From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets
“Solid Metal Nightmares: The Films of Shinya Tsukamoto” (1987-2018): One of the most distinctive and celebrated names in modern Japanese cinema, there’s no other filmmaker quite like Shinya Tsukamoto. Since his early days as a teenager making Super 8 shorts, he has remained steadfastly independent, garnering widespread acclaim while honing his own unique and instantly recognizable aesthetic on the margins of the industry. Frequently exploring themes of urban alienation, physical transformation and psychosexual obsession, his films cross genre boundaries, defying straightforward classification. This exclusive collection gathers together eight feature-length films and two shorts from Tsukamoto’s diverse filmography, including his most recent offering — his samurai drama “Killing,” making its home video premiere. Includes: “Tetsuo: The Iron Man,” “Tetsuo II: Body Hammer,” “Tokyo Fist,” “Bullet Ballet,” “A Snake of June,” “Vital,” “Kotoko,” “The Adventure of Denchu-Kozo” (short), “Haze” (short). On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … “Wildlife” (2018), the directorial debut of actor Paul Dano, reveals a filmmaking talent of remarkable intelligence and restraint. Adapted by Dano and Zoe Kazan from the novel by Richard Ford, this meticulously crafted portrait of the American nuclear family in crisis charts the rift that forms within a 1960s Montana household when the father and breadwinner (Jake Gyllenhaal) abruptly departs to fight the forest fires raging nearby, leaving his restless wife (Carey Mulligan, in a performance of fearless emotional honesty) and teenage son (Ed Oxenbould) to pick up the pieces. A deeply human look at a woman’s wayward journey toward self-fulfillment in the pre-women’s-liberation era and a sensitively observed, child’s-eye coming-of-age tale, Wildlife poignantly illuminates the complex ways in which families function, fall apart, and find their way. On DVD and Blu-ray, with, new director-approved 2K digital master, with 5.1 surround DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … Screen legends Gene Hackman and Barbra Streisand star as the oddest couple to beat the odds in the offbeat comedy “All Night Long” (1981) that proves a man can lose everything and still live happily ever after. After successful executive George Dupler (Hackman) is demoted to managing a seedy all-night drugstore, he decides to totally change his life. Leaving his wife, he takes up with Cheryl (Streisand), a sexy but ditzy neighbor — who’s already had an affair with his son (Dennis Quaid)! Now his hands are full with his new wild woman by day and his weird and crazy customers by night in this screwball romantic comedy. The top-notch cast includes Diane Ladd, Kevin Dobson, William Daniels and Ann Doran. On Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics … Essayist, novelist, critic, cinephile, and all-around intellectual dynamo Susan Sontag made her directorial debut with “Duet For Cannibals” (1969), a definition-defying, dryly funny psychological serio-comedy, the result of a Swedish studio’s invitation to her to make a film in Stockholm. The result, revolving around the quadrangular relationship between an arrogant ex-revolutionist German intellectual exile, his elegant wife, their Swedish student secretary, and the earnest secretary’s bride-to-be, is a roundelay of partner-swapping that gradually drifts towards uncharted territory, gamesmanship that broaches the surreal and violent. Defying literal-minded interpretation, “Duet for Cannibals” is both an illustrative companion to Sontag’s criticism and the introduction of a startlingly original filmmaker. On DVD, Blu-ray from Metrograph Pictures/Kino Lorber … The trailblazing independent auteur John Cassavetes pushes his raw, uncompromising emotional realism to its limit in “Husbands” (1970), an unflinching portrait of masculinity in crisis. Cassavetes joins Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk — both of whom would become key collaborators of the director’s — playing a trio of middle-aged Long Island family men who, following the sudden death of their best friend, channel their grief into an epic, multiday bender that takes them from Manhattan to London in a desperate, debauched quest to feel alive. By turns painfully funny and woundingly perceptive, this self-described “comedy about life, death, and freedom” stands as perhaps the most fearless, harrowingly honest deconstruction of American manhood ever committed to film. On DVD and Blu-ray, with new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … “Scorsese Shorts”” This compilation of five early short films by Martin Scorsese offers a fascinating window onto his artistic development. Spanning the years from Scorsese’s time at NYU in the mid-1960s to the late 70s, when he was emerging as one of the era’s most electrifying talents, “Scorsese Shorts” centers on the intimate home movie “Italianamerican” (1974) — a loving snapshot of the director’s parents — and “American Boy” (1978), a freewheeling portrait of a larger-than-life raconteur. Also included are “The Big Shave” (1967), a daringly visceral response to America’s involvement in Vietnam, and the bracing student films “What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?” (1963) and “It’s Not Just You, Murray!” (1964). Touching on many of Scorsese’s key themes-Italian American identity, family, his beloved New York City-these are hilarious, candid, and illuminating works from the preeminent American filmmaker of our time. On DVD and Blu-ray, with new, director-approved 4K digital restorations of all five films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection.
