Everyone: Thanks for your patience with our delayed weekly post — and have a great Labor Day Weekend.
From the Big Screen:
This Week's Highlights:
The folks at Arrow Video are releasing a bevy of interesting titles this week, headed up by John Frankenheimer's classic thriller "Ronin" (1998), starring Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Stellan Skarsgård, Sean Bean, Skipp Sudduth, Michael Lonsdale, Jan Triska and Jonathan Pryce. A ronin is a samurai who no longer serves a daimyo, or feudal lord; in the modern sense it can refer to freelance killers, mercenaries and thieves-for-hire. An international crack team of professional thieves are assembled in Paris by a shady crime syndicate to steal a heavily guarded briefcase from armed mobster, its contents undisclosed. But what begins as a routine heist soon spirals into chaos, with the group beset by a series of double-crosses and constantly shifting allegiances, and it falls to world-weary former CIA strategist Sam (De Niro) and laconic Frenchman Vincent (Reno) to hold the mission together. A latter-day return to form for Frankenheimer, who was coming off a string of commercial and critical failures in the 80s and 90s. The film evokes the same gritty milieu as classic 70s crime fare like "The French Connection II," in addition to anticipating the early 21st century trend towards more grounded, realistic action movies, exemplified by the likes of the Bourne franchise. And the fantastic car chase through the streets of Paris is done entirely live with stunt drivers; no digital tinkering here. In a brand new, cinematographer (Robert Fraisse)-approved 4K restoration. On Blu-ray only, with new and vintage extras; first pressing only includes a collector's booklet illustrated by Chris Malbon, featuring new writing on the film by critic Travis Crawford.
Also from Arrow this week: "The Slayer" (1982), one of the most sought-after titles for slasher fans everywhere, here in a brand new 4K transfer. Two young couples set off to a secluded island for what promises to be a restful retreat. But the peace is short-lived: as a storm batters the island, troubled artist Kay begins to sense that a malevolent presence is here with them, stalking them at every turn. Is she losing her mind, or are her childhood nightmares of a demonic assailant coming to terrifying life? Previously only available on home video in truncated or full screen versions, "The Slayer" — whose nightmares-seeping-into-reality theme predates a certain Wes Craven classic by several years — comes lovingly restored from the original negative in a stunning transfer that will be a revelation to fans both old and new … "Society [Limited Edition Steelbook]" (1989). After producing Stuart Gordon's hit "Re-Animator," Brian Yuzna ("Bride of Re-Animator," "Return of the Living Dead III") turned his hand to directing with 1989's "Society," and gave birth to one of the ickiest, most original body horror shockers of all time. Teenager Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) has always felt like the odd one out in his wealthy, upper-class Beverly Hills family. For some reason, he just doesn't seem to fit in. But his sense of alienation takes a sinister turn when he hears an audio recording of his sister's coming-out party, which seems to implicate his family and others in a bizarre, ritualistic orgy. And then there are the strange things he's been seeing — glimpses of people with their bodies contorted impossibly out of shape … Is Bill going mad or is there something seriously amiss in his neighborhood? Packing stomach-churning grue and thought-provoking social commentary in equal measure, "Society" is a biting horror satire that culminates in one of the most gag-inducing "climaxes" in all of horror history. Newly remastered 2K digital transfer of the film, approved by director Brian Yuzna … In 1961, director Mario Bava turned his hand to the historical adventure genre, capitalizing on the recent success of 1958's Kirk Douglas vehicle "The Vikings." The result was "Erik the Conqueror," a swashbuckling epic of treachery, heroism and forbidden love. In 786 AD, the invading Viking forces are repelled from the shores of England, leaving behind a young boy — Erik, son of the slain Viking king. Years later, Erik (George Ardisson), raised by the English queen as her own, becomes Duke of Helford, while across the sea, his brother Eron (Cameron Mitchell) assumes leadership of the Viking horde and sets his sights on conquering England once again, setting the two estranged brothers on a collision course that will determine the fates of their respective kingdoms. Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative … and, last but not least, "New Battles Without Honor & Humanity (Limited Edition)" (1974 — Japan) In the early 1970s, Kinji Fukasaku's five-film "Battles Without Honor and Humanity" series was a massive hit in Japan, and kicked off a boom in realistic, modern yakuza films based on true stories. Although Fukasaku had intended to end the series, Toei Studio convinced him to return to the director's chair for this unconnected, follow-up trilogy of films, each starring "Battles" leading man Bunta Sugawara and telling separate, but fictional stories about the yakuza in different locations in Japan. In the first film, Sugawara is Miyoshi, a low-level assassin of the Yamamori gang who is sent to jail after a bungled hit. While in stir, family member Aoki attempts to seize power from the boss, and Miyoshi finds himself stuck between the two factions with no honorable way out. In the second entry, "The Boss's Head," Sugawara is Kuroda, an itinerant gambler who steps in when a hit by drug-addicted assassin Kusunoki goes wrong, and takes the fall on behalf of the Owada family. But when the gang fails to make good on financial promises to him, Kuroda targets the family bosses with a ruthless vengeance. And in "Last Days of the Boss," Sugawara plays Nozaki, a laborer who swears allegiance to a sympathetic crime boss, only to find himself elected his successor after the boss is murdered. Restrained by a gang alliance that forbids retributions against high-level members, Nozaki forms a plot to exact revenge on his rivals, but a suspicious relationship with his own sister taints his relationship with his fellow gang members.
Out of the vaults this week comes Disney's much-requested "The Lion King" (1994), along with the original animated "Beauty and the Beast," a true classic of the new Golden Age of Disney animation. This coming-of-age masterpiece, filled with humor and heart, breathtaking animation and soul-stirring Academy Award-winning music (1994: Best Original Score and Best Original Song, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight"), follows the adventures of Simba, a feisty lion cub who cannot wait to be king, as he searches for his destiny in the great "Circle of Life." The film earned a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical and inspired a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical that is currently the third longest-running musical in Broadway history. In 2019, a reimagined live-action film, helmed by Jon Favreau will retell the original tale using groundbreaking technological advances. This Signature Collection version is the best transfer ever (and we've had them all — VHS, DVD, Platinum Edition DVD, Diamond Edition Blu-ray) with sparkling visuals and resonant sound, making the-lump-in-your-throat and heart-wrenching viewing even more powerful. A film for the ages. Extras include a brand new sing-along version; audio commentary by producer Don Hahn and co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff; "Visualizing a Villain": against a backdrop of live dancers and the animated "Be Prepared" sequence, artist David Garibaldi paints a masterpiece of evil; "The Recording Sessions": rare footage of the actors recording their roles, matched with the final animation; "Nathan and Matthew: The Extended Lion King Conversation"; "Inside the Story Room": Co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff present archival footage of five original story pitches (Circle of Life, Simba & Nala, Simba Takes Nala Out to Play, Matata, Rafiki and Reflecting Pool); "Music & More Sing-alongs": "Circle of Life," "I Just Can't Wait to Be King," "Be Prepared," "Hakuna Matata," "Can You Feel the Love Tonight"; galleries: visual development, character design, storyboards, layouts, backgrounds & layouts.