Streaming might be the future, but physical media is still the present. It’s also awesome, depending on the title, the label, and the release, so each week we take a look at the new Blu-rays and DVDs making their way into the world. Welcome to this week in Home Video for November 15th, 2022! This week’s home video selection includes Death Game, Quentin Tarantino’s feature debut in 4K, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Death Game [Grindhouse Releasing]
What is it? A family man is tempted by two young women in need of shelter from the rain.
Why see it? Eli Roth’s Knock Knock is a remake of this 1970s thriller, and while it has its charms, it’s surprisingly lighter in tone and conviction than this mean, blackly comic original. Seymour Cassel stars as the regular guy who opens his home to two women in need only to lose his restraint when tempted. What follows is a twisted back and forth that moves violently between the sexy, silly, and shocking. And the ending, like, the very end, is an all-timer. Grindhouse Releasing’s new Blu is a gorgeous one bringing the film back to luxurious and lascivious life. The extras are equally great offering a glimpse into the production and legacy of the film. Whether you’re a fan of Roth’s remake or not, this is the superior film and one well worth bringing into your own home.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, interviews, commentaries]
Blue Hawaii [4K UHD, Paramount Presents]
What is it? A young man dances to his own tune in Hawaii.
Why see it? Elvis Presley’s films never saw a truly great entry, but Blue Hawaii is still a good time thanks to the supporting cast, tropical locations, and musical numbers. Joan Blackman and Angela Lansbury bring character while Presley brings the guitar and short shorts. It’s a fun watch, and Paramount’s new 4K UHD release sees the film’s colors and details pop like never before. The drama is minimal, but the entertainment is legit as the simple tale of a young man finding his independence delivers some casually rousing good times.
[Extras: Commentary, scrapbook]
Hansan: Rising Dragon
What is it? A prequel to The Admiral: Roaring Currents.
Why see it? We really don’t get enough films about naval warfare, but South Korea has now given us two great ones. The Admiral: Roaring Currents is an engaging historical tale complete with rich characters and thrilling battles. This prequel focuses more specifically on a famous battle from 1592, and it’s arguably the better, tighter film. Stellar CG mixed with live action brings the ships and warfare to life, and the results are exciting as hell from the unique ship design of the enemy to the blistering, splintering attacks sending ships and men to their doom. This is great stuff.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentary]
The Infernal Affairs Trilogy [Criterion Collection]
What is it? Two moles, one undercover with the mob and the other with the police, collide.
Why see it? If you’ve seen and enjoyed Martin Scorsese’s The Departed you owe it to yourself to check out the film and trilogy that inspired it. Directors Andrew Lau Wai-keung and Alan Mak deliver a complex and crafty tale across three films about deception and deceit. Andy Lau and Tony Leung star as the moles embedded deep where they don’t belong, and twists, turns, and action beats follow their every move. Part two is a prequel, but the suspense and rich character work isn’t dampened by the jump backwards. Criterion’s new release is slickly packaged and showcases all three films with vibrant colors and deep shadows. This is a must own from both the label and Hong Kong cinema.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentaries, interviews, featurettes, deleted scenes
Reservoir Dogs [4K UHD]
What is it? A pack of crooks crumble beneath their own collective.
Why see it? Quentin Tarantino’s feature debut remains a compelling and energetic indie, and it’s easy to see why it put him on the map in Hollywood (while his follow-up put him on the map with the world). Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney, and Michael Madsen (along with the director’s first unfortunate cameo) all bring piss and vinegar to the screen as an undercover cop in their midst leads to their demise. A low budget keeps the action minimal, but the dialogue is electric. Lionsgate’s new 4K UHD is a winner in sharpness, color, and grain.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Assassination [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A spy dodges a bullet by going undercover.
Why see it? You can never tire seeing Henry Silva playing not only a lead role, but one as a “good” guy to boot. The late 60s and 70s were his sweet spot there as afterward he found only supporting turns as villains. This 1967 effort knew what’s what, though, and casts him as a spy who gets shafted before landing a second chance. Intrigue, dangerous romance, and minor action scuffles follow. The film’s solid enough, and director Emilio P. Miraglia knows how to craft some attractive setpieces. Kino’s new disc and restoration are terrific offering up the film in crisp and colorful fashion.
[Extras: New 3K restoration, commentary]
The Diamond Wizard [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A treasury agent heads to London in search of villainy.
Why see it? Films from the so-called golden age of 3-D — basically the 50s — typically rely on throwing lots of objects at the camera so audiences get the “pop” sensation of the effect. This mid 50s noir rarely feels like that’s the goal, and for better or worse, the 3-D is instead used to create space within the shots. The end result, for a film like this, is a feeling that the 3-D is neither a plus or a hindrance. Which leaves us with the film itself… and it’s fine! Minor intrigues and double crosses while in pursuit of a scientist and a diamond lead to an engaging enough thriller.
[Extras: Newly restored in 3-D, commentary, featurette]
A Discovery of Witches: The Complete Trilogy
What is it? A witch and a vampire have history together.
Why see it? Deborah Harkness’ bestselling trilogy may not seem as big as some other contemporary book to film adaptations, but that’s due in part to the books getting adapted for television instead. That’s a limitation maybe when it comes to budget and bombast, but the series still delivers some good looking cinematography and production design bringing its world to life. Teresa Palmer and Matthew Goode are both terrific, and their appeal balances out the somewhat mixed engagement with the story itself. Some interesting beats and character interactions are to be found, but too much of it feels like pretty standard and expected. Fans of the show will want to pick up this release, though, as it combines the three seasons into a slickly attractive digibook-style case.
[Extras: Featurettes, bookmark]
Halo: Season One
What is it? An adaptation of the hit Xbox video game franchise.
Why see it? Halo redefined first-person shooters for the new consoles and gave Xbox a hand up on that front across numerous game entries. It’s a ton of fun, and there was some intriguing ideas at play in the games’ various narratives. The new television series is maybe a bit less engaging on the story front, but the action and spectacle are still an entertaining time thanks to some sharp visuals and setpieces. Is it as entertaining as playing the game, though? No, not really. Easier tho!
Jeepers Creepers: Reborn
What is it? A supernatural killer returns, for some reason.
Why see it? There’s really no reason to give this one a spin. Victor Salva is no longer associated with the franchise after being bought out, so that’s nice, but the folks who are writing and directing still can’t make anything worthwhile from the pieces. The creature is dull, the sound stages are sometimes digital backdrops, the characters are worthless, and nothing in the direction inspires the attention. I’ll still argue that the first is a solid little chiller, but the sequels have all been bunk with this being the worst offender.
The Valachi Papers [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A mobster turns snitch and pays the price.
Why see it? Charles Bronson was used to playing all manner of tough guys, but this tale of an aging mobster reflecting on past deeds was an atypical role for him. It’s based on a true story, and Bronson’s character, while more than capable of handling himself, is no action hero. He’s no hero at all, but the character is a compelling one thanks in large part to Bronson’s charisma.
Also out this week:
Both Sides of the Blade, Moonage Daydream, Pearl, R.I.P.D. 2, Section 8, Three Thousand Years of Longing