From the Big Screen:
“News of the World”
(2020) Five years after the end of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks), a veteran of three wars, now moves from town to town as a non-fiction storyteller, sharing the news of presidents and queens, glorious feuds, devastating catastrophes, and gripping adventures from the far reaches of the globe. In the plains of Texas, he crosses paths with Johanna (Helena Zengel), a 10-year-old taken in by the Kiowa people six years earlier and raised as one of their own. Johanna, hostile to a world she’s never experienced, is being returned to her biological aunt and uncle against her will. Kidd agrees to deliver the child where the law says she belongs. As they travel hundreds of miles into the unforgiving wilderness, the two will face tremendous challenges of both human and natural forces as they search for a place that either can call home. Vitals: Director: Paul Greengrass. Stars: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Ray McKinnon, Mare Winningham. 2020, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 118 min., Action, Box office gross: $8.841 million, Universal. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo with digital code, 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo, VOD, Digital. Extras: Deleted scenes; “Partners: Tom Hanks & Helena Zengel”; “Western Action”; “Paul Greengrass Makes News of the World”; The Kiowa”; feature commentary with co-writer/director Paul Greengrass. Read more here.
This Week’s Best Bet
“World of Wong Kar Wai”: With his lush and sensual visuals, pitch-perfect soundtracks, and soulful romanticism, Wong Kar Wai has established himself as one of the defining auteurs of contemporary cinema. Joined by such key collaborators as cinematographer Christopher Doyle; editor and production and costume designer William Chang Suk Ping; and actors Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Maggie Cheung Man Yuk, Wong (or WKW, as he is often known) has written and directed films that have enraptured audiences and critics worldwide and inspired countless other filmmakers with their poetic moods and music, narrative and stylistic daring, and potent themes of alienation and memory. Whether they’re tragically romantic, soaked in blood, or quirkily comedic, the seven films collected here are an invitation into the unique and wistful world of a deeply influential artist. Seven Blu-ray Special Edition Collector’s Set features new 4K digital restorations of “As Tears Go By” (1998) and “Days of Being Wild” (1990) with uncompressed monaural soundtracks, and 4K digital restorations of “Chungking Express” (1994), “Fallen Angels” (1995), “Happy Together” (1997), “In the Mood for Love” (2000) and “2046” (2004), approved by director Wong Kar Wai, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. From The Criterion Collection).
From TV to Disc:
“The Undoing: An HBO Limited Series” (2020) is a two-disc set of the six-part limited series that follows Grace (Nicole Kidman) and Jonathan Fraser (Hugh Grant), who are living the only lives they ever wanted for themselves. Overnight, a chasm opens in their lives: a violent death and a chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a spreading and very public disaster and horrified by the ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her child and her family. Co-stars Edgar Ramirez, Noah Jupe, Lily Rabe, Noma Dumezweni, Sofie Gråbøl, Donald Sutherland. On DVD, Blu-ray plus digital copy, from Warner.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
In “Event Horizon” (1997), starring Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, Richard T. Jones and Jack Noseworthy, Event Horizon, a high-tech, pioneering research spacecraft, mysteriously vanished without a trace on its maiden voyage seven years ago. But a weak, persistent signal from the long-missing craft prompts a rescue team, headed by the intrepid Captain Miller (Fishburne), to wing its way through the galaxy on a bold rescue mission. Accompanying Miller is his elite crew and the lost ship’s designer (Neill). What they uncover is unimaginable interstellar horror. In a new 4k scan of the original camera negative. On Blu-ray in a Collector’s Edition from Scream Factory … Film Movement Classics will release three World War II dramas this week: “The Dam Busters” (1955), starring Michael Redgrave, Richard Todd, captures the spirit of British inventiveness and dogged determination by telling the thrilling true story of Operation Chastise, the Royal Air Force’s successful 1943 strike on the German industrial heartland. Faced with a seemingly impossible