"The movie business is macabre. Grotesque.
It is a combination of a football game
and a brothel."
-- Federico Fellini
May 022021

From the Big Screen:

Judas and the Black Messiah

photo for Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) Fred Hampton was 21 years old when he was assassinated by the FBI, who coerced a petty criminal named William O’Neal to help them silence him and the Black Panther Party. But they could not kill Fred Hampton’s legacy and, 50 years later, his words still echo … louder than ever. Hampton, a young, charismatic activist, became Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party – putting him directly in the crosshairs of the government, the FBI, and the Chicago Police. But to destroy the revolution, the authorities needed a man on the inside. O’Neal infiltrated the Black Panther Party per FBI Agent Mitchell and J. Edgar Hoover. As Party Chairman Hampton ascended, falling for a fellow revolutionary en route, a battle waged for O’Neal’s soul.Vitals: Director: Shaka King. Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders, Algee Smith, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Lil Rel Howery, Dominique Thorne, Martin Sheen, Amari Cheatom. 2021, CC, MPAA rating: R, 126 min., Drama, US box office gross: $5.246 million, worldwide $5.862 million, Warner. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray, VOD. 3 stars

The Little Things

photo for The Little Things (2021) Kern County Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) is sent to Los Angeles for what should have been a quick evidence-gathering assignment. Instead, he becomes embroiled in the search for a killer who is terrorizing the city. Leading the hunt, LA Sheriff Department Sergeant Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), impressed with Deke’s cop instincts, unofficially engages his help. But as they track the killer, Baxter is unaware that the investigation is dredging up echoes of Deke’s past, uncovering disturbing secrets that could threaten more than his case. Vitals: Director: John Lee Hancock. Stars: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto, Chris Bauer, Michael Hyatt, Terry Kinney, Natalie Morales, Isabel Arraiza, Joris Jarsky, Glenn Morshower, Sofia Vassilieva. 2021, CC, MPAA rating: R, 127 min., Crime Drama, US box office gross: $15.058 million, worldwide $29.458 million, Warner. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray with digital code, VOD. 2 stars

Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:

In “Virtuoso” (2021), starring Anson Mount, Abbie Cornish, Anthony Hopkins, Eddie Marsan, Richard Brake and David Morse, danger, deception, and murder descend upon a sleepy country town when a professional assassin (Mount) accepts a new assignment from his enigmatic mentor and boss (Hopkins). Given only “where” and “when” along with a cryptic clue, the methodical hit man must identify his mysterious mark from among several possible targets, including a local sheriff (Morse). Meanwhile, a chance encounter with an alluring woman (Cornish) at the town’s rustic diner threatens to derail his mission. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate … Not Everyone Hates Ghosts. An ingeniously unique and unpredictable combo of horror, humor and heart, “A Ghost Waits” (2020) “A Ghost Waits” is a DIY labor of love years in the making from first-time writer-director Adam Stovall and producer-star MacLeod Andrews. Tasked with photo for A Ghost Waits renovating a neglected rental home, handyman Jack (Andrews) quickly finds out why the tenants keep leaving in droves — this house is haunted. The ghost in question is Muriel (Natalie Walker), herself employed from beyond the veil to keep the home vacant. Against the odds, Jack and Muriel find they have a lot in common … pulse notwithstanding. Having found a kindred spirit in an otherwise lonely existence, they must fight for their newfound affection as pressure mounts for them each to fulfill their “cross-purposes.” From its opening spectral assault to its achingly poignant conclusion — as well as a witty depiction of afterlife bureaucracy in the vein of “Beetlejuice” and “A Matter of Life and Death” – “A Ghost Waits” has shocked and surprised audiences around the world, and now makes its home video debut. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.

On the Indie Front:

“Another Gay Movie” (2006), starring Michael Carbonaro, Jonah Blechman, Graham Norton, Richard Hatch, Lypsinka, Ashley Atkinson, Ant and Scott Thompson, arrives in a 15-year anniversary director’s cut. The film revolves around four gay teenagers: curious Andy, flamboyant Nico, jock Jarod, and geeky Griff. These four boys want to have sex, but can’t find anyone to do it with. It’s their graduation day and their lesbian friend Muffler’s having her graduation party. The next morning, the boys make the pact to have sex before the end of the summer. From Breaking Glass Pictures. Read more here … In “Sometime Other Than Now” (2021), starring Donal Logue, Kate Walsh andTrieste Kelly Dunn, Sam, who after his motorcycle is damaged in an apparent crash into the ocean becomes stranded in a small New England town, finds refuge at a run-down motel looked after by Kate, a similarly burnt-out, lost soul. The mystery around Sam’s presence in town unravels when it’s discovered that his estranged daughter Audrey lives there — the daughter he hasn’t seen her in 25 years. As he tries to bridge the gap between the little girl he left long ago and the woman who grew up without her father, Sam learns he was never cut-out to be emotionally connected to anyone — unless he falls in love with another soul just as lonesome. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Gravitas Ventures.

