‘Lady Sings the Blues’ Coming to Blu-ray Feb. 23 From Paramount

Lady Sings the Blues, starring Diana Ross as singer Billie Holiday, will arrive on Blu-ray for the first time Feb. 23 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

A new film about Holiday, The United States vs. Billie Holiday directed by Lee Daniels, is coming next year.

Ross gives a tour-de-force debut performance as the legendary singer in the 1972 drama nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actress in a Leading Role for Ross. Capturing the essence of Billie Holiday, one of America’s most loved and memorable blues singers and filled with the greatest songs of the incomparable “Lady Day,” the film won Image Awards for Best Motion Picture, Best Actress (Ross) and Best Actor (Billy Dee Williams), as well as a Golden Globe for Ross as the year’s Most Promising Newcomer — Female.  Richard Pryor also stars as the unforgettable Piano Man.

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The disc includes previously released bonus content in standard definition: commentary by executive producer and Motown founder Berry Gordy, director Sidney Furie and artist manager Shelly Berger; the making-of featurette “Behind the Blues: Lady Sings the Blues”; and seven deleted scenes.

Punk Biopic ‘Anti-Nowhere League: We Are the League’ Due on DVD Aug. 9 From MVD

Anti-Nowhere League: We Are the League will come out on DVD plus CD Aug. 9 from MVD Entertainment Group and Cleopatra Entertainment.

The story of the notorious punk rock band uncovers how a biker, a skinhead, a grammar school boy and a Persian exile come together, with no musical talent or ambitions and even less respect for anything or anyone, to burst into the U.K. charts with their debut single.

The film, directed by George Hencken and produced by Brian Perera, Yvonne Perera and Matt Green, stars Stewart Copeland, Rat Scabies and Nick.

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‘Rocketman’ Blasts Off to Digital Aug. 6, Disc Aug. 27 From Paramount

The Elton John biopic Rocketman will shoot to digital Aug. 6 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD Aug.27 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Boasting performances of Elton John’s famous songs by Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service), the story follows a shy, small-town boy who becomes a rock ‘n’ roll star.

The film also stars Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) as Elton’s longtime lyricist and writing partner Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden (“Bodyguard”) as Elton’s first manager, John Reid, and Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World) as Elton’s mother Sheila Farebrother.

The digital, 4K Ultra HD, and Blu-ray releases include more than 75 minutes of bonus content, including four extended musical sequences introduced by director Dexter Fletcher; 10 deleted and extended scenes with an introduction by Fletcher; sing-along tracks of 13 select songs; behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with John, the cast and filmmakers; footage from recording studio sessions; and a jukebox that allows viewers to skip straight to the music.  Also, for a limited time while supplies last, the combo packs will include a collectible booklet with a special message from John for fans.

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In addition, the digital release will include access to three more featurettes and two more deleted/extended scenes. Apple TV (iTunes) will offer exclusive access to rehearsal footage from “The Bitch Is Back” and a look at John’s lasting impact.

The 4K Ultra HD disc and 4K Ultra HD digital releases feature Dolby Vision. The film also has a Dolby Atmos soundtrack remixed specifically for the home. Both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray combo packs include access to a digital copy of the film.

‘Tolkien’ to Arrive on Digital July 23, Disc Aug. 6 From Fox

Tolkien, about the life of the famous “The Lord of the Rings” author, will come out on digital (including Movies Anywhere) July 23 and Blu-ray and DVD Aug. 6 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The biopic follows the early years of J.R.R Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) from the halls of Oxford to the grim and bloody trenches of World War I. It also traces the relationships that defined the legendary author he would become, chronicling his romance with Edith Brant (Lily Collins), as well as the various members of the Tea Club, Barrovian Society.

Special features include deleted scenes with optional commentary by director Dome Karukoski and audio commentary by Karukoski.

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‘The White Crow’ Flies to DVD and Digital July 30 From Sony

The White Crow, about the life of legendary ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, will come out on DVD and digital July 30 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Directed by Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes and penned by Academy Award winning screenwriter David Hare, the film follows the dancer from his poverty-stricken childhood in the Soviet city of Ufa, to his blossoming career in Leningrad, to his defection to the West at the height of the Cold War.

