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New streaming, on-demand highlights May 20-26, 2024

Kirsten Dunst in Alex Garland's "Civil War" (Photo: A24){p}{/p}
Kirsten Dunst in Alex Garland's "Civil War" (Photo: A24)

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This week sees the digital release of two of my favorite films from 2024 (thus far). "Civil War" isAlex Garland's cautionary tale about dissent. It’s a social lambasting of the current cultural divide and a look at the damage the carnage has on those who choose to document it. Stop. Take notice. Listen.

On the opposite side of cinema is the delightfully over-the-top action of “The Fall Guy.” The story is an excuse to set up some of the craziest action sequences you’ll ever see. There’s a bit of a love story, some mystery, revenge, and a lot of amazing stunt work. The digital release also includes an extended cut that includes more mayhem. More Ryan GoslingandEmily Blunt is usually a good thing.

It's been a while since I watched a Mia Wasikowska film. I should rectify that with "Club Zero." Obsessive teachers who present their students with extreme demands in hopes of ushering them into a secret society never grows old.

You have a handful of other options featuring the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme, and the return of Johnny Depp.

Shifting over to Blu-ray and DVD, but staying on topic,Woody Allen's latest "Coup de Chance" finds itself as the most notable new film amongst a sea of catalog releases including "American Hustle," "Deathdream" (1974), "Gretel & Hansel", and "Narc". in 4K, a Collector Edition of "The Island of Dr, Moreau " (1996) a curious film with a bizarre behind-the-scenes history, and the Taiwanese historical epic "Beauty of Beauties" (1965).

Civil War

Synopsis: An adrenaline-fueled thrill ride through a near-future fractured America balanced on the razor's edge. [Review]

The Fall Guy

Synopsis: He’s a stuntman, and like everyone in the stunt community, he gets blown up, shot, crashed, thrown through windows and dropped from the highest of heights, all for our entertainment. And now, fresh off an almost career-ending accident, this working-class hero has to track down a missing movie star, solve a conspiracy and try to win back the love of his life while still doing his day job. What could possibly go right? [Review]

Club Zero

Synopsis: At an international boarding school, an unassuming, yet rigorous, Miss Novak (Mia Wasikowska) joins the teaching staff to instruct a new class on “conscious eating.” Her impressionable teenage students each have their own reasons for joining the class – to improve fitness, reduce their carbon footprint, or get extra credit. Although early lectures focus on mindful consumption, Miss Novak’s discussions soon become increasingly disordered and extreme. A suspicious headmistress, concerned parents and the failing health of her students lead everyone to question the inscrutable Miss Novak’s motivations for teaching the class. As a few devoted pupils fall deeper under her cult-like tutelage, they are given a new, even more sinister goal to aspire to – joining the ominous “Club Zero.”

Darkness of Man

Synopsis: Interpol operative Russell Hatch witnesses the death of an informant when a seemingly routine raid goes wrong. Years later, he finds himself protecting the informant's son from a group of merciless gangs involved in an all-out turf war.

Jeanne du Barry

Synopsis: Jeanne du Barry follows Jeanne Vaubernier (Maïwenn), a working-class woman determined to climb the social ladder, using her charms to escape her impoverished life. Her lover, the Comte du Barry (Melvil Poupaud), wishes to present her to King Louis XV (Johnny Depp) and orchestrates a meeting through the influential Duke of Richelieu (Pierre Richard). The encounter goes far beyond his expectations for it was love at first sight for the King and Jeanne. Through this ravishing courtesan, the king rediscovers his appetite for life and feels he can no longer live without her. Making Jeanne his last official mistress, scandal erupts as no one at Court will accept a girl from the streets into their rarified world.


Synopsis: David and Karen Frank are retirement-age progressive activists and parents who have lived in the same Victorian home on the north side of Chicago for 30 years. It’s the house in which their four children grew up and where two of their children, adult sons Benji and Rod, still live. On the eve of Benji’s graduation from college, daughters Evonne and Norma return home from out-of-state for a weekend celebration. Evonne brings her daughter, and newly separated wife; Norma arrives alone, with thoughts of wasted potential as she reconsiders her life; Rod, an unemployed burnout, pines for his ex who left years ago; and all Benji wants to do is escape the party to rendezvous with a free-spirited actress he met the night prior. As David and Karen announce the potential sale of their home, each member of the Frank family finds their bonds with the others being tested and strengthened in surprising ways. "Relative" is a warm blend of comedy and drama about a modern American family.


Synopsis: Raymond (Saul Williams) is a young Black performance poet living in Washington, D.C. who is arrested and imprisoned for a petty marijuana charge. Danger lurks around every corner, but nothing can stop him from establishing his identity, strength, and voice. In jail, Raymond meets a prison gang leader (Bonz Malone) and a writing teacher (Sonja Sohn) who inspires him to use the power of creative expression to fight for his freedom and avoid becoming another victim of the racist criminal justice system. Featuring sublime poetry and heart-wrenching realism, Slam is a testament to the importance and impact of artistic expression. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic) at the Sundance Film Festival and the Caméra d'Or (Best First Feature) at the Cannes Film Festival.

Blu-ray & DVD Highlights

American Hustle (2013) 4K UHD Steelbook

Synopsis: A fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock America, "American Hustle" tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that's as dangerous as it is enchanting. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito, the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving's unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down. Like David O. Russell's previous films ("The Fighter," "Silver Linings Playbook"), "American Hustle" defies genre, hinging on raw emotion, and life and death stakes.

