This Week’s Best Bets
In the period between American Bandstand and MTV, there were several shows that tried to bring new music to television, but it wasn’t until “The Midnight Special” premiered on August 19, 1972, that live music found a home on the air. Burt Sugarman, producer of Grammy Awards telecasts, was frustrated by television’s lack of programming after “The Tonight Show” ended — the screen reverting to test patterns at 1:00 a.m.. Recognizing this valuable airtime could cater to a brand-new audience that craved its latest musical heroes, he created “The Midnight Special,” which ran every Friday night on NBC from 1972 to 1981. The 70s was a special time for soul music and “The Midnight Special” truly had an affinity for the genre. Week after week, home audiences would have virtual front row seats for performances by the greatest soul performers of the time including Al Green, Earth Wind & Fire, Patti LaBelle, Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Spinners, The O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, The Stylistics, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight and The Pips, James Brown, Barry White, Curtis Mayfield, Sly & the Family Stone and so many more. The Midnight Special was the only show where you could see real live performances week after week. “The Soul of the Midnight Special” is a five-DVD set that features more than 70 historic live performances, many of which have never been available before. Read more here. From Time Life … Dissatisfied in marriage and life, Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo) takes to the road with the babysitter, his ex-lover Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina), and leaves the bourgeois world behind. Yet this is no normal road trip: “Pierrot le fou” (1965 — France), the 10th feature in six years by genius auteur Jean-Luc Godard, is a stylish mash-up of anticonsumerist satire, au courant politics, and comic-book aesthetics, as well as a violent, zigzag tale of, as Godard called them, “the last romantic couple.” With blissful color imagery by cinematographer Raoul Coutard and Belmondo and Karina at their most animated, “Pierrot le fou” is one of the high points of the French New Wave, and was Godard’s last frolic before he moved ever further into radical cinema. On DVD, Blu-ray, with new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … Themes of family, loss and survival intersect on the thin line that separates the living from the dead in “The Deeper You Dig” (2019),the latest feature written, directed by and starring filmmaking family the Adams Family (Knuckle Jack, Rumblestrips). Bogus tarot card reader Ivy (Toby Poser) and her teenage daughter Echo (Zelda Adams) are an unconventional but loving mother/daughter team. But when reclusive Kurt (John Adams) moves in down the road, a tragic accident results in Echo’s murder, causing three lives to collide in mysterious and wicked ways. Kurt believes he can hide his secret beneath the earth – but Echo, refusing to accept death, burrows into his head until he can feel her in his bones. As she haunts his every move, trying to reach her mother from beyond, Ivy must dig deep to see the signs and prove that love won’t stay buried. A dark, unsettling meditation on grief, survival and the brittle barrier that separates the living from the dead, this limited double-disc edition pairs “The Deeper You Dig” with John Adams’ earlier feature “The Hatred,” making for a compelling double bill of original, independent horror. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
From TV to Disc:
“B: The Beginning – Season One” (2018) contains all 12 episodes of this gripping, character-driven crime procedural uniquely blends the visual marvel of anime, dystopian sci-fi supernatural fantasy, and gritty mystery narrative in equal measures. The tiny city-state of Cremona has been shocked by a string of gruesome murders. As only vicious killers are being targeted, and from an enigmatic mark left at each crime scene, people call this mysterious executioner, “Killer B.” When former detective Keith Kazama Flick is called back on duty after an eight-year-long hiatus, a new team assembles at the Royal Investigation Service with the purpose of putting an end to the bloodshed. But Keith appears burdened by too many ghosts from his past. And as much greater and ominous scheme starts emerging, he will need to come to terms with them all. Series presentation in the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub. On Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Shout! Factory … “Balthazar, Series 2” (2019 — France) is a three-disc set with all 10 episodes of the darkly charming French forensic procedural. Tomer Sisley plays the eccentric but endearing forensic pathologist Raphaël Balthazar, who uses unconventional methods with a shrewd sense of humor and has a knack for uncovering the secrets of the dead. But there’s one case that continues to haunt him — the murder of his wife over a decade ago. One of the 10 highest-rated dramas in France, this season Balthazar and Chief Inspector Hélène Bach (Hélène de Fougerolles) face a week-old body found among corpses from the Middle Ages, a man who died from a new strain of the bubonic plague, a triple homicide during a camping trip, and more. The relationship between Balthazar and Bach is also starting to evolve. Between a new romance for