From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets:
Fred Schepisi’s internationally acclaimed masterpiece, “The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith”
(1978 — Australia), based on the novel by Thomas Keneally, is the shocking tale of an indigenous man driven to madness and revenge. Jimmie Blacksmith (Tommy Lewis) is a young Aboriginal half-caste raised in central New South Wales at the turn-of-the-century, a boy initiated by his tribe but also educated by a stern Methodist minister (Jack Thompson). Looking to gain respectability in white society, Jimmie finds a white bride while performing back-breaking work on local farms, but cannot escape his skin color, suffering ongoing racism and oppression. Discovering that he may not be the father of his wife’s child, and red without pay, Jimmie explodes in a fury of violent revenge and escapes into the bush with his brother Mort, cutting a bloody path of retribution upon the society that has forsaken him. In 1901, the year Australian democracy is born, Jimmie Blacksmith finally faces his fate, and with it the fate of his people. Co-stars Freddy Reynolds and Angela Punch McGregor. This two-disc set includes the 117-minute international version and the 122-minute Australian version. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Kino Lorber … “Cluny Brown” (1946), the final film completed by Ernst Lubitsch, is a zany, zippy comedy of manners set in England on the cusp of World War II, and is one of the worldly-wise director’s most effervescent creations. Jennifer Jones shines in a rare comedic turn as Cluny Brown, an irrepressible heroine with a zeal for plumbing. Sent to work as a parlormaid at a stuffy country manor, she proceeds to turn the household upside down — with plenty of help from Adam Belinski (Charles Boyer), an eccentric continental exile who has fled the Nazis but is still worried about where his next meal is coming from. Sending up British class hierarchy with Lubitsch’s famously light touch, “Cluny Brown” is a topsy-turvy farce that says nuts to the squirrels and squirrels to the nuts. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, with new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … For his first studio picture, “Polyester” (1981). filth maestro John Waters took advantage of his biggest budget yet to allow his muse Divine to sink his teeth into a role unlike any he had played before: Baltimore housewife Francine Fishpaw, a heroine worthy of a Douglas Sirk melodrama. Blessed with a keen sense of smell and cursed with a philandering pornographer husband, a parasitic mother, and a pair of delinquent children, the long-suffering Francine turns to the bottle as her life falls apart — until deliverance appears in the form of a hunk named Todd Tomorrow (vintage heartthrob Tab Hunter). Enhanced with Odorama technology that enables you to scratch and sniff along with Francine, “Polyester” is one of Waters’ most hilarious inventions, replete with stomach-churning smells, sadistic nuns, AA meetings, and foot stomping galore. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, with new, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director John Waters, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … “Noir Archive Volume 3: 1957-1960” is a three-disc set with nine films. From out of the shadows comes this final collection of hard to find noir classics in high definition with original aspect ratios: “The Crimson Kimono” (1959) directed by Samuel Fuller with Victoria Shaw, Glenn Corbett, James Shigeta; “The Lineup” (1958) directed by Don Siegel with Eli Wallach, Robert Keith, Warner Anderson; “Man on a String” (1960) directed by Andre DeToth with Ernest Borgnine, Kerwins Mathews, Colleen Dewhurst, Alexander Scourby; “The Shadow in the Window” (1956) directed by William Asher with Phil Carey, Betty Garrett, John Barrymore, Jr.; “The Long Haul” (1957) directed by Ken Hughes, with Victor Mature, Diana Dors, Patrick Allen; “Pickup Alley” (1957) directed by John Gilling with Victor Mature, Anita Ekberg, Trevor Howard; “The Case Against Brooklyn” (1958) directed by Paul Wendkos with Darren McGavin, Maggie Hayes, Bobby Helms; “She Played With Fire” (1957) directed by Sidney Gilliat with Jack Hawkins, Arlene Dahl, Dennis Price, Bernard Miles, Ian Hunter; “The Tijuana Story” (1957) directed by László Kardos with Rodolfo Acosta, James Darren, Robert McQueeney. On Blu-ray from Kit Parker Films/MVD Entertainment.