objective, engineer and scientist Dr. Barnes Wallis (Redgrave) develops “bouncing bombs” for Wing Commander Guy Gibson (Todd) and the pilots of 617 Squadron to use during their daring raid on the Ruhr Valley dams. Shot in black and white to allow the integration of original footage of the bombing trials, the film boasts spectacular aerial combat sequences, which would become a major inspiration for “Star Wars’” climactic final assault on the Death Star. … One of the most authentic cinematic representations of World War II, “Dunkirk” (1958), directed by Leslie Norman, recounts the dramatic events of Operation Dynamo, the Royal Navy’s evacuation of over 350,000 Allied troops from Nazi-occupied France in 1940. Told from dual perspectives, the epic film follows stranded British Army Corporal “Tubby” Binns (John Mills) and civilian volunteers Charles Foreman (Bernard Lee) and John Holden (Richard Attenborough), whose destinies intersect on the beaches of Dunkirk … In “Ice Cold in Alex”(1958), starring John Mills, the year is 1942. Along the barren North African coast where war has turned towns into smoking ruins, Captain Anson (Mills), a commanding officer in the Royal Army Service Corps, is tired and thirsty. Separated from his unit while evacuating Tobruk, Anson must navigate a dilapidated ambulance with desperate passengers across perilous, enemy-patrolled terrain. Hundreds of miles away in Alexandria, safety and an ice cold beer await. Nominated for four BAFTA Awards and winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1958 Berlin International Film Festival. All three digitally restored on Blu-ray … In “The Bloodhound” (2020), first-time feature director Patrick Picard brings a fresh take to one of the best-known stories from the master of mystery and the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” in his new slow-burner horror-thriller “The Bloodhound,” a hauntingly atmospheric tale. Francis (Liam Aiken), a dispossessed young man, is summoned to the secluded home of his wealthy childhood friend, JP Luret (Joe Adler), who is suffering from a mysterious affliction. Upon his arrival, Francis realizes that JP and his ethereal twin sister Vivian (Annalise Basso) are the sole surviving members of the privileged Luret family, whose legacy has been one of depression and self-destruction, and the only occupants of their family estate. As the old friends attempt to reconnect, a number of inexplicable incidents begin to occur within the house, and Francis finds himself drawn into a world of malaise and despair, where an act of betrayal might provide his only way out. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … In “The Winter Lake” (2020), starring Emma Mackey, Anson Boon, Charlie Murphy, Michael McElhatton and Mark McKenna, when Holly’s (Mackey) dark secret is accidentally uncovered by her new emotionally unstable neighbor Tom (Boon), they are pulled into a violent confrontation with her father, who will do anything to keep the secret hidden. From Epic Pictures … In “Amber’s Descent” (2021 — Canada), starring Kayla Stanton, Michael Mitton, Don Knodel, Nathaniel Vossen, Dione Russell and Colm Hill, Amber Waltz (Stanton), a gifted pianist with a disturbing past, retreats to an isolated country house with hopes of completing her latest symphony. There she meets Jim (Mitton), a handyman she hires who takes an unusual interest in helping her look after the house. As her work progresses, Amber starts to hear strange noises — humming and whispers beckoning her — leading her to believe the house is haunted. A ghostly figure appears at her piano and Amber decides to dig deeper into the history of the house and its previous occupants. When notes appear to write themselves on the pages of her music sheets, Amber finds herself surrounded by the dark mysteries of the house. She uncovers a deadly secret and begins her descent– the unraveling of her own sanity. From Breaking Glass Pictures … In “Cosmoball” (2020 — Russia), after an intergalactic battle destroys the Earth’s moon and causes worldwide devastation, the human race is desolate and clings to survival. The film follows four athletes with the rare ability to teleport, which makes them the only humans capable of playing “cosmoball,” a dangerous sport requiring unimaginable speed, reflexes, and courage. While the rest of the world religiously scans the sky to catch the high-flying tournaments, no one suspects that with each match, they are actually witnessing four young humans fighting furiously to ensure the survival of humankind. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Well Go USA.