Bonus materials include “A Look Behind the Curtain: Making The White Crow,” in which Fiennes, Hare, and the cast and crew discuss the legacy of Nureyev and how the film portrays his larger-than-life character, and a Q&A with Fiennes, Hare and star Oleg Ivenko moderated by Alison Bailes.

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Bohemian Rhapsody


Street Date 2/12/19;
Box Office $210.68 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for thematic elements, suggestive material, drug material and language.
Stars Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers.

In telling the history of the legendary rock band Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody doesn’t get any more complicated than it needs to be.

Presented primarily as a biopic of lead singer Freddie Mercury, the film depicts the band’s formation, their rise to stardom and their triumphant performance at the 1985 Live Aid concert. Mercury’s sometimes turbulent personal life as he realizes his sexual identity provides the primary character drama of the movie, interspersed with the touchstones of the group’s greatest hits being created.

It’s essentially a two-hour long Queen tribute video that isn’t so much interested in diving into the more tawdry aspects of Mercury’s life as it is focusing on the music (which is to be expected, given how the film was co-produced by some of Mercury’s old bandmates, who were looking for more of a tribute than an exposé).

Of course, the fact that it’s such a loving tribute, loaded with such great music, makes it an easy movie to enjoy. There’s also a fun cameo from Mike Myers, calling back to the memorable use of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in Wayne’s World.

Rami Malek so thoroughly transforms into Mercury that it’s easy to forget it’s a performance, especially during re-creations of the band’s shows, particularly the final Live Aid extravaganza, which is the subject of two separate extras on the Blu-ray.

One is the complete 22-minute re-creation of the Live Aid performance, which is absolutely faithful to the original event and a pretty fantastic medley of Queen songs. The other is a 20-minute featurette about staging the Live Aid performance, which involved a lot of visual effects to re-create the old Wembley Stadium and digitally fill it with 100,000 screaming music fans.

Malek’s transformation into Freddie Mercury is the subject of another 16-minute featurette, while the 20-minute “The Look and Sound of Queen” deals with the process of re-creating the era.

Tucker: The Man and His Dream


$14.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Jeff Bridges, Martin Landau, Joan Allen, Frederick Forrest.

Aptly and often characterized as a screen biography with direct applications to its director’s own life and psyche, Tucker: The Man and His Dream is the one Francis Ford Coppola movie made after Apocalypse Now that ranks with my FFC favorites. My overriding concern about this new Blu-ray release was whether or nor it would do justice to the picture’s electric pigments — and not just with the cars that are its heart and soul but even in day-to-day household scenes that include some out in the Tucker family barn. The result turns out to be (for a $14.99 list price) one of the most gorgeous Blu-rays I’ve ever seen of a movie made after the three-strip Technicolor era. As its standout visuals go, this is Vittorio Storaro, baby, photographing resplendent paint and wax jobs beyond Earl Scheib’s wildest dreams.

Preston Tucker was the imaginative but brazenly cheeky-to-a-fault dreamer who tried unsuccessfully (aside from moral victories and even one in court) to ruffle the auto industry’s Big Three. He, unlike them, wanted to serve returning veterans who were looking for what his advertising termed the “Car of Tomorrow — Today.” And compared with the tank-like clunkers we see every day chugging down MGM backlot streets on Turner Classic Movies, the Tucker was a handsome structure. Coppola says on the disc’s bonus extras that as a kid whose not particularly flush father invested some money in the enterprise, it looked to him like a rocket ship.

Beyond the cool design, which featured the engine in back and luggage compartment in the front, it was full of safety innovations. You know: really crackpot ones like padded dashboard, pop-out windows to minimize the damage of wrecks, and seatbelts. (As late as 1958 or ’59 in my own experience, I can remember a cousin-by-marriage who sold car seatbelts for a living, and every family member, behind his back, thought, “tee-hee” and “isn’t that cute?”) Detroit, like today’s movies, simply followed what it thought the public wanted to the exclusion of all else. More than one observer has drawn a correlation between the rise of oversized fins and taillights and Jayne Mansfield’s emergence as a star.

