New Release Wall
One of the most extraordinary directorial debuts in recent years is Regina Hall’s “One Night in Miami” (The Criterion Collection), based on the play by Kemp Powers (“Soul”). Imagining the details of a real-life encounter between Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree) — still going by “Cassius Clay” at that point — Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), it’s fascinating in both the macro (the responsibilities of Black artists and celebrities) and the micro (the duties and limitations of friendship). What could easily have been a four-men-in-a-room filmed play pops with vivid characterizations and thrilling filmmaking.
Also available: Yes, one of the year’s best animated films is currently streaming on Netflix, but the Blu-ray of “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) comes with plenty of extras (including a new short) that fans will want in their library; all the millennials scolded by Sir Ridley Scott for not going to see “The Last Duel” (20th Century Studios) can do him a solid and buy a hard copy; Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish star in “The Card Counter” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment), a very Paul Schrader portrait of alienation set in a stiflingly cookie-cutter America of casinos and hotel rooms.
From the studio that brought you “Cats” — and make of that what you will — comes the screen adaptation of Tony-winner “Dear Evan Hansen” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment); the holiday season is the perfect time for a hot-toy-causes-havoc animated comedy like “Ron’s Gone Wrong” (20th Century Studios); Tom Hardy explores a new kind of love in “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment); Daniel Craig saddles up for one last, spectacular go at 007 in “No Time to Die” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment).
One of the year’s best-reviewed indies was the comedy-horror-mystery “Werewolves Within” (IFC Films), starring Sam Richardson (“The Tomorrow War,” “Ted Lasso”). That’s kind of a shock considering this is a video-game adaptation, perhaps the most consistently disappointing of genres, but assume that this one is the exception and not the rule.
Also available: John Leguizamo stars in the gritty prison drama “Dark Blood” (FilmRise); speaking of prison, “South of Heaven” (RLJE Films) stars Jason Sudeikis as a recently released ex-con who gets dragged back into crime; Robyn Lively plays a mom desperate to find her missing daughter in “Through the Glass Darkly” (Breaking Glass Pictures).
Tim Blake Nelson gives another great performance in the Western “Old Henry” (Shout Factory); in “Mayday” (Magnolia Home Entertainment), young women find themselves transported to an alternate dimension where they are plunged into fighting a war.
“Shirobako: The Movie” (Shout Factory) picks up where the beloved anime series left off; Ben Whishaw gives an intense performance as an airport security agent suffering a breakdown in “Surge” (FilmRise); a Maltese fisherman grapples with changing times in the gorgeous and haunting “Luzzu” (Kino Lorber).
Virtual reality hits a whole new level of sexiness in the Turkish import “Playdurizm” (Artsploitation Films); the English-dubbed German animated feature “Conni and the Cat” (Blue Fox Entertainment) sees a pet tagging along for a field trip and causing hilarious chaos; a Mexican investigative journalist tracks down an urban legend in “El Hombre Búfalo” (IndiePix).
Armenian filmmaker Serge Avedikian returns to his grandparents’ village in “Back to Sölöz” (IndiePix) as a way to examine both personal and cultural history; talented swimmer “Beyto” (Dark Star Films) falls in love with his male coach in this Swiss drama about Turkish émigrés; anime fave “Demon Slayer – Kimetsu No Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train” (Funimation) makes its Blu-ray debut.
There’s been a boomlet of fascinating documentaries about trans and non-binary historical figures this year, and one that shouldn’t be missed is “Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story” (Greenwich), all about the legendary musician whose career included folk, blues, “Sesame Street,” and Buddhism on his way to becoming a groundbreaking pioneer in the field of electronic music.
Also available: There’s a plethora of other music-centric docs this month, including band portraits “Chicago Double Feature: ‘Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago’/’The Terry Kath Experience’” (FilmRise) and “NEEDTOBREATHE: Into the Mystery” (Greenwich), politics-minded sequel “Athens, Ga. Inside Out 2: Red Turns Into Blue” (MVD Visual), Contemporary Christian Music history “The Jesus Music” (Lionsgate), and “Deep Blues” (Film Movement Classics), a scholarly exploration of the Mississippi roots of the popular genre.
“American Masters: Amy Tan – Unintended Memoir” (PBS) examines the influential Asian-American novelist; Bill Morrison returns with “The Village Detective: A Song Cycle” (Kino Lorber), another exploration of forgotten history; a Jewish woman who began a relationship with a concentration-camp guard must later testify against him in the searing “Love It Was Not” (Greenwich); design enthusiasts, particularly those interested in the history of furniture, won’t want to miss “Gustav Stickley: American Craftsman” (First Run Features); Ludacris narrates “The 2021 World Series Collector’s Edition” (Shout Factory), a video souvenir of this year’s Atlanta Braves victory.
