From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets:
Elegantly directed by Hollywood veteran Roy William Neill (best known for his 11 Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone), “Black Angel” (1946) is an underappreciated film noir treasure, adapted from a novel by the acclaimed crime writer Cornell Woolrich (“Phantom Lady”). When the beautiful singer Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling) is slain in her chic apartment, the men in her life become suspects. There is Martin Blair (Dan Duryea), her alcoholic musician ex- husband, nursing a broken heart; there is the shady nightclub owner Marko (Peter Lorre) who has been sneaking around her place, and there is Kirk Bennett (John Phillips), the adulterer who found his mistress’s dead body and fled the scene. When Bennett is convicted and sentenced to death, his long-suffering wife Catherine (June Vincent) joins forces with the heartbroken pianist Martin Blair to uncover the truth. “Black Angel” is a consummate 1940s crime thriller which boats a suspenseful narrative, strong performances and atmospheric, meticulously lit cinematography. Brand new restoration from original film elements by Arrow Films. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment … “Fail Safe” (1964) is an unnerving procedural thriller that painstakingly details an all-too-plausible nightmare scenario in which a mechanical failure jams the United States military’s chain of command and sends the country hurtling toward nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Working from a contemporary best seller, screenwriter Walter Bernstein and director Sidney Lumet wrench harrowing suspense from the doomsday fears of the Cold War era, making the most of a modest budget and limited sets to create an atmosphere of clammy claustrophobia and astronomically high stakes. Starring Henry Fonda as a coolheaded U.S. president and Walter Matthau as a trigger-happy political theorist, “Fail Safe” is a long-underappreciated alarm bell of a film, sounding an urgent warning about the deadly logic of mutually assured destruction. On DVD, Blu-ray, from The Criterion Collection … “All About My Mother” (1999) is an Oscar-winning melodrama, one of Pedro Almodóvar’s most beloved films, that provides a dizzying, moving exploration of the meaning of motherhood. In an instant, nurse Manuela (Cecilia Roth) loses the teenage son she raised on her own. Grief-stricken, she sets out to search for the boy’s long-lost father in Barcelona, where she reawakens into a new maternal role, at the head of a surrogate family that includes a pregnant, HIV-positive nun (Penélope Cruz); an illustrious star of the stage (Marisa Paredes); and a transgender sex worker (Antonia San Juan). Beautifully performed and bursting with cinematic references, “All About My Mother” is a vibrant tribute to female fortitude, a one-of-a-kind family portrait, and a work of boundless compassion. On DVD, Blu-ray, from The Criterion Collection.
From TV to Disc:
“Ballers: The Complete Fifth Season” (2019) is a two-disc set with all eight episodes. Spencer (Dwayne Johnson) is settling into retirement and reflecting on his past when an offer that’s too good to refuse comes his way and sends him back into the lion’s den, this time as a team owner. From Warner … “My Life Is Murder” (2019) is a three-disc set with all 10 episodes of this compelling new contemporary Australian detective mystery series starring award-winning actress Lucy Lawless as Alexa Crowe, a fearless private investigator and ex-homicide detective who can’t help fighting the good fight — whether it’s solving murders or combating the small frustrations of everyday life. Fearless and unapologetic, Alexa’s unique skills — and insights into the darker quirks of human nature allow her to provoke, comfort and push the right buttons as she unravels the truth behind the most baffling crimes. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Acorn Media … “Roswell, New Mexico: The Complete First Season” (2019) is a three-disc set with all 13 episodes. After a decade away from home, Liz Ortecho returns to her native Roswell to care for her ailing father. When she arrives, she reconnects with her high school crush Max Evans who is now a police officer. Their chemistry is electric, but Liz soon learns something shocking: Max and his sister, Isobel, and friend Michael are aliens who have kept their abilities secret their entire lives. But concealing the visitors’ true identities is more important than ever, as a long-standing government conspiracy and the politics of fear and hatred threaten their lives. Based on the Roswell High book series. From Warner.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
