New DVD and Blu-ray Releases for the Week of December 14

From the Big Screen:

Venom: Let There Be Carnage

photo for Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) Tom Hardy returns to the big screen as the lethal protector Venom, one of MARVEL’s greatest and most complex characters. One year after the events of the previous movie, Eddie Brock is struggling to adjust to a shared life with his symbiote Venom. He manages by moonlighting as a vigilante with enhanced abilities while also trying to revive his career as an investigative journalist. One day, he interviews the infamous serial killer Cletus Kasady, not realizing that the killer is going to become obsessed with him. Another unexpected twist: The killer is also host to a symbiote named Carnage, and like his name suggests, he doesn’t care about collateral damage when he has an obsession in mind.Vitals: Director: Andy Serkis. Stars: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Reid Scott, Stephen Graham, Woody Harrelson. 2021, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 97 min., Action-Adventure, US box office gross: $191.632 million, worldwide $397.032 million, Sony. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital, 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo + Digital, VOD, Digital. Extras: “Let There Be … Action” behind-the-scenes featurette. Blu-ray adds Outtakes and bloopers; deleted scenes; “Eddie & Venom: The Odd Couple” featurette; “Sick and Twisted Cletus Kasady” featurette; “Concept to Carnage” featurette. Read more here 3 stars

The Last Duel

photo for The Last Duel (2021) The historical epic is a cinematic and thought-provoking drama set in the midst of the Hundred Years War that explores the ubiquitous power of men, the frailty of justice and the strength and courage of one woman willing to stand alone in the service of truth. Based on actual events, the film unravels long-held assumptions about France’s last sanctioned duel, between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, two friends turned bitter rivals. Carrouges is a respected knight known for his bravery and skill on the battlefield. Le Gris is a Norman squire whose intelligence and eloquence make him one of the most admired nobles in court. When Carrouges’ wife, Marguerite, is viciously assaulted by Le Gris, a charge he denies, she refuses to stay silent, stepping forward to accuse her attacker, an act of bravery and defiance that puts her life in jeopardy. The ensuing trial by combat, a grueling duel to the death, places the fate of all three in God’s hands. Based on Eric Jager’s book “The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France.” Vitals: Director: Ridley Scott. Stars: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Ben Affleck, Harriet Walter, Alex Lawther, Marton Csokas. 2021, CC, MPAA rating: R, 153 min., Historical Drama, US box office gross: $10.853 million, worldwide $30.204 million, Fox/Disney. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray + Digital Code, 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo + Digital Code, VOD, Digital. Extras: “The Making of The Last Duel.” Read more here 3 stars

The Card Counter

photo for The Card Counter (2021) The film, written and directed by Paul Schrader, follows William Tell (Oscar Isaac), a gambler and former serviceman who sets out to reform a young man seeking revenge on a mutual enemy from their past. Tell just wants to play cards. His spartan existence on the casino trail is shattered when he is approached by Cirk, a vulnerable and angry young man seeking help to execute his plan for revenge on a retired military major. Tell sees a chance at redemption through his relationship with Cirk. Gaining backing from mysterious gambling financier La Linda, Tell takes Cirk with him on the road, going from casino to casino until the unlikely trio set their sights on winning the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. But keeping Cirk on the straight-and-narrow proves impossible, dragging Tell back into the darkness of his past. Vitals: Director: Paul Schrader. Stars: Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, Willem Dafoe. 2021, CC, MPAA rating: R, 111 min., Drama, US box office gross: $$2.657 million, worldwide $3.476,605 million, Universal. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, Digital. Extras: “A High-Stakes World” featurette, trailer. Read more here 2 stars

This Week’s Best Bets:

