Bill W.: A Documentary About the Co-Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. b/w. 103+ min. Kevin Hanlon & Dan Carracino, Page 124 Prods., www.page124.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9780615763149. $150. Public performance; closed-captioned; home version $19.99 + $3.20 s/h. BIOG
This excellent biography tells the story of AA cofounder Bill Wilson (1895–1971): his early life, his descent into alcoholism, and his many efforts to control it—all unsuccessful until a fateful meeting in Akron, with Dr. Bob Smith. Much of the narration here is from recordings of talks that Wilson gave to AA groups, so we hear his story in his own words, with occasional commentary from organization officials and members. The visuals comprise period black-and-white footage, including home movies and early promotional films. A haunting background is provided by a series of Bach cello suites performed by Yo-Yo Ma. This powerful production will resonate with anyone who has ever had difficulty with personal demons. Extras include deleted scenes and subtitles in a number of languages. VERDICT A superior DVD on a fascinating subject that will appeal to all audiences but especially to those in 12-step programs.
Call the Midwife: Season Three. 3 discs. color. 547+ min. Thea Sharrock & others, Neal Street Prods. for BBC, www.bbcamerica.com. 2014. DVD UPC 883929356270. $39.98; Blu-ray UPC 883929356225. $44.98. SDH subtitles. F/TV
Fans of this award-winning drama will be delighted to reunite with the midwives and Anglican nuns of London’s East End. It’s 1959, and the series once again focuses on midwife Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine), whose life is based on the experiences of author and nurse Jennifer Worth. Plenty of babies are being born with the help of midwives Chummy (Miranda Hart), Trixie (Helen George), and the other occupants of Nonnatus House. There are a few new faces, as well, including a handsome young vicar. Various social and medical issues are skillfully woven into the plots, adding a serious note to what otherwise might be overly sentimental story lines. Bonus extras include interviews with the cast. Verdict If only all television drama measured up to this series. The stories will continue with a Christmas special and season four in 2015. For all viewers.
The Last Elvis. color. 92+ min. In Spanish w/English subtitles. Armando Bo, dist. by First Run Features, 800-229-8575; www.firstrunfeatures.com. 2014. DVD UPC 720229915847. $24.95. F
This feature film debut by producer/director Bo (screenwriter, Biutiful) tells the strange story of Carlos, an Argentine Elvis Presley impersonator whose all-consuming obsession with the King is threatened by family obligations when his estranged wife is hospitalized and he must care for a young daughter he barely knows. What begins as a sad but sympathetic character study of Carlos as he stumbles through life evolves into a heartwarming tale of awkward stabs at father-daughter bonding before an abrupt and unforeseen plot turn takes the film in a completely different direction. The movie culminates in an unforgettable final scene that forces viewers to rethink everything that came before. Real-life Elvis impersonator John McInerny delivers a powerful performance as a delusional loner who imitates Elvis both on- and offstage. The writing, acting, directing, and cinematography are all top-notch, with several hugely entertaining scenes of McInerny performing Vegas-era Presley hits. VERDICT While clearly skewed toward the art-house crowd, this unique and surprising film could also appeal to hard-core Elvis fans with a taste for something out of the ordinary.
FastScans: Top Foreign & Indie Picks
By Jeff T. Dick, Davenport, IA
Back in Crime. color. 101+ min. In French w/English subtitles. Kino Lorber. 2013. DVD UPC 738329130220. $29.99.
After getting hit in the head and taking a fall, a Parisian detective (Jean-Hugues Anglade) finds himself two decades in the past. With the aid of a comely psychiatrist (Mélanie Thierry), he gets a second chance to catch a serial killer who earlier eluded him. Making his feature-film debut, writer-director Germinal Alvarez remarkably manages to suspend disbelief in a contrived premise that wisely sidesteps any rational explanation, relying instead on compelling execution. For open-minded crime-genre buffs.
The Color of Lies. 103+ min. 1999. DVD UPC 741952772798. $29.98; Blu-ray UPC 741952772897. $39.98.
The Inspector Lavardin Collection. 2 discs. 209+ min. 1985–86. DVD UPC 741952772590. $39.98; Blu-ray UPC 741952772699. $49.98.
ea: color. In French w/English subtitles. Cohen Media Group.
French New Wave veteran Claude Chabrol (1930–2010) brings a devious sense of humor to his work, even dark dramas like Lies, in which a devoted wife (Sandrine Bonnaire) stands by her murder-suspect husband. Detective Jean Lavardin (Jean Poiret) solves crimes in his own wily way in Chicken with Vinegar and its sequel, Inspector Lavardin, as well as in two made-for-TV follow-ups—The Black Snail (1988) and Danger Lies in the Words (1989)—generously included as extras. For admirers of low-key thrillers.
Life Is a Banquet: The Rosalind Russell Story. color & b/w. 58 min. Total Media Group. 2009. DVD ISBN 9780966911220. $19.99; public performance $295.
