"The movie business is macabre. Grotesque.
It is a combination of a football game
and a brothel."
-- Federico Fellini
Jan 172021

From the Big Screen:


photo for Dreamland Set during the Great Depression, Eugene Evans (Finn Cole) dreams of escaping his small Texas town when he discovers a wounded, fugitive bank robber (Margot Robbie). Torn between claiming the bounty for her capture and his growing attraction to the seductive criminal, Eugene must make a decision that will forever affect the lives of everyone he’s ever loved. Vitals: Director: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte. Stars: Finn Cole, Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel, Kerry Condon, Darby Camp. 2020, CC, MPAA rating: R, 95 min., Drama, Box office gross: $.294 million, Paramount. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, Digital.

The Climb

photo for The Climb An oftentimes awkward examination of the toxic lifelong friendship of Mike and Kyle. While Kyle is kind and a bit of a pushover, Mike is a train wreck, who, despite his affection for Kyle, always seems to sabotage Kyle’s relationships. Told through a series of vignettes, Kyle struggles to deal with the fact that his best friend might just be the worst person for him. Vitals: Director: Michael Angelo Covino. Stars: Kyle Marvin, Michael Angelo Covino, Gayle Rankin, Talia Balsam, George Wendt, Judith Godreche. 2020, CC, MPAA rating: R, 98 min., Comedy Drama, Box office gross: $.234 million, Sony. Extras: Filmmaker commentary, original short film, deleted & alternate scenes. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray, Digital.

This Week’s Best Bets

Before “Oldboy,” before “The Handmaiden,” visionary filmmaker Park Chan-wook helmed “JSA: Joint Security Area” (2000), a gripping tale of deceit, misunderstanding and the senselessness of war. Gunfire breaks out in the demilitarized zone between North and South photo for JSA: Joint Security AreaKorea, leaving two North Korean soldiers dead while a wounded South Korean soldier (Lee Byung-hun) flees to safety. With the tenuous peace between the two warring nations on a knife-edge, a neutral team of investigators, headed by Swiss Army Major Sophie Jean (Lee Young-ae), is dispatched to question both sides to determine what really happened under cover of darkness out in no-man’s land. The recipient of multiple accolades, including Best Film at South Korea’s 2001 Grand Bell Awards, “JSA – Joint Security Area” showcases Park’s iconic style in an embryonic form, and demonstrates that humanity and common purpose can be found in the most unlikely places. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … In 1975, in an America defined by both the self-mythologizing pomp of the upcoming bicentennial and ongoing sociopolitical photo for Rolling Thunder Review: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese<turmoil, Bob Dylan and a band of troubadours –including luminaries such as Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, and Joni Mitchell — embarked on a now-legendary tour known as the Rolling Thunder Revue, a freewheeling variety show that was part traveling counterculture carnival, part spiritual pilgrimage. In “Rolling Thunder Review: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese” (2019), director Scorsese blends behind-the-scenes archival footage, interviews, and narrative mischief, with a magician’s sleight of hand, into a zeitgeist-defining cultural record that is as much a concert “documentary” as it is a slippery, chimerical investigation into memory, time, truth, and illusion. At the center of it all is the magnetic Dylan, a sphinxlike philosopher-poet singing, with electrifying conviction, to the soul of an anxious nation. On DVD, Blu-ray, from The Criterion Collection … photo for Giant from the Unknown In the cult classic “Giant from the Unknown” (1958), Dr. Frederick Cleveland (Morris Ankrum) and his daughter Janet (Sally Fraser) are joined by scientific researcher Wayne Brooks (Ed Kemmer) in the pursuit of ancient artifacts from Vargas, a giant 500-year-old Spanish conquistador. When a lightning storm interrupts their search, the team finds much more than artifacts when the long-lost Vargas returns to life, with a murderous rage and an axe to grind. Resurrected from the original camera negative with a stunning 4K transfer. A Limited-Edition Giant Cult Film Box Set (DVD or Blu-ray) features exclusive collectibles that will thrill any cult classic film fan, including a 13-month cult film calendar, bookmark, magnet, custom playing card deck and lapel pin inspired by Vargas the Giant himself. Each box set will also include a surprise, TFD Vault cult film, recently restored from the original camera negative in stunning 4K and a one-year subscription to The Film Detective app, unlocking thousands of classic film and television titles available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. On DVD, Blu-ray, from The Film Detective … photo for Bartender: 15th Anniversary Collector’s Edition The cult-favorite anime anthology series “Bartender” makes its North American Blu-ray debut this week. The “Bartender: 15th Anniversary Collector’s Edition” (2006 — Japan) comes housed in an elegant home entertainment packaging which collects all 11 episodes of the series and bonus content in a two-disc Blu-ray set, with nine cocktail recipe cards and four collectible coasters. Situated in the Ginza district of Tokyo is the Eden Hall, a quiet bar that few people manage to come across. It is run by the legendary bartender Ryu Sasakura, a genius at mixing the right drink for the right customer. Throughout his period at Eden Hall, customers from all walks of life, carrying all sorts of burdens, arrive for a godly glass at the Hall and a kind word with Ryu, both of which assist in clearing their problems up and reviving them for another go at life. Based on the best-selling Japanese manga of the same name by Araki Joh and illustrated by Kenji Nagatomo. From Anime Limited/Shout! Factory.

Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:

In “A Cold Hard Truth” (2019), starring Simone Missick, Dorian Missick, Michael Beach and Shanola Hampton, after his cousin, Lanie Cooper (Missick), commits suicide, journalist Stewart Cooper (Missick) begins to unravel a web of shaming, lies, and secrets. Following the leads he discovers the involvement of the police, his cousin’s ex and the man she had an affair with – her church pastor, Kenneth Little (Beach). Driven by his own emotional turmoil, he turns the tables on them all to avenge his cousin’s demise. From Indican Pictures … photo for Max Cloud When teen gamer Sarah finds an “easter egg” and accidentally opens a portal into her favorite side-scroller, she becomes trapped in a notorious intergalactic prison, home to the galaxy’s most dangerous villains in “Max Cloud” (2020), starring Scott Adkins, John Hannah, Tommy Flanagan and Lashana Lynch. To escape, she must finish the game with a little help from her not-so-savvy friend on the outside … or remain a 16-bit character forever. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Well Go USA … In “The Cleansing Hour” (2019), starring Ryan Guzman, Kyle Gallner and Alix Angelis, Max and Drew run a popular webcast that streams “live exorcisms” watched by millions around the globe. In reality, the exorcisms are just elaborately staged hoaxes performed by paid actors. But their fortunes take a turn when one of the actors becomes possessed by an actual demon and takes the crew hostage. In front of a rapidly growing audience, the demon subjects the crew to a series of violent challenges, threatening to expose the dark secrets they’ve been hiding from each other unless they come clean and reveal they’re impostors before the show is over. From RLJE Films … In “The Kid Detective” (2020), starring Adam Brody, Sophie Nélisse, Tzi Ma, Wendy Crewson and Sarah Sutherland, a once-celebrated kid detective, now 31, continues to solve the same trivial mysteries between hangovers and bouts of self-pity. Until a naïve client brings him his first adult case — to find out who brutally murdered her boyfriend.On DVD, Blu-ray, from Sony … The thriller photo for Wander “Wander” (2020), starring Aaron Eckhart, Katheryn Winnick, Heather Graham and Tommy Lee Jones, follows Arthur Bretnik (Eckhart), a paranoid private investigator with a troubled past. After Bretnik is hired to investigate a suspicious death in the town of Wander, he becomes convinced the case is linked to the same “conspiracy cover up” that caused the death of his daughter. From Paramount … In “Always and Forever” (2020), starring Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Robbie Jones, Wood Harris, Lauren London, Loretta Devine and Joely Fisher, Nicole Taylor, a successful criminal prosecutor with both beauty and brains, has everything going right – until it all goes wrong. When Nicole’s childhood friends begin to die under mysterious circumstances, she becomes convinced their deaths are tied to dark secrets from her past. On DVD, Blu-ray, from RLJ Entertainment … In photo for Toys of Terror“Spiral” (2019 — Canada), starring Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Ari Cohen, Jennifer Laporte, Ty Wood, Chandra West and Lochlyn Munro, a same-sex couple moves to a small town so they can enjoy a better quality of life as they raise their 16-year-old daughter. But nothing is as it seems in their picturesque neighborhood. And when they see that the folks next door are throwing a very strange party, being the new family in town suddenly feels extremely dangerous. On DVD, Blu-ray, from RLJE Films … In “Toys of Terror” (2020), starring Kyana Teresa, Georgia Waters, Verity Marks, Dayo Ade, Saul Elias and Zoe Fish, just before Christmas young Zoe, her brother Franklin and their family move into a secluded mansion with a dark past. While the adults focus on renovating the place, the bored kids find a toy chest hidden in the attic, and are delighted when the toys inside magically come to life. But bizarre events soon begin to take place – events that threaten the family’s lives. As the special day dawns with gifts piled under the tree, the body count rises and the blood starts to flow. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Warner.

