"The movie business is macabre. Grotesque.
It is a combination of a football game
and a brothel."
-- Federico Fellini
Nov 292021


Happy Chanukah


From the Big Screen:

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

photo for Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings (2021) In the newest entry in the Marvel Universe, Shang-Chi spent his childhood being trained as an assassin by his ruthless father. This brutal upbringing made him a kung fu master, but he chose a life away from his deadly family. After escaping to San Francisco, Shang-Chi forged a new identity and tried to forget how he was raised. Years later, Shang-Chi finds himself pulled into the secretive organization of the Ten Rings and embroiled once again in the criminal world he had left. He must decide if he will fight for or against his father, who is more powerful than Shang-Chi ever realized. Vitals: Director: Destin Daniel Cretton. Stars: Simu Liu, Tony Leung, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, Yuen Wa. 2021, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 132 min., Action Adventure, US box office gross: $201.699 million, worldwide $368.876 million, Disney. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray + Digital Code, 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo + Digital Code, VOD, Digital. Extras: Gag reel, deleted scenes, “Building a Legacy” behind-the-scenes featurette, “Family Ties” featurette on the rich but complicated legacy of Shang-Chi and Xu Wenwu, commentary by director Destin Daniel Cretton and writer Dave Callaham. Read more here 3 stars


photo for Malignant (2021) The latest creation from “Conjuring” universe architect James Wan. The film marks director Wan’s return to his roots with this new original horror thriller. Madison is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities. Vitals: Director: James Wan. Stars: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jacqueline McKenzie, Ingrid Bisu, Paula Marshall, Jake Abel. 2021, CC, MPAA rating: R, 118 min., Horror, US box office gross: $13.374 million, worldwide $33.174 million, Warner. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, Digital. Extras: “Malignant: James Wan’s Visions” behind-the-scenes featurette. Read more here. 2 stars

This Week’s Best Bets:

“Giallo Essentials (Red Edition Blu-ray)”: Alongside the spaghetti western, the giallo is one of the most famous Italian export genres: films steeped in mystery and intrigue, delivered with stylized violence and unforgettable musical themes. This three-disc set features brand new 2K restorations of three classic films from the original camera negatives. “The Possessed” (1965) masterfully combines noir, mystery and giallo tropes in a proto-giallo based on one of Italy’s most notorious crimes. It tells the story of a depressed novelist (Peter Baldwin) in search of photo for Arrow Video Giallo Collection his old flame (Virna Lisi) who has disappeared under suspicious circumstances, prompting an investigation that finds him plunged into a disturbing drama of familial secrets, perversion, madness and murder. “The Fifth Cord” (1971) boasts a complex, Agatha Christie-esque plot of investigation into a series of brutal assaults. As the body count rises, whisky swilling journalist Andrea Bild (Franco Nero) finds himself under suspicion, making it all the more imperative he crack the case. “The Pyjama Girl Case” (1978), inspired by a real-life case that baffles to this day, takes us to Australia where former inspector Timpson comes out of retirement to crack the case of a young woman, found on the beach, shot in the head, burned to hide her identity and dressed in distinctive yellow pyjamas. In the first of a multi-volume series of Giallo Essentials, these films feature a raft of talent in front and behind the camera with each film restored from the original camera negative and presented with a range of contextualizing interviews and featurettes. Rigid box packaging with newly designed artwork by Adam Rabalais in a windowed Giallo Essentials Collection slipcover. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … There’s a pair of Blu-ray debuts this week: Warren Beatty stars in (as well as produces, co-writes, and co-directs) “Heaven Can Wait” (1978), a fan-favorite comedy, which has been fully restored and remastered from the original negative under Beatty’s supervision for its arrival on Blu-ray for the first time ever. Directed by Beatty and Buck Henry, with a screenplay by Elaine May and Beatty, “Heaven Can Wait” features a sensational cast filled with comedic talent, including Julie Christie, James Mason, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon, Buck Henry, Vincent Gardenia, and Jack Warden. Joe Pendleton (Beatty) is a Los Angeles Rams backup quarterback ready to lead the team all the way to the Super Bowl, but the afterlife has other plans. It seems an overzealous guardian angel has prematurely plucked Joe from the living. When he’s returned to Earth in the body of millionaire industrialist Leo Farnsworth, he inherits a world of challenges, including winning the love of a woman photo for Heaven Can ait Blu-ray debut (Christie) who already hated “him.” From Paramount … When maverick director Nicholas Ray turned his talents to a gangster movie, a familiar genre became startling and new. Under the auspices of long-time M-G-M musical producer Joe Pasternak, and with the added gloss of the CinemaScope widescreen and Metrocolor, the auteur created a cult classic. Set in 1930s Chicago, “Party Girl” (1958) follows a bum-legged mouthpiece for the mob (Robert Taylor) and a gorgeous, wised-up vamp (Cyd Charisse) who fall in love, try to go straight … and head straight for trouble. Ray deepens the drama and heightens the violence with filmmaking artistry: a screen painted in sinister ebony and blood red, an urban landscape of shattered glass and shattered bodies, and a scene where a Jean Harlow-besotted mobster learns his idol has married – and shreds her photo with a rat-a-tat of lead. Also stars Lee J. Cobb and John Ireland. On Blu-ray from Warner Archive … “Reds” (1981) directed, co-written, produced by and starring Warren Beatty, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year; the story of a radical American journalist embroiled in the Bolshevik revolution was originally released on December 25, 1981. This is a new two-disc Blu-ray set, newly restored under Beatty’s supervision. The film was restored and remastered from the original negative in 4K with High Dynamic Range using a vintage print from the Paramount archives as a reference, which was approved by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. In addition to Beatty, the film boasts an outstanding cast including Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Edward Herrmann, Gene Hackman, Paul Sorvino, and Maureen Stapleton, whose performance won her an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The engrossing depiction of the love story between activists John Reed (Beatty) and Louise Bryant (Keaton) set against the outbreak of World War I and the rise of communism in Russia garnered 12 Academy Award nominations and won three, including Best Director for Beatty, who also took home every other major directorial award of the season. From Paramount.

