Plus 19 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!
Welcome to this week in home video! Click the title to buy a Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon and help support FSR in the process!
Pick of the Week
Scalpel [Arrow Video]
What is it? A surgeon gives his absent daughter’s face to an amnesia victim in the hopes of securing an inheritance.
Why see it? Blood Rage (ie the slasher with the line “That’s not cranberry sauce!”) director John Grissmer’s only other feature is this twisty thriller about greed, madness, and murder… and it’s great! Robert Lansing leads the way as the morally-bankrupt plastic surgeon, and the story takes some terrifically dark turns on their way to a satisfying end. Arrow’s now home to fantastic editions of both of Grissmer’s films with this release featuring an informative commentary and interviews offering anecdotes on its production. It’s not horror (or horror/comedy like Blood Rage), but it’s every bit as entertaining and deserving of love.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2K restoration, alternate graded version, commentary, introduction, interviews]
What is it? A boy accidentally crosses over into the land of the dead in search of his father.
Why see it? Pixar’s 19th feature film is one of its best — easily its most entertaining since 2007’s Ratatouille — as it fills the screen with beautiful visuals, fresh personality, catchy tunes, and a pure sense of fun. It unsurprisingly comes with a heavy dose of heart too. The film also offers a compelling argument (for those who still need it) that stories from other cultures can honor their origins while still appealing to a broader audience. The Mexican Day of the Dead setting offers a refreshing backdrop for a story we can all appreciate and understand. It’s a terrifically vibrant film that you (and/or your kids) will re-watch more than once.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes]
Five On the Black Hand Side
What is it? A man’s family rebels against him and his hard-fisted ways.
Why see it? Olive Films is killing it this month with two smart comedies (this and the film below) that take established genres and infuse them with sharply-written laughs. This early 70s feature blends The Great Santini and Barbershop to great (and unlikely) effect, and it delivers humor both smart and sweet with its tale of a black family in open rebellion against its comically tyrannical patriarch. Performances are top-notch (with Clarice Taylor, Leonard Jackson, and Glynn Turman being stand outs) too.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
The Hallelujah Trail
What is it? A shipment of whiskey through the American West brings together those for, against, and indifferent.
Why see it? I will never tire of discovering older movies that I not only had never heard of but that are also absolutely fantastic. The Magnificent Seven‘s John Sturges directs this far lighter western with an eye for grand landscapes and even bigger laughs. It’s no broad comedy, but the humor comes from sharp dialogue, fun set-pieces, and terrific comic performances from Burt Lancaster, Jim Hutton, Dub Taylor, Lee Remick, Brian Keith, Donald Pleasance, and more. The film takes a setup that could easily roll forward entirely seriously and instead finds endless joy. It’s an epic tale too complete with an overture introing our way into the fun.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Harper [Warner Archive]
What is it? A private eye searches for a missing man in Los Angeles.
Why see it? Paul Newman jumps into the P.I. game with this adaptation of a Ross MacDonald novel, and the result is utterly terrific. He’s fantastic in the role balancing a sharp mind, a cool exterior, and fun sense of humor. William Goldman’s script winds its way through an entertaining mystery with sharp turns, a sense of danger, and a killer supporting cast including Robert Wagner, Lauren Bacall, Janet Leigh, Shelley Winters, Julie Harris, and more. It’s a blast, and even at two hours the story cruises along keeping viewers hooked through to the very end. More franchise starters should be this confident and great. The disc includes a commentary track from Goldman too, which is alone worth the price.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
Murder on the Orient Express [4K UltraHD]
What is it? A murder occurs on a train.
Why see it? Agatha Christie’s classic novels have reached the screen many times, but it’s been decades since a big theatrical production was mounted. Kenneth Branagh headlines Christie’s big screen return as both director and lead star, and his Hercule Poirot is great fun. The film as a whole follows suit with smart writing and attractive cinematography (hobbled occasionally by “pretty” CG), and while the story is certainly familiar it’s nonetheless a terrific watch. Seriously, any film that starts off with Johnny Depp’s murder is on the right track. (See what I did there?) The supporting cast is equally strong with Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Judy Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, and more keeping the journey engaging from beginning to end.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, commentary]
Tom Jones [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A bawdy bastard enjoys a bawdy life in bawdy old England.
