This Week’s Best Bets
The first Japanese science fiction film to be made in color, Koji Shima’s “Warning From Space” (1956) features eye-popping special effects from the same team at Daiei Studios that would bring Gamera to life a decade later. As Japan is rocked by mysterious sightings of UFOs over Tokyo and large one-eyed aliens attempting contact, scientists collaborate to investigate the unexpected rise in extraterrestrial activity. Unbeknownst to them, one of the aliens has already assumed human form and is about to deliver a very important message … that could be humanity’s last hope for survival. With a witty script by Hideo Oguni (screenwriter of several Akira Kurosawa classics including “Seven Samurai”) and iconic starfish-like aliens designed by avant-garde artist Taro Okamoto, the original Japanese version of “Warning From Space” finally makes its official English-language video debut. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video … Following the smash success of his first feature, “Clerks,” Kevin Smith returned with “Mallrats” (1995). Spawning a raft of characters and in-jokes that Smith would carry throughout his career, the film continued the one-of-a-kind comedic world known as the View Askewniverse. Simultaneously dumped by their girlfriends, comic book obsessive Brodie (Jason Lee) and best friend TS (Jeremy London) plan to ease the pain of their losses by taking a trip to the local mall. Amongst shoppers, they discover the mall is being used as the venue for a dating show, in which TS’s girlfriend Brandi is the star. Hatching a plan to win back their significant others, Brodie and TS enlist the help of professional delinquents Jay and Silent Bob to hijack the gameshow in a bid to win back Brandi. Meanwhile, Brodie carries out his own mission to make good his relationship with Rene (Shannen Doherty), who has attracted the attentions of his nemesis Shannon. Featuring a cast including Joey Lauren Adams and Ben Affleck, who would go on to be recurring collaborators in Smith’s movies, Mallrats celebrates its 25th Anniversary in this limited edition set boasting a brand new restoration and hours of bonus content. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video … Diahann Carroll is radiant in an unforgettable, Oscar-nominated performance as “Claudine” (1974), a strong-willed single mother, raising six kids in Harlem, whose budding relationship with a gregarious garbage collector (an equally fantastic James Earl Jones) is stressed by the difficulty of getting by in an oppressive system. As directed by the formerly blacklisted leftist filmmaker John Berry, this romantic comedy with a social conscience deftly balances warm humor with a serious look at the myriad issues — from cycles of poverty to the indignities of the welfare system — that shape its characters’ realities. The result is an empathetic chronicle of both black working-class struggle and black joy, a bittersweet, bighearted celebration of family and community set to a sunny soul soundtrack composed by Curtis Mayfield and performed by Gladys Knight & the Pips. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray, with new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … The classic “Sergeant York” (1941) makes its Blu-ray debut this week. Torn between religious pacifism and patriotism, Alvin York of Tennessee went on to become World War I’s most acclaimed hero. As the simple backwoods farm boy who captured 132 German soldiers during the Battle of Argonne, Gary Cooper (handpicked by York) also won acclaim and his first Best Actor Academy Award. Released in 1941 when the United States was on the brink of another war, this stirring adventure inspired thousands of enlisting men. Nominated for a total of 11 Oscars including Best Picture, a winner for Best Film Editing and movingly directed by Howard Hawks, it tells of a religious man’s moral crisis, heroics and subsequent return to the rural life he loved while refusing to capitalize on the adulation heaped upon him. 1080p master from 4K scan of best surviving nitrate elements. From Warner Archive.
