To quote Gomer Pyle, well Shazam! The high-flying DC superhero’s cinematic debut jumpstarts this latest batch of new releases. Other notables include classics from the Warner Archive Collection, two great selections from the Criterion Collection, several TV series making their home video debut, and more. Ready or not, there’s tons of titles to watch this week!
Troubled Philadelphia teen and foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel) becomes an adult-looking superhero (Zachary Levi) whenever he yells “Shazam!” While trying to get a handle on his newfound abilities–and becoming a viral media sensation in the process–the rookie do-gooder must try to stop Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), an evil physicist who wants Billy’s amazing powers for himself. Djimon Hounsou, Jack Dylan Grazer also star in this lighthearted adaptation of the DC Comics character.
Klute (Criterion Collection)
Alan J. Pakula’s tense, noirish thriller features Jane Fonda in an Oscar-winning role as Bree Daniel, an emotionally detached New York prostitute who gets involved in Pennsylvania private detective John Klute’s (Donald Sutherland) search for his missing friend. Initially suspicious of one another, the two begin to develop a strong bond when it becomes clear that Bree’s life is danger. Roy Scheider, Charles Cioffi co-star.
Washed-up Broadway impresario Chester Kent (James Cagney) stakes what’s left of business and reputation on staging live curtain-raising mini-musicals for movie theaters, but if crooked partners don’t write his final act, cutthroat competitors will. Crackling Warners pre-Code effort co-stars Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Guy Kibbee, Hugh Herbert, Frank McHugh; out-of-this-world production numbers from Busby Berkeley include “Honeymoon Hotel,” “By a Waterfall,” “Shanghai Lil.”
Charlie Chase at Hal Roach: Talkies Volume Two: 1932-33
Cut to the Chase–Charley, that is–with the Roach sound shorts “The Tabasco Kid” (1932), “The Nickel Nurser” (1932), “In Walked Charley” (1932), “First in War” (1932), “Young Ironsides” (1932), “Girl Grief” (1932), “Now We’ll Tell One” (1932), “Mr. Bride” (1932), “Fallen Arches” (1933), “Nature in the Wrong” (1933), “His Silent Racket” (1933), “Arabian Tights” (1933), “Sherman Said It” (1933), “Midsummer Mush” (1933), and “Luncheon at Twelve” (1931).
Best of Pete Smith Specialties: Volume 1
In the early ‘30s, M-G-M studio publicist Pete Smith turned his droll talents towards the production of short subjects…and for better than 20 years, filmgoers would delight in over 150 charming curtain-raisers, running the gamut in subject matter from the silly to the sobering and memorably marked by his distinctive narration and arch observations. 75 Specialties–including the Oscar-winning “Penny Wisdom” (1937)–are collected on 4 discs.
In January 2015, Missouri teenager John Smith (Marcel Ruiz) was playing on a frozen lake were he shouldn’t have–and was trapped underwater for 15 minutes before an incredible rescue. Told that his prospects for survival, let alone full recovery, were slim, his adoptive mother Joyce (Chrissy Metz) turned to prayer…and a community rallied behind her bore witness to the impossible. Faith-based effort taken from Joyce Smith’s memoir also stars Josh Lucas, Topher Grace, Mike Colter, Sam Trammel.
Idled in Mexico, Romanian gigolo Georges Iscovescu (Charles Boyer) decided to take the advice of old paramour Anita Dixon (Paulette Goddard) on how to fast-track U.S. citizenship–find a naive American to woo, wed, and abandon. Georges thinks he’s found his pigeon in field-tripping teacher Emmy Brown (Olivia De Havilland)…but the scheme founders as he develops genuine feelings for her. Long-demanded sudser co-stars Victor Francen, Walter Abel, Rosemary DeCamp; Mitchell Leisen directs.
Action-packed Universal serial stars Buck Jones as Montana Larkin, a cowboy, who, along with Morgan brothers Jinglebob (Frank McGlynn, Sr.) and Clem (Harlan Knight), sets his sights on some land rich in mineral deposits. Montana soon has his hands full squaring off against shady ranch foreman Gil Gillespie (Walter Miller) while trying to win the hand of pretty rancher’s daughter Mary Parker (Muriel Evans). With Eole Galli, Fred Santley. 15 chapters on 2 discs.
Rip-roaring Western drama from 1953 stars Ronald Reagan as Marshal Frame Johnson, a Tombstone lawman who turns in his badge and looks to retire to a ranch with his lady love (Dorothy Malone) and brothers (Alex Nicol, Russell Johnson). But Frame is forced to strap on his six-irons one last time to free a frontier town from the grip of outlaw leader Kurt Durling (Preston Foster). Ruth Hampton, Barry Kelley also star.
Bringing affordable painkillers from Canada to her dying adoptive mom in North Dakota led Ollie (Tessa Thompson) to a merciful sideline reselling to her desperate neighbors–until she got busted. With her probation ending, all she wants is to leave town…but with her useless and pregnant sister Deb (Lily James) facing foreclosure, she’s got to return to bad habits and dangerous contacts in order to raise the cash fast. Challenging drama-thriller also stars Luke Kirby, James Badge Dale, Lance Reddick.
