by Bryan Theiss
In this week’s batch of new arrivals we have a lot of high quality television: acclaimed series about various monarchs, some French mystery and thriller shows, the second season of Fleabag. We also have a few new horror films, movies starring Henry Winkler and John Schneider as people going on runs after escaping from places, documentaries about musicians and cannibals, and much more.
AGATHA CHRISTIE’S CRIMINAL GAMES: SEASON 4 (2019)
This French series has a different spin on Agatha Christie’s classic mysteries, setting them in 1950s France. This set includes episodes inspired byThe Sittaford Mystery, Evil Under the Sun, Towards Zero, Rendezvous with Death and Appointment with Death, plus an original musical episode.
THE AGE OF NATURE (2020)
This PBS mini-series explores humanity’s relationship with nature and possibilities for restoring the planet. Narrated by Uma Thurman, hopefully in a similar manner to her “roaring rampage of revenge” monologue in Kill Bill.
ALL THE PRETTY HORSES (2000)
Sling Blade was so effective at putting Billy Bob Thornton on the map as an actor that people may forget it was also his directorial debut. Four years later he followed it with this Cormac McCarthy adaptation with the top notch cast of Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, Penelope Cruz, Sam Shepard, Robert Patrick and Lucas Black. For its 20th anniversary it’s finally on blu-ray. Though generally not well received at the time, Roger Ebert praised it: “Thornton cares about the story, I think, but he’s not distracted by it. The real subject of his movie is the feeling of being young, on horseback, in a foreign country, in trouble, and in love. All the Pretty Horses reminds me, in a strange way, of George Washington… the two films have nothing in common except for how much they want to fix in the memory the way it was to be at that place, at that time. They use dialogue as if it were music, to establish a mood.”
In a new horror thriller from the producers of Get Out and Blackkklansman, Janelle Monae plays a present day writer who finds herself mysteriously transported to a 19th century slavery plantation. (At least that’s what I can gather from the advertising – I haven’t seen it yet and there’s some kind of twist they’re trying to be vague about.)
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
BATTLEFIELD EARTH (2000)
According to promotional materials, “This special 20th Anniversary Blu-ray release contains the ORIGINAL THEATRICAL CUT of the film featuring scenes removed from the original DVD release!” Whether you’re a sincere aficionado of John Travolta, Barry Pepper, Forest Whitaker and Kim Coates’ adventures in the year 3000 or you agree with the film’s reputation as an all time disasterpiece, you may be interested in the “over 70 minutes of new bonus interviews and featurettes,” including conversations with the director, writer, composer and model maker, plus select scene commentary with production designer Patrick Tatopoulos.
BEN 10 VERSUS THE UNIVERSE: THE MOVIE (2020)
I don’t know what any of this means, but if you’re familiar with this series I’m sure you will: “When a blast from Ben’s past – Vilgax – returns to do double the damage on Team Tennyson and planet Earth itself, Ben must go interstellar to save the day while Gwen and Grandpa Max team-up with Kevin to protect the world in Ben’s absence, but when our boy hero is confused for the villain in space, Ben is forced to defend himself in the trial of a century!”
A terminally ill woman (Susan Sarandon) brings together her family (Kate Winslet, Mia Wasikowska, Lindsay Duncan, Rainn Wilson, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Sam Neill) for one last weekend together. This one is directed by Roger Michell (My Cousin Rachel) and is a remake of the 2014 Bille August film Silent Heart.
THE BUREAU: SEASON 5 (2019)
This French political thriller series is about the agents of the General Directorate of External Security. In this season Mathieu Amalric’s character JJA has taken over managing the Bureau.
Documentary from the directors of Leviathan about the relationship between two brothers, one of whom was arrested in France for killing and devouring his roommate, but was declared legally insane and returned home to Japan, ostracized but free. Since then he’s been able to profit from his crime with manga, novels and movie appearances. Also included is In the Sea of Trees (2000), an 18-minute short in which the non-cannibal brother is interviewed in a suicide forest at the foot of Mount Fuji.
CAPTAIN MARLEAU: VOLUME 3 (2018)
Four more episodes of the French crime drama starring Corinne Masiero as an eccentric captain of the National Gendarmerie.
CATHERINE THE GREAT: COMPLETE SERIES (2019)
Not to be confused with The Great (which we got in last week), this is the also acclaimed HBO mini-series starring Helen Mirren as the Russian empress. Jason Clarke plays her lover, Grigory Potemkin.
THE CROWN: SEASON 3 (2020)
Olivia Colman (The Favourite) stars as Queen Elizabeth II and Helena Bonham Carter plays Princess Margaret in this popular show from writer Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon), but also note that Clancy Brown (Highlander) appears in an episode as Lyndon B. Johnson.