“The Siren” (2019), starring Evan Dumouchel, MacLeod Andrews and Margaret Ying Drake, is an enthralling, seductive and creepy supernatural tale about cursed star-crossed lovers. Tom (Dumouchel) is a mute man from a sheltered, religious background who is haunted by the childhood accident that cost him his voice. While on a retreat at a lake house, he meets Al (Andrews), whose husband drowned in the lake — one of many mysterious deaths. The area is marked by a local legend of a lovelorn spirit who haunts the surrounding woods and drowns anyone she encounters. The legend proves all too real when Tom encounters the beautiful creature, the seemingly human Nina (Drake), who must battle to repress her demonic instincts when she feels the same toward him. Meanwhile, Al, possessed by vengeance, circles the pair, getting ever closer to tracking down the monster that destroyed his happy marriage. From Dark Sky Films … In the post-apocalyptic action thriller “Dead Earth” (2019), starring Milena Gorum, Alice Tantayanon and Michael New, two young women cling to life in an abandoned resort. They must survive in silence, in mortal fear of attracting the hordes of undead that roam the Earth. When their compound runs out of fuel, they are forced into the countryside to find gas, resulting in a nightmarish encounter with survivors. But that is nothing compared to the horrors that await them back at home, leading to a deadly confrontation with the evil that surrounds them. From Lionsgate … In “Beloved Beast” (2018), 12-year-old Nina loses her parents in a car accident and is forced to live with her unstable Aunt Erma. Except her aunt dabbles with drugs, partying and every other thing an aunt shouldn’t do. When Nina meets a stranger in the woods, instead of running, she brings him home. Not realizing that the man she has brought home is an escaped mental patient with a penchant for murder. From Indican Pictures … “Body Parts” (1991), starring Jeff Fahey, Lindsay Duncan and Kim Delaney, is a tale of a medical experiment gone very wrong. Bill Chrushank is a criminal psychologist who loses his arm and nearly his life in a grisly car accident. A daring medical operation follows, in which a donor’s arm is successfully grafted onto Bill’s body. But after the operation, the arm starts to take on a violent life of its own, striking out against Bill’s wife and children. Consumed by fears about his dangerous behavior, Bill is driven to learn the donor’s identity – and makes a horrifying discovery that delivers him into a world of unimaginable terror. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory … From cult Spanish filmmaker José Ramón Larraz (“Vampyres,” “Symptoms”) comes the long-neglected late 80s slasher classic “Edge of the Axe” (1988), finally unleashed on Blu-ray for the first time. The rural community of Paddock County is being rocked by the crazed exploits of an axe-wielding psychopath, who stalks the night in a black trenchcoat and mask. As the victims pile up, the authorities attempt to keep a lid on the situation, while computer whizz-kid Gerald and girlfriend Lillian seek to unmask the killer before the town population reaches zero. Nominally set in Northern California but shot primarily in Madrid, giving the film an off-kilter, American/European atmosphere akin to the likes of “Pieces,” “Edge of the Axe” is a late entry hack-and-slash masterpiece from one of the titans of Spanish terror. New 2K restoration from the original camera negative. From Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … In “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” (1971), starring Zohra Lampert, Barton Heyman and Kevin O’Connor, Jessica (Lampert) has been released from an institution after suffering a nervous breakdown and seeks the tranquility of a secluded home in Connecticut to help make her recovery complete. But instead of a restful recuperation with her husband and close friend in the New England countryside, Jessica soon finds herself falling into a swirling vortex of madness and the supernatural. Even more unsettling is that the entire region seems to be under the influence of a mysterious woman who has been living in the supposedly empty house. Jessica’s fear and dread only intensify when she discovers that the “undead” girl, Emily, tragically drowned long ago, on her wedding day. Is she back to take vengeance? On Blu-ray from Scream Factory … In “Very Bad Things” (1998), staring Jon Favreau, Cameron Diaz, Christian Slater, Jeremy Piven, Daniel Stern and Jeanne Tripplehorn, Kyle Fisher (Favreau) has one last night to celebrate life as a single man before marrying Laura (Diaz), so he sets out to Vegas with four of his best buddies. But their swanky, drug-and-alcohol-fueled bachelor party goes bust when their “stripper” cashes in her chips during a deranged sexual escapade. And hers is just the first of the bodies to pile up. The five friends decide to bury the evidence … but fate has a way of not letting the truth stay buried for long.On Blu-ray from Shout! Select.
