New to View: Streep flashes her personality in ‘Ricki’

By Bob Bloom
The following Blu-rays and DVDs are being released on Tuesday, Nov. 24:
Ricki and the Flash (Blu-ray + Ultraviolet)
Details: 2015, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Rated: PG-13, mature themes, drug use, sexual situations, language
The lowdown: Meryl Streep is such an iconic performer that her presence in a film automatically raises the bar, overcoming whatever obstacles and problems exist in the script.
This is definitely the case with “Ricki and the Flash,” a family comedy-drama that offers few surprises and travels a well-worn path toward understanding and redemption.
Streep portrays Ricki Rendazzo, who left her life as Indianapolis wife-mother Linda Brummel, to pursue her dream of rock ‘n’ roll stardom.
The fact that she and her band are the weekly performers at a small bar in Santa Barbara, Calif., that she must work as a cashier at a grocery store to make ends meet and that she is flat broke does not seem to discourage her nor cool her passion for her music.
But watching Streep pour her heart into the role, banging away on the guitar and singing her lungs out make this a nice weekend diversion at home.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 2.40:1 widescreen picture; English and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Dolby Digital audio descriptive track, French, Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital; English SDH, English, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Cantonese, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai subtitles.
Don’t miss: Extras include deleted scenes, a featurette on costar Rick Springfield, a making of featurette and a featurette on Streep’s Ricki.

American Ultra (Blu-ray + DVD + Ultraviolet)
Details: 2015, Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Rated: R, graphic and bloody violence, language, drug use, sexual content
The lowdown: The hook of this action-comedy is seeing Jesse Eisenberg, best known for his geeky roles, portray a killing machine trained by the CIA then made a sleeper agent until others come after him to eliminate him with extreme prejudice.
Kristen Stewart stars as his girlfriend, who has a secret of her own.
The film is basically a one-premise feature that wears thin too soon, but genre fans will enjoy seeing Eisenberg kicking ass.
Technical aspects: Blu-ray: 1080p high definition, 1.85:1 (16×9 enhanced) widescreen picture; English DTS X, Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English 2.0 DTS digital surround optimized for late-night listening; English Dolby Digital audio descriptive track; English SDH, English and Spanish subtitles; DVD: 1.85:1 (16×9 enhanced) widescreen picture; English and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English audio descriptive track; English SDH, English and Spanish subtitles.
Don’t miss: Bonus offerings include a featurette on the making of the film, a featurette on “Assassinating on a Budget,” a gag reel and a commentary track.

Don’t Look Back: Special Edition (Blu-ray)
Details: 1967, The Criterion Collection
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: D.A. Pennebaker’s groundbreaking documentary captures Bob Dylan during his 1965 tour of England, which was the singer-songwriter’s last as an acoustic performer.
Dylan is shown onstage and off, surrounded by fans, arguing with journalists and relaxing with fellow musicians such as Joan Baez and Donovan.
The documentary was an influential work that was copied by other filmmakers, but never equaled.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.37:1 full-screen picture; English LPCM monaural; English SDH subtitles.
Don’t miss: Among the bonus materials are a 1999 commentary with Pennebaker and tour manager Bob Neuwirth, a 2006 documentary by the filmmaker, an excerpt from a 2000 interview with Dylan for the documentary “No Direction Home,” a documentary about Pennebaker’s filmmaking style, three short films by Pennebaker, a discussion between Pennebaker and Neuwirth about their collaborations, outtakes from the movie, an interview with musician Patti Smith, a 2010 conversation between Pennebaker and music critic Greil Marcus, an alternate version of the film’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” cue card sequences, five audio recordings of Dylan songs not used in the film and a booklet with an essay about the movie.