Coppola, of course, once had his own ideas about how movies should be made and distributed, and his heavy personal losses when One From the Heart tried to buck the Hollywood system forced him into becoming a sometimes uninspired for-hire filmmaker who, let it be said, also makes wine that I really like. With George Lucas as executive producer and some magic that made a $24 million budget look like more, Tucker was the realization of a dream project that Coppola had once envisioned as, of all things, a collaborative musical endeavor with Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

Jeff Bridges plays Tucker as an eternal optimist, and it’s a role that comes naturally to him — a guy prone to temper fits that last about five seconds before returning to the mostly perennial smile that’s his way of facing by-the-minute challenges (only 51 Tuckers got made). The movie feels totally fanciful, but a consistent directorial vision throughout makes it work against the odds; Coppola claims on the bonus commentary here that at least in broad-stroke terms, the incidents portrayed stick fairly close to real events. Well, maybe, but the movie would still play like a dream (Tucker’s or the filmmaker’s) even if they didn’t.

The villains here are the colluding auto companies, the slick silver-hairs in Tucker’s boardroom who want to substitute their own product vision, and Michigan Sen. Homer Ferguson — the person who later wrote the original bill that shoehorned “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance when I was in second grade and is here played by Jeff’s real-life papa Lloyd Bridges. As the movie’s standout heavy, the Ferguson we see here recalls Alan Alda’s slimy portrayal of Maine Sen. Owen Brewster in The Aviator, even though it’s hard to claim that Brewster was totally out of line for feeling a little weary when it came to Howard Hughes. I always wonder what it must be like for descendants of these sharks (Brewster was a Joe McCarthy acolyte) to see gramps portrayed so repulsively by filmmakers with the stature of Coppola and Scorsese.

Joan Allen has always come off as a submerged dish to me, and one of the things I like most here — and this is, no doubt, fanciful — is the way Mrs. Tucker always seems to be decked out in seducto-duds of one kind of another when entering and exiting her scenes in the French farce known as the Tucker home. It’s complete with a blur of children, eternally stressed designers and mechanics (Frederick Forest, Mako, Elias Koteas) and dogs. Christian Slater plays one of the kids, and he barely looks old enough to get hired at the Dairy Queen.

In 1988, a great movie summer where paying customers also more or less ignored The Last Temptation of Christ, Bull Durham, Running on Empty, Clean and Sober, Married to the Mob, Labor Day’s Eight Men Out (and I could go on), Tucker underperformed but did spur renewed interest in the cars themselves, most of which were still runnable at the time of its release and sold in the collectors’ market for prices that only folks like Lucas or Coppola could afford. As a Blu-ray, the movie is something of a demo model for tank-sized home screens. Beyond Coppola’s intro and voiceover, it also comes equipped with a making-of featurette and a 1948 promotional film for the car that Coppola modified and used as the basis of Tucker’s opening scene.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Tucker: The Man and His Dream’ and ‘Village of the Damned’

Great Balls of Fire!


$24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13.’
Stars Dennis Quaid, Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin, Trey Wilson. 

Nobody pulled too many muscles remastering Orion Pictures’ cartoonish Jerry Lee Lewis biopic for Blu-ray release, but curio seekers may want to be reminded — because I had totally forgotten myself — that Alec Baldwin plays evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, the real-life cousin of rockdom’s self-ordained “Killer.” Actually, it’s another cousin who looms large in the Lewis saga (more on that in a minute), but let it be noted, also for the curious, that Baldwin doesn’t even attempt a characterization. We can almost hear the actor bellowing, “None of that Dennis Quaid peroxide mixed into in my hair, you don’t.”

It’s the similar lack of detail beyond the onetime standard tabloid boilerplate of the day that hurts the picture, which was positioned and certainly promoted to be a hit, what with Lewis’s cooperation and even his agreement to record improved-fidelity versions of his career-making Sun Records hits from his brief time at the highest rungs of the top. Since his wedding-related tumble, of course, Lewis has always been a formidable “name” at the very least, as well as an undeniable killer when it comes to showmanship. Boomers everywhere have long waited for him to co-author a health-tips volume with Keith Richards called How To Defy the Odds by Living Half-a-Century Longer Than Anyone Predicted.