From TV to Disc:
“The Good Fight: Season Three” (2019) is a three-disc set with all 10 episodes of CBS All Access’ first original scripted series — a spin-off and sequel to “The Good Wife.” A year after the series finale of “The Good Wife,” an enormous financial scam destroys the reputation of young lawyer Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie) and wipes out the savings of her mentor, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski). The pair join Diane’s former employee, Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo), at Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad, a prestigious African American–owned firm making waves by taking on Illinois police brutality cases. This season, Diane tries to figure out whether you can resist a crazy administration without going crazy yourself, while Adrian (Delroy Lindo) and Liz Reddick-Lawrence (Audra McDonald) struggle with a new post-factual world where the lawyer who tells the best story triumphs over the lawyer with the best facts. From CBS/Paramount … “Supergirl: The Complete Fourth Season” (2018-19) comes in a five-disc DVD, four-disc Blu-ray with all 22 episodes. In Season Four, Supergirl faces a bigger threat than she’s ever faced before — a new wave of anti-alien sentiment, spreading across National City that’s fomented by Agent Liberty. As Kara mentors a new reporter at CatCo, Nia Nal, and tries to use the power of the press to shine a light on the issues threatening to tear the city apart, Supergirl takes to the skies to battle the many villains who rise up in this era of divisiveness. But how does Supergirl battle a movement when she, herself an alien, represents one of the main things people are fearful of? From Warner.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
When his manager prevents comic book artist Fei Ying Xiong from getting the girl he loves, he summons help from four legendary Kung Fu masters to learn the highest level of martial arts to get what he wants most in “Kung Fu League” (2018 — China), starring Yu-Hang To, Wenzhuo Zhao, Jay Chou, Ashin. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Well Go USA … In “Dead Water” (2018), starring Casper Van Dien, Brianne Davis, Griff Furst and Judd Nelson, a relaxing getaway turns deadly when a former Marine must risk his life to save his wife and best friend from a modern-day pirate while facing the ghosts of the war he left behind. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate … Tired of flying sharks? Then get ready for “Clownado” (2019), starring Linnea Quigley, Eileen Deitz, Rachel Lagen, John O’Hara and Joel D. Wynkoop. Cursed demonic circus clowns set out on a vengeful massacre using tornadoes. A stripper, Elvis impersonator, truck driver, teen runaway, and a dude get caught in the supernatural battle between femme fatal and the boss clown from hell. From WildEye Releasing … “Chicago Cab” (1997) boasts an amazing cast including Paul Dillon, Michael Ironside, Michael Shannon, Tracy Letts, Laurie Metcalf, John C. Reilly, Gillian Anderson, Kevin J. O’Connor John Cusack, Julianne Moore. It’s 6 a.m. and 20 degrees below zero on a December morning in Chicago and a cab driver picks up his day’s first passengers. This sets into motion 14 hours in the life of a cab driver as he picks up fares from the good and bad parts of the city while emotionally connecting to many of them, including a depressed rape victim, stoners, randy lawyers, a drug runner and a pregnant womanr with whom he races to get to the hospital. The film was based on the play “Hellcab” by Will Kern and was misleadingly marketed as a horror film, which it’s not. “Chicago Cab” is interesting and well done and while we don’t learn anything too specific about the cab driver, the personalities of his various fares are revealing. Soundtrack features Chet Baker, Pearl Jam, Lena Horn and The Grifters. From Liberation Hall … In “Mock & Roll” (2017), starring Roger Earl, Michael Stanley, Alex Ortiz, Aditi Molly Bhanja, Chris Wolfe and Andrew Yackel, Ohio parody band Liberty Mean is tapped out, clueless and struggling to raise the needed money to get to the South by Southwest Music Festival where their dreams can become reality. Unfortunately, bad decisions and absurd circumstances lead the band down a dark and stormy road in this frenetic caricature of rock and roll reverie. This is not a story of “has-beens” but of “never-beens,” where visions go screwy and time plays against the odds. Features the music of Foghat and Black Owls. From Soundview … Former Bond star George Lazenby (“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”) headlines the classic giallo “Who Saw Her Die?” (1972), directed by Aldo Lado — as compelling for its haunting atmosphere, twists and turns as for its parallels with another great Venetian horror/thriller – Nicolas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now.” Sculptor Franco Serpieri (Lazenby) welcomes Roberta (Nicoletta Elmi) — his young daughter from a failed marriage — to Venice, unaware that a disturbed child-killer is stalking the city’s canals. When Roberta’s body is found floating face-down in the river, the lives of Franco and his estranged wife Elizabeth (Anita Strindberg) are ripped asunder. Desperate for vengeance, Franco turns detective in a bid to track down his daughter’s killer, and in the process unearths shocking evidence of depravity and corruption which implicates some of the most respected figures in Venetian society. Released at the height of the giallo boom, this mystery thriller boasts some of the most iconic names associated with the genre on both sides of the camera. Co-starring Dominique Boschero and Adolfo Celi, and featuring one of the all-time greatest scores from maestro Ennio Morricone. New 2K restoration of the full-length Italian version of the film from the original 35mm camera negative, with uncompressed mono 1.0 LPCM audio. Original English and Italian soundtracks, titles and credits. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … In “Nightwish” (1989), starring Brian Thompson, Jack Starrett, Robert Tessier, Elizabeth Kaitan abd Alisha Das, a doctor of parapsychology provokes his students to examine their own deaths in evermore horrifying circumstances by using sensory deprivation techniques. Roles are exchanged and shuffled as reality and fantasy become indistinguishable and each new dreadful death proves more terrifying than the last. Their paranormal explorations lead them to an abandoned mansion in a desolate area that natives call the “Valley of Fear,” where years of drinking chemically tainted water have lead to a genetically damaged population and mutant wildlife. Local legends also tell stranger stories of extraterrestrials which the students attempt to explore. Reality, the supernatural and dreams weave into a tight tapestry of horror and sublimated desire from which there may be no escape. Video store era cult classic makes its HD debut in a new 4k Mastering with restored color correction from the original camera negative. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Unearthed Classics.
