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 August 17th, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes two Billy Wilder classics, a heist comedy with Dick Van Dyke, Labyrinth, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Labyrinth – 35th Anniversary Edition [4K UltraHD]
What is it? A chance to see David Bowie in a codpiece.
Why see it? Filmgoers of a certain age are longtime fans of this Jim Henson production pairing actors and puppets, living together… mass hysteria! Okay, not quite, but there’s plenty of chaos as Jennifer Connelly wishes away her baby brother only to head into the goblin king’s fantasyland in order to rescue him. The king, of course, is played by the immortal David Bowie. Add in some music, a generous heaping of imagination, and some still impressive animatronic puppetry, and you have a memorable family film that’s remained a favorite over thirty-five years. The new 4K release shines and includes special features both old and new.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, screen tests, featurettes, Q&A, commentaries, documentary]
Fitzwilly [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A butler starts stealing to support his boss.
Why see it? Dick Van Dyke is an endlessly likable and affable performer, and he’s at the peak of his charms in this romantic comedy turned heist film. He plays a loyal butler, and when the lady of the house goes broke after being overly generous he enlists the aid of the staff to reline her pocket book with stolen loot. It’s silly and sweet in equal measure, and the big Christmas heist that occupies much of the third act is a thing of beauty. Barbara Feldon plays Van Dyke’s love interest, and the make an endearingly quirky pair.
The Fortune Cookie [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? An ambitious lawyer manipulates the system.
Why see it? The best of two Billy Wilder movies hitting Blu-ray today, this terrifically witty film is actually the first pairing of the legendary comedy duo of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. The latter is injured on the job, and his brother-in-law (Matthau) comes up with a scheme to land a successful lawsuit. There are plenty of laughs here, the bulk from the absolute master that is Matthau, but Wilder ensures the plotting and comedy have something of a bite as a commentary on modern society’s falling morals and rising self-interests. It’s a great one.
Riders of Justice
What is it? An odd tale of revenge.
Why see it? Mads Mikkelsen plays a very serious soldier who returns home to care for his daughter after his wife dies in a train accident, but he’s the one that goes off the rails when he discovers it was no accident after all. The initial setup seems slightly familiar as Mikkelsen begins to seek out those responsible, but the film’s approach to the idea of revenge tackles themes of coincidence and consequence in fascinating ways. It’s a funny film at times, albeit funny in some dark and raw ways, but it’s also a thrilling time.
The Emperor’s Waltz [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A romantic comedy, of sorts.
Why see it? Billy Wilder’s filmography is filled with comedic bangers, but this — and despite my love for Joan Fontaine — is not among them. Fontaine plays a countess who crosses paths with an American salesman (Bing Crosby) in Vienna and becomes the focus of his affections. That’s understandable, again, Fontaine, but despite the pedigree here the laughs and romance are a bit too sporadic. The pair are talented enough to ensure the film never grows stale, but neither Wilder’s direction nor his script (co-written with Charles Brackett) feel all that inspired here.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard [4K UltraHD]
What is it? A sequel to a moderately entertaining surprise hit.
Why see it? Hoo boy, this comedy is no comedy at all. It thinks it is, to be sure, but it tries so aggressively to be funny that it’s impossible not to see the gears moving desperately onscreen. Ryan Reynolds returns as the beleaguered bodyguard and exists strictly as a punching bag for Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek. That would be fine if the jokes and gags were funny, but as mentioned, they’re not. Richard E. Grant, Frank Grillo, and Gary Oldman are all along for the ride and completely wasted, but if you need a single positive here it’s Antonio Banderas who’s the only one having a good time.
[Extras: Featurettes, gag reel]
Percy [Code Red]
What is it? A man receives the first dick transplant.
Why see it? This early 70s romp from the UK bills itself as a sex comedy of sorts, and the ingredients are definitely here. The film manages some minor humor, but it’s never laugh out loud — it’s also never as bawdy as it needs to be either. The comedy and sexual antics are remarkably tame, and rather than cut loose with the situation it devolves into more of a relationship tale about love and such things. Denholm Elliott, Britt Ekland, and Elke Sommer are the names here in supporting roles.
[Extras: 4K restoration]
The Watcher / The Skeleton Key
What is it? A double feature of early 2000’s thrillers!
Why see it? These two films have nothing in common beyond the aughts and their general mediocrity, but like every film they have their fans. The Watcher pits a rundown detective (an always fun James Spader) against a wily serial killer (a clearly bored Keanu Reeves), and while it delivers some minor thrills via some adrenaline fueled action it’s unable to amount to all that much. The Skeleton Key at least incorporates some supernatural shenanigans into the mix, but while Kate Hudson does good work the script feels overly familiar throughout.
Also out this week:
The Borrower [Scream Factory], In the Good Old Summertime [Warner Archive], Little Q, Midnight Diner, Original Cast Album: Company [Criterion Collection], Rogue Hostage, Shadow of the Thin Man [Warner Archive], Stay Out of the Attic, Sundown: Vampire in Retreat [Vestron Video], Truffle Hunters, The Water Man