From the Big Screen:
The Equalizer 3
(2023) Since giving up his life as a government assassin, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) has struggled to reconcile the horrific things he’s done in the past and finds a strange solace in serving justice on behalf of the oppressed. Finding himself surprisingly at home in Southern Italy, he discovers his new friends are under the control of local crime bosses. As events turn deadly, McCall knows what he has to do: become his friends’ protector by taking on the mafia.Vitals: Director: Antoine Fuqua. Stars: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, David Denman. CC, MPAA rating: R, 109 min., Action Adventure, North American box office gross: $92.005 million, worldwide $185.505 million, Sony. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray + Digital Code, 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo + Digital Code, VOD, Digital. Extras: “Blood Brothers: The collaboration of Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua”; “Call to Action”; “Robert McCall: A Man of the People”; “Denzel and Dakota: A Reunion”; “Postcards from the Amalfi Coast”; “Jacob Banks’ Monster music video. Read more here
The Nun II
(2023) 1956 – France. A priest is murdered. An evil is spreading. The sequel to the worldwide smash hit follows Sister Irene as she once again comes face-to-face with Valak, the demon nun.Vitals: Director: Michael Chaves. Stars: Bonnie Aarons, Jonas Bloquet, Storm Reid, Anna Popplewell, Taissa Farmiga. CC, MPAA rating: R, 110 min., Horror, North American box office gross: $73.410 million, worldwide $217.110 million, Warner. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray + Digital Code, 4K Ultra HD + Digital Code, VOD, Digital. Extras: “Demons in Paradise” featurette; “Handcrafte Nightmares” featurette.
This Week’s Best Bets:
“Disney Legacy Animated Film Collection” is a set of 100 animated films from Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Pixar, packaged together in a beautiful hardbound, self-standing three-volume set that unfolds into a storybook. The set includes 100 animated titles on Blu-ray, digital codes for each title, features the original theatrical poster art, a collectible lithograph from Disney Animation’s all-new musical comedy “Wish,” and a collectible crystal Mickey ears hat with exclusive Disney 100 engraving. On Blu-ray + Digital Code from Disney. For the complete list of films, read more here … One of the key films of the American seventies cinema renaissance, “The Last Picture Show” (1971) is set in the early fifties, in the loneliest Texas nowheresville to ever dust up a movie screen. This aching portrait of a dying West, adapted from Larry McMurtry’s novel, focuses on the daily shuffles of three futureless teens — enigmatic Sonny (Timothy Bottoms), wayward jock Duane (Jeff Bridges), and desperate-to-be-adored rich girl Jacy (Cybill Shepherd) — and the aging lost souls who bump up against them in the night like drifting tumbleweeds, including Cloris Leachman’s lonely housewife and Ben Johnson’s grizzled movie-house proprietor. Featuring evocative black-and-white imagery and profoundly felt performances, this hushed depiction of crumbling American values remains the pivotal work in the career of invaluable film historian and director Peter Bogdanovich. 4K digital restoration of the director’s cut. Blu-ray, 4K UHD/Blu-ray Combo, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack. In the 4K UHD edition: One 4K UHD disc of the film presented in Dolby Vision HDR and two Blu-rays with the film and special features. From The Criterion Collection.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
In the thriller “Head Count” (2023), starring Aaron Jakubenko, Melanie Zanetti and Ryan Kwanten, a gun is pointed to Kat’s (Jakubenko) head. It’s his gun. Or at least it was after he escaped a chain gang and stole it. Luckily for him though, it’s not fully loaded. But how many bullets are left? He can’t quite remember. And now, with an unknown assailant pulling the trigger, Kat is forced to recall exactly what happened to each bullet. While the empty rounds click away, memories of wild animal attacks, run-ins with an impulsive police officer (Kwanten), a down-to-earth arms dealer, and his ex-lover (Zanetti) come flooding back. As the pressure mounts, Kat must figure out how many rounds are left and try to devise a plan to escape … one more time. On DVD from Shout! Studios. … In “The Bad Pack” (1997), starring Robert Davi, Roddy Piper, Ralf Möller, Larry B. Scott, Shawn Huff and Patrick Dollaghan, a disbanded pack of elite mercenaries reluctantly team up again for one last mission after a large bounty presents itself to them. The objective is to save a small border town from the grip of a brutal extremist militia that has turned the locals’ simple way of life into a world of bloodshed and murder. Brand new 4K scan and restoration from original camera negatives with uncompressed PCM Audio. On Blu-ray from Massacre Video … When a tech blogger lands an interview with a tech guru and stops an attack on him, he finds a mysterious ring that takes him back 57 seconds into the past in the appropriately titled “57 Seconds” (2023), starring Josh Hutcherson, Morgan Freeman and Greg Germann. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Paramount … In “Flesh Contagium” (2020 — Italy), starring Andrea Miluccio, Vincenzo Puzziferri and Shiri Binder, the year is 2029. A horrible flu virus has devastated the planet leaving the global health infrastructure in ruins and leading to the creation and rise of hideous mutants. All large cities are now extermination camps and the new government, called “The Executors,” are in charge of eliminating these ghastly abominations. Survivors are left to fend for themselves, taking refuge in the most remote of areas, but a special team of “Executors” have been formed to find the survivors and eliminate them with no mercy. On Blu-ray from Massacre Video … In director; Nicolas Roeg’s “Full Body Massage” (1995), starring Mimi Rogers, Bryan Brown, Christopher Burgard, Elizabeth Barondes and Gareth Williams, Nina (Rogers), a successful but world-weary art dealer, is surprised to find that her regular masseur has sent a substitute, Fitch (Brown), to continue her weekly massage sessions. Fitch’s therapeutic caresses, while charged with sexual tension, gain emotional significance as the opinionated pair first clash, and then bond while relaying thoughtful meditations on intimacy and human relationships. Free to discuss her life, hopes and failures, Nina is liberated from her confused world, indulging in a strange, erotic mysticism with her handy muse. Brilliantly helmed by British director Roeg, the made-for-cable “Full Body Massage” is an exhilarating and sophisticated portrait of sensual love. From a 4K scan with restoration and color correction from the original negatives. On Blu-ray from Unearthed Films … In “Shadow of Death” (1969 — Spain), starring Larry Ward, Teresa Gimpera, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Fernando Sánchez Polack and Silvana Venturelli, former showgirl Denise (Gimpera) lives in a small northern Spanish town with her husband, John, and his twin brother Peter. Tired of life with her rich but boring husband, she has begun an affair with Peter. The two of them want to remove John from the picture and get their hands on his money. But they don’t know how to achieve their goal. Gert Muller, a dangerous figure from Denise’s past life, turns up out of the blue. He is on his uppers and needs cash fast. He discovers what is going on with Denise and Peter and decides to blackmail them. However, his scheme goes seriously wrong when the cheating lovers forge a plan to use Gert himself to achieve their goal. They embark on a devious scheme to drive John insane and fit him up for Gert’s murder. This is a US Blu-ray premiere, from Mondo Macabro … In “Portraits of Andrea Palmer” (2018), starring Katrina Zova, Chad Alva, William Margold and Sheena Rose, Andrea Palmer (Zova) spends her days working as a cam girl. After having an online breakdown, she receives an unexpected and too-good-to-be-true offer to come to Los Angeles and work full time as an erotic model. Jumping on what seems like a perfect opportunity for financial independence, Andrea immediately travels to LA. But no sooner than arriving, discovers that she’s been conned and finds herself stranded and alone. Relying on what she knows best, she begins working as an escort, losing a bit of herself with each new client and becoming more and more willing to perform the most vile of sexual services – a decision which can only end in tragedy and violence. On Blu-ray from Massacre Video … With his 1962 film “The Awful Dr Orloff,” director Jess Franco laid the ground work for the Spanish horror boom that was to follow later in that decade. The film’s mixture of sex, surgery and gothic horror was a game changer in many ways. Twenty years on, he revisited his classic to create “The Sinister Dr. Orolff” (1984 — Spain), a chilling and macabre follow up; the film features the original doctor, played by Howard Vernon, with Antonio Mayans as his son, Alfred. The film is set amongst the bright neon lights and gaudy tourist attractions of Alicante, on Spain’s Costa Blanca. Alfred Orloff cruises the bustling night-time streets, seeking out women, whom he takes back to his empty apartment. There he drugs them and has his blind brother, Andros, carry them off to a secret laboratory where Orloff has created a bizarre mind transference machine, hoping to transplant the consciousness of the captive women into the body of his comatose mother. Orloff’s father becomes aware that his son is starting to enjoy these murderous night games and decides that he must stop the deadly experiments that are being conducted in his name. But when Inspector Tanner’s wife becomes the next victim, events take a tragic and unexpected turn. This is the film’s first ever US release and a world premiere on Blu-ray. Brand new 4K transfer from film negative, digitally restored. From Mondo Macabro.
