From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets
“The Landlord” (1970)” Legendary filmmaker Hal Ashby made his directing debut with this acclaimed social satire starring Beau Bridges as a wealthy young man who leaves his family’s estate in Long Island to pursue love and happiness in a Brooklyn ghetto. When Elgar Enders (Bridges) buys a Park Slope tenement, he fully intends to evict the occupants and transform the building into a chic bachelor pad. But after meeting the tenants, Elgar adopts a “love thy neighbor” policy instead: first he falls head-over-heels for a sexy young go-go dancer … then he begins an affair with the sultry, married “Miss Sepia 1957.” Featuring brilliant performances by Lee Grant in an Oscar-nominated role, Pearl Bailey, Louis Gossett Jr., Robert Klein, Trish Van Devere, Hector Elizondo, Gloria Hendry and Susan Anspach, and with a potent script by Bill Gunn based on the novel by Kristin Hunter, “The Landlord” is one of the most original and provocative screen comedies to deal with race relations in urban America. Produced by Norman Jewison and shot by Gordon Willis. On Blu-ray from Kino Lorber … “The Buster Keaton Collection: The General and Steamboat Willie, Jr.”: “The General” (1926) and “Steamboat Willie, Jr.” (1928), high points not only of Buster Keaton’s incomparable career but of all silent cinema, and both included on the National Film Registry — are presented in new 4K restorations and feature orchestral scores by Carl Davis (“Pride and Prejudice,” “The World at War”). Many critics and historians consider “The General” to be the last great comedy of the silent era, and it consistently ranks as one of the finest films of all time on international critics’ polls. It is No. 18 on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Greatest American Films, and is No. 34 on the latest Sight & Sound critics poll of the Greatest Films of All Time. “Steamboat Willie, Jr.” contains what many consider Keaton’s most memorable — and potentially deadly — film stunt: One side of a house falls on him while he stands in the perfect spot to pass through a window frame unharmed. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Cohen Film Collection … Adapted by acclaimed screenwriter Jonathan Latimer from a novel by the equally renowned crime author Kenneth Fearing, “The Big Clock” (1948) is a superior suspense film that classily combines screwball comedy with heady thrills. Overworked true crime magazine editor George Stroud (Ray Milland) has been planning a vacation for months. However, when his boss, the tyrannical media tycoon Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton), insists he skips his holiday, Stroud resigns in disgust before embarking on an impromptu drunken night out with his boss’s mistress, Pauline York (Rita Johnson). When Janoth kills Pauline in a fit of rage, Stroud finds himself to have been the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time: his staff have been tasked with finding a suspect with an all too familiar description … Stroud’s very own. Directed with panache by John Farrow, who stylishly renders the film’s towering central set, the Janoth Building, “The Big Clock” benefits from exuberant performances by Milland and Laughton, who make hay with the script’s snappy dialogue. A huge success on its release, it is no wonder this fast-moving noir was remade years later as the Kevin Costner vehicle “No Way Out.” In a high definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements with uncompressed mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack.On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … Michael Haneke’s most notorious provocation, “Funny Games” (1997) spares no detail in its depiction of the agony of a bourgeois family held captive at their vacation home by a pair of white-gloved young men. In a series of escalating “games,” the sadistic duo subject their victims to unspeakable physical and psychological torture over the course of a night. A home-invasion thriller in which the genre’s threat of bloodshed is made stomach-churningly real, the film ratchets up shocks even as its executioners interrupt the action to address the audience, drawing queasy attention to the way that cinema milks pleasure from pain and stokes our appetite for atrocity. With this controversial treatise on violence and entertainment, Haneke issued a summation of his cinematic philosophy, implicating his audience in a spectacle of unbearable cruelty. New 2K digital restoration, supervised by director Michael Haneke, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … “Princess Mononoke Collector’s Edition Set” (1997 – Japan): This limited-edition set comes housed in an elegant hard slipcase and includes a new 40-page book with stunning art and essays. Featured in a deluxe disc portfolio is a Blu-ray of the film paired with hours of special features, and the film’s soundtrack made available on CD for the first time in North America. From the legendary Studio Ghibli, this epic fantasy film is one of the best-selling and internationally renowned films of all time. The set’s 40-page book features new essays by film critic Glenn Kenny (The New York Times, RogerEbert.com) alongside amazing imagery and statements from director Hayao Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki, and Miyazaki’s poems about the characters.
