This Week’s Best Bets:
“Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, 1954-1975”: The Criterion Collection celebrates the arrival of spine number 1000, a Blu-ray collector’s set fit for the granddaddy of all movie monsters. This landmark edition gathers for the first time all the Godzilla films from Japan’s Showa era: 15 kaiju rampages, presented in high-definition digital transfers and accompanied by a slew of supplemental material, including a giant deluxe hardcover book with notes on each film and new illustrations from sixteen artists, new and archival interviews with cast and crew members, and much, much more. In 1954, an enormous beast clawed its way out of the sea, destroying everything in its path — and changing movies forever. The arresting original “Godzilla” soon gave rise to an entire monster-movie genre (kaiju eiga), but the King of the Monsters continued to reign supreme: in 14 fiercely entertaining sequels over the next two decades, Godzilla defended its throne against a host of other formidable creatures, transforming from a terrifying symbol of nuclear annihilation into a benevolent (if still belligerent) Earth protector. Collected here for the first time are all 15 Godzilla films of Japan’s Showa era, in a landmark set showcasing the technical wizardry, fantastical storytelling, and indomitable international appeal that established the most iconic giant monster the cinema has ever seen. Eight Blu-ray discs for $224.95. More information, and a list of bonus features, can be found here. … Written and directed by John Sayles, the wrenching historical drama “Matewan” (1987) recounts the true story of a West Virginia coal town where the local miners’ struggle to form a union rose to the pitch of all-out war in 1920. When the town of Matewan’s miners go on strike, organizer Joe Kenehan (Chris Cooper, in his screen debut) arrives to help them, uniting workers white and black, Appalachia-born and immigrant, while urging patience in the face of the coal company’s violent provocations. With a crackerjack ensemble cast-including James Earl Jones, David Strathairn, Mary McDonnell, and Will Oldham — and Oscar-nominated cinematography by Haskell Wexler, “Matewan” taps into a rich vein of Americana with painstaking attention to local texture, issuing an impassioned cry for justice that still resounds today. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc with new 4K digital restoration, supervised by director John Sayles, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … One of the greatest directors of the 1980s, John Landis (“The Blues Brothers,” “Trading Places”), expertly combines macabre horror with dark humor in the lycanthropic classic “An American Werewolf In London” (1981). American tourists David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are savaged by an unidentified vicious animal while hiking on the Yorkshire Moors. David awakes in a London hospital to find his friend dead and his life in disarray. Retiring to the home of a beautiful nurse (Jenny Agutter) to recuperate, he soon experiences disturbing changes to his mind and body, undergoing a full-moon transformation that will unleash terror on the streets of the capital. “An American Werewolf in London” had audiences howling with laughter and recoiling in terror upon its cinema release. Landis’ film has gone on to become one of the most important horror films of its decade, rightly lauded for its masterful set-pieces, uniquely unsettling atmosphere and Rick Bakers’ truly ground-breaking, Oscar-winning special makeup effects. New 2018 4K restoration from the original camera negative supervised by John Landis. In a limited edition Blu-ray with a double-sided fold-out poster, six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions, and a 60-page booklet featuring new writing by Travis Crawford and Simon Ward, archival articles and original reviews. From Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … One screen legend pays homage to another in “Man of a Thousand Faces” (1957, an enthralling biopic that sees Oscar-winning tough guy James Cagney give a multifaceted portrayal of silent cinema legend Lon Chaney. In early horror classics such as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “The Phantom of the Opera,” Lon Chaney captivated audiences with his vivid personifications of grotesque and afflicted characters. His extraordinary make-up skills, and miraculous ability to completely transform into grisly yet sympathetic and tragic monsters, garnered him international acclaim and the famous moniker of this film’s title. Yet, despite his talent and success, Chaney led a life plagued by hardship and heartache. This insightful film-portrait traces the trajectory of the actor’s career: from impoverished vaudeville clown to Hollywood stardom, while also capturing the drama that surrounded his private life. Presented here for the first time in High Definition from the original negative. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment … In 1998, director Hideo Nakata unleashed a chilling tale of technological terror on unsuspecting audiences with “Ringu” (1998 — Japan), a film that redefined the horror genre, launched the J-horror boom in the West and introduced a generation of moviegoers to a creepy, dark-haired girl called Sadako. The film’s success spawned a slew of remakes, reimaginations and imitators, but none could quite boast the power of Nakata’s original masterpiece, which melded traditional Japanese folklore with contemporary anxieties about the spread of technology. A group of teenage friends are found dead, their bodies grotesquely contorted, their faces twisted in terror. Reiko (Nanako Matsushima), a journalist and the aunt of one of the victims, sets out to investigate the shocking phenomenon, and in the process uncovers a creepy urban legend about a supposedly cursed videotape, the contents of which causes anyone who views it to die within a week — unless they can persuade someone else to watch it, and, in so doing, pass on the curse. Brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative, approved by director of photography Junichiro Hayashi. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … Also from Arrow is the “Ringu Collection [Limited Edition]” with the genre-defining trilogy: “Ringu” (1998), the film that started it all, plus Hideo Nakata’s chilling sequel, “Ringu 2” (1999) and the haunting origin story, “Ringu 0” (2000) as well as the “lost” original sequel, George Iida’s “Spiral” (1998). Brand New 4K restoration of “Ringu” from the original camera negative, approved by director of photography Junichiro Hayashi. On Blu-ray … From the great Luis Buñuel comes “Susana” (1951 — Mexico), made during his years in exile in Mexico. Set on a gorgeous Mexican farming estate, “Susana” reveals how quickly the moral conventions of society can shatter. The titular Susana, armed with nothing more than her sensuality, pushes a family to the brink of collapse. She escapes from a reformatory and finds her way to the estate presided over by the kind Don Guadalupe, his loving, devout wife Doña Carmen, and their intelligent son Alberto. Before a full day has passed Susana begins to seduce Don Guadalupe, Alberto, and ranch hand Jesús, drawing them in with an innocent façade that conceals her ingenious schemes. “Susana” highlights the fragility of the bourgeoisie family and the hypocrisy of the seemingly honorable characters. With only the slightest temptation from a beautiful woman, even the most upstanding characters toss aside the constraints of morality. In Susana, Buñuel reveals both the power of female sexuality and the inability of society to contain it. From Facets.
From TV to Disc:
“A Discovery of Witches” (2018) is a two-disc set with all eight episodes. The supernatural thriller and Sundance Now/Shudder Original Series based on the critically acclaimed and bestselling “All Souls” trilogy by Deborah Harkness is a modern-day love story, set in a world where witches, vampires and demons secretly live and work alongside humans, hidden in plain sight. Brilliant historian Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer) is a witch denying her own heritage. But when she unexpectedly calls up an ancient, bewitched manuscript from Oxford’s Bodleian library, she finds herself thrown into the heart of a dangerous mystery – and into the path of the enigmatic geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode). Their unlikely alliance to find the book before it falls into the wrong hands – and their deepening relationship – threatens to violate age-old taboos and shake the fragile peace that exists between the species. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Acorn Media … “Queens of Mystery” (2019) is a three-disc set with ix episodes of the contemporary mystery series that follows the adventures of three crime-writing sisters and their niece, Detective Sergeant Mattie Stone. Using their knowledge of crime — both real world and fictional — together they solve murders in the picturesque English region of Wildemarsh. But no matter how many cases they’re able to crack, the unsolved mystery that still haunts the Stone family is that of Mattie’s mother’s disappearance 25 years ago. From Acorn Media.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
In “10 Minutes Gone” (2019), starring Bruce Willis and Michael Chiklis, crime boss Rex (Willis) hires Frank (Chiklis) and his crew to steal a priceless jewel stash — but the job goes wrong when someone tips off the cops. After Frank suffers a blow to the head, he wakes up to find the jewels gone and no memory of his attacker. Now, Frank must confront his team members one by one to find the traitor — before Rex covers his tracks by having Frank murdered. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate … In “Two Evil Eyes” (1990), the masters of modern horror — George Romero and Dario Argento — bring you an unprecedented pair of shockers inspired by the tales of Edgar Allan Poe. In Romero’s “The Facts In The Case Of Mr. Valdemar,” a conniving wife (Adrienne Barbeau) and her lover use a hypnotic trance to embezzle a fortune from her dying husband, only to receive some chilling surprises from beyond the grave. Then in Argento’s “The Black Cat,” a deranged crime scene photographer (Harvey Keitel) is driven to brutal acts of madness and murder by his girlfriend’s new pet. But will this cunning feline deliver a final sickening twist of its own? Martin Balsam, E.G. Marshall, John Amos and Tom Atkins co-star in this wild horror hit that also features grisly makeup effects by Tom Savini. In a three-disc Blu-ray set