Editor’s Notes: Everything, Everything, The Lincoln Lawyer, Roaring Abyss, Hickok, How to Be a Latin Lover, Duel in the Sun, Britney Ever After, Bluebeard, Face 2 Face, Hondo: The Complete Series, Once Upon a Time: The Complete Sixth Season, Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 5 , Mickey and the Roadster Racers: Start Your Engines are all out of their respective home video formats August 15th.
Everything, Everything (Warner Home Video) stars Amanda Sternberg (Rue in The Hunger Games) as Maddy, a teen living with a rare immunodeficiency disease that makes her allergic to nearly everything. She’s never left her house, and only has contact with her mother, her nurse, and the one friend she is permitted to bring into the house. Before entering the home, guests must pass through an airtight chamber where they are decontaminated of germs.
Maddy has acclimated herself to her condition and unusual circumstances and uses the Internet as her window to the world beyond the confines of her home. When a cute boy, Olly (Nick Robinson, Jurassic World), moves next door, Maddy notices him and they look at each other from behind their respective bedroom windows and chat by text. The fact that Maddy and Olly are an interracial couple is a non-issue.
Based on the young adult novel by Nicola Yoon, the movie features two attractive leads with definite screen chemistry. The early part of the movie sets up Maddy’s living situation and portrays her as a typical teenager despite her illness. The middle of the film, after Maddy and Olly become friends, travels the familiar path of teen romance movies. In this case, the obstacle to their relationship is Maddy’s severely restrictive lifestyle. Anika Noni Rose portrays Maddy’s single, overly protective mother.
Bonus materials on the 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include the featurette “Trapped in Love: The Story of Everything, Everything,” and deleted scenes. A digital copy is enclosed. The film is rated PG-13.
The Lincoln Lawyer
The Lincoln Lawyer (Lionsgate) stars Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) as Mick Haller, a smooth Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, who cruises the streets in his mobile office — a Lincoln Town Car. He’s adept at using his Southern accent and self-assured swagger to charm assorted members of the legal system.
Haller’s ex-wife (Marisa Tomei) works in the DA’s office, but he prefers to work in the lower levels of the court system. His bail bondsman friend (John Leguizamo) brings him his latest case: Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a rich Beverly Hills child of privilege accused of beating up a prostitute. The arrogant Roulet treats the charges against him lightly, and refuses to accept a plea deal, insisting on his innocence despite incriminating evidence.
McConaughey made this film after a series of lightweight romantic comedies, and it showcases an acting ability beyond merely smiling, making wisecracks, and doing at least one scene bare-chested. The character of Haller is complex, and the script takes some interesting and unanticipated turns. The supporting cast of Phillippe, Leguizamo, Tomei, Brian Cranston, Michael Pena, and William H. Macy (as Haller’s private investigator) are excellent, adding stature to this legal thriller. There are some convenient coincidences in the plot but, for the most part, the story builds suspense and keeps us involved.
Bonus materials on the R-rated 2-disc 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo Pack include the featurettes “Making the Case: Creating The Lincoln Lawyer,” “At Home on the Road,” and “One On One” with Matthew McConaughey and writer Michael Connelly; and deleted scenes. A digital HD copy is enclosed. Other editions available are single-disc Blu-ray and single-disc DVD.
Roaring Abyss (IndiePix Films) is a documentary showcasing Ethiopian cultures and musical traditions. The film is risky because director Quino Pinero presents the songs and dialogue without translations. This is initially frustrating but, after a while, the viewer gets the sense that he’s really immersed in Ethiopian culture. Pinero’s visuals show the joy on the faces of the performers and careful editing allows us to understand the points he’s making.
Known for its distinctive genre of Ethio-Jazz, a blend of western musical sounds, Armenian brass instruments, and Ethiopia’s traditional folk and religious music, the music scene in the country is amazingly diverse. But this diversity, which has evolved over generations, is being pushed aside by electronics and pop culture more than ever before.
To best capture the unique sounds of traditional Ethiopian music, Pinero and his team spent two years traveling across mountains, deserts, and forests to find and record the last interpreters of this culture and their stories. Full of field recordings of all forms of traditional music — from wind orchestras from the time of Emperor Haile Selassie to the Azmari, Ethiopian poets — the music’s ancient past comes to life, performed on traditional instruments such as the Krar (a five or six-stringed lyre), Washint (type of flute), Masenqo (single stringed bowed lute), and Kebero (double-headed drum with animal skin stretched over it).