From TV to Disc:

“The Drowning, Series 1” (2021) is a single-disc with four episodes. When Jodie’s young son vanished from a lakeside picnic, it was presumed he drowned, but Jodie believed he was abducted. Years later, she sees a boy she’s certain is her son. Jeopardizing the life she’s painstakingly rebuilt, Jodie begins a dangerous and morally dark journey to prove the boy is her son and save him from his abductor. From Sundance Now.

Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:

“Saint Maud” (2021, starring) Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Frazer, Lily Knight, Marcus Hutton, Turlough Convery and Rosie Sansom, is the debut film from writer-director Rose Glass, and is a chilling and boldly original vision of faith, madness, and salvation in a fallen world. Maud, a newly devout hospice nurse, becomes obsessed with saving her dying patient’s soul — but sinister forces, and her own sinful past, threaten to put an end to her holy calling. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate.

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 November 29, 2021 No Responses »
Nov 212021


Happy Thanksgiving


This Week’s Best Bets:

“Two From Sergei Eisenstein: October & Alexander Nevsky:” Born in Riga, Latvia in 1898, Sergei Eisenstein brought Russian history to life and to the masses through a blend of avant-garde filmmaking and Communist propaganda. A director and film theorist, he was perhaps best known for being the father of the film montage and despite his relatively small output, he’s regarded as one of cinema’s chief architects whose influence transcended national and political boundaries. “October” (1928): Officially produced to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the Russian Revolution, “October” quickly became another of Sergei Eisenstein’s photo for Two From Sergei Eisenstein: October & Alexander Nevskyexperiments in film form. As in his masterpiece, “Battleship Potemkin,” Eisenstein uses explosive montage to create the spirit of revolution — in this case, the events in St. Petersburg during the months leading up to the Bolshevik revolt. Given complete access to the city – including the Czar’s Winter Palace — Eisenstein utilized non-actors to recount history from a political perspective. There is no main character in “October”; no one person, not Lenin not a minister or Bolshevik is singled out. The hero of the film, as Eisenstein saw it, is the proletariat. Its triumph, its victory, is the Revolution, and Eisenstein’s insistence on speaking the language of pure film shoves his mad rush of images straight into the viewer’s mind in an unforgettable way. “Alexander Nevsky” (1938): Ten years after “October,” upon returning from Hollywood and Mexico, Eisenstein changed his cinematic approach, leaving behind the densely edited style of his celebrated silent films, turning instead to historical sources, contradictory audiovisuals, and theatrical sets for this grandiose yet subversive sound-era work. Eisenstein’s landmark tale of Russia thwarting the German invasion of the 13th century was wildly popular and quite intentional, given the prevailing Nazi geopolitical advancement and destruction at the time. In 1242, Russia in being invaded by two sides: from the orient by the Mongols and from Europe by the German Teutonic Knights of the Holy Roman Empire. The last free city in Russia, Novgorod, calls the Prince Aleksandr Nevsky, who had defeated the Swedish in a previous battle, to defend the city. Featuring some of the most beautiful imagery ever put on film, a majestic music score from Prokofiev and a dazzling, climactic battle on a frozen lake. From Corinth Films … photo for Menace II Society Directors Albert and Allen Hughes and screenwriter Tyger Williams were barely into their twenties when they sent shock waves through American cinema and hip-hop culture with “Menace II Society” (1993), their fatalistic, unflinching vision of life and death on the streets of Watts, Los Angeles, in the 1990s. There, in the shadow of the riots of 1965 and 1992, young Caine (Tyrin Turner) is growing up under the influence of his ruthless, drug-dealing father (Samuel L. Jackson, in a chilling cameo) and his loose-cannon best friend, O-Dog (Larenz Tate), leading him into a spiral of violent crime from which he is not sure he wants to escape, despite the best efforts of his grandparents and the steadfast Ronnie (Jada Pinkett). Fusing grim realism with a propulsively stylish aesthetic honed through the Hughes brothers’ work on rap videos, “Menace II Society” is a searing cautionary tale about the devastating human toll of hopelessness. In a two-disc 4K UHD/Blu-ray Combo and Blu-ray, with new 4K digital restoration of the directors’ cut of the film, supervised by cinematographer Lisa Rinzler and co-director Albert Hughes, with 7.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. In the 4K UHD edition: One 4K UHD disc of the film presented in Dolby Vision HDR and one Blu-ray with the film and special features. Original 2.0 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio. From The Criterion Collection … A perky high-schooler takes on the mob in “Sailor Suit And Machine Gun” (1981 — Japan), a one-of-a-kind genre-bender that riffs on the yakuza film, coming-of-age drama and “idol movie,” inventively adapted from Jiro Akagawa’s popular novel by director Shinji Somai, a massively influential figure in Japanese cinema whose work has been little seen outside his homeland. Hoshi Izumi is a young innocent forced to grow up quickly when her father dies and photo for Sailor Suit and Machine Gun she finds herself next in line as the boss of a moribund yakuza clan. Wrenched from the security of her classroom and thrust into the heart of the criminal underworld, she must come to terms with the fact that her actions hold the key to the life or death of the men under her command as they come under fire from rival gangs. Presented in both its original theatrical and longer complete versions, and the first time one of Somai’s films has been released on home video in the West, this landmark work from his early career was responsible for launching teen talent Hiroko Yakushimaru as the iconic face of a generation, with the catchy theme song she performs indelibly etched into the zeitgeist of early-1980s Japan. High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of the original theatrical version and the 1982 complete version (kanpeki-ban) re-issue of the film, restored by Kadokawa Pictures from a 4K scan of the original negative. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment. Rescheduled from last week … Warner Archive has two Blu-ray debuts this week: In “Lullaby of Broadway” (1951), Doris Day is at the top of her form in this Warner Bros. musical classic, which gave her a chance to not just vocalize with her usual excellence, but to also show off her impressive dancing talents. The prospect was daunting for the star, as a car accident during her youth left her with severe injuries, and she was told that she would have to put aside her dreams of becoming a dancer. Vocally talented as she was, she rose to fame as a big band singer, which eventually led to her screen stardom. When preparing for this big-budget musical’s finale to the famous title tune, the steps of the studio set towered before her like a pyramid. All Day had to do was dance up and down those steps wearing a flowing gold lamé dress. “You’ve got to be out of your minds,” Day exclaimed in a voice head across the soundstage. “I can’t even walk up and down those stairs.” She danced divinely – and sang in this musical delight about a singer newly arrived in New York … and destined for Great White Way fame … William Powell and Myrna Loy reunite as amateur sleuths Nick and Nora Charles in “The Thin Man Goes Home” (1944), the penultimate fifth entry in the beloved, long-running series of mystery comedies that began a decade earlier. Outlaws come and go in Nick and Nora’s lives. Now it’s time to meet the in-laws. The debonair sleuths leave little Nicky Jr. at boarding school, grab Asta and head to Nick’s boyhood home of Sycamore Springs. Of course, wherever they go, murder has a way of showing up on the doorstep. Nick can show off his gumshoe talents for his parents when an artist is killed. And he’ll do it without customary liquid inspirations… because Nick is on the wagon.

Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:

Art and life collide in the neo-noir thriller “American Night” (2021), starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Emile Hirsch, Paz Vega, Jeremy Piven and Anastacia. When a highly coveted Andy Warhol painting suddenly surfaces, it triggers a chain reaction of danger-filled events for a colorful group of characters including: a forger turned art dealer (Rhys Meyers); a mobster and painter (Hirsch) with a penchant for scorpions; a seductive museum conservator (Vega); and a stuntman and wannabe ninja (Piven). Filled with daring double-crosses and surprising twists and turns. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate. Read more herephoto for The Snake Girl and the Silver-haired Witch A classic horror manga comes to life in “The Snake Girl and the Silver-haired Witch” (1968 — Japan), starring Yûko Hamada, Kazuo Umezu, Mariko Fukuhara and Yachie Matsui. A fantastically phantasmagorical slice of twisted tokusatsu terror ostensibly made for children that will irreparably traumatize any child that sees it. A young girl named Sayuri is reunited with her estranged family after years in an orphanage – but trouble lurks within the walls of the large family home. Her mother is an amnesiac after a car accident six months earlier, her sullen sister is confined to the attic and a young housemaid dies inexplicably of a heart attack just before Sayuri arrives … is it all connected to her father’s work studying venomous snakes? And is the fanged, serpentine figure that haunts Sayuri’s dreams the same one spying on her through holes in the wall? Making its worldwide Blu-ray debut and its home video premiere outside Japan, this rarely-screened, nightmarishly disorienting creepshow not only displays a seldom-seen side of kaiju auteur Noriaki Yuasa, but its skilful blending of director Kazuo Umezu’s comics (published in English-language markets as Reptilia) arguably anticipates many of the trends seen in J-horror decades later. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … “Apache Junction” (2021), starring Trace Adkins, Stuart Townsend, Scout Taylor-Compton and Thomas Jane, is an outpost of lawlessness, a haven for thieves and cold-blooded killers. After big-city reporter Annabelle Angel (Taylor-Compton) arrives to write an article on the town, she becomes a target when notorious gunslinger Jericho Ford (Townsend) comes to her aid. Now Annabelle must entrust her future to a man with a deadly past, as Jericho heads toward a tense showdown in this Western that unloads a double-barreled blast of action. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate … photo for Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge [Limited Edition} With numerous interpretations of Gaston Leroux’s classic novel “The Phantom of the Opera” having been turned out over the years, it was only a matter of time before the slasher genre decided to take a stab at the tale – step forward 1989’s “Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge.” High school sweethearts Eric Matthews and Melody Austin are so in love, but their youthful romance is cut tragically short when Eric apparently dies in a fire that engulfs his family home. One year later and Melody is trying to move on with her life, taking up a job at the newly built Midwood Mall along with her friends. But the mall, which stands on the very site of Eric’s former home, has an uninvited guest – a shadowy, scarred figure that haunts its airducts and subterranean passageways, hellbent on exacting vengeance on the mall’s crooked developers. Directed by Richard Friedman (“Scared Stiff,” “Doom Asylum”), and featuring star turns from Pauly Shore and Morgan Fairchild. Includes three versions of the feature: Original Theatrical Cut, TV Cut and bonus Integral Fan Cut. On Blu-ray, from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment. Read more here … In “Escape From Death Block 13” (2021), starring Robert Bronzi, Nicholas Turturro, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Chris Hahn and Debbie Scaletta, after the death of his brother, Mick Kovacs travels to America to seek justice. Framed for attempted murder, he is sent to the photo for Raging Firenotorious Pleasant Hill Penitentiary where survival is an everyday struggle. Seeking revenge after discovering the truth behind his brother’s death, Mick’s rage ignites an explosive riot as he makes a daring escape. From Uncork’d Entertainment. Read more here … In “Raging Fire” (2021 — Hong Kong), starring Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Patrick Tam, Kenny Wong, Deep Ng, Jeana Ho, Lui Leung Wai and Simon Yam, Bong (Yen) is a highly respected hardline cop with a long history of success on dangerous cases. However, his past unexpectedly comes back to haunt him when a sting operation is attacked by a mysterious group of criminals led by Ngo (Tse), his former protégé, a talented former officer who had once respected and admired Bong. However, a terrible mistake years prior landed him in prison, quickly turning the once rising star into a furious man with a grudge, and the will to destroy everyone who had wronged him — including his former mentor. With a new English dub. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Well Go USA. Read more here.

For the Family:

“The Sesame Street: Wonderful World Of Friends” (2021) contains over two hours of fun. With songs and segments from the show, kids will celebrate cultural traditions and meet international visitors on Sesame Street: Friends from around the world gather for an international food festival; Telly and Zoe help Leela celebrate the Indian holiday Rakhi; and Rosita shares what being Mexican means to her. Special guests Alessia Cara, Billy Porter, Josh Groban, and John Legend join in this special celebration of friendship. From Sesame Workshop/Shout! Kids … There’s canine holiday hijinks in “Pups Alone” (2021), with the voices of Jerry O’Connell, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Rob Schneider, Dolph Lundgren, Tyler Hollinger, Isadora Swann, Nicholas Turturro, Eric Roberts, Danny Trejo, Keith David and Malcolm McDowell. While everyone is away on a company ski trip, a jealous inventor hires two thieves to break into his co-worker’s house and steal his top secret new creation. But they are no match for a mischievous pack of neighborhood pups, who set up tricks and traps to protect the home and save Christmas. From Paramount. Read more here.

Special Interest:

“Deep Blues” (1992): In 1990, commissioned by award-winning musician, songwriter, producer, innovator and Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart, veteran music film director Robert Mugge and renowned music scholar Robert Palmer ventured deep into the heart of the North photo for Deep BluesMississippi Hill Country and Mississippi Delta to seek out the best rural blues acts currently working. Starting on Beale Street in Memphis, they headed south to the juke joints, lounges, front porches, and parlors of Holly Springs, Greenville, Clarksdale, Bentonia, and Lexington. Along the way, they visited celebrated landmarks and documented talented artists cut off from the mainstream of the recording industry. The resulting film expresses reverence for the rich musical history of the region, spotlighting local performers, soon to be world-renowned, thanks in large part to the film, and demonstrating how the blues continues to thrive in new generations of gifted musicians. Digitally restored in 4K. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Film Movement.

