June 2015 AV Reviews



Recently released on DVD, Leviathan arrives with impressive credentials, a slew of international awards and acclamations.  This Russian film is a stunner, for many reasons and on many levels. 
There is not a moment when the filmmaker's truth wavers or is called into question.

The story unfolds around Kolya, a man whose home is the object of a compulsory purchase decree by the local government.  He objects to his family's potential displacement from their ancestral home. He objects to the lowball compensation settlement he is set to receive. He suspects that personal gain motivates the local apparatchik Mayor to pursue the acquisition of the property.  He chafes at feeling powerless, being ground down under the thumb of the powers that be. Kolya follows the rule of law in an attempt to have this questionable decision vacated by the courts but has been utterly thwarted. He brings an old friend, a powerful Moscow attorney, to his tiny and remote village to pursue justice.  The attorney intends to rely and trade on facts, not simply laws and precedents, but also facts he has uncovered about the Mayor's past dealings. 

Things continue to deteriorate for Kolya.  A low-ranking local priest mentions the biblical figure, Job, to help Kolya understand the nature of his situation.  God inflicted tragedies upon Job in order to prove a point to the Devil.  Job suffered without understanding what he had done to provoke the situation.  Job had done nothing as Kolya has done nothing.  An upper-echelon priest counsels the grasping Mayor to use his God given power to eliminate obstacles to his own goals.  The oppressed should yield and the oppressor should press his advantage. How convenient for the ruling classes that the clergy enables their petty or grand schemes.

The title, Leviathan, refers to:  the bloated yet powerful Russian government, a sea monster whose skeleton is seen washed up on the beach of Kolya's village and Thomas Hobbes' philosophical work that posits that effective governments must have or take absolute authority.  The Russian government still wields such authority which makes me wonder how this film ever got made, let alone nominated by a committee of Russians as their entry for the Academy Award.  Leviathan is an indictment of the entrenched, corrupt Russian politicians and their state-authorized organized criminals.

In the course of the film, viewers can't avoid seeing the link between the desolate, isolated physical surroundings and the emotional lives of the characters.  The chances of gleaning some happiness or maintaining relationships are as bleak as the landscape.  Decay is almost a character in this film; its effect is seen everywhere and in everyone. Decay is pervasive, like the vodka.  Vodka is the cheap, legal drug of choice for people who must avoid the crushing reality of frustration and helplessness. 

Watching this film is not a depressing experience, it is revelatory. Viewers will be captured by the director's ability to tap into our universal empathy for people affected by situations not of their own making.  Attention will remain focused on the characters who reflect the landscape around them.  Questions will arise in the minds of viewers about the limits of endurance of the human spirit.  As the credits roll, the viewer will be left thinking, and feeling.  The artists responsible for bringing this film to the screen have much of which to be proud.
Gwen Meade

Margate City Public Library (NJ)
Street Date: 05/19/15

Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

DVD                       UPC: 043396455160         ISBN: 9786315969348      MSRP: $30.99

Blu-ray                  UPC: 043396455153         ISNB: 9786315969355      MSRP: $34.99

KNOW HOW                                                                                                                                        

Available on DVD only

Before watching the trailer for “Know How” – a film that I was told is about foster care – I was expecting a documentary. I love documentaries, so I was interested. After I watched the trailer, I
thought, Oh, I was wrong. This is a drama with professionally paid actors, a great soundtrack and intriguing story. Then I read more about the film and realized the actors are actually former foster kids, the film is based on a musical the actors themselves wrote about their lives and then adapted into a film, and the film came together thanks to the NYC-based non-profit The Possibility Project, which encourages teens to work together and create a positive future using the arts.

I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to see the film in its entirety, and I was blown away by the talent and creativity. Each character has a story told separately as we view their struggles in the foster care system. Two sisters are separated after their father was reported as a drug addict, one girl is sent to a group home after being assaulted in her own home, two boys struggle to find what it means to be a man on the streets, a young couple tries to understand each other while their lives uprooted, and one girl deals with an emotionally abusive foster mom while trying to graduate from high school. As the movie goes on and the stories intertwine, we see how different characters know and help each other to maintain their perseverance and positivity in overcoming unimaginable odds – to graduate high school, get into college, and see a brighter future.

Undoubtedly, the young cast is an inspiration. While following “Know How” on social media, you can read about how they are promoting the film as a means of encouraging change in the foster care system nationwide. You also learn about how their lives have changed since going to college. You could read more about their movie and The Possibility Project at http://www.knowhowmovie.com.

 Heather Guenther, Inside AV Sales Consultant

First Run Features

ISBN: 9786315978609

UPC: 720229916516

SLP: $24.95

Chaos and the Calm
James Bay

James Bay is a British singer-songwriter and guitarist.  He has released several EPs and now his album, Chaos and the Calm.  I have found his first album, poetic.  He mixes poetic ballads with songs that take me back to 80’s rock with a faster beat and heavy instrumentals.  His lyrics are beautifully written as each song flows brilliantly to the next. 

His guitar playing at points can take me back to the great Eric Clapton.  The track, “Hold Back the River” is a catchy anthem that everyone can enjoy.  For anyone who is doing something they may not enjoy, you will enjoy, Bay’s “Best Fake Smile”.  Listening to, “Scars” or even the entire track listing, you know James Bay poured his life and personal experiences into this Album. 

Mr. Bay, while only 24, started with open mic nights, where a fan video-taped him and loaded it to YouTube.  That is where he caught the attention of Republic Records.  James Bay is touring the Northwest this year.  His album hit 15 on US charts and was #1 in the UK. 

Julie Dyson, AV Inside Sales Manager

 Universal Music Group

Release Date: March 23, 2015

UPC:  602547184962

ISBN: 9786315883958

SLP: $10.98





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