The film reminded me of the work of Alan Lomax, who traveled across America making field recordings of 20th-century folk music. Like Lomax, Pinero is an ethnomusicologist, seeking out Ethiopia’s music, recording it, and preserving it for future generations.
There are no bonus features on the unrated, widescreen DVD release.
How to Be a Latin Lover
How to Be a Latin Lover (Lionsgate) stars Mexican comedy star Eugenio Derbez (“Instructions Not Included”) as Maximo, an aging gigolo who’s abruptly tossed out after being a kept man for 25 years. Having made good on a childhood pledge to never work as hard as his late father, Maximo has been living contentedly as the pampered plaything of his much older, millionaire wife Peggy (Renee Taylor) ever since he was 22. But his world of hedonism ends when Peggy makes an 80th birthday present for herself with younger car dealer Remy (Michael Cera). Now, Maximo is out in the real world for the first time.
Though Derbez is not that well known in the States, he will remind the viewer of Marcello Mastroianni’s lovable cad character he played so effortlessly. Debez has more Chaplin in him than Mastroianni and is very funny at self-deprecating humor. The supporting cast is unusually strong, and consists of Salma Hayek, Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell, Raquel Welch, Linda Lavin, and Rob Corddry.
The script doesn’t always do justice to Debez’s talents, with director Ken Marino often trying too hard to milk laughs, such as when Maximo pours cereal and milk directly into his mouth to avoid washing dishes. The actor is at his best simply being in his gigolo mode, which is the film’s single biggest running gag. Hardly an Adonis, yet thinking of himself as that long-ago 22-year-old stud, he lives in a state of self-inflicted disillusionment.
Bonus materials on the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include deleted and extended scenes; the featurettes “Show Me Your Sexy! Learning How to Be a Latin Lover” and “A Little Help From My Friends;” and audio commentary with director Ken Marino, producer Ben Odell and editor John Dangle. A digital HD copy is enclosed.
Hickok (Cinedigm) is the story of Wild Bill Hickok, one of the Old West’s most famous gunslingers, and his path to redemption. Hard-drinking Hickok (Luke Hemsworth), an outlaw in 1870’s Abilene, Kansas, is hoping to start a new life. Impressed by Bill’s incredible gun skills, Mayor George Knox (Kris Kristofferson) quickly appoints him town marshal. Recognizing the need to clamp down on the wildest cow town in the West, Hickok soon finds himself at the center of a controversial ordinance while dispensing his own brand of frontier justice.
His efforts to protect Abilene, however, are challenged by a band of outlaws led by the powerful saloon owner Phil Poe (Trace Adkins). When Poe places a bounty on Wild Bill’s head, the marshal, with the help of outlaw turned lawman John Wesley Hardin, makes a stand for Abilene and his new life, while putting his reputation as the fastest draw in the West on the line.
James Butler Hickok, aka Wild Bill Hickok, has inspired many legends and has been the subject of numerous feature films and TV shows highlighting his exploits as a lawman, gambler and freelance gunslinger. Michael Lanahan’s screenplay is closely based on historical events. Hickok was actually marshal of Abilene from a period beginning in 1871. During his stint as marshal, John Wesley Hardin actually did stop by for a while.
Hemsworth, brother of Chris and Liam Hemsworth, does an effective job channeling Hickok, delivering his dialogue with authority in a deep, gravelly voice that suggesting his words mean business. Bruce Dern has a role as a doctor with a thriving practice in Abilene as he cheerily explains that guns are good for business.
In style, Hickok is an old-fashioned Western, the kind major studios aren’t making these days. Though the language is strong and there’s some nudity, Hickok harks back to such Westerns as High Noon, Gunfight at the OK Corral, and True Grit — movies that treated courageous lawmen of the Old West as iconic heroes. This Wild Bill is not a perfect individual, but his resolve to turn over a new leaf and leave his dark past behind puts him in that esteemed company.
Bonus materials on the 2-disc 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray release include the featurettes “The Road to Abilene” and “The Making of Hickok;” 3 deleted scenes; and a trailer. The film is also available in a single-disc DVD edition.
