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.
This July, the Criterion Collection will pay tribute to one of cinema’s most legendary collaborations with the July 3 release of Dietrich and von Sternberg in Hollywood (DVD or Blu-ray: 6 discs, $124.95 each), a lavish box set featuring six newly restored classics starring the alluring Marlene Dietrich and directed by the visually extravagant Josef von Sternberg: 1930 romantic reverie Morocco, 1931’s espionage thriller Dishonored, pre-Code train-ride adventure Shanghai Express (1932), the 1932 musical melodrama Blonde Venus (also starring Cary Grant), 1934 biopic The Scarlet Empress, and the duo’s final film together, the erotic and passionate Spain Carnival romance The Devil Is a Woman (1935). Slated for July 10 is former minor leaguer Ron Shelton’s 1988 hall-of-fame baseball comedy Bull Durham (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), starring Kevin Costner as a veteran catcher who mentors a pitching prospect (Tim Robbins) while both players are pursued by a team groupie (Susan Sarandon). Also slated for July 10 is the 4K digital restoration and Blu-ray debut of King Hu’s 1967 martial-arts classic Dragon Inn (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), and action-packed tale of Ming-dynasty intrigue set after an emperor’s minister of defense is executed and a power-grabbing eunuch sends assassins to trail the victim’s children to a remote point on the northern Chinese border. Slated for July 17 is a 4K digital transfer version of Steven Soderbergh’s disarmingly frank 1989 debut sex, lies, and videotape (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), focusing on housewife Ann (Andie MacDowell), her lawyer husband, John (Peter Gallagher)—who is sleeping with her sister (Laura San Giacomo)—and John’s old voyeuristic friend Graham (Cannes award-winner James Spader). Also newly available on Blu-ray with a 4K digital restoration on July 24 is Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s otherworldly 1946 Technicolor romance A Matter of Life and Death (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95) centers on a RAF pilot Peter Carter (David Niven) who falls in love with an American radio operator (Kim Hunter) to whom he’s just delivered his dying wishes.
PBS has announced the upcoming release of Frontline: Weinstein (DVD: $24.99), slated for May 29. Harvey Weinstein was once one of the most successful producers in Hollywood, but beneath the glitz and glamour there was a pattern of sexual misconduct going back to the very start of his career. Drawing on exclusive insider accounts, this documentary examines how Weinstein used lawyers and private detectives to help him suppress sexual harassment allegations, shining new light on what those around Weinstein knew about his behavior, and when. Filled with fresh insights from those who worked with Weinstein, those who tried to confront him, and the journalists who ultimately broke the story, Weinstein provides an in-depth look at the long history of allegations against the powerful producer.
Marvel Studios’ Black Panther (DVD: $29.99, Blu-ray: $39.99, 4K: 2 discs, $42.99) has been announced for release on May 15 from Walt Disney Studios. The highly celebrated story of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), a young African prince who takes on the mantle of king and superhero, has thrilled and inspired generations of moviegoers around the globe. In the acclaimed film, T’Challa returns home to the hidden high-tech African nation of Wakanda to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king, following the death of his father. But when a man named Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) appears, T’Challa’s mettle as leader—and as his alter-ego—is tested when he’s drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. The film also stars Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Surkis, Daniel Kaluuya, and Sterling K. Brown, with a musical score by Grammy-nominated composer Ludwig Göransson and a soundtrack curated and produced by Grammy Award-winning global superstar Kendrick Lamar. Dominating the box office charts and emerging as the third biggest movie of all time domestically with over $665 million, exclusive bonus features will include audio commentary from director Ryan Coogler, deleted scenes, outtakes, several making-of featurettes, (which detail the Black Panther’s evolution, the remarkable women of Wakanda, the history of T’Challa’s proud nation, and the cosmic origin and technological applications of vibranium), a roundtable discussion with Black Panther filmmakers and writers, and a featurette tracing the countless connections between heroes, characters, and storylines within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
PBS Distribution has announced the upcoming release of Masterpiece: Little Women (DVD: $24.99, Blu-ray: $34.99), slated for May 22. Set to air on May 13 and May 20, this latest adaptation of the 1868 Louisa May Alcott classic follows the four March sisters on their journey from childhood to adulthood while their father is away at war. Under the guidance of their mother Marmee (Emily Watson), the girls navigate what it means to be a young woman: from gender roles to sibling rivalry, first love, loss, and marriage. Also featuring Angela Lansbury as the cantankerous and wealthy Aunt March, Michael Gambon as benevolent neighbor Mr. Laurence, and Jonah Hauer-King as a charming boy next door, the miniseries stars Maya Hawke as the willful and adventurous Jo; Willa Fitzgerald as the eldest and most virtuous, Meg; Annes Elwy as the shy sister, Beth; and Kathryn Newton as Amy, the youngest of the family. A celebration of family as much as it is a recognition of the challenges of growing up and forging an individual identity, Little Women remains relevant due to the universal themes at its core.
On July 24, Shout! Factory will release Gravity Falls: The Complete Series (DVD: 7 discs, $59.98; Blu-ray: 7 discs, $99.99), featuring all 40 episodes of Disney’s hit Emmy Award-winning 2012-16 series, available for the first time in a complete series box set. Created by Alex Hirsch and inspired by his real-life adventures with a sibling, the series follows twin brother and sister Dipper and Mabel Pines as they spend summer with their great uncle Grunkle Stan in the mysterious town of Gravity Falls, OR. Featuring the voices of Hirsch, Jason Ritter, Kristen Schaal, and Linda Cardellini, celebrity guest stars include Mark Hamill, J.K. Simmons, Will Forte, Nick Offerman, Chelsea Peretti, and Nathan Fillion. While also offered in a six-disc retail edition, the collector’s edition box sets will include an additional disc with new bonus features.
Coming from deep within computer programming culture, Internet trolls are pissed off and using the click-bait obsessed mass media to propel their movement into the mainstream, including influencing presidential elections and manipulating journalists. Directed by George Russell, Troll Inc. (DVD: $19.99), slated for release on May 22 from Virgil Films, was made possible due to attorney access to DOJ documents via the Freedom of Information Act. This timely documentary features interviews with prosecuted whistleblower and notorious Internet troll Andrew Auernheimer and his legion of cultural saboteurs, who are attempting to overthrow civilization one meme at a time.
MPI Media Group is releasing Doris Day: A Sentimental Journey (DVD: $14.98) on April 17. Celebrating one of Hollywood’s biggest and most beloved stars, Doris Day (born 1922) began her legendary career as a big band singer in the 1940s, made her motion picture debut in 1948, and became box-office magic for the next two decades in musicals, comedies, and dramas such as Calamity Jane, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Pajama Game, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, The Thrill of It All, and three iconic romantic comedies with Rock Hudson, including her Oscar-nominated Pillow Talk. In the late 1960s, Day moved to television with her top 10 sitcom The Doris Day Show, followed by music specials in the 1970s and “Doris Day’s Best Friends” in the 1980s. Since retiring from show business, Day has devoted herself to her first love with the Doris Day Animal Foundation. Detailing her dramatic life story and career with a combination of rare footage and archival materials from Day’s own collection, A Sentimental Journey features famous friends and admirers including Betty White, Clint Eastwood, and film critics Roger Ebert and Molly Haskell.