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 November 21, 2021 No Responses »
Nov 142021

Jungle Cruise

photo for Jungle Cruise (2021) Seeking an ancient tree with healing abilities, Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) team up for the adventure of a lifetime on Disney’s Jungle Cruise, a rollicking ride down the Amazon. Amidst danger and supernatural forces lurking in the jungle, secrets of the lost tree unfold as their fate – and mankind’s – hangs in the balance.Vitals: Director: Jaume Collet-Serra. Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramírez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti, Veronica Falcón. 2021, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 127 min., Action Adventure, US box office gross: $82.266 million, worldwide $154.466 million, Studio. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo with Digital Code, 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo, VOD, Digital. Extras: “Jungle Cruise Expedition Mode” allows viewers to climb aboard a ramshackle tramp steamer (or your own couch) to learn fun facts, discover Easter eggs and catch some pop-up trivia throughout the movie; “It’s A Jungle Out There: Making Jungle Cruise”; “Dwayne and Emily: Undoubtedly Funny”; “Creating the Amazon” effects featurette; “Once a Skip, Always a Skip” panel of “Skippers” at the Disneyland Resort as they reminisce about the rewards, challenges and surprises they’ve experienced while helming the world-famous “Jungle Cruise” attraction; outtakes; deleted scenes. Read more here. 3 stars


photo for Candyman (2021) For as long as residents can remember, the housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood were terrorized by a word-of-mouth ghost story about a supernatural killer with a hook for a hand, easily summoned by those daring to repeat his name five times into a mirror. In present day, a decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, visual artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his partner, gallery director Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris), move into a luxury loft condo in Cabrini, now gentrified beyond recognition and inhabited by upwardly mobile millennials. With Anthony’s painting career on the brink of stalling, a chance encounter with a Cabrini-Green old-timer (Colman Domingo) exposes Anthony to the tragically horrific nature of the true story behind Candyman. Anxious to maintain his status in the Chicago art world, Anthony begins to explore these macabre details in his studio as fresh grist for paintings, unknowingly opening a door to a complex past that unravels his own sanity and unleashes a terrifying wave of violence that puts him on a collision course with destiny. Sequel to the 1992 “Candyman.” Vitals: Director: Nia DaCosta. Stars: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Tony Todd, Vanessa Estelle Williams. 2021, CC, MPAA rating: R, 91 min., Drama, US box office gross: $61.045 million, worldwide $77.270 million, Universal. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Code, 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo + Digital Code, VOD, Digital. Extras: Alternate ending; deleted and extended scenes; “Say My Name” featurette; “Body Horror” featurette with director Nia DaCosta on the subgenre of body horror; “The Filmmaker’s Eye: Nia Dacosta” featurette; “Painting Chaos” behind-the-scenes featurette; “The Art Of Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe” featurette on the film’s composer; “Terror in the Shadows” behind-the-scenes look at how the analogue shadow puppetry scenes were created; “Candyman: The Impact of Black Horror” roundtable discussion moderated by Colman Domingo about the nuanced relationship Black Americans have with “Candyman,” the horror genre and the overall idea of monsters and victims. Read more here 3 stars

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

photo for The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021) An intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. In the 1970s and 80s, Tammy Faye and her husband, Jim Bakker, rose from humble beginnings to create the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and theme park, and were revered for their message of love, acceptance and prosperity. Tammy Faye was legendary for her indelible eyelashes, her idiosyncratic singing, and her eagerness to embrace people from all walks of life. However, it wasn’t long before financial improprieties, scheming rivals, and scandal toppled their carefully constructed empire. Vitals: Director: Michael Showalter. Stars: Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Vincent D’Onofrio, Cherry Jones, Sam Jaeger. 2021, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 126 min., Drama, US box office gross: $2.400 million, worldwide $2.400 million, Fox. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, Digital. Extras: “A Look Inside The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”
2 stars Read more here

Flag Day

photo for Flag Day (2021) Jennifer Vogel’s father John taught her so much about love and joy, but he also happened to be the most notorious counterfeiter in US history. An intimate family portrait of a young woman who struggles to rise above the wreckage of her past while reconciling the inescapable bond between a daughter and her father. Vitals: Director: Sean Penn. Stars: Dylan Penn, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Norbert Leo Butz, Dale Dickey, Eddie Marsan, Bailey Noble, Hopper Jack Penn, Katheryn Winnick. 2021, CC, MPAA rating: R, 109 min., Drama, US box office gross: $.424 million, worldwide $.657 million, MGM. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, Digital. 2 stars

This Week’s Best Bets:

