From the Big Screen:
F9: The Fast Saga
(2021) The ninth chapter in the Fast & Furious Saga, which has endured for two decades and has earned more than $5 billion around the world. Dom Toretto is leading a quiet life off the grid with Letty and his son, little Brian, but they know that danger always lurks just over their peaceful horizon. This time, that threat forces Dom to confront the sins of his past to save those he loves most. His crew joins together to stop a world-shattering plot led by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they’ve ever encountered: a man who also happens to be Dom’s forsaken brother, Jakob. Vitals: Director: Justin Lin. Stars: Vin Diesel, John Cena, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel and Sung Kang, Helen Mirren, Charlize Theron. 2021, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 143 min., Action, US box office gross: $171.034 million, worldwide $661.357 million, Universal. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital, 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo, VOD, Digital. Read more here.
(2021) New live-action feature film about the rebellious early days of one of cinema’s most notorious – and notoriously fashionable – villains, the legendary Cruella de Vil. “Cruella,” which is set in 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution, follows a young grifter named Estella, a clever and creative girl determined to make a name for herself with her designs. She befriends a pair of young thieves who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they are able to build a life for themselves on the London streets. One day, Estella’s flair for fashion catches the eye of the Baroness von Hellman, a fashion legend who is devastatingly chic and terrifyingly haute. But their relationship sets in motion a course of events and revelations that will cause Estella to embrace her wicked side and become the raucous, fashionable and revenge-bent Cruella. Vitals: Director: Craig Gillespie. Stars: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Mark Strong, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Joel Fry. 2021, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 134 min., Crime Comedy, US box office gross: $85.872 million, worldwide $221.972 million, Disney. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Code, 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo, VOD, Digital. Extras: Bloopers; two deleted scenes; “The Two Emmas” featurette about the two lead actresses and how they prepared for their roles; “The Sidekick Angle” featurette; “Cruella Couture” behind-the-scenes look at some of the most fashionable moments in the movie; “The World of Cruella” exploration of the city locations and elaborate sets of Cruella; “New Dogs … Old Tricks” look at the animal actors of the film; “Cruella 101” look at Easter eggs hidden in the film and connections to other movies. Read more here.
This Week’s Best Bets:
“A Clockwork Orange” (1971) arrives this week in a new 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo + Digital edition. The film, directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke and Adrienne Corri, created quite a controversy for its violence and sex when first released; it was banned in several British towns and even was cited as a factor in a several manslaughter cases and protests over the film began to spread — including outside Kubrick’s home. In early 1973 Kubrick asked Warners to pull the film from the British cinemas, and it was never to be seen in that country until after his death in 1999. In an England of the future, Alex (McDowell) and his “Droogs” spend their nights getting high at the Korova Milkbar before embarking on “a little of the old ultraviolence,” while jauntily warbling “Singin’ in the Rain.” After he’s jailed for bludgeoning the Cat Lady to death, Alex submits to a behavior modification technique to earn his freedom; he’s conditioned to abhor violence. Returned to the world defenseless, Alex becomes the victim of his prior victims. Extras include commentary by Malcolm McDowell and Nick Redman, “Still Tickin’: The Return of Clockwork Orange” [2000 Channel 4 Documentary], “Great Bolshy Yarblockos! Making A Clockwork Orange,” “Turning Like Clockwork,” “Malcolm McDowell Looks Back,” “O Lucky Malcolm!” Read more here … “Throw Down” (2004), one of the most personal films by the prolific Hong Kong auteur Johnnie To, is a thrilling love letter to both the cinema of Akira Kurosawa and the art and philosophy of judo. Amid the neon-drenched nightclubs and gambling dens of Hong Kong’s nocturnal underworld, the fates of three wandering souls — a former judo champion now barely scraping by as an alcoholic bar owner (Louis Koo), a young fighter (Aaron Kwok) intent on challenging him, and a singer (Cherrie Ying) chasing dreams of stardom -— collide in an operatic explosion of human pain, ambition, perseverance, and redemption. Paying offbeat homage to Kurosawa’s debut feature, “Sanshiro Sugata,” To scrambles wild comedy, flights of lyrical surrealism, and rousing martial-arts action into what is ultimately a disarmingly touching ode to the healing power of friendship. On DVD, Blu-ray, with new 4K digital restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … “Breakdown” (1997) makes its Blu-ray debut this week, featuring a remaster approved by director Jonathan Mostow, from a new 4K film scan, presented in a limited-edition with collectible packaging featuring a foldout image of the film’s theatrical poster and an interior spread with key movie moments. Kurt Russell is Jeff Taylor, headed toward a new life in California with his wife Amy (Kathleen Quinlan). When their car dies on a remote highway, a seemingly helpful trucker (J.T. Walsh) offers Amy a ride to the local diner while Jeff waits with the car. Then Jeff discovers his vehicle was deliberately tampered with, and by the time he gets to the next town, his worst fears are about to come true. From Paramount Presents … Sparks fly both on and off the court in “Love & Basketball” (2000), the groundbreaking feature debut by writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood, which elevated the coming-of-age romance by giving honest expression to the challenges female athletes face in a world that doesn’t see them as equal. Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps make for one of the most iconic screen couples of the 2000s as the basketball-obsessed next-door neighbors who find love over flirtatious pickup games, fall apart under the strain of high-pressure college hoops and families, and drift in and out of each other’s lives as they pursue their twin aspirations of playing professionally. Aided by stellar supporting performances and an eclectic R&B soundtrack, “Love & Basketball” captures the intoxicating passions, heartbreaking setbacks, and sky-high ambitions that mark a young woman’s journey to the top of her game and to lasting love. On DVD, Blu-ray, with new 4K digital restoration, supervised by director Gina Prince-Bythewood, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection.