Why see it? Henry Fielding’s classic 18th century novel comes fully to life with this epic, and yes… bawdy, adaptation exploring the life and times of the charming but easily distracted title character. A young Albert Finney is (and is clearly having) terrific fun in the role, and the film as a whole is a big, witty, sloppy take down of the “upper” class. It’s most definitely the product of an earlier time (1963) as evidenced by its boisterous approach to women and animals — all are treated like objects by the men, but some get the occasional upper hand. It’s a lively and carefree flick that’s both one that would never get made today and one that would never fly today (let alone go on to win the Oscar for Best Picture).
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K restoration, theatrical & director’s cuts, featurette, interviews, Dick Cavett Show excerpt, ]
Birdman of Alcatraz
What is it? The true story of a gentle prisoner who bonds with birds.
Why see it? Burt Lancaster plays the very real Robert Stroud and gives the convicted killer a calm heart in this biographical look at the man. Much of the film sees him incarcerated elsewhere, and his brief Alcatraz stint sees him forbidden from interacting with birds, but the nickname stuck after his life story was published. It’s an engaging enough life, but it’s more about someone becoming the antithesis of the expected than it is a traditional narrative.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
Black Eagle [MVD Rewind Collection]
What is it? The US and Russians send agents to recover high tech hardware from a crashed jet.
Why see it? Few things are greater than 80s action, and both Sho Kosugi and Jean-Claude Van Damme were big names at the end of the decade. They meet here for the first time, and while they don’t pair off as often or as intensely as you’d hope it’s still fun seeing them fight. The film adds in some chases and gun action and is never dull, but it never reaches the level of either man’s best. MVD’s new Blu-ray is a treat, though, as it offers two versions of the film, new interviews, and more.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Theatrical & extended cuts, interviews, making-of, deleted scenes]
Crossing the Bridge / Indian Summer [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Three friends share one fateful night in their early 20s, and eight friends reunite at the summer camp they frequented as kids.
Why see it? Writer/director Mike Binder’s best film remains The Upside of Anger, but his first two movies — collected together here as a double feature — offer a glimpse into his appreciation of and interest in nostalgia. Crossing the Bridge is the weaker of the two with characters whose dilemmas and story turns feel eternally minor, but Indian Summer is an enjoyable look at the lives we expected and the ones we actually have. The cast is a 90s who’s who with Bill Paxton, Alan Arkin, Diane Lane, Vincent Spano, Kimberly Williams, and more. It’s a good, warm movie about friends and love, and it’s an easy way to pass the time.
[Blu-ray extras: Interview]
What is it? Winston Churchill faces one of his greatest challenges as Adolph Hitler’s forces encroach upon hundreds of thousands of Allied troops.
Why see it? Director Joe Wright’s latest isn’t a great film on the whole — it’s a familiar story told on an intimate scale (as opposed to how it’s portrayed in Dunkirk — but Gary Oldman’s performance under epic amounts of prosthetic makeup is a memorably engaging turn well-deserving of the praise its been getting. He gives Churchill personality, energy, and a spry sense of humor, and he delivers equally in the more dramatic sequences. It’s an okay movie with a terrific lead performance, but sometimes that’s more than enough.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary]
The Drowning Pool [Warner Archive]
What is it? A private eye finds a mystery in Louisiana.
Why see it? It took nine years, but Paul Newman finally returned with a sequel to Harper. Ideally we would have gotten a few more as Ross MacDonald’s books series has dozens to choose from, but we only got two. This follow-up isn’t quite as much fun as the first, but the story still delivers some engaging turns and surprises, and Newman slips back into the role with ease. The cast is still a delight, though, with Newman joined by Joanne Woodward, Melanie Griffith, Tony Franciosa, and more.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurette]
The Gate II [Scream Factory]
What is it? One of the first film’s survivors decides to play with the gate again.
Why see it? 1987’s The Gate is a fun little horror thriller with special effects work that still impresses, but this sequel can’t compare. There’s no personality to the characters, the effects underwhelm, and it’s all just a bit meh. The filmmakers don’t disagree either as evidenced by the new interview included on Scream Factory’s Blu-ray. Fans of the original will want to follow the story, and the film will find its fans.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K scan, interviews]
What is it? A killer is stalking the streets, and Al Pacino will investigate as soon as he wakes up.