The Stanford Prison Experiment
Release date: Nov. 17
Details: 2015, IFC Films
Rated: R, language, abusive behavior, sexual references
The lowdown: Billy Crudup stars as Stanford University professor Dr. Philip Zimbardo who, in 1971, conducted a notorious experiment that ended badly.
Zimbardo cast 24 student volunteers as prisoners and guards in a simulated jail to examine the source of abusive behavior in the penal system.
What he found was shocking as participants transformed from middle-class undergraduates to high-on-power sadists and submissive victims in a very short span of time.
The film is disturbing to watch at times as it shows how easily people can change and adapt.
Technical aspects: Widescreen picture; English 5.1 Dolby Digital; English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Don’t miss: Extras include a featurette on the making of the movie, a commentary track and a featurette on the psychology behind the experiment.

Ikiru: Special Edition (Blu-ray)
Details: 1952, The Criterion Collection
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: Akira Kurosawa’s cinematic reflection on the meaning of life centers on an aging bureaucrat, warmly portrayed by Takashi Shimura, who is dying of stomach cancer is feels compelled to find purpose as his days come to an end.
Kurosawa uses a two-part structure to tell this very humanistic story, one of the most poignant of his long and brilliant career.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.37:1 full-screen picture; Japanese LPCM monaural; English subtitles.
Don’t miss: A 2003 commentary by Stephen Prince, author of “The Warrior’s Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa,” a 2000 90-minute documentary featuring interviews with the director, a 2003 documentary about “Ikiru” an essay about the film and an excerpt from critic Donald Ritchie’s 1965 book, “The Films of Akira Kurosawa” comprise the major supplemental offerings.

Eight Men Out (Blu-ray)
Details: 1988, Olive Films
Rated: PG
The lowdown: Writer-director John Sayles adapted Eliot Asinof’s book about the infamous 1919 Black Sox scandal in which eight players from the Chicago White Sox took bribes from gamblers to throw the World Series.
Some home run hitting actors portrayed some of the players, including John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, D.B. Sweeney and David Strathairn.
The movie is more about the economic hardships of ballplayers during that era that drove them to shame the game they loved.
The cast also includes Christopher Lloyd, Clifton James, Michael Lerner and John Anderson.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.85:1 widescreen picture. English DTS Master Audio.
Don’t miss: Bonus materials include a retrospective documentary about the scandal and a commentary track by Sayles.

“The Apu Trilogy: Special Edition” (Blu-ray)
Release date: Nov. 17
Details: 1955-59, The Criterion Collection
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: This trilogy, by world-acclaimed Indian director Satyjit Ray, follows one character from childhood in rural Bengal to adulthood.
The films, “Pather Panchali” (“Song of the Little Road”) (1955), “Aparajito” (“The Unvanquished” (1956) and “Apur Sansar” (“The World of Apu” (1959), can stand on their own or, as in this set, be viewed as a wonderful and tender cinematic journey.
About 20 years ago, the original negatives of these films were destroyed in a fire, but they have been meticulously reconstructed and restored so film buffs can again enjoy these lovely works.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.37:1 full-screen picture; Bengali LPCM monaural; English subtitles.
Don’t miss: Bonus offerings include a 1958 audio recording of Ray reading his essay, “A Long Time on the Little Road,” a conversation between Ray and film historian Gideon Bachmann, new interviews with crew and cast members, a video essay on the making of the trilogy, a new documentary that examines the trilogy, excerpts from a 2003 documentary featuring composer Ravi Shankar, a 1967 documentary on Ray, footage of Ray receiving an honorary Academy Award in 1992 and a booklet with essays as well as storyboards.

Ghost Story (Blu-ray)
Details: 1981, Scream Factory
Rated: R, violence
The lowdown: A wonderful cast of veterans — Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and John Houseman — star in this supernatural thriller about four lifelong friends who share a dark secret.
The four, who comprise the Chowder Society, meet each week to share tales of terror. But when one of the members experiences a family tragedy, old skeletons push open old closet doors.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.85:1 widescreen picture; English DTS-HD Master Audio monaural.
Don’t miss: Extras include interviews with author Peter Straub, whose book was the basis for the film, costar Alice Krige and others as well as a commentary track with director John Irvin.