Famed as much for his flamboyant drag and sky-high pompadour as for his show-stopping kicks and flips, 47-year-old Saul Armendariz — known in the Mexican wrestling ring as Cassandro — is a champion “exotico” wrestler, a luchador who performs in drag with generous doses of camp vamping between back-breaking suplexes. His trailblazing ascent as one the industry’s first openly gay wrestlers has resonated internationally for a quarter century — the story of an underdog and a queer icon simultaneously fragile and mighty. The documentary “Cassandro the Exotico!” (2018 –France) (English and Spanish with English subtitles) captures the moving, at times humorous, and always colorful dualities of this legendary figure. Shot entirely on 16mm film, it follows the “Liberace of the Lucha Libre” in his final years of competition, struggling with opponents and the cruel passage of time, while melding tender encounters and larger-than-life fight scenes into a stylish whole that reflects the vivid textures and hues of a dazzling life in sport. From Film Movement … In “My Son” (2017 — France), starring Guillaume Canet and Mélanie Laurent, a 7-year-old boy has gone missing in the middle of the night. The crisis draws the child’s father Julien (Canet) back to a small, snowy town in eastern France in an effort to help. Julien has been abroad for work and has been essentially absent from his son’s life since splitting with his wife (Laurent) a few years earlier. Fueled by his sense of guilt about neglecting his family, Julien is determined to do whatever it takes to find his son. That includes using physical force against anyone he thinks could be a suspect in the kidnapping –and stepping outside the law — as he begins to unfold the mystery of the boy’s disappearance. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Cohen Media Group … “In the Aisles” (2018 — Germany), starring Franz Rogowski, Peter Kurth and Sandra Huller, is a warmly poignant glimpse into the shared connections of a motley group of workers who spend their nights working in a big box superstore. When the reclusive Christian takes a job working the night shift at a big box store, his new manager, Bruno from the Beverage Departmen, teaches him the lay of the land and the delicacy it takes to operate a forklift. Christian becomes enamored by his charming but mysterious co-worker “Sweets Marion,” with whom he begins to share flirtatious break room coffees and conversations. But Marion has secrets of her own and when she suddenly goes on sick leave, Christian is tempted to fall into the habits of his dark past. From Music Box Films.
For the Family:
In “The Case of Hana & Alice” (2015 — Japan), when Alice transfers to a new middle school, she hears an urban legend about a student who disappeared the previous year and is suspected to have been killed by his fellow students. Even worse, Alice discovers that she lives next door to his former house, a supposedly haunted home, now occupied by a reclusive classmate named Hana. Hana and Alice decide to investigate this “murder case” together, but soon find that their lack of detective skills may be an obstacle. This unusual and charming animated film from famed writer-director Shunji Iwai is a shaggy-dog mystery tale that ultimately gives way to a wonderfully nuanced story of young female friendship, and the fantasies and thrills of everyday teenage life. On Blu-ray from GKIDS/Shout! Factory.
“Country Music: A Film by Ken Burns” (2019) coincides with the national broadcast on PBS. The eight-hour series focuses on the personal stories of the fascinating characters who created and shaped the genre – from the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Bill Monroe and Bob Wills, to Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks and many more — as well as the times and places in which they lived. Much like the music itself, the film tells unforgettable stories of hardships and joys shared by everyday people. “Country Music” digs deep to uncover the roots of the music, including ballads, minstrel music,hymns and the blues, and its early years in the 1920s, when it was first recorded and called “hillbilly music.” It then shows how the music sprouted many new branches during the twentieth century: Western swing and singing cowboys, bluegrass and honky tonk, rockabilly and the “outlaws,” the smooth Nashville Sound and harder-edged Bakersfield Sound, and many others––showing that country music never was just one style but a broad American mixture that became a major cultural force. On DVD, Blu-ray, from PBS Distribution … “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” (2019) is an artful and intimate meditation on the life of the legendary storyteller and Nobel prize-winner. From her childhood in Lorain, Ohio to 70s-era book tours with Muhammad Ali, from the front lines with Angela Davis to her riverfront writing room. Morrison leads an assembly of her peers, critics and colleagues on an exploration of race, America, history and the human condition as seen through the prism of her own literature. Inspired to write because no one took a “little black girl” seriously, Morrison reflects on her lifelong deconstruction of the master narrative. Woven together with a rich collection of art, history, literature and personality, the film includes discussions about her many critically acclaimed works, including novels “The Bluest Eye,” “Sula” and “Song of Solomon,” her role as an editor of iconic African-American literature and her time teaching at Princeton University. Featuring interviews with Hilton AL’s, Angela Davis, Fran Leibowitz, Walter Mosley, Sonia Sanchez and Oprah Winfrey, who turned Morrison’s novel “Beloved” into a feature film. 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.