"The movie business is macabre. Grotesque.
It is a combination of a football game
and a brothel."
-- Federico Fellini
Feb 032020

From the Big Screen:

“The Good Liar,” “Playing With Fire,” “Last Christmas” and “Doctor Sleep.” For more information on other releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.

Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:

“Arctic Dogs” (2019) follows the misadventures of Swifty the Arctic Fox, who stumbles upon a dark scheme by the villainous Otto Von Walrus to melt the Arctic. To stop this sinister plot, Swifty enlists the help of his ragtag group of friends: PB, a neurotic polar bear; Lemmy, a scatterbrained albatross; Jade Fox, a brainy engineer; Leopold and Bertha, two conspiracy theorist otters; and Magda, his grouchy boss. Stars the voices of Jeremy Renner, Heidi Klum, Alec Baldwin, John Cleese, James Franco, Anjelica Huston. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Lionsgate … In “Trauma Center” (2019), starring Bruce Willis, Nicky Whelan, Tito Ortiz, Texas Battle and Steve Guttenberg, Willis plays Lt. Wakes, a vengeful police detective determined to solve the murders of his partner and an informant. Wakes joins forces with photo for Rabid Madison (Whelan), a witness injured during the shootings, after the killers pursue her across the abandoned floor of a hospital and confirm Wakes’s worst fears: the two men are actually corrupt vice cops covering up a crime. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate … “Rabid” (2019) is the Soska Sisters’ (“Vendetta,” “See No Evil 2”) new take on David Cronenberg’s classic. Demure and unassuming fashion designer Sarah (Laura Vandervoort), horribly disfigured after a grisly collision, agrees to undergo an untested procedure involving stem cells to restore her damaged face. This miracle cure causes her to recover beyond her wildest imagination: Sarah now looks as beautiful as the models she works with. But as her confidence – and her sexual appetite – grows, it comes with a price: Sarah is now the carrier of a contagion that causes her lovers to become violent spreaders of death. As the disease spirals out of control, time is running out from Scream Factory … Welcome to the future in “Atomic Apocalypse (AKA Black Flowers)” (2019) – two years from now after the nuclear apocalypse that changed life as we know it. Without gasoline, electricity, or communications, humanity is devolving into a barbarous society of hunting and pillaging. In this hellish landscape, one family fights for survival. Superhero Mother, Kate (Krista DeMille) loses her injured survivalist husband Sam (Ron Roggé) and lovestruck daughter Suzi (Andrea Sweeney-Blanco) in a matter of days after they join handsome loner Joe (Jesús Lloveras) in search of a rumored hidden nuclear bunker full of food and medicine. Suddenly alone, lost in the chemical clouds and pursued by murderous scavengers, Kate fights to stay alive and reunite with her family. From High Octane Pictures … In “Dragonheart: Vengeance” (2019), starring Joseph Millson, Jack Kane and Helena Bonham Carter, Lukas, a young farmer whose family is killed by savage raiders in the countryside, sets out on a quest for revenge, forming an unlikely trio with a majestic dragon and a swashbuckling, sword-fighting mercenary, Darius. Helena Bonham Carter voices Siveth, the ice photo for Donten: Laughing Under the Clouds - Gaiden: Three Film Collection breathing dragon who was once banished from the kingdom for failing to save the king’s life. Compelled by the young man’s cause, she emerges from hiding, using her fantastical powers on the trio’s adventurous journey which brings revelations and rewards beyond vengeance. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Universal … “Donten: Laughing Under the Clouds – Gaiden: Three Film Collection” (2017 – Japan) is a three-film collection that includes “Laughing Under the Clouds” films “One Year After the Battle,” “The Tragedy of Fuuma Ninja Tribe,” and “Conspiracy of the Military,” and contains the original Japanese audio and a new English dub. Directed by Tetsuya Wakano (“Pokémon Generations”) and from the celebrated Wit Studio (“Attack on Titan”), “Donten: Laughing Under the Clouds – Gaiden” is based on the supernatural manga series by Karakara-Kemuri and was previously adapted into an anime television series. It’s been a year since brothers and shrine guardians, Tenka, Soramaru, and Chutaro, have defeated the legendary giant snake that threatened to destroy humanity. However, their lives are thrown into upheaval when they discover a plot to revive the evil serpent. In a Blu-ray/DVD combo from Eleven Arts Anime Studio/Shout! Factory … In “Mon Mon Mon Monsters” (2017 — Taiwan), staring Eugenie Liu, Pei-Hsin Lin, Carolyn Chen, Yu-Kai Deng, Kent Tsai, a group of classmates doing community service discover two flesh-eating creatures hiding in an old building. One of the creatures is able to escape, but they capture the other one, torturing her while trying to learn what she really is. It soon becomes clear that the first creature’s escape has dire consequences, as she hunts them down and stops at nothing to free her sister. On DVD, Blu-ray, from RLJE Films … The drama “Waves” (2019), starring Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell, Alexa Demie and Renée Elise Goldsberry, is set against the vibrant landscape of South Florida, and traces the emotional journey of a suburban African-American family — led by a well-intentioned but domineering father — as they navigate love, forgiveness, and coming together in the aftermath of a loss. A heartrending story about the universal capacity for compassion and growth even in the darkest of times. On DVD, Blu-ray, from A24 … photo for Brain Damage From Frank Henenlotter, the man behind such cult horror favorites as “Basket Case” and “Frankenhooker,” comes the ultimate head-trip, “Brain Damage” (1988), now finally on Blu-ray. Meet Elmer. He’s your friendly neighborhood parasite with the ability to induce euphoric hallucinations in his hosts. But these LSD-like trips come with a hefty price tag: when young Brian comes under Elmer’s addictive spell, it’s not long before he finds himself scouring the city streets in search of his parasite friend’s preferred food source – brains! Featuring late TV horror host John Zacherle as the voice of Elmer, “Brain Damage” boasts some of the most astonishingly bad taste gore gags ever realized, including the notorious “brain-pulling sequence” and a blow-job that ends with a distinctly unconventional climax. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … When ex pro wrestler Buck Severs travels to an abandoned wildlife preserve with his friends for “Bro’s Weekend,” they become the targets of a deadly manhunt and Buck must find the fighter in himself before it’s too late in “100 Acres of Hell” (2019), starring Gene Snisky, Jeff Swanton and Jim Roof. From Indiecan Pictures … In “Train Ride” (2000), starring Russell Hornsby, M. C. Lyte, Wood Harris and Esther Rolle, photo for Evil Ed three college seniors who are thinking about nothing but graduation and going out with a bang from college harshly discover that a culmination of four years of hard work can lead to a permanent road to perdition after they decide to experiment with the knockout “date rape” drug on a vulnerable, impressionable, and very attractive freshman girl. Events quickly spiral out of control in a roller-coaster of unpredictable, virulent events. 20th anniversary edition. From Breaking Glass Pictures … A blood-soaked love letter to the splatter films of the 80s, video rental favorite “Evil Ed” (1995) returns in an extended “Special ED-ition” cut alongside hours of stomach-churning bonus features. Mild-mannered film technician Edward enjoys his job. That is, until he finds himself transferred from his regular post to the “Splatter and Gore department,” where he’s forced to edit hours upon hours of grisly video nasty footage. Traumatised by the onscreen violence, Ed starts to lose his grip on reality – with ghastly (and bloody) consequences. Owing a debt to such films as “The Evil Dead,” “Re-Animator” and the early splatter classics of Peter Jackson, “Evil Ed” is a special FX fiend’s dream – offering up a veritable smorgasbord of flying limbs, exploding heads and creepy creatures. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.

