On August 21, First Run Features will release Alone on the Island of the Blue Dolphins (DVD: $19.95). Every November, nearly half a million 4th graders read Scott O’Dell’s 1960 Newbery Medal-winning children’s story Island of the Blue Dolphins. For many, this is their first real reading experience, their first “chapter book” (almost 10 million copies have been sold). The book was inspired by the true account of a 12-year-old Native American girl who was left alone for 18 years on San Nicolas Island—the most remote of California’s Channel Islands—during the 19th century. The real-life “Lone Woman” survived for near two decades before being rescued. Filmmaker Paul Goldsmith’s documentary visits her campsite and cave, visually capturing the adventure she experienced all those years ago. Bonus features include shorts on “Lone Woman Artifacts,” “The Archaeology Story,” and more about author O’Dell.
Imagine a society where books are outlawed and “firemen” have been tasked to burn any remaining literature. This is the reality in Fahrenheit 451, slated for September 18 release from HBO. Based on Ray Bradbury’s classic 1953 sci-fi novel, this thought-provoking parable depicts a frighteningly plausible future where media is an opiate, history is purged, and dissent is outlawed. The dystopian thriller centers on Montag (Michael B. Jordan), a young fireman who forsakes his world and struggles to regain his humanity as he battles his mentor, fire captain Beatty (Michael Shannon). Directed by Ramin Bahrani, the film also stars Sofia Boutella, Lily Singh, Laura Harrier, and Martin Donovan. Bonus features include a “Behind the Fire” making-of featurette.
Kino Lorber and Zeitgeist Films have recently released Forbidden Films: The Hidden Legacy of Nazi Film (DVD: $29.95), Felix Moeller’s German-language documentary re-examining the propaganda films created by the German film industry under the Third Reich. Of the 1,200 feature films made during this period, some 100 were blatant Nazi propaganda, and nearly 70 years after the end of the Nazi regime, more than 40 of these films remain under lock and key. Exploring the insidious role that film played as propaganda within Nazi Germany, the program uses clips from such notorious films as Jew Süss (1940), The Eternal Jew (1940), and Kolberg (1945), among others, to examine ideological messages and raise questions about how to deal with their dark legacy today. Utilizing clips and recorded discussions from public screenings in Munich, Berlin, Paris, and Jerusalem, Moeller interviews German film historians, archivists, and filmgoers in an investigation of the power, and potential danger, of cinema when used for ideological purposes.
Slated for a July 24 release from Warner Home Video, filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s action-adventure film Ready Player One (DVD: $28.98, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $35.99, 4K: Combo: $44.95) is based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 sci-fi bestseller of the same name. In the year 2045, the real world is a harsh place and the only time that Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) truly feels alive is when he escapes to the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe where most of humanity spend their days. In the OASIS, you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone—the only limits are your own imagination. The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who left his immense fortune and total control of the OASIS to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir. When Wade conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends—known as the High Five—are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS and their world. Also featuring Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, and Simon Pegg, the film’s screenplay was co-written by Cline, whose novel has now spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List, recently climbing to the No. 1 spot, as well as reaching No. 1 on Amazon’s Most Read Fiction chart. Bonus features include behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Films Media Group, an Infobase Company, agreed today to sponsor up to four registrations to the 2018 National Media Market and Conference (NMM) for librarians who collect media for community colleges. This sponsorship will benefit librarians who wish to attend but don’t have conference funding in their budgets. Films Media Group provides high-quality video on academic, vocational and life-skills topics to schools, colleges, libraries, the medical community, and other institutions. NMM will administer the sponsored scholarships to community college librarians who qualify as participating in film and video related purchasing decisions at their institutions. A special application form on the conference website is available for librarians who wish to apply. All applications will be reviewed, and recipients notified, by conference staff and advisory board members. “Films Media Group and Infobase are pleased to be able to offer this opportunity for community college librarians,” said Sarah Hicks, an FMG account executive who also serves as a board member for NMM. “We feel this conference provides a learning and networking experience, as well as purchasing advantages, that are often out of reach at community college libraries, where budgets for conference attendance may be limited.” Now in its 40th year, National Media Market & Conference meets annually to bring librarians together with distributors of film, streaming providers, and other media- and film-related services. “We’re a boutique conference, the only one of its kind, dedicated to improving knowledge, access and best practices for librarians who collect film,” said NMM Chair Jeff Tamblyn. “Participation and support by companies like Films Media Group is vital to carrying out our mission every year. We’re extremely grateful and proud to have them as a sponsor.” The 2018 National Media Market convenes October 7th through the 11th, in Indianapolis. For more information, visit Films Media Group at https://www.films.com/ecHome.aspx or National Media Market at https://www.nmm.net/.
