From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bet
The ever-prolific Takashi Miike, the director behind “Audition,” the “Dead or Alive” trilogy and “Blade of the Immortal,” returns with “Terra Formars” (2016 — Japan), an intergalactic epic in which a team of space explorers find themselves pitched against a horde of oversized anthropomorphic cockroaches. In the mid-21st century, humankind has been forced to look to colonizing other planets as a means of combating overcrowding on Earth — their first stop, Mars. With a population of cockroaches having been introduced on Mars some 500 years prior to help prepare the way for human colonization, a manned mission sets out to the red planet with the aim of clearing away the bugs. Upon arrival, however, they discover that the roaches have evolved to huge, vicious creatures capable of wielding weapons. Based on the popular Manga series of the same name, “Terra Formars” is an action-packed space adventure brought to life by one of Japan’s most celebrated contemporary filmmakers. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.
From TV to Disc:
“Archer: Danger Island: The Complete Ninth Season” (2018) is a single-disc with all eight episodes. Get ready for a change of scenery with the semi-functioning alcoholic seaplane pilot, Sterling Archer, a lush on the lush South Pacific island of Mitimotu in 1939. While the rest of the world is concerned about the impending Second World War, Archer is only concerned with who’s buying his next drink. Along with his trusty co-pilot Pam, Archer must navigate quicksand, cannibals, super-intelligent monkeys, poison darts and pirates. From Fox … “The Heart Guy, Series 3” (2018) is a three-disc set with all 10 episodes. This hit Australian dramedy stars Rodger Corser as Hugh Knight, a brilliant but arrogant heart surgeon forced to give up his high-flying job in Sydney to work as a GP in his rural hometown of Whyhope after his personal life spins out of control. In Series 3, Hugh’s probation for his misdeeds is coming to a close, but he has mixed feelings about leaving his budding relationship with hospital boss Penny. Then tragedy rocks the Knights, and Hugh learns he has inherited the family farm — along with $11 million in debt. With his family in chaos and his career on the line, Hugh is faced with a difficult choice: return to his glamorous life in Sydney or stay with the people who need him in Whyhope. From Acorn Media … In HBO’s “My Brilliant Friend” (2018 — Italy), when the most important friend in her life seems to have disappeared without a trace, Elena Greco, a now-elderly woman immersed in a house full of books, turns on her computer and starts writing the story of their friendship. Set in a dangerous and fascinating Naples, their story goes on to cover more than 60 years of their lives as she tries to describe the mystery of Lila, Elena’s brilliant friend and – in a way – both her best friend and her worst enemy … “Rake, Series 5: The Final Season” (2018) is a three-disc set with all eight episodes. The final season of this Australian comic-drama tackles the contentious world of politics, with disbarred lawyer Cleaver Greene (Richard Roxburgh) having won an Australian Senate seat on a campaign promise to do nothing. But even Cleaver’s low expectations fall short of the absurd reality, as he contends with a right-wing nemesis, a noxious gas attack believed to be the work of terrorists, and a disastrous visit from the US defense secretary (Anthony LaPaglia). Can Cleaver outmaneuver his cutthroat colleagues, or will his self-destructive behavior destroy his budding new career? From Acorn Media.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
“The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot” (2019), starring Sam Elliott, Aidan Turner, Ron Livingston, Caitlin FitzGerald, Larry Miller and Ellar Coltrane, follows the epic adventures of an American legend that no one has ever heard of. Since WWII, Calvin Barr (Elliott) has lived with the secret that he was responsible for the assassination of Adolf Hitler. Now, decades later, the US government has called on him again for a new top-secret mission. Bigfoot has been living deep in the Canadian wilderness and is carrying a deadly plague that is now threatening to spread to the general population. Relying on the same skills that he honed during the war, Calvin must set out to save the free world yet again. On DVD, Blu-ray, from RLJE Films … “A Silent Voice” (2016 — Japan), is based on the critically acclaimed manga by Yoshitoki Oima. The anime is a gorgeous film with a powerful message about bullying, depression and forgiveness. When a deaf elementary school girl named Shoko is forced to transfer to a new school after a boy named Shôya constant bullies her, Shôya suffers over the consequences of his guilt for years. Upon entering high school, Shôya finally decides he must find Shoko, to make amends for what he did in elementary school and to become her friend. Along the way, he meets new and old faces, and struggles with many complicated relationships and feelings. Winner of the 40th Japan Academy Award for Excellent Animation of the Year. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Shout! Factory … In “Pet Graveyard” (2019), starring Rita Siddiqui, Andrew Hollingworth and Kate Milner Evans, a group of friends are tormented by the Grim Reaper and his sinister pet after they undergo an experiment that allows them to revisit the dead. From Uncork’d Entertainment … In “Drowning Echo (aka Nereus)” (2019), starring Itziar Martinez, Dennis Mencia and Raul Walder, during a visit to friends, a young woman begins having visions and is attacked by an unearthly creature in her friend’s swimming pool; she soon discovers that anyone who comes into contact with the water is in danger. From High Octane Pictures … The Orwellian sci-fi thriller “The Man With the Magic Box” (2017 — Poland) reverberates with such wildly different influences as Terry Gilliam, Steven Spielberg, Philp K. Dick, Jean-Luc Godard’s “Alphaville” and Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Solaris.” Set in the dystopian future of 2030 Warsaw, a man wakes up without any memory of his previous life and finds an old radio from the 1950s that triggers mysterious visions of another past life. As he tries to piece together his past identity with the help of his beautiful but aloof boss, he runs afoul of a totalitarian government willing to do anything to stop him. A beguiling sci-fi love story that is at turns bleak, absurd, unsettling, and oddly affecting. From Artsploitation Films … In “The Mummy Reborn” (2019), starring Becca Hirani, Tara MacGowran and Rita Siddiqui, a group of teens in financial ruin decide to rob an ancient amulet from a tomb in the local antique store. But what they don’t realize is that this tomb is cursed, and when the amulet is separated from it’s master he’ll do anything to get it back. From High Octane Pictures … “Terror 5” (2016 — Argentina) is playfully based on urban legends and featuring a group of young people all coming face-to-face with their inner demons. First-time directors Sebastian and Federico Rotstein use a local political crisis in Argentina as the backdrop to five stories that unfold to horrific conclusions — Think bondage, torture, zombies…and governmental corruption. While most of the residents of a small Argentinian town attend a funeral procession following a tragic building collapse, the few who do not will face terrors of their own. Hernán and Gabriela are going to a motel without realizing that inside the room, behind the mirror, there is something waiting for them. Lucio and Paulo have a plan to swap girlfriends without realizing what will really happen. A group of friends are watching a snuff movie ignoring that the real terror is sitting next to them. Juan attends a date with Sonia thinking he is going to get laid, when he realizes that she has bigger plans for him. As their primal urges distract them all, local officials are judged innocent of the neglect that caused the building collapse — and then the horror really begins. From Artsploitation Films.