Special Interest:

The groundbreaking Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane is the dynamic subject of “Trances” (1981 — Morocco/France), a captivating, one-of-a-kind documentary by Ahmed El Maanouni, who filmed the four musicians during a series of electrifying live performances in Tunisia, Morocco, and photo for TrancesFrance; on the streets of Casablanca; and in intimate conversations. Storytellers through song and traditional instruments, and with connections to political theater, the band became a local phenomenon and an international sensation, thanks to its rebellious lyrics and sublime, fully acoustic sound, which draws on Berber rhythms, Malhun sung poetry, and Gnawa dances. Both a concert movie and a free-form audiovisual experiment, bolstered by images of the band’s rapt audience. On DVD, Blu-ray, with 2K digital restoration courtesy of The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … “Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick” (2021) is a three-disc set with three episodes of the PBS series that explores the painstaking process through which Hemingway created some of the most important works of fiction in American letters. Examines the visionary work and turbulent life of one of the greatest and most influential American writers. Intimate and insightful, the series weaves together Hemingway’s biography with excerpts from his work. The film penetrates the myth of Hemingway to reveal a deeply troubled and ultimately tragic figure. On DVD, Blu-ray, from PBS Distribution.

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 May 2, 2021 No Responses »
Apr 262021

From the Big Screen:


photo for Nomadland (2020) Following the economic collapse of a town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van and explores an unconventional life in the vast landscape of the American West. Along the way, she forms unbreakable bonds with other nomads in this powerfully moving story of hope and resilience from director Chloé Zhao, based on the book by Jessica Bruder. Winner of three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress (Frances McDormand). Vitals: Director: Chloé Zhao. Stars: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May. 2020, CC, MPAA rating: R, 108 min., Drama, US box office gross: $2.143 million, worldwide $5.451 million, Fox/Disney.
Formats: Blu-ray with digital code, VOD, Digital. Extras: “The Forgotten America,” deleted scenes. Read more here. 3 stars

This Week’s Best Bets

“Wanted for Murder/Cast a Dark Shadow”: Death and seduction are the themes of these newly-restored thrillers from the golden age of British noir. “In Cast a Dark Shadow” (1955), Dirk Bogarde stars as “Teddy” Bare, a smooth-talking cad who maintains a life of leisure by preying on a series of lonely, wealthy photo for Wanted for Murder Cast a Dark Shadowwomen. But the headstrong sister (Kay Walsh) of one of his late wives is determined to bring Teddy’s killing streak to an end. In “Wanted for Murder” (1946), the polished exterior of a refined gentleman (Eric Portman) conceals the heart of a strangler. A young record shop clerk (Dulcie Gray) holds the key to his capture, which puts her at the head of the queue to become his next victim. On Blu-ray from Cohen Film Collection … Dum-Dum, Wacky, Creeps, Fingers: They’re just a few of the hoodlums in the world of amateur sleuths and professional bon vivants Nick and Nora Charles. And now there’s a new hood: parenthood. A birthday — make that boithday — party that some of da boys hold for infant Nick Jr. is part of the fun in this third film in the witty series, “Another Thin Man” (1939). The case begins when the Charles family arrives for a weekend with a Long Island industrialist who fears someone wants to kill him. Sure enough, his fears come true. Nick (William Powell) is among the suspects. Asta scrams with what may be the murder weapon. And Nora (Myrna Loy) has her own ideas about the case and sneaks off to a nightclub to ferret out a clue. “Madam, how long have you been leading this double life?” Nick asks. “Just since we’ve been married,” she replies. In a Blu-ray debut from Warner Archive … photo for Irma Vep “Irma Vep” (1996 — France), the live-wire international breakthrough of Olivier Assayas, stars a magnetic Maggie Cheung as a version of herself: a Hong Kong action-movie star who arrives in Paris to play the latex-clad lead in a remake of Louis Feuillade’s classic silent crime serial “Les vampires.” What she finds is a behind-the-scenes tangle of barely controlled chaos as egos clash, romantic attractions simmer, and an obsessive director (a cannily cast Jean-Pierre Léaud) drives himself to the brink to realize his vision. Blending blasts of silent cinema, martial-arts flicks, and the music of Sonic Youth and Luna into a hallucinatory swirl of postmodern cool, Assayas composes a witty critique of the nineties French film industry and the eternal tension between art and commercial entertainment. On DVD, Blu-ray, with new 2K digital restoration from the original camera negative, approved by director Olivier Assayas, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … Framed for manslaughter after he breaks a story about city corruption, reporter Frank Ross is sure he’ll prove his innocence and walk out of prison a free man in “Each Dawn I Die” (1939) But that’s not how the system works at Rocky Point Penitentiary. There, cellblock guards are vicious, the jute-mill labor is endless, and the powers Ross fought on the outside conspire to keep him in. Frank’s hope is turned to hopelessness. And he’s starting to crack. Two of the screen’s famed tough guys star in this prison movie that casts a reform-minded eye on the brutalizing effects of life in the slammer. James Cagney as Ross, the embittered, stir-crazy fall guy and George Raft (Cagney’s friend since their vaudeville days) portrays racketeer Hood Stacey, who may hold the key to springing Ross. In a Blu-ray debut from Warner Archive … photo for Masculin féminin BLU-RAY DEBUT With “Masculin féminin” (1966 — France), the ruthless stylist and iconoclast Jean-Luc Godard introduces the world to “the children of Marx and Coca-Cola,” through a gang of restless youths engaged in hopeless love affairs with music, revolution, and one another. French New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Léaud stars as Paul, an idealistic would-be intellectual struggling to forge a relationship with the adorable pop star Madeleine (real-life yé-yé girl Chantal Goya). Through their tempestuous affair, Godard fashions a candid and wildly funny free-form examination of youth culture in pulsating 1960s Paris, mixing satire and tragedy as only Godard can. In a Blu-ray debut, with new 4K digital restoration, approved by cinematographer Willy Kurant, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack, from The Criterion Collection.

Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:

In a career that forever raised the bar for everything from hookers, cannibals and necrophiles to Ator, Emanuelle and Caligula, the long-unseen chum bucket “Deep Blood” (1990 — Italy) from producer/director/EuroSleaze master Joe D’Amato may be his most bizarrely entertaining anomaly ever. Shot on location in Florida surf and Rome swimming pools, D’Amato combines 80s teen movie cliches and Native American mysticism with stupefying dialogue, over-the-top performances and shark footage that Bruno Mattei would later swipe for “Cruel Jaws” to create what Oh, The Horror! calls “a weird, demented experience that begs to be discovered and embraced.” A cast of local unknowns — along with, inexplicably, the 60s comedy team of Charlie Brill & Mitzi McCall — star in this last word in Italian Sharksploitation, now scanned in 2K from the original negative for the first time ever. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Severin Films … The star of “Caddyshack,” “Ghostbusters” and “Groundhog Day” headlines and co-directs the Big Apple heist-and-pursuit caper “Quick Change” (1990). Bill Murray plays Grimm, a frazzled urbanite who disguises himself as a clown – and sets out to rob a bank. Geena Davis and Randy Quaid play accomplices in Grimm’s daring scheme and Jason Robards is the blustery cop caught up in Grimm’s “Clown Day Afternoon.” Swiping a million bucks is a snap compared to getting out of town. Grimm and cohorts commandeer a car, a cab, a bus, a baggage tram and a plane (and encounter future stars Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub in supporting roles) to make what becomes a less-than-merry escape. In a Blu-ray debut from Warner Archive photo for Donnie Darko (4K Ultra HD) Arrow Video has on hand this week a limited edition two-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release of “Donnie Darko” (2001). Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a troubled teen who struggles with visions of a six-foot rabbit named Frank that encourages him to commit crimes. This feature debut from director Richard Kelly became a cultural phenomenon, with the film earning praise for being daring and original. This new 4K UHD release includes both the theatrical and director’s cut, both with new 4K restorations approved by Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster. This special release also includes a 100-page hardcover book and a double-sided fold-out poster featuring newly commissioned art by Luke Preece. Read more here … In “Vanquish” (2021), starring Ruby Rose, Morgan Freeman and Patrick Muldoon, a mother, Victoria (Rose), is trying to put her dark past as a Russian drug courier behind her, but retired cop Damon (Freeman) forces Victoria to do his bidding by holding her daughter hostage. Now, Victoria must use guns, guts, and a motorcycle to take out a series of violent gangsters — or she may never see her child again. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate. Read more here.

Foreign Films:

In “Heavy Trip (Hevi reissu” (2018 — Finland), starring Rune Temte, Johannes Holopainen, Kai Lehtinen and Torstein Bjørklund, Turo (Holopainen) is stuck in a small village in the Finnish countryside where his greatest passion is being the lead vocalist for the amateur metal band Impaled Rektum. The only problem photo for Heavy Trip (Hevi reissu) Limited Edition is that he and his fellow headbangers have practiced for 12 years without playing a single gig. But that’s all about to change when the guys meet the promoter of a huge heavy metal music festival in Norway, and they decide that it’s now or never. Hitting the road in a stolen van with a corpse, a coffin and a new drummer from a local mental hospital in tow, Impaled Rektum travels across Scandinavia to make their dreams come true. The Blu-ray debut includes a limited edition slip cover; a standard Blu-ray will be released May 25. From Doppelganger 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.

 Posted by on April 26, 2021 No Responses »

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