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Out This Week (In The US): Hands of Stone, Soundbreaking and more


hands of stone

Hands of Stone – Based on a true story, this film stars Edgar Ramirez as boxer Roberto Duran, who boxed professionally for some three and a half decades. Now, I don’t know much about boxing beyond what I’ve seen in movies exactly like this one, but I do always like a good boxing movie. And with Robert De Niro as Duran’s trainer and Usher Raymond as Sugar Ray Leonard, this is a good boxing movie. It’s not a great boxing movie, but that’s okay. I don’t honestly think there’s much more you can do with the boxing genre anymore. You either like the films or you don’t. If you like boxing movies, this one is worth a watch. If not – even with the biopic aspects spread throughout the film – I don’t know if it will win you over.

Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music – Acorn Media is largely known for their releases of British mystery television shows, as well as documentaries about history and science. I’m not sure how Soundbreaking ended up in their slate, but man, did they land a winner! This eight-part documentary series explores pretty much the entire history of recorded music, and it looks at everything from Motown classics to electronic music, and everything in between. Executive produced by the late George Martin, the series includes tons of interviews with musical luminaries. Just a few names you might recognize include Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Dave Grohl, Tom Petty, Smokey Robinson, Quincy Jones, Rick Rubin, Bonnie Raitt, Roger Waters, Questlove, Beck, and so many more. Simply put, this release is utterly fantastic.

Downton Abbey: The Complete Series – The monster hit show returns to Blu-ray for (what is presumably) its final release, and it’s a bittersweet experience if ever there was one. While I’m sad to see one of the great TV shows leave us, I do like that they chose to go out on top, rather than stringing it along until the quality had suffered and nobody cared anymore. Downton has been one of the true television joys for the past six years, and I would have hated to get to the point where I just didn’t care about it anymore. For one last time, the cast is excellent, the writing is stellar, and the show remained one of the very best things on TV. This gorgeous collection features all six seasons of the smash hit. I don’t care what kind of television you think you like, if you haven’t watched Downton Abbey, you are missing out on some of the best TV around. Period. All that critical buzz and internet chatter you heard about the show? It’s all DEAD ON. The show is magnificent, dramatic, funny, heartfelt, moving, well-acted, and utterly fantastic in every single way. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who watch Downton Abbey and those who don’t. Make sure you fall into the right camp.

The Tonight Show Starring Jonny Carson: The Vault Series Archive Classics – I have always loved Johnny Carson. I’m old enough to remember when he retired and to have watched The Tonight Show on occasion, but also young enough to where the show was on too late for me to watch most nights because of school. As such, I’m always super excited when I get to watch any Johnny Carson programming, because he was just so fantastic and I’ve never seen most of it. This amazing monster twelve-disc set includes a ton of awesome guest stars, including Bob Hope, Muhammed Ali and Paul Freaking McCartney!! How cool is that? You get 24 episodes and four hours of extra features! Packed with original sketches, interviews, and tons of extra features, this is a must have for any fans of the original King of Late Night.

Also available this week on Blu-ray & DVD:

  • Rabid – Best known for being David Cronenberg’s second film, this horror outing stars former adult-film star Marilyn Chambers in her first mainstream role as a woman who – after emergency surgery — becomes a vampire/zombie beastie of sorts. This isn’t a particularly pleasant film, but that’s probably why it’s such a cult classic. It’s Cronenberg doing what he does best – body horror – and it’s by equal measures disturbing and fascinating. The film is clearly dated now, and it very much looks like a product of its time, but fans of horror and gore will enjoy seeing this underground classic.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXVII – This latest collection brings us four new riffed-upon movies: The Human Duplicators, Escape 2000, The Horror of Party Beach, and Invasion of the Neptune Men. As always, there really isn’t anything here that you won’t find on many other MST3K releases out there, although I do like these box sets over the single movie releases. You get four movies, copious extras, and plenty of laughs. Hard to argue with that.
  • The Goodbye Girl – Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason star in this 1977 classic comedy about a man who arrives in New York to take on his dream acting job, only to find that his apartment comes with a recently-dumped woman and her young daughter. Obviously romance blooms, in what is pretty much the prototypical Hollywood rom-com, back before rom-coms were churned out a dime a dozen. Richard Dreyfuss won an Academy Award for his performance, and Marsha Mason is no slouch, either. This is not only a great movie, but I also had a nice moment of nostalgia watching it, as it’s a movie I remember fondly from watching it on home video when I was a kid. This Warner Archive-exclusive ( release marks the film’s debut on Blu-ray, and it’s about time it makes it to high def.
  • Brief Encounters – This light drama series from across the pond follows a quartet of women who could be called lower-case-letters desperate housewives in the 1980s that come together and launch a business selling lingerie and… other romance aids. This, of course, reinvigorates their lives, but also brings its own set of unique new problems to deal with. With just a hint of The Full Monty in the show’s DNA, a cast of recognizable British television actors, and a good storyline throughout, this is an enjoyable show and I think people will really enjoy it.
  • The Intervention – A cast full of likable stars features in The Intervention: Jason Ritter, Melanie Lynskey, Cobie Smulders, Clea Duvall, Ben Schwartz, Natasha Lyonne, and Alia Shawkat. For this ensemble drama, Clea Duvall actually takes up writing and helming duties as well, making her feature-film directing debut. A semi-Big Chill-esque drama about a group of friends gathering in a big house (this time for what is, essentially, marriage counseling, as opposed to a death) is pretty solid, especially considering its Duvall’s first film as a filmmaker. As usual, the perennially underrated Melanie Lynskey is the real stand-out, but the cast as a whole is terrific and the film is pretty good overall.
  • Cook’s Country: Season Nine – This is an interesting take on the classic cooking show. It takes place in a renovated 1806 farmhouse with a full working test kitchen, and a live audience watches while “neighbors” stop by with cooking problems that need immediate attention. Enter show host Christopher Kimball, a slightly engaging guy who will fix said problem, while usually teaching the audience some great tips and tricks and sharing yummy looking recipes. It’s different from the usual cooking show, but also largely the same. I guess it’s just cozier!
  • Ants on a Shrimp – While the film’s title might not sound appetizing, the movie’s subject matter certainly is. This documentary about head chef Rene Redzepi and his restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. Why are they the subject of a documentary? Well, because Noma has been voted the best restaurant in the world four times in the last six years. And while that is certainly a distinction, I wish this film was more interesting. It takes a while to get going, and it isn’t really until the last half hour or so that we really get to see all the mouth-watering dishes. Foodies will probably like it, but as an average filmgoer, I wish the film itself was stronger.
  • Lucha Mexico – You either know what Lucha Libre wrestling is or you don’t. A lot of people who have heard of it know it mostly from the Jack Black film Nacho Libre, but I don’t think that quite captures it. For those of you who are unfamiliar, lucha libre is the colorful world of Mexican wrestling that sees most of its wrestlers wearing masks and colorful costumes, and has an impassioned (some would say crazed) fan base. This documentary film takes us deep inside that world, and it’s absolutely fascinating. Filled with colorful characters and an energy you just don’t see everywhere, this movie is both a loving tribute to the sport and also a great introduction for those who aren’t already fans.
  • Chicken People – If you’re like me, you probably know somebody who – in the past couple of years – has started raising chickens. I actually know a couple of people who have chickens now, and I’ve never really understood why. And while this film may not answer that question, it does give some insights into a slightly different world of chicken raising: champion competition show chicken breeders. Yep, that’s a thing. And while you may not have any interest in poultry politics, the film is actually a pretty interesting look at a quirky and unique world that is rarely seen. Worth a look if you like offbeat subject matter.
  • Nestor – What to make of Nestor? Written, directed, and produced by and starring indie filmmaker Daniel Robinson, the film is the story of a man who wakes up in a deserted town with only vague memories, and has to try and figure out how to survive his isolated circumstances. What makes the film more interesting is the fact that it was all done by just that one man, Daniel Robinson. And I mean, all. He wrote and directed it, stars in it, and filmed – ALL BY HIMSELF. Literally a one-man crew. I’m not speaking hyperbolically here, it’s one man responsible for everything you see on camera. The end result is an interesting film that has a very strong indie vibe to it. I don’t know that it’s ultimately all that satisfying, but it certainly is interesting when you know the story behind the scenes.
  • Bloodshock – I can appreciate the effort Unearthed Films puts into packaging their movies. Their last few releases have come in deluxe editions that include a Blu-ray, DVD, soundtrack CD, and deluxe packaging. Which is great, I just wish they didn’t release horror movies that I find so reprehensible. Bloodshock is the latest entry in the torture porn genre, and I just generally don’t like these kinds of movies. Fans of Hostel and The Human Centipede will probably like this, but it’s just not what I’m into. Yuck.

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