STORY WRITTEN BY AMY LONGSDORF
For Digital First Media
Two thought-provoking documentaries are among this week’s must-see attractions on DVD.
With the gripping “Killing Them Safely” (2015, IFC, unrated, $25), filmmaker Nick Berardini asks some fascinating questions about how Tasers have effected law enforcement.
There’s no doubt that lives have been saved thanks to the weapons but lives have been lost too, despite Taser International’s claim that the devices are completely safe. Berardini speaks to the brothers who run Taser International as well as the family members of men who were, essentially, zapped to death. Most chilling of all is the police-cam footage of the pre-Taser victims, many of whom are doing nothing more incendiary than disturbing the peace.
A Best Documentary Oscar nominee, “Cartel Land” (2015, Paramount, R, $30) is a sobering look at the violence waged by the Mexican drug cartels and the people who are trying to fight back on both sides of the border.
Director Matthew Heineman takes you deep into the desert that separates Southern Arizona and Mexico for a tale that includes shoot-outs, kidnappings and mass burials. Part of what makes “Cartel Land” so riveting is how complex the issue is. Heineman allows the charismatic leaders of two vigilante groups to make their cases but the filmmaker doesn’t sugarcoat the organizations. In the end, this doc leaves you with more questions than answers. Extras: featurettes.
Also New This Week
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip (2015, Fox, G, $30) The latest entry in the franchise tags along with the ‘Munk brothers (Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney) as they head to Miami to try to bust up the engagement of their guardian (Jason Lee) and his gal pal (Kimberly Williams-Paisley). There’s chaos aboard a cross-country flight overseen by a bizarre air marshal (Tony Hale) and lots of mayhem involving music in Texas and New Orleans. If you liked the other three outings, this one is more of the same. Extras: music videos and featurettes.
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I Believe In Unicorns: (2015, Indiepix, unrated, $25) As the sole caregiver to her disabled mother, teenage Davina (Natalia Dyer) is feeling so trapped at home that she often retreats into a fantasy world of unicorns and fairies. When she falls in love with an older high-schooler named Sterling (Peter Vack), she seems to have found the answer to her prayers but, on a road trip to nowhere, the affair quickly disintegrates as Davina gets to know the real Sterling. A little humor would have improved this narrow-focused film but , that said, it works as an illustration of just how painful growing pains can be. Extras: none.
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Bicycle Thieves: (1948, Criterion, unrated, $30) Vittorio DeSica’s masterwork is the deceptively simple saga of a poor man named Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) who, with his son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) in tow, travels around Rome on a desperate mission to try and recover his stolen bicycle. Ricci needs the bike because he just landed a job pasting up posters for American movies. Without a means of transportation, he’ll sink even further into poverty, just like everyone else in post-war Italy. One of the shining examples of neo-realism, the new-to-Blu-ray “Bicycle Thieves” is both a social critique and an exploration of the deep bond between a father and a son. Extras: featurettes.
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Kill Me Again: (1989, Olive, R, $25) In this steamy, sun-burnt neo-noir concocted by the underrated John Dahl (“The Last Seduction”), Joanne Whalley-Kilmer stars as Faye Forrester, a ruthless femme fatale determined to hang onto a suitcase full of cash which she stole from her psychotic boyfriend (Michael Madsen.) Enter private detective Jack Andrews (Val Kilmer), who agrees to help Faye fake her own death. The cleverness of the script draws you in and Dahl keeps things cooking with action, eroticism and humor. Extras: none.
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Bound For Glory: (1976, Twilight Time, PG, $30) Hal Ashby’s Depression-era biopic about pioneering folkie Woody Guthrie (David Carradine) is an engrossing saga which gets better as it goes along. The leisurely paced road movie begins with Guthrie leaving his family behind in Oklahoma to ride the rails to California, where he finds success as a singer/songwriter. The people he meets along the way – the train tramps and migrant works – become the inspiration for his best tunes. Carradine’s ultra low-key performance drains the film of oomph. But what “Bound For Glory” lacks in energy, it makes up for in stunning images and minute-by-minute authenticity. Extras: none.
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Roughshod: (1948, Warner Archive, unrated, $20) Taking place almost completely outside, against the backdrop of the Sonora Pass, this intriguing blend of noir and western is one long chase scene between an escaped convict (John Ireland) and the rancher (Robert Sterling) he blames for putting him behind bars. Slowing Sterling down are his traveling companions, including four dance-hall girls (Gloria Grahame, Martha Hyer, Jeff Donnell, Myrna Dell) he picks up along the way. There’s plenty of tension as the menacing Ireland closes in on his prey, necessitating a final shoot-out that is pulse-poundingly good. Extras: none.