‘Nomadland’ Director’s Debut Feature, Four Other Films Arriving on Disc Oct. 5 from Kino Lorber

Kino Lorber has announced five films arriving on disc Oct. 5, two on Blu-ray Disc and three on DVD. The order deadline for retailers is Sept. 7

Arriving on Blu-ray Disc are Songs My Brother Taught Me and, from the Cohen Media Group, The Awakening.

Songs My Brother Taught Me is the 2015 debut feature from Chloé Zhao, the Academy Award-winning director of Nomadland (2020). A portrait of modern day life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the film explores the bond between a brother (John Reddy) and his younger sister (Jashaun St. John), who find themselves on separate paths to rediscovering the
meaning of home.

The Awakening is a British horror film centered on the death of a child at a boarding school. When the death is blamed on a ghost, hoax exposer Florence Cathcart is certain that science and reason can explain it. But the truth she discovers is more terrifying than she could ever imagine, and soon the ghost hunter becomes the hunted. The Awakening stars Rebecca Hall (The Town), Dominic West (“The Wire”) and Imelda Staunton (“Harry Potter” films).

DVD releases that become available Oct. 5 include Playing Frisbee in North Korea, Virgil Films’ Heaven and Greenwich Entertainment’s Not Going Quietly.

Playing Frisbee in North Korea is the first documentary produced and directed by an African-American female filmmaker from inside North Korea. The idea began at a conference on Korean re-unification organized by General Colin L. Powell and the Colin Powell Center, where director Savanna Washington was a graduate Fellow. Through verité footage from inside North Korea, interviews with North Korean refugees, long-time aid workers, scholars, and experts on the topic, this documentary provides an authentic, on the ground perspective of the lives, struggles, and humanity of the people of North Korea.

Heaven is a faith-based film inspired by the book Heaven: The Adventure Begins, by Alan Duprey. The film tells the story of Jonathan Stone (Angus Benfield), a middle-aged paramedic who struggles to find meaning in the midst of his everyday life, until he wakes up one day in heaven and discovers that his life had more meaning than he could ever have imagined.

Not Going Quietly is a documentary about a rising star in progressive politics and a new father, 32-year-old Ady Barkan, whose life is upended when he is diagnosed with ALS. But after a confrontation with powerful Sen. Jeff Flake on an airplane goes viral, catapulting him to national fame, Barkan and a motley crew of activists ignite a political movement called “Be a Hero.” Together, they barnstorm across the country and empower people to confront their elected officials with emotional, personal stories to demand healthcare justice.

Godzilla vs. Kong

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/15/21;
Warner;

Sci-Fi;
Box Office $100.1 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language.
Stars Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza Gonzalez, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir.

The title fight between two monster-movie heavyweights delivers pretty much what one might expect from such a premise: a lot of spectacle, flashy visual effects, rampaging destruction on a massive scale, and a completely disposable story to provide the flimsiest of excuses to set it all up.

The clash between Godzilla and King Kong is a rematch of sorts, the pair having faced off in 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla, a Japanese production from the “Godzilla” creative team (and the third “Godzilla” movie to that point). But this is their first encounter in the new “Monsterverse” franchise that began with 2014’s Godzilla remake, which got a sequel in 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters featuring Godzilla battling several of his traditional enemies. This Kong was introduced in 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, a 1970s-set adventure film in which humanity discovered the giant ape and all the strange creatures of his mysterious homeland.

Godzilla vs. Kong is under no illusions that it exists for any reason other than to put the two titans together. It even structures the opening credits as a tournament bracket showing which creatures each defeated in the previous movies.

The story, such as it is, involves Godzilla attacking research facilities of a company called Apex and putting the local population in danger. Apex wants to access the power source of the mythical “Hollow Earth” (a hidden underground world) to power a defense against Godzilla, and recruits a scientist named Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) to lead the expedition. To access Hollow Earth, they need two things: special vehicles that can withstand the gravitational fluxes of the subterranean barrier, and a Titan to locate an entrance. Lind knows a scientist (Rebecca Hall) who runs a facility on Skull Island where in the past 40 years they’ve managed to entrap Kong and keep him contained in a giant dome.

Anyway, the plan is to take Kong to Antarctica to locate a portal. But since Godzilla can sense the presence of other Titans, he can track Kong once the ape leaves the dome. So Godzilla attacks the fleet transporting Kong, and the Titans have their first throwdown on the deck of an aircraft carrier, and it’s pretty awesome.

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Meanwhile, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) from King of the Monsters joins up with a conspiracy podcaster to investigate why Godzilla would be attacking cities again, since she believes Godzilla is meant to protect the world. So they look into Apex and discover the company is building Mechagodzilla, the famed giant robot version of Godzilla, which the original Godzilla doesn’t like.

Through some more plot mechanics, Kong ends up in Hollow Earth and finds his ancestral homeland and an ancient axe his ancestors once used to fight Godzilla’s ancestors in some ancient war between the Titans. The axe allows Kong to harness the same radiation Godzilla uses, which evens the playing field a bit since Godzilla is a lizard that can fire nuclear blasts from his mouth, while Kong isn’t much more than a big monkey.