From TV to Disc:
“Bad Mothers” (2019) is a two-disc set with all eight episodes of the alluring Aussie murder mystery that explores the underbelly of modern motherhood through the prism of four very different women as they juggle life’s big issues: love, family, careers, infidelity … and murder. Sarah’s seemingly perfect life as a local GP, loving wife and doting mother comes crashing down the moment she discovers her husband Anton is having an affair with her best friend Charlotte. Suddenly, Charlotte turns up dead, and Anton is arrested for her murder. As Sarah’s life spirals out of control, she finds unlikely support from a ragtag group of mums called “The Bad Mothers Club.” Sarah finds herself drawn into the chaotic worlds of her new friends: Danielle, the outgoing mum who needs more in her life; Bindy, the wild child party mum; and Maddie, the fierce mum battling with a difficult child and an acrimonious custody battle. There’s just one thing stopping Sarah from leaving the mess of her old life behind her: Anton swears he’s innocent. Now Sarah will have to add “detective” to her already lengthy list of jobs if she is to clear her husband’s name. From Sundance Now … “MASTERPIECE Mystery!: Van der Valk” (2020) is a two-disc set with three episodes. Piet Van der Valk is an engaging, unapologetic, and street-smart detective who he leads a dynamic team in solving a raft of mysterious crimes using astute human observation and inspired detection. Brilliant, but cynical Van der Valk solves these baffling crimes in and around 21st-century Amsterdam, which is more prosperous, cosmopolitan, and crime-prone than ever. At least, that’s the way steely-eyed cop Van der Valk sees his murder-infested beat. Van der Valk and his team tackle high profile cases in the worlds of art, politics, addiction, mysticism, and fashion. From PBS Distribution … “Vikings: Season 6 Vol. 1” (2019-20) is a three-disc set with all 10 episodes. Season six returns following the battle between brothers, which has left Bjorn victorious and a hero to the people who have been under the tyrannical rule of Ivar for so long. As the new leader of Kattegat, Bjorn struggles to fill his late father’s shoes as king, while facing several dilemmas and wrestling with the idea that power overshadows morals. Meanwhile, Ivar, searching for a new path to separate him from his past, is seen traveling along The Silk Road, eventually leading him to Russia. He meets his match in Prince Oleg , a ruthless and unpredictable Russian ruler, who shocks even Ivar with his merciless actions. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Warner.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
“Night Terror” (1989), starring Guy Ecker, Monique Swanson and Jeff Keel, is an anthology of bad dreams making its debut on DVD for the first time worldwide, newly transferred from its original video master. A confused and frightened young man struggles to discern dream from reality as he stumbles between the confines of a mental institution and a trilogy of menacing visions. A Lothario’s luck runs out when he catfishes a co-worker’s date. A greedy investor reaps the whirlwind when he attempts to turn a beloved amusement park into a shopping mall. A trio of delinquent drug dealers enrages the unlikely guardians of a mom and pop toy shop. From Massacre Video … In “The Doorman” (2020), starring Ruby Rose, Jean Reno and Rupert Evans, a former Marine turned doorman (Rose) at a luxury New York City high-rise must outsmart and battle a group of art thieves and their ruthless leader (Reno) — while struggling to protect her sister’s family. As the thieves become increasingly desperate and violent, the doorman calls upon her deadly fighting skills to end the showdown. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate … In “Broil” (2020), starring Jonathan Lipnicki, Avery Konrad, Lochlyn Munro and Timothy V. Murphy, after a violent incident with a school nemesis, 17-year-old Chance Sinclair (Konrad) is sent to live with her draconian grandfather (Timothy V. Murphy) at his lavish estate, where she soon uncovers a dangerous ancient family secret. Suddenly caught between warring factions of the family, her only hope for survival may well come from a killer-for-hire (Lipnicki) with a fortuitous stroke of culinary genius. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Well Go USA … In “Death Laid an Egg – Special Edition” (1968 — Italy), starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Ewa Aulin and Gina Lollobrigida, a love triangle develops between three people who run a high tech chicken farm. It involves Anna (who owns the farm), her husband Marco (who kills prostitutes in his spare time) and Gabriella (the very beautiful secretary). Marco continues to kill as jealousy becomes more prevalent on the farm. Trintignant stars as a married man and suspected serial killer,Lollobrigida as is his delectable yet overly domineering careerist wife, and Swedish blonde bombshell Ewa Aulin is his murderous double-crossing mistress in this mystery thriller. This Special Edition includes the Director’s Cut, alongside the alternate International giallo “Plucked” version, both in fully restored 2K HD transfers. On Blu-ray from Cult Epics … After every priest trained in exorcisms die in a terrorist attack, Joan Campbell (Rachele Brooke Smith) must battle a demon from her past that, this time, possesses her sister in “The Last Exorcist” (2020), also starring Terri Ivens, Danny Trejo, and Cate Jones. From Uncork’d Entertainment … “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” (2019) is