From the Big Screen:
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
A chilling story of terror, murder and unknown evil that shocked even experienced real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. One of the most sensational cases from their files, it starts with a fight for the soul of a young boy. After a cop stumbles upon a dazed and bloodied young man walking down the road, the suspect is accused of murder and claims demonic possession as his defense, forcing the Warrens into a supernatural inquiry unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. Vitals: Director: Michael Chaves. Stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard. 2021, CC, MPAA rating: R, 112 min., Horror, US box office gross: $63.177 million, worldwide $175.177 million, Warner. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray + Digital Code, 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo, VOD, Digital. Extras: “By Reason of Demonic Possession” in-depth look at the true story that inspired the movie. Blu-ray adds “The Occultist” featurette; “Exorcism of Fear” behind-the-scenes; “DC Horror Presents The Conjuring: The Lover #1” video comic that takes you deeper into the Conjuring Universe. Read more here.
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway
(2021) In this live action/CGI sequel, the lovable rogue is back. Bea, Thomas, and the rabbits have created a makeshift family, but despite his best efforts, Peter can’t seem to shake his mischievous reputation. Adventuring out of the garden, Peter finds himself in a world where his mischief is appreciated, but when his family risks everything to come looking for him, Peter must figure out what kind of bunny he wants to be. Vitals: Director: Will Gluck. Stars: Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, David Oyelowo, Elizabeth Debicki, Margot Robbie, James Corden. 2019, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 93 min., Family, US box office gross: $39.297 million, worldwide $145.297 million, Sony. Formats: DVD + Digital Code, Blu-ray + Digital Code, 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo, VOD, Digital. Extras: “Bunnies, Baddies, and the Big City: The Making of Peter Rabbit 2,” “Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle’s Wee Little Kitchen,” “Bea’s Crafting Corner: DIY Bunny Bookmarks,” “Bea’s Crafting Corner: Create Your Own Woodland Terrarium.” Read more here.
This Week’s Best Bets:
“The Clockmaker of St. Paul” (1974 — France) is the debut feature of legendary director Bertrand Tavernier. Adapted from Georges Simenon’s novel “The Watchmaker of Everton” (1954), it stars Philippe Noiret as the unassuming title character, a man who begins to reexamine his life when his son is wanted for murder. Asked for help by the police inspector (Jean Rochefort), he realizes how little he knew about his son, and begins to seek out the truth hidden behind his family’s walls. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Kino Classics … Following the success of his debut feature, “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage,” distributor Titanus tasked writer-director Dario Argento with delivering a follow-up in short order. The resulting film, “The Cat O’ Nine Tails” (1971), was granted a greatly enhanced budget and heralded in its US marketing campaign as “nine times more suspenseful” than its predecessor. When a break-in occurs at a secretive genetics institute, blind puzzle-maker Franco Arnò (Karl Malden), who overheard an attempt to blackmail one of the institute’s scientists shortly before the robbery, teams up with intrepid reporter Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus) to crack the case. But before long the bodies begin to pile up and the two amateur sleuths find their own lives imperiled in their search for the truth. And worse still, Lori (Cinzia De Carolis), Franco’s young niece, may also be in killer’s sights. This second entry in the so-called “Animal Trilogy” found Argento further refining his distinctive style and cementing his reputation as the master of the giallo thriller. Featuring a nerve-jangling score by the great Ennio Morricone, “The Cat O’ Nine Tails” remains one of Argento’s most suspenseful and underrated films. New 4K restoration. On 4K Ultra HD from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment. Read more here … A milestone of Polish cinema, the electrifying international sensation by Andre Wadja, “Ashes and Diamonds” (1958 — Poland) — the final film in his celebrated war trilogy — entwines the story of one man’s moral crisis with the fate of a nation. In a small Polish town on