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HINTERLAND (Film Movement): In appropriating various subtexts and styles familiar to their respective genres, writer/director Srefan Ruzowitzky has fashioned a true original with this award-winning, multi-layered thriller set in post-World War I Vienna.
The glowering Murathan Muslu plays Peter Berg, one of many P.O.W.s returning home to the war-torn city. Clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress after his ordeal, the brooding Berg is briefly suspected in a series of gruesome murders that have rocked Vienna. But police superintendent Victor Renner (Marc Limpach) knows he’s not guilty. In fact, he knows that Berg was a noted criminologist before the war and requests his assistance – much to the consternation of fellow cop Paul Severin (Max von der Groeben).
Rife with political and social allegory, Hinterland delves into darker territory as it concentrates on the murders, which are ultimately revealed as an elaborate revenge plot directly related to the war and Berg’s own past. The setting inevitably recalls the 1949 classic The Third Man, the gory murders echo those in David Fincher’s Se7en (1995), and the overall atmosphere is a surreal combination of Tim Burton/Terry Gilliam/Guillermo del Toro and German Expressionism. The style occasionally overwhelms the narrative, but the fine performances – including that of Liv Lisa Fries as a physician and Berg’s pseudo-love interest – keep the film grounded throughout.
In German with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail), including audio commentary and Meryl Roche’s 2019 short film Haute Cuisine. ***
BLACK ADAM (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson produced and stars in the title role of director Jaume Collet-Sera’s PG-13-rated adaptation of the popular DC Comics franchise, an ancient warrior released from imprisonment who takes the modern world by storm, backed by a star-studded cast: Aldis Hodge, Sarah Shahi, Djimon Hounsou, Henry Winkler, and Pierce Brosnan – plus a smattering of cameos, available on DVD ($34.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.98 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($49.98 retail), each replete with bonus features for DC devotees.
“BLONDE: THE MARILYN STORIES COMPILATION” (Film Chest Media Group): A three-DVD selection of films about the immortal Hollywood sex goddess Marilyn Monroe (1926-’62): Larry Buchanan’s R-rated 1976 drive-in potboiler Goodbye, Norma Jean (1976) starring Misty Rowe, the 1991 made-for-television movie Marilyn and Me (1991) starring Susan Griffiths, and the award-winning, two-part CBS mini-series Blonde (2001) starring Poppy Montgomery, plus bonus documentaries The Legend of Marilyn Monroe (1967), narrated by John Huston, and Marilyn (1986) – and more.
“CINEMA’S FIRST NASTY WOMEN” (Kino Classics): Billed as “an irreverent four-disc collection,” this selection of 99 rarely-seen silent short films from the United States and other countries – curated by Maggie Hennefeld, Laura Horak, and Elif Rongen-Kaynakci – that bucked the cinematic trends of the era by focusing exclusively on women, engaged in labor strikes and social activism, slapstick comedy, gender-bending satire and pre-feminist attitudes, featuring audio commentaries, collectible booklet, video introductions, English subtitles (if required) and more, available on DVD ($39.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($79.95 retail).
A FUGITIVE FROM THE PAST (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A special-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) of director Tomu Uchida’s award-winning crime epic (originally titled Kiga kaikyo) based on Tsutomu’s Minakami’s novel, detailing the painstaking pursuit of crafty criminal Rentaro Mikuni by obsessive detective Jonzaburo Ban a decade after a daring robbery and a tragic typhoon that rocked Japan. In Japanese with English subtitles, bonus features include scene-specific audio commentary, original trailer, collectible booklet, image gallery, and more.
THE GANG OF FOUR (Cohen Media Group/Kino Lorber): A special-edition Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) of Jacques Rivette’s award-winning 1988 drama (originally titled La bande des quatre) marks the sixth and final collaboration between Rivette and leading lady Bulle Ogier, playing an imperious acting teacher who assembles four of her prize pupils in a house on the outskirts of Paris for intensive training, which (naturally) doesn’t go as expected. In French with English subtitles, bonus features include audio commentary and re-release trailer.
GOODBYE, DON GLEES! (GKIDS/Shout! Factory): Director/first-time writer Atsuko Ishizuka’s PG-rated animé fantasy (originally titled Gubbai, Don Gurizu!) follows the misadventures of three teen-aged misfits (who call themselves the “Don Glees”) when they are unjustly accused of starting a nearby forest fire, available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($26.98 retail) replete with original Japanese (with English subtitles) and English-dubbed audio options, interview with Ishizuka, and trailers.
HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The 4K Ultra HD combo debut ($39.95 retail) of the brutal, coolly stylized 1973 Western directed by and starring Clint Eastwood as a mysterious gunman (billed as “The Stranger”) who rallies the residents of a frontier town to stand up to the outlaw gang terrorizing them, backed such familiar faces as Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill, Mitchell Ryan, Geoffrey Lewis, Stefan Gierasch, Jack Ging, Anthony James, John Hillerman, Robert Donner, John Quade, and scene-stealer Billy Curtis. Bonus features include audio commentaries, retrospective interviews, theatrical trailers, and more. Rated R. ***
THE INVISIBLE MANIAC (Vinegar Syndrome): A limited-edition 4K Ultra HD combo ($44.98 retail) of the campy, R-rated 1990 fantasy send-up written and directed by Adam Rifkin (under the pseudonym “Rif Coogan”) starring Noel Peters (in his only feature to date) as a mad scientist who develops a formula for invisibility but goes insane in the process, then becomes a high-school teacher (!) and goes on a raunchy rampage. Bonus features include audio commentaries, the retrospective documentary Fast, Cheap and Out of Sight, music video, and more.
THE LONELIEST BOY IN THE WORLD (Well Go USA Entertainment): Max Harwood in director Martin Owen’s cheeky coming-of-age comedy as an orphaned teenager, circa 1987, who digs up fresh corpses to create his own “family” – only to have them return as zombies. The eye-popping, art-deco trappings are wildly – and overly -- stylized and the film tends to be overly silly, trying a little too hard to achieve cult status – but it does have its moments, available on DVD ($19.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail). Rated R. **
LOWNDES COUNTY AND THE ROAD TO BLACK POWER (Greenwich Entertainment/Kino Lorber): Geeta Gandbhir and Sam Pollard co-directed this thoughtful, still-relevant documentary feature focusing on the titular region of Alabama (not far from Montgomery), which became a flashpoint for the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and a point of maturation for the Black Panther movement, with current and vintage interviews seamlessly woven into the mix. The DVD retails for $19.95. ***
MONSIEUR HIRE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Screenwriter/director Patrice Leconte’s award-winning 1989 adaptation of Georges Simenon’s 1933 novel Les fiancailles des M. Hire) depicts the bizarre relationship that develops between reclusive eccentric Michel Blanc (in the title role) and Sandrine Bonnaire as the alluring neighbor who becomes his obsession. Taut and fast-paced, this claustrophobic psycho-thriller benefits enormously from their performances. In French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail), each boasting audio commentary, retrospective interview, and trailers. Rated PG-13. ***
MOON, 66 QUESTIONS (Film Movement): Writer/co-producer/director Jacqueline Lentzou’s award-winning feature debut (originally titled Selini, 66 erutiseis) showcases a fine performance by Sofia Kokkali as a resentful woman compelled to assume care of her ailing, estranged father (the equally fine Lazaros Georgakopoulos) in modern-day Athens. Slow-moving but worthwhile. In Greek with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail), including deleted scenes and Lentzou’s 2020 short film The End of Suffering (A Proposal). ***
“RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER”: SERIES 1 (Acorn): This light-hearted mystery series, filmed in location in South Africa, stars Maria Doyle Kennedy as a newspaper columnist-turned-amateur sleuth when one of her fervent followers is brutally murdered, with Tony Kgoroge, Kylie Fisher, Jennifer Steyn, Elton Landrew, Arno Greeff, and Grant Swanbie rounding out the regular cast. The three-disc DVD collection ($49.99 retail) includes all 10 episodes from the inaugural 2022 season.
SLASH/BACK (Image Entertainment/RLJ Entertainment): In her feature debut, Tasiana Shirley leads a group of teenaged girls who rely upon their knowledge of horror movies to repel in alien invasion in the Arctic Circle, in writer/producer/director Nyla Innuksuk’s debut feature, available on DVD ($27.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($28.96 retail).
SMILE (Paramount Home Entertainment): Sosie Bacon (daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick) plays a twitchy, troubled therapist forced to confront her childhood traumas when she encounters an inexplicable (and never-explained) phenomena in which those who witness suicides are fated to do likewise shortly thereafter, in writer/director Parker Finn’s debut feature, a feature-length expansion of his 2020 short Laura Can’t Sleep. This overlong, underwhelming time-waster was surprisingly successful at the box-office but it’s strictly routine, available on DVD ($25.99 retail), Blu-ray ($30.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($35.99 retail), each replete with bonus features including audio commentary, the original short film, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and more. Rated R. *
TWILIGHT (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Director/co-writer Robert Benton’s slick 1998 thriller offers a contemporary take on film noir set against the backdrop of Hollywood, with Paul Newman as a broken-down ex-private eye enmeshed in deception, scandal, and murder. Overly convoluted but top-heavy with talent: Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon, Stockard Channing, Reese Witherspoon, Liev Schreiber, John Spencer, M. Emmet Walsh, Margo Martindale, and an unbilled James Garner, available on Blu-ray ($24.95 retail), featuring audio commentary and theatrical trailer. Rated R. **½
THE UNGUARDED MOMENT (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The Blu-ray bow ($24.95 retail) of the 1956 thriller, based on an original story by Rosalind Russell, with Esther Williams as a high-school teacher stalked by a peeping tom whom she suspects of being a serial killer, with George Nader, John Saxon, Edward Andrews, Les Tremayne, Jack Albertson, and Ed Platt in support. Bonus features include audio commentary and theatrical trailer.
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