From the Big Screen:
“The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” “Widows,” “A Private War,” “The Sisters Brothers” and “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch.” For more information on other releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
This Week’s Best Bets
Directed by Ingmar Bergman, “Shame (Skammen)” (1968) is at once an examination of the violent legacy of World War II and a scathing response to the escalation of the conflict in Vietnam. Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann star as musicians living in quiet retreat on a remote island farm, until the civil war that drove them from the city catches up with them there. Amid the chaos of the military struggle, vividly evoked by pyrotechnics and by cinematographer Sven Nykvist’s handheld camera work, the two are faced with impossible moral choices that tear at the fabric of their relationship. This film, which contains some of the most devastating scenes in Bergman’s oeuvre, shows the impact of war on individual lives. On DVD and Blu-ray, with new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … The cult classic “Double Dragon” (1994), starring Robert Patrick, Scott Wolf, Mark Dacascos, Alyssa Milano and Julia Nickson, based on the video game smash hit, roars to life with amazing special effects, spectacular action sequences, and a knock-about sense of humor. It’s the year 2007, and what remains of LA is now “New Angeles,” a city ravaged by earthquakes, tidal waves and vicious gangs. The evil tycoon Koga Shuko (Patrick) is obsessed with finding the two halves of a talisman known as the “Double Dragon,” which will give him awesome mystical powers. Two teenaged brothers, Jimmy (Dacascos) and Billy Lee (Wolf) find themselves in possession of the amulet’s missing half, thrusting them into the adventure of their lives. In a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo from MVD Rewind Collection.
From TV to Disc:
“The Deuce: The Complete Second Season” (2018) is a three-disc set with all nine episodes. The Second Season continues to trace the evolution and power dynamics of the porn industry in New York’s Times Square neighborhood in the 1970s. Picking up in late 1977, five years after season one, The Deuce’s backroom massage parlors and hotels have exploded into sprawling emporiums, while the New York Mafia’s grip on the porn business is beginning to slip as talent migrates to the West Coast – but for now, the city is flush with movies, music and art. Season 2 also captures the disco era in all its excesses before developers, crack cocaine, AIDS, and videotapes conspire to end the debauched glory of Times Square. On DVD, Blu-ray, from HBO … “40 & Single: Season 1” (2018) features six episodes of the series about a bisexual, mixed race, single bridal fashion designer who maneuvers life and business in post colonial Africa. From Urban Movie Channel/RLJ Entertainment … “Gunsmoke: The Fourteenth Season, Volumes One & Two” (1968-69) is a seven-disc set with 26 digitally remastered episodes. James Arness returns to the Wild West as the legendary Marshal Matt Dillon. Hellbent on serving justice in the Old West, Dillon finds himself going head-to-head with Dodge City’s most dangerous outlaws. Often surrounded by epic gunfights, brawls, cold-blooded murders and bank robbers, Dillon continues his adventures alongside the loyal Doc Adams (Milburn Stone), sexy saloon proprietress Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake) and lovable Deputy Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis). This season, Dodge City is counting on Dillon to bring justice to the badlands and set order in the west. At the untamed edge of civilization, Dillon faces off with remorseless bounty hunters, a vengeful ex-lawman and a 103-year-old horse thief. From CBS/Paramount.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
In “The Cloverfield Paradox” (2018), starring David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Bruhl, Chris O’Dowd, Zhang Ziyi, Aksel Hennie and John Ortiz, orbiting above a planet on the brink of war, scientists test a device to solve an energy crisis and end up face-to-face with a dark alternate reality. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Paramount … In “Fighting the Sky” (2018), starring Angela Cole, Matthew Ward, Nicole Ann Hicks, Alison Headrick, Jinette Faraj and Judith Faraj, strange other-worldly sounds are echoing around the world. A group of researchers, led by expert ufologist Lorraine Gardner, begin an expedition to track down the point of origin from which the sounds emerge. Yet as their journey deepens, they begin to discover more than they bargained for. From High Octane Pictures … In “All the Devil’s Men” (2018), starring Milo Gibson, Sylvia Hoeks and William Fichtner, a team of hardened military operatives go on a relentless manhunt through the backstreets of London. A battle-scarred mercenary in the War on Terror is forced to go on an overseas mission to find a disavowed CIA operative, which turns into a deadly running battle with a former military comrade and his private army. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate … In “Grand-Daddy Day Care” (2019), starring Reno Wilson, Danny Trejo, Barry Bostwick, Linda Gray, Julia Duffy, Garrett Morris, Hal Linden and George Wendt, when Frank Collins (Wilson) suffers from writer’s block, he decides to start a day care for his father-in-law (Trejo) and other seniors as a way to make quick cash, while giving him time to still work on his next book. Eventually getting a small group to care for, Frank soon learns that these are not your typical seniors and they can’t be easily corralled. With a code enforcement officer challenging the legality of his business, and his senior charges getting into all kinds of trouble, Frank’s work days become anything but effortless. From Universal … In “Mermaid Lake of the Dead” (2018 — Russia), starring Viktoriya Agalakova, Efim Petrunin and Sofia Shidlovskaya, some people believe that if you go walking by the lake a night, a mermaid will get you and seduce you with her singing. Once a young woman sent to a tragic and watery grave, she has since become something unholy. Cursed to swim the waters in which she met her untimely death, the mermaid has risen once again. This unspeakable wraithlike creature hungers for love — and has set her hook for the fiancé of a young woman from the town, setting up a desperate battle with pure, undying evil. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Scream Factory … The success of Dario Argento’s “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage” ushered in a host of imitators, seeking to capitalize on this new, modern take on the giallo thriller. Many were highly derivative, but a number nonetheless rose above the crowd thanks to skillful execution and a willingness to experiment stylistically. One such example is “The Fifth Cord” (1971) which, in the hands of director Luigi Bazzoni, turns a conventional premise into a visually stunning exploration of alienation and isolation. When a man barely survives a brutal assault en route home from a New Year’s party, washed-up, whisky-swilling journalist Andrea Bild (Franco Nero) is assigned to report on the case. Before long, the maniac strikes again, this time with fatal results. As the body count rises, Andrea falls under suspicion himself, making it even more imperative that he crack the case. His only clue lies in a series of black gloves found at the location of every attack, each with a finger cut off … Adapted from a novel by David McDonald Devine, “The Fifth Cord” boasts a complex, Agatha Christie-esque plot and outstanding cinematography courtesy of future Oscar-winner Vittorio Storaro.On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … “Poetic Justice” (1993), starring Janet Jackson, Tupac Shakur, Regina King and Joe Torry, makes its Blu-ray debut this week. Jackson and Shakur made their film debuts in director John Singleton’s (“Boyz N the Hood”) street-smart love story. A mismatched pair pushed together for a road trip from South Central L.A. to Oakland, Justice (Jackson) and Lucky (Shakur) have only one thing in common: they can’t stand each other. But as their friends Iesha and Chicago (King and Torry) fight — and make up — in the back of the van, Justice and Lucky find themselves reluctantly drawn together before being confronted once again by the shocking violence they thought they’d left behind. Featuring the music of Naughty by Nature and Tony! Toni! Tone!, and the poetry of Maya Angelou. From Sony … “The Possessed” (1965 — Italy) is a wonderfully atmospheric proto-giallo based on one of Italy’s most notorious crimes, The Alleghe killings, and adapted from the book on that case by acclaimed literary figure Giovanni Comisso. Peter Baldwin stars as Bernard, a depressed novelist who sets off in search of his old flame Tilde (Virna Lisi), a beautiful maid who works at a remote lakeside hotel. Bernard is warmly greeted by the hotel owner Enrico (Salvo Randone) and his daughter Irma (Valentina Cortese), but Tilde has disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Bernard undertakes an investigation and is soon plunged into a disturbing drama of familial secrets, perversion, madness and murder … Co-written by Giulio Questi and co-directed by Luigi Bazzoni, “The Possessed” masterfully combines film noir, mystery and giallo tropes, whilst also drawing on the formal innovations of 1960s art cinema (particularly the films of Michelangelo Antonioni.) A uniquely dreamlike take on true crime, “The Possessed” is presented here in a stunning new restoration. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … In “Higher Learning” (1995), starring Omar Epps, Kristy Swanson, Michael Rapaport, Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube, Busta Rhymes, Jennifer Connelly and Tyra Banks. First-term freshmen get a crash course in diversity, identity and sexuality when people from all different walks of life encounter racial tension, rape, responsibility, and the meaning of an education on a university campus. In a Blu-ray debut from Sony.