Beauty of Beauties (1965)

Synopsis: "Hsi Shih: The Beauty of Beauties" was one of the most ambitious films made in the Taiwan film industry in the 1960s. After leaving The Shaw Brothers studio in Hong Kong and moving to Taiwan, filmmaker Li Han-hsiang mounted this historical epic. Told through the story of Xishi (Hsi Shih), one of the 'Four Great Beauties' of Chinese history, the film portrays the war between two Chinese Kingdoms during the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.). After the kingdom of Yue is defeated by the kingdom of Wu, King Goujian of Yue takes pains to prepare for his revenge and rebuild his country. Knowing that King Fucha of Wu is lewd and lustful, he offers Xisi to the court of Wu to serve as Fucha’s concubine, with Fucha unaware that she is also a spy. She uses her charm to draw Fucha away from his office and governance, while King Goujian rallies his forces together to attempt to reclaim his lands. The film was produced on a truly vast scale to bring this history to life in vivid colour. It swept the Golden Horse Awards in 1965 and is here presented in a version lovingly restored in 4K from its original Camera negative.

Coup de Chance

Synopsis: "Coup De Chance" is about the important role chance and luck play in our lives. Fanny (Lou de Laâge) and Jean (Melvil Poupaud) look like the ideal married couple – they’re both professionally accomplished, they live in a gorgeous apartment in an exclusive neighborhood of Paris, and they seem to be in love just as much as they were when they first met. But when Fanny accidentally bumps into Alain (Niels Schneider), a former high school classmate, she’s swept off her feet. They soon see each other again and get closer and closer

Deathdream (1974) 4K UHD

Synopsis: In this shattering variation on 'The Monkey's Paw,' grief-stricken suburban parents (Academy Award nominees John Marley of "The Godfather" and Lynn Carlin of "Faces") refuse to accept the news that their son Andy (Richard Backus) has been killed in Vietnam. But when Andy returns home soon after, something may be horribly wrong: Andy is alive and well... or is he? Produced and directed by Bob Clark ("Black Christmas") and written by Alan Ormsby ("Deranged"), "Deathdream" was one of the very first films to confront the domestic ravages of the Vietnam War. More than forty years later, it remains one of the most chilling horror films of all time.

Gretel & Hansel (2020) 4K UHD

Synopsis: Director Osgood Perkins ("The Blackcoat's Daughter") brings his terrifyingly unique vision to one of the most famous of Grimm Fairy Tales in "Gretel & Hansel." After being thrown out of their mother’s home due to extreme poverty, Gretel (Sophia Lillis) leads her younger brother, Hansel (Samuel J. Leakey), through the woods in search of food and work. A kindly hunter points them in the direction of civilization, and the children soon discover a quaint cottage in the wood, where a fragile old woman, Holda (Alice Krige), offers fresh food and bed. The children hungrily accept Holda’s gifts, with little thought as to what they may be asked of in return. As days pass, Hansel grows weary of Holda’s intentions and the "lessons" she has been teaching Gretel behind his back. As Gretel begins to come into her own, she detects her brother might be in serious danger.

The Island of Dr, Moreau (1996) Collector's Edition

Synopsis: Dr. Moreau is a brilliant geneticist on the brink of superseding evolution. When a U.N. diplomat visits Moreau's island laboratory, he uncovers fantastic but brutal experiments that turn animal life forms into human-like beasts. As Moreau and his assistant race toward their barbaric goal of creating the perfect life form, the beasts revolt, threatening not only the island but ultimately all of mankind!
Includes: Theatrical and Director's Cuts of the film

Narc (2002) 4K UHD

Studio Synopsis: In wintry Detroit, narcotics cop Nick Tellis (Jason Patric, "The Lost Boys") is recovering from an undercover operation gone wrong. In the hopes of being assigned a quiet desk job, he agrees to return to active duty and partner up with Detective Henry Oak (Ray Liotta, Goodfellas) to investigate the apparent murder of Oak's former partner. As both men become lost in the depths of the case, boundaries become blurred, and their relationship begins to vacillate between intensely personal and unsettlingly suspicious.

Republic Pictures Horror Collection (1944-1946)

Details: These four acclaimed chillers from Republic Pictures are guaranteed to put a tingle down your spine and a smile on your face! "The Lady and the Monster" (1944) – Erich von Stroheim plays a mad scientist bent on keeping the brain of millionaire William Donovan alive after he removes it from Donovan’s dying body. His assistant (Richard Arlen) serves as host for Donovan’s brain impulses; the lady of the title (Vera Ralston) fights against the monstrous experiment"The Phantom Speaks" (1945) – The vengeful spirit of an executed murderer (Tom Powers) enters the body of a physician (Stanley Ridges), and forces him to do its bidding—namely, murder. A newspaperman (Richard Arlen) must unravel the bloody supernatural secret before it’s too late. "The Catman of Paris" (1946) – After a mysterious cat-like creature slaughters people close to him, Parisian Charles Regnier (Carl Esmond) is suspected of murder. Charles fears that he is the beast, but his paramour Marie (Lenore Aubert) and best friend Henry (Douglass Dumbrille) believe he’s innocent until the Catman begins to stalk Marie! "Valley of the Zombies" (1946) – Long-dead madman Ormand Murks (Ian Keith) once believed that endless blood transfusions would make him immortal. Now resurrected via voodoo, he stalks the city for human blood. A woman (Adrian Booth) falls under Ormand’s hypnotic, vampiric spell.

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