The first animated film to win the Japan Academy Prize for Picture of the Year, “Princess Mononoke” is Miyazaki’s epic masterpiece that has dazzled audiences worldwide with its breathtaking imagination, exhilarating battles, and deep humanity. Inflicted with a deadly curse, the young warrior Ashitaka heads west in search of a cure. There, he stumbles into a bitter conflict between Lady Eboshi and the proud people of Iron Town, and the enigmatic Princess Mononoke, a young girl raised by wolves, who will stop at nothing to prevent the humans from destroying her home, and the forest spirits and animal gods who live there. Featuring the voices of Gillian Anderson, Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Billy Bob Thornton. On Blu-ray from Studio Ghibli, GKIDS, and Shout! Factory) … “House of Games” (1987): The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter David Mamet sat in the director’s chair for the first time for this sly, merciless thriller. Lindsay Crouse stars as a best-selling author and therapist who wants to help a client by making restitution for the money he owes to a gambler. After she meets the attractive cardsharp (Joe Mantegna), her own compulsions take hold as he lures her into his world of high-stakes deception. Packed with razor-sharp dialogue delivered with even-keeled precision by a cast of Mamet regulars, “House of Games” is as psychologically acute as it is full of twists and turns, a rich character study told with the cold calculation of a career con artist targeting his next mark. High-definition digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Juan Ruiz Anchía, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Director-approved special edition. From The Criterion Collection.
From TV to Disc:
“The Donna Reed Show: Seasons 1 – 5” (1958-66): Originally airing on ABC-TV, “The Donna Reed Show” is one of the most popular and enduring family sitcoms in television history. Starring Academy Award winner Donna Reed as homemaker Donna Stone, Carl Betz as her pediatrician husband Alex, Shelley Fabares as daughter Mary, Paul Petersen as son Jeff and, later, Patty Petersen as adoptee Trisha, the series is a humorous and heartwarming slice of Americana that has earned a legion of new fans through showings on Nick at Nite, TV Land and MeTV. This special collection presents all 186 episodes from Seasons 1 through 5 in complete versions and digitally remastered. From MPI Media Group.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
“Yakuza Law” (1969 — Japan): Director Teruo Ishii, the Godfather of J-sploitation, presents this gruelling anthology of torture, spawning three district periods of Japanese history and bringing to the screen some of the most brutal methods of torment ever devised. In this deep dive into the world of the Yakuza, meet the violent men who rule the Japanese underworld and the cruel punishments inflicted on those who transgress them. The carnage begins in the Edo Period with a violent tale of samurai vengeance starring Bunta Sugawara (“Battles Without Honor and Humanity”), before shifting to the Meiji Period as the exiled Ogata (Minoru Oki, “Shogun Assassin”) returns to face punishment for his past transgressions … and, ultimately, to take his revenge. Finally, the action is brought right up to date with a tale of gang warfare set in then-present-day 60s Japan and headlined by Teruo Yoshida (Ishii’s “Orgies of Edo”), as a powerful crime syndicate seeks bloody vengeance for the theft of one hundred thousand yen. Brutal, bewildering and definitely not for the faint-hearted, “Yakuza Law” represents Japanese popular cinema at its most extreme … and most thrilling. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … In “Impossible Mission (aka The Vibe)” (2018), starring Jimena Gala, Ben Vinnicombe and James Giblin, Rosa, a master assassin with a knack for poisons, sets out on a search and destroy mission against a spiritual leader, but conflicts within her own organization spell disaster for her long before she ever closes in on her target. From High Octane Pictures … “Silencio”
(2018 — Mexico), starring John Noble, Rupert Graves and Melina Matthews, is a sci-fi time displacement drama in which a woman must find a powerful stone — originally discovered in the Zone of Silence, the Bermuda Triangle of Mexico, by her grandfather — in order to save her son’s life. Along the way, she stumbles upon family secrets and enemies who believe the stone’s power is worth killing for. From Uncork’d Entertainment … “Backdraft 2” (2019), starring Donald Sutherland, William Baldwin, Joe Anderson and Alisha Bailey, is the sequel to the 1991 hit and follows an investigator with the Chicago F.D. who has to track down an arms dealers who use deadly fires as a distraction. Sean McCaffrey (Anderson), son of late Steven “Bull” McCaffrey, now works at the same firehouse with his uncle Brian (Baldwin). When investigating a fire, Sean and partner Maggie realize they are dealing with something bigger. With the help of arsonist Ronald Bartel (Sutherland), Sean must stop who is behind the fire and their devious plans. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Universal … “American Exit”