with a new 4K restoration from the original camera negative for the films’ 30th anniversary. The third disc is “Two Evil Eyes” original motion picture soundtrack by Pino Donaggio. From Blue Underground … “Them That Follow” (2018), starring Walton Goggins, Alice Englert, Olivia Colman, Kaitlyn Dever, Jim Gaffigan, Thomas Mann and Lewis Pullman is a thriller that tells the story of a community of snake handlers dealing with a terrible secret that endangers their livelihood. Deep in Appalachia, Pastor Lemuel Childs (Goggins) presides over an isolated community of Pentecostal snake handlers. As his devoted daughter Mara (Englert) prepares for her wedding under the watchful eye of Hope Slaughter (Colman), Mara reveals a deadly secret that threatens to shatter the entire community. From Lionsgate … The Blob is back in this horrific tale “The Blob” (1988), starring Kevin Dillon, Shawnee Smith, Donovan Leitch, Jeffrey DeMunn, Candy Clark,Joe Seneca. about a vile, malignant life-form that crashes to Earth in a cozy, rural American town called Arborville. Untroubled by conscience or intellect, the Blob does only one thing — and it does it well. It eats anything and everything that moves: men, women, and children. It wants to swallow the entire town of Arborville. The original version of the “Blob” thrilled and terrified movie audiences back in 1958. In a Blu-ray collector’s edition from Scream Factory … In “The Devil Rides Out” (1968), a Hammer Films classic starring Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Nike Arrighi, Leon Green, Patrick Mower, Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, Sarah Lawson, Paul Eddington, the debonair Duc de Richleau has been entrusted with the care of his deceased friend’s son, Simon Aron. The Duc discovers that the young man has been seduced into joining a satanic cult headed by the diabolic Mocata, who is intent on making Simon one of the Devil’s disciples. Having rescued Simon from a bloodied ritual, de Richleau is pursued by Mocata, who will stop at nothing to destroy the Duc and his friends, even summoning the Angel of Death himself. New 2K scan of the 20th Century Fox interpositive (also included is the Studio Canal restored master). On Blu-ray from Scream Factory … In ” Door in the Woods” (2018), starring John-Michael Fisher, Katherine Forbes and Lauren Harper, a family is haunted by a group of evil spirits that they accidentally release after finding a mysterious gateway during a hike in the woods. They turn to a shaman who must help them save their child and send the entities back to the spirit world forever. From WildEye Releasing … Australia’s pick for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2019 Oscars, “Jirga” (2018), starring Sam Smith, Sher Alam Miskeen Ustad and Amir Shah Talash, is a unique look at the impact of war on both sides, and specifically at the war in Afghanistan, where armies from all over the world have fought for the United States. Here, a former Australian soldier returns to a village where he was involved in war crimes. Seeking relief from his torment, he puts his life in the hands of the village justice system – the “Jirga.” Shot in Afghanistan after the Pakistani Secret Service cancelled permission to film, director Benjamin Gilmour took his star Sam Smith and filmed in Taliban-controlled regions of Afghanistan, using some incredibly natural non-actors, a few being former members of the Taliban itself. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lightyear Entertainment.
For the Family:
“A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish” (2019), starring Laura Marano, Gregg Sulkin, Barclay Hope and Johannah Newmarch, is a contemporary musical take on Cinderella that follows Katherine “Kat” Decker, who dreams of becoming a famous singer-songwriter. Her reality, however, is suffocated by her conniving and cruel stepfamily and a demoralizing job working as a singing elf at billionaire Terrence Wintergarden’s Santa Land. When she starts to fall for Nick, the handsome new Santa at the tree lot, things begin to look up. Unfortunately, when her stepmother and stepsisters realize Kat has been invited to the prestigious Wintergarden Christmas Gala, they’ll stop at nothing to procure their own invitation and keep Kat from attending. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Warner … “Batman Beyond: The Complete Animated Series Limited Edition” (1999-2001) is a six-disc set with all 52 episodes, digitally remastered for its Blu-ray debut, individually numbered for a Limited Edition release of 50,000. The animated adventures of The Dark Knight were taken to even greater heights with this series, providing an edgier, faster-moving, more contemporary take on crime-fighting in Gotham. From Warner.
“Mike Wallace Is Here” (2019) is an archival look at the legendary career of investigative journalist Mike Wallace. For over 50 years, “60 Minutes'” fearsome newsman Mike Wallace went head-to-head with the 20th century’s most influential figures. Relying exclusively on archival footage, this documentary interrogates the interrogator, tracking Mike’s storied career and troubled personal life while unpacking how broadcast journalism evolved to today’s precarious tipping point. From Magnolia Home Entertainment.
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.