a sequel and epilogue to the television series “Breaking Bad,” which followed chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) partnering with a former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to become kingpins in the production of crystal meth in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jesse must come to terms with his past in order to forge some kind of future. This thriller was written and directed by Vince Gilligan, the creator of “Breaking Bad.” In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Steelbook from Sony … Hiding out with his son Taylor on the Mexican coast, Nero (Adkins) hopes to put his violent Special Forces career behind him in “Seized” (2020), starring Scott Adkins, Mario Van Peebles and Steven Elder. But after Nero’s home is attacked and Taylor is abducted, the mysterious Mzamo (Van Peebles) orders Nero to slaughter the members of three rival crime syndicates. If he fails, Taylor will die. With bullets flying and bodies dropping, Nero must now complete his mission — and find Mzamo’s hideout, to exact his revenge. From Lionsgate … Did European aristocrat Claus von Bulow (Jeremy Irons) try to murder his wife, Sunny (Glenn Close), at their luxurious Newport mansion in 1980? Tabloids of the day had their opinions. “You have one thing in your favor,” defense attorney Alan Dershowitz (Ron Silver) told von Bulow. “Everybody hates you.” Directed by Barbet Schroeder (“Single White Female”) and based on Dershowitz’s book, “Reversal Of Fortune” (1990), making its Blu-ray debut this week, is the acclaimed filmization of events that had all of America talking. From Warner Archive … “Friday the 13th Collection (Deluxe Edition) Blu-ray” is the definitive Blu-ray collection released in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the original and groundbreaking 1980 film “Friday the 13th.” The 16-disc set includes all 12 original films from Paramount Pictures and New Line Cinema. It also includes new extras, a new collectible rigid slipcover with newly-commissioned art, a new 40-page collectible essay booklet with archival still photography, and new 4K film transfers for Parts 1-4, with Part 3 in its original 3D presentation. Additionally, each film comes with a dedicated Blu-ray case featuring original theatrical artwork. The 12 films included: “Friday the 13th” (1980) (theatrical and uncut versions on two discs), “Friday the 13th Part 2” (1981), “Friday the 13th Part 3” (1982), “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” (1984), “Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning” (1985), “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives” (1986), “Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood” (1988), “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan” (1989), “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday” (theatrical and unrated versions on two discs)(1993), “Jason X” (2001), “Freddy vs. Jason” (2003) and “Friday the 13th” (Remake) (2009). Plus two discs of new and vintage bonus features. From Scream Factory.
On the Indie Front:
In “Carmilla” (2019 — UK), isolated from the outside world, 15-year-old Lara (Hannah Rae) lives in seclusion on a vast country estate with her father and strict governess Miss Fontaine (Jessica Raine). Late one evening, a mysterious carriage crash brings a young girl into their home to recuperate. Lara immediately becomes enchanted by this strange visitor who arouses her curiosity and awakens her burgeoning desires. This atmospheric, eerie coming-of-age tale is inspired by the 1872 Gothic novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, who crafted the story of “Carmilla” 25 years before Bram Stoker put the supernatural story of Count Dracula on the page. From Film Movement.
For the Family:
“DC Showcase — Batman: Death in the Family” (2020) features five fascinating tales from the iconic DC canon, anchored by an extended version of 1988’s “Batman: Death in the Family.” This version is Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s first-ever venture into interactive storytelling that allows fans to choose where the story goes through an innovative navigation guided by the viewer’s remote control — offering many different ways for viewers to tell the story, with numerous twists and turns in the middle, and several possible endings. In the new animated presentation, the infamous murder of Batman protégé Jason Todd will be undone, and the destinies of Batman, Robin and The Joker will play out in shocking new ways as viewers make multiple choices to control the story. Inspired by characters and stories from DC’s portfolio, the 2019-2020 series of shorts – which have been individually included on DC Universe Movies releases since Summer 2019 – include: “Sgt. Rock,” “Adam Strange,” “Death” and “The Phantom Stranger.” Read more here. On Blu-ray from Warner … “Space Ghost & Dino Boy: The Complete Series” (1966-67) is a two-disc set showcasing the episodes in the three-segment form as they originally aired. First, intergalactic policeman Space Ghost navigates the cosmos in his tricked-out spaceship The Phantom Cruiser, battling villains like Brak and Zorak with his legendary suit and powerful wristbands. Then, Dino Boy teams with caveman Ugh and dinosaur Bronty to go primeval on the ancient menaces of their primitive home. And finally, Space Ghost flies again with more extraterrestrial adventures and thrilling takedowns. This dynamite compilation also features the dynamic six-part Space Ghost episode The Council of Doom. On Blu-ray from Warner.