(2019), starring Dane Cook, Udo Kier and Levi Miller, is based on an incredible true story. The crime-thriller stars Cook as Charlie, a desperate father who steals a million-dollar painting from Anton, a shady art dealer. With time running out, he flees to the California desert with his rebellious teen son, Leo. But when Anton and his henchman come seeking revenge, the situation explodes into violence. From Lionsgate … In the futuristic thriller “Life Like” (2019), starring Drew Van Acker, Addison Timlin, James D’Arcy and Steven Strait, Sophie and James purchase a lifelike robot to cook and clean at their sprawling new home. At first, android Henry is quiet and hard-working. But as his artificial-intelligence programming kicks in, Henry starts to anticipate the couple’s needs and desires, ones they themselves cannot fully understand. Will Henry’s terrifying behavior destroy Sophie and Julian’s relationship—and their lives? From Lionsgate … In “Never Grow Old” (2019), starring Emile Hirsch, John Cusack and Déborah François, a once-peaceful frontier town is now a den of vice after vicious outlaw Dutch Albert (Cusack) and his gang arrived — and began gunning down their opposition. Undertaker Patrick Tate (Hirsch) must choose between the blood money he makes burying the murderers’ victims and the threats he and his family face in this intense action-drama. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate … In “Valentine: The Dark Avenger” (2019 – Indonesia), starring Estelle Linden, Matthew Settle, Arie Dagienkz, the City of Batavia has been infested with robbery and violence. Srimaya, a waitress at a café, dreams of a glamorous life as an actress, but a chance meeting with a film director and his assistant leads to a life-changing series of events for her, as they take her on a thrilling adventure that finds the waitress-turned-actress transforming into the person Batavia City needs and deserves most: the consummate kick-ass superhero. Taking to the streets as “Valentine,” she becomes a role model to the people of Batavia, and a foil to the city’s lowlifes and ne’er-do-wells. But when a sinister masked villain emerges from the shadows of the night, Srimaya realizes that all of her vigilante exploits were a mere dress rehearsal for the ultimate showdown. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Shout! Factory/Scream Factory … In “Triple Threat” (2018 — Thailand/China), starring Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Tiger Chen, Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White, Michael Bisping, Celina Jade and Jeeja Yanin, wen a hit contract is taken out on a billionaire’s daughter (Jade) intent on bringing down a major crime syndicate, a team of wanted mercenaries (Jaa,Chen) must take on a group of professional assassins (Adkins, White, Bisping) to stop them from hitting their target. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Well Go USA … “Saint Bernard” (2013), starring Jason Dugre, Katy Sullivan and Peter Iasillo Jr., is a hallucinatory epic that follows an unhinged orchestra conductor named Bernard (Dugre) as he graphically descends into a surreal odyssey of chaos and psychosis. Features a performance by punk legends The Damned. Transferred from the original negative and unleashed beyond the underground festival circuit for the first time ever. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray. From Severin Films … “Don’t Look” (2018), starring Luciana Faulhaber, Jeff Berg, Jarrod Robbins, Curtis K. Case and Lindsay Eshelman, is a female-directed twist on horror films that centers on five New York City Millennials who escape the big city for a rustic Thanksgiving weekend in the country. But as will happen in horror, something threatens to shatter their peaceful getaway and they are targeted for murder. From Wild Eye Releasing … “Masked Multilator” (2019): In 1994, a production team in Eastern Pennsylvania brought together a group of local pro wrestlers and young actors to make a horror-action film. A quarter of a century later, the movie was finally finished: After accidentally killing an opponent in the ring, a professional wrestler takes a job at a group home for youth offenders. But when a psychopath wearing a wrestling mask begins butchering the teenage residents, their rehabilitation will become a no-holds-barred battle for survival. Stars James DeBello, Glenn Hetrick and Brick Bronsky. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Intervision Picture Corp. … In “Beer League” (2006), starring Artie Lange, Ralph Macchio and Anthony DeSando, an unemployed slacker inspires his softball teammates to improve their game so they won’t get kicked out of the local league. From Filmrise … After finding a frozen corpse in a dumpster, on-the-verge-of-being-bankrupt Alaskan travel agent Paul (Robin Williams) decides to use it to claim his long-lost brother’s life insurance policy in “The Big White” (2005). However, the body is also sought by two dangerous hitmen. Co-stars Holly Hunter, Giovanni Ribisi, Tim Blake Nelson, W. Earl Brown and Woody Harrelson. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Filmrise … In “Mortuary” (2005), starring Dan Byrd, Denise Crosby and Stephanie Patton, a family moves to a small town in California where they plan on starting a new life while running a long-abandoned funeral home. The locals fear the place, which is suspected to be on haunted ground. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Filmrise … In Virgina Minnesota” (2019), starring Aurora Perrineau, Rachel Hendrix, Susan Walters, Jessica Miesel, Harold Perrineau, Julia Keefe, Eyas Younis and Aaron Hill, two young women embark on an illuminating 24-hour journey, unlocking memories of their childhood, exploring a world of fantastical creatures and buried memories with comical and touching results. From Indican Pictures.