Foreign Films:

“Spacewalker” (2017 — Russia), starring Konstantin Khabenskiy, Evgeniy Mironov, Aleksandra Ursulyak and Elena Panova takes place in the heat of the Cold War, when the USSR and USA competed for supremacy in outer space. Both superpowers raced to be the first nation to have a man complete a spacewalk. No price was too high and no risk is too great. To set off one of man kind’s most ambitious missions, the USSR paired the unlikely duo of a seasoned war veteran, Pavel Belyayev, and a fearless test-pilot, Alexei Leonov. Without proper testing, and inside a tiny spaceship, the two astronauts launch into the unknown to take on what no man has done before. On DVD, Blu-ray, from MPI Media Group.

Special Interest:

“Welcome to Chechnya” (2020) is a powerful,eye-opening documentary about a group of activists risking their lives to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ persecution in the repressive and closed Russian republic of Chechnya. With unfettered access and a commitment to protecting anonymity, the documentary puts a glaring spotlight on the Russian republic as reports of gay and bisexual men being abducted, tortured, beaten and even killed at the hands of authorities started coming to the forefront. From Music Box Films … photo for Shusenjo: Comfort Women and Japan's War on History “Shusenjo: Comfort Women and Japan’s War on History” (2019 — Japan): One of the most heated issues in Japan and Asia today is over something that occurred 80 years ago: the Japanese Imperial Army’s sexual enslavement of an estimated tens of thousands of Korean women and others in military brothels during World War II. Many nationalist Japanese conservatives, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (with the surprising support of Western media influencers), believe the women were willing prostitutes, not “sex slaves,” and that the estimated number is far smaller than are claimed. But contemporary historians, activists and – most significantly – the surviving victims and their families, believe otherwise; the denial of their suffering so long ago has created an entirely new trauma. Director Miki Dezaki, a second-generation Japanese American who learned about comfort women from his Japanese immigrant parents, questions why accounts in the Western media have often sided with the Nationalists. With a keen eye for detail and precision, he interviews historians, advocates and lawyers who discuss the evidence: historical documents related to the Japanese military’s direct role in managing the brothels, and harrowing testimonies by former comfort women. From First Run Features.

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 January 17, 2021 No Responses »
Jan 112021

From the Big Screen:


photo for Ammonite In 1840s England, acclaimed but unrecognized fossil hunter Mary Anning (Winslet) works alone on the rugged Southern coastline. With the days of her famed discoveries behind her, she now searches for common fossils to sell to tourists to support herself and her ailing mother. When a wealthy visitor entrusts Mary with the care of his wife Charlotte Murchison (Ronan), she cannot afford to turn his offer down. Proud and relentlessly passionate about her work, Mary initially clashes with her unwelcome guest, but despite the distance between their social class and personalities, an intense bond begins to develop, compelling the two women to determine the true nature of their relationship. Vitals: Director: Francis Lee. Stars: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Jones, James McArdle, Alec Secareanu, Fiona Shaw. 2020, CC, MPAA rating: R, 120 min., Drama, Box office gross: $.160 million, Universal. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, Digital.
Extras: “The Making of Ammonite.”

