On the Basis of Sex
Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become something of a pop culture phenomenon since the success of last year’s Oscar-nominated biodoc “RBG.” Now comes Felicity Jones playing the liberal Supreme Court justice in an inspiring biopic. It focuses on two key periods: her 1959 graduation from law school at the top of her class, only to find no New York City law firm would hire her; and a 1970 legal battle she adopts that could set a major precedent in the fight for gender equality. The sincere screenplay by Daniel Stiepleman, Ginsburg’s nephew, illustrates the rampant sexism she endured, concluding with a suitably satisfying courtroom speech. PG-13, 120 minutes. Extras: three making-of featurettes. From Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Released April 9 on DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix mail and Redbox.
Dick Cheney kept a low profile, but for eight years, he ran the show. This pungent biopic lays bare how the veteran Washington insider redefined Oval Office roles. The December release, a box office disappointment, was nominated for eight Oscars including best picture. It won only one, for makeup and hairstyling, and they are amazing. Christian Bale is barely recognizable as Cheney. Writer-director-producer Adam McKay uses many of the flashy cinematic tricks he employed in 2015’s “The Big Short,” not to show off but to underline important points. There are a lot of dirty deals to digest. Cheney gets his first whiff of power as a White House intern working for Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell). He puts the lessons to use years later as No. 2 for George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell). The likeable actors bring us close to these public figures, but liberal-leaning McKay never lets us forget the toll of their misdeeds. R, 132 minutes. Extras: three deleted scenes, two featurettes and a gallery. From 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Released April 2 on DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix mail and Redbox.
Other recent releases on DVD and Blu-ray:
The Mule: If you told Clint Eastwood he only got this role because he’s sleeping with the director, he might call you a punk, or you might make his day. Clint stars in and directs this 2018 drama based on a New York Times story. He plays 80-something Earl Stone, who devoted his life to raising prize-winning flowers at the expense of spending time with his family. Hitting hard times, he accepts a mysterious job that pays far more than it should for driving a package across the country. The story takes its time developing, but it’s not an unpleasant ride, thanks to Clint’s sure hand at the wheel. Our only complaint is about the flat performances by his daughter, played by his real-life daughter Alison Eastwood, and his granddaughter, played by Taissa Farmiga, younger sister of Vera Farmiga. They’re inexplicably bland. The rest of the cast is fine, including Bradley Cooper, Michael Pena and Dianne Wiest. R, 116 minutes. From Warner Home Video. Released April 2 on DVD and Blu-ray.
Pet Sematary: A remake of the Stephen King tale starring Jason Clarke slithered into theaters April 5, so it’s no shock that they would trot out the original. Fred Gwynne and Denise Crosby star in this creepy 1989 horror thriller. It’s about a family that buries its dead cat in a cemetery with mysterious reanimating properties. King wrote the screenplay based on his novel, a first for him. R, 102 minutes. From Paramount. Released March 26 on a newly remastered Blu-ray.
The Witches: Joan Fontaine makes her final big-screen appearance in this atmospheric 1966 Hammer horror film. An Oscar winner for 1942’s “Suspicion,” she stars here as a traumatized woman haunted by a bad experience with an African witch doctor while working at a missionary school. Seeking safe haven, she takes a job as the headmistress of a proper English boarding school. But black magic follows her to the quiet English countryside. The film was released in America with the title “The Devil’s Own.” Unrated, 90 minutes. From Shout Factory. Released March 19 on DVD.
Blood Hunger: Three early, lesser-known works by expatriate Spanish exploitation filmmaker Jose Ramon Larraz are packaged together in this deluxe Limited Edition Blu-ray set that includes an 80-page book. The low-budget films are 1970’s “Whirlpool” (1970, 87 minutes), about a perverted photographer and his enabling aunt; “Vampyres” (1974, 88 minutes) starring Marianne Morris and Playboy centerfold Anulka Dziubinska as beautiful lesbian vampires roaming the English countryside looking for men to lure back to their castle for orgies and mayhem; and “The Coming of Sin” (1978, 90 minutes), a dreamy story about a strange love triangle between a wealthy woman, her superstitious servant girl, and a naked man on a horse. From Arrow Video. Released March 26.
Aquaman: Jason Momoa stars in the title role as the DC Comics superhero in this origin story. He’s half-human, half-Atlantean and all muscle. His quest is to prevent a war between the worlds of land and ocean, but might it not have been a better idea to have him to try to stop humans from polluting the oceans? The cast includes Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson and Dolph Lundgren. The November release cost around $200 million and netted $1.1 billion at the box office. PG-13, 143 minutes. From Warner Home Video. Released March 26 on DVD and Blu-ray.