Dan Aykroyd, Kim Basinger and Jon Lovitz star in “My Stepmother Is an Alien” (1988), a fish-out-of-water comedy with a sci-fi twist that questions whether a romance between two star-crossed lovers who are literally worlds apart can ever work. When widowed astronomer Steve Mills (Aykroyd) inadvertently causes a gravitational disruption in deep space, a race of photo for hyper-advanced alien lifeforms sends one of their own to investigate, disguised in the alluring human form of Celeste (Basinger). Tasked with seducing the lovelorn Steve in a bid to gain access to his scientific research, Celeste finds herself falling for the man she’s been sent to swindle. But they’ve not counted on Steve’s young daughter Jessie (Alyson Hannigan), who’s none too thrilled by the prospect of a new mother – especially not one from another planet. Funny and touching in equal measure, “My Stepmother is an Alien” is an offbeat and at times surprisingly risqué comedy that confirms the adage that what unites us is far greater than what divides us … even if what divides us happens to be an entire galaxy. Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment. Read more here. … With this tender and clear-eyed coming-of-age odyssey, “The Learning Tree”(1968), the renowned photographer-turned-filmmaker Gordon Parks not only became the first Black American director to make a Hollywood studio film, he also served as writer, producer, and composer, resulting in a deeply personal artistic achievement. Based on Parks’s own semi-autobiographical novel, “The Learning Tree” follows the journey of Newt Winger (Kyle Johnson), photo for The Learning Treea teenage descendant of Exodusters growing up in rural Kansas in the 1920s, as he experiences the bittersweet flowering of first love, finds his relationship with a close friend tested, and navigates the injustices embedded within a racist legal and educational system. Exquisitely capturing the bucolic splendor of its heartland setting, this landmark film tempers nostalgia with an incisive understanding of the harsh realities, hard-won lessons, and often wrenching moral choices that shape the road to self-determination of the young Black man at its center. On DVD, Blu-ray, with new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, from The Criterion Collection. Read more here. … Real-life jazz giants Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey portray themselves in the rollicking, musical biography “The Fabulous Dorseys” (1947), which followed Tommy and Jimmy from their upbringing in Pennsylvania to their great successes in the music business. Director photo for The Fabulous DorseysAlfred E. Green (“The Jolson Story”) uses the film as a showcase for the tunes that charmed a generation, including “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” and “Tangerine.” Janet Blair (“My Sister Eileen”) appears with the Dorseys, while jazz buffs will enjoy cameos by Paul Whiteman, Helen O’Connell and other stars of the day. The film’s undeniable highlight is a jam session featuring the Dorseys and piano legend Art Tatum. 4K transfer from archival film elements.On DVD, Blu-ray, from Cinedigm/The Film Detective … With “Ivanhoe” (1952), MGM spared no expense and brought their top talent to film the opulent Technicolor epic to England to film this boxoffice smash that starred not one, but two Taylors. Related only as studio royalty, long-time leading man Robert Taylor played opposite the incomparable Elizabeth Taylor in this action-packed adaptation of Sir Walter Scott’s legendary novel. 1194. King Richard the Lion Hearted is being held for ransom by the King of Austria, and his evil brother, John, conspires to take the throne. But while Robin of Locksley fights as Robin Hood, another man, Ivanhoe (Taylor), risks everything for his king — and for the honor of Rebecca (Taylor), the woman he loves. Gallantry and costumed pageantry combine in this crowd-pleasing nominee for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Underscored by the unforgettable music of Miklos Rosza. In a Blu-ray debut from Warner Archive.

From TV to Disc:

“The Bridge of San Luis Rey” (1958): A friar is tried by the Inquisition for questioning God’s intentions when five die in the collapse of an Andean bridge. In early 18th century Peru (1714), an old Inca rope bridge over a gorge in the Andes collapses, plunging photo for The Bridge of San Luis Reyfive travelers to their deaths. Brother Juniper, who was within minutes of being on the bridge himself, becomes obsessed with discovering how five people of differing class and circumstances came to be on the bridge at that moment. The Catholic friar wants to know if it was mere existential happenstance or part of God’s cosmic plan. After researching the lives of the victims for five years and publishing his findings in a book, he is accused of heresy by the worldly Archbishop of Lima and put on trial for his life by the Inquisition. Starring Judith Anderson (who received an Emmy nomination for her role) and Theodore Bikel, Hume Cronyn, Rita Gam, Viveca Lindfors, and Kurt Kaznar, the film originally aired as part of Dupont Show Of the Month which was watched by 47% of the available audience. From David Susskind Archive/MVD Entertainment Group. Read more here.

Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:

In “American Sicario” (2021), starring Danny Trejo, Philippe A. Haddad, Maurice Compte, Maya Stojan and Jaylen Moore, American gangster Erik Vasquez is scheming to become the top dog in the Mexican underworld, only to find himself making enemies out of both the powerful cartels and his own allies. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate … “South of Heaven” (2021), starring Jason Sudeikis, Evangeline Lilly, Mike Colter and Shea Whigham, convicted felon Jimmy (Sudeikis) gets early parole after serving 12 years for armed robbery. Upon his release he vows to give his girlfriend Annie (Lilly), who is dying of cancer, the best last year of her life. But things are never that simple, and when he is given a “side job” from his In photo for South of Heavenparole officer (Whigham), it sets off a series of events that leaves Jimmy in the crosshairs of a local crime boss (Colter). Now, he must stop at nothing to save Annie and fight for whatever time they have left. On DVD, Blu-ray, from RLJE Films … “Disciples of Shaolin” (1975 — Hong Kong) is another Kung Fu vehicle from the infamous Shaw Brothers Studio that delivers a typically power-packed Hong Kong tale of enemy gangs and super cool fight scenes. When shaolin disciple Kuan Fung Yi (Sheng Fu) takes a job at a textile factory he soon becomes embroiled in a bitter and violent clash with the rival Manchu clan who run a neighboring mill. As well delivering some impressive martial arts set pieces, “Disciples of Shaolin” also provides a political punch, underlining the abuse of workers and the corruption of cruel bosses. On Blu-ray from 88 Films … “Premutos” (1997 — Germany) is the first of the fallen Angels, even before Lucifer. His goal is to rule the living and the dead, and his son must pave the way for him to return. When a young man begins to suffer from visionary flashbacks – of the past lives he lived, he finds a case containing an old book that was hidden by a Warlock in 1943. When the young man touches the book, he mutates into a monster and awakens an army of zombies, ready to bring back the fallen angel, Premutos. In an extended director’s cut, on DVD and Blu-ray, from Unearthed Films … photo for Mill Of The Stone Women [Limited Edition} Before “Black Sabbath,” before “I Vampiri,” director Giorgio Ferroni introduced audiences to period horror Italian-style with “Mill of the Stone Women” (1960 — Italy), a chilling 1960 shocker – a classic tale of terror redolent with the atmosphere of vintage Hammer Horror. Young art student Hans von Arnam (Pierre Brice) arrives by barge at an old mill to write a monograph about its celebrated sculptures of women in the throes of death and torture, maintained and curated by the mill’s owner, the hermetic Professor Wahl (Herbert Böhme). But when Hans encounters the professor’s beautiful and mysterious daughter Elfi (Scilla Gabel), his own fate becomes inexorably bound up with hers, and with the shocking secret that lies at the heart of the so-called Mill of the Stone Women. The first Italian horror film to be shot in color, “Mill of the Stone Women” prefigured a raft of other spaghetti nightmares, including the work of maestros Mario Bava and Dario Argento. New 2K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films. 1080p Blu-ray presentations of four different versions of the film: the original 96-minute Italian and English export versions, the 90-minute French version and the 95-minute US version. In a limited edition Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.