THE DEVIL TO PAY (2019)
“After the disappearance of her husband, a struggling farmer in an isolated Appalachian community fights to save her son when the cold-hearted matriarch of the oldest family on the mountain demands payment of a debt that could destroy a decade’s old truce.” Written and directed by the husband and wife team of Lane & Ruckus Skye, who also wrote the recent pre-teen-vs.-neo-nazis thriller Becky.
EDDIE MACON’S RUN (1983)
Duke of Hazzard John Schneider plays the titular individual on the titular run after being unfairly sentenced and escaping from prison. The supporting cast includes Kirk Douglas, Tom Noonan, J.T. Walsh and John Goodman, some of whom also have to run because they’re trying to catch him. From the director of Revenge of the Nerds, Gotcha! and Tough Guys.
The true story of three shepherds in Portugal who claimed to have seen a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1917. Starring Joaquim de Almeida, Goran Višnjic, Stephanie Gil and Lúcia Moniz, with Sônia Braga and Harvey Keitel. Director Marco Pontecorvo is the son of Gillo Pontecorvo (Burn!, The Battle of Algiers).
FLEABAG: SEASON 2 (2019)
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s beloved comedy series returns, picking up shortly after season 1. Sherlock’s Moriarty Andrew Scott joins the cast as “The Priest.”
A decade in the life of two friends (Tallie Medel and Norma Kuhling) as one of them becomes increasingly dysfunctional from either mental health or drug problems. This has an impressive 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune writes, “What I love about the film, among other aspects, is how the wry verbal wit of the early conversations suggests a mordant comedy, almost a working-class variation on the films of Whit Stillman.” Includes the 2019 short Caterina by the same director.
Henry Winkler stars as a PTSD-suffering vet who breaks out of the VA hospital and goes on a road trip with Sally Field. Also starring Harrison Ford, who was so fresh off of Star Wars he probably still smelled like Chewbacca. From the director of The Journey of Natty Gann.
LET’S SCARE JULIE (2019)
A group of teenage girls who clearly haven’t seen enough horror movies to know better try to scare their reclusive neighbor with a prank. Shot to resemble one long take – the Rope of teen horror thrillers.
A feel good comedy-drama based on the true story of the 1970 Miss World competition, which was interrupted by women’s liberation activists and featured its first ever win by a Black contestant (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw of Beyond the Lights). Also starring Keira Knightley, Jessie Buckley, Lesley Manville, Rhys Ifans, Suki Waterhouse, and Greg Kinnear playing the host, Bob Hope (!). The DVD includes some featurettes about the movie and the true story, plus interviews with Mbatha-Raw and Kinnear.
MURDER IN…: COLLECTION 2 (2019)
This French series is subtitled “crimes and secrets in Iconic French locations.” According to the description, “Cops chase down the criminals against stunning backdrops: lush forests, remote islands, rocky coastlines, beaches with clear blue water and grand ranches. Sure, there’s a murder or two, but along the way you’ll get to know French cuisine, unique characters and centuries-old history and legends.”
(DVD – this is divided into four 3-disc rentals)
PATRICK STILL LIVES (1980)
Patrick, the 1978 Australian horror hit about a bedridden telekinetic killer, accidentally spawned this unofficial Italian sequel that Severin promises features “a weekend packed with relentless nudity, outrageous violence and perhaps the most depraved sex/gore death in all of Italian horror.” Includes interview with actor Gianni Dei.
A middle aged Dublin father (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Ebony Maw from the Avengers movies) goes into a downward spiral after the death of his father and, rather than confiding in his wife, starts a relationship with a young male prostitute. Includes Q&A with director Peter Mackie Burns from 2020’s OUTShine Film Festival.
SAKAMOTO, RYUICHI: CODA (2017)
Documentary about the veteran composer returning to music after a cancer diagnosis and creating a new masterpiece. Also includes the 2018 performance film Ryuichi Sakamoto: async at the Park Avenue Armory.
SCARY TALES (1993) / DARKEST SOUL (1994)
Our pals at the American Genre Film Archive and Bleeding Skull! present Baltimore underground filmmaker Doug Ulrich’s shot-on-video horror anthology, which they say “plays out like a public access version of Creepshow, this is what happens when Satanic necklaces, bloodthirsty slashers, and Dungeons & Dragons-styled live action role playing collide with cool dads, neon lightbulbs, and dungeon synthesizers.” Also includes Ulrich’s followup Darkest Soul.
SHOCK TREATMENT (1973)
Not to be confused with the Rocky Horror sequel, this is the French thriller about a clinic using young men’s blood and body parts to rejuvenate old rich people. Alain Delon stars as the not particularly ethical Doctor Devilers.
WELCOME TO THE CIRCLE (2020)
A family on a camping trip are attacked by a bear, then trapped by a demon worshipping cult. There’s a mole in the cult who says that outsiders are planning a rescue mission, but will it be in time? Not in time to redeem this vacation, in my humble opinion! Should’ve stayed home.