A perky high-schooler takes on the mob in “Sailor Suit And Machine Gun” (1981 — Japan), a one-of-a-kind genre-bender that riffs on the yakuza film, coming-of-age drama and “idol movie,” inventively adapted from Jiro Akagawa’s popular novel by director Shinji Somai, a massively influential figure in Japanese cinema whose work has been little seen outside his homeland. Hoshi Izumi is a young innocent forced to grow up quickly when her father dies and photo for Sailor Suit and Machine Gun she finds herself next in line as the boss of a moribund yakuza clan. Wrenched from the security of her classroom and thrust into the heart of the criminal underworld, she must come to terms with the fact that her actions hold the key to the life or death of the men under her command as they come under fire from rival gangs. Presented in both its original theatrical and longer complete versions, and the first time one of Somai’s films has been released on home video in the West, this landmark work from his early career was responsible for launching teen talent Hiroko Yakushimaru as the iconic face of a generation, with the catchy theme song she performs indelibly etched into the zeitgeist of early-1980s Japan. High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of the original theatrical version and the 1982 complete version (kanpeki-ban) re-issue of the film, restored by Kadokawa Pictures from a 4K scan of the original negative. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … Master filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa (“Pulse,” “Cure,” “Tokyo Sonata”) won the Silver Lion (Best Director) at the Venice Film Festival for “Wife of a Spy” (2021 — Japan), a riveting, gorgeously crafted, old-school Hitchcockian thriller shot in stunning 8K. The year is 1940 in Kobe, on the eve of the outbreak of World War II. Local merchant and amateur filmmaker Yusaku photo for Wife of a Spy(Issey Takahashi) senses that things are headed in an unsettling direction. Following a trip to Manchuria, he becomes determined to bring to light the things he witnessed there, and secretly filmed. Meanwhile, his wife Satoko (Yû Aoi) receives a visit from her childhood friend, now a military policeman. He warns her about Yusaku’s seditious ways and reveals that a woman her husband brought back from his trip has died. Satoko confronts Yusaku, but when she discovers his true intentions, she is torn between loyalty to her husband, the life they have built, and the country they call home. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Kino Lorber … There’s new Blu-ray versions of several classic films due this week: “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946), starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, in a 75th anniversary collectible, limited-edition two-disc Blu-ray set with a beautifully colorized version of the film in high definition as well as the original, digitally remastered black-and-white movie in high definition, and access to a digital copy of the film. Perfect for gift-giving, the set also includes 10 collectible recipe cards from Insight Editions’ “It’s a Wonderful Life: The Official Bailey Family Cookbook” with cuisine inspired by the film. Additionally, the set includes over 45 minutes of previously released bonus content exploring the meticulous process of preserving and revitalizing this iconic masterpiece, a look at the movie’s extraordinary sound, music, cinematography and visual effects, and vintage footage from the film’s wrap party, from Paramount … “Ragtime” (1981), based on E.L. Doctorow’s best-selling novel of the same name, tells an unforgettable story of disparate characters in New York City in the early 1900s. From the emerging New York suburb of New Rochelle to the flashy spectacle of Atlantic City, a family faces racial tensions, scandals, and violence that will test everything they believe in. With music by Randy Newman, the film features a spectacular cast including James Cagney, Brad Dourif, Moses Gunn, Elizabeth McGovern, Kenneth McMillan, Pat O’Brien, Donald O’Connor, James Olson, Mandy Patinkin, Howard photo for Ragtime E. Rollins, Jr., Mary Steenburgen, Debbie Allen, Jeff Daniels, Fran Drescher, Samuel L. Jackson, Norman Mailer, John Ratzenberger. 