"The movie business is macabre. Grotesque.
It is a combination of a football game
and a brothel."
-- Federico Fellini
Dec 072020
 

This Week’s Best Bets

Just in time for the 30th anniversary of “The Godfather: Part III,” director-screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola has re-edited the final film in his epic Godfather trilogy and renamed it “Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone” (1990). This new version achieves Coppola and screenwriter Mario Puzo’s original vision for the finale, which has been meticulously restored frame-by-frame from a 4k scan for the finest presentation of the Corleone saga’s last chapter. Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), now in his photo for Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone60s, seeks to free his family from crime and find a suitable successor to his empire. That successor could be fiery Vincent (Andy Garcia)… but he may also be the spark that turns Michael’s hope of business legitimacy into an inferno of mob violence. The film’s meticulously restored picture and sound, under the supervision of American Zoetrope and Paramount Pictures, includes a new beginning and ending, as well as changes to scenes, shots, and music cues. With an introduction by Coppola. The film also stars Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, George Hamilton, Bridget Fonda, Sofia Coppola, Raf Vallone. On Blu-ray, with Digital copy, from Paramount … In “Mister Roberts” (1955), the USS Reluctant carries cargo along World War II’s forgotten Pacific seaways. Beyond the horizon, the real war passes its stir-crazy crew by. The film, directed by John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy, is the classic story of men fighting to survive – not war’s dangers, but its indignities. Henry Fonda’s reprise of his Tony-winning Broadway role returned him to movies after seven years away. Jack Lemmon won his first Academy Award as hapless, lecherous Ensign Pulver. James Cagney’s petty, scrappy Captain makes a fierce adversary. In his final film, William Powell makes world-weary Doc a sage for the ages. “Mister Roberts” has moments of unforgettable humor. But sadness tempers the comedy. No shot is fired. No blood is spilled. Yet “Mister Roberts” endures as one of our most truthful war sagas. New 2020 1080p HD remaster from 4K scan of the original negative. In a Blu-ray debut from Warner Archive … photo for Mouchette Robert Bresson plumbs great reservoirs of feeling with “Mouchette” (1967), one of the most searing portraits of human desperation ever put on film. With a dying mother, an absent, alcoholic father, and a baby brother in need of care, the teenage Mouchette seeks solace and respite from her circumstances in the nature of the French countryside and daily routine. Bresson deploys his trademark minimalist style to heartbreaking effect in this essential work of French filmmaking, a hugely empathetic drama that elevates its trapped protagonist into one of the cinema’s most memorable tragic figures. In a Blu-ray debut, with new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack, from The Criterion Collection … “The Buster Keaton Collection: Go West & College” features two new restorations of Buster Keaton classics with new musical scores. “Go West” (1925): Heeding the expansionist call of Horace Greeley, an idealistic young man (though aptly named “Friendless”) hops a freight train westward to meet his destiny, first in a teeming metropolis — where he is roundly trampled by rush-hour foot traffic — then into the ranch lands of Arizona. His attempts at bronco busting, cattle wrangling, and even dairy farming all end in hilarious failure, but when a trainload of steer are unleashed on the streets of Los Angeles, “Friendless” decides to undertake an unorthodox, single-handed round-up. “College” (1927): Keaton’s ode to varsity life demonstrates the performer’s trademark brand of visual comedy as well as his remarkable agility. He stars as Ronald, a small-town, academically-inclined freshman who applies his wiry physique to a series of sports, in order to impress a fellow student (Anne Cornwall). He seems destined for failure, but when Mary is accosted by an overzealous rival (Harold Goodwin), Ronald discovers within himself an untapped wellspring of athleticism. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Cohen Film Collection … photo for Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Two Takes by William Greaves “Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Two Takes by William Greaves”: In his one-of-a-kind fiction/documentary hybrid “Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One” (1968), the pioneering William Greaves presides over a beleaguered film crew in New York’s Central Park, leaving them to try to figure out what kind of movie they’re making. A couple enacts a breakup scenario over and over, a documentary crew films a crew filming the crew, locals wander casually into the frame: the project defies easy description. Yet this wildly innovative sixties counterculture landmark remains one of the most tightly focused and insightful movies ever made about making movies, expanded thirty-five years later by its unconventional follow-up, “Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take 2½” (2005). The “sequel” sees “Take One” actors Audrey Henningham and Shannon Baker reunited in a more personal, metatheatrical exploration of the effects of the passage of time on technology, the artistic process, and relationships — real and fabricated. With high-definition digital transfers of both films with uncompressed monaural soundtracks. In a Blu-ray debut from The Criterion Collection.