him, marital problems for her, as well as intimacy and tensions, the duo is tested more than ever before as the investigation into the death of Lise, Balthazar’s wife who was murdered over 12 years ago, takes a turn. They embark on a hunt for the culprit to prevent him from gaining new victims. From Acorn Media … “Double Cross” (2020) is a two-disc set with six episodes. They are brother and sister — twins that share an unbreakable bond and are deadly to anyone who crosses their path. When a sex trafficking ring that’s taken over Dr. Erica’s hospital emergency room starts kidnapping little girls, Eric and Erica can’t just sit back and allow that injustice in their neighborhood. Haunted by their past, the twins set down a path of their unique brand of vigilante justice. But the police already have eyes on the siblings and are just one step away from taking them down. Don’t call them criminals. Don’t call them heroes. And don’t get on their bad side. From UMC … “Star Trek: Picard – Season One” (2020) is a three-disc set with all 10 episodes. Patrick Stewart reprises his iconic role as Jean-Luc Picard, which he played for seven seasons on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” At the end of the 24th Century, and 14 years after his retirement from Starfleet, Jean-Luc Picard is living a quiet life on his vineyard, Chateau Picard. When he is sought out by a mysterious young woman, Dahj, in need of his help, he soon realizes she may have personal connections to his own past. The new series follow this iconic character into the next chapter of his life. On DVD, Blu-ray, from CBS/Paramount.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
“The Secret Garden” (2020), starring Dixie Egerickx, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Edan Hayhurst, Amir Wilson, Isis Davis and Maeve Dermody, is set in a new time period in 1947 England, on the eve of Partition in India, and in the aftermath of WWII in Britain. The film follows Mary Lennox (Egerickx), a prickly and unloved 10-year-old girl, born in India to wealthy British parents. When they suddenly die, she is sent back to England to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven (Firth) on his remote country estate deep in the Yorkshire moors. There, she begins to uncover many family secrets, particularly after meeting her sickly cousin Colin (Edan Hayhurst), who has been shut away in a wing of the house. Together, these two damaged, slightly misfit children heal each other through their discovery of a wondrous secret garden, lost in the grounds of Misselthwaite Manor: A magical place of adventure that will change their lives forever. Based on the famous children’s book by Frances Hodgson Burnett. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Universal … As a global pandemic engulfs Los Angeles, rising TV star Ava Boone (Jenna Lyng Adams) is forced to flee the mounting chaos and return to her rural hometown in “Before the Fire” (2020), starring Jenna Lyng Adams, Jackson Davis, Ryan Vigilant and Charles Hubbell. As she struggles to acclimate to a way of life she left behind long ago, her homecoming attracts a dangerous figure from her past — threatening both her and the family that serves as her only sanctuary. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Dark Sky Films … “Cut Throat City” (2019), starring Shameik Moore, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Demetrius Shipp Jr., Kat Graham, Wesley Snipes, Terrence Howard, Eiza Gonzalez and Ethan Hawke, is the story of four boyhood friends from New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward who return after Hurricane Katrina to decimated homes, no jobs, and no help from FEMA. Out of options, they reluctantly turn to a local gangster, who offers them one shot at turning their situations around — by pulling off a dangerous heist in the heart of the city. When the job goes bad, the friends find themselves on the run, hunted by two relentless detectives and a neighborhood warlord who thinks they stole the heist money. On Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Well Go USA … In “Still Here” (2020), starring Johnny Whitworth, Maurice McRae, Zazie Beetz, Afton Williamson nd Larry Pine, a New York journalist who gets assigned the story of a missing African-American young girl risks his career and takes the matter into his own hands trying to find her. From Breaking Glass Pictures … “Tales From the Hood 3” (2020), starring Tony Todd, Lynn Whitfield, Cooper Huckabee, Jaime M. Callica, London Brown, Stephanie Sy, John B. Lowe and Natasha Burnett, is the next installment of the ground-breaking “Tales from the Hood” franchise. This all-new anthology contains four terrifying tales that will scare and thrill with horrifying twists and social commentary. From Universal … In “The 2nd” (2020), starring Ryan Phillippe, Jack Griffo, Samaire Armstrong, Casper Van Dien, William Katt, Richard Burgi, William McNamara and Jennifer Wenger, secret-service agent Vic Davis (Phillippe) is on his way to pick up his estranged son, Shawn (Griffo), from his college campus when he finds himself in the middle of a high-stakes terrorist operation. The daughter of a Supreme Court Justice is the target and this armed faction will stop at nothing to kidnap her. Vic quickly realizes that there’s no one coming to rescue them and must now use his entire set of skills to save her and his son from an incredibly dangerous and lethal situation. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Universal … In “The Devil to Pay” (2019), starring Danielle Deadwyler, Catherine Dyer, Jayson Warner Smith, Brad Carter and Luce Rains, after the disappearance of her husband, Lemon, a struggling farmer in an isolated Appalachian community, must repay her husband’s debt to the oldest family on the mountain and their murderous biscuit-making matriarch in order to save her young son’s life. Armed with only her wits and tenacity, Lemon must unravel the mysteries her husband left behind or lose everything she’s ever loved. From Uncork’d Entertainment … In “Save Yourselves” (2020), starring Sunita Mani and John Reynolds, a young Brooklyn couple (Mani and Reynolds) heads to an upstate cabin to unplug from their phones and reconnect with each other. Blissfully unaware of their surroundings, they are left to their own devices as the planet falls under attack. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Universal … “The Tax Collector” (2020), starring Bobby Soto, Cinthya Carmona and Shia LaBeouf, is a crime thriller set on the streets of Los Angeles. Family man David (Soto) and his longtime partner, Creeper (LaBeouf), are “tax collectors” for the crime lord Wizard, meaning they collect his cut from the profits of local gangs’ illicit dealings. But when Wizard’s old rival returns to Los Angeles from Mexico, the business is upended, and David finds himself desperate to protect what matters more to him than anything else: his family. On DVD, Blu-ray, from RLJ Entertainment … In “The Pale Door” (2020), starring Devin Druid, Zachary Knighton, Noah Segan, Stan Shaw and Bill Sage, the Dalton gang finds shelter in a seemingly uninhabited ghost town after a train robbery goes south. Seeking help for their wounded leader, they are surprised to stumble upon a welcoming brothel in the town’s square. But the beautiful women who greet them are actually a coven of witches with very sinister plans for the unsuspecting outlaws. On DVD, Blu-ray, from RLJE Films … In “Yummy” (2019 — Belgium), starring Maaike Neuville, Bart Hollanders, Benjamin Ramon and Clara Cleymans, while waiting for his girlfriend to come out of surgery, Michael stumbles upon a terrified young woman, gagged and strapped to an operating table; she is the result of an experimental rejuvenation treatment. Offering to help her escape, he removes her restraints but soon realizes he’s just unleashed a virus that will turn the entire hospital into a zone of bloodthirsty zombies. On DVD, Blu-ray, from RLJE Films … “To Your Last Death” (2020) is a blood-splattered, timewarped animated family drama. After emerging as the sole survivor in a deadly revenge game set up by her father to punish his children, Miriam receives an offer from a supernatural entity to go back in time and try again. Now, Miriam must survive both her father’s blood lust and the Gamemaster’s ever-changing rules to save her siblings as she relives the worst night of her life.On Blu-ray, from Quiver Distribution … It’s senior year at East Great Falls and four teens — Annie, Kayla, Michelle and Stephanie — decide to finally harness their girl power and band together to get what they want from their last year of high school in “American Pie Presents: Girls’ Rules” (2020), starring Madison Pettis, Lizze Broadway, Piper Curda, Natasha Behnam and Darren Barnet. The boys won’t know what hit them when these sassy sweethearts begin calling the shots with wild parties, sexy adventures and a Stifler. From Universal … In “World War 4” (2019 — New Zealand, US), starring Graham Vincent, Morgan Bradley, Frederick Dodson, Derek Good and Timothy Itayi, a series of escalating incidents in Korea and the Middle East lead to greater and greater conflict, placing the superpowers at one another’s throats. Armies march, bombs rain down, soldiers storm the beaches. One family is caught up in the ever-growing conflict. Can they survive? From Midnight Releasing … When a brilliant but trigger-happy detective (played by martial arts powerhouse Max Zhang) is outsmarted by a serial killer, he pays a high price for his momentary lapse in judgment in “Invincible Dragon” (2019 — Hong Kong). Robbed of both his fiancée and his job, he soon spirals out of control and goes back to what he knows best: fighting. Unbeknownst to him, a serendipitous reunion with an old rival (Brazilian mixed martial artist Anderson Silva) may be the key to unlocking the truth about his fiancée’s disappearance — and to apprehending the killer. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Well Go USA.
On the Indie Front:
“The Shade Shepherd” (2019), starring Randy Spence, Jordon Hodges, Caroline Newton and Brett Baker, is set in Indiana in 1987. Pike Ables (Spence) is charged with a murder he can’t remember in the midst of heroin withdrawal. Now, he must make a decision: go to jail or head for the Canadian border to start a new life. His only hope is his younger brother, Jack (Hodges), a frustrated psychiatrist and soon-to-be father who is ready to leave everything behind — including his pregnant wife — to try and save him. But things aren’t as they seem when the brothers try to navigate out of the darkness and into the light. With no food or drugs, and only a few wet cigarettes, the two embark on a journey that tests the meaning of love, family, forgiveness, life and death. From Indiecan Pictures.