the final day of World War II, Mace (the coolly charismatic Zbigniew Cybulski), a fighter in the underground anti-Communist resistance movement, has orders to assassinate an incoming commissar. But when he meets and falls for a young barmaid (Ewa Krzyzewska), he begins to question his commitment to a cause that requires him to risk his life. “Ashes and Diamonds’” lustrous monochrome cinematography — wreathed in shadows, smoke, and fog — and spectacularly choreographed set pieces lend a breathtaking visual dynamism to this urgent, incendiary vision of a country at a crossroads in its struggle for self-determination. In a Blu-ray debut, with new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack, from The Criterion Collection … “Blind Beast” (1969 — Japan) is a grotesque portrait of the bizarre relationship between a blind sculptor and his captive muse, adapted from a short story from Japan’s foremost master of the macabre, Edogawa Rampo. An artist’s model, Aki (Mako Midori), is abducted, and awakens in a dark warehouse studio whose walls are decorated with outsized women’s body parts — eyes, lips, legs and breasts — and dominated by two recumbent giant statues of male and female nudes. Her kidnapper introduces himself as Michio (Eiji Funakoshi), a blind sculptor whom she had witnessed previously at an exhibition in which she featured intently caressing a statue of her naked torso. Michio announces his intention of using her to sculpt the perfect female form. At first defiant, she eventually succumbs to his intense fixation on her body and finds herself drawn into his sightless world, in which touch is everything. “Blind Beast” is a masterpiece of erotic horror that explores the all-encompassing and overwhelming relationship between the artist and his art and the obsessive closed world that the artist inhabits, with maestro director Yasuzo Masumura (“Giants and Toys,” “Irezumi”) conjuring up a hallucinogenic dreamworld in which sensual and creative urges combine with a feverish intensity. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment. Read more here.
From TV to Disc:
“NCIS: Los Angeles: The Twelfth Season” (2020-21) is a five-disc DVD set with all 18 episodes. The 12th season finds Callen (Chris O’Donnell) and Sam (LL Cool J) continuing to take on dangerous, vital cases with international ties, while working to find balance as they each try to maintain new and blossoming relationships. From CBS/Paramount.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
In “The Fatal Raid” (2019 — Hong Kong), starring Jade Leung, Patrick Tam, Min-Chen Lin, Jeana Ho and Michael Ton, two elite police teams head up a secret operation following a dangerous smuggling ring across the Macau border, but when their presence is discovered, the mission ends in a deadly firefight. Twenty years later, an escort mission brings the survivors back to the scene of the tragedy — and fosters a highly unwelcome reunion. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Well Go USA … In “Evil Dead Trap” (1988 — Japan), starring Miyuki Ono, Aya Katsuragi and Hitomi Kobayashi, a TV station employee takes a camera crew out to an abandoned factory to investigate a purported snuff film that was made there, only to end up running for her life. On Blu-ray, with a new 4K scan restoration, from Unearthed Films. Read more here. … From subversive Spanish writer/director Eloy de la Iglesia comes the international hit and DPP 39 Video Nasty “The Cannibal Man” (1972 — Spain), starring Vicente Parra, Emma Cohen and Eusebio Poncela, that remains among the most notorious and misunderstood shockers of the 70s. When a slaughterhouse worker accidentally kills a man during a fight, it triggers a desperate descent into madness and mass murder. Also known as “The Apartment on the 13th Floor” and “Week of the Killer.” Features both the International and extended Spanish Version newly scanned from the original negatives for the first time ever. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Severin Films … In “Habit” (2021), starring Bella Thorne, Gavin Rossdale, Paris Jackson, Josie Ho and Andreja Pejic, LA party girl Mads (Thorne) gets a gig running drugs for Eric, a washed-up Hollywood star. When their cash gets stolen and Eric is slain by a rival drug lord, Mads and her two sexy BFFs hide out by dressing up as nuns. But in spite of their costumes, these bad girls are no angels. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate. Read more here … In the chilling tale of alien terror “The Dark” (1979), starring William Devane, Cathy Lee Crosby, Richard Jaeckel, Keenan Wynn, Casey Kasem and Jacquelyn Hyde, a writer (Devane) takes a personal interest in a series of baffling, shocking murders in Los Angeles … and evidence suggests the suspect may not be human. Every night “The Mangler” stalks the streets, attacking and mutilating random victims. On the creature’s trail is TV reporter Zoe Owens (Crosby) and police detective Dave Mooney (Jaeckel), but the truth behind the murders is far more strange and horrifying than they could ever imagine. In a Collector’s Edition DVD and Blu-ray from MVD Visual … In the sci-fi thriller“Jurassic Hunt” (2021), starring Courtney Loggins, Ruben Pla, Tarkan Dospil and Joston Theney, female adventurer Parker joins a crew of male trophy hunters in a remote wilderness park. Their goal: slaughter genetically recreated dinosaurs for sport using rifles, arrows, and grenades. After their guide is killed by raptors, the team tries to escape the park – but the hunters quickly become the hunted. Even worse, the park’s manager suspects Parker of being a spy and sends a hit squad after her. From Lionsgate. Read more here … In “One Dark Night” (1982), starring Meg Tilly, Melissa Newman, E.G. Daily and Adam West, world renowned psychic Raymar is found dead after announcing that he had uncovered the secret of how to become even more powerful in death by the use of telekinetic powers. At the same time, two high school girls plan an initiation night for their friend Julie (Tilly), who is determined to shed her “goody goody” image. Her test is to spend the night locked in the crypt – the same one that Raymar has been buried in that very day. The crypt soon becomes a battlefield of horror. In a Collector’s Edition DVD and Blu-ray, from MVD Visual … Based on true events, “Lansky” (2021), starring Sam Worthington, Harvey Keitel, AnnaSophia Robb, Minka Kelly and Jackie Cruz, centers on notorious gangster Meyer Lansky. It follows an aging Lansky living in anonymity in Miami after being pursued for decades by the FBI. When he enlists a journalist named David Stone to tell his story, the Feds use him as a pawn to track down the millions of dollars that Lansky has been suspected of stashing. Stone finds himself caught in the middle of a game of cat and mouse, as he eventually uncovers the hidden truth about the life of the notorious boss of Murder Inc. and the National Crime Syndicate. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate … In “Overboard” (1987), directed by Garry Marshall and starring Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Edward Herrmann, Katherine Helmond and Roddy McDowall, a cruel but beautiful heiress mocks and cheats a hired carpenter to do some work on her yacht. When she gets amnesia after accidentally falling overboard, he decides to introduce her to regular life by convincing her they’re husband and wife — in the process getting a mother for his four kids and a free housekeeper. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Severin Films.
In “Funhouse” (2019 — Sweden), starring Valter Skarsgård, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Khamisa Wilsher, Christopher Gerard and Karolina Benefield, down-and-out backup singer and celebrity ex-husband Kasper is invited to compete in the Funhouse, an online “Big Brother” style reality show. In an attempt to rebrand his image due to a tarnished reputation, Kasper reluctantly accepts the offer. Alongside seven other C-list celebrities from around the globe, he competes for a 5 million dollar prize. At first, the Funhouse is just as the name suggests, full of wild times, budding friendships, love connections, and brewing rivalries. But, to everyone’s surprise, the fun quickly turns into misery when the first challenge leaves one of the contestants brutally murdered. From Magnet/Magnolia Home Entertainment. Read more here.
For the Family:
In “Dreambuilders” (2020 — Denmark), Minna’s life is turned upside-down when her dad’s new fiancée and her daughter move in. Her new stepsister, Jenny, turns out to be horrible and Minna is very frustrated. One night, Minna discovers a world behind her dreams, where the whimsical dreambuilders create every fantasy and nightmare we endure nightly on their theater stages. Minna also finds out how to manipulate Jenny’s dreams. But interfering with dreams has dire consequences … and when Minna goes too far one night, Jenny can’t wake up anymore. Minna must enter the dream world one more time to face the nightmare she has created in order to save Jenny and her new family. Animated feature. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Shout! Kids. Read more here.
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.