From TV to Disc:
“Batwoman: The Complete Second Season” (2021) is a four-disc DVD set with all 18 episodes. At the end of the first season, Crows Commander Kane (Dougray Scott) has declared war on Batwoman, forcing everyone around them to choose sides. Season two kicks off with a major game-changer that alters Gotham City and The Bat Team forever. A new hero emerges from the shadows. Relatable, messy, loyal, and a little goofy, Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie) couldn’t be more different than the woman who wore the Batsuit before her, billionaire Kate Kane. But she discovers that it’s not the suit that makes Ryan Wilder powerful, it’s the woman inside of it who finds her destiny in changing Gotham City for good. Also available as a three-disc Blu-ray set + Digital Code. From Warner … “The Equalizer: Season One” (2021) is a single disc with all 10 episodes of this reimagining of the classic series that follows Robyn McCall (Queen Latifah), an enigmatic woman with a mysterious background who uses her extensive skills as a former CIA operative to help those with nowhere else to turn. McCall presents to most as an average single mom who is quietly raising her teenage daughter. But to a trusted few, she is The Equalizer – an anonymous guardian angel and defender of the downtrodden, who’s also dogged in her pursuit of personal redemption. From CBS/Paramount.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
Past and present collide in the supernatural buddy comedy “Lady of the Manor” (2021), starring Melanie Lynskey, Judy Greer, Justin Long, Luis Guzmán and Ryan Phillippe, when stoner-slacker Hannah (Lynskey) is hired to portray Lady Wadsworth (Greer), a Southern belle who died in 1875, in a tour at Wadsworth Manor. Hannah, a hot mess, figures she can fake it —until the ghost of Lady Wadsworth appears. Lady Wadsworth tells Hannah it’s time to change her wild ways — and she’ll haunt her until she does. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate. Read more here … In “Boys From County Hell” (2021), starring Jack Rowan, Nigel O’Neill, Louisa Harland, Michael Hough, Fra Fee and John Lynch, strange events unfold in Six Mile Hill when construction on a new road disrupts the ancient burial ground of Abhartach, a legendary Irish vampire said to have inspired Bram Stoker’s famed “Dracula.” Deadly and sinister forces terrorize the construction crew, and they’re forced to fight to survive the night, while exposing the true horror that resides in the town’s local myth. On DVD, Blu-ray, from RLJE Films … The supernatural horror film set over the course of a single evening in Brooklyn’s Borough Park, “The Vigil” (2019), starring Dave Davis, Menashe Lustig, Malky Goldman, makes its Blu-ray debut this week. Low on funds and having recently left his insular religious community, Yakov (Davis) reluctantly accepts an offer from his former rabbi and confidante to take on the responsibility of an overnight shomer — fulfilling the Jewish practice of watching over the body of a deceased community member. Shortly after arriving at the departed’s dilapidated house to sit in vigil, Yakov begins to realize that something is very, very wrong. Also on DVD, from IFC/Shout! Factory … When a mysterious virus causes the world to halt, an economist thinks he has found the answer in a link between animals, a renowned zookeeper and a secret cabal in “Coronavirus Conspiracy” (2021), starring Joseph D. Reitman, John Lehr, Kimberley Crossman and Larry Layfield. As he sets out to find answers alongside his crazy sidekicks, the economist kidnaps the retired zookeeper amidst the COVID-19 lockdown to try to unlock the grand mystery and discover who is truly at fault. From Indican Pictures … In “The Evil Next Door” (2021 — Sweden), starring Dilan Gwyn, Linus Wahlgren and Eddie Eriksson Dominguez. Shirin, new to her stepmom role, moves into a duplex with her partner, Frederik, and his son, Lucas. The new home feels like the right place to start becoming a family. But, when Frederik leaves for work and Lucas begins talking to an imaginary friend next door, strange things are heard from the other, uninhabited side. From Magnolia Home Entertainment/Magnet Label … In “The Power” (2021 — UK), starring Rose Williams, Charlie Carrick, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Theo Barklem-Biggs, Emma Rigby and Shakira Rahman, a young nurse is forced to work the night shift in a crumbling hospital in 1974 as striking miners switch off the power across Britain. But inside the walls lurks a terrifying presence that threatens to consume her and everyone around her. From RLJE Films … “Hardball” (2001), making its Blu-ray debut this week, stars Keanu Reeves, Diana Lane, John Hawkes, D.B. Sweeney and Michael B. Jordan, an follows Conor O’Neill (Reeves), a down-on-his-luck gambler in debt to