From TV to Disc:

“MASTERPIECE: Howards End” (2017), written by Kenneth Lonergan (“Manchester by the Sea”, “Gangs of New York”), is a four episode adaptation of E.M. Forster’s “Howards End.” Starring Matthew Macfadyen as Henry Wilcox, Philippa Coulthard as Helen Schlegel, Julia Ormond as Mrs. Wilcox, Hayley Atwell as Margaret Schlegel and Tracey Ullman as Aunt Juley, this is a fresh take on the story of two independent and unconventional sisters and the men in their lives seeking love and meaning as they navigate an ever-changing world. From PBS Distribution … “MASTERPIECE: Sanditon” (2019) is a two-disc set. Andrew Davies has given Jane Austen fans what they have been waiting over a century for … the completion of Austen’s last piece of work, unfinished due to her death in 1817. Now Davies (“Pride and Prejudice,” “Les Misérables”) takes the first 11 beautifully crafted chapters of the final Austen masterpiece and creates an epic drama for all to enjoy. The lavish adaptation stars Rose Williams as Austen’s lively, but levelheaded heroine Charlotte Heywood and Theo James as the humorous, charming (and slightly wild!) Sidney Parker. On DVD, Blu-ray, from PBS Distribution.

On the Indie Front:

“High Strung Free Dance” (2019) is the sequel to Michael Damian’s dance hit “High Strung.” Zander Raines, a dazzling young choreographer, gives the break of a lifetime to two hopeful artists when he casts a stunning contemporary dancer, Barlow, and innovative pianist Charlie, in New York’s most-anticipated new Broadway show: “Free Dance.” But the move throws off the show’s delicate creative balance when Charlie falls hard for Barlow while Zander embraces her as his muse. The emotions run hot igniting a rollercoaster of impassioned rivalry, romance and determination. On DVD, Blu-ray, from GVN Releasing.

Foreign Films:

“The House That Jack Built Director’s Cut” (2018 — Denmark), directed by Lars Von Trier and starring Matt Dillon, Uma Thurman, Riley Keough and Bruno Ganz, is a thoughtful, honest onscreen meditation on morality and personal culpability. In five audacious episodes, failed architect and arch-sociopath Jack (Dillon) recounts the elaborately orchestrated murders — each, as he views them, as a towering work of art — that define his “career” as a serial photo for The House That Jack Built Director's Cut killer. Mixing pitch-black humor, transcendent surrealism, and renegade musings on everything from history to architecture to cinema itself, von Trier fashions a radical, blazingly personal inquiry into violence, art, and the twin acts of creation and destruction. Two-disc set with both the theatrical cut and director’s cut of the film. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Scream Factory … From Light Chaser Animation, one of China’s premiere animation studios, comes “White Snake” (2019 — China), a film with beautiful animation, lush scenes and stunning visuals. One day a young woman named Blanca is saved by Xuan, a snake catcher from a nearby village. She has lost her memory, and together they go on a journey to discover her real identity, developing deeper feelings for one another along the way. But as they learn more about her past, they uncover a darker plot of supernatural forces vying for power, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from GKIDS/Shout! Factory.

Special Interest:

In “Serendipity” (2019), a renowned artist, forced to confront her own mortality, turns the exploration of her health crisis into a unique cinematic work. Multimedia French artist Prune Nourry’s profoundly moving study stemming from her own breast cancer diagnosis. Nourry has gained international recognition for her thought-provoking, educational and often humorous projects exploring bioethics through sculpture, video, photography and performance – with her prime focus on women’s bodies, fertility and gender explorations. But at the young age of 31, a cancer diagnosis turned Prune’s world upside down – and forced her to turn her penetrating artist’s eye on herself. She started documenting her treatment and its effect on her own body, turning her medical odyssey into a disarmingly intimate artistic undertaking that leads her to find new meaning in her work and its serendipitous relationship to her own survival. The impassioned film – Nourry’s first feature as director – embodies the artist’s belief that everything is connected, coincidence is an illusion, and “the essentials to life really are health, love and art.” Features one of the final screen appearances by the late renowned French director Agnes Varda. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Cohen Media Group … photo for What You Gonna Do When the World's on Fire In
“What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire” (2018), Roberto Minervini, an Italian filmmaker and academic long based in Texas, takes an intimate look at African Americans in Louisiana and Mississippi: struggling female business owners facing gentrification in a post-Katrina New Orleans, single mothers trying to keep their young black sons safe, New Black Panther Party members protesting the latest wrongful death. The documentary is an intimate portrait of the lives of those who struggle for justice, dignity, and survival in an increasingly hostile country. From KimStim Films … On the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death, with guidance from historian Walter Isaacson, “NOVA: Decoding da Vinci” (2019) pulls back the curtain to investigate what led to da Vinci’s ahead-of-his-time legendary successes. The program examines how Leonardo’s scientific studies, from dissecting humans to studying optics, led to a host of brilliant inventions, like hang gliders, armored tanks, parachutes and many others. “Decoding da Vinci” further explains how this deep scientific curiosity was behind the most captivating work of art in history, The Mona Lisa. Viewers now have the chance to delve deep into Leonardo da Vinci’s Renaissance genius. From PBS Distribution.

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.

 Posted by on February 3, 2020  Add comments

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