On the Indie Front:
“My Name Is Myeisha” (2009), starring Rhaechyl Walker, John Merchant, Dee Dee Stephens, Dominique Toney, Alexander Brown-Hinds and Kate O’Toole, chronicles the life of a young black woman in California’s Inland Empire. Set in 1998, Myeisha Jackson (screen newcomer Rhaechyl Walker) vividly recounts the events of her life leading to a fateful encounter with local police. Based on the internationally acclaimed, NAACP-award-winning stageplay “Dreamscape” by Rickerby Hinds. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Shout! Studios … “Gregory’s Girl” (1980), starring John Gordon Sinclair, Dee Hepburn, Allison Forster and Jake D’Arcy, is a quirky comedy and sleeper hit from “Local Hero” director Bill Forsyth. Following an eight-game losing streak, a desperate (and sexist) Glasgow school soccer team coach reluctantly accepts hotshot female player Dorothy (Hepburn). Although demoted to goalie, teenage knucklehead Gregory (Sinclair), falls hard for his new teammate. Prodded by the advice of his smart-mouthed 10-year-old sister, Madeline, (Forster), he does make his move, but there are behind-the-scenes feminine conspiracies en route. Making its Blu-ray debut from Film Movement Classics … In “Give Me Liberty” (2019), starring Chris Galust, Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, Max Stoianov, Steve Wolski, Michelle Caspar, Darya Ekamasova and Ben Derfel, medical transport driver Vic (Galust) is late, but it’s not his fault. Roads are closed for a protest, and no one else can shuttle his Russian grandfather, émigré friends, and a burly Russian boxer to a funeral. The new route uproots his scheduled clients, particularly Tracy, a vibrant young woman with ALS. As the day goes from hectic to off-the-rails, their collective ride becomes a hilarious, compassionate, and intersectional portrait of American dreams. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Music Box Films … In “The Merger” (2019 — Australia), starring Damian Callinan, Kate Mulvany, Raffety Grierson, John Howard and Angus McLaren, Bodgy Creek is a struggling town. The drought won’t let up, jobs are scarce after the mill was shut down, and the footy team looks like it will have to merge with another club or fold. Living a hermit-like existence on the town’s fringe, former football star turned ‘Town Killer’ Troy Carrington (Callinan), is coaxed into rescuing the team after striking up an unlikely friendship with young Neil (Grierson) who is struggling with the recent loss of his father. Teaming up with Neil’s mother, Angie (Mulvany) who runs a nearby refugee support center, they unite to recruit the new arrivals to save the team and take the community on a journey of change. From IndiePix Films.
“Battle of Jangsari” (2019 — South Korea), starring Kim Myung-min, Choi Min-ho and Megan Fox, is a depiction of the Battle of Incheon during the Korean War in 1950, focusing on the engrossing true story of a group of 772 student soldiers who staged a small diversionary operation at Jangsari beach to draw away North Korean attention from Incheon. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Well Go USA … “Sequestrada” (2019 — Brazil/US), starring Sam Lilja, Tim Blake Nelson, Gretchen Mol, Marcelo Olinto and Kamodjara Xipaia, is an environmental thriller in which American investors try to build an illegal dam in the Amazon. Thomas (Nelson) must travel to Brazil to help persuade an indigenous agency bureaucrat overseeing the project. But when a young indigenous girl is kidnapped and forced into prostitution, Thomas is entangled in a tug-of-war with the indigenous people the dam would displace. From Strand Releasing.
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.