From the Big Screen:
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
(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.
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 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 (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.