Muscle Shoals. color & b/w. 111+ min. Greg “Freddy” Camalier, Ear Goggles Prods., dist. by Magnolia Home Entertainment, www.magpictures.com. 2014. DVD UPC 876964006347. $26.98; Blu-ray UPC 876964006354. $29.98. Rated: PG. MUSIC
Director Camalier’s debut documentary reveals how a pair of recording studios in the Muscle Shoals area of Alabama became unlikely hit factories in the 1960s and 1970s. Everyone from Wilson Pickett to Bob Dylan to Lynyrd Skynyrd flocked to the tiny rural community to capture a uniquely funky, gritty, loose sound many believed could only happen at FAME Studios or Muscle Shoals Sound. The film digs deep into the studios’ histories and explores the surrounding social and cultural landscape that influenced the genre-hopping “Muscle Shoals sound,” with FAME founder Rick Hall serving as guide. A bevy of stars who recorded in Muscle Shoals provide additional insight, sharing colorful behind-the-songs stories that are sure to please music buffs, highlighted by the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards’s and Mick Jagger’s revealing anecdotes and Aretha Franklin’s touching tales. This long, rambling film relies heavily on talking-head interview clips, but there’s also plenty of fantastic music, some archival video, and still footage, along with gorgeous outdoor cinematography. VERDICT Both casual and serious music fans should appreciate this entertaining and informative offering that sheds light on a significant chapter in popular music history.
Hannah Arendt. color. 113+ min. with booklet. In English & German. Margarethe von Trotta, dist. by Zeitgeist Films, www.zeitgeistfilms.com. 2013. DVD UPC 795975115636. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 795975115735. $34.99. BIOPIC
Mention of the name Hannah Arendt (1906–75) is still guaranteed to result in prolonged arguments in some intellectual circles today. Most famous for her coinage of the term the banality of evil to describe the mentality of the Nazis, she was one of the most important philosophers and thinkers of the 20th century. While Arendt was a protégé and onetime lover of philosopher Martin Heidegger, the focus of this film is narrow. Except for a few flashbacks, acclaimed feminist filmmaker von Trotta limits her narrative to a few years in the early 1960s when Arendt covered the Adolf Eichmann trial for The New Yorker magazine, which resulted in a series of articles and a major book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. These works led to a firestorm of criticism, particularly in Jewish circles from those who thought that Arendt was blaming the victims of the Holocaust by confronting the way in which some Jewish leaders sacrificed what she saw as the first principle of morality by cooperating with the Nazis. Arendt fought back with a vengeance. Actress Barbara Sukowa gives a brilliant performance as Arendt. It’s difficult to portray a character known mainly for her intellect and to hold the audience’s attention, but Sukowa succeeds beyond measure. The supporting cast members are also fine, particularly Janet McTeer as Hannah’s American best friend, novelist Mary McCarthy. Extras include a making-of documentary and an exceptional Q&A with von Trotta, screenwriter Pam Katz, Sukowa and McTeer, and advisor Jerome Kohn. VERDICT This film will reward the conscientious viewer and offers insights into both the Holocaust and what it means to think and defend your thinking. Highly recommended.
The Frog Princes. color. 45 min. Ryan Mullins & Omar Majeed, Eyesteelfilm Prod., dist. by Natl. Film Bd. of Canada, 800-542-2164; nfb.ca. 2013. DVD UPC 698193286983. $225. Public performance; streaming rights available. PSYCH
“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players”—Shakespeare in As You Like It said it best. And if public speaking is often cited as the most reported adult fear, then imagine the difficulty of directing a musical whose cast consists entirely of individuals with intellectual, physical, and mental health challenges. Covering what is considered “drama therapy,” this documentary follows the cast and director during the entire process, from casting to rehearsals, including costume fittings, performance jitters, stage fright, and all the drama (pun intended) in the lives of the cast backstage, through to the ambitious and triumphal production of a musical. VERDICT A truly amazing progression through to the final performance; this inspirational and emotional view of overcoming challenges is recommended for most viewers.
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Angels in Stardust. color. 96 min. William Robert Carey, ARC Entertainment, dist. by Amazon.com. 2014. DVD UPC 796019827836. $20.99. Rated: PG-13. F
Blandings: Series 1. 2 discs. color. 182 min. Paul Seed, BBC, ITV Studios Global Entertainment, dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781621720829. $39.99. SDH subtitles. F/TV
Springhill: Series One. 4 discs. color. 624+ min. Simon Massey & others, Granada Prod., ITV Studios, dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline.com. DVD ISBN 9781598285826. $59.99. SDH subtitles. F/TV
Wild Style: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition. 2 discs. color. 82+ min. Charlie Ahearn, Wild Style Prods., dist. by Music Box Films, www.musicboxfilms.com. 2013. DVD UPC 741360538146. $29.95. Rated: R. f/HIP-HOP
ARTS & HUMANITIES
Rewind This! color & b/w. 90+ min. Josh Johnson, IPF Prods., dist. by FilmBuff, www.FilmBuff.com. 2014. DVD ISBN 9780788617515. $24.98. FILM
GV15 Gaming Our Reality: Writing & Game Design from an Alternate Perspective. color. 40 min. Bob Bryan, Bryan World Prods., www.graffitiverite.com. 2013. DVD UPC 662425065004. $19.95; public performance $34.50. GAMES
The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations. color. 56 min. Hannah Jayanti, Freckless Prods., dist. by Argot Pictures, www.argotpictures.com. 2014. DVD $100; acad. libs. $250. Public performance. LIT
Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation. color & b/w. 92+ min. Laura Archibald, Solomon’s Signature Prods., dist. by Kino Lorber, www.kinolorberedu.com. 2013. DVD UPC 738329114329. $249; public performance; DSL w/PPR $599; DSL $499; home version $29.95. MUSIC/HIST
Pride and Perseverance: The Story of the Negro Leagues. color & b/w. 50 min. Major League Baseball Prods., dist. by Lionsgate, www.lionsgateshop.com. 2014. DVD UPC 031398184423. $9.98. Closed-captioned. SPORTS
Running for Jim. color. 78 min. Robin Hauser Reynolds & Dan Noyes, Filmakers Library, www.filmakers.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781463118143. $295. Public performance. SPORTS
The Captains Close Up with William Shatner. color. 150+ min. William Shatner, Le Big Boss Prods., dist. by Entertainment One, us.eonefilms.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781417237838. $29.98. TV
Our Newspaper. color. 58 min. In Russian w/English subtitles. Eline Flipse, Elifli Film, dist. by Icarus Films, www.icarusfilms.com. 2013. DVD $348. Public performance. COMM
Melvin & Jean: An American Story. color & b/w. 60 min. Maia Wechsler, Filmakers Library, www.filmakers.com. 2014. DVD ISBN 9781463118273. $295. Public performance. CRIME/SOC SCI
Living Through Dying: Reverend Paul Fairley; A Cancer Story. color. 15 min. Film Ideas, www.filmideas.com. 2014. DVD ISBN 9781605727394. $39.95. Public performance. PSYCH/rel
Romeo Romeo. color. 75 min. Lizzie Gottlieb, YoungLove Prods., dist. by Good Docs, www.gooddocs.com. 2013. DVD $150; acad. libs. $275. Public performance. SOC SCI/GENDER STUDIES