40th anniversary Blu-ray edition of director Milos Forman’s film has been remastered from a 4K film transfer and is presented in collectible packaging featuring a foldout image of the film’s theatrical poster and an interior spread with key movie moments. Includes a newly discovered director’s cut workprint version of the film (along with the theatrical version), deleted and extended scenes, a look back with Larry Karaszewski and screenwriter Michael Weller, commentary by Forman, and executive producer Michael Hausmanaccess to a Digital copy of the theatrical version. From Paramount Presents … From Warner Archive comes the Blu-ray debut of “National Velvet” (1945), starring Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Donald Crisp, Angela Lansbury and Anne Revere. In her star-making role, Taylor plays Velvet Brown, a wide-eyed adolescent who, assisted by her jockey pal (Rooney), trains Pie, a horse she won in a raffle, for the Grand National Steeplechase. Of course, no girl can ride in the National, can she? Yet Velvet, posing as a boy, assuredly does. M-G-M was so impressed with their young new star’s work on the film, that the studio gave Pie to Miss Taylor after filming completed … “Some Came Running” (1958), directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine and Martha Hyer, also makes its Blu-ray debut this week. After a round of partying he can’t remember, World War II veteran Dave Hirsh is placed on a bus headed for the last place he’d choose Parkman, Indiana, the hometown Hirsh hasn’t seen in well over decade. Frank Sinatra plays Hirsh, whose arrival in Parkman brings small-town hypocrisy to the unforgiving light of day in this character-driven tale based on a novel by James Jones (whose “From Here to Eternity” led to Sinatra’s 1953 Oscar). In his first screen pairing with Sinatra, Dean Martin plays a sharp-witted card sharp. And Shirley MacLaine earned one of the movie’s five Academy Award nominations as the good-hearted floozy with a potentially fatal attraction to Hirsh … Nicholas Meyer’s “The Deceivers” (1988) makes its Blu-ray debut via the Cohen Film Collection in a new digital restoration of this Merchant Ivory classic. “The Deceivers,” starring stars Pierce Brosnan, Shashi Kapoor, Saeed Jaffrey and Helena Mitchell, is adapted from the John Masters novel, set in India in 1825, which depicts the exploits of William Savage (based on William Sleeman of the Indian Political Service), who disguises himself as an Indian in order to expose and destroy a secret cult whose members, the infamous Thugees, ritually murdered and robbed travelers in the name of the goddess Kali. Merchant had read the novel years before, been struck by it, and later decided to film it. The movie was slow in getting into production, however, and once into that stage presented such an array of problems as to stagger even Merchant. An entire book, “Hullabaloo in Old Jeypore: The Making of The Deceivers,”, was needed for Merchant to set down all that occurred … photo for Once Upon A Time In China: The Complete Films “Once Upon A Time In China: The Complete Films” is one of the pinnacles of Hong Kong cinema’s 1990s golden age; the series set a new standard for martial-arts spectacle and launched action star Jet Li to international fame. It brings to vivid life the colorful world of China in the late 19th century, an era of immense cultural and technological change, as Western imperialism clashed with tradition and public order was upended by the threats of foreign espionage and rising nationalism. Against this turbulent backdrop, one man — the real-life martial-arts master, physician, and folk hero Wong Fei-hung — emerges as a noble protector of Chinese values as the country hurtles toward modernity. Conceived by Hong Kong New Wave leader Tsui Hark, this epic cycle is not only a dazzling showcase for some of the most astonishing action set pieces ever committed to film but also a rousing celebration of Chinese identity, history, and culture. The six-Blu-ray special edition collector’s set features 4K digital restorations of “Once Upon a Time in China” (1991), “Once Upon a Time in China II” (1992) and “Once Upon a Time in China III” (1993), and new 2K digital restorations of “Once Upon a Time in China IV” (1993) and “Once Upon a Time in China V” (1993), all presented with their original Cantonese theatrical-release sound mixes in uncompressed monaural or stereo. Alternate stereo Cantonese soundtracks for “Once Upon a Time in China” and “Once Upon a Time in China II,” featuring the original theatrical sound effects, and monaural Cantonese soundtrack for “Once Upon a Time in China III”;” Once Upon a Time in China and America” (1997) in a 2K digital transfer, featuring 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio and monaural Cantonese soundtracks, along with a stereo Mandarin track with the voice of actor Jet Li. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

