Cold War History, the Life of Ward, Trials of Ali, plus Fast Scans & Trailers | Video Reviews

redstarDisco & Atomic War. color & b/w. 80+ min. Jaak Kilmi, dist. by Icarus Films, 2014. DVD UPC 854565001640. $298; home version c/o $29.98. COMM

discoandatomicwar080414Was the television series Dallas responsible for the breakup of the Soviet Union? While filmmaker Kilmi does not argue for a causal link between the two, he does present an engaging examination of the influence of Western TV broadcasts in the former Soviet republics. As a Soviet state, Estonia aired broadcasts that were tightly controlled by the government. Estonia’s proximity to Finland, however, meant that its populace could watch shows on Finnish channels. Most Soviet citizens were unaware of events taking place in Czechoslovakia during the 1968 Prague Spring. Yet Estonians were able to view events in Prague and subsequent demonstrations in Helsinki. While the government made multiple attempts to repress access to Finnish airwaves, Kilmi illustrates how Estonians improvised ways to circumvent these controls. Kilmi tells his story through the voices of four children, all of whom became involved in the sub­versive efforts of the Estonians. For example, Kilmi himself sold an underground Finnish television guide, produced by his grand­father and his mother. VERDICT This engaging film is told with a great deal of humor while offering perspective into Cold War history. Recommended for all libraries.—Rosemary Arneson, Univ. of Mary Washington Lib., ­Fredericksburg, VA

redstarO Brother Man: The Art and Life of Lynd Ward. color & b/w. 90 min. Michael Maglaras, 217 Films, 2013. DVD UPC 793573149183. $19.95. ART–GENERAL

obrotherman080414A reverent appreciation rather than a critical, objective assessment of the life and career of legendary artist Lynd Ward (1905–85), this film is nevertheless an overdue reminder of what remains singular about him and his imperishable work. Filmmaker Maglaras uses his own narration, archival film and photos, interview clips with Ward’s daughter Robin, and generous examples of Ward’s work to depict his triumph over tuberculosis, introversion, and personal tragedy to become a man and an artist existing in no one’s shadow. Ward’s output is prodigious as well as socially and morally committed; his masterly use of woodcuts, mezzotint, paint, and ink is in thrall to a personal vision that champions imagination and human dignity over the forces of conformity and commerce. There are chapter stops but no bonus features. VERDICT As the life and work it showcases, this look at a unique American artist speaks for itself, with and without words. With erotic, violent, and politically provocative imagery but suitable for most audiences. Highly recommended to anyone with the slightest interest in visual art or modern history.—J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

redstarThe Trials of Muhammad Ali. color & b/w. 93+ min. Bill Siegel, Kartemquin Educational Films & Independent Lens, dist. by Kino Lorber, 2014. DVD UPC 738329121525. $349. Public performance; w/DSL $499; w/DSL & PPR $599; home version $29.95. Closed-captioned. SPORTS

trialsofmuhammadali080414This comprehensive view of the life of boxer Muhammad Ali (b. 1942) covers his conversion to Islam, his refusal to serve in the U.S. armed services, and the appeal of his conscientious objector status to the ­Supreme Court. Through interviews with Ali’s family and his contemporaries, seamlessly edited with archival footage and home movies, the filmmaker is able to show the depths of Ali’s spiritual beliefs and his courage in defense of his faith in a hostile white society. At great personal and financial risk, Ali overcame the doubts of boxing fans and the African American community to become the world champion of human rights as well as the world heavyweight boxing titleholder. VERDICT A fascinating look into prejudice in broadcast media and American society in the late 1960s and how Ali overcame it through the courage of his convictions. Highly recommended for high school to adult audiences; a must for all libraries.—Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH

Fast scans: Top foreign & indie picks

By Jeff T. Dick, Davenport, IA

Amen. 132+ min. In English, French, Italian, & German w/English subtitles. 2002. DVD UPC 741952772996; Blu-ray UPC 741952773092.

Capital. 114+ min. In French w/English subtitles. 2012. DVD ISBN 9781417242344; Blu-ray ISBN 9781417242351. Rated: R.

ea. vol: color. Cohen Media Group. DVD $24.98; Blu-ray $34.98.