dangerous loan sharks. Desperate for cash, Conor reluctantly takes a job coaching a youth baseball team. The “team” turns out to be a ragtag group of tough-talking kids from Chicago’s inner city. Secretly, Conor plans to desert the team after he wins a big bet. But the stakes are higher than Conor imagined: the kids need someone to believe in. As Conor wrestles with his past, the kids start to teach him some lessons that will forever change his future — that responsibility and trust must be earned and hope can appear in the most unlikely places. From Paramount … In “Violation” (2020 — Canada), starring Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Dusty Mancinelli and Jesse LaVercombe, a troubled woman on the edge of divorce returns home to her younger sister after years apart. But when her sister and brother-in-law betray her trust, she embarks on a vicious crusade of revenge. From RLJE Films.
In “God of War II” (2020 — China), starring Charles Lin and Yuxi Liu, years after escaping, Lü Bu has no memory of his hellish early life as a test subject for a ruthless imperial sorceress. Now, he is feared across the land as the conquering general under warlord Dong Zhuo, for whom he has blazed a trail of victories on the battlefield. But when a woman arrives at the palace claiming to be his long-lost love, the facade begins to fade, and he begins to realize that his closest allies may yet be his most dangerous foes. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Well Go USA … “I Carry You With Me (Te Llevo Conmigo)” (2020 — Mexico), starring Armando Espitia, Christian Vázquez, Michelle Rodríguez and Ángeles Cruz, is a love story spanning decades that is sparked by a chance encounter between two men in provincial Mexico. Based on a true story, ambition and societal pressure propel an aspiring chef to leave his soulmate and make the treacherous journey to New York, where life will never be the same. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Sony.
From the late science writer Nigel Calder comes “Nuclear Nightmares” (1980), a visually frightening examination of the world’s Cold War era nuclear weapon infrastructure. Host Peter Ustinov utilizes his wit and charm to narrate for the viewer how the US command and control system functions in both training and in the event of an actual retaliatory nuclear strike, and the chilling means by which airpower, nuclear submarines and underground ICBM launch pads are employed to ensure absolute vengeance on the aggressor. Throughout the film, Ustinov colorfully illustrates several scenarios of what might happen if the missiles are unleashed and so commences “the war that must never happen.” Although the world’s political climate has mellowed since the Cold War era, this documentary takes viewers back in time to gain a perspective on what it was like to live under a very real nuclear threat. From Corinth Films … The documentary “The Center: Gibbons and Guardians” (2021), is the charming and sometimes funny, sometimes startling story of The Gibbon Conservation Center in Santa Clarita, California (just north of Los Angeles) and features interviews with a number of the leading women who tirelessly champion these charming apes globally including Dr. Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace and The Gibbon Conservation Center’s director Gabriella Skollar. The film is a riveting cinematic documentary that follows the unexpected dramas at a remote nonprofit wildlife center in the California desert, weaving together the lives of endangered gibbons alongside those who care for them. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Gravitas Ventures … Journey behind the scenes of Las Vegas’ only black male revue show in “Black Magic Live: Stripped” (2021) and uncover the often complicated lives of its male strippers with this no-holds-barred documentary. Through the eyes of owner Eurika Pratts and CEO Jean-Claude LaMarre, and its all-black staff and cast, explore the challenges, struggles and growing pains the show and its core group of dancers have overcome during their four successful years on the Strip. From Lightyear. Read more here … Lionsgate has two World Wrestling Entertainment compilations due this week, each on two-disc DVD sets: “Biography: WWE Legends, Volume 1” (2019-20), which offers the ultimate ringside seat to the men behind the most iconic characters in WWE history. The documentaries are helmed by some of the industry’s foremost directors and top storytellers, and feature WWE executives and superstars; and “Biography: WWE Legends, Volume 2” (2019-20) , which pulls back the curtain on the twists, turns, and triumphs on the paths to fame and icon status for WWE Legends, including Shawn Michaels, Ultimate Warrior, Mick Foley, and Bret “Hitman” Hart.
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.