Quite the mix of releases this week for us. Up first is Possessor: Uncut written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, the son of David Cronenberg. Watching the film, the apple clearly didn’t fall too far from the tree if you are familiar with David’s films. The concept just screams eXistenZ, Videodrome, Scanners, etc. The film is about an agent (Andrea Riseborough) who is implanted into other people’s brains so she can use their bodies to assassinate people for high paying clients. If that doesn’t clearly say Cronenberg to you, you’ve never seen a Cronenberg film before. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays her boss who tries to keep her in control during jobs and afterwards. It has a ton of style, some great effects and I dug the concept. Most of the effects are practical which is always great to me. It has just enough action and exposition to keep you paying attention. It’s under two hours long too which certainly helps the film from wandering. In a weird year of releases, it’s one of the better sci-fi concepts out there. If you like David’s films and aren’t familiar with Brandon’s yet, this one will make you a fan.
Next we have Habermann, a World War II drama. Based on a true story, it’s about a German man who owns a sawmill in Czechoslovakia. He has a wife and child and clashes with an SS Officer after two German soldiers are killed. He fights to keep balance, providing work for all the men at the mill, keep his family together and deal with the Nazis as little as possible. But Czechs don’t want the Germans there and slowly start to disavow the German businessman. Things get further complicated when he finds out his wife is half-Jewish and she doesn’t know it. His workers start to push back against the Germans and everyone in town is playing their own personal politics. I wasn’t familiar with the story and the ending will gut people.
Song Without a Name is also based on a true story and is Peru’s submission for Best International Film at the Academy Awards. It’s about a young pregnant woman who visits a clinic to get help with her pregnancy. She gives birth and is not given her baby. She’s not the only woman it’s happened to and after the authorities do nothing about her issue, she turns to a journalist for help. He uncovers it’s happening quite often with clinics popping up, preying on young women and taking their babies. It’s another film benefitted from an under 2 hour runtime, any longer and it would definitely have run out of steam. It’s shot in black & white to really showcase the downtrodden aspect of the environment and the situation. I don’t know if it’s something I’d watch again, but it’s good for one viewing.
Raining in the Mountain is a 1979 film hitting Blu-ray for the first time after getting a 2K remastering. I hadn’t heard of the film. It’s a period piece. It’s sort of a comedy. It’s sort of a martial arts film as well. It’s about a temple that houses a priceless handwritten scroll that everyone wants. There’s a female thief. A general. The head monk is trying to pick his successor which he does and confuses everyone with his choice. The costuming and set design are great and there is some solid wire work as well. It was pretty fun and I’m sure it has a ton of fans who will eat up this release. The director is very well known as is the female thief so if you are fan, it looks great remastered and you’ll enjoy it.
The following are a slew of Kino Lorber releases coming out this week. First is My Science Project starring John Stockwell, Fisher Stevens and Dennis Hopper. I hadn’t seen this flick since I was a kid and it still holds up pretty well. Stockwell plays a high school student obsessed with cars and finds a weird device in a hidden room in a junkyard. He realizes it’s some sort of engine and hooks it up to a battery with his friend Fisher Stevens. Hopper is their teacher who they show it to. He gets pulled into the device and weird things start happening to space-time. Sure some of the effects are sketchy by today’s standards, but it’s still a fun retro watch. Plus Hopper was always worth the price of admission.
The Return of the Musketeers is a 1989 action flick starring the original cast of the 1970s Musketeers movies. Michael York, Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay and Richard Chamberlain return and it also stars Christopher Lee, C. Thomas Howell and Kim Cattrall. I’m pretty sure I had seen it as a kid, but watching it now it’s still pretty fun. There’s lots of swashbuckling, adventures and period piece laughs. Cattrall plays an English woman out for revenge on the men who killed her mother. Howell plays the adopted son of one the Musketeers who are now much older and doing much different things in life. But they must get together to protect themselves and do the job they are hired for. Chamberlain’s role is very small because he didn’t like how the film handled the death of Roy Kinnear while filming. Overall it’s a fun, campy flick with guys too old to be swordsmen, but that’s why it works. It’s far from great, but I remember enjoying it as a kid and I’m sure there are some diehard fans who will enjoy this Blu-ray.
Cry of a Prostitute is a 1974 Italian crime film starring Henry Silva. Silva comes back to Italy from New York and starts dropping bodies! He’s entangled with multiple crime gangs double crossing all of them and making a power move of his own. Another campy film, almost every guy who gets shot spins and falls like he was hit with a cannonball. Silva wears the same shirt and suit the entire movie, but changes the tie despite sweating profusely throughout. I had a lot of fun with this one as well. Silva is pretty great in the role and the backdrops are gorgeous. As is Barbara Bouchet. If you are a fan of the movie, definitely pick up this new Blu-ray.