The umbrella of “American independent cinema” includes the pioneers who tackled adult, sexually explicit content back when you could get arrested for that sort of thing, and one of the genre’s ablest practitioners is celebrated in the new box set “LA Plays Itself”: The Fred Halsted Collection (Altered Innocence). (And yes, that’s where Thom Andersen later got the title of his documentary “Los Angeles Plays Itself.”) This set includes restored-by-MOMA versions of the eponymous feature, along with other landmark queer features “Sextool” and “The Sex Garage,” as well as video essays, interviews, commentaries and other supplemental material.
Also available: Whether you’ve got a 3D television set-up or want to go with the red/blue glasses, you get the full 3D effect of “Revenge of the Shogun Women” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics); Pam Grier stars in Jack Hill’s women-behind-bars classic “Big Doll House” (MVD Visual), now digitally remastered; the martial-arts saga “Raging Fire” (Well Go USA Entertainment) stars Donnie Yen and Nicholas Tse, and this Blu-ray features a new English dub; it’s Steve Railsback vs. a giant bug in the Canadian creature feature “Blue Monkey” (Code Red).
Patrick Swayze faces down the post-apocalypse in “Steel Dawn” (Lionsgate); the new release of 1970 Kung Fu classic “The Chinese Boxer” (88 Films) features a new commentary and interview; The Django Collection, Volume One (FilmRise) features six spaghetti-Western favorites; racing tale “Checkered Flag or Crash” (Code Red) features the only-in-the-70s pairing of Susan Sarandon and Joe Don Baker.
Charles Bronson gives one of his most revered performances in the action saga “Mr. Majestyk” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics); the animated “The Monkey King: Reborn” (Well Go USA Entertainment) continues the story first told in three live-action “Monkey King” films; Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo play rival criminals whose feud explodes in a small-town police station in “Copshop” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment).
“Hell Hath No Fury” (Well Go USA Entertainment) salutes France’s WWII-era female resistance fighters; an earthquake opens the “Dead Pit” (Code Red), and here come the zombies; 2008 cult fave “The Wild Man of the Navidad” (Dark Sky Films) gets a DVD reissue, while John Woo’s American debut — the JCVD action piece “Hard Target” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) — is available on 4K for the first time.
So many studios — and the streaming services they operate — seem only mildly interested in keeping their back catalog alive and vital, so kudos to Paramount for a pair of releases that not only showcase great movies but also reflect some time and effort: The newly restored 50th anniversary Blu-ray of “Harold and Maude” (Paramount Home Entertainment) offers a new commentary from cinephile filmmakers Larry Karaszewski and Cameron Crowe as well as a new interview with Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) about the film’s unforgettable song score. And the Paramount Presents 40th anniversary Blu-ray of “Ragtime” allows audiences their first glimpse at director Milos Forman’s workprint version of the film. (Karaszewski pops up again to interview screenwriter Michael Weller.)
Also available: The Paramount hits keep coming, with new restored and remastered versions of Warren Beatty’s “Reds” (celebrating its 40th anniversary) and “Heaven Can Wait” (both Paramount Home Entertainment); Tony Randall acquires “The Brass Bottle” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) only to discover a genie (Burl Ives) inside; new Blu-rays of two Elliott Gould classics from his 1970s apex — the Robert Altman revisionist gumshoe tale “The Long Goodbye” and L.A. cop movie “Busting” (both Kino Lorber Studio Classics).
Not a lot of laughs in Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest film, but he gives a brilliant comic performance in Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” (Paramount Home Entertainment), now in 4K; also making its 4K debut is The Karate Kid Collection (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), which includes the three Ralph Macchio titles – heads up, “Cobra Kai” fans – but not the Hilary Swank or Jaden Smith outings; Gordon Parks’ landmark 1969 drama “The Learning Tree” gets a sumptuous release from The Criterion Collection; cult rock-and-roll comedy “Get Crazy” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) documents the wild behind-the-scenes antics at a big New Year’s show.
