From the Big Screen:
The Forever Purge
(2021) The old rules of the Purge are broken as members of an underground movement, no longer satisfied with the annual night of anarchy and murder, decide to overtake America through an unending campaign of mayhem and massacre. No one is safe. On the morning after the Purge, a masked gang of killers attacks a wealthy Texas ranching family and their workers. Exposed by daylight, the two groups are forced to band together and fight back as the country spirals into chaos and the United States begins to disintegrate around them. Vitals: Director: Everardo Valerio Gout. Stars: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin, Josh Lucas, Will Patton. 2021, CC, MPAA rating: R, 103 min., Horror Action, US box office gross: $44.357 million, worldwide $73.866 million, Universal. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Code, 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo + Digital Code, VOD, Digital. Extras: Alternate storyboard opening, deleted scene, “Collapsing the System: Behind the Forever Purge,” “Creeptastic Wardrobe,” theatrical trailer. Read more here.
This Week’s Best Bets:
“The Ultimate Richard Pryor Collection: Uncensored” is a 13-disc set, packed with more than 26 hours of raw, uncensored Pryor. Raw, sometimes shocking and always thrilling, Pryor — a once-in-a-generation innovator — pushed the envelope and was almost single-hand responsible for the comedy evolution that continues to this day. He won an Emmy, five Grammys, was the recipient of the very first Mark Twain Prize for American Humor (1998) and in 2017, Rolling Stone ranked him #1 on its list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time. This set includes: All four of Pryor’s full-length concert films – “Live & Smokin,” “Live in Concert,” “Live on the Sunset Strip,” and “Here and Now”; Pryor’s 1977 NBC TV Special and all four controversial episodes of “The Richard Pryor Show,” featuring Robin Williams, Sandra Bernhard, Tim Reid, Marsha Warfield, and more; Pryor’s most memorable TV appearances on “The Merv Griffin Show,” “The Dick Cavett Show,” and” The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”; the feature film, “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling,” written, produced, and directed by Pryor; never-before-released footage from Pryor’s infamous first film, “Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales,” lost since 1968; exclusive footage of Pryor’s final performances and a tribute event at The Comedy Store; two acclaimed documentary films – “Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic” and “I Am Richard Pryor”; a no-holds-barred interview with Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor; collector’s booklet with personal photos, diary entries, tour notes and more. From Time Life … Director, writer, composer, actor, and one-man creative revolutionary Melvin Van Peebles (who died last week) jolted American independent cinema to new life with his explosive stylistic energy and unfiltered expression of Black consciousness. Though he undeniably altered the course of film history with the anarchic “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” (1971), that pop-culture bombshell is just one piece of a remarkably varied career that has also encompassed forays into European art cinema (“The Story of a Three Day Pass,” 1967), mainstream Hollywood comedy (“Watermelon Man,” 1970), and Broadway musicals (“Don’t Play Us Cheap,” 1972). Each facet of Van Peebles’s renegade genius is on display in this collection of four films, “Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films,” a tribute to a transformative artist whose caustic social observation, radical formal innovation, and uncompromising vision established a new cinematic model for Black creative independence. Also included in the set is “Baadasssss!,” a chronicle of the production of Sweet Sweetback made by Van Peebles’s son Mario Van Peebles -— and starring the younger Van Peebles as Melvin. On Blu-ray, with new 4K digital restorations of all four films, approved by filmmaker Mario Van Peebles, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks for “The Story of a Three Day Pass,” “Watermelon Man,” and “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” and 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack for “Don’t Play Us Cheap.” From The Criterion Collection … “The Damned” (1969 — Italy), the most savagely subversive film by the iconoclastic auteur Luchino Visconti, employs the mechanics of deliriously stylized melodrama to portray Nazism’s total corruption of the soul. In the wake of Hitler’s ascent to power, the wealthy industrialist von Essenbeck family and their associates — including the scheming social climber Friedrich (Dirk Bogarde), the incestuous matriarch Sophie (Ingrid Thulin), and the perversely cruel heir Martin (Helmut Berger, memorably donning Dietrich-like drag in his breakthrough role) — descend into a self-destructive spiral of decadence, greed, perversion, and all-consuming hatred as they vie for power, over the family business and over one another. The heightened performances and Visconti’s luridly expressionistic use of Technicolor conjure a garish world of decaying opulence in which one family’s downfall comes to stand for the moral rot of a nation. On DVD, Blu-ray, with new 2K digital restoration by the Cineteca di Bologna and Institut Lumière, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
