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 December 14th, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes a Hong Kong classic, a pair of Alan Alda films, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Disciples of Shaolin [88 Films]
What is it? Warring clans chip away at each other’s numbers.
Why see it? 88 Films continues their newly begun US line with this terrific tale of honor and revenge. Fu Sheng stars in the lead role as a man drawn into an existing conflict, and in addition to some strong fight scenes — frequent ones too — the film delivers a stirring commentary on capitalism and the mistreatment of workers. The action is the focus, though, and it is fantastic. It’s also bloody, and things take an unexpected dramatic turn in the third act as well. Fans should rewatch the film with Samm Deighan’s commentary as it’s a wonderfully informative listen.
[Extras: Commentaries, interview]
Bedtime Story [KL Studio Classic]
What is it? The original Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Why see it? Marlon Brando and David Niven are are no slouches, but they can’t compare comedically to Steve Martin and Michael Caine. Still, this early comedy still has fun with that same plot as two con men bounce between being competitors and conspirators in their efforts to seduce women and acquire wealth. Shirley Jones joins in on the fun, and its is fun delivering laughs and a tease of romance as they ply their trade on the French Riviera. The laughs aren’t as big as the remake delivers, but it’s still a fun and funny time.
[Extras: New 2K master, commentary]
The Dead Pit [Code Red]
What is it? A mental hospital hides a deadly secret in its basement.
Why see it? Brett Leonard’s first feature is a far cry from the higher profile titles that would make his name (The Lawnmower Man, Virtuosity), but it’s no less fun for it. A mad scientist and his corpses are buried in a basement, but years later they come back to life as he continues killing and the dead rise up. This is a low budget romp, but it’s good fun with an effective locale, solid gore, and some engaging performances. Code Red’s new Blu looks fantastic, and while it’s lacking the electronically glowing eyes from the old school VHS cover, the rest of this package is really solid. Leonard’s interview and commentary offer up some interesting details on the production as well.
[Extras: 2K scan, commentary, interviews]
Invasion of the Body Snatchers [4K UHD; KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Aliens arrive, and we’re no match.
Why see it? Philip Kaufman’s remake of the 50s original (or new adaptation of Jack Finney’s novel, if you prefer) remains an all-timer with its suspenseful thrills and chills run through with the grand theme of paranoia. Who do you trust? Who can you trust? And as friends and strangers alike come to realize the truth the film finds real horror in the reactions and interactions that follow. This is a terrifying movie brought to life with a stellar cast including Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, and Veronica Cartwright. This new 4K UHD release offers a tremendous image upgrade in its blacks, colors, and detail, and it’s highly recommended for fans. The disc includes a wealth of previous extras as well.
[Extras: Commentaries, interviews, featurettes]
Mass Appeal [Code Red]
What is it? A popular priest is tasked with taming a troublemaker.
Why see it? Jack Lemmon shines as a beloved neighborhood priest who’s stuck with the unenviable task of bringing a seminary student from rebel to obedient priest to be. The older man is challenged by the younger one’s ideas on church reformation and attitudes towards supposed outcasts, and the two share numerous conversations along the way. It’s a thought provoking, heartfelt, and entertaining film with strong performances (Zeljko Ivanek plays the younger man and keep up with Lemmon, beat for beat) and themes worth praising.
Mill of the Stone Women [Arrow Video]
What is it? A windmill, human sculptures, and a deadly secret.
Why see it? This early Italian horror film was the first to be shot in color, and while it predates the genre work of Mario Bava and other Italian legends it deserves its own place on your shelf. It’s an attractive film, lush in its use of color and dramatic in its revelations. Even better than the movie, though, is this release from Arrow. They’ve restored four separate cuts — the original Italian and English versions, a longer French cut, and an even longer US release — and along with some solid newly produced extras they make this limited edition release a keeper.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, four versions of the film, commentary, featurettes, interviews]
The Mitchells vs the Machines
What is it? A family of four are faced with an alien invasion!
Why see it? Don’t be fooled by its Netflix origins — The Mitchells vs the Machines is the best animated kids film of 2021. It’s incredibly funny, smartly written, and the animation is as lively and energetic as you could hope to find. The family’s personalities shine, and each displays their own wit and value throughout the fast-paced tale. Highly recommended for viewers young and old alike.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, commentary, featurettes]
The Red Shoes [4K UHD; Criterion Collection]
What is it? A ballerina is pulled between art, reality, and love.
Why see it? One of the finest of Powell/Pressburger’s collaborations — a meaningless qualification seeing as most of their films are masterpieces — is a stunningly photographed riff on Hans Christian Anderson’s tale about the cost of obsession and perfection. Romance, desire, and the urge to create art collide with powerful effect in the form of an attractively told melodrama. Criterion’s re-release of their already stellar Blu-ray, now upgraded to 4K UHD, is a feast for the senses.
[Extras: 4K master, featurettes, commentary, documentary, interviews, animated short]
The Wolf of Wall Street [4K UHD]
What is it? Depiction doesn’t equal endorsement.
Why see it? The true story of greed and success on Wall Street finds invigorating, electric life in the hands of Martin Scorsese. Leonardo DiCaprio gives an incredibly wild and vibrant performance as a real prick, and he’s joined for the fun by Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Rob Reiner, Kyle Chandler, and more. It’s a damning indictment, but it’s also a blast of pure adrenaline and entertainment. You can’t help but feel the energy in every frame, and that’s even more the case with this new 4K UHD release. The film captures disturbing truths about the American Way, and it has a lot of fun in the process.
The Brass Bottle [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A man finds a genie in a bottle.