Why see it? From the “brilliant” killer’s game to the pair of cops — one grizzled, one fresh! — in pursuit, Hangman is as formulaic in its structure as they come. Bland thrillers can still entertain, but unfortunately this one doubles down on its sins by also being incredibly idiotic and unnecessarily convoluted. Performance-wise the film is equally unfortunate. Brittany Snow is flat, Karl Urban does a solid job showing some investment in his character’s troubles, and Pacino chooses to sleepwalk through much of the film. His outbursts are muted, his energy is lacking, and he looks like someone who woke up mere moments before the camera started rolling.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? An anthology film exploring prostitution through history.
Why see it? An anthology film about sex, or more specifically, the consensual business of sex, offers filmmakers a world of possibilities, and this French feature from the late 60s has fun with the premise. The most purely entertaining segment stars Raquel Welch as a woman who plays a wealthy banker brilliantly in pursuit of marriage. It’s funny, sexy stuff. Jean-Luc Godard’s sci-fi short closes the film out, and while it’s the most explicit nudity-wise it’s the most dense when it comes to story and theme. (I did say it was directed by Godard.) It’s a mixed bag, but there are fun bits throughout.
[Blu-ray extras: International and US cuts]
The Outlaw [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Three legendary cowboys cross paths in the great American west.
Why see it? Howard Hughes (and an uncredited Howard Hawks) directs this buddy western of sorts that sees Doc Holliday and Billy the Kid forming a friendship built on mutual respect. It’s a relationship complicated by two things — Doc’s other friend, Pat Garrett, and the woman who both gunslingers love (played by Jane Russell). There are some action beats, but much of the film is the character work exploring the men and their shifting loyalties. It’s casually appealing, thanks in part to Walter Huston’s laid back performance as Doc, and while Russell’s cleavage got most of the film’s press over the years it’s the gunslingers’ friendships that keep the film compelling.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
What is it? A murderous religious sect set theirs sights on Jamie Lee Curtis’ sister.
Why see it? Michele Soavi’s 1991 horror thriller boasts some creative visuals and bloody set-pieces — alongside some creepy bug shenanigans — but it has little interest in confining itself to real-world logic or behaviors. Things happen, and while most are explained via evil hallucinations some are just sloppy writing. It’s a lesser creation than Soavi’s Stagefright and The Church because of it, but fans of Italian horror will still find plenty to enjoy here. Scorpion’s new Blu-ray offers a terrific picture highlighting both color and shadow, and fans will not be disappointed.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K scan, interviews]
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
What is it? A woman harasses the local police force over the lack of results in the investigation of her daughter’s murder.
Why see it? Martin McDonagh’s best and most entertaining film remains In Bruges, but his latest is certainly his most acclaimed. The praise stems most deservedly from the lead performances of Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson, and each of them do great work with a clumsy script. Some of the dialogue is outrageously bad, but it competes with some interestingly-drawn characters and themes. The dark comedic elements work better than the dramatic ones, but the whole succeeds in being both engaging and entertaining.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette, short film]
What is it? A wealthy female adventurer faces off against the Illuminati in pursuit of an elusive treasure.
Why see it? She doesn’t often get the credit, but Angelina Jolie remains the most successful female action star to grace the screen (by box-office), and while Salt is the best of her onscreen adventures she delivered big crowds for her two video game adaptation efforts. This first feature is clearly aimed at satisfying the game’s pre-teen boy fans, and from the side boob to the big, cartoon action that’s pretty much the extent of it. It’s not good action, and the story is suitably goofy, but Jolie at her most artificial and Daniel Craig pre-Bond are an entertaining pair.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, music video]
Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life [4K UltraHD]
What is it? A wealthy female adventurer faces off against a mad scientist in pursuit of an elusive treasure.
Why see it? Jolie’s second go-round as Lara Craft is undoubtedly the more entertaining of the two films, but it’s still not a great experience. It’s the better film for these new 4K versions too thanks in large part to director Jan de Bont’s eye for action set-pieces. We still get an abundance of video gamey CG, but the degree of pure stunt work is ramped up offering some solidly entertaining action amid the silliness. Jolie’s male counterpart this time around is a skinny-looking Gerard Butler.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, screen test, music videos]
Also out this week:
78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene [Scream Factory], Basket Case [Arrow Video], Colossus: The Forbin Project [Scream Factory], Jean-Luc Godard + Jean-Pierre Gorin [Arrow Academy], Just Getting Started, Lady & the Tramp, Let There Be Light, MacGyver – Season 1, Mary Mary [Vinegar Syndrome], Nowhere in Africa, Paris Opera, Penitentiary II [Vinegar Syndrome], Prey [Vinegar Syndrome]
Related Topics: Home Video