Passage to Marseille (Blu-ray)
Release date: Nov. 10
Details: 1944, Warner Home Video
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: Humphrey Bogart stars in this World War II drama as a French patriot who escapes Devil’s Island, survives a perilous freighter crossing and becomes a gunner in the Free French Air Corps.
The film, directed by Michael Curtiz, reunites most of the male cast from “Casablanca,” including Claude Rains, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet.
The release is part of the Warner Archive Collection and can be found at www.warnerarchive.com or other online retailers.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.37:1 full-screen picture; English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio monaural; English SDH subtitles.
Don’t miss: Extras, all part of a “Warner Night at Movies” package, include short subjects, cartoons, a featurette on the free French, a 1944 studio blooper reel and trailers.

Blood and Lace (Blu-ray + DVD)
Details: 1971, Scream Factory
Rated: R, violence
The lowdown: A cult favorite horror film makes its Blu-ray debut, nearly 45 years after its initial release.
The film centers on a teenage girl who, after the murder of her mother by a hammer-wielding killer, is sent to a home for children run by a rather strange woman.
Concerns abound that the killer may target the teen, and when more terror strikes, it becomes a mystery to figure out who is really the mysterious murderer.
The movie is a precursor to the slasher films of the late 1970s and early 1980s, with its weird plot twists and violence.
Technical aspects: Blu-ray: 1080p high definition, 1.78:1 widescreen picture; English DTS-HD Master Audio monaural; English subtitles; DVD: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen picture; English Dolby Digital monaural; English subtitles.
Don’t miss: An alternate opening title and commentary track are the major bonus features.

Voodoo Man (Blu-ray)
Details: 1944, Olive Films
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: During the early to mid-1940s, Bela Lugosi starred in a series of very low budget “mad scientist” movies for Monogram Pictures.
This is a prime example of what Lugosi was reduced to because of poor career decisions and financial need.
The word “camp” best describes this movie in which Lugosi’s Dr. Richard Marlowe, with the aid of George Zucco and John Carradine, use voodoo to capture the essences of young women in order to bring his late wife back from the dead.
The movie was directed by William Beaudine who seemed to crank out a film a week during his tenure at Monogram.
This black-and-white B-movie runs a quick 62 minutes and is a hoot. It ain’t art, but it is fun.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.33:1 full-screen picture.

Death on the Diamond
Release date: Nov. 10
Details: 1934, Warner Home Video
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: This MGM programmer centers on a hard-luck St. Louis Cardinals team and its ace pitcher, played by Robert Young, beset by murder, gamblers and sabotage.
The film features a young Mickey Rooney as a batboy, and such athletic types as Nat Pendleton, Ted Healy and Paul Kelly, lending support.
Who is the guilty party? The financier who wants the franchise, ex-players out for revenge? Batter up, and find out.
The release is a video-on-demand DVD-R from the Warner Archive Collection and can be found at www.warnerarchive.com or other online dealers.
Technical aspects: 1.37:1 (4×3) full-screen picture; English Dolby Digital monaural.

Justice League Unlimited: The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
Release date: Nov. 10
Details: 2004-06, Warner Home Video
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: The original Justice League — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, J’onn J’onzz, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl add new allies, including Green Arrow, Supergirl and Black Canary, to help fight crime and protect Earth.
But some people think that too many heroes with too much power can be dangerous.
A conspiracy called Cadmus is growing in opposition to the League.
Also, Lex Luthor leads the galaxy’s worst villains as the form the Legion of Doom to battle the superheroes.
The release is part of the Warner Archive Collection and can be found at www.warnerarchive.com or other online retailers.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.78:1 widescreen picture; English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio; English SDH subtitles.
Don’t miss: Extras include commentaries on select episodes, a featurette on revamping the Justice League, a discussion of the Cadmus story arc and a featurette with writers, producers and directors sharing their favorite moments from the final season episodes.