Man From Atlantis: A water-breathing human washes ashore dazed after a big storm and can’t remember a darn thing. He has gills for lungs, swims faster than dolphins and is eager to help U.S. government scientists. They nurse him back to health, then give him special assignments. This juvenile 1977 NBC movie led to three more made-for-TV movies, which in turn led to a full season of episodes. For newcomer Patrick Duffy, the title role led to an iconic part a few years later in “Dallas.” Belinda J. Montgomery co-stars as a friendly scientist, while Victor Buono plays a mad scientist, in what becomes a recurring role. “Man From Atlantis” is resurfacing now in order to piggyback on publicity surrounding the big-screen release of “Aquaman.” Producer Robert H. Justman and executive producer Herbert F. Solow were integrally involved in the original “Star Trek” series. 96 minutes. From Warner Archive. Released March 12 on DVD and Blu-ray. Wb.com/warnerarchive
Beyond Atlantis: Fortune hunters investigate a Pacific island reportedly rich in pearls and find its bug-eyed inhabitants can stay underwater for a really long time. They also need to mate with outsiders to keep their line going. John Wayne’s son Patrick stars in this 1973 adventure and insisted that it be family friendly, despite scenes of underwater mating on the sea bed. The producers regretted this choice later, realizing Wayne’s morals killed the film’s chances. Directed by Mark Hartley, the film is full of beautiful but slow underwater scenes and is back on home video because of “Aquaman.” PG, 91 minutes. From MVD Visual. Released March 12 on DVD and Blu-ray.
Second Act: Jennifer Lopez plays a 40ish assistant store manager passed up for a promotion because she lacks a college degree. So she makes it her mission to prove to her bosses that street smarts are just as important. Vanessa Hudgens and Leah Remini co-star in this predictable 2018 romantic comedy. PG-13, 103 minutes. From Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Released March 26 on DVD and Blu-ray.
Second Time Around: Can a widow find love again while nursing a broken hip in a home for seniors? This gentle 2016 romantic drama offers hope for the lovelorn. It stars Linda Thorson, best known for replacing Diana Rigg in the hit British spy series “The Avengers” in 1968. Her co-star, Stuart Margolin, is best known for playing Angel in the 1970s detective series “The Rockford Files.” Unrated, 107 minutes. From First Run Features. Released March 19 on DVD.
Impulso: Spanish choreographer Rocio Molina performs her reinvented flamenco dances around the world, adding elements of the avant-garde and modern dance. This 2017 documentary follows her as she prepares for a major show in Paris at the Chaillot National Theater. Unrated, 87 minutes. From KimStim. Released March 19 on DVD.
Kolobos: A group of young adults share a snowy resort house for an anthropology experiment, only to find that in addition to cameras, the place is outfitted with deadly booby traps. Amy Weber stars in this dreamy, violent 1999 horror thriller. Unrated, 82 minutes. From Arrow Video. Released March 12 in a Special Edition Blu-ray.
Ritual: A Psychomagic Story: Her once-passionate relationship with her boyfriend is on the rocks, so a depressed woman goes to visit her aunt in a small Italian village. It’s a strange place, saturated with myths and legends, and it gives her a chance to free her unconscious mind from her daily worries. This 2013 thriller explores the philosophy known as psychomagic, which is better known in Europe than America. The kinky film features an appearance by psychomagic’s main proponent, avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky. Unrated, 95 minutes. From Film Movement. Released March 19 on DVD.
Life After Flash: Sam J. Jones did a lousy job of handling the fame that came with his starring role in the 1980 pulp hit “Flash Gordon.” This 2017 showbiz biodoc chronicles his fall from grace and eventual redemption, as he shifts from acting to working as a security consultant and bodyguard. Also interviewed are Queen’s Brian May, Melody Anderson and Stan Lee. Unrated, 94 minutes. From MVD Visual. Released March 26 on DVD and Blu-ray.
Pluto and Beyond: NASA collected loads of information about the dwarf planet Pluto when its New Horizons spacecraft did a flyby in 2015. Several years later, they have analyzed the data. This recent episode of the PBS science series “Nova” reveals what we now know about this remote area of our solar system. Unrated, 60 minutes. From PBS Home Video. Released March 26 on DVD.
The Street Fighter Collection: Newcomer Sonny Chiba became Japan’s top martial arts movie star due to this 1974 trilogy. The first film is notable for receiving an X rating solely for its violence, earning it Quentin Tarantino’s admiration. The films are “The Street Fighter” (91 minutes); “Return of The Street Fighter” (83 minutes); and “The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge” (80 minutes). From Shout Factory. Released March 26 on Blu-ray with a new 2K scan.
The Last Man: Hayden Christensen, who played Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars” episodes II and III, stars in this incomprehensible dystopian thriller from January. He plays a veteran with PTSD who believes the end of the world is near and falls under the influence of a street prophet, played by Harvey Keitel. The actors do the best they can with the miserable script. R, 104 minutes. From Lionsgate. Released March 12.
We are Boats: Luke Hemsworth (“Westworld”) and Angela Sarafyan star in this murky, metaphysical fantasy about a woman bouncing from one intensely meaningful encounter to another. Unrated, 109 minutes. From Breaking Glass Pictures. Released March 26 on DVD.
Born in East L.A.: Cheech Marin wrote, directed and starred in this 1987 immigration comedy, his first solo project after splitting up with his longtime standup partner Tommy Chong. Cheech plays an American of Mexican descent who is mistakenly deported to Mexico despite not knowing a word of Spanish. He has to resort to every trick in the book to get back home. Paul Rodriguez, Daniel Stern and Jan Michael Vincent co-star. R, 85 minutes. From Shout Factory. Released March 19 in a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray.
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