Duel in the Sun
Duel in the Sun (Kino Lorber) is a Cain and Abel allegory about good son Jesse McCanies (Joseph Cotton) and bad son Lewt (Gregory Peck) set in the Old West. Unrefined half-breed Pearl Chavez (Jennifer Jones) has been invited by her cousin (Lillian Gish) to the Spanish Bit Ranch in Texas, which is run by embittered and crippled cattle baron Senator McCanies (Lionel Barrymore). Pearl’s dad was hanged for killing his Indian wife and her lover. Jesse is the Senator’s older lawyer son who is cultured, gentle, and ever-tempered. Lewt is the amoral, gun-toting, evil younger son, who takes whatever he wants. Jesse and Lewt soon clash over Pearl.
David O Selznick (Gone With the Wind) produced Duel in the Sun in grand style, hoping it would surpass Gone With the Wind in quality and box office receipts. For a 1946 film, it is pretty suggestive, with passion and sex simmering throughout. It was quite shocking for audiences back then to see Peck playing against his usual screen persona. He’s fiery and lascivious when he looks at Pearl, his thoughts crystal clear. The sexual undertones throughout are unmistakable.
The supporting cast is impressive and includes Herbert Marshall, Walter Huston, Charles Bickford, Butterfly McQueen, Sidney Blackmer, and Orson Welles. Though King Vidor (The Big Parade, The Crowd) is the credited director, he was plagued by constant interference by Selznick and other uncredited directors — Josef von Sternberg, William Dieterle, William Cameron Menzies, Sidney Franklin — contributed their talents. The movie was filmed in Technicolor.
Selznick hoped that this film would propel his then-lover, Jennifer Jones, to super stardom, which never happened. The film did well at the box office, but didn’t come close to achieving either the popularity of financial returns of Gone With the Wind.
Bonus materials on the Blu-ray release include the roadshow version with prelude, overture and exit music; audio commentary; interview with Cecilia Peck, Carey Peck and Anthony Peck; and trailer gallery.
Britney Ever After
Britney Ever After (Lionsgate) is a Lifetime movie about pop star Britney Spears that continues its series of features about famous women. This one relates the singer’s often tumultuous time in the spotlight. This biopic was unauthorized by Britney Spears and is a terrible hodgepodge of facts, speculations, bad acting and bad script writing.
Spears is an artist who’s survived in a competitive industry for two decades. The film portrays her as helpless, ignorant and frequently incompetent. Anyone who can remain in the pop spotlight for such a long time clearly has smarts — show biz smarts if not intellectual ones. But the movie really goes out of its way to make her look dumb.
Spears is played by Natasha Bassett (Hail, Caesar!), and other pop music performers and celebrities are portrayed by Nathan Keyes (Justin Timberlake), Clayton Chitty (Spears’ ex-husband Kevin Federline), Matt Visser (Joey Fatone), Connor Paton (Lance Bass), and Elinet Louicius (Jamie Foxx). The problem with portraying individuals still very much in the public eye is distracting the viewer from the narrative. A viewer shouldn’t be overly concerned with how accurately the actors channel their famous counterparts. The story should be paramount.
Unfortunately, there’s little of value in the screenplay, which is like a moving version of a tabloid newspaper — a sensationalist, utter waste of time. Because Spears herself wasn’t directly involved, her songs are not included, just a few cover versions of others’ songs.
There are no bonus features on the widescreen DVD release.
Bluebeard (Well Go USA) is a mystery thriller directed by Lee Soo-Youn that opens with a report of unusually cold weather and a sighting of a headless corpse by the icy banks of the local river. Byun Seung-hoon (Cho Jin-woong) is a doctor forced to take a staff position in a clinic on the outskirts of Seoul after his own clinic in a more affluent area went bankrupt. Divorced from his wife with only limited access to his young son, Byun is trying to rebuild his life.
In the course of examining patients, Byun hears the mutterings of a patient who, while under an anesthetic, talks about dismembering bodies and disposing of them in the river. This patient lives downstairs in a butcher shop with his adult son and his dysfunctional family. Byun, a devoted reader of detective novels, suspects his neighbors might be serial killers responsible for the many dismembered bodies turning up in the area. The butcher shop might be using parts of human bodies to stock their shop.
This creepy film incorporates Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite theme of placing an innocent person in the midst of a situation that puts him in great danger. The movie creates horror the way that Silence of the Lambs did — by presenting unsettling, sociopathic characters devoted to heinous, demented crimes. We are appalled by the extent of the crimes and realize that the more Byun gets involved, the greater the peril he faces. Director Soo-Yuon creates suspense that escalates as the story unfolds, and presents several disturbing images.