Young, good-looking–and dissatisfied–California college professor Adam Gaines (Michael Douglas) felt compelled to personally pay his respects when a distant relative passed away in rural Missouri. Opting to experiment with a different lifestyle, he sticks around for the summer as a day laborer…and comes to find this supposedly simpler existence anything but. Incisive story redolent of late-’60s restlessness co-stars Lee Purcell, Joe Don Baker, Louise Latham, Grayson Hall.
The Baker’s Wife (Criterion Collection)
As his wares become the delight of his new small town, middle-aged baker Aimable Castinier (Raimu) is faced with the humiliating circumstance of having his pretty younger wife (Ginette Leclerc) run away with a local shepherd. As his naive bravado gives way to depression, a community that now can’t do without his talents rallies to school his spouse on the error of her ways. Marcel Pagnol’s charming fable co-stars Fernand Charpin, Robert Vattier, Charles Blavette.
Katharine Hepburn stars in this offbeat dark comedy about Grace Quigley, an elderly woman who, after two failed suicide attempts, hires hit man Seymour Flint (Nick Nolte) to kill her off. But when Grace realizes what a good idea it is, she and Seymour decide to sell his services to a number of ailing senior citizens in an effort to aid their arrival at a final rest. What could possibly go wrong? Kit Le Fever, Chip Zien, William Duell co-star. AKA: “The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley.”
Coming back from the dead isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. At least, that’s what housewife Lucy Chadman (Shelley Long) learns in this funny fantasy farce. A year after she died, Lucy is brought back to life to discover her husband (Corbin Bernsen) has married her college friend (Sela Ward). Lucy becomes a media sensation, but she must find true love within 30 days or she’ll have to return to the great beyond. With Judith Ivey, Gabriel Byrne.
Back on duty at London’s Serious and Serial Crime Unit after a punishing internal investigation, slick, maverick cop John Luther (Idris Elba) puts his considerable skills of intuition to use solving baffling homicides. While Luther struggles to salvage his marriage to Zoe (Indira Varma), he is aided on the job by friends and confidantes whose commitment to justice is no less hard-nosed than his own. Ruth Wilson, Warren Brown co-star. 6 episodes on 2 discs.
Writer/director Lawrence Kasdan’s charming comedy focuses on Dr. Mumford (Loren Dean), a new psychologist in a town also called Mumford. His offbeat advice wins over some of the area’s more neurotic residents–including a lonely computer mogul (Jason Lee), a shopping-addicted housewife (Mary McDonnell), and a chronically fatigued woman (Hope Davis), with whom Mumford falls in love. But can anyone guess the secret their savior is hiding? With Alfre Woodard, Ted Danson, Martin Short.
Loathing her life at the family dairy farm on the Isle of Wight, shy teen songstress Violet Valenski (Elle Fanning) found her only escape at the local pub’s open mic night. Most appreciative in the sparse crowd is broken-down opera singer Vlad (Zlatko Buric), and, with his improbable mentorship, she’s willing to head to the mainland to take her shot on Britain’s foremost reality TV competition. Rousing effort from writer/first-time director Max Minghella co-stars Rebecca Hall, Agnieszka Grochowska.
In a near future marked by years of global drought, addict and fugitive Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) makes her way across the American West, fleeing a government seeking to exploit the strange earth-moving abilities she possesses. Seeking shelter in her hometown–and the company of her mother (Lorraine Toussaint) and young daughter (Saniyya Sidney)–she comes to truly appreciate a family legacy of power. Intriguing allegorical fantasy co-stars David Strathairn, Christopher Denham.
Career-focused, social-graceless fund manager Kate Stone (Taylor Schilling) had to be begged by her estranged brother (Eric Edelstein) to provide emergency overnight sitting for her misfit, body-shamed 11-year-old niece Maddie (Bryn Vale). As circumstances stretch the stay into a week, the two outcasts fitfully find common ground as they show up teachers and neighbors–and become Juggalos. Laura Steinel’s sharp farce also stars Kate McKinnon, Bryan Tyree Henry, Matt Walsh, Jessie Ennis.
Eight Is Enough: The Complete First Season
Based on the real-life experiences chronicled in the book by newspaper columnist Thomas Braden, this 1977-81 comedy-drama series followed the trials and tribulations of the Bradfords, a Sacramento family with eight children. Dick Van Patten starred as patriarch Tom who presided over the large clan that included first wife Joan, second wife Abby, and kids David, Mary, Joanie, Susan, Nancy, Elizabeth, Tommy, and Nicholas. With Diana Hyland, Betty Buckley, Grant Goodeve, Laurie Walters, Willie Ames, Adam Rich. All nine episodes from the first season are featured in this three-disc set.
Space 1999: The Complete Series
This fondly remembered 1975-77 sci-fi series from Gerry Anderson is set on Moonbase Alpha, a lunar scientific outpost in the year 1999 (naturally). When a nuclear explosion sends the Moon hurtling out of orbit, its 311 residents find themselves embarking on an adventure-filled odyssey through outer space. Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Barry Morse, Nick Tate, Zienia Merton, Catherine Schell star. All 48 episodes are featured in this 13-disc set.
For an overview of all of this week’s new releases, click here.