On the Indie Front:

It’s the summer of 1994 in a world of broken families, cassette tapes, and a down-trodden economy, and life is simple but harsh for the local kids of one quiet town in “Pond Life” (2018), starring Tom Varey, Esme Creed-Miles, Angus Imrie. Picked on, ignored, and trying to figure out how to survive, the local teens are looking for anything to change their life. When a rumor stirs about the legend of a giant carp in the nearby ponds, Trevor, 17, decides to lead a rag-tag brigade of friends on a fishing expedition to land the big one. From Indican Pictures. Read more here.

Foreign Films:

In his audacious debut feature, “Memory House” (2020 — Brazil), starring Antônio Pitanga, Ana Flavia Cavalcanti and Sam Louwyck, Joao Paulo Miranda Maria conjures a surreal image of the racial and social rifts in modern day Brazil. Cristovam, an Indigenous Black man from the rural North, moves to an industrialized Southern town populated by the descendants of Austrian ex-pats to work in a milk factory. Immediately confronted with their virulent racism, he becomes more and more estranged from the white world. Upon discovering an abandoned house filled with objects reminding him of his origins, photo for Memory HouseCristovam begins a spiritual and physical metamorphosis. With dreamlike images steeped in traditional Brazilian folklore, the film is a study of what happens to an oppressed minority as decades of abuse chip away at his humanity and a timely commentary on integration and colonialism. From Film Movement … A mid-career masterwork by legendary Hungarian art house auteur Bela Tarr and the first of his internationally acclaimed trilogy of films written in collaboration with author Laszlo Krasznahorkai, “Damnation (Karhozat)” (1988 — Hungary), starring Miklos Szekely, Vali Kerekes, Hedi Temessy, Gyula Pauer and Gyorgy Cserhalm, chronicles the doomed affair between Bar Titanik regular Karrer (Szekely) and the cabaret singer (Kerekes) he pines for while scheming to displace her brutish husband (Cserhalmi). A poignant Communism allegory that solidified Tarr’s unique aesthetic, “Damnation” is photographed in an exquisitely black & white palette underscored by the mesmerizing long takes that would come to be his trademark. New 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative. On Blu-ray from Arbelos Films.

For the Family:

In “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” (2021), with the voices of Danny McBride, Abbi Jacobson, Maya Rudolph, Mike Rianda, Eric Andre and Olivia Colman, an old school father and his plugged-in, filmmaker daughter struggle to relate as their family embarks on a road trip to her new college. Their drive is interrupted by a machine apocalypse that threatens to tear these unlikely heroes apart unless they can find a way to join forces and save humanity. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Sony. Read more here … Magic, fantasy and Celtic mythology come to life in Cartoon Saloon’s celebrated “Irish Folklore Trilogy,” featuring three Academy Award-nominated modern animated classics. The studio’s first film, “The Secret of Kells” (2009), is a beautifully rendered tale of a master photo for Cartoon Saloon's Irish Folklore Trilogyilluminator and his young apprentice; the breathtakingly gorgeous “Song of the Sea” (2014) is the adventure of a mythical seal-child and her brother on a quest to save the spirit world; “Wolfwalkers” (2020) follows a young huntress and her friendship with a free-spirited wolf-girl. The deluxe four-disc set is presented in beautiful and environmentally friendly packaging that reflects each film’s loving depiction of the natural world, and the art includes an original illustration by Cartoon Saloon. Also included is an illuminating 2,000 word essay by film critic Andy Crump about the lauded animation studio Cartoon Saloon, the origins and creation of these incredible films, and their role in the world of animation and the world at large. On Blu-ray from GKIDS/Shout! Factory … Discovering he belongs to a heroic tribe of two-legged giants, “Mosley” (2021) , with the voices of Rhys Darby, Lucy Lawless, Temuera Morrison, John Rhys-Davies, is determined to prove he is more than just a farm animal and jets off on an epic journey to join them in this fun-filled animated adventure. From Paramount. 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.

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