There are no special features in the unrated, widescreen Blu-ray release. The film is in Korean, with available English subtitles.
Face 2 Face
Face 2 Face (Candy Factory Films) is about two individuals who rekindle their childhood friendship. Now in high school, Teel Johnson (Daniel Amerman) and Madison Daniels (Daniela Bobadilla) begin sharing their lives via Face Time conversations as a means of coping with the typical problems of adolescent life. Though they are complete social opposites, Madison, the A-list party girl, takes pity on Teel, the social outcast, vowing to help him win friends on social media.
As their relationship deepens, Madison’s friendship for Teel deepens, forcing him to confess the hidden cause of the bullying he faces at school. His admission sets off a sequence of events revealing that, behind a veneer of popularity and a seemingly perfect life, Madison hides a disturbing secret. Ultimately, she is motivated to open up in a disturbing cry for help.
This coming-of-age story examines many of the pressing and pernicious social issues facing teenagers today. It matter-of-factly emphasizes the important role social media plays among young people in determining status among one’s peers, sense of self-worth, and overall popularity. Because the internet permits bullying and intimidation while maintaining the anonymity of perpetrators, it is widespread. Face 2 Face focuses on two kids caught up in the ubiquity of social media, looking to it for communication and experiencing firsthand its downside.
The film also stresses the importance appearances play in the lives of teenagers. They want to fit in and seem cool, often altering their behavior to what is typical of their friends. Peer pressure can be a major factor in how they dress, act, and develop friendships. Teel and Madison both conceal something that is essentially part of who they are.
There are no bonus features on the unrated, widescreen DVD release.
Hondo: The Complete Series
Hondo: The Complete Series (Warner Archive) is based on the Louis L’Amour story and the 1953 John Wayne movie derived from it. Ralph Taeger plays cavalry scout Hondo Lane, an embittered loner in the Arizona Territiory in the 1870s. Once a Confederate Cavalry captain, he had lived with the Apaches for a time under the protection of Chief Vittoro (Michael Pate), only to see his Indian bride — Vittoro’s daughter — slain by the army in a massacre.
Now he travels with a dog named Sam, troubleshooting for the army and trying to avert further bloodshed in the campaign against renegade Indians, land grabbers, gunmen, and bandits around Fort Lowell. Capt. Richards (Gary Clarke) is the young martinet commander of the fort, Buffalo Baker (Noah Beery, Jr.) a scout, and Angie Dow (Kathie Browne), Hondo’s romantic interest, a widow who runs the general store with the help of her nine-year-old son, Johnny (Buddy Foster).
Hondo Lane is from a familiar Western hero mold — quiet, dedicated to law and order, no family ties, with a preference to avoid violence but unafraid to stand up for the defenseless. Traeger doesn’t have the stature of John Wayne, but does a credible job of channeling L’Amour’s creation. The show has a number of parallels to the long-running Gunsmoke.
Guest stars include Robert Taylor, Nick Adams, Annette Funicello, Robert Reed, Claude Akins, John Carradine, Farley Granger, Iron Eyes Cody, Michael Rennie, Gary Merrill, Alan Hale, James MacArthur, Forrest Tucker, Charles McGraw, and Jack Elam.
The show originally ran for only a half season, from September to December, 1967. Only 17 episodes were aired. The show’s early cancellation had more to do with its time schedule than its quality (it was up against “Star Trek” and “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”). All 17 episodes are contained on the 4-disc DVD release. There are no bonus features.
Once Upon a Time: The Complete Sixth Season
Once Upon a Time: The Complete Sixth Season (ABC Studios) continues the storybook adventures. After Regina (Lana Parrilla) crushes the heart of her Dark Half, it appears Storybrooke will finally enjoy an era of tranquility. But this reprieve is short-lived when the Evil Queen reemerges and wreaks lethal havoc and terror that makes her previous cruelties pale by comparison. Desperate to right her counterpart’s wrongs, Regina fights the ultimate battle against her nemesis, but survival of one may mean destruction of the other.
Meanwhile, Gold’s (Robert Carlyle) attempt to win back Belle (Emilie de Ravin) before their child is born has heartbreaking consequences; Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and David (Josh Dallas) face a new, even more insidious curse; and just as Emma (Jennifer Morrison) begins to envision a happy ending with Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), she discovers she’s destined, as the Savior, to die at the hands of a sword-wielding assassin unless she can somehow change her fate.