On the Indie Front:
“No Alternative” (2018), starring Harry Hamlin, Kathryn Erbe, Michaela Cavazos, Conor Proft, Chloe Levine and Aria Shahghasemi, is a teen drama that drills a hole into the world of suburban American teenagers in the early 90s and is set against a backdrop steeped in grunge and punk rock music. Thomas Harrison is determined to start his own grunge band, an obsession that blinds him to what’s either the mental collapse, or eruption of musical genius, of his younger sister, Bridget. Bridget boldly rejects her brother’s music, and the music of an entire generation of slackers, by taking on the persona of a gangsta’ rapper named “Bri Da B.” On DVD, Blu-ray, from Gravitas Ventures … In “Virgina Minnesota” (2019), starring Aurora Perrineau, Rachel Hendrix, Susan Walters, Jessica Miesel and Harold Perrineau, two young women, torn apart by a childhood tragedy, unexpectedly reunite and embark on an illuminating 24-hour journey, where they unlock memories of long-forgotten innocence and what it means to truly believe. From IndiCan Pictures.
For the Family:
In “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase” (2019), starring Sophia Lillis, Sam Trammell and Linda Lavin, the iconic mystery solving teenager from the classic Nancy Drew books is back with an all-new feature length film. After the death of his wife, Carson Drew decides to leave Chicago behind and make a fresh start with his daughter in River Heights. But for 16-year-old Nancy Drew, life in a small town is mighty dull … until she’s asked to help solve the ghostly activity at the Twin Elms mansion. Can she help explain the creaking footsteps, exploding lightbulbs and the ominous creature? Is it the handiwork of high-school bully Derek Barnes? Or is it possible that the ghost of original owner is back for revenge? On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Warner.
“Hal” (2018): Although Hal Ashby directed a remarkable string of acclaimed, widely admired classics throughout the 1970s — “Harold and Maude,” “The Last Detail,” “Shampoo,” “Coming Home,” “Being There” — he is often overlooked amid the crowd of luminaries from his generation. Director Amy Scott’s exuberant portrait explores that curious oversight, using rare archival materials, interviews, personal letters, and audio recordings to reveal a passionate, obsessive artist. Ashby was a Hollywood director who constantly clashed with Hollywood, but also a unique soul with an unprecedented insight into the human condition and an unmatched capacity for good. His films were an elusive blend of honesty, irreverence, humor, and humanity. Through the heartrending and inspiring HAL, you feel buoyed by Ashby’s love of people and of cinema… a little like walking on water. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Oscilloscope Laboratories … Famed director and movie historian Peter Bogdanovich’s acclaimed new film, “The Great Buster: A Celebration” (2018), is an award-winning portrait of one of silent cinema’s greatest artists, Buster Keaton. Celebrates the life and career of one of America’s most influential and celebrated filmmakers and comedians, Buster Keaton, whose singular style and fertile output during the silent era secured his legacy as a true cinematic visionary. Chronicles Buster Keaton’s life and career, from his beginnings on the vaudeville circuit through the development of his trademark physical comedy and deadpan expression that earned him the lifelong moniker “The Great Stone Face,” all of which led to his career-high years as the director, writer, producer and star of his own short films and features. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Cohen Film Collection … “Nazi Junkies” (2019): Inspired by Norman Ohler’s revelatory international best-seller, “Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich,” this compelling two-part documentary series reveals how both Hitler and Nazi Germany were heavily addicted to drugs throughout World War II. Through recently unearthed journals of Hitler’s personal doctor, as well as archival documents and interviews with historians, scientists and WWII experts, “Nazi Junkies” unveils the depths of German addiction in surprising fashion. From Omnibus Entertainment … “Jihadists” (2016 — France): Banned in France (released as “Salfistes”), “Jihadists” goes deep into the heart of the Salafi movement, to reveal the inner workings of extremist Islam. A pair of Western filmmakers were granted unparalleled access to fundamentalist clerics of Sunni Islam who proselytize for a purer form of Islam — including jihad of the sword — in Mali, Tunisia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Their theoretical interpretations are juxtaposed against images and footage from recruitment videos to show the hard-line application of sharia law. Without experts contextualizing these events, the film, which inspired the Oscar-nominated feature, “Timbuktu,” paints a stark portrait of everyday life under jihadi rule. An earlier version of the film was released in the days following the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, where it was mistakenly interpreted as an empathetic portrayal of jihadism. From Cinema Libre Studio.
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.