On the Indie Front:
In “When It Comes Around” (2018), starring Jackée Harry, Brad James, Shanica Knowles, Denyce Lawton and Chico Benymon, Dexter (James) is a man with all the moves: with the ladies, on the basketball court and in the cutthroat business of sports management. But this player is about to be played. When his company hires a new agent named Jerry and Jerry turns out to be a stunning, competitive woman with moves of her own … Dex will learn a thing or two about relationships and what it feels like to lose. From Urban Movie Channel/RLJ Entertainment … “Electric Love” (2019), starring Mia Serafino, Zachary Mooren, Matt Bush and Victoria Fratz, follows four couples as they traverse modern dating in Los Angeles utilizing popular dating apps like Tinder and Grindr. Emma and Adam swipe right and fall head first into a passionate relationship, ignoring red flags along the way. Greg deals with obstacles in finding a genuine connection on the Grindr scene when a sudden match may have turned his luck around. Director Aaron Fradkin drew from real-life experiences for some of the hilarious bad date stories depicted in the movie. Real-life Grindr stories shared by Grindr users were used to authenticate the feel of the same-sex dating storyline. From Gravitas Ventures.
“Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms” (2018 — Japan) was the winner of Best Animated Film at the Shanghai International Film Festival and awarded Best Film for Fantastic Discovery at Spain’s Sitges Film Festival. Though only 15, Maquia knows she will live for centuries without aging past adolescence. She belongs to the Iorph, a clan of ageless beings just like her. Maquia’s elders warn her not to fall in love with anyone outside their realm, lest she wish to encounter true loneliness in the end. But fate pushes Maquia out into the mortal world one night, when an invading territory separates her from the clan. There she discovers an orphaned baby, Arial, and takes him in as her own child. From this point, Maquia will suffer extreme heartbreak in the name of motherhood, as she watches Arial grow and seeks to reconnect with her lost Iorph friends, all torn apart by the cruel world of Mesate. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Shout! Factory.
For the Family:
In “PJ Masks: Butterfly Brigade” (2019), preschoolers can join the trio of heroes, Catboy, Owlette and Gekko, on their nighttime adventures as they work together to stop the baddies and save the day in six episodes. When Luna Girl pushes her moths aside and steals butterflies to be her new sidekicks, can Catboy learn to make friends with the butterflies and stop her? And Owlette is so amazed by Night Ninja’s new school bus fortress, she forgets all of the reasons why she loves the PJ Masks HQ. From Fox … Set in St. Augustine, Florida, the Dove Foundation approved “Bernie the Dolphin” (2018), starring Lola Sultan, Kevin Sorbo, Patrick Muldoon and Logan Allen, is a family adventure about a brother and sister who befriend a badly sunburned dolphin separated from his family and uncover a secret plan that could destroy the beach and their new friend’s home. The kids must devise a clever plan to stop the bad guys, protect the sea life, and, most importantly, save their new friend, Bernie. From Lionsgate … In “Scooby-Doo! and the Curse of the 13th Ghost” (2019), the Mystery Inc. gang heads to the snowy peaks of the Himalayan mountains to track down a lost chest that contains the spirits of 12 captured ghosts in this all new animated feature. From Warner.
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.