director’s version with more shark and more nado and never before seen extras!” Once again it gives work to Ian Zeiring and Tara Ried, adds Viveca A. Fox and Kari Wuhrer to the cast, and gives cameos to Judd Hirsch, Downtown Julie Brown, Billy Ray Cyrus, Andy Dick, Kelly Osbourne, Robert Klein, and Kelly Ripa and Al Roker as themselves. Pardon me for not reviewing this one, but I think this film belongs in its own unique category of “review proof.” And it has two commentary tracks, featurettes, deleted scenes, and more.
The British crime series Peaky Blinders, created by Steven Knight (the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Dirty Pretty Things and writer and director of the superb Locke) and set in the industrial city of Birmingham after World War I, stars Cillian Murphy as a gang boss and Sam Neill as the new chief inspector determined to shut him down. It debuts stateside as a Netflix exclusive and is now available to stream
Superhero fans can now revisit Arrow: Season 2, which arrives on Netflix this week after its announced September debut was delayed without warning. Also arriving on Netflix this week: the dark serial killer show The Following: Season 2 and the sole season of the American young adult sci-fi show The Tomorrow People, which was cancelled after its one and only season on WB.
Netflix premieres two original stand-up comedy specials: Chelsea Handler: Uganda Be Kidding Me (Handler will launch a new talk show for Netflix later this year) and Jay Mohr: Funny For a Girl.
Four new films debut on Cable VOD on Friday, October 10, the same day they open in select theaters. Madeleine Zima and Joel David Moore are #Stuck in a traffic jam after a one-night-stand in this romantic comedy. Antonio Banderas and Dylan McDermott star in the science fiction thriller Automata, Hilary Swank and Marcia Gay Harden star in the drama You’re Not You, and Ryan Phillippe headlines the thriller Catch Hell.
To Be Takei (Anchor Bay, DVD), a documentary on George Takei, the actor who became an unexpected gay rights leader over the past decade, comes to disc as an Amazon exclusive.
Mike Meyers directs the documentary Supermensch: The Legend of Seth Gordon (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD), about the famous agent.
Jon Hamm goes scouting the cricket leagues of India to find a pitcher for major league baseball in Million Dollar Arm (Disney, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, Disney Movies Anywhere, Cable VOD).
Sett MacFarlane directs, writes, and stars in A Million Ways to Die in the West (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, VOD), a western comedy co-starring Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Neil Patrick Harris, and Sarah Silverman.
Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart (Shout Factory, Blu-ray, DVD) is the latest animated feature from Luc Besson’s Europacorp, brought stateside with a cast of British voices, including Michelle Fairley (of Game of Thrones), Orlando Seale, and Samantha Barks.
It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD)
Black Nativity: Extended Musical Edition (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD)
Radio Free Albemuth (Freestyle, DVD)
Crimson Winter (CAV, Blu-ray, DVD)
Tasting Menu (Magnolia, Blu-ray, DVD)
A People Uncounted: The Untold Story of the Roma (First Run, DVD)
Wagner’s Jews (First Run, DVD)
Female Gaze (Film Movement, DVD)
Love Finds You in Sugarcreek (Fox, DVD)
Those in Peril (Cinedigm, DVD via Amazon, Digital and Cable VOD)
School Dance (Lionsgate, DVD)
The Prosecution of an American President (First Run, DVD, VOD)
Flex is King (Alive Mind, DVD)
Rude Dude (Garden Thieves, DVD, VOD)
Sons of Liberty (Inception, DVD, Digital VOD)
The Devil Incarnate (RLJ, DVD)
A Haunting at Preston Castle (Inception, DVD, Digital VOD)
The Dead and the Damned 2 (Inception, DVD, Digital VOD)
Outlaw Prophet: Warren Jeffs (Sony, DVD, Digital HD)
Snakehead Swamp (Sony, DVD, Digital HD)
Ava & Lala (Arc, DVD)
Alpha and Omega 2: A Howl-iday Adventures (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD)
Christmas Bounty (Warner, DVD)
Doc Holliday’s Revenge (Lionsgate, DVD)
Houdini: Extended Edition (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete First Season (Paramount, DVD)
The Almighty Johnsons: Season 1- Unedited (PBS, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Following: The Complete Second Season (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD)
Vikings: The Complete Second Season (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD)
Bates Motel: Season Two (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD)
Afterlife: Season Two (BBC, DVD)
In the Flesh: The Complete Season Two (BBC, DVD)
Republic of Doyle: Season 2 (Acorn, DVD)
Adventure Time: The Complete Fourth Season (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD)
DC Supervillains Justice League: Season One (Warner, DVD)
Rick and Morty: Season One (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams (Timeless, DVD)
The Great Train Robbery (Acorn, DVD)
Still Life: A Three Pines Mystery (Acorn, DVD)
Duck Dynasty: Season 6 (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD)
Ancient Aliens: Season 6, Volume 1 (History, Blu-ray, DVD)
Frontline: Losing Iraq (PBS, DVD)
Mr. Civil Rights: Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP (PBS, DVD)
Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace (PBS, DVD)
The Best of the Danny Kaye Show (MVD, DVD)
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: The Compete Season Two (Warner, DVD)
Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs: Wakko’s Wish (Warner, DVD)
Sleeping Beauty: Diamond Edition (Disney, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, VOD)
Holiday Inn (Universal, Blu-ray)
Iguana (Raro Video, Blu-ray, DVD)
Alien: 35th Anniversary Edition (Fox, Blu-ray)
Kingdom of Heaven: Ultimate Edition (Fox, Blu-ray)
Sideways: 10th Anniversary (Fox, Blu-ray)
Level Five (Icarus, DVD)
On Strike!: Be Seeing You / Class of Struggle (Icarus, DVD)
Faces of Israel Box Set (Campfire / For My Father / Seven Minutes in Heaven / The Human Resources Manager) (Film Movement, DVD)
Roger & Me (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Neverending Story (Warner, Blu-ray)
The Neverending Story II (Warner, Blu-ray)
Woody Woodpecker and Friends Holiday Favorites (Universal, DVD)
Nekromantik (Cult Epics, Blu-ray, DVD)
Adventures of the Wilderness Family Triple Feature (Lionsgate, DVD)
Raw Force (Vinegar Syndrome, Blu-ray+DVD Combo)
Dracula Sucks: Two Disc Edition (Vinegar Syndrome, DVD)
Hot & Saucy Pizza Girls (Vinegar Syndrome, DVD)
Red Heat / Mad Love Life of a Hot Vampire (Vinegar Syndrome, DVD)
Carnal Haven / Her Last Fling: Peekarama Double Feature (Vinegar Syndrome, DVD)
The Billy Bagg Double Feature: The Violation of Claudia / Hot Honey (DistribPix, DVD)
42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. 5 (Impulse, DVD)