The Criterion Collection’s August releases kick off August 14 with director Robert M. Young’s 1982 drama The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), a passion project for producer-star Edward James Olmos, who plays the titular Mexican American farmer forced to run from the Texas Rangers after a heated misunderstanding leads to the death of a lawman. On August 21, Susan Seidelman will join the collection with her trailblazing independent 1982 debut, Smithereens (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), a punk-rock portrait of down-and-out scenesters in 1980s New York, starring Susan Berman, Brad Rijn, and Richard Hell. Also slated for August 21 is the Blu-ray debut of Ernst Lubitsch’s sly 1943 Technicolor comedy Heaven Can Wait (Blu-ray: $39.95), which follows deceased turn-of-the-century playboy Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche), who asks a bemused Satan for permission to enter through the gates of hell and proceeds to recount past sins, exempting his happy marriage to Martha (Gene Tierney). Coming August 28 is a 4K restoration of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s long-unavailable 1968 Spanish-language masterpiece Memories of Underdevelopment (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), which is set against the tumultuous backdrop of the Cuban Revolution and follows a bourgeois intellectual (Sergio Corrieri) wandering Havana after his family flees due to the Bay of Pigs invasion. Also arriving on August 28 is visionary filmmaker Terrence Malick’s 2011 Palme d’Or-winning magnum opus The Tree of Life (DVD: 3 discs, $39.95; Blu-ray: 2 discs, $49.95), available in a new cut that adds nearly 50 minutes of footage to the coming of age story profiling a 1950s Texas child (newcomer Hunter McCracken) who learns to navigate between his bitter, often tyrannical father (Brad Pitt) and his ethereal, nurturing mother (Jessica Chastain).
The events that led to the deadliest terrorist attacks ever to take place on American soil are chronicled in The Looming Tower (DVD: $29.98, Blu-ray: $39.98), the powerful 10-part Hulu drama to be released on September 18 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Adapted from the bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Lawrence Wright and executive produced by Dan Futterman and Alex Gibney, the series reveals the untold story of the September 11 attacks and how the secret rivalry between the FBI and the CIA may have inadvertently set the country on the path to tragedy. The series has received critical praise and features an all-star ensemble cast that includes Jeff Daniels, Peter Sarsgaard, and Tahar Rahim. Following members of the I-49 Squad in New York and the code-named Alec Station in Washington D.C. as they travel the world fighting for ownership of information while seemingly working toward trying to prevent an imminent terrorist attack on U.S. soil, The Looming Tower focuses on Chief John O’Neill (Daniels), who faces a deliberate lack of cooperation from other intelligence organizations within the federal government after he’s convinced that the United States has been targeted for an attack by Al-Qaeda. Bonus features include behind-the-scenes featurettes, and creator audio commentaries.
Music Box Films is releasing the documentary My Letter to the World (DVD: $29.95) on June 12. Offering a rich examination of the life and work of one of America’s greatest poets, the film features world experts and renowned scholars who help to unravel the enigma of Emily Dickinson, who has spent the 130 years since her death being pigeonholed as a mysterious recluse. Directed by Solon Papadopoulos and narrated by Cynthia Nixon, My Letter to the World takes viewers on a journey through the seasons of Dickinson’s life in mid-1800s New England, exploring her experiences and relationships via her impassioned letters and poems. As new theories come to light about both Dickinson’s life and poetry, experts offer often conflicting opinions. Also featuring behind-the-scenes clips from filmmaker Terence Davies’s 2016 biopic A Quiet Passion (starring Nixon as Dickinson), bonus features include poems read by Davies and Nixon.
Collective Eye Films has recently released A Good American (DVD: public libraries: $50; schools: $125 [$295 w/PPR], www.collectiveeye.org), director Friedrich Moser’s gripping docu-thriller about a groundbreaking surveillance program, the brilliant mastermind behind it, and how a perfect alternative to mass surveillance was killed by NSA management for money—three weeks prior to 9/11. Brilliant cryptologist and long-time National Security Agency analyst Bill Binney developed a sophisticated program named ThinThread for gathering data capable of providing clues—in real-time—of potential terrorist threats. Built-in safeguards would have prevented the massive surveillance methods later exposed by Edward Snowden. Why was this program killed off? And who was behind it? The film provides a chilling account of those willing to go on the record and what happened to them when they tried to expose the truth. [Note: the film is also available for individuals from most distributors from Gravitas Ventures for $16.99.]
Director Greg Barker (Manhunt: The Inside Story of the Hunt for Bin Laden) looks at President Barack Obama’s last year in office in The Final Year (DVD: $26.98), newly available from Magnolia Home Entertainment. Following key members of the Obama administration throughout 2016 up until the morning of President Trump’s inauguration, the documentary gives viewers a front-row seat as Obama’s foreign policy team, including Secretary of State John Kerry, United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and even President Obama himself work to cement the President’s legacy ahead of the 2016 election. Barker accompanies the team during high-stakes negotiations, addresses to the United Nations, on humanitarian research missions, and more as they prepare to hand over the government to a new administration. Bonus features include deleted scenes, and a photo gallery.