From TV to Disc:
“Agatha Raisin, Series 3” (2019) is a three-disc set with four episodes. Emmy and SAG-nominated actress Ashley Jensen is back in the P.I business as she resumes the comic antics, crafty know-how, and chic fashions of the charismatic sleuth in the quintessentially British village mystery based on the bestselling novels by M.C. Beaton. In Series 3, Agatha is now an official private investigator and operates her first detective agency, where pressures are high to keep new business flowing. When Agatha’s new agency fails to attract clients, her firm investigates the haunting of Ivy Hall, a mystery that has baffled locals, historians and ambitious treasure hunters for centuries, as the perfect opportunity to drum up business; Agatha investigates a young woman about to get married and a would-be-assassin found dead; Agatha takes a relaxing trip to a traditional winter festival with her team to temporarily relieve her troubles behind, but her plans are quickly derailed when a gruesome discovery leaves all of Carsely fearing for their safety. From Acorn Media … “The Deuce: The Complete Third Season” (2019) brings us into the world of 1985, just as VHS overtakes film as the primary medium for porn production and distribution. The lure of the California sunshine, the city’s aggressive takeover of commercial sex properties in Times Square and the devastating impact of the AIDS epidemic mark the end of an era. With the party of the 1970s winding down, 42nd Street has deteriorated into a hive of uncontrolled violent crime and seedy video stores, making urban renewal seem more unlikely than ever before. Following the interconnected lives of Times Square’s barkeeps, prostitutes, pimps, police, mobsters, porn actors and producers, the third season brings the series’ arc to a dramatic conclusion. Three episodes from Warner … “Silicon Valley: The Complete Sixth Season” (2019) contains all seven episodes. In the final season of the hit series, Pied Piper is finally seeing the fruits of their labor – they have a huge new office and employees to fill it. But they soon find that being a bigger company means dealing with bigger problems. Can they achieve their vision without sacrificing their morals? From Warner.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
In “Escape From L.A. (Collector’s Edition)” (1996), Kurt Russell rejoins filmmakers John Carpenter and Debra Hill to do to Los Angeles what they did to the Big Apple in “Escape From New York.” Snake Plissken (Russell) takes on Los Angeles after a 9.6 earthquake decimates the city. His job: wade through L.A.’s ruined landmarks to retrieve a doomsday device. Snake surfs Wilshire Blvd., shoots hoops at the Coliseum, dive bombs the Happy Kingdom theme park, and mixes it up with a wild assortment of friends and foes including Stacy Keach, Steve Buscemi, Bruce Campbell, Peter Fonda, George Corraface, Cliff Robertson and Pam Grier. New 4K film scan from the original negative. On DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Scream Factory … When social outcast Jessica is accepted into a trio of teenage vampires, she finds herself thrust into a nocturnal world of murder, drugs and all-night parties as they stalk the patrons of local bars and clubs in “Girls Just Wanna Have Blood” (2019), starring Bettina Skye, David M. Sitbon and Gigi Gustin. Meanwhile, a mysterious, foreign vampire hunter searches the underworld in hopes of putting a stake right through their plan to party forever. From Wild Eye Releasing … In “Blood Tide” (1982 — UK/Greece), terror strikes in paradise as Academy Award-winning actors James Earl Jones, José Ferrer and Lila Kedrova star in a thrilling tale of sea monsters and sacrificial virgins, from the people that brought you the notoriously gruesome “Island of Death.” When treasure hunter Frye (Jones) accidentally awakens an ancient sea monster that has been lying dormant on a Greek island, the inhabitants are forced to resume the practice of sacrificing virgins in order to placate the demonic creature. Meanwhile a couple, Neil and Sherry, arrive on the island in search of Neil’s missing sister, Madeline. Written and produced by Nico Mastorakis, this is a suspense-filled creature feature surging with blood, nudity and beachside aerobics. New restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … Produced in 1960 as “Body in the Web,” “Horrors of Spider Island” (1960 — Germany), starring Harald Maresch, Helga Franck and Alexander D’Arcy, became a notorious Adults Only feature throughout Europe (though banned in the UK). Three years later and sheared of its nudity, it was repackaged for American audiences as a brain-melting monster movie filled with stripper-cat-fights, skimpy lingerie, and radioactive arachnids. The completely uncensored version, scanned from the Düsseldorf dupe negative, as well as the alternate U.S. release, scanned from a pristine low con print, are now together for the first time. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Severin Films … In “White Fire” (1985 — France), Robert Ginty and Belinda Mayne play Bo and Inga, brother and sister jewel thieves who target the legendary “White Fire” diamond — a priceless rock so hot it actually burns those who try to lay their hands on it. When tragedy strikes, Bo undertakes an outrageous plan involving plastic surgery and explosives to infiltrate the mine where the diamond awaits. Bo’s plan hits an unexpected snag with the arrival of smooth-talking badass Noah Barclay, played by Fred Williamson. Noah’s hunting for a missing prostitute — and he thinks Bo and Inga hold the key to her disappearance. Erotic filmmaker Jean-Marie Pallardy (“Erotic Diary of a Lumberjack”) brings his kinky touch to high octane action in this infamous exploitation epic, complete with chainsaw mayhem, awkward brotherly love, and a very 80s theme song by the band Limelight. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … With “Satan’s Slave” (1982 — Indonesia), starring Ruth Pelupessi, W.D. Mochtar and Fachrul Rozy, Indonesian exploitation studio Rapi Films and writer-director Sisworo Gautama Putra unleashed a chiller that rocked the Muslim nation, transformed the country’s genre film industry, and remains one of the most influential shockers in Asian horror history. While mourning the death of his mother, a troubled teen discovers a nightmare world of restless spirits, supernatural vengeance and occult terror. Scanned from the original negative. A 2017 remake became an international festival favorite and one of Indonesia’s biggest hits ever. On DVD, Blu-ray from Severin Films … In “The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh” (1971 –Italy), starring George Hilton, Edwige Fenech, Conchita Airoldi, Ivan Rassimov and Alberto de Mendozam Fenech stars as an unfaithful diplomat’s wife who finds herself hunted by a razor-wielding sex maniac while simultaneously haunted by her own depraved desires. Also known as “Blade of the Ripper” and “Next!” Newly scanned in 4k from the inter-negative. In English and Italian with English subtitles. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Severn Films… Almost a decade after Lucky McKee burst upon the indie horror scene and became a “Master of Horror” in the making thanks to his directorial debut, “May,” he teamed up with legendary cult author Jack Ketchum for his most shocking and brutal film to date: “The Woman” (2011), an instant cause célèbre on its Sundance premiere. The Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) is the last surviving member of a deadly clan of feral cannibals that has roamed the American wilderness for decades. When successful country lawyer Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) stumbles upon her while hunting in the woods, he decides to capture and “civilize” her with the help of his seemingly perfect all-American family, including his wife Belle (Angela Bettis) and daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley). The Cleeks will soon learn, however, that hell hath no fury like The Woman scorned … In a definitive new edition with a 4K remaster. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.
On the Indie Front:
On a summer night in Harlem during her last months at home before starting college, seventeen-year-old poet Ayanna meets Isaiah, a charming music producer who has just moved to the city in
“Premature” (2019), starring Zora Howard and Joshua Boone. It’s not long before these two artistic souls are drawn together in a passionate summer romance. But as the highs of young love give way to jealousy, suspicion, and all-too-real consequences, Ayanna must confront the complexities of the adult world whether she is ready or not. From IFC Films.
“The Man Standing Next” (2020 — South Korea), starring Lee Sung-min, Kwak Do-won and Lee Byung-hun, is set in the 1970’s, when South Korea is under the absolute control of President Park Chung-hee, who controls the KCIA, the country’s spy and intelligence service. In the midst of Park’s reign of fear, a former KCIA director, Park Yong-gak, exiles to the U.S where an investigation of “Koreagate” is underway. As the tension escalates, the stifling political maneuvering leads up to Park’s assassination in 1979. On DVD, Blu-ray, from MPI Media Group.
“Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band” (2019): Inspired by Robbie Robertson’s 2017 bestselling memoir “Testimony,” this documentary deeply dissects The Band’s magic and dysfunction, presenting a backstage view of the group’s inner workings and offering audiences an unseen look at their impact on the music industry. The documentary chronicles Robertson’s introduction to music and the group’s revolutionary collaboration with Bob Dylan, to their final tour as one of the most influential groups of their era. Brings together never-before-seen archival footage and audio, while offering a refreshing backstage look at the band through interviews with Robertson, Martin Scorsese, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Taj Mahal, Ronnie Hawkins and more. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Magnolia Home Entertainment … “Albert Einstein: Still a Revolutionary” (2020): Albert Einstein, the most famous scientist of all time, was a world renowned celebrity, greeted like a rock star when he appeared in public. An anti-war firebrand, Einstein also spoke out on issues ranging from women’s rights and racism to immigration and nuclear arms control. But today, his image has been neutered into that of a charmingly absent-minded genius. He was, in fact, a powerful force for social change and a model for political activism. Using a wealth of rarely-seen archival footage, correspondence, and new and illuminating interviews, Julia Newman’s documentary makes the case that Einstein’s example of social and political activism is as important today as are his brilliant, ground-breaking theories. From First Run Features.
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.