Much like Richards’ Rolling Stones of the ’60s, at least when at least compared to the Beatles dressing like gentlemen on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” dangerous Lewis posed a threat to parental stress levels that Elvis didn’t fully replicate, or at least all the time. Elvis, after all, occasionally scored smash hits with ballads like “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” or “Love Me Tender” or “Don’t” — and even romanced Debra Paget tender-ly in his Tender screen debut. Judging just from his performing behavior — and you can get a short idea of how scary he was at the time via a brief clip in that mammoth six-part American Music: The Root of Country doc that Ted Turner aired in 1996 — Lewis on screen with Paget would likely have been more akin to what the actress (as “Lilia”) had to endure during the Golden Calf orgy scene in DeMille’s The Ten Commandments.

All of this was exciting, of course, to us fourth and fifth graders at the time — a good topic of discussion during school detention, to be sure, after our near-daily adventures in Ohio classroom disrupting that anticipated everything in Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. On the small screen, as opposed to concert appearances, Lewis was at his piano-pounding wildest on “The Steve Allen Show” and even named his son after the comic host — whose not-ever-to be-missed Sunday night variety show got programmed by NBC opposite Sullivan for a much hipper hour, though one not as big in the ratings (think Cavett vs. Carson in the counterculture early ’70s). This is kind of odd because like the equally uproarious Stan Freberg, Allen disdained “the new sounds” (I think both made rock critic Dave Marsh’s “Enemies of Rock and Roll” list). But he also appreciated outrageousness when he saw it, went with the flow, and his too brief appearance as himself in this movie is a minor high point.

The high point here is probably Winona Ryder as Lewis’s 13-year-old first cousin (removed) Myra, whose marriage to him as wife No. 3 did not amount to a crackerjack career move in late 1957 (just as the film’s title tune was soaring the charts around Christmas time after Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On had ripped up the previous summer). Ryder is fully credible playing someone very young (and, indeed, might even pass for 13), though this part of the movie’s chronology is completely screwed up here in terms of Lewis record releases. (The Dave “Baby” Cortez recording of “The Happy Organ” also shows up on the soundtrack about a year before it would have been possible to do so.) The Jerry-Myra union — which, for a long while, managed to survive a pompously negative British press of Uriah Heep types during a disastrous musical tour in early ’58 — didn’t keep that spring’s “Breathless” from being a top-10 hit (it’s a killer itself). But it likely did make a big dent in the potential sales of follow-up High School Confidential!, which sported one of the coolest 45 jackets ever in that it showcased not just Lewis, but the cast of actors who headlined that teen-junkie trash classic, including Russ Tamblyn and Mamie Van Doren. I had it (of course) and played it in my room after detentions.

After that, things went downhill for the singer pretty fast, and a final indignity came in 1959 when someone ghosted an article under (the original) Jerry Lewis’s name in Photoplay (with Elvis in army uniform on the cover) called, “I Am NOT Jerry Lee Lewis.” And even when Jerry Lee made one of the greatest live albums ever in the mid-’60s, its release was held up for years.

Even so, the movie ends on a happy note suggesting that Lewis and Myra ended up together for decades of walks into the sunset, but he ended up being as married almost as many times as Larry King (I can’t remember if they ever married each other). The director here is Jim McBride, who had directed Quaid in one of his most appealing efforts (The Big Easy) but in this case can’t keep his star from doing the truly impossible: fashioning a performance as Lewis that is, of all things, too broad — a trait it shares with the movie. Nearly two hours of sheer burlesque, Fire! tries to be (or, at least, is) such a pastiche of everything that was happening in the musical/pop culture scene at the time that nothing seems authentic. The minor compensation for this is the film’s accelerated pace and an occasionally hilarious response or reaction shot by Quaid, usually over some indignity. And though, as mentioned, the print could use a fresh, modern-day remastering, the production design is so sprightly under any circumstances that I’d even enjoy living with the wild two-toned carpet in the home the newlyweds look at, even if no one else I’ve ever known likely would.

Through it all, Baldwin’s Swaggart remains a moral compass who is many public years away from the phlegm-faced adulterer whose nationally broadcast-to-death mea culpa in 1988 inspired my then 21-month older son (now an anesthesiologist) to take a baby’s milk bottle out of his month and identify him, when asked on a lark, as the first George Bush. Thus, we do not get to see a Baldwin dramatization of quaking Swaggart crying, “I have sinned” on the airwaves three years and change before a subsequent arrest with a prostitute — but the way things are going with Donald Trump, maybe a newer version will eventually show up on “Saturday Night Live.”

Mike’s Picks: ‘Running Wild’ and ‘Great Balls of Fire!’