In “Blood Conscious” (2021), starring Oghenero Gbaje, DeShawn White, Lenny Thomas, Lori Hammel and Nick Damici, a vacationing family turns the tables on a mass shooter who claims to be fighting demonic forces. Kevin, his older sister, Brittney, and her fiance, Tony, arrive at their parents’ lakeside cabin expecting a leisurely weekend getaway. But their holiday turns into a trip from hell as they enter the scene of a mass shooting where their parents and neighbors have all been murdered. They pin down the shotgun-wielding murderer and lock him in the cellar, but as darkness falls, Kevin begins to entertain the man’s ravings about possessed campers and demons in the woods. From Dark Sky Films … In “Crazy About You” (2019 — Australia), starring Angus McLaren, Natasha Liu Bordizzo and John Cleese, dumped by his girlfriend and sponsored by media scoundrel Brian King, desolate Jake walks all-but-naked up Western Australia’s coast for charity, in the hope his gesture will win back Jasmine, until he meets mesmerizing backpacker Valerie. From Well Go USA … In “Blithe Spirit” (2020), starring Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, Judi Dench and Leslie Mann, best-selling crime novelist Charles (Stevens) suffers from terrible writer’s block and is struggling to finish his first screenplay. His picture-perfect new wife Ruth (Fisher) is doing her best to keep him focused so they can fulfill her dream of leaving London for Hollywood. Charles’ quest for inspiration leads him to invite the eccentric mystic Madame Acarti (Dench) to perform a seance in his home. He gets more than he bargained for when Madame Acarti inadvertently summons the spirit of his first wife: the brilliant and fiery Elvira (Mann). Based on the play by Noel Coward, which was initially made into a film in 1946 (directed by David Lean and starring Rex Harrison, Constance Cummings, Kay Hammond and Margaret Rutherford) and has been adapated to US and British TV at least five times. On DVD, Blu-ray, from /Shout! Factory … In “First Date” (2021), starring Tyson Brown and Shelby Duclos, Mike, a shy teenager, finally summons the courage to ask out his badass neighbor, Kelsey, only to realize he’s missing a key element for a successful date — the car. Panicked and low on cash, Mike is conned into buying a beat up ‘65 Chrysler based on a shady online ad. His plan to win over Kelsey soon turns into a surreal misadventure when they are inexplicably targeted by a pair of cops, a criminal gang and a vengeful cat lady. A night fueled by desire, bullets and burning rubber makes any other first date seem like a walk in the park. From Magnolia Home Entertainment/Magnet Label … “Twist” (2021), starring Raff Law, Michael Caine, Sophie Simnett and Lena Headey, is inspired by Charles Dickens’s iconic novel “Oliver Twist.” This crime-thriller set in contemporary London follows the journey of Twist (Law), a gifted graffiti artist trying to find his way after the loss of his mother. Lured into a street gang headed by the paternal Fagin (Caine), Twist is attracted to the lifestyle — and to Red (Simnett), an alluring member of Fagin’s crew. But when an art theft goes wrong, Twist’s moral code is tested as he’s caught between Fagin, the police, and a loose-cannon enforcer (Headey). On DVD, Blu-ray + Digital, from Lionsgate.
Screen legends Jeanne Moreau and Jean-Paul Belmondo (who died September 6) star in “Seven Days … Seven Nights (Moderato Cantabile)” (1960 — France), a mesmerizing drama from the brilliant mind of Marguerite Duras (“Hiroshima Mon Amour,” “India Song”). Moreau, who won the award for Best Actress at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival, is Anne Desbarèdes, a wealthy, bored housewife who believes she has witnessed a murder in a quayside bistro. Rushing to the scene of the crime, she strikes up a conversation with Chauvin (Belmondo), an employee of her husband who also saw the crime. The troubled woman continues to return to the café, increasingly identifying herself with the murder victim and becoming obsessed with Chauvin. Director Peter Brook (“Lord of the Flies,” “Marat/Sade”) and cinematographer Armand Thirard (“The Wages of Fear,” “Diabolique”) create repetitive patterns of sound and image that reflect Anne’s frustration with the “moderato cantabile” nature of her life and the absence of true passion that draws her inexorably to the café and Chauvin. On DVD, Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.
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.