On the day before her birthday, young Akane meets the mysterious alchemist Hippocrates who brings her through a basement and into a fantastical world full of magic and color in “The Wonderland” (2019 — Japan). Though things seem peaceful on the surface, he reveals this world is in danger and as the destined Goddess of the Green Wind, it is Akane’s responsibility to bring back the rain and save this world from the terror know as Zan-Gu. Joining Akane on her journey is Pipo, an alchemist in training, and her adventurous Aunt Chii. “The Wonderland” is based on Sachiko Kashiwaba’s celebrated children’s book Chikashitru Kara no Fushigi na Tabi (“Strange Journey from the Basement”). On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Eleven Arts/Shout! Factory … While vacationing in Chiapas, an American couple finds their lives turned upside down after an encounter with a mysterious Mayan shape-shifter in “The Blue Eyes” (2012 — Mexico), starring Zachary Booth, Allison Case and Ofelia Medina. Karen Fisher (Case) and Paul Henderson (Booth), a young American couple, travels to Chiapas, Mexico for vacation. While there, they have a run-in with Yaxte (Medina), a mysterious shape-shifting witch. Soon, the couple is beset by stray dogs, hallucinations, fevers, nightmares and earthly temptations, and a wedge is driven deep between them. Can the couple escape their strange encounters with the supernatural? Are the sins of their forbears to blame for a terrifying Mayan curse? From IndiePix Films.
For the Family:
In “Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite!” (2020), with the voices of Melissa Rauch, Max Greenfield and George Lopez, it’s been 10 years since the creation of the Great Truce, an elaborate joint-species surveillance system designed and monitored by cats and dogs to keep the peace when conflicts arise. But when a tech-savvy parrot villain hacks into wireless networks to use frequencies only heard by cats and dogs, he manipulates them into conflict, and the worldwide battle between cats and dogs is back on. Now, a team of inexperienced and untested agents will have to use their old-school animal instincts to restore order and peace between cats and dogs everywhere. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Warner … The animated adventure “Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna” (2020 — Japan) takes place five years after the events of “Digimon Adventure tri,” the six-part film series released in 2015. Now on the cusp of adulthood, Tai and his DigiDestined friends discover that with age their bonds with each of their Digimon will ultimately break. How does it end for Tai, Agumon and the others? On Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Toei Animation and Shout! Factory … “Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo!” (2020) is an all-new original animated film. Scooby-Doo and Shaggy’s favorite holiday is upon us. With fake monsters and candy galore, Halloween is heaven for these hungry foodies going door-to-door. But this year, their sweet holiday turns sour when the neighborhood pumpkin patch is infected by toxic ooze, creating high-flying jack-o-lanterns, and a king-sized pumpkin leader squashing everything in its path. It’s up to Scooby-Doo and the gang as they team up with their pals, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, to solve this mystery of gigantic proportions and save Crystal Cove. From Warner.
“Spindrift’s Haunted West” (2020) is a whiskey-soaked psychedelic spaghetti western visual tour-de-force that brings viewers a unique, peyote inspired look into the cult band – Spindrift. Known for their love of westerns, drugs and alternative lifestyles, this full length musical takes you behind the curtain of madness and into the Haunted West of yore. Spindrift is an American psychedelic rock band heavily influenced by The Doors, Hawkwind, Bruce Haack, and Chrome. Spindrift’s early influences shifted when they started touring for Ghost of the West with songs that consisted of variations of early golden era singing cowboy tunes and originals. After meeting up with filmmaker Burke Roberts, new styles and instrumentation were brought in and the exploration of Western themed alternative music was born. This documentary follows the band as they perform songs and tour the world’s most famous Ghost towns including many of the destinations that were thought unreachable and roads and conditions that were downright hazardous. From Indican Picture … “Eli Roth’s History of Horror Season 1” (2018) is a seven episode documentary series directed and hosted by Award-winning horror film director Eli Roth (“Cabin Fever”) that features interviews with a who’s who of horror movies and television, including Stephen King, Quentin Tarantino, Greg Nicotero, Rob Zombie, Linda Blair, Slash, Robert Englund, Tippi Hedren, Haley Joel Osment, Elijah Wood and David Arquette. Roth brings together the masters of horror — the storytellers and stars who define the genre — to explore its biggest themes and reveal the inspirations and struggles behind its past and present. Each one-hour episode takes viewers on a chilling exploration of how horror has evolved through the years and examines the genre’s impact on society as well as delving into how horror maintains its fan base and why audiences are addicted to fear. On DVD, Blu-ray, from RLJE Films.
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.