On the Indie Front:
In “The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw” (2021), starring Morningstar Angeline, Ajuawak Kapashesit and Andrew Martin, Mitzi Bearclaw (Angeline), a 25-year-old indigenous woman living in downtown Toronto, dreams of designing beautiful hats that can change the world. But, when she receives a letter from her father informing her that her bitter mother is ill, Mitzi decides to put her plans on hold and move back to her isolated reserve in southwestern Canada to look after her family. From Indican Pictures.
“Madame” (2019 — Switzerland), starring Stéphane Riethauser, Caroline Della Beffa, Luc Riethauser, Heike Riethauser and Olivier Riethauser, is a double portrait of a young boy slowly coming out of the closet and of the lady that was, even more than his own mother, the woman of his life – his grandmother. Based on private archival footage, the film takes us onto an intimate journey where Caroline, a flamboyant 90-year-old grandmother, and her filmmaker grandson Stéphane explore the development and transmission of gender identity in a patriarchal environment. Promised to domestic life in the 1920s, Caroline manages to free herself from the clutches of forced marriage and becomes a successful businesswoman, defying the social rules of her time. In parallel, Stéphane struggles to play the role everyone expects in his Swiss bourgeois family until the day he comes out of the closet and sets off on a crusade against homophobia and sexism. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Altered Innocence … “Sheep Without a Shepherd” (2019 — China), starring Joan Chen, Yang Xiao, Zhuo Tan, Philip Keung and Audrey Hui, is a noirish thriller that follows a family man and self-described movie-geek who is thrown into a battle of wits with the law after his daughter accidentally kills a fellow student who was blackmailing her. The dead boy’s mother (Joan Chen) is the morally “flexible” police chief determined to find her son’s killer. From Artsploitation Films.
For the Family:
“Soul” (2020) is the latest animated family adventure from Pixar/Disney, with the voices of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Daveed Diggs, John Ratzenberger, Phylicia Rashad, Ahmir-Khalib Thompson. After landing the gig of a lifetime, a New York jazz pianist suddenly finds himself trapped in a strange land between Earth and the afterlife. “Soul” introduces Joe Gardner, a middle-school band teacher whose true passion is playing jazz. In the film, just when Joe thinks his dream might be in reach, a single unexpected step sends him to a fantastical place where he’s is forced to think again about what it truly means to have soul. That’s where he meets and ultimately teams up with 22, a soul who doesn’t think life on Earth is all it’s cracked up to be. On DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo … In “Sherlock Holmes and the Great Escape” (2021), a fun twist on a Sherlock Holmes tale, the main characters are animals, with Holmes as a dog, and Watson as a cat. In the late 19th century, Mack, a heroic outlaw who stole from the rich to give to the poor, was loved and respected by the people. When the world’s greatest dog-tective, Sherlock Holmes, assisted in catching Mack, the people were angry with him for arresting their hero. But four years later, Mack has escaped from prison. While Sherlock is on the case to recapture Mack, he discovers the heartbreaking reason behind the outlaw’s escape, and decides to let him fulfill his final wish before Mack’s voluntary surrender to the police. However, everyone’s plans change when Mack’s daughter is kidnapped. Sherlock must employ all his wits if he is to rescue Mack’s daughter and save the day. From Shout! Kids.
Trailblazing artists, activists, and everyday people from across the spectrum of gender and sexuality defy social norms and dare to shine in “Queer Japan” (2019 — Japan), a kaleidoscopic view of LGBTQ+ culture in contemporary Japan. From glossy pride parades to playfully perverse underground parties, this documentary pictures people living brazenly unconventional lives in the sunlight, the shadows, and everywhere in between. Interviewees include drag queen Vivienne Sato, erotic manga artist Gengoroh Tagame, butoh dancer Atsushi Matsuda, multimedia artist Nogi Sumiko, HIV+ advocate Hiroshi Hasegawa, activist Akira the Hustler, and transgender author Tomato Hatakeno. On Blu-ray from Altered Innocence.
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.