By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
Oscar winning filmmaker and actor Kevin Costner (“Dances With Wolves,” “Field of Dreams”) grew up in ethnically diverse Compton and other Southern California communities, where simmering racial and ethnic tensions sometimes boiled to the surface. So when he read Mike Binder’s screenplay “Black or White,” which tackles the subject of race relations head-on, he knew he had to ensure that the picture would get made, so came onboard not only as the star of the film but he also as a producer.
The drama, which was released in theaters earlier this year, is available in a Blu-ray Combo Pack Tuesday, May 5. Special features in this edition include a making-of featurette called “Shades of Gray,” as well as other promotional featurettes.
Binder, a veteran film and TV show director and actor, was inspired to write the screenplay from his own experience. After his wife’s sister died, leaving a 7-year-old biracial child without parents, Binder and his wife and one of her brothers stepped in to help raise the boy, bringing him from their Santa Monica home to his estranged father’s family in South Central for weekend visits. He was struck by the differences between the two worlds, located just a dozen or so miles apart, as well as some remarkable similarities.
The filmmaker says he wanted to make a film about how, as a country, we can move forward in race relations and begin a dialogue. Costner, who previously starred in Binder’s family drama “The Upside of Anger,” concurred. This all happened well before the marches and riots that followed police-involved incidents in Ferguson, Mo., New York, L.A. and, more recently, Baltimore, that have reignited the subject of race relations in this country.
Twice married, Costner is the father of seven, so he knows a bit about child rearing. However, the character he plays in “Black or White,” Elliott, is a successful Los Angeles attorney, whose wife has recently passed away and he is left to care for their biracial granddaughter.
Busy with his work and an undiagnosed alcoholic, Elliott knows very little about little Eloise (played by newcomer Jillian Estell), despite the fact that she grew up in his spacious suburban home. His white daughter, as it turns out, died in childbirth, and the black father has been AWOL for most of Eloise’s life. However, the child’s paternal grandmother (played by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer) and her extended family want custody of the 7-year-old. She believes she can offer Eloise, who is black, a better upbringing.
The 60-year-old actor is enjoying a bit of a resurgence in his acting career with the success of the 2012 HBO miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys,” and last year’s theatrical releases “3 Days to Kill,” the sports drama “Draft Day” and the rebooted Jack Ryan franchise. Costner most recently starred in the sports drama “McFarland, USA,” in which he played a high school cross-country coach to a group of underprivileged Latinos.
Also available Tuesday on Blu-ray and DVD is the horror drama “The Pyramid. The age-old wonders of the world have long cursed explorers who’ve dared to unlock their mysteries, but a team of archaeologists gets more than they bargained for when they discover a lost pyramid unlike any other in the Egyptian desert. As they begin to uncover its horrifying secrets, they realize they’re being relentlessly hunted by an ancient evil more nightmarish than anything they could have imagined. From producer Alexandre Aja, director of “The Hills Have Eyes” and “Horns,” comes a frightening journey into terror.
The Blu-ray Combo Pack includes a Digital HD version that you can upload onto your handheld devices. It also has several bonus features including a new extended ending, featurettes including “Fear,” “Egyptian Myths,” “Partners,” “Space Archeology” and more.
The DVD debut of “Jamaica Inn” is available Tuesday on DVD. This sweeping period piece stars Jessica Brown Findlay (“Downton Abbey”) and Matthew McNulty (“The Paradise”). Set in Cornwall in 1821, Daphne du Maurier’s classic gothic tale of romance, intrigue, and murder on the moors comes to vivid life in this stunning BBC production. Directed by BAFTA Award winner Philippa Lowthorpe (“Call the Midwife,” “The Other Boleyn Girl”) and adapted by Golden Globe nominee Emma Frost (“The White Queen,” “Shameless”), the miniseries also stars Joanne Whalley (“Willow,” “Wolf Hall”), Sean Harris (“The Borgias”), Ben Daniels (“House of Cards”) and Shirley Henderson (“Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Harry Potter”) It also is available on Acorn TV. The three-part miniseries originally aired in 2014 on BBC One.