Perhaps best known for her role as the fast-talking reporter in His Girl Friday (1940), Russell (1907–76) bookended her illustrious Hollywood career (earning several Oscar nods) with Tony-winning (Wonderful Town) stage work. Husky-throated Kathleen Turner supplies the voice-over in this concise adaptation of the down-to-earth star’s autobiography. Interviews with movie industry types, family, and others blend with film clips and archival stills for a revealing documentary sure to be welcomed by Golden Age movie fans.
Omar. color. 98 min. In Arabic w/English subtitles. Adopt Films. 2013. DVD UPC 748252160928. $29.95; Blu-ray UPC 748252161024. $34.95.
Risking his close friendship with two fellow Palestinians and his romance with one of their sisters, Omar (a riveting Adam Bakri) turns reluctant informant for the Israeli military after being apprehended for his role in the killing of a soldier. Manipulated by his Israeli handler, Omar wrestles with torn loyalties before ultimately choosing sides in a jolting but inevitable finale. Director Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now) keeps up the suspense in this politically timely thriller, which made the cut for foreign-language film Oscar nominee.
Persona. 3 discs. b/w. 83+ min. In Swedish w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 1966. DVD/Blu-ray ISBN 9781604658125. $39.95.
A renowned actress (Liv Ullmann), who turns mysteriously mute from an apparent breakdown, merges personalities with the nurse (Bibi Andersson) caring for her. Calling attention to film as the medium used to tell his story, Ingmar Bergman offers his most enigmatic and stylistically daring work—an exploration of illusion that is open to interpretation. Pictorially superior to the decade-old MGM disc, Criterion’s digital makeover of this classic film adds several appealing extras to pique the interest of Bergman aficionados. [See Trailers, LJ 2/1/14.]
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The Amazing Catfish. color. 95 min. In Spanish w/English subtitles. Claudia Sainte-Luce, dist. by Strand Releasing, www.strandreleasing.com. 2014. DVD UPC 712267340026. $24.99. F
Mr. & Mrs. Murder: Series 1. 4 discs. color. 599+ min. Shirley Barrett & others, Bravado Prod., dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline.com. 2014. DVD ISBN 9781621721413. $59.99. SDH subtitles. F
ARTS & HUMANITIES
Celluloid Man. color. 164 min. Shivendra Dungapur, dist. by Cinema Guild, www.cinemaguild.com. 2014. DVD ISBN 9780781514682. $99.95; acad. libs. $350. Public performance. FILM
Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay. color. 88+ min. Molly Bernstein & Alan Edelstein, Hopscotch Films, dist. by Kino Lorber, 800-562-3330; www.kinolorberedu.com. 2013. DVD UPC 738329117429. $29.95; public performance $349; w/DSL $499; DSL w/PPR $599. GAMES/MAGIC
Beat Generation: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs. b/w. 55 min. Jean-Jacques Lebel & Xavier Villetard, dist. by Film Ideas, www.filmideas.com.
2013. DVD ISBN 9781605727646. $225. Public performance. LIT
Speak the Music: Robert Mann and the Mysteries of Chamber Music. color & b/w. 58 min. Allan Miller , dist. by First Run Features, 800-229-8575; www.firstrunfeatures.com. 2013. DVD UPC 720229915786. $24.95. MUSIC
Eye on the 60s: The Iconic Photography of Rowland Scherman. color & b/w. 88 min. Chris Szwedo , www.szwedo.com; www.eyeonthesixties.com. 2014. DVD UPC 724101246494. $200; acad. libs. $250 + $6 s/h. Public performance. PHOTOG/HIST
Theatreland. 2 discs. color. 201+ min. Chris Terrill, West Park Pictures , dist. by Athena, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline.com. 2014. DVD ISBN 9781621721833. $39.99. SDH subtitles. THEATER
Mothers of Bedford. color. 96 min. Jenifer McShane , dist. by Women Make Movies, www.wmm.com. 2013. DVD $89; acad. libs. $295 (Rental: $90). Public performance. CRIMINOLOGY
Man for a Day. color. 59 min. In German & English w/English subtitles. Katarina Peters, Filmproduktion, dist. by Icarus Films, 800-876-1710; www.icarusfilms.com. 2013. DVD $390. Public performance. GENDER STUDIES
Let the Fire Burn. color & b/w. 95 min. Jason Osder, Film Sales Co. & George Washington Sch. of Media , dist. by Zeitgeist Films, www.zeitgeistfilms.com. 2014. DVD UPC 795975116039. $29.99. Closed captioned. HIST
Login 2 Life. color. 86 min. Daniel Moshel, dist. by Icarus Films, 800-876-1710; www.icarusfilms.com. 2013. DVD $298. Public performance. SOC SCI
Seeking Asian Female. color. 83+ min. In English w/some Mandarin subtitles. Debbie Lum, Ctr. for Asian American Media, Corp. for Public Broadcasting , dist. by New Day Films, newday.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781574484847. $100; acad. libs. $325 (Rental: $95) + $15 s/h. Public performance; closed-captioned. SOC SCI