Once Upon a Time is a fantasy drama that premiered in October, 2011 on ABC. The show takes place in the fictional seaside town of Storybrooke, Maine, whose residents are characters from various fairy tales transported to the “real world” town and robbed of their original memories by a powerful curse. The series borrows elements from the Disney franchise as well as popular Western literature, folklore, and fairy tales. The episodes consist of two different settings, one involving one or more characters’ backstory, the other set in the present day. The Enchanted Forest is a realm within Fairy Tale Land. The Land Without Magic is another term for the real world.
All 22 episodes of the show’s 2016-2017 season are included in the widescreen Blu-ray release. Bonus materials include deleted scenes, audio commentary, bloopers, and the featurette “The Storybrooke Songbook: Inside the Musical Episode.”
Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 5
Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 5 (Warner Home Video). The fifth collection of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies mixes classics and obscurities. Among the best-known and funniest cartoons are “Ali Baba Bunny” (Daffy yelling, “I’m rich! I’m socially secure!”), “Bewitched Bunny” (Witch Hazel galloping off in a cloud of hair pins), and “Buccaneer Bunny” (a sterling example of one of director Friz Freleng’s favorite gags: having the characters run up and down stairs and in and out of various doors).
“Gold Diggers of ’49” and “Little Red Walking Hood” show Tex Avery beginning to explore the self-reflexive gags that would be become one of the hallmarks of his mature style. In “Walking Hood,” Grandma stops the action to answer the phone and place her order with the grocer–including a case of gin. “The Daffy Doc” is Bob Clampett at his most surreal, with Daffy and Porky getting sucked into an iron lung, bulging and shrinking like balloon animals.
Some of the earliest cartoons predate the adoption of “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down” as the theme song for the Warner Bros. cartoons. Many shorts from the early ’30s were built around songs from Warner’s musicals: “I’ve Got to Sing a Torch Song” (written for Gold Diggers of 1933) features caricatures of Mae West, George Bernard Shaw, Benito Mussolini, and Bing Crosby frolicking to the title tune. Greta Garbo delivers the closing, “That’s All, Folks!”
Bonus extras on GOLDEN COLLECTION VOLUME 5 include three World War II films in which Mr. Hook urges sailors to buy war bonds; ”Extremes and In-Betweens: A Life in Animation” (2000), a documentary about Oscar-winning director Chuck Jones; 3 Looney Tunes TV specials starring Bugs Bunny; commentaries and “Behind the Tunes” featurettes with animators, historians and voice artists; and music and music-and-effects only tracks on selected shorts.
The 4-disc unrated DVD release contains 30 original Warner Brothers cartoons made between 1935 and 1964. Most are in color. Featured characters include Daffy Duck, Tweety and Sylvester, Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, and Elmer Fudd.
Mickey and the Roadster Racers: Start Your Engines
Mickey and the Roadster Racers: Start Your Engines (Disney) features popular animated Disney characters — Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck, Goofy — in a series of adventures that finds them in exciting races from Hot Dog Hills to Hawaii and all the way to London. They encounter the world’s greatest spy, soar through the skies in a revved-up hot-air balloon, and investigate the theft of the Queen’s stolen Royal Ruby.
Even before the feature film Cars (2006), the Disney Studio had a fascination with cars and other vehicles with several short cartoons relying on vehicles for plots. In Mickey’s Service Station”(1935), Mickey, Donald and Goofy work together to repair a broken car. Mickey’s Fire Brigade (1935) finds Mickey driving a hook-and-ladder firetruck with Goofy steering from the back. Mickey’s Trailer (1938) features the three pals on a trailer road trip that almost turns disastrous.
Road rage is shown in Motor Mania (1950), in which Goofy portrays a mild-mannered fellow who transforms into a crazed madman behind the wheel. Susie the Little Blue Coupe (1952) gave an inanimate object characteristics of a person when it passed from one owner to another, as its fortunes changed according to each owner. The Story of Anyburg, U.S.A. (1957) put a car on trial for the homicides and injuries it caused for people around the country.
The cartoons in Mickey and the Roadster Racers: Start Your Engines are light and feature lots of action that kids will enjoy. The episodes are “Agent Double-O-Goof,” “It’s Wiki Wiki Time,” “Ye Olde Royal Heist,” “Guru Goofy,” and “Going Uppppppppppp!” Also included in the DVD release is the bonus episode “Goof Luck Charm.”