From TV to Disc:

“Future Boy Conan: The Complete Series” (1978 — Japan) is a four-disc Blu-ray set containing all 26 episodes of the show as well as an exclusive 16-page booklet featuring character artwork. The directorial debut of acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki, released for the first time in North America, featuring a new 4K restoration and English language Dub. Twenty years ago, a terrible war fought with magnetic weapons caused the earth’s axis to tilt, and earthquakes and tidal waves destroyed civilization. Conan is born into this new world, raised by his adopted grandfather on an isolated island. But his life is forever changed when a mysterious girl named Lana washes ashore, pursued by shadowy operatives who seek to use her in a new scheme to control what’s left of the world. On Blu-ray from GKIDS/Shout! Factory … photo for Hinterland: Complete Collection “Hinterland: Complete Collection” (2013-16) is a seven-disc set with 12 episodes. Weighed down by grief and guilt, DCI Tom Mathias comes to coastal Aberystwyth after a decade on the London police force. Escaping recent hurts and long-simmering trauma, he’s on a journey of recovery, healing himself by bringing justice to others. But the beautiful seaside vistas and close-knit mountain villages hide a multitude of sins. Partnered with hardworking local DI Mared Rhys, Mathias confronts mystifying murders that push him to the edge in a place with secrets as dark and destructive as his own. From Acorn Media … “Kevin Can F*** Himself” (2021) is a two-disc set with eight episodes. Allison McRoberts (Annie Murphy) is the prototypical Sitcom Wife married to Kevin, her self-centered husband. When she learns that the perfect future she envisioned is impossible, she teams up with her neighbor Patty as she attempts to escape her confines and take control of her life. On DVD, Blu-ray, from RLJE Films.

Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:

In “Caveat” (2021), starring Ben Caplan, Jonathan French, Leila Sykes, Inma Pavon and Conor Dwane, a lone drifter, Isaac, suffering from partial memory loss accepts a job from his old landlord to look after his niece Olga, a psychologically troubled woman living in an abandoned house on an isolated island. When Barrett convinces Isaac to confine his movements to the house and leaves the two of them alone, a game of cat and mouse ensues with Isaac fighting to survive amid the terrifying resurgence of his own memory. On DVD, Blu-ray, from RLJE Films … photo for Cryptozoo “Cryptozoo” (2021), with the voices of Lake Bell, Michael Cera, Zoe Kazan, Louisa Krause, Angeliki Papoulia, Thomas Jay Ryan, Peter Stormare and Grace Zabriskie, is a fantastical animated feature that follows cryptozookeepers through a richly-drawn hallucinatory world as they struggle to capture a baku, a legendary dream-eating hybrid creature. In the visually stunning animation, the cryptozookeepers soon begin to wonder if they should display these rare beasts in the confines of a zoo, or if these mythical creatures should remain hidden and unknown.On Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment. Read more here … In “Our Ladies” (2021), starring Eve Austin, Tallulah Greive, Abigail Lawrie, Sally Messham, Rona Morison, Marli Siu, Stuart Martin, Jack Greenlees and Kate Dickie, a group of Catholic school girls in 1990s Scotland gets an opportunity to go into Edinburgh for a choir competition, but they’re more interested in drinking, partying and hooking up than winning the competition. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Sony. Read more herephoto for Prisoners of the Ghostland “Prisoners of the Ghostland” (2021), starring Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Nick Cassavetes, Bill Moseley, Tak Sakaguchi and Yuzuka Nakaya, is set in the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town, where a ruthless bank robber (Cage) is sprung from jail by wealthy warlord The Governor (Moseley), whose adopted granddaughter Bernice (Boutella) has gone missing. The Governor offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within three days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman — and his own path to redemption.On DVD, Blu-ray, from RLJE Films … In “Never Back Down: Revolt” (2021), starring James Faulkner, Olivia Popica, Gianni Calchetti, Michael Bisping, Neetu Chandra, Raffaello Degruttola and Hannah Al Rashid, when an amateur fighter is unwilling to throw a fight, his sister Anya (Popica) must travel to Rome and fight for an elite audience to help pay back her brother’s debt to crime boss, Julian (Faulkner). When she arrives, she’s taken by the merciless Janek (Bisping) and quickly realizes she is among many women who have been abducted and forced to fight for a deadly trafficking syndicate. Anya’s only options are to surrender to Janek’s demands or band together with the other women and take down their captors. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Sony … “Yakuza Princess” (2019), starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Masumi, is set in the expansive Japanese community of Sao Paulo in Brazil — the largest Japanese diaspora in the world. The film follows Akemi (Masumi), an orphan who discovers she is the heiress to half of the Yakuza crime syndicate. Forging an uneasy alliance with an amnesiac stranger (Rhys Meyers) who believes an ancient sword binds their two fates, Akemi must unleash war against the other half of the syndicate who want her dead. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Magnolia Home Entertainment/Magnet Label.

Special Interest:

“The Lost Leonardo” (2021), is the inside story behind the Salvator Mundi, the most expensive painting ever sold — $450 million. From the moment the painting is bought for $1175 at a shady New Orleans auction house, and the restorer discovers masterful Renaissance brushstrokes under the heavy varnish of its cheap restoration, the Salvator Mundi’s fate is determined by an insatiable quest for fame, money and power. As its price soars, so do questions about its authenticity: is this painting really by Leonardo da Vinci? photo for The Lost LeonardoOn DVD, Blu-ray, from Sony). Read more here“The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” (2020) is an HBO documentary that chronicles the triumphs and hurdles of brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb, otherwise known as the Bee Gees. The Bee Gees, who found early fame in the 1960s, went on to write over 1,000 songs, including twenty #1 hits throughout their storied career. The film follows the iconic trio’s meteoric rise as they rode the highs of fame and fortune, negotiated the vagaries of the ever-shifting music business and navigated the complexities of working so intimately alongside family. The critically acclaimed documentary is an intimate exploration of the Gibb story, featuring revealing interviews with oldest brother Barry and archival interviews with the late twin brothers Robin and Maurice. The film features a wealth of never-before-seen archival footage of recording sessions, concert performances, television appearances and home videos, as well as interviews with musicians Eric Clapton, Noel Gallagher, Nick Jonas, Chris Martin, Justin Timberlake, music producer Mark Ronson, singer Lulu, record company executive Bill Oakes, among others. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Warner.

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 November 14, 2021 No Responses »
Sep 172021

“Candyman,” the sequel to the 1992 horror thriller about a murderous soul with a hook for a hand who is accidentally summoned to reality by a skeptic grad student researching the monster’s myth, will head home on VOD on September 17 via all the usual suspects (Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Vudu, Youtube, Redbox, and a host of cable carriers). Continue reading »

 Posted by on September 17, 2021 No Responses »

 Posted by on February 22, 2018 Comments Off on
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