Having elevated agitprop to a lofty aesthetic level with Z and Missing, Costa-Gavras carries on his trademark method with the 2003 César Award–winning Amen, a blunt but compelling portrait of collective indifference toward Jews under the Nazis, especially on the part of the Vatican. The recent and topical Capital follows the rise of the CEO of a French bank as a means to expose a global financial system that favors profits over principled business practice. For those who like strong points of view in their entertainment.

Breaking the Waves. 3 discs. color. 159+ min. Criterion Collection. 1996. Blu-ray/DVD ISBN 9781604658330. $39.95. Rated: R.

Before his work became provocative for its own sake (Nymphomaniac), Danish director Lars von Trier pushed the artistic envelope with Dancer in the Dark and Dogville, among others. But he’s never surpassed this, his breakout film, for emotional heft. Oscar-nominated Emily Watson amazes as a newlywed whose paralyzed husband (Stellan Skarsgård) makes a shocking request of his faithful wife. With its jittery, handheld camera work lending it an edgy immediacy, this digitally spruced-up Waves crushes the old Artisan disc. [See Trailers, LJ 3/1/14.]

L’eclisse. 3 discs. b/w. 125+ min. In Italian w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 1962. Blu-ray/DVD ISBN 9781604658439. $39.95.

Preceded by L’avventura and La Notte (LJ 3/15/14), the concluding film in Michelangelo Antonioni’s loosely grouped “alienation trilogy” again stars the director’s off-screen love interest, the lovely Monica Vitti, as a confused and dis­affected signorina who breaks up with her older inamorato and later takes up with a handsome stock trader (Alain Delon) for another apparently doomed relationship. With its seemingly disconnected narrative and long-take style, this digitally restored classic appeals best to devoted cinephiles.

The Missing Picture. color & b/w. 96+ min. In English or French w/English subtitles. Strand Releasing. 2013. DVD UPC 712267331727. $27.99.

In the first-ever Cambodian film Oscar-nominated in the foreign language category, documentarian Rithy Panh intercuts archival propaganda footage with handmade clay figures placed in vivid dioramas to relate the story of the loss of his family during the brutal 1975–79 reign of the Khmer Rouge. This powerful personal approach to depicting the atrocities carried out by Pol Pot’s regime offers a completely original take on the events forcefully dramatized in The Killing Fields (1984), making for a potent double bill.

picnicathangingrock080414Picnic at Hanging Rock. 2 discs. color. 107+ min. Criterion Collection. 1975. DVD ISBN 9781604658705. $29.95; 3-disc Blu-ray/DVD 9781604658422. $39.95. Rated: PG.

Before bringing his unique Australian sensibility to Hollywood (Witness), Peter Weir directed this mysterious story of three turn-of-the-20th-century schoolgirls and a chaperone inexplicably drawn to an outcropping of volcanic rock and vanishing without a trace. Criterion’s welcome high-definition remastering of its dated catalog title aids this masterwork heavily dependent on a pristine presentation to cast fully its dreamy spell. Among several noteworthy extras, the out-of-print source novel is included in the preferred dual-format edition. [See Trailers, LJ 5/1/14.]

Trailers: What’s coming on dvd/blu-ray

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. color. 93+ min. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, dist. by Criterion Collection. Sept. 2014. Blu-ray ISBN 9781604659030. $39.95. DRAMA

Fassbinder honors a Sirk classic.

American Masters: Dorothea Lange; Grab a Hunk of Lightning. color & b/w. 108 min. Dyanna Taylor, dist. by PBS. Sept. 2014. DVD ISBN 9781627890786. $24.99. PHOTOG

The renowned Lange in close up.

Eraserhead. 2 discs. b/w. 85+ min. David Lynch, dist. by Criterion Collection. Sept. 2014. DVD ISBN 9781604658965. $29.95; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781604658958. $39.95. DRAMA

Lynch’s pre–Twin Peaks debut.

The Innocents. 2 discs. b/w. 100+ min. Jack Clayton, dist. by Criterion Collection. Sept. 2014. DVD ISBN 9781604659009. $29.95; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781604658996. $39.95. DRAMA

Capote takes on Henry James.