You love “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” you’ve already forgotten that “The Hustle” existed, but before both of them came “Bedtime Story” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics), with David Niven and Marlon Brando hilariously playing heiress-fleeing conmen on the French Riviera; Lionsgate offers a 4K steelbook of Akira Kurosawa’s breathtaking “King Lear” riff “Ran” exclusively at Best Buy — the label’s other 4K exclusives include “T2: Judgment Day” and “Hacksaw Ridge” (both Best Buy) and a Blu-ray steelbook exclusive of “Wonder” (Target); as a mercenary coup-leader, Christopher Walken lets slip “The Dogs of War” (Scorpion Releasing); early Hitchcock talkie “Number Seventeen” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) revolves around a group of thieves who’ve just pulled off a heist but have a detective on their tail.
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s legendary documentary “The Mystery of Picasso” (Milestone Film & Video) shows the artist creating a painting that exists only within this film; Jack Lemmon is a glib and comfortable Catholic priest dealing with a fiery young upstart (Zeljko Ivanek) in “Mass Appeal” (Code Red), the kind of literate, adult drama that could still be a box-office success 40 years ago; that was also a fertile period for Alan Alda, who wrote and starred in 1979’s “The Seduction of Joe Tynan” and the 1981 ensemble comedy “The Four Seasons” (both Kino Lorber Studio Classics) — the latter of which he also directed; groundbreaking in 1988 and still a singular cinematic achievement, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” (Disney Home Entertainment) gets its first 4K release.
Before “Werckmeister Harmonies” and “Sátántangó” came Béla Tarr’s brilliantly bleak “Damnation” (Arbelos); on the far end of the cinematic spectrum comes the animated feature “Beavis and Butthead Do America” (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment), celebrating its 25th anniversary; best known to younger audiences as the inspiration for a running gag in the “Home Alone” movies, “Angels with Dirty Faces” (Warner Archive Collection) is a gangster classic, starring James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart; “The Fabulous Dorseys” (The Film Detective) stars Big Band legends Tommy and Jimmy as themselves in their own auto-biopic.
One of the cinema’s great craftsmen of comedy, Ernst Lubitsch, showed off his dramatic side with 1932’s “Broken Lullaby” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics), starring Lionel Barrymore; Kim Basinger is dad’s new interstellar girlfriend in Richard Benjamin’s comedy “My Stepmother Is an Alien” (Arrow Video); The Criterion Collection’s new foray into 4K gives us a new hi-def release of beloved gotta-dance classic “The Red Shoes.”
Fans of Studio Ghibli have had ample opportunities to own the studio’s output (in various formats, from multiple labels), but now devotees of Hayao Miyazaki can get their hands on one his first major credits, “Future Boy Conan”: The Complete Series (GKids), released for the first time in North America with a 4K restoration and new English dub. Set decades after a post-apocalyptic war, the series follows young Conan, raised on a distant island by his grandfather, only to have the world come crashing in when a troubled young girl washes ashore.
Also available: Whether you’re a fan of anime and Japanese pop culture, or buying gifts for someone who loves it, there are plenty of other essential options this month, including the exhaustive “Neon Genesis Evangelion”: Collector’s Edition (Shout Factory/GKids) with absolutely everything you’d want from the iconic series and films; “Goblin Slayer”: Season One steelbook (Funimation); The Ultimate Aang & Korra Blu-Ray Collection (Nickelodeon/Paramount); Dragon Ball Super Bundle (Parts 1-10) (Funimation); and “Ultraman: Gaia” (Mill Creek Entertainment).
Speaking of animation, fans of the cult series will want the steelbook release of “Rick and Morty”: The Complete Fifth Season (Adult Swim/WB) on their shelves; LGBTQ-themed French series “Woke”: Season 3 (Breaking Glass Pictures) looks at the lives of global refugees; Allison Janney turns out the lights on “Mom”: The Eighth and Final Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment); more scary, slimy, EC Comics–inspired tales from “Creepshow”: Season 2 (Shudder/RLJE)
Art Carney steps in for James Stewart in a 1958 live-TV version of “Harvey” (Liberation Hall), performed on “The DuPont Show of the Month” and co-starring Fred Gwynne, Jack Weston, Charlotte Rae, and a pre-“Bewitched” Elizabeth Montgomery; get the Trek fan in your life the bundle pack of “Star Trek: Discovery” – Season 1-3 (Paramount Home Entertainment) on Blu-ray, featuring more than 8 hours of special features; the 1976 TV movie “21 Hours at Munich” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) recounts the terrorist incident at the 1972 Olympics.
Acorn has all your cozy-crime needs met with shows like “Jack Irish,” Season 3 and “Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries,” Series 2; a washed-up action star falls for a small-town guy in “I Am Syd Stone” (Dark Star Pictures); “Eli Roth’s History of Horror”: Season 2 (AMC/RLJE) continues its examination of the genre’s past.