But Kong turns out to be pretty smart, and to speed things along the movie treats Kong as another protagonist, communicating with a little deaf girl from his island in order to join forces with the humans against Godzilla.

So, Godzilla attacks the Apex facility that is building Mechagodzilla, and Kong returns to the surface to fight him again, and glorious destruction of many neon buildings ensues. It’s quite a sight to behold. And the facility is in Hong Kong, because of course King Kong has to end up in Hong Kong or else what is even the point of it all?

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The Blu-ray of the film is loaded with more than an hour of featurettes exploring the history of Godzilla and Kong and the making of their epic clash. Many of the featurettes are also available with copies from select digital retailers.

The extras are broken down by character, so there are two focused on Godzilla, four focused on Kong, and one on Mechagodzilla. There are also three featurettes covering the major fight scenes, one for each.

For the Godzilla featurettes, “Godzilla Attacks” is a six-and-a-half-minute look at the character’s use in this particular story, while the 10-minute “The Penomenon of Gojira, King of the Monsters” is a look at the history of the creature in film, featuring interviews from cast members and filmmakers from all the Monsterverse movies.

The Kong featurettes mostly deal with visual effects and production design, with one, the eight-and-a-half-minute “The Evolution of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World,” is a history of King Kong as told through interviews with Monsterverse filmmakers. In a not altogether unexpected move, only clips from Warner-owned Kong movies are shown; the 1976 (Paramount( and 2005 (Universal) remakes are mentioned briefly without any clips from them being played.

The regular Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray editions include an exclusive commentary track by director Adam Wingard. Much of his discussion centers on technical details, but Wingard is also a fan of the characters and admits that part of his motivation for making the movie was to follow up on debates he had in second grade about who would win in a fight by making sure the character he had always picked would end up winning.

Originally published as a streaming review April 19, 2021.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 1/30/18;
Sony Pictures;
Drama;
Box Office $1.58 million;
$25.99 DVD, $26.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong sexual content including brief graphic images, and language.
Stars Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, Oliver Platt, Connie Britton.

The story of Wonder Woman’s creators is so fascinating that it’s a bit surprising it hasn’t been the subject of a movie until now. Of course, it only took 75 years to bring the most iconic female superhero of all time to the big screen, so who’s to say with these things?

Certainly the resurgent popularity of Wonder Woman in the past few years, thanks to her appearances in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and her own solo film, sparked a renewed focus on her origins as a character. And societal taboos likely muted the true extent of the salaciousness surrounding her creation in ways it really takes the passage of decades to appreciate. Still, this better-late-than-never docu-drama is a well-timed accompaniment to her cinematic adventures.

Conventional wisdom holds that Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston, a Harvard psychologist who invented the lie-detector test and wanted to create a positive role model for young girls in the vein of how Superman influenced young boys. But there’s so much more to it than that.

But the deeper truth is that Marston and his wife, Elizabeth, were involved in a fetishistic, polyamorous relationship with his research assistant, Olive Byrne. Both women would provide major help and inspiration in creating Wonder Woman.

Many of these “how something was created” type of movies seem to rely mostly on nostalgia to carry the story, hoping audiences will appreciate seeing the introduction of all their favorite traits.

With Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, however, writer-director Angela Robinson isn’t so much interested in the nostalgia behind Wonder Woman’s creation, but what drove the people responsible for it. To that end, the film is structured with a framing device of Marston (Luke Evans) defending the Wonder Woman comic book to a censorship board after it, like many comic books at the time, is labeled a subversive element.

Then, in flashbacks, we learn the circumstances of Marston’s relationship with Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), a fierce academic resentful that she isn’t being taken seriously in a university system dominated by men. The arrival of Olive (Bella Heathcote) inspires lustful tendencies in both of them, and as they develop the lie-detector their three-way relationship quickly turns sexual. Rumors of their unconventional relationship cause them to be shunned.

In need of work, Marston creates Wonder Woman as a means of using comic books to spread a subtle feminist message. Elements of the bondage and role play in his own sexual life seep into his writing, with Wonder Woman known as much for her suggestive outfits and lasso of truth as she is her strength and heroism. Marston tying her origins to Greek mythology then comes across as a thinly veiled excuse to infuse lesbian overtones into the comic, in the guise of an island of paradise populated entirely by women.

Ultimately, though, the core of the film is the relationship between William, Elizabeth and Olive, and their struggles to stay together amid the pressures of societal norms.

The idea that the three of them as a group should be considered the creator of Wonder Woman is put forth in a motion comic on the Blu-ray called “The Secret Identity of Charles Moulton,” which was the pen name Marston used to obscure from the academic community that he was writing comic books.

The eight-minute featurette “A Dynamic Trio: Birth of a Feminist Icon” is a more conventional piece about the real-life characters, while the six-and-a-half-minute “A Crucial Point of View” featurette focuses on Robinson’s motivations for making the film.

The Blu-ray also includes three interesting deleted scenes that run a total of about five-and-a-half minutes.