Macbeth. 2 discs. color. 140+ min. Roman Polanski, dist. by Criterion Collection. Sept. 2014. DVD ISBN 9781604658989. $29.95; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781604658972. $39.95. drama

Odd couple: the Bard & Polanski.refuge080414

Refuge. color. 85+ min. Jessica Goldberg, dist. by Strand Releasing. Sept. 2014. DVD UPC 712267332021. $24.99. SDH subtitles. romance

Veronica Mars star Krysten Ritter on life and love.

The Sopranos: The Complete Series. 28 discs. color. NA min. HBO Home Entertainment. Nov. 2014. Blu-ray w/HD $279.98. Rated: TV-MA. tv/drama

Tony and the mob…uh, gang, ­together again.

Words and Pictures. color. 111+ min. Fred Schepisi, dist. by Lionsgate Home Entertainment. Sept. 2014. DVD UPC 031398200741. $19.98; Blu-ray UPC 031398200956. $24.99. SDH subtitles. Rated: PG-13. romance

Teaching rivals Binoche and Owen ignite sparks.—Bette-Lee Fox

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Barbary Coast. 4 discs. color. 745+ min. CBS Broadcasting, dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; 2014. DVD ISBN 9781598289817. $59.99. SDH subtitles. F

Let God. color. 91 min. William Parker, Elevation Pictures, dist. by Word Entertainment, 2014. DVD UPC 818728010733. $15.99. F/REL

Midsomer Murders: Set 23. 3 discs. color. 278+ min. Alex Pillai & others, Bentley Prods., dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; 2014. DVD ISBN 9781621721390. $39.99; 2-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781621721406. $49.99. SDH subtitles. F

Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop. color. 87 min. Mark Jean, Foxfield Entertainment in assoc. with Jessamine Prods. for Hallmark Movie Channel, dist. by Cinedigm, 2014. DVD UPC 883476132662. $14.93. F


Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton. color. 82 min. Stephen Silha & others, Frisky Divinity Prods.,; dist. by Kino Lorber,; 2014. DVD UPC 738329131920. $349. Public performance; w/DSL $499; w/DSL & PPR $599; home version $22.46. ART-GENERAL

Pablo. color & b/w. 93+ min. Richard Goldgewicht, Goldstreet Films, Versatility & Love Prod., dist. by Breaking Glass Pictures, 2013. DVD UPC 857965003726. $24.99. Closed-captioned. FILM

Punk Singer: A Film About Kathleen Hanna. color. 82+ min. Sini Anderson, IFC Films & Opening Band Films in assoc. with Long Shot Factory and Bird in the Hand , dist. by IFC Films, 2014. DVD ISBN 9780788617669. $24.98. SDH subtitles. MUSIC

Billie Jean King. color & b/w. 90 min. James Erskine, New Black Films, American Masters, dist. by PBS, 800-531-4727; 2014. DVD ISBN 9781608830244. $24.99. SPORTS


El Sicario: Room 164. color. 84 min. In Spanish w/English subtitles. Gianfranco Rosi & Charles Bowden, dist. by Icarus Films, 2013. DVD UPC 854565001565. $298. Public performance. CRIME

Conducting Hope. color. 57 min. Margie Friedman, Westport Prods., 2014. $200; acad. libs. $250 + $7.95 s/h. Public performance. CRIMINOLOGY/music

redstarCivil War: The Untold Story. 2 discs. color & b/w. 276+ min. Chris Wheeler, Great Divide Pictures, dist. by Athena, 888-870-8047; 2014. DVD ISBN 9781621722342. $49.99. SDH subtitles. HIST

They Think I’m Chinese! (On me prend pour une Chinoise!). color. 52 min. w/English

or French subtitles. Nicole Giguère, Prods. VF & Natl. Film Bd. of Canada, 800-542-2164; 2013. DVD UPC 698193274386. $195. Public performance; streaming rights available. SOC SCi


redstarApril Bloomfield: The Mind of a Chef; Season 2. color. 4+ hrs. Anthony Bourdain & others, Zero Point Zero Prods., dist. by PBS, 800-531-4727; 2014. DVD ISBN 9781608839872. $24.99. SDH subtitles. COOKING

Sandra Ransel’s Story of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Surgery for Her Parkinson’s Disease. color. 26 min. Bob Clark, BC Prods., 2013. DVD $19.95 + $6 s/h. HEALTH

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