Murder in the Fleet
Release date: Nov. 10
Details: 1935, Warner Home Video
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: Death stalks the deck in this MGM release starring Robert Taylor and written by former Navy aviator Frank “Spig” Wead.
The “USS Carolina” is chosen for a test of a new electronic firing system, but a saboteur is trying to scuttle the experiment.
Taylor plays a lieutenant who is battling to complete the installation of the new system as well as uncover the culprit.
This was one of Taylor’s early roles before climbing to matinee idol status at the studio.
The cast also includes Nate Pendleton, Ted Healy, Jean Parker, Una Merkel, Ward Bond, Donald Cook, Jean Hersholt, Keye Luke and Mischa Auer, any one of whom has played the surprise villain in films.
The release is a video-on-demand DVD-R from the Warner Archive Collection and can be found at www.warnerarchive.com or other Internet sellers.
Technical aspects: 1.37:1 (4×3) full-screen picture; English Dolby Digital monaural.

I Deal in Danger
Release date: Nov. 17
Details: 1966, Fox Home Entertainment
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: Robert Goulet stars as David March, a double agent who infiltrates Germany prior to the U.S. entry into World War II.
In his role, he broadcasts anti-American propaganda, while inserting strategic information in code to his superior.
The film is adapted from the TV series, “Blue Light,” which starred Goulet, who, smartly, resists the urge to break into song.
The release is a video-on-demand DVD-R from the Fox Cinema Archives series and can be found at www.foxconnect.com or other online outlets.
Technical aspects: 4×3 full-screen picture.

Number One
Release date: Nov. 17
Details: 1969, MGM-Fox Home Entertainment
Rated: PG-13, nudity, sexual situations
The lowdown: Charlton Heston stars as an aging veteran NFL quarterback who cannot accept the fact that he is at the end of his career.
His obsession with hanging on, as well as an ill-advised affair, has cost him his wife.
He has one last chance to prove himself and turn jeers into cheers.
The release is a video-on-demand DVD-R from the MGM Limited Edition Collection and can be found at www.foxconnect.com or other online outlets.
Technical aspects: 16:9 widescreen picture.

The Comedians: The Complete Series
Release date: Nov. 17
Details: 2015, Fox Home Entertainment
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: Billy Crystal and Josh Gad star in this behind-the-scenes look at a fictitious late-night comedy show, where egos collide and a generation gap about comedy creates tension.
The two-disc set features all 13 episodes as the comedians, despite their differences, create laughs with every show.
The set is a video-on-demand release from Fox, and can be found at www.foxconnect.com or other online retailers.
Technical aspects: 1.78:1 widescreen picture; English 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Other Blu-rays and DVDs being released on Tuesday, unless otherwise indicated:
The Color of Noise: Special Edition (Blu-ray + DVD) (MVD Visual)
The Last House (Wild Eye Releasing)
Rebel Scum (MVD Visual)
A Life of Sin (MGM-Fox Home Entertainment) (MGM Limited Edition Collection DVD-R, Nov. 17)
Cristela: The Complete Season 1 (Fox Home Entertainment, DVD-R, Nov. 17)
Dangerous Beauty (Fox Home Entertainment, DVD-R, Nov. 17)
The Immortalizer (MGM-Fox Home Entertainment) (MGM Limited Edition Collection DVD-R, Nov. 17)
Miracle Beach (MGM-Fox Home Entertainment) (MGM Limited Edition Collection DVD-R, Nov. 17)
Panga (MGM-Fox Home Entertainment) (MGM Limited Edition Collection DVD-R, Nov. 17)
Sonny Boy (MGM-Fox Home Entertainment) (MGM Limited Edition Collection DVD-R, Nov. 17)
Unmasking the Idol (MGM-Fox Home Entertainment) (MGM Limited Edition Collection DVD-R, Nov. 17)
Weird Loners: The Complete Series (Fox Home Entertainment, DVD-R, Nov. 17)

FOR KIDS
Turkey Hollow (DVD + Ultraviolet) (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Coming next week: Amy
Mississippi Grind
Goodnight Mommy

Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. He reviews movies, Blu-rays and DVDs for ReelBob (ReelBob.com), The Film Yap and other print and online publications. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com. You also can follow Bloom on Twitter @ReelBobBloom and on Facebook. Movie reviews by Bloom also can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.

 

  • ReelBob

    What new Blu-ray and DVD releases are you anxious to see? Share your thoughts at ReelBob.