Why see it? Tony Randall rubs an old bottle the wrong way, and soon he’s got a genie on his hands. Barbara Eden co-stars — as Randall’s fiance, not the genie, as that honor goes to Burl Ives. (But yes, this is the inspiration for I Dream of Genie.) The genie causes all manner of trouble for Randall as his wishes lead to misunderstandings and complications, and comedy ensues. It’s harmless fun, and you can see how it was adapted into the show with the smart move of shifting the genie from a burly man to a blond woman.
The Card Counter
What is it? A guilty man makes a living on the poker circuit.
Why see it? Paul Schrader’s latest once more focuses on a troubled man whose past choices affect his present situation. Oscar Isaac stars as a veteran of Abu Ghraib where he served as a guard taking part in the mistreatment of prisoners. He finds unexpected value in two new acquaintances played by Tiffany Haddish and Tye Sheridan, and the three begin something of a meditative journey between card tournaments. It’s a good film, but Isaac’s character feels dramatically removed from the others making for an uneven time.
The Four Season [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Three couples find ups and downs in adult life.
Why see it? Alan Alda writes, directs, and stars in this comedy for and about adults hitting their mid life existences and discovering some real truths about themselves. Carol Burnett, Rita Moreno, Jack Weston, and more co-star, and Alda’s script keeps things moving in fun ways even as they hit a wall of banter and loud arguments. It’s funny stuff — not surprising with both Alda and Burnett on board — and it delivers just enough honesty to land with a hit.
The Last Duel
What is it? Three takes on a rape.
Why see it? The first of Ridley Scott’s two releases in 2021 is a lushly presented period tale, based on a true story, recounting a woman’s assault at the hand of her husband’s friend. Jodie Comer is the woman, Matt Damon is the husband, and Adam Driver is the friend, and we see the event play out three times, once from each of their perspectives. The Rashomon-like idea is to show the differing ways in which we see truths, and the point is made. The film tips its hand by telling viewers which version is (believed to be) true, and the drama comes in seeing the differences, both subtle and immense, between the versions. It grows redundant, though, and the highlight remains Ben Affleck’s supporting turn as a wealthy prick.
My Stepmother is an Alien [Arrow Video]
What is it? An astronomer meets an alien woman.
Why see it? Fans of Dan Aykroyd’s character from Ghostbusters might find some fun here as he plays a riff on that far more successful nerd here. Kim Basinger is the alien who arrives hoping to enslave Earth only to fall in love instead, and neither the romance nor the comedy find much in the way of success. Richard Benjamin directs, and he’s an affable guy — as evidenced by the new interview included here — but the film plays things a bit too broad to be sweet and a bit too silly to be fun.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, interview]
Revenge of the Shogun Women in 3-D [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Defiled women become monks.
Why see it? Heads up, this kung fu B-movie opens with a mass rape as marauders attack a village and have their way with the women. The custom of the time sees them shipped off to a monastery where they’re shaved and trained in the way of martial arts. The women eventually face off with the baddies who return some time later. It’s an oddity, but the fighting is never up to any real quality meaning you watch it for the exploitation thrills.
[Extras: 3-D and 2-D versions, three 3-D shorts]
The Seduction of Joe Tynan [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A popular politician is drawn into the less respectable side of his profession.
Why see it? Alan Alda is an easy to like nice guy, and he makes for a perfectly cast “good” politician. Joe Tynan is just that, a politician who’s actually interested in doing the right thing and helping people. He’s pulled into the muck, though, as his values are worn down, he cheats on his wife (with Meryl Streep), and he begins making deals towards his reelection that eventually break down his ability to do what he believes. It’s a well-crafted morality play.
South of Heaven
What is it? An ex-con tries to go straight but is stymied by bad people.
Why see it? Jason Sudeikis stars as a convicted felon who wants only to make his sick girlfriend’s final months pleasant and happy, but past acquaintances, a foul parole officer, and bad luck all around threaten to get in the way. Evangeline Lilly, Shea Whigham, and Mike Colter co-star for director Aharon Keshales (one half of the Rabies duo) in a somber tale that has all the right pieces but lacks momentum. As a result, we’re left with expected beats and far too long between them. The performances are all strong, and it looks good, but the script just needs more oomph or purpose.
Tam Lin [Imprint]
What is it? A sorceress suspects her human plaything may have a wandering eye.
Why see it? Some movies are more interesting for their cast and crew than for the movie itself, and Tam Lin is an example of that. Roddy McDowall directs his only feature, and it’s a curious stab at an old legend by way of hippies and cool cats. Ian McShane and Ava Gardner play the young stud and lusty sorceress, respectively, and they’re exactly the odd pairing you’re expecting. The film’s atmosphere feels of the time and place (1970 UK), and it never quite gels with the story being told. You almost expect Frankie Avalon to come bouncing through, and we never really get the sense of menace that seems to be at play. Still, an interesting film and a loaded Blu-ray from Imprint.
[Extras: Commentaries, video essay, interviews]
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
What is it? A new alien threatens the world.
Why see it? I know the first made a billion dollars, and this follow-up would have done the same if it weren’t for Covid, but I don’t get it. The humor is goofy, the action is messy, and it’s just a bunch of shenanigans that lead to nowhere. But hey, Tom Hardy is having a blast so good for him. Woody Harrelson is also having fun, clearly, as the villain turned into a red alien who in turn causes all manner of mayhem, so I guess watching it as a silly romp works even if the action doesn’t.
[Extras: Outtakes, deleted scenes, featurettes]
Also out this week:
Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema V [KL Studio Classics], Harvey, Luzzu, Memory House, Playdurizm, Where the Red Fern Grows
Related Topics: Home Video