On the Indie Front:
In “Bolivar” (2021), starring Nell Teare, James Walsh, Tracie Thoms, Robert Pine and Chris Petrovsky, it’s been three months since her mother’s death, and Maggie is struggling to keep her head above water; daydreams of childhood haunt her waking moments as she navigates a failing marriage, a neglected career and a father who will not engage with his own grief. On one particular morning, she is awakened by a pounding on her door. Her younger brother, Sonny, whom she has not seen since before her mother passed, shows up on her doorstep, unaware of their mother’s death. Over the next week, Maggie walks a fine line between acceptance and becoming a tragedy herself, but Sonny’s return forces her to make sense of a reality that may not be what it seems. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Freestyle Digital Media.
In rural Gaotai county, two lonely, middle-aged outcasts are pushed into an arranged marriage by their families in “Return to Dust” (2022 — China). Ma (Wu Renlin) is a humble farmer with little to offer his timid and sickly wife, Cao (Hai Qing), except for a small abandoned house on a barren patch of land. From just a few seeds, their newly planted crops take root and flourish; and similarly, an unexpected bond between the two starts to blossom. As seasons pass their dedication to each other grows stronger, but change and adversity soon threaten the idyllic existence they share. A tender tale about the transformative nature of love, “Return to Dust” is an absorbing, beautifully framed drama from acclaimed director Li Ruijun that became a surprise box office hit domestically in China. From Film Movement … “The Sonny Chiba Collection, Volume 2” is a four-disc set with seven spectacular classic films starring the lethal fighter himself, Sonny Chiba. Following the first “Sonny Chiba Collection” box set, this second volume offers even more thrilling highlights from Chiba’s highly influential legacy, including the films “The Defensive Power of Aikido,” “13 Steps of Maki,” “Karate Warriors,” “The Great Okinawa Yakuza War,” “Karate for Life,” “Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon,” “The Okinawa War of Ten Years.” Greatly missed by his legion of fans, Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba – The “Street Fighter” – remains an icon for all time. On Blu-ray from Shout! Studios. Read more here. … In “Paranoid Garden” (1994 — Japan), during the waning days of WWII, recent widow Noriko clings to her husband’s family after he is killed in battle. But that familial love is quickly replaced by more forbidden urges, and the bonds between them turn physical. Yet there is another secret hidden in this home, one that in a time of war could bring great shame and place all of their lives in peril. A taboo tale that questions notions of love, loyalty and death. From Massacre Video.
“For All Mankind: Season One” (2019) makes its Blu-ray debut this week with a four-disc set with all 10 episodes. Imagine a world where the global space race never ended. This thrilling “what if” take on history spotlights the high-stakes lives of NASA astronauts and their families. In an alternative version of 1969, the Soviet Union beats the United States to the Moon, and the space race continues on for decades with still grander challenges and goals. From Sony.
From TV to Disc:
“Justified: City Primeval S1” (2023) is a two-disc set with all eight of the episodes starring Timothy Olyphant, Aunjanue Ellis, Vondie Curtis Hall, Adelaide Clemens, Marin Ireland, Victor Williams, Norbert Leo Butz. Having left the hollers of Kentucky 15 years ago, Raylan Givens now lives in Miami, a walking anachronism balancing his life as a U.S. Marshal and part-time father of a 15-year-old girl. His hair is greyer, his hat is dirtier, and the road in front of him is suddenly a lot shorter than the road behind. A chance encounter on a desolate Florida highway sends him to Detroit. There he crosses paths with Clement Mansell, aka The Oklahoma Wildman, a violent, sociopathic desperado who’s already slipped through the fingers of Detroit’s finest once and aims to do so again. Mansell’s lawyer, formidable Motor City native Carolyn Wilder, has every intention of representing her client, even as she finds herself caught in between cop and criminal, with her own game afoot as well. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Sony.
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.
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