Next is Fellini’s Casanova starring Donald Sutherland. I have a love/hate relationship with Fellini. I respect his artistry and vision, but never understand his movies. Sutherland plays the legendary womanizer told in a different way this time. It’s bizarre, weird and very Fellini. There’s very little nudity, absurd sex scenes with dry humping and all sorts of nonsense. I didn’t get it at all, but man do I love the vision of the film. The water boats sail on looks like giant garbage bags. The set design is oddly incredible. The costuming and wardrobe are perfect. I’m not the biggest Fellini guy but his fans will love this.
The Buster Keaton Collection Volume 4: Go West & College is out this week. These restored silent films are great and must owns for Keaton collectors. In Go West Keaton plays a fish-out-of-water ranch hand who falls for a cow. He can barely ride a horse, has no experience on a farm and gets into all kinds of shenanigans. The giant cattle march through town is fantastic when you think about when these films got made. In College, Keaton plays a nerd who tries his luck at sports in college to win over the love of his life. He’s terrible at baseball, track & field and more yet becomes the coxswain of the rowing team. He fights his rival who also wants the lass. I’ve developed a fondness for Buster Keaton over the years and really enjoyed the collection.
Last for the Kino Lorber releases is The Rock Hudson Collection. In this collection is Seminole where Hudson plays a lieutenant with ties to the Seminole tribe that should help squash troubles between the Natives and the US military. Of course there’s the straight-laced, listen to his orders commander whose only directive to get the Seminoles to leave and there’s fighting because of it. The Golden Blade is inspired from the Arabic fairy tales of One Thousand and One Nights and finds Hudson out to avenge his father’s death. Along the way he meets a princess who gives him a golden sword making him invincible until it’s replaced and he ends up having to clear his name. It’s played for laughs more than adventure. Bengal Brigade sees Hudson as Captain Claybourne, a man who steps down after being accused of not following orders, but finds out his men are in trouble and tries to help them despite no longer being a serviceman. Hudson is an iconic actor whose filmography is missing from my viewing experience so I’m glad collections like this are out there to fill in the blanks for people like me.
No Place is a small movie about a grifter who travels as a stand up comedian who does small jobs along the way. When he gets set up, drugged and his money stolen, he needs to figure out who set him up and how to get back at them. I don’t think I’m familiar with anyone involved with the film and it won’t wow too many people, but I thought it was entertaining enough for one watch. With a bigger production budget the story might have really paid off, but as it is, it’s fine. People who only watch blockbusters and mainstream films will hate it, but I can respect what it’s trying to do with what it has. I did figure out pretty quickly who the ultimate “bad guy” was, but I didn’t hate myself for having to watch it.
Now for some TV, The Secrets She Keeps is about a family whose baby is stolen from the hospital. The wife is an online blogger who makes her entire life known. The husband works in TV and they have two children already. There is a pregnant woman who works at a local mart with a sketchy past and tries to befriend the woman. The woman has a secret as does her husband. Over 6 episodes they keep you guessing as to who is involved and if there’s more to it. There are enough twists and turns to hold your attention throughout and overall I did enjoy it, but man is there one part that bothered the heck out of me. I won’t spoil it because it would reveal two surprises, but the wife’s reaction to news about her husband bothered me so much. She did the same thing, if not worse and she can’t forgive him? Hypocrite! But again overall I enjoyed it and at only 6 episodes it’s a quick binge.
What’s not a quick binge is the new Hawaii 5-0: The Complete Series boxset. This beast is the complete reboot series that starred Alex O’Loughlin as Steve McGarrett and Golden Globe nominee Scott Caan as Danny “Danno” Williams. I watched the series when DVDs came my way after watching the first season when it originally aired. It’s one of the few series reboots I actually enjoyed and it had a pretty good following. This is all 10 seasons, well over 200+ episodes and is a must own for fans. It includes over 20 hours of special features including audio commentary on select episodes and an all-new bonus disc featuring the cast and crew looking back on the show. There are deleted scenes, gag reels, alternate endings, extended scenes and much more so if you know someone who liked the show, this makes a tremendous holiday gift.
Last we have 2020 World Series Champions: Los Angeles Dodgers narrated by the legendary Vin Scully. The sports world, like everything else, was certainly thrown for a loop in 2020 because of the pandemic. The baseball season was delayed for months and the playoff system was changed to fit the needs for this season. Out of all of it, the Los Angeles Dodgers won their first World Series title in 32 years. With newcomer Mookie Betts, the Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in six games and this Blu-ray release gives you the highlights of the Series. The ratings for sports events were down this year so this is a good recap of what you might have missed. Of course it’s a must own for Dodgers fans. Bonus features include Season Highlights, Clinching Moments and How They Got There Featurette. Even though I’m a Red Sox fan, I’m a sports fan and always enjoy these championship releases.