This Week’s Best Bets

In the rediscovered masterpiece of film noir “Sudden Fear” (1952), directed by David Miller (“Midnight Lace,” “Lonely Are the Brave” and” Executive Action”), Joan Crawford plays a successful playwright who marries a less than stellar actor (Jack Palance) with a troubling secret. She soon discovers that he not only married her for her money but that he plans to murder her with the help of his lover (Gloria Grahame). Nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Actress (Crawford), Best Supporting Actor (Palance) and Best Black & White Cinematography (Charles Lang Jr.), this taut thriller also features a score by Elmer Bernstein that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. From Cohen Film Collection … photo for Minding the Gap “Minding the Gap” (2018) is the extraordinary debut from documentarian Bing Liu that weaves a story of skateboarding, friendship, and fathers and sons into a coming-of-age journey of courageous vulnerability. Over the course of several years and with his camera always at the ready, Liu records the rocky paths into adulthood of Keire and Zack, two friends from his own skateboarding community in Rockford, Illinois. As he does so, deeper parallels gradually emerge that ultimately draw the filmmaker into a heartrending confrontation with his own past. With an eye for images of exhilarating poetry and a keen emotional sensitivity, “Minding the Gap” is a powerfully cathartic portrait of fledgling lives forged in trauma and fighting to break free. On DVD, Blu-ray, from The Criterion Collection.

From TV to Disc

“Legacies: The Complete Second Season” (2019-20) contains all All 16 episodes. Last season, the supernatural students at the Salvatore Boarding School for the Young & Gifted and their beloved headmaster, Dr. Alaric Saltzman, came face-to-face with a stunning assortment of monsters and mythological creatures. A dragon. A gargoyle. The Headless Horseman. From Warner Archive … “Manifest: The Complete Second Season” (2020) is a three-disc set with all 13 episodes. In this supernatural drama, a commercial plane inexplicably disappears on a transoceanic flight and, more mysteriously, returns five years after being presumed lost photo for Twilight Zone: Season Two at sea. While only hours have passed for those on the flight, years have gone by for their loved ones at home who have learned to live with their losses. As the passengers and flight crew wrestle with their interrupted lives and relationships, the government continues to investigate the anomaly. From Warner Archive … “Twilight Zone: Season Two” (2020) is a four-disc set with all 10 episodes. This updated version of Rod Sterling’s 1959 classic series consists of tales revolving around science fiction, mystery, and horror. Each episode features its own mind-bending and insane journey into a different dimension filled with endless possibilities. The conscious storytelling consists of a standout cast that includes Oscar nominee Kumail Nanjiani, Seth Rogen, Tracy Morgan, John Cho, Zazie Beatz, and many others. This modern take is hosted by Academy Award and Emmy Award winner Jordan Peele.
From CBS/Paramount.

Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:

In “Beyond Hell” (2020), starring Kearsten Johansson, Gavin R. Downes, Sean Rey and Sebastian Deery, after trying a new version of the drug Changa, Maryssa (Johansson) finds herself transported to a dimension in hell where the demon, Belial (Gavin R. Downes, Still Me), latches onto her. Through Maryssa, Belial claws his way out from the depths of hell by slaughtering her friends, one-by-one. From Indican Pictures … In photo for Jungleland “Jungleland” (2019), starring Charlie Hunnam, Jack O’Connell and Jonathan Majors, Stanley (Hunnam) and Lion (O’Connell) are two brothers struggling to stay relevant in the underground world of bare-knuckle boxing. When Stanley fails to pay back a dangerous crime boss (Majors), they’re forced to deliver an unexpected traveler as they journey across the country for a high stakes fighting tournament. While Stanley trains Lion for the fight of his life, a series of events threaten to tear the brothers apart, but their love for one another and belief in a better life keep them going in this gripping drama that proves family pulls no punches. From Paramount … In “American Dream” (2021), starring Luke Bracey, Michiel Huisman, Nick Stahl and Agnieszka Grochowska, Academy Award-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (“Saving Private Ryan”) directs an intense thriller about the brutal struggle for success. Desperate for cash, entrepreneurs Scott (Bracey) and Nicky (Huisman) turn to Russian mobster Yuri (Stahl). After they refuse the funding he offers, Yuri gets revenge by trying to take over their construction project. The partners are terrified, until Nicky’s tough Russian girlfriend, Ana, decides to take action herself. From Lionsgate … In “Average Joe” (2021), starring Camden Toy, Jason Sedillo, Caitlin Rose Williams, Akasha Villalobos, Taylor James Johnson and Roman Garcia, former superheroes must come out of retirement to fight evil once again. When Lord Menace returns from the dead to terrorize San Antonio, TX, the old superhero gang must reassemble to save the city. Unfortunately, the superheroes have sat comfortably in retirement since their last group adventure and normal day-to-day responsibilities have taken precedent. Now toting families, day jobs and excess weight gain, they have to learn how to come together and fight otherworldly evil again. From Indican Pictures … photo for Spell In “Spell” (2020), starring Omari Hardwick and Loretta Devine, while flying to his father’s funeral in rural Appalachia, an intense storm causes Marquis (Hardwick) to lose control of the plane carrying him and his family. He awakens wounded, alone and trapped in Ms. Eloise’s (Devine) attic, who claims she can nurse him back to health with the Boogity, a Hoodoo figure she has made from his blood and skin. Unable to call for help, Marquis desperately tries to outwit and break free from her dark magic and save his family from a sinister ritual before the rise of the blood moon. On DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, from Paramount … In “Lena & Snowball” (2021), starring Robert Knepper, Wade Williams and Melissa Collazo, Lena, bullied at school and lonely at home, keeps hoping she’ll have a true friend someday. One afternoon, her dreams come true — in the shape of a cuddly white lion cub! Lena tries to keep playful Snowball out of trouble, but the clumsy poachers who kidnapped the valuable cub, and the cruel trophy collector who paid for him, are desperate to get him back. As Lena races to rescue poor Snowball, her new friend Jake will do anything to help. From Lionsgate.

Foreign Films:

One of the greatest achievements in recent art-house cinema and a seminal work of “slow cinema,” director Béla Tarr’s “Sátántangó” (1994 — Hungary), based on the novel by László Krasznahorkai, follows the members of a humble agricultural community living in a bleak and punishing backwater after the fall of Communism. As a few of the villagers secretly conspire to take off with all of the community’s annual earnings for themselves, a mysterious messiah, long thought dead, returns to the village and alters the course of everyone’s lives forever. Shot in stunning black-and-white by Gábor Medvigy and filled with exquisitely composed long takes, “Sátántangó” unfolds in 12 distinct movements, alternating forwards and backward in time, echoing the structure of tango dance. Tarr’s vision, aided by long-time partner and collaborator Ágnes Hranitzky, is enthralling and his portrayal of rural Hungary beset by drunken revelry, treachery, and near-perpetual rainfall is both transfixing and uncompromising. 4K restoration from the original negative and sound materials. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from CAV Distributing.

For the Family:

“Lupin III: The First” (2019) introduces the beloved characters in CG animation for the first time. The iconic “gentleman thief” returns in an action-packed, continent-spanning photo for Lupin III: The First caper, as Lupin III and his colorful underworld companions race to uncover the secrets of the mysterious Bresson Diary before it falls into the hands of a dark cabal that will stop at nothing to resurrect the Third Reich. The gang undertakes trap-filled tombs, aerial escapades and daring prison escapes with the trademark wit and visual finesse that have made “Lupin the 3rd” one of the most storied animation franchises in the world. This release will be presented in both the original Japanese version and a new English dubbed version. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, Steelbook Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from GKIDS/Shout Factory.

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 January 11, 2021 No Responses »

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