There are three great releases this week from the folks over at ArrowVideo/Arrow Academy:
“Cinema Paradiso” (1988 — Italy): A winner of awards across the world including Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, five BAFTA Awards including Best Actor, Original Screenplay and Score, the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival and many more. Giuseppe Tornatore’s loving homage to the cinema tells the story of Salvatore, a successful film director, returning home for the photo for Cinema Paradiso funeral of Alfredo, his old friend who was the projectionist at the local cinema throughout his childhood. Soon memories of his first love affair with the beautiful Elena and all the highs and lows that shaped his life come flooding back, as Salvatore reconnects with the community he left 30 years earlier. Giuseppe Tornatore’s classic is presented in its original award-winning theatrical version and in the expanded Director’s Cut, which delves deeper into Salvatore’s backstory, on the Blu-ray: High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of the two versions of the film, with uncompressed original stereo 2.0 Audio and 5.1 surround sound options. On DVD, two-disc Blu-ray, and 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo. “Survivor Ballads: Three Films By Shohei Imamura”: Throughout the 1980s, Shohei Imamura (“The Pornographers,” “Profound Desires of the Gods”), a leading figure of the Japanese New Wave era of the 1960s, cemented his international reputation as one of the most important directors of his generation with a series of films that all competed at Cannes to great critical acclaim. This exclusive box set from Arrow Academy presents restored versions of three late career classics from the legendary filmmaker. Based on an ancient folktale, “The Ballad of Narayama” (1983) was the first of two works from the director to win the prestigious Cannes Palme d’Or. Imamura’s magnum opus photo for Survivor Ballads: Three Films By Shohei Imamuradepicts the members of an extended farming family eking out their existence in the mountainous north of Japan against the backdrop of the changing seasons before village lore decrees they make the sacrifice of abandoning their aged mother on the top of a nearby mountain when she reaches her 70th year. Making its HD debut, “Zegen” (1987) takes a satirical look at Japan’s prewar colonial expansion through the unscrupulous eyes of its flesh-peddler antihero as he establishes a prostitution enterprise across Southeast Asia. Finally, the harrowing “Black Rain” (1989) details the precarious existence of a household of atomic bomb survivors as, five years after being caught in the blast of Hiroshima, they struggle to find a husband for their 25-year-old niece. These three works epitomize the director’s almost documentary style of filmmaking, exposing the vulgar yet vibrant and instinctive underbelly of Japanese society through a sympathetic focus on peasants, prostitutes, criminal lowlife and other marginalized figures to explore the schism between the country’s timeless premodern traditions and the modern face it projects to the world. Restored High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of all three films with original lossless Japanese PCM 1.0 mono soundtracks. On Blu-ray … “Versus” (2000 — Japan): A relentless one-of-a-kind sensory assault chock-full of hyper-kinetic fight scenes, gangster shootouts, sword-slashing violence and gory zombie horror, “Versus” was a key title among the barrage of innovative horror and action movies that appeared as if from nowhere from Japan at the turn of the millennium, leading to a new wave of appreciation for Asian extreme cinema. A mysterious face-off in a wooded clearing between two escaped convicts and a carload of sharply dressed yakuza holding a beautiful woman captive ends in hails of bullets and showers of blood. The location for this violent encounter is the mythic Forest of photo for VersusResurrection, the site of the 444th portal of the 666 hidden gates that link this earthly domain to the netherworld — and it didn’t get this name for nothing. As one of the surviving prisoners escapes with the girl into the darkness of the forest, disgruntled gangsters soon become the least of their worries as an earlier battle between a lone warrior against hordes of zombie samurai is carried over from a millennium ago into the present day. “Versus” caused a sensation both in Japan and internationally upon its release, launching the careers of director Ryûhei Kitamura and action star and fight choreographer Tak Sakaguchi. Presented in both its original 2000 and expanded 2004 “Ultimate Versus” iterations in a new 2K restoration from original film elements by Arrow Films, approved by director Ryûhei Kitamura. High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations of both versions of the film: the original 2000 cut and 2004’s Ultimate Versus, featuring over 10 minutes of new and revised footage. On Two-disc Blu-ray.

From TV to Disc:

“Hawaii Five-0 (2010): The Complete Series” (2010-20) is a contemporary take on the classic series about an elite federalized task force whose mission is to wipe out the crime that washes up on the islands’ sun-drenched beaches. Detective Steve McGarrett, a decorated Naval officer turned cop, returned to Oahu after Hawaii’s former governor persuaded him to head up the new team: his rules, no red tape and full blanket authority to hunt down the biggest “game” in town. Sixty-one discs on DVD, from CBS/Paramount … “The Secrets She Keeps” (2020) is a two-disc set with all six episodes of the suspenseful and intense psychological thriller — based on the novel of the same name by Michael Robotham — that photo for Hawaii Five-0 (2010): The Complete Seriesrevolves around the lives and connection between two heavily pregnant women (Laura Carmichael and Jessica De Gouw) who meet in a supermarket just outside of Sydney. Both have secrets that gradually emerge as their worlds collide. They are the same age and due at the same time. Meghan (De Gouw) is a glamorous online influencer on the rise with an ambitious television sports reporter husband, Jack (Michael Dorman). Agatha (Carmichael) works in the supermarket as a shelf stacker. Although they live near each other, the two women’s lives could not be more different: Agatha is a loner, barely living above the poverty line. She’s ecstatic to be pregnant, pinning all her hopes and dreams on this much longed-for “miracle baby.” Yet, the father of her unborn child is a sailor on active duty and remains mixed to her condition. Meghan is a sophisticated mother-of-two who uses her website to reframe her imperfect life into a glossier, more aspirational existence. Both women have secrets. And both will risk everything to conceal the truth. But their worlds are about to collide in one shocking act that cannot be undone. On DVD from Sundance Now … “Yellowstone: Season 3” (2020) includes all 10 episodes of the engrossing family drama that follows the epic story of a multi-generational family that controls the largest contiguous ranch in the U.S. In Season 3, The Dutton family is threatened by new foes and lucrative business deals, forcing John (Kevin Costner), Kayce (Luke Grimes), Beth (Kelly Reilly) and Jamie (Wes Bentley) to utilize unexpected alliances and risky measures to safeguard their legacy. In a four-disc DVD, three-disc Blu-ray sets, from Paramount.

Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:

In “Black Pumpkin” (2018), starring Lily Keene, Kamilla Alnes and Connor Weil, it’s October 31, 2018, and two pre-teens in a small town accidentally awaken an evil that has lain dormant for decades. They are forced to survive through a terrifying Halloween night of cat-and-mouse, from the monster known as “Bloody Bobby.” From Uncork’d Entertainment … In “Bobbleheads: The Movie” (2020), with the voices of Jennifer Coolidge, Karen Fukuhara, Khary Payton, Julian Sands, Brenda Song, Luke Wilson and Cher, get ready for a big shake-up when misfit bobbleheads take on trashy humans and a slobbery dog who crash their home with plans to swap a new baseball player bobblehead for a valuable one of them. With some guidance from Bobblehead Cher, they find the courage to bobble-up for an outrageous battle of wits and wobble. From Universal … photo for Smiley Face Killers In “Smiley Face Killers” (2019), starring Crispin Glover, Ronen Rubinstein and Mia Serafino, while a strange wave of mysterious drownings of male college students plagues the California coast, Jake Graham (Rubinstein) struggles to keep his life together at school. Finding himself stalked by a hooded figure (Glover) driving an unmarked van, Jake fears he may become the next victim in the killers’ horrific spree. Inspired by true events and the twisted “smiley face killers” conspiracy theory that has gripped the American imagination for decades. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate … In “Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot” (2020 – UK), starring Richard Short and Richard Brake, the year is 463 AD and England is a land divided, a land in need of a legend. King Arthur has been absent for five long years, fighting a war abroad that has stricken his knights, left his throne defenseless and his queen at the mercy of Mordred, his illegitimate son. He must return home fast, facing dark and dangerous threats from all side. Now he must reunite with the wizard Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table and fight to get back his crown. From MPI Media Group … In “The Facility (aka The Rizen: Possession)” (2019), starring Harriet Madeley, Michael Fatogun, Sarine Sofair, Kevin Leslie and Sophie Miller, in 1955 NATO and the Allied Forces conducted secret, occult experiments in a bid to win the Arms Race. They succeeded, but what they unleashed almost tore our world apart. Now a group of young urban explorers and a private military unit could become the final pieces in a 60-year plan to reopen a door that should have stayed closed. From Uncork’d Entertainment … In “Faith Under Fire” (2020), starring Nick Vlassoppulos, Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain, after an exhausting night of saving a little girl from a raging house fire, fireman Tom Hatcher is at the end of his rope. He couldn’t save his wife from cancer – and worse yet – his six-year-old daughter, Tiffany, is now facing the same possible fate. When he finds himself in a cold jail cell after punching a pastor out of frustration with a seemingly absent God, Tom begins to reflect on his downward spiral into despair. But with the help and persistent friendship of the very man he attacked, Tom is challenged to face his grief and embrace faith in the darkest hour of his life. From Universal … photo for Possessor (Uncut) “Possessor Uncut” (2020 — UK/Canada), starring Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott and Jennifer Jason Leigh, is an arresting sci-fi thriller about elite corporate assassin Tasya Vos who uses brain-implant technology to take control of other people’s bodies, forcing them to execute high-profile targets. As she sinks deeper into her latest assignment, Vos becomes trapped inside a mind that threatens to obliterate her. On Blu-ray, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo, from Well Go USA … In “Girl With No Mouth” (2019 — Turkey), a group of children who suffer from deformities due to a toxic explosion embark on an adventure in a war-torn post-apocalyptic region. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Indiecan Entertainment … There’s two offbeat erotic thrillers from Mondo Macabro due on Blu-ray this week: b>”Seven Women for Satan (aka The Wicked Weekends of Count Zaroff)” (1974 — France), starring Michel Lemoine, Joëlle Coeur, Nathalie Zeiger and Howard Vernon. By day a mild-mannered businessman, in his dreams, Boris Zaroff hunts naked females on his country estates, just like his notorious father. One weekend, two visitors arrive at Boris’s castle. The young girl is fascinated by tales of the wicked Zaroffs and asks if she can see their famous torture chamber. Maybe now the Zaroff’s dreams can become reality once more. A stylish and erotic horror film that was actually banned in France in the 1970s. Severely cut from its original running time and more or less forgotten for decades, the film now reaches Blu-ray in a stunningly restored, exclusive extended version created from the original negative. “Sins of the Flesh” (1974 — France), starring Anne Libert, Francis Lemonnier, Patrick Penn and Barbara Sommers. Benoît Landrieux, the idle and depraved son of a rich industrialist has two chance encounters on the same day that will change his life forever – Jean-Pierre, a young tearaway who is trying to steal his car, and Isabelle, 20 years old, whom he saves from being raped by her stepfather. Benoît is a coward and a voyeur who gets his kicks from watching other couples make out. He cajoles his two new companions to attempt what he has never dared do – rob the safe in his father’s factory, seduce his stepmother to blackmail her for money, and finally go so far as committing murder. Thus begins a wild ride that takes them to the very edge of madness. Brand new 4k transfer from a film negative, digitally restored.

On the Indie Front:

In “No Place” (2019), starring Benjamin Madrid, Forba Shepherd, Ric Payne and Afton Shepard, Mac is a grifter on the hunt for his next hustle. After tying up loose ends in the midwest with his fixer, Les, she turns him onto an opportunity expected to lead to a big payout in Indianapolis. Sent to a local bar owner, his chance for revenge and redemption turns into a meet up with an old flame, Evelyn. As his past catches up with him, Mac realizes that getting involved with her again means putting his life on the line. From Indican Pictures.

Foreign Films:

“Habermann” (2010 — Germany/Czech Republic/Austria), starring Mark Waschke, Karel Roden and Ben Becker, is a stimulating film that raises awareness of a horrible post World War II event — the brutal and horrific expulsion of ethnic Germans from the Sudetenland and other parts of Eastern Europe. A result of the resentment against Germans as Nazi sympathizers that are responsible for the war, millions of Germans that had been peacefully co-existing alongside Czechs were stripped of their land and possessions and forced in mass exodus back to German soil. Most of them were tortured, many were murdered; whether they had anything to do with the Nazis or not. Based on the true story of August Habermann, a wealthy photo for Habermann mill owner interested in neither politics nor ideology, the film portrays a brave man in his attempt to hold together his family and community as he is manipulated by malicious forces beyond his comprehension. From Corinth Films … “Song Without a Name” (2019 — Peru), starring Pamela Mendoza, Tommy Párraga and Lucio Rojas, is a stranger-than-fiction, Kafkaesque thriller of crime and corruption. Based on harrowing true events, the film, just named Peru’s Official Oscar Submission for Best International Film at the 93rd Academy Awards, tells the story of Georgina, an indigenous Andean woman whose newborn baby is whisked away moments after its birth in a downtown Lima clinic — and never returned. Stonewalled by a byzantine and indifferent legal system, Georgina approaches journalist Pedro Compos, who uncovers a web of fake clinics and abductions — suggesting a rotting corruption deep within Peruvian society. Set in 1988, in a Peru wracked by political violence and turmoil, Melina León’s heart-wrenching first feature renders Georgina’s story in gorgeous, shadowy black-and-white cinematography. Winner of More than 30 International Awards, Including “Best Film By An Emerging Director” at the Munich Film Festival and the New Voices/New Visions Grand Jury Prize at the Palm Springs Film Festival. From Film Movement … photo for Raining in the Mountain “Raining in the Mountain” (1979 — Taiwan/Hong Kong) is set during the Ming Dynasty, when a Buddhist abbot charged with protecting the sacred scroll of Tripitaka prepares to name his successor. An aristocrat and a general arrive at his secluded mountaintop monastery promising to help in his search, but are in fact scheming to secure the scroll for themselves. As they set about recommending corrupt successors, rival bands of martial artists lie in wait to steal the precious artifact. Soon, the monastery is transformed into an epic battleground for the scroll, with each player caught in a web of betrayal. A remarkably photographed caper heist that is the peak of legendary director King Hu’s (“A Touch of Zen”) infusion of Buddhist spiritual principles into the legacy of martial arts cinema. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Film Movement Classics.

For the Family:

It’s dinosaur versus alien in the animated family adventure “The Little Penguin Pororo’s Dinosaur Island Adventure” (2020). When a space pod crashes close by, penguin Pororo and his animal pals discover Alo, a baby dinosaur. But the pod abducts Alo and dino pal Crong and takes them to a nearby vessel, where an alien invader plans to sell them and get rich. To rescue their friends, Pororo’s gang asks a friendly dinosaur tribe to help battle the alien and his army of robots. From Lionsgate … “Steven Universe: The Complete Collection” (2013-20) is a 15-Disc Collector’s Edition Storybook that features custom-made pieces of art on every page by Chromosphere. Inside, it is filled with every episode of “Steven Universe,” “Steven Universe Future,” as well as the smash hit TV movie, “Steven Universe The Movie.” Cartoon photo for Steven Universe: The Complete Collection Network’s six-time Emmy-nominated “Steven Universe” revolves around Steven, the “little brother” to a team of magical aliens — the Crystal Gems — who defend the planet Earth. Steven is the son of the Crystal Gems’ late leader Rose Quartz and aging aspiring rockstar Mr. Universe. Steven belongs everywhere and nowhere: he has inherited his mother’s Gem and her magical powers, but also his father’s humanity and charm. The show is a slice-of-life action comedy that follows Steven as he attempts to bridge the gap between the sci-fi fantasy world of Gems and the cozy, funny, simple-yet-extraordinarily-complicated world of human beings. From Warner … “Garfield Cartoon World: Two Movie Collection” is a single disc with two animated Garfield films. “Garfield’s Fun Fest” (2008): Welcome to FunFest, the annual talent competition for the funniest comic strip in Cartoon World. As you can probably guess, a certain lasagna-loving, tubby tabby wins it every year. So why should this year be any different? “Garfield Gets Real” (2007): Follow Garfield behind the scenes in Cartoon World where he grows bored with his life as a comic strip star. From PBS Kids.

Special Interest:

photo for 2020 World Series Champions: LA Dodgers“2020 World Series Champions: LA Dodgers” (2020): Like so many events, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically reshaped how this MLB season looked and felt. After navigating unprecedented challenges, playing a restructured regular season, a new postseason format and the first neutral site World Series in modern history, the historic 2020 season culminated in an unforgettable Fall Classic and with the Los Angeles Dodgers being crowned champions for the first time in since 1988. Fans can rejoice and relive all the excitement, drama, and life-changing moments of the 2020 World Series against the American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays, in the official 2020 World Series film from Major League Baseball. Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully lends his signature voice, taking fans on a heartfelt journey to the 2020 championship through his unique baseball perspective. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Shout! Factory.

All DVDs and Blu-rays are screened on a reference system consisting of an Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player w/SACD & DVD-Audio, a Rotel RSX-972 Surround Sound Receiver, and Phase Technology 1.1 (front), 33.1 (center), and 50 (rear) speakers